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House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Clyde Jackman, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Business of the HouseOral Questions

June 9th, 2011 / 3 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, since this is my first opportunity to ask this traditional question, I want to assure the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons that he will have our full co-operation in standing up for our parliamentary institutions.

That said, could he inform the House as to what business we can expect next week?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome everyone back and congratulate all members on their election or re-election. I would also like to take this opportunity to specifically congratulate the member for Outremont and the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie on their appointments as House leaders of their respective parties.

I am pleased to answer the first Thursday question of the 41st Parliament and to outline to this House our government's agenda as we carry out the strong mandate Canadians gave us on May 2.

Today, we will continue to debate the budget, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a low tax plan for jobs and growth.

Monday, June 13, will be the final day of debate on the budget, followed by votes on the NDP amendment and the main motion. Under the order adopted this morning, we will also vote on a ways and means motion that night, which will allow the government to introduce a budget implementation bill which we will hope to debate later in the week. That bill will contain some positive measures of the low tax plan for jobs and growth, including an increase to the guaranteed income supplement for Canada's most vulnerable seniors. I look forward to the opposition party's support to pass this bill in a timely manner.

On Tuesday, the House will debate a motion regarding Canada's involvement in the NATO-led mission in Libya.

The House will be adjourned both this Friday and next Friday, June 17, for the Conservative and NDP conventions, as is the customary practice of the House for political party conventions.

Standing OrdersOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe you would find unanimous support for the following motion. I move:

That the Standing Orders be amended by replacing Standing Order 104(2) with the following:

104(2) The standing committees, which shall consist of twelve members, and for which the lists of members are to be prepared, except as provided in section (1) of this Standing Order, shall be on:

(a) Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development;

(b) Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics;

(c) Agriculture and Agri-Food;

(d) Canadian Heritage;

(e) Citizenship and Immigration;

(f) Environment and Sustainable Development;

(g) Finance;

(h) Fisheries and Oceans;

(i) Foreign Affairs and International Development;

(j) Government Operations and Estimates;

(k) Health;

(l) Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities;

(m) Industry, Science and Technology;

(n) International Trade;

(o) Justice and Human Rights;

(p) National Defence;

(q) National Resources;

(r) Official Languages;

(s) Procedure and House Affairs;

(t) Public Accounts;

(u) Public Safety and National Security;

(v) Status of Women;

(w) Transport, Infrastructure and Communities; and

(x) Veterans Affairs.

Standing OrdersOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. government whip have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Standing OrdersOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Standing OrdersOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Standing OrdersOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Standing OrdersOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

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

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Before statements by members started, the hon. member for Wild Rose had seven minutes and 30 seconds left to conclude his remarks.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying earlier, our government's economic action plan worked very well to both stimulate the economy and to improve local infrastructure in our municipalities all across the country, especially in my riding of Wild Rose.

However, dealing with the extraordinary consequences of the global financial crisis forced governments worldwide to run budgetary deficits to keep their economies running. Where Canada has proved to be the exception is in how quickly we plan to return to balanced budgets.

In this next phase of the action plan, our government is committed to taking the steps necessary to balance the books. I can say that this is a priority for my constituents. During budget consultations held all across my riding of Wild Rose and during the election, constituents told me time and again that they were eager to secure the economic recovery and balance the books.

This budget responds by committing to balance the books earlier than originally forecast. We will find savings and efficiencies and reduce expenses through a strategic operating review. This important measure will find savings of $4 billion and help to eliminate the deficit a year earlier than planned. It is important for Canadians to know that this return to balanced books will not be at their expense.

Unlike the previous Liberal government, our Conservative government will maintain transfers to provinces and individuals. Pensioners will not be penalized. Health care, education and our military will be supported. Contrast that with the way in which the previous government gutted provincial transfers and nearly dismantled our country's military capabilities in order to generate its artificial surpluses of the 1990s.

This government will not download the pain of its tough choices on Canadians. This government will not raise taxes. As the private sector revs up again as the engine of growth, our government is forging ahead in a way that meets the needs of Canadians now while creating the right conditions for Canada's long-term economic prosperity.

Some very important measures contained in budget 2011 allow us to do this. For example, we are supporting job creation by helping businesses and entrepreneurs to succeed through a temporary hiring credit for small business that will encourage additional hiring by this vital sector. We are extending the work-sharing program and the targeted initiative for older workers to help Canadians stay in the workforce.

The accelerated capital cost allowance for investments in machinery and equipment has been extended for two years, which is of great benefit to Canada's manufacturing and processing sectors.

Furthermore, this budget supports families and seniors. Through our economic action plan, we have enhanced the guaranteed income supplement for vulnerable seniors who rely on old age security and the GIS for their income. The new top-up benefit of $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples will improve financial security for more than 680,000 Canadian seniors.

The budget also introduced a family caregiver tax credit and a children's art tax credit to support Canadian families. The caregiver credit will help Canadians who care for infirm dependent relatives, including, for the first time, spouses, common-law partners and children.

In my riding of Wild Rose, there are many rural towns and villages. Budget 2011 strengthens these communities by improving the services Canadians need wherever they choose to live.

Rural and remote communities often have challenges attracting health care workers. To help address this, we are forgiving up to $40,000 worth of Canada student loans for new family physicians and up to $20,000 for nurses who choose to work in underserviced areas.

In my hometown of Olds, Alberta, I served for a time as a volunteer firefighter. I can tell members firsthand that the volunteer firefighters in my riding and in communities all across the country are sure to appreciate our new tax credit for volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service. These are the men and women who selflessly serve and risk their own safety to keep their neighbours safe. It is important to recognize the service they provide to protect the lives and property of Canadians.

A few years ago, our government doubled the gas tax transfers for communities. In Wild Rose, total tax dollars going to our 16 communities immediately jumped from $4.2 million to over $8 million. These are funds that municipalities use for their infrastructure priorities, such as the improved water treatment plant that the town of Cochrane invested in with its enhanced gas tax transfer.

Budget 2011 will make the enhanced gas tax transfers permanent for communities, giving them the ability to budget and plan with certainty and help address the priority infrastructure needs of their residents.

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention how the action plan benefits some other key sectors in my riding, namely agriculture and forestry. For example, the budget provides $50 million for a two-year agricultural innovation initiative that will support increased commercialization of agricultural innovations, and it strengthens food safety with an additional $100 million over five years for improved food inspection.

For our riding's thriving forestry sector, there is a $60 million innovation fund to help forestry companies tap new business opportunities abroad.

Canadians have given our Conservative government a majority mandate so we can stay focused on improving the economy. While Canadians are encouraged by the bright light we now see at the end of the economic tunnel, we are also prudent enough to know that this light could yet be an oncoming freight train, given the uncertainty and fragility of the global economic recovery. That is why our government is committed to nurturing this recovery cautiously and carefully.

In the recent election, Canadians ensured that the obstruction and delays that opposition parties routinely employed in past years will not be a barrier this time to implementing the measures contained in the economic action plan.

In closing, I invite all opposition members to join with us in voting in favour of this budget and show the same commitment our Conservative government has toward achieving the priorities Canadians made very clear on May 2.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned consultations that he had with his constituents, both earlier in the spring and during the election campaign. I am curious to know whether any of those consultations led to any conclusions or advice regarding the discontinuation of the political subsidy for political parties.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is actually something I heard about time and time again during consultations with my constituents over the last couple of years and certainly during the election campaign.

Many of my constituents, in fact I would say the vast majority of them, wanted to see an end to the per vote subsidies going to parties. They knew it was inherently unfair to have a tax on voting and that their tax dollars were somehow going to parties they might not necessarily support. I know I heard that many times in relation to the Bloc Québécois, in particular. They really had an issue with the fact their tax dollars were going to support a political party that wanted separation from this country.

I am very happy to see we have been able to bring forward that measure in this budget, because it will address a huge concern of many Canadians.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member talks about the creation of jobs and other things in the budget.

As we know, young people in Canada depend on the Canada summer jobs program to find high-quality jobs during the summer to support their education financially. For too long the funds dedicated to this program have been too low to meet the demands of employers in our country's communities.

These funds prepare our youth for their integration into the workforce.

A number of organizations in my riding that want to hire students are not able to do so, because of a lack of funding. The Canada summer jobs program does more than just provide financial support for young people; it provides support for families. When young people are unable to find high-quality jobs, they are forced to ask their parents for money.

Her parents are then stuck with supporting both their own elderly parents and their young children. This does not help families as the Conservatives promised to do--

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I will have to stop the hon. member there, as I have to leave enough time for the member for Wild Rose to respond.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, there was not really a question there but, obviously, I can speak to some of the issues the member was trying to address.

Certainly, with regard to the summer jobs program, our government has increased the funding for that program by $10 million.

I also would encourage him to read the budget; it sounds as though he probably has not. I certainly heard in that budget a number of measures in support of jobs for Canadians, be they young Canadians or otherwise. There is the tax credit we are providing for new hires by small businesses. These are things that will provide an opportunity for the private sector in this country to grow this economy and create the jobs that people need. It will do all of those things, increasing economic growth and creating jobs for young and other Canadians.

I would encourage the member to have a good look at the budget and read it thoroughly, because I think he will find it is something he can support in the best interests of all Canadians, if he were to choose to do that.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech.

The Speech from the Throne and the budget are indicative of how concerned the government is about helping communities hit by disasters, be it flooding or forest fires elsewhere in Canada. I would like some specifics on this.

My riding of Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia was hit by devastating high tides in December. Yesterday and the day before, the Prime Minister spoke about mitigation measures for flooding, be it in Richelieu or Haute-Gaspésie.

How can the budget help the affected communities?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has made some comments on looking at measures that can be put in place. We look forward to seeing those measures as they come forward.

In the meantime, as I highlighted in my speech, there are the gas tax transfers going to municipalities, which I think all communities need to recognize as something that can help them improve their infrastructure. We have doubled those transfers and made them permanent so that communities can plan and count on them as a dedicated fund that is there for their community infrastructure priorities.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I am pleased to announce that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry.

I want to take this first opportunity I have to thank the people of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for the confidence they have shown in me. It is a very nice region in the Lower St. Lawrence, near the majestic river.

I would like to inform the House that one of the key promises on which I was elected was to create a round table for provincially and federally elected officials from the Lower St. Lawrence. In the Lower St. Lawrence region, we have three federal MPs: two New Democrats and one Bloc Québécois colleague. At the provincial level, we have four MNAs: three from the Parti Québécois and one from the Liberal Party. A round table is essential for ensuring that in a region like the Lower St. Lawrence, we are speaking with one voice when we need to present our claims or requests either in Quebec City or in Ottawa. This concerted effort is also essential in dealing with a major challenge in my riding and several other ridings, namely regional economic development.

Regional economic development is essential for these regions. Unlike major centres, these regions do not necessarily have the density to allow the same type of economic development. Federal and provincial government assistance is needed to facilitate the development of essential projects and to help boost the economy.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be so essential for this government since the budget plan it presented proposes reducing funding for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec by 31%, from $430 million to $296 million. It is bit hard to understand, especially when the budget plan mentions with regard to support programs for industries, the regions, science and technology that:

The industrial, regional and scientific–technological support programs sector comprises those departments, agencies and Crown Corporations that deliver programs which foster economic growth and job creation....

The problem with this government is that it does not make the distinction between straight-up expenses and investments. Investments are needed to ensure profitability and a return not only for the people of the riding or the region, but also for the people of Quebec and Canada.

The total budget line mentions a 31% reduction in the budget of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, but the program to support technology, the regions, infrastructure, and science will be cut by nearly 33%, falling from $15 billion to $10 billion. This clearly reflects priorities that are retrograde and harmful to the future economic development of the country.

The budget is contrary to the interests of my region, for example in regard to forestry, which is very close to my heart. I used to work in forestry as an economist and researcher. In the depths of the great recession, when the government thought it was great to give the automotive industry more than $10 billion in loan guarantees and subsidies, the forestry sector got a mere $170 million. Once again, the budget does not help forestry workers because it provides only $60 million, largely for research and development that will only benefit us in the long run.

The people in the forestry sector, the workers and communities, need help now. They do not need meaningless grants. They need assistance to make the transition from outdated market niches that are uncompetitive to new areas where they can compete. The forest industry needs this government help, as do the union members and communities that depend on forestry.

Since 2004, more than 75,000 people have lost their jobs in the forest industry. In Quebec alone, more than 20,000 people have lost their jobs. Two hundred and thirty-five mills have closed their doors. In many remote communities, forestry is the main economic activity. It accounts for 3% of Canada’s GDP and 12% of its manufacturing GDP. We cannot allow it simply to wither away, as is currently being done.

In 2008, the former member for Pontiac promised a national summit on the future of the forest industry in Canada, in which the companies, unions, communities and first nations were to take part. Since then, though, all we have heard from this government is complete and utter silence.

In view of this silence and the negative decisions regarding the funding of regional economic development for Quebec and other regions of Canada, which have just been left hanging, and in view of the fact that the government continues to ignore the issues that are damaging forestry and the communities dependent on it, I cannot vote for this budget.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member on his very humanistic approach to a budget with many negative aspects. Although we are very pleased with the $2.2 billion for Quebec, we cannot help but notice that the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques has put his finger on a problem.

The forestry industry remains a major problem for many communities in Quebec. I know that the hon. member has a lot of expertise in this area. I would like him to talk more about the amounts promised in this budget. How will this create a problem? We have heard a lot about the support the Conservative government has given to the manufacturing and automotive industries, among others. I am very worried about the difference in the amounts allocated to the forestry industry, some tens of millions of dollars here and there to various regions of Quebec. The riding of Gatineau is also affected by this problem, as we saw with the Bowater mill. The same thing is also happening in Pontiac and Papineau—Mirabel—Argenteuil.

Could the hon. member talk about some of the solutions that this government could have proposed?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Gatineau. It is indeed a very relevant question.

We do not necessarily need to limit our discussion to this budget; we could talk about all of the budgets presented by this government since it was first elected in 2006.

The forestry crisis has been affecting all sectors of Quebec, the forestry sector overall, since at least that time. I mentioned over 20,000 jobs lost. Early on, loan guarantees could have been granted. The problems experienced by companies like AbitibiBowater, Fraser Papers, Domtar and others could have been avoided if the government had done what it did for the auto sector and had granted loan guarantees to allow those companies to borrow money at market rates. Given the financial difficulties they faced, they had to borrow at absolutely outrageous interest rates—between 15% and 20%—which made it impossible for them to become profitable again.

The government wasted no time signing a softwood lumber agreement that prohibits loan guarantees. The London court issued a ruling on that. Therefore, this eliminated one possible way of helping the industry.

Now the industry itself is realizing the problems that exist. It needs to distance itself from areas like pulp and paper and softwood, that is, areas in which it is becoming harder to compete internationally, and it needs to find new niches. The industries are now ready to do so, but the help just is not there. This would require changes—

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I posed a question a little earlier for one of his NDP colleagues and I would very much appreciate an answer. My question was in regard to the way in which the government finances health care.

Some would argue that ultimately we should have cash transfers toward health care, much stronger in terms of that sort of argument, versus tax point transfers, something for which the Bloc has been a very strong advocate, believing that Quebec's interest would be better served by tax points. That would be the argument of Bloc members.

I look to the new member for the riding in Quebec. What does he feel is the most appropriate way to finance health care in the province of Quebec? Would it be through cash transfers or tax points?