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House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned twice in my speech, New Democrats will be supporting the budget implementation act at second reading to get it to committee.

We have some concerns with some aspects of the bill. I know members have been having that discussion with the finance minister.

It is interesting that people talk about how we do not have time, that we have rush this through, that it is important that we get out there and protect seniors. Of course New Democrats have been in the forefront of talking about seniors and pensions.

When it comes to the poorest of the poor in this country, they have been waiting since 1989 for successive governments to take action on reducing child and family poverty. They are still waiting.

When will the government, and I know I am not asking a question but, demonstrate the political will to implement a poverty reduction strategy in this country?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, to sit here today and listen to the government members wrap themselves in this business of getting next to nothing out to seniors, $1.65 a day to people who only receive $1,162, is disgusting. There is no other word for it.

For you to wrap yourselves in that as some kind of mythical excuse for passing this sham of a budget is disgusting. I crossed this country and I listened in 40 communities. Senior women talked to me about eating cat food, and you are sitting here, going to pass this and thinking you have actually done something.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would ask all hon. members to address their comments through the Speaker, please.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, in the previous Parliament, the member took on the role of meeting with seniors, speaking up for seniors, and was instrumental in having a pension motion that the New Democrats put forward pass in this House.

The member certainly does understand the plight that is facing many of our seniors. He tells the story of seniors eating cat food. All of us in this House can share stories about the dire circumstances that many of our seniors live in.

In Nanaimo—Cowichan I have met with seniors who are actually being forced to move from the riding because they can no longer afford their homes. They cannot even afford to rent. These are families that had been living in our community for many years.

The increases in OAS and GIS simply have not kept pace with the cost of living in many of our ridings. I live in a very beautiful part of the country, but the cost of living in many parts of British Columbia is higher than in some parts of the country. These symbolic rises in GIS and OAS are not helping these seniors stay in their homes, with their families, with the communities that they have lived in and where their children have grown up.

It is atrocious that we are asking seniors to just bite the bullet one more time, to take a hit for the country, and to leave their communities, leave their families behind. If we are serious about helping seniors, the token GIS increase is important, but we would ask that the government actually address the realities of seniors' lives and increase the GIS to the levels that New Democrats had asked for prior to the election.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate.

As this is the first time I rise in the House, I will take this opportunity to thank the great folks of the Welland riding, which of course is a great misnomer. We know that the Welland riding includes St. Catharines, Thorold, Port Colborne and Wainfleet, as well as the great city of Welland and all those in between.

As well, I would like to thank all of those great volunteers, specifically my family who were a great help in supporting me during the election and, indeed, during the many endeavours that my family has allowed me to participate in.

I want to follow-up with my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan in talking about seniors and the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. He did great work in the 40th Parliament, when the House unanimously adopted a motion that talked about how we could bring all seniors across this country out of poverty.

I do not think there is a member in the House who could honestly say to themselves that they think there is a senior in this country who should live in poverty. I do not believe there is a Canadian in this country who would think that a senior should live in poverty. If we all agree that there should be no senior living in poverty in this country, then where is the will to actually lift them up?

If one asks the unemployed in Welland, as I have, or the unemployed in any riding, if they think we should lift seniors out of poverty or if they should have a job first, they would say that they want seniors out of poverty. If one asks a senior living in poverty if they think they should come out of poverty or do they think their kids or the people who live down the street should get a job, those seniors would say with all sincerity that those people should get a job. That is the remarkable character of Canadians who want to help one another.

There is a difference between a young person who is unemployed at the age of 24 and a senior who is 84. Obviously, it is age. It is the number of years they have left. The 24-year-old, judging by the lovely tables the insurance companies give us, would probably live another 60 years. The senior in poverty at 84 only has a couple of years left. Now that we have a government that says it took a step, the seniors in poverty might think that they may not have time to wait for the second step.

Why would we allow one more senior to leave us permanently who was not taken out of poverty? We owe it to them. We all stand in this place and say that we owe it to the seniors who came before us and built this great place, but those of us who are new like me and others who have been here for multi generations, we say we owe it to them and yet we cannot fulfill the promise.

One may say that we do not have the resources to do this. Seniors would understand that as they came through the Great Depression and post-World War II. They understand the sacrifices they have to make and they would continue to make them.

We all know we have the resources to lift every senior out of poverty, yet the government's recommendation in this bill is to say, “We are going to take a step”.

I implore the government to find the other shoe and take the other step. It would simply cost $400 million more, by rough estimates, to bring every single senior across the country out of poverty. What a glorious thing we could all say if every one of us stood in the House and said that we together, all 308, said that no senior should live in poverty and we accomplished it. However, what are we going to say? We are going to say, “We took a step”.

A step is not good enough. It is not good enough for the seniors in my constituency who may lose their house because they cannot pay the property taxes. They choose between rent and hydro, heat in the winter or food on their plate. What is left are the property taxes, which continually go up. If they cannot afford to pay, they will lose their house. Yet, we continually say that we took a step in the right direction.

It may well be in the right direction, but the step is not big enough, it is not long enough, and it really needs to be all of the way there.

I say to my friends on the government benches that they have an opportunity to take this bill to committee because we are going to help them get it there. This is the government's opportunity to say to all seniors in this country that we will lift them all out of poverty. We will not take a step, a half measure, but will literally lift all seniors out of poverty. That would be the success of this House in its early stages.

I heard the parliamentary secretary talk it out, saying we need to get it done by July 1 because we have to have those cheques in the mail.

If the government had listened to my good friend from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, it had the money last year. If we want to talk about getting it done quickly, then it should have listened to that member when he brought it forward two years ago. Seniors would be receiving the cheques today. They would all be out of poverty and we would all be proud of our accomplishments.

That is what it takes when we show initiative. That is what it takes when we mean what we say. As they say in the street, “You either walk the walk or you talk the talk.” I am afraid that my friends on the government benches are still talking the talk.

There is an opportunity here. Do not lose it. I implore the government to not lose this opportunity. The reward is greater than just simply a good piece of legislation. The reward is that every time we walk down the street and we see seniors that we do not know, we can look them in the eye and without opening our mouths or moving our lips our minds can say that we were part of that House that lifted all of those seniors out of poverty.

Just think for a moment how joyous a thought we would have when we walk past those seniors and we once again see the light in their eyes brighten rather than that dullness that we see today because they do not know where their next meal will come from or whether they can keep their home or buy a small present for their grandson or granddaughter because they live in poverty. Think of the light we can put back on the faces of those seniors.

My colleagues, that alone is worth $400 million. That alone is worth it and we have the wherewithal to do it from a resource perspective. We have the ability to do that. We have an obligation to do it. We owe that obligation to them and we ought to fulfill that obligation as our duty as MPs to all Canadians across this country.

There is an opportunity, my friends on the government benches, to do right by seniors. I ask the government to amend its implementation legislation when it comes to second reading and lift all seniors out of poverty.

When the parliamentary secretary talked about poppies and wreaths, I was absolutely thrilled to hear her do that. Let me just say that in 2009 I actually presented a private member's bill that said that is what we should do. I am glad to see that the government is finally following through on that. Albeit the bill got lost because we dissolved Parliament and we did not get to it. I am not ungrateful from the perspective that it will happen, except we could have done it last year. We could have passed that bill. I was happy to let the government move it forward if it wanted. Therefore, I am pleased to see that, indeed, we will do what is right.

I want to thank Mr. Hank Nikitczuk, a member of Branch 4 in Welland. At that time we only paid GST on the poppies. By the way, all poppies are made in Toronto. They are actually not made across this country. So are the poppy wreaths. It was Mr. Hank Nikitczuk who brought the idea to me. He said, “Do you know we pay GST on poppies?” At the time I thought it could not be so. How could we possibly charge tax on poppies when they are being sold to raise money for veterans? It turned out to be so. When I actually informed the government that it was so, it told me it was not so until it actually did its own research and figured out that it was so. Of course, by the time it came to the realization that it was the case we had the HST. Therefore, not only did we have the GST, we also ended up with the HST.

I have a question that is somewhat rhetorical and I will ensure that it gets asked at committee. I heard the parliamentary secretary say that all tax will come off for poppies and poppy wreaths. When she says that what I am hoping is that it will be the HST. In response to questions from us, I have heard that the HST does not belong to the government any more as it is provincial. Therefore, I hope that when the parliamentary secretary said that all taxes would come off poppy wreaths and poppies, what that really meant was the HST and that all of the money will go back to the veterans.

Let me just end with EI. The EI provisions that allow the premiums to go up will outpace the amount of benefits. In the province of Ontario, 44% of claimants actually get benefits. These are the folks that we represent. That is a crime. They need and deserve benefits like everyone else across this country. That rate must go up if indeed they will be paying more.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened quite carefully to my friend, who sits in front of me, from the great riding of Welland, and I thank him for his comments.

I was not a member of the House in the previous Parliament, but it seems to me that members of the official opposition were instrumental in ensuring that the budget that the minister re-presented in the House a week or so ago was not passed originally on March 22, and that, in fact, the leader of the official opposition delayed the increased cheques for GIS to seniors in a greater way than perhaps any other group in the House.

I would like the member to respond to this question. Why was it more important to bring this House down on March 25 rather than implementing the budget when it was presented at that time?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, far be it for me to try to put things in chronological order, but it seems to me the budget was not before us on that particular day; it was an absolutely different piece of legislation. We did not get to the budget. The government did not fall on the budget, but on a separate motion.

As much as we can roll back the clock to March and ask what would have happened if that had been different, my hon. colleague, whom I am getting to know very well, would not be here if we had not had an election; it would have been someone else sitting there.

We were not the official opposition at the time. Another party was the official opposition. We are now the official opposition and we will do our due diligence.

Clearly, if we had listened to the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, we would have had cheques for seniors in this country last July, not this July.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, my question is in regard to seniors and the guaranteed income supplement. I look at it from the point of view that yes, there is a high need to lift our seniors out of poverty. We too want to see more money going to our seniors in terms of their income and their pensions. In fact, I have had opportunity myself to introduce petitions, talking about the guaranteed income for our seniors and the need to increase it.

I look at the title of the bill, Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act. The member who spoke prior to the hon. member for Welland said that she was not too sure how her party would be voting on this particular bill.

Has the NDP taken a position as of yet on whether or not they will be supporting the bill?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, we have clearly said that we will send the bill to committee. I have said to my friends in the government that they have an opportunity at committee to indeed amend the bill and do what the title says, support vulnerable seniors.

The bill will help a bit, but it will still leave seniors vulnerable. I am suggesting to government members, since committee is where we can modify, change, amend, make better, that they should do what they want to do and that is to support all seniors whom they call vulnerable. When the bill comes back, they can say they no longer have to worry about it because there are no more vulnerable seniors. They can actually protect and support them, and raise them all up, and they will not have another vulnerable senior.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his intervention. I know that he has a real interest and a real commitment to helping our seniors. When we introduce legislation, obviously there are times when not everything gets covered off, and I think he has certainly gone to great lengths to cover that off. The measures that are being implemented would remove 680,000 people. I was interested in the hon. member's comments about the GST and the HST in regard to the veterans issue. I wonder if he could elaborate just a little bit more on that for us, please.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, because poppies are manufactured in Toronto, Ontario, the HST applies. When the parliamentary secretary talked about the removal of all taxes, what I heard from the government side is that it was only responsible for the GST.

I am hopeful that when the government says “all”, it has struck a deal that says that the HST will not apply because poppies happen to be manufactured here. If they were manufactured somewhere else where there is no HST, it would only be that. However, that is really my hope because I wanted to see it at zero when it introduced that bill and I know the government wants to see it as zero as well.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, before I begin, I wish to seek the unanimous consent of the House to share my time with my hon. colleague, the member for Etobicoke North.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to split his time?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleagues.

I will begin by thanking the people of Halifax West for their confidence in me in re-electing me. It is a great honour and a privilege to serve them in this House and to work on their behalf.

I had an interesting election night. In fact, another candidate was declared elected at one point by CBC News in my riding. I consider that, what I would call, a near political death experience. I am all the more happy to have made it back to join colleagues here.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

An. hon. member

It was a Lazarus-like experience.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

My colleague from Scarborough suggests that it was Lazarus-like because he recalls that I had a different experience previously in 1997 when I took, what I sometimes call, an involuntary sabbatical when I was defeated and then returned in 2000. So, it is a great honour and privilege to be here again and I am delighted work on behalf of the people of Halifax West.

I will turn now to the bill before us, Bill C-3, the budget implementation bill. The government has certainly jammed a lot into this one piece of legislation. We have many things being dealt with, such tax exchange agreements, Genome Canada and the amending of the Auditor General's Act to provide that he or she can serve beyond the age of 65. It also deals with interest on student loans and mortgage insurance contracts in cases where companies are being wound up. It even deals with kayaks and canoes. As the owner of a couple of kayaks, I am pleased to see that the Conservatives are paying attention to us kayak owners.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

That got my attention.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

I am delighted to see that the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's has noted that and is interested in that issue. I think he is probably also interested in the issue of small crafts, a little larger than kayaks and canoes, as there are lots of fishing communities in that riding, as I well know.

However, there was also a lot left out, unfortunately, of this bill. A few months ago we heard from the government how important it was to pass the budget immediately, that it was to provide immediate assistance to firefighters and caregivers through a tax credit. These things were so important to the government that they did not really make it into the budget implementation bill, and that is rather strange. The Conservatives were so anxious to get those things done and it was so important to pass the budget a few months ago and yet where are they in the bill? Where are those measures that they promised?

Maybe that is why the government is ramming this 55-page bill through and using the absolute minimum time for scrutiny of it. That is an odd thing. It probably hopes that we do not actually notice what else is missing from the bill, like, the home energy renovation program. That is a program the Conservatives killed twice before. They killed it when they became the government in 2006, and then a year ago they let it go again. Even though it was in their platform and in the budget, it is not important enough, apparently, to be in the budget -implementation legislation that is before us now.

I can say that my constituents in Halifax West and the businesses in my area will be disappointed at this because these are important measures.

During the election campaign, I had the opportunity to knock on thousands of doors, as I am sure everyone here did, and to talk with countless residents to hear about the issues that are of concern to them, the things that preoccupy them and that they are worried about from day to day when it comes to the Government of Canada. Obviously, sometimes they raise issues that are dealt with by other levels of government. However, people did raise concern about the home renovation program, which has been very important to people over the years. It was started by the Liberal government previously.

Many people who work in the energy and audit industry, the people who work on installing better windows or more insulation and doing the various things that could make homes more energy efficient, the small contractors who work in this field, were very concerned.

Seniors, who relied on and benefited from this program, were very angry with the Conservatives when they quietly killed this program a little more than a year ago. Many of them are anxious to have it back. They are anxious to see it again. It is too bad that it is not in this bill, and I would like to know why.

I hope colleagues on the Conservative government side will tell us why it is not in this bill. It is too bad, as well, that the government is not committed to long term, stable funding for this kind of important program. The Conservatives talk about how they have a stable majority Conservative government and so forth. Why can they not provide, with that majority, stable funding for the home renovation program? Why are they only funding it for one year? What is it about this program that makes it only good enough to fund for one year? Why is it not good enough to have in the bill?

I also heard from firefighters and caregivers who wondered why the Conservatives would not provide refundable tax credits so low-income earners could qualify. That is what we have been talking about in question period and in the House in general.

In fact, one volunteer firefighter called my office just the other day. This is a young student who does not make enough to even qualify for the tax credit. Is the Conservatives' view really that students should not get the benefit of that, even though they are giving the 200 hours or more required as volunteer firefighters in their communities? Do they not think those people's service is important to the community? Can they really say that it is not important enough that they should receive the benefit of this program?

If it had been refundable, this student, who is struggling to pay his way through university, would have received a $500 rebate. Under the Conservatives, he will get nothing. People like him wonder why the Conservatives have programs for rich Canadians and corporations but nothing for low-income earners.

We have seen the government's fiscal plan for corporations. We know that it is lowering taxes for the country's largest corporations but it is doing nothing for small businesses. They already have a tax rate of 11%. The government has dropped the corporate tax rate for the largest companies in the country, from 18% to 15%, when they were already competitive internationally and 25% below American rates. Why? It is because the Conservatives are not concerned about the little person. They are concerned about their friends, apparently, at least that is what it looks like.

In my riding of Halifax West, people told me during the election campaign and since that we need to do more to support families. They are concerned. They are having a tough time making ends meet these days. They need help finding child care spaces and affordable education. They need help looking after their aging parents, finding high quality jobs and reuniting with family members abroad.

I have a riding that is very diverse. Many people who live in my riding of Halifax West were not born in Canada or in Nova Scotia. They were born elsewhere in the world. There are probably more newcomers to Canada in Halifax West than in any other constituency east of Quebec City, perhaps even Montreal.

People are telling me that they are having difficulty with the rising cost of living. They are having trouble making ends meet and they are not seeing concern or getting assistance from the government, whether it is buying groceries or paying for a tank of gas, and of course we are seeing the cost of that rising. They also want to ensure that we leave a clean environment for their children and grandchildren. It is not something we see as a priority at all by the Conservative government.

I look forward to raising these issues during the 41st Parliament, along with my colleagues. We in this party will also be watching to ensure that the government keeps its promises in other areas, like the one to fund the undersea cable from Newfoundland and Labrador to bring Muskrat Falls power to Nova Scotia. We will be looking as well for Ottawa to be at the table with the Province of Nova Scotia and the municipality for the new convention centre in Halifax, and many other issues.

There are a few good things in this bill but there is so much missing and so much more the government could have done, especially if what it says about the economy and its ability to spend is true.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Madam Speaker, leading into the member's comments about good things in the bill, I would like to hear the good things about the helmets to hard hats program that is in the bill. That would be an excellent one and I am sure it is something his riding would welcome. I would like to hear some positive things about our budget and I am sure this would be a positive one for him to expand on.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to see the minister back again. We have mutual friends who live in my riding and with whom she has visited Croatia.

I know she knows that she can be confident in hearing lots of positive things about the budget from the government side, which has more than enough time to extol the virtues of itself and of this bill, which I really think, as I said, has a great deal missing from it.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, my colleague brings a lot of experience to the House. Notwithstanding the sabbatical, it is great to see him back here.

My colleague talked about the short-term aspects of some of these great programs and extolled the virtues of some of them, but they are short-term in nature.

The best 14 weeks pilot project is essential not just for workers, but also for businesses to allow them to survive in the smallest of communities. However, it will be extended for only one year.

My colleague talked about the program for home renovations. It also will be extended for just one year.

The CBC gets a $60 million cut, but at the same time what the CBC requires is a long-term investment to allow it to plan several years down the road, a model similar to what the BBC uses.

Could my colleague talk about that once again and also about some of those programs that deserve to be invested in over a much longer term? Could he also talk about how shortsighted the budget implementation bill is on some of these measures?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, the question my colleague asked is about the short-term nature of many of the provisions in the budget. For a government that talks about being stable, I have to wonder why it cannot offer stability in some of the measures that it has in the bill or some of the measures it has trumpeted so loudly in the past, like these pilot projects.

These pilot projects are a big issue in areas like eastern Quebec and Atlantic Canada. A lot of communities rely upon seasonal industries when other kinds of work are not available and those industries need people to be available to do work for them. These pilot projects have been critically important in helping people to put food on the table and helping them to get through some difficult periods. It is a concern.

The government wants people to believe it is actually concerned about them, but only for a year. If the government is concerned, why would it only have these measures in place for a year? What magical thing will happen in a year's time that will make these measures unnecessary? Is every home in the country going to be renovated and energy efficient a year from now? That seems extremely unlikely. What makes that program worthwhile, but only for a year?

It makes me wonder if these programs were just put in the window for the purpose of an election. Was the idea simply to get votes with these measures? The government is suggesting that it is doing a great thing, but it is not mentioning too loudly the fact that it is going to do it only for a year. A year from now it is going to yank these programs away.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-3.

Before doing so, I must first thank and express my deep admiration, appreciation and respect for the very good people of Etobicoke North. Many in our community have become real family and friends. I thank the people of Etobicoke North for the privilege of humbling serving them. I promise to raise their issues in this great House and to fight for what is important to them.

Today I will tackle jobs, health and the environment.

Etobicoke North is one of thirteen priority areas for the city of Toronto. The people in my riding want jobs. Our youth want jobs. As a result, I spend many constituency days meeting fathers, mothers and young people who are unemployed, correcting covering letters and resumes, providing job interviewing skills and, most important, finding placements and work for our community members.

Last Parliament I was able to lobby the government for a new jobs program for our community, but my community needs more help now. It needs a real plan for job creation and a plan for youth employment. How many jobs will the next phase of the government's plan produce? How many of these jobs will come to Etobicoke North?

Going forward, I believe health care will be a defining issue of the next four years. My constituents, like Canadians across the country, want their health care system to be there when they and their families need it most.

During the election, family after family told me they wanted federal leadership on hospital wait times. A 2011 study from the Canadian Institutes for Health Information shows wait times for priority procedures vary widely across the provinces. For example, in some provinces more than half of cataract and knee replacement patients wait longer than the recommended time frames for their procedures. Currently no pan-Canadian benchmarks exist for CT and MRI scans, both necessary for diagnosis.

Let me highlight the importance of diagnostic imaging. One Canadian patient, 77 years old who was in growing pain, losing weight and becoming steadily more ill over the course of many months was told to wait for five months for an MRI, despite the fact that her doctor suspected she had cancer. As the result, her family paid more than $11,000 U.S., out of pocket, for a trip to the Mayo Clinic. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Canadians want better results from their health care system, particularly at a time when our aging population is putting pressure on the system's ability to deliver. I believe Alzheimer's disease and other dementia are among the most significant and critical health care issues in Canada, and we cannot ignore them.

Today 500,000 Canadians suffer with some form of dementia. The impact on those with the illness, and on their families, is profound, as is the cost to society, $15 billion today, $150 billion in 30 years.

Where is a national or federal strategy to cope with the rising tide of dementia? Existing federal programs, research funding, support and income assistance pale in comparison to the enormous and rapidly escalating health, economic and social impacts of this devastating disease.

In the last Parliament I introduced a bill to establish a national Alzheimer's office within the Public Health Agency of Canada to develop, in conjunction with provincial health departments, a comprehensive national plan to address all aspects of Alzheimer's disease and related dementia and specifically to improve the lives of persons with dementia and decrease the burden on society.

My last point regarding health is the need for evidence-based policies. The government has been made aware that over 12,500 treatment procedures for chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI, have now been undertaken worldwide in over 50 countries and that some MS patients report improved quality of life, including reduced brain fog, fatigue, improved circulation and motor skills following the procedure. Sometimes we ignore the obvious at our peril.

In 1982 Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, Australian physicians, identified a link between an ulcer and a bacterium and it was 1994 before the medical system recommended treating that bacterium with antibiotics.

Why is the government refusing to undertake a nationally funded multi-centre clinical trial to determine if treating CCSVI will improve the quality of life for MS patients, 55,000 to 75,000 of them in Canada? Multiple treatment trials are under way in the United States. It is time for Canada to act.

The last issue I will tackle is climate change, one of Earth's most pressing challenges and perhaps a defining issue of our generation.

The floods that devastated Pakistan, Venezuela and Colombia this year are a wake-up call. The wildfires that gripped Russia are a wake-up call. There will be worse impacts, more wake-up calls and no country will be exempt.

Despite this year's extreme weather warnings, the government failed to even mention climate change in the throne speech. No wonder we keep winning fossil awards for being followers instead of leaders on the world stage.

In 2009 the government missed a real opportunity for a triple win, a renewable stimulus with positive impacts on the economy, jobs and the atmosphere.

In 2009 it invested $1 billion in a green infrastructure fund over five years to support projects like public transit, sustainable energy and waste management. In stark contrast, Germany invested $13 billion, the United States $50 billion and China $221 billion, or 220 times that of Canada.

Is the government missing another opportunity in 2011 with its clean air agenda?

Climate change is not a closed case. We can rise to the challenge, as in the past when major powers rose to the challenge. They built country-wide railways, they fought in World War I and World War II and they travelled to the moon.

If all current plans and pledges to cut or limit emissions were delivered completely on time, global emissions would still keep growing during the next 10 years. Canada has a responsibility to make progress on the 2020 target and not just one-quarter of the way.

More stringent actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions cannot be postponed much longer. Otherwise the opportunity to keep the average global temperature rise below 2° Celsius is in danger and serious impacts are associated with this limit, including an increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, shifts in growing seasons and sea level rise.

Climate change was missing from the throne speech and is wholly under-represented in budget 2011. Canada should honestly listen to the voice from the front line on climate change, should ensure that those impacted by climate change are meaningfully involved and that those who make the decisions must be accountable to those impacted.

Finally, it is important for the government to realize that individuals are making change in their own lives and that they want change on the national and international stage.

It is also important that parliamentarians ask this question. “Is this something my children would be proud of?”

Climate negotiations require sacrifice. We must negotiate for our children who are not here. We have to accept moral responsibility.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, first, I congratulate the member for Etobicoke North for being re-elected in what I think she would probably agree was a bit of a sea of blue in Etobicoke and neighbouring Mississauga.

She spent a fair bit of time talking about health care. I hope the member, in her response, will acknowledge the fact that this government has maintained the 6% increase in transfer payments to our provincial partners for health care and that we have been a very strong government in working with the provinces to give them flexibility to deliver front-line health care services to all our residents who rely on them.

Will she stand and acknowledge the record of this government in terms of our funding for health care?