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House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-202, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (death benefit).

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to introduce a bill today that would address a longstanding grievance for widowed Canadians. In short, it would make the CPP death benefit tax-free.

As it stands now, receiving this benefit can have disastrous financial implications for the surviving spouse. Most obviously, of course, it reduces the amount of money available to cover funeral expenses. More importantly, however, it may push the survivor's income into a higher tax bracket thereby potentially having a negative impact on eligibility for social assistance or the GST/HST tax credit. At $2,500 the CPP death benefit is already inadequate, but by making it a taxable benefit the government is adding insult to injury.

Instead of imposing a financial penalty on grieving spouses, I call on all members of the House to do the right thing, the fair thing and the compassionate thing by passing my bill at the earliest opportunity so that we can support families as they mourn the loss of their loved one.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-203, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (in-home care of relative).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to reintroduce a bill that I brought forward in the last Parliament, which would make a profoundly positive difference for thousands of Canadians who are the primary caregivers for their spouses.

In many ways, my bill is a fitting complement to the government's enhanced family caregiver tax credit that was announced in its recent budget. Despite the newly increased amount, it still remains the case that spouses are excluded from receiving this benefit. Frankly, that is outrageous.

Every conceivable relative of a person living with disabilities can apply, including a child, grandchild, brother, sister, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, parent or grandparent. Not included is the one person who is most likely to provide care on an ongoing basis, the spouse. That is patently unfair and undervalues the caregiving that spouses provide every day of every week of every year.

A quarter of Canadians provide informal care to a family or friend with a serious health problem every year. More than 75% of these caregivers are women. The Canadian Caregivers Association estimates that caregivers contribute $5 billion of unpaid labour per year to the health care system, which represents an enormous savings to federal and provincial governments.

Making spouses eligible for the caregiver amount is a small step forward. It would send a strong signal that the federal government recognizes the exceptional contribution that spouses make as caregivers and would provide a new support for them to help a loved one who is in need of care to live with dignity and as much independence as possible.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario ActRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-204, An Act establishing the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to table An Act establishing the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario. This bill would deliver to northern Ontario an independent economic development agency free of political interference.

Every region in Canada has its own independent agency, including southern Ontario. Yet the government refuses to treat northern Ontarians equally. Under the act, 10 northern Ontario ridings would be serviced by this independent economic development agency.

I urge the government to take this bill and make it its own.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario ActRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to adopt the following motion: “That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, when the House adjourns on June 16, 2011, it shall stand adjourned until Monday, June 20, 2011. That, on Thursday, June 16, 2011, the hours of the sitting of the House and the order of business shall be as provided in the standing orders for a Friday, with the stipulation that any notices can be filed no later than 6:00 p.m.”

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario ActRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the minister have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario ActRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario ActRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There is no consent.

Canada-European Union Free Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition from concerned citizens requesting that the Government of Canada and the provincial and territorial governments immediately cease negotiations with the European Union, while nationwide public consultations can be held on how and whether to proceed with a potential trade agreement.

The petitioners believe the current free trade agreement being negotiated with the E.U. goes far beyond what is generally understood as trade with respect to procurement rights, local priorities, environmental regulations and water rights.

National Child Care ProgramPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from a number of students from the Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School in Caledon East in my riding asking for a publicly funded early-education national child care program.

Canada-European Union Free Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to submit the following petition signed by several hundred Guelphites, urging the government to exclude all sub-federal governments and their public agencies, including municipalities, from any Canada–E.U. procurement agreement.

On May 2, 2009, Canada and the E.U. announced the beginning of the negotiations of a comprehensive economic and trade agreement, otherwise known as CETA. It is expected that an agreement will be reached in 2011-12.

As it stands, CETA negotiations include government procurement, including projects at the provincial and municipal levels.

Through losing the right to have independent procurement policies, municipalities like Guelph will lose the right to buy local materials and services, which is one of its most important tools for stimulating local innovation, fostering local community economic development, creating local employment and achieving other valuable public policy goals.

Republic of the Fiji IslandsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition calling on the Government of Canada to establish a high commission in the Republic of the Fiji Islands. My office has received petitions with hundreds of signatures from Fijian Canadians all across the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

As the petitioners note, immigration business and other consular affairs originating in Fiji are now handled by the Canadian high commission in Sydney, Australia, causing delays and inefficient service. The impact of the situation on tourism, trade, economic co-operation and immigration are significant. There are more than 100,000 Canadians of Fijian descent who have very active travel, immigration business and property interests in both Canada and Fiji.

These individuals are calling on the government to establish a Canadian high commission in Fiji, as has already been done by the United States, Australia, New Zealand, China and India, to improve the delivery of government services for all Canadians and increase economic co-operation between Canada and Fiji.

AsbestosPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition put forward by literally thousands of Canadians who call upon Parliament to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known and that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial causes combined. Yet they point out that Canada remains one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world.

The petitioners point out, as well, that Canada spends millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry, using our foreign missions and embassies for trade purposes and that teams of Department of Justice lawyers travel the world like globe-trotting propagandists for the asbestos industry.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Parliament of Canada to ban asbestos in all of its forms, to institute a just transition program for asbestos workers to end all government subsidies of asbestos, both in Canada and abroad, and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam Convention.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

June 8th, 2011 / 3:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from June 7 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The last time we were debating this motion, the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake had five minutes left for questions and comments, so I will call questions and comments.

The hon. minister of western diversification.

3:20 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, would the member expand on how good the economic action plan has been for Manitoba and for the Prairies? As western diversification minister, I understand that a lot of the jobs created were under the economic action plan phase one. Now that we are going into the second, would he like to elaborate on some of the plan?

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your election as our Speaker. I am looking forward to working with you for the next four years.

The economic action plan has been a very well-received program in my riding. The municipalities were extremely happy to receive funding for much needed infrastructure investment. It helped trigger dollars out of the province's well, through the building Canada fund and through the community adjustment fund. We saw a lot of investment in a number of different projects right across the riding. Virtually hundreds of millions were invested in the riding, federally, provincially and municipally. That helped create jobs in the short term and provided us with infrastructure that we needed to sustain our productivity and our quality of life throughout rural Manitoba.

Also, the EI work-sharing program really helped some of our major companies, especially in the steel industry where it did see a major downturn with the recession. They were able to keep staff available and on-site through the work share. They were able to do a lot of different upgrades to the plants in my riding. Then, at the end, they were in a position to completely get back up to full steam in very short order because all their staff were still on-site, employed and were able to turn a key and get the plants operating again. That created a bunch of jobs and put economic wealth back into the riding.

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, could the member for Selkirk—Interlake, who I know very well, answer the question that the Prime Minister did not answer earlier about the $100 million that was given in a former economic action plan to Imperial Oil. It was $100 million in corporate tax breaks.

The Leader of the Opposition asked this question, not once, not twice but three times and the Prime Minister was incapable of answering.

Hopefully the Conservatives have had some time to look into this. The question is very simple. The Conservatives spent $100 million. Could they give us any one of the tangible benefits that came from that $100 million of taxpayer money that the Conservatives gave away?

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the question that comes back to the NDP is this. Why is the NDP not supporting budget 2011? It contains a lot of things for which the NDP asked. There is help for seniors. It may not be as much as what it has asked for, but there is help for seniors through the increase in the GIS.

The NDP has asked for more to be done for rural doctors and nurses. There is help in there for our rural doctors and nurses, but the NDP will vote against this budget.

The NDP wants to ensure we protect health care. Health care is protected in this budget by ensuring that equalization transfers and health care transfers continue to go out to the provinces at a rate increasing by 6% per year. In my province of Manitoba, that means that health care transfers are going to be over $1 billion this year. That is up almost 30% from when the Liberals were in power.

There are things in there like the eco-energy retrofit program for which the NDP asked. It has been renewed. The NDP members asked for the helmets and hardhats program. We worked with them co-operatively and it is in there.

There is compromise on both sides. Therefore, why is the NDP not supporting this budget?

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I am rising in the House since being back, and I would like to congratulate you on your election. I also thank the great people in the riding of Sudbury for putting me back in this place.

I used to sit a lot closer to my colleague, the member for Selkirk—Interlake, and we used to have a lot of conversations. Now we get to have this conversation from the opposite side of the House. It is interesting for both of us.

One of the things that you mentioned in your response to my hon. colleague for Burnaby—New Westminster is the budget addresses the doctor and nurse shortage in rural and northern communities. This side of the House thinks it does not go far enough.

I believe the budget sets out a $9 million in investment, but it does not do enough to actually create the doctors and nurses that we need, especially in northern Ontario and other rural parts. What you are doing is pulling doctors from larger urban centres and then hoping maybe they will—

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I have to stop the hon. member as there is not much time for a response. I will remind him to address his comments through the Chair and not directly at other members.

The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Sudbury for his re-election. I did enjoy sitting close to him when we sat at the other end of the House. We will still have lots of time for camaraderie in this place. We do enjoy each other's company.

What we are going to be doing for rural doctors and nurses, creating new opportunities in rural and northern Canada, is something that has not been tried before. Having a student loan forgiveness program of up to $40,000 for doctors and $20,000 for nurses and nurse practitioners is something we have not tried. It is a made-in-Canada solution, unlike what is happening right now. We were going all over the world trying to poach doctors, which is not sustainable.

3:25 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is also my first opportunity to be on my feet in the 41st Parliament.

First, with great humility, I thank my constituents in Hamilton Centre for returning me for a fourth term to this honourable place and for the support that they have shown for so long, going on 26 years, in three orders of government. I am truly blessed and very appreciative of the trust and faith that my constituents have placed in me again.

As well, Mr. Speaker, may I also add my voice to those who wish to congratulate you on your ascension to the throne and the history books, being the youngest Speaker ever. I wish you the best of luck. If you have a great term, we will have a great term, and I do hope you have that great term.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the budget. However, I do not have much time and would like to confine my comments to the party subsidies that are now being withdrawn as a result of amendments to the budget that are now before us.

My overarching thought about this reminds me of a phrase my mom taught me when I was very young: “Penny-wise and pound foolish”.

Penny-wise, there is $27 million to be saved. That always sounds good, particularly to ordinary Canadians for whom $27 million is an amount of money they can barely comprehend in their mind let alone the total budget that we have here.

It is understandable that at first blush the government is playing a populous card by saying to Canadians, “Well, why should your tax money go for those awful, horrible political parties? Let them go out and get the money from all their supporters. That is the way it ought to be and we ought to cut back on this. It will save you, taxpayer, $27 million.”

That is sort of the Coles Notes version of what the government is offering here and that is the penny-wise part. It sounds good to save $27 million and it does not sound like there would be any pain.

However, the reason it is pound foolish is that it is weakening our democracy. Anything that weakens our democracy weakens the value of Canadian citizenship because, so much of it is predicated on the beautiful democracy that we have. It is a democracy that is held up by many in the world as an example of a mature, advanced and modern democracy. Yet, it is my experience that we are about to lose that.

Having that other place here as an appointed body is an albatross we all carry when we travel the world on behalf of Canada and talk about democracy. Eyes light up when people find out that we have an appointed Senate. What, in the great democracy of Canada? Therefore, we still have work to do, but this was an improvement that did make our democracy stronger.

I have believed every minute that I have been in politics that the further away we keep politicians from political money, the better our democracy is. Reversing the public financing takes us right back to that world where politicians find it necessary to be snuggling up to people and asking them for money, when perhaps the real and only reason is to deal with a policy issue. However, there is that thing in the back of their mind that they constantly have to be raising money in order to run a campaign. I am not getting into the horrible things money can and does do to a democracy, I am just talking about the above-board stuff.

We all know that it is only a question of time before the current limits are going to rise. The table is being set. I do no think it would happen right away, but it will happen over time as the government makes the case, “We need the ability to fund these expensive campaigns, costs are going up, and we do not have the public subsidy any more.” Ergo, it makes sense to raise the donations.

I do not know about other members but in Hamilton Centre coughing up $1,000 for a political contribution does not happen easily or very often for the simple reason that most of my constituents do not have $1,000 to just write a cheque. They can do $50 or $100, and with enough like that, we can manage the campaign without me, as a member, an elected person, spending my valuable time going for money.

There was a study not long ago, and I stand to be corrected, but my memory tells me that U.S. senators in a six year term spent something like 40% or 50% of the time either planning, going to, being at, or returning from fundraisers all over the United States. Is that where we want to go? Is that the direction we want, that those with money more easily get the attention of hon. members? Again, I am talking about the honourable stuff, never mind how it starts to get us closer and closer to some of the bad stuff.

How many times in the history of democracy has money corrupted the process and individuals? Obviously, not everyone here will be corrupt, but it is taking us in the wrong direction, and that is our point, at a time when there is so much need for modern democracies, for mature democracies to be an example.

I have been on six or seven international election monitoring missions, trying to help emerging democracies. The ones I have been to are mostly in the former Soviet Bloc countries that are truly emerging democracies, struggling. They have so many questions about our system because they would like it.

One of the things they talk about is money and how we manage money in the political process. For them to find out that Canada, one of the great models, one of the great hopes, is going in this direction will be devastating for them because if we are not there, how will some of these emerging democracies ever get there themselves? How will that happen? That is part of our international role.

We are not the biggest economy in the world. We are certainly not the biggest military. We do not go throwing our weight around, but what we do have is a great reputation, or we had a great reputation and we are struggling to maintain it, notwithstanding current policy. That reputation is one that our predecessors in this place and Canadians generations before us built, earned and created for Canada. Now we are in the process of offering it away.

I need to split my time with the member for Nickel Belt, Mr. Speaker. There goes most of my speech, but that is okay, I think I made my point.

The fact remains that this is not a positive step. This is a retrograde step. This is taking us in exactly the opposition direction. I do not know when the political climate will be such that we will get it back, but I do know that our democracy is being weakened by this move. The ability of an idea, like a Tommy Douglas idea, to survive and be heard when now money is a bigger issue than before can only lessen the effectiveness of our democracy and, again, therefore the effectiveness of the citizenship that we are all so proud of having in this country.

We will not be supporting the budget and we certainly will not be supporting this. What we will be doing to modernize democracy is fighting to get rid of the Senate and bring in proportional representation. Now, that is a positive step in democracy.