House of Commons Hansard #170 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


The House resumed from October 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-45, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Jobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

10:05 a.m.


Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie. He will speak for 10 minutes after I finish the eight minutes I have remaining from yesterday.

I started yesterday's speech by pointing out that this bill is completely undemocratic. We are debating more than 400 pages under a time allocation motion, so we will not have a chance to discuss the bill thoroughly. It is all well and good to say that we will have the chance to study the bill in committee, except we will not be able to make amendments. When I came to the House, I thought that we were supposed to debate ideas to find compromises that reflect the values, ideas and wishes of the Canadian public. But that is not the case and I am very disappointed.

The bill is called the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012. This title is a bit misleading, since the bill does not propose any concrete measures to create the 1.4 million jobs needed in this country. As we know, the budget actually led to the loss of 43,000 jobs. It is not creating jobs; it is causing them to be lost.

The government tells us that the $500 million in cuts to research and development can help stimulate innovation, except that we have not yet been told how it will bridge that gap. We do not know the new criteria for research and development, and those would be very useful to know. It would stimulate our economy and motivate people to innovate.

This week I attended a conference that addressed the importance of innovation, particularly in the technology and computer industry. If the government does not invest and does not compensate for the $500 million shortfall in research and development, I do not understand how it will ensure economic growth.

The bill includes a $1,000 tax credit that will help create jobs in small- and medium-sized businesses. This is a measure that we support. We have always supported these types of measures. However, I would have liked to see a longer-term commitment, since $1,000 is great now, but if an employer is considering hiring workers in one or two years, he would probably like to know that this tax credit will still be available.

What is really crucial when it comes to economic growth is ensuring that we invest in our environment. We must create a green economy and invest in it. With all of the restrictions and the changes made to our environmental protection laws, I have a hard time imaging how my generation will see any economic growth in 20 years. The protection of natural resources and natural resources themselves are an incredible source of wealth for this country.

Instead of creating jobs, Bill C-45 completely destroys the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Thousands of waterways will no longer be protected. The changes are huge. The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, which will examine this, will not even be able to propose amendments. It is truly shameful.

Furthermore, the bill removes the notion of “water protection” and replaces it with “navigation protection”. There is a huge difference between the two definitions. Once again, this will not be examined. The bill also reduces the number of environmental assessments indicated in the Environmental Protection Act.

However, the bill does have one good measure for the environment, but the amount allocated is very small. The bill includes a tax credit for certain kinds of green energy equipment and products. It is a good measure and I congratulate the government on this, but $3 million to $5 million is peanuts; it is not enough. This does not demonstrate any real desire on the government's part to invest in the green economy, which would help create jobs. Everyone knows this; studies have proven it. I think this is really a missed opportunity.

The bill also eliminates the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission and puts more powers in the hands of ministers. We saw the same thing with Bill C-38, which unfortunately also passed and was just as undemocratic as this one. That bill also eliminated several commissions and gave more powers to ministers.

What is the point of conducting studies and hearing from informed and educated people who are experts in their field, if the government does not want to listen to them? They betray their ignorance by saying that, because they are ministers, they know everything and there is no need for experts or their advice. Our country is vast and the population is growing. We have to take into consideration what the majority of people want, and this advice could help us do that.

The plight of our young workers is of particular concern to me because, before I was elected, I was a labour relations officer with a union that represents young workers. Last year, in a discussion group, I spoke to young workers who said that they were very worried about the fact that a two-tiered pension system is being proposed.

Young workers are going to enter the workforce, and their pension benefits will be less than those of people who entered the workforce before them. That creates two categories of employees: those who were there first and young workers. Young workers begin their careers saddled with huge debt they have accumulated to finance their post-secondary studies. They have a hard time finding work, because the youth unemployment rate is very high. Furthermore, once they enter the workforce, the public service pension plan will change. They will be told that they are entering too late unfortunately. This will create two classes of workers, which is not good for our young people.

And this is all happening without any real debate. I support some of the measures in the bill, but because everything is lumped together, I cannot support this completely undemocratic bill.

Every time that the government asks why I ask a question when I will be voting against a measure, I will answer that I am proud to oppose it because the NDP will always oppose undemocratic measures. We will always be proud to support transparency and accountability. We will always defend environmental protection, retirement security and health care.

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10:10 a.m.


Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with much humour to the member's statement about the government being ignorant and the minister not understanding certain things that those members have to say about the bill. It is absolutely astounding that the member of that party can stand up and complain about not having enough time to study the bill when budget information has been out for several months now.

Since I have been in this House, and this is my 20th year in the House, the NDP has never voted in favour of a government bill. Those members have always given fair warning that they would be voting against government budget bills even before they were read in the House. I do not know how she can stand and say that NDP members do not have enough time when they have already said that they will be voting against the bill before it was even presented.

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10:10 a.m.


Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite knows we have voted for budgets in the past in minority situations. In his wisdom, he should know that.

Regarding the lack of time for the budget, yes, we received the lovely budget document and indeed we read it, except that the budget tabled in March contained so little detail. We might see a sentence saying they were making changes to environmental protection and expediting the project assessment process, but it is just one sentence.

Now, we have been landed with a document over 400 pages long. It is easy to understand that one sentence does not give us a lot of information.

The information is coming, certainly, with this bill, but it is in a 400-page brick. I think it is truly shameful to think this is acceptable.

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10:15 a.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Cariboo—Prince George said just now that the bill has been out for months. And also, the member has been here for 20 years. I do not know what he has done in those 20 years, but he does not realize that the bill came out last week. That is not months, that is a few days.

Again, we are discussing the time allocated for the bill. The Conservatives like to get up and say how good and fine the bill is and that we should support it. If the bill is so good and so fine, and if we should pass it, why do the Conservatives not want to talk about it and why are they trying to cut off debate?

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10:15 a.m.


Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Nickel Belt raises an excellent point. In fact, this omnibus bill probably has more pages than any other in 20 years. The member opposite who just asked me a question should understand that bills like this are unacceptable.

If the Conservatives are so proud of this budget and this omnibus bill, which is over 400 pages long, why can we not have some real debate? Why can we not make amendments that might improve this bill? Why not let the people of Canada and Quebec examine this legislation properly and listen to the advice of experts and academics from all across Canada? Because all they want is quick passage of these bills. There is too much to digest, even for the media. They have to pick the most important measure to discuss in the media. There is really too much to digest.

If they were so proud of their legislation, they would want to discuss it at length.

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10:15 a.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak about what is called Bill C-45 and about the fact that the government opposite has decided once again impose closure. How many times does this make? I think it is 33. In the early days, we were up in arms. It was unbelievable that closure would be imposed in the House of Commons. Democratic procedures are not the government's forte.

In terms of the budget, in March 2012, the economic action plan was released. We know it was; we saw it on television. There was a lot of publicity about it, and the Conservatives even spent more than they had set aside for it. I would like to congratulate them on putting money into something that was passed in March 2012 and exceeding their own budget, when this money could have been used to help those in need.

Families in my riding of Brossard—La Prairie now have to go to food banks to ask for food, even though they are employed.

With regard to the process, the budget was tabled in March 2012, and then we had to study that brick of a document. The Standing Committee on Finance had to study the repercussions of the first budget implementation act. It was also an omnibus bill that affected many pieces of legislation. The Conservatives were nice and they let a finance subcommittee study a little bit of the bill.

All this just to say that this process is quite impenetrable and there is a flagrant lack of transparency. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is even threatening to take the government to court because it is not giving him all the information about the financial implications of its own initiatives.

Last week, Bill C-45 came along. This bill has some 400 pages. It contains amendments to some 40 pieces of legislation. The government has learned something at least. It knows these bills do not go down well with Canadians or with the opposition. It has agreed to split them to some extent in committee, but only for the purposes of study. Then the bill will be sent back to the Standing Committee on Finance, of which I am a member. We are going to have to study it, because the government has not even agreed that amendments may be made in committee.

The government has learned that omnibus bills are unacceptable. It agreed to separate it into 10 parts. This shows that the bill covers incredibly wide-ranging elements. Furthermore, not all these elements are necessarily related to the budget. We also know that the members on the other side complained about omnibus bills when they were in opposition. Now they have become experts in omnibus bills.

Also, I would like to put how the economy is doing into context. I know that my colleagues across the way know we are in a fragile economy. The IMF, OECD, and last week even the Conference Board of Canada said that a restorative budget would not help in terms of difficult times. Right now we are having difficult times and the government is not listening to what economists are saying.

Since the Conservatives took power, the gap between the rich and the poor has increased. Right now it is increasing more rapidly in Canada than the U.S. That is a problem. The Conservative government is not taking that issue seriously.

As well, household debt is at a record high since the government has taken power. That is a problem. What has the government done? Nothing. One of the reasons we have arrived here is because of the government's inaction. One of the problems we have is that the government is not listening to what Canadians are saying or looking at how they are living now. That is another huge problem.

My colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville also mentioned that the unemployment rate among young people is double the normal rate. This is a problem. What is the government doing? Nothing, once again.

To address all the problems, we want the government to invest in the future, to support green energy and the green economy.

The Conservatives have invested about $3 million in tax credits for the green economy. It is a start but it is not really very much considering the size of the budget.

With regard to the corporate tax cuts, the Governor of the Bank of Canada noted that one of the problems was that there is $500 billion in dead money sitting around.

Even the Minister of Finance has realized that money is not being reinvested in the economy. What was his solution? It was to tell the companies to reinvest that money. However, just telling them that does not work. We need to take action. We have seen that the actions taken by the government do not work.

I do not want to use unparliamentary language but, when the Minister of Finance rose to speak on Bill C-45, he was very disrespectful when he said that we did not do our job last summer and that we were supposed to have read his budget. We read his budget a long time ago. When it came out in March, we took notes. He said that everything that was in Bill C-45 was in the budget.

We had a briefing session with senior officials last Monday from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. just to review Bill C-45 in its entirety. I asked those senior officials and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance where in the budget the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act in Bill C-45 were mentioned. According to the government and even according to the Department of Transport, the purpose of that act is to protect the environment.

She referred me to page 282. Here is an excerpt from this page where the transportation portfolio is mentioned. I asked for the exact reference because, of course, there is no reference to the environment or to navigable waters protection. She mentioned one line: “Transport Canada, 2012-13, $37 million.” According to the Minister of Finance, we should have understood that this was a direct reference to the protection of navigable waters, of all of Canada's lakes and rivers. He seemed to be saying that environmental protection is covered in one tiny little line that mentions $37 million. By the way, $37 million is the amount cut from the budget for transport. Go figure.

The Minister of Finance said we had not done our homework. It is very difficult to do our homework when the minister himself hides what is happening. The other side is improvising. This is why we are faced with a bill which now includes things that were not originally in the budget, things that we need to ask questions about. The Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General both agree: the government lacks transparency. It is the least transparent government in the history of our country. This is no surprise, since the government was overturned for the way it was treating Parliament.

It is disappointing to see the government's attacks on democracy in an effort to ignore it completely. It is keeping parliamentarians in the dark. We ask questions, but they remain unanswered. Even the other side does not know the answers.

The Conservatives are improvising. We asked senior officials questions to figure out what the cost would be. They replied they had not done any reviews and would just wait and see. The other side must realize how disturbing this is. At a time when our economy remains fragile, we need a clear vision, and such a vision is obviously missing from the other side. The government did not learn anything from public reaction to its last omnibus bill.

In my riding of Brossard—La Prairie, I had the chance to hear from people representing many organizations including Le Partage, the Mouvement Action-chômage, the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada and Humane Society International. They told Canadians what was in the last budget implementation bill and how it would impact them. We hope that this time, the government will pay attention to what the opposition has to say.

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10:25 a.m.


Sana Hassainia NDP Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Brossard—La Prairie for his excellent speech and his excellent analysis.

In a true democracy, legislators take the time to study the bills they introduce, to discuss them and, most importantly, to listen to expert testimony. Once again, the time we have to study Bill C-45 has been cut short by the Conservatives. I would like to know what my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie thinks of the message the government is sending Canadians by invoking closure for the thirtieth time, at least, to prevent us from having a real debate.

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10:25 a.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes for her question. She said we are experiencing problems in terms of democracy.

We want to do our job. The government, however, intentionally keeps information from us. As parliamentarians, we have a very hard time obtaining information. How can we make decisions when we do not know what consequences they might have? How can we vote on a bill when we have no idea if its effect will be negative or positive?

I think it is understood that we want this information and that we are trying to do our job. It is the government that is keeping information from us. We have asked senior officials and government members questions, but they do not even have the information. We are now calling for consultations and discussions to better understand the scope of this budget. I have to admit there are some good things in the bill, such as the provisions concerning transfer pricing.

Fine, it is one start.

What is missing is debate and discussion. For example, when parts of the budget amended the Indian Act, first nations were not consulted. The government came up with the changes and put them in place without talking to the people involved. This is why we need to do it now.

Unfortunately, the government is not listening to us, once again.

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10:25 a.m.


Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. member that the budget was first introduced on March 29 of this year, roughly six months ago. We are already halfway through the year. There was plenty of time to read the budget. I have heard repeatedly from the member and others in the opposition, particularly the NDP party, about the length of the bill. There are many high school and university students across this country who have textbooks that are longer than this bill. Members in the House have had more than six months to study the bill.

My question is this. There is time allotted for each member to speak about the budget, and the opposition is continually referring to the fact that there is not enough time for debate. Let me remind the member that the leader of his party, just two day ago, spent 45 minutes in the House talking about the budget. In addition, and I will close with this, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster spoke for 13 hours on this budget. Who are they kidding? Canadians from across the country have had enough of this nonsense. We need to get the work done.

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10:30 a.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think my colleague was listening to my debate. If he heard what I was saying, budget 2012, which we saw ads on TV for and we paid a lot for, was submitted in March 2012. There is a line for Transport Canada that says there will be $37 million, and from that we are supposed to understand that the Navigable Waters Protection Act will be amended and will have an effect on all the lakes and rivers in Canada. What are we supposed to learn from that?

Now we see the government improvising on that front, by changing websites and taking “environment” out of it. The idea was to protect the environment. It is clear the government has not done its homework, and that is only one example. There are tons of examples of things that were not in the budget or that were made reference to with no explanation. It was only last week that we got Bill C-45. I know how to read a lot of legislation, but this is overdoing it.

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10:30 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before we resume debate, I want to inform all hon. members that we have passed the five hours of debate and, as such, all speeches from this point on will be 10 minutes.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington.

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10:30 a.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot to talk about in this budget but I will have to say it all in 10 minutes rather than 20 minutes. My colleague for Ottawa—Vanier suggests this might be bad news for me but good news for him. I always appreciate his thoughtful commentary on such matters.

I want to start by picking up on the point that my hon. colleague was making a moment ago in his response to a question. I have to say that I disagree with him somewhat. He complained that the budget bill is very large, as he was waving a copy of the budget, which is also very large. It is reasonable to expect that a meaty budget would produce a meaty and detailed piece of legislation.

Although I suspect a few of my constituents sit down and read most legislation cover to cover, I think that sometimes there is a tendency to expect that Canadians will not actually read the budget implementation act and that they will take it on faith that a very large bill is somehow inappropriate.

I want to point out that the nature of the many small detailed adjustments that are being made to government spending require a certain amount of space. To make this point, I will turn to Bill C-45 on page 228, which deals with pay for judges under the Judges Act. It deals with the salaries for every federally appointed and paid judge in the country, starting with the Chief Justice of Canada. It includes a series of amendments to the Judges Act because these salaries are legislated. Members would understand why we would not want to have judges salaries be discretionary, which is in order to preserve the independence of the judiciary. I will just read a bit of this to give a sense of why there is so much volume in this act.

210. Sections 9 to 22 of the Judges Act are replaced by the following:

9. The yearly salaries of the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada are as follows:

(a) the Chief Justice of Canada, $370,300; and

(b) the eight puisne judges, $342,800 each.

Puisne judges here are what we call associate justices. By the way, what has changed from the current Judges Act is that the actual numbers are changed because of salary increases from the current level.

It goes on:

10. The yearly salaries of the judges of the Federal Courts are as follows:

(a) the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal, $315,900;

(b) the other judges of the Federal Court of Appeal, $288,100 each;

(c) the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, $315,900; and

(d) the other judges of the Federal Court, $288,100 each.

11. The yearly salaries of the judges of the Tax Court of Canada are as follows:

(a) the Chief Justice, $315,900;

(b) the Associate Chief Justice, $315,900; and

(c) the other judges, $288,100 each.

It then goes on for every single provincial court, starting with Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and finally getting to the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories, which is the very last one several pages on.

They all have different salary levels currently and we want to have them go up proportionately. There is no other way of doing this than by laying the text out in this manner and it takes a certain amount of space, which is typical of the kind of content we find in this budget implementation act. It is detailed, thoughtful, methodical and, by necessity, takes up space.

This is not, as some members of the opposition have suggested, the budget version of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time. This is actually a very reasonable, methodical, practical way of dealing with the very complex business of managing a country's national government's expenditures.

The main theme of the bill is bringing practical restraint after years of expanding government budgets. Of course, these were the expansions in the government's budget that took place in the wake of the financial meltdown of 2008.

At that time, the argument was made very forcefully by the opposition that the government must spend more money on stimulus. Indeed, in early 2009, the government was told that it must spend more money on stimulus and go into deficit, since there was no way of spending more money when revenues were at the levels they were at then.

We were told we must do that as a condition of them not defeating us and replacing us as the government without an intervening election. That was the deal. While the budgets passed by our government in its minority period were not supported by the opposition, the opposition's criticism at the time was based on us not spending enough. We should be clear about that.

Now we are downsizing, or one might say re-sizing, from that expenditure. I am not a Keynesian. I do not think that is the appropriate way of dealing with a financial downturn. However, if one does believe in Keynesianism, as the opposition does and indeed many colleagues on this side do as well, then this is what Keynesians do when an economy is not contracting but expanding. They cut spending, do not increase taxes and try to build up the financial work chest that may be needed for some future financial crisis. It is at times of financial crisis when the economy is contracting that a government engages in stimulus spending. This is part of that cycle.

As I said, I am not a Keynesian, but I do believe in the part about trying to keep government spending reasonable and under control. I also believe in the general approach the government has adopted, which is making small adjustments here and there across that vast scale of government expenditures, rather than simply making radical, dramatic cuts.

That approach has been tried. Indeed, it was tried by the Chrétien government and by Paul Martin when he was finance minister back in the mid 1990s. I remember the budget of 1995 very well. I was a staffer on Parliament Hill at the time. Canada had a very substantial deficit at the time. We were heading into a situation where we could potentially face a lenders' strike. The government's response was to cut spending, which I applaud.

The way it cut spending was not approved of by the former Reform Party and PCs, and that was to cut transfers to provinces radically. It left all federal spending on direct expenditures intact, which was politically sensitive, but it cut radically on the transfers to the provinces. This had the effect of nailing the provinces on their primary expenditures: health care and education. These are the two areas that Canadians consistently indicate are the most important areas of spending to them. That had a very serious negative impact on the provinces.

Our government has tried to avoid harming transfers to the provinces. A very stable foundation of funding, both for equalization and for direct health care transfers has now been secured several years into the future. The adjustments that are being made are to direct federal expenditures. These are, naturally, very many because there are so many different areas in which our government engages in spending. There is everything from soup to nuts, from national defence to protecting the environment. It covers a lot of ground.

Much of that spending is non-discretionary. It is put in place by statute, which means the statutes must be adjusted. The example I just gave of the Judges Act is a typical example of the kinds of adjustments that are made to a statutory expenditure requirement. We have to go through and deal with it in detail. It takes up space and inevitably creates a substantial bill.

Frankly, that is why we needed to have more than one budget implementation bill. We had one in the spring and as promised one in the autumn to deal with that very substantial amount of work and to give the time in the intervening period for the kind of work that requires detailed thought on the part of ministers to achieve the goal of having reasonable expenditure adjustments that do not cause harm to the interests of Canadians.

I have just one last example. It involves my own constituency. As all good MPs do, I want to wrap things up by talking about my own constituency.

One area of cuts that we faced was an adjustment to the canals budget of Parks Canada, which is administered through the ministry of the environment. It had an overall adjustment to its budget downwards of $29 million, of which $2 million would affect the Rideau Canal system. It is Ontario's only world heritage site and an area of considerable cultural and recreational importance.

The initial approach adopted by Parks Canada was to try to achieve at least part of that cut by reducing the season. When that met with concerns, the minister intervened personally. A number of MPs drew this concern to his attention. That included MPs from more than one party because the canal flows through both Conservative and Liberal-held ridings, and I think even an NDP-held riding.

The result was that reasonable changes were made to ensure the season could remain its full length. The part of the budget that was most important to local Canadians was respected. The result is a change that saves money and at the same time allows for a reasonable and intelligent expenditure of those funds.

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10:40 a.m.


Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am certain that the hon. member who just concluded his speech is as frustrated as we are to see his time limited to 10 minutes, as he would have liked to say even more good things about this budget. Our position is the complete opposite. We are concerned because we believe that the Conservatives will be saddling future generations with the greatest economic, social and ecological debt ever.

I would like my colleague to answer this question: how can a government that wants to create jobs and prosperity reach these goals by bringing forward an austerity budget? Great Britain tried that approach, and analysts now find that the recession is continuing.

Can he demonstrate, in just a few seconds, that this austerity budget will really get us out of the recession?

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10:40 a.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, if we go into the future and continue to build up a very substantial national debt, we must remember that every year's deficit gets added to the national debt. We cannot keep doing that year after year, as we did during the first years of the recession. From a purely economic point of view, the recession is actually over in Canada. It continues to exist elsewhere.

If we had gone on and continued to build the national debt, which I think would be the inevitable result if the NDP were actually carrying out what they proposed, the result would be a massive debt faced in the future by people like myself when we retire and by our children when they enter the workforce. That, when it is put in combination with the very substantial obligations that we face paying old age security, Canada pension plan and the very substantial health benefits that will go to seniors, would have the effect of creating an unsustainable burden on taxpayers.

In the end, services including life-saving services such as health care would inevitably be cut. Pensions might very well be cut in practice, if not nominally, through the government inflating its way out. I think that is the solution many European countries will adopt and it is a very unwise solution.

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10:45 a.m.


Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly give accolades to my colleague. It should be noted that I am very familiar with my colleague as we are in adjoining ridings. I not only see his contribution nationally and internationally through all of his good work, but I consistently see the results he delivers for his riding. I am honoured to have him as a colleague and to work with him for the benefit of our communities.

The member made one particular comment that I wonder if could expand on. He mentioned Keynesian economics. Keynesian economics, as we all know, is very simple. It is called “spend, spend, spend”. It is about how fast people can spend themselves out of a problem. In reality we all know it does not and has not worked. For the official opposition, I suppose that would be in the top ranks of its philosophy, tax and spend, tax and spend. The leader of the third party was with a government that adopted that in Ontario to the highest degree.

Perhaps the hon. member could give us some history on the effects of Keynesian economics and tell us how dastardly that would unfold for Canada?

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10:45 a.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, the current leader of the Liberal Party did indeed try practising this kind of economics with disastrous results in Ontario. The father of the future leader of the Liberal Party did the same thing federally. We had to suffer years of deficits as a result of that.

Theoretical Keynesian economics, as written by Lord Keynes, was a system in which governments would spend substantially, run deficits in hard times, and then would run substantial surpluses and collect the funds necessary for the next crisis in good times.

That is not the way it works in reality. The incentive for politicians to spend more and not raise taxes, at all times, results in impractical Keynesian economics. It results in the kind of stagflation that has large deficits that are dealt with through inflation, which destroys growth prospects as we saw in the 1970s.

I would very much like to say that, as a rule, it should be avoided and we should simply try to practice good housekeeping at all times.

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10:45 a.m.


Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada has to create a climate that encourages investment and innovation, a stable, predictable economic climate that inspires confidence in entrepreneurs and will enable us to stimulate innovation. We have to create good, high value-added jobs and develop our vast natural resources responsibly to create a more prosperous, greener and more just society. To do that, we have to provide competent management of the economy and government.

Whether the issue is the criteria that guide the review of takeovers of our natural resources or the budget implementation act, the government is sowing uncertainty and doubt where predictability should prevail. The private sector is now used to receiving an annual budget in March that does not even bother to announce the actual initiatives the government intends to bring in. For the rest of the year, we get three omnibus bills that are unrelated to the budget document, into which the government tosses all its dirty laundry and the bills it does not have the courage to defend in the House of Commons, let alone before parliamentary committees. This is not a climate that inspires confidence.

In this monstrosity of a bill, which is even bigger than the budget was, the opposition is particularly concerned about the nearly $500 million cut to support for research and development in the private sector. Cuts to scientific research and experimental development tax credits are of particular concern to the private sector. These arbitrary cuts exacerbate the problems our manufacturing sector is already suffering, fragile as it is as a result of our high dollar. They threaten the climate of certainty that encourages investment and good job creation in Canada, in Quebec and in my riding, LaSalle—Émard, where manufacturing is an important economic activity.

The budget reduces the 20% general R and D tax credit to 15% for the big corporations that do most of the R and D in Canada.

In a letter to the Minister of Finance, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters wrote:

The reduction of the ITC rate will impact the ability of Canadian divisions of multinational corporations to attract global R and D mandates in Canada and will require Canadian headquartered companies to examine outsourcing R and D as a more cost-effective way of driving innovation and productivity....Unfortunately, the signal that the proposed SR&ED changes send are two-fold: (1) Canada does not value or welcome large R and D mandates; and, (2) companies with large R and D projects should look elsewhere in the future. Large R and D projects, affiliated with existing manufacturing operations, are the prime driver of innovation and commercialization in Canada. While it is true that many enterprises will continue to invest in R and D, the proposed changes to the SR&ED program mean that those investments are much less likely to be placed in Canada.

The government has also cut the payroll expenses that companies can claim instead of making detailed claims by 10%. But what is of greater concern is that the government has decided to reduce the tax credit for eligible capital expenditures.

On this last point, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters told the Minister of Finance:

Eliminating capital expenditures from eligible expenses will significantly and negatively impact the largest users of SR&ED – Canada's manufacturing sector – which is much more capital intensive than other will have a much broader impact on the ability to retain and attract investment in Canada. Some manufacturers may continue to invest in R and D and carry additional costs, other companies will simply move the R and D to other jurisdictions where overall R and D costs are lower, providing a greater return on these investments. This will further undermine Canada’s innovation and commercialization performance.

This is extremely alarming, coming from the association representing a sector that employees nearly two million Canadians and generates $166 billion or 14% of our GDP. The manufacturing sector also does 45% of R&D in Canada and employs nearly 6,000 people in my riding, La Salle—Émard.

The artificially high value of our dollar is hurting our exports and our manufacturing sector. Quebec lost 70,000 jobs in the first three months of 2012, 8,000 of which were in the manufacturing sector.

Over the last decade, the share that the Canadian manufacturing sector contributes to our country's GDP has fallen by 2%. That decline has been felt especially in the lumber and pulp and paper processing industry, but also in the fishing industry. Between 2002 and 2011, the value of Canadian exports produced by the manufacturing sector fell by $20 billion. We are paying the price for a dollar that is too high.

The ill-conceived cuts to R&D tax credits will also be a drain on the profitability and competitiveness of the aerospace industry, an industry that is of vital importance to metropolitan Montreal and to Quebec. R&D cycles in that industry are counted not in months and years, but in decades.

The costs are astronomical, the financial risk is high, competition is fierce, and the margin of error is zero. This sector must be able to rely on financial certainty and long-term federal assistance. Federal tax credits for research and development are the only federal instrument that can provide this long-term certainty.

I spent the last few weeks of the summer visiting aerospace facilities in the Montreal area. In Quebec alone, the aerospace industry employs over 70,000 workers and provides economic spinoffs worth nearly $20 billion. This is no reason to rest on our laurels. The aerospace sector is rapidly developing in emerging economies. In Canada, in Quebec, our industry has reached a crossroads and needs leadership.

We must be able to provide financial certainty through government programs that support research and development in order to create greener, quieter devices. We need to introduce tools that help businesses put their ideas to the test before they reach the marketing stage, so that we can finally bridge the “valley of death”.

We must ensure that businesses operating in Canada enjoy the same opportunities as their foreign competitors in terms of federal procurement programs and calls for tenders.

While I may have jumped ahead of the release of the Emerson report on the future of the aerospace industry and begun a direct dialogue with businesses in that sector, I did so because the NDP is an engaged partner, one that listens. Once again, what we are hearing is that the industry is looking for partners, certainty and a long-term vision for our economy.

The Conservatives have reinvested only part of the savings from the scientific research and experimental development program in direct support programs. Entrepreneurs are being shortchanged $400 million. This is bad for innovation and bad for the economy.

Canadian manufacturers are saying that the government underestimated the cost to businesses by $250 million. The scientific research and experimental development program, or SR&ED, is an important tool in the planning of major sectors of our economy. Once again, the Conservatives are not fostering a predictable climate for R&D investments. This is bad for our economy.

The NDP supports sustainable economic development that is built on the creation of skilled, value-added jobs and the responsible development of our natural resources. Together, we can create a more prosperous, greener and more just society for all Canadians.

Jobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start by saying that I am deeply disappointed that we are being muzzled. This shows, unfortunately, how spineless the government is. I congratulate my colleague from LaSalle—Émard for her speech and for her endless dedication to hounding the Minister of Industry for all his shortcomings and inadequacies.

I used to sit on the Standing Committee on International Trade, where I witnessed how incredibly naive the government can be when it comes to fostering Canada's competitiveness and its ability to achieve its rightful place in international trade.

I would like to talk about research and development. Could my colleague tell us about the ridiculous waste of funding, from public funds and other sources? Could she tell us about the results Canada's research and development community is expected to deliver? According to some studies, results in that area are truly dismal.

Jobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

We see that expectations related to research and development are complex and ongoing. It is important to realize that we should not stop investing in research and development when the economy is fragile. But that is exactly what the government is doing now. It takes pride in talking about innovation, but it is withdrawing from research and development. I find that very unfortunate.

Johanne MorinStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to honour Johanne Morin, a teacher from Breakeyville, in my riding, who was awarded a Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence.

Ms. Morin is a teacher at École l'Étincelle de Sainte-Marguerite, where her students benefit from her innovative and captivating projects. She sparks the curiosity of her students to allow them to develop critical thinking skills. She is known for her visionary approach focused on the needs of children. Parents of Ms. Morin's students all give her rave reviews. Nobody is left behind in her class. It is impossible to get bored. In fact, it is even impossible to not make progress in any subject or skill, be it academic or personal.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate Johanne Morin for her compassion and remind members just how big a role teachers play in our children's lives.

Workforce Integration OrganizationStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to commemorate the 30th anniversary of La Relance Outaouais, a dynamic social economy enterprise in my riding. Founded in 1982, La Relance Outaouais now has 180 employees. It provides training and workforce preparation programs to the public and offers services to promote workforce integration.

La Relance Outaouais helps a wide range of clients, from students to people with functional limitations or retirees who wish to return to the workforce.

La Relance Outaouais has dozens of personalized programs and tools to offer job seekers high-quality services and advice so that they are well equipped and supported in their efforts.

On behalf of myself and my colleagues in the Outaouais region, I want to congratulate La Relance Outaouais for its 30 years of service to our community.

Congratulations to the entire team.

TelecommunicationsStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, electronic networking and messaging sites are incredibly powerful communication advances that have in so many ways changed how we as Canadians are communicating with each other. Sadly, though, like so many incredible technologies, these very powerful platforms can be abused.

Yesterday, I read the comments of hundreds of anonymous posters online and was frankly shocked and saddened by the level of vitriolic hatred and personal attacks that were freely posted.

While I believe firmly that the right to free speech must be strongly defended and protected, I also believe it should be backed up by the common decency to stand by one's words as opposed to hiding behind online anonymity. Anonymous online attacks are, in my view, cowardly but they are no less hurtful and represent a caustic scourge that is harming too many in our society.

I am deeply concerned by what I have witnessed online and saddened by the impact it is having on the lives of too many Canadians. I believe that this is an issue this place must consider.

Girls SoccerStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to recognize the achievements of a group of amazing athletes in my riding. The Saint-Léonard Lions under 12 AA girls soccer team has had a phenomenal year.

During this past season, the team has won tournaments in Brossard and Boucherville but its most impressive victory came at the prestigious Granby International Soccer Tournament where it won gold by winning all six games against a field of over 30 teams. It won the Concordia league by scoring an impressive 149 goals with only 1 against while securing its league cup and the A cup against other championship teams.

Many girls play in higher age brackets and have earned recognition at the provincial level. This level of excellence is something special to behold and the best is yet to come.

I congratulate all the players, coaches and volunteers for their achievements and, in particular, coach Fernando Posca for his commitment to youth soccer in Saint-Léonard. Having coached against Freddie, I can tell members from first-hand experience that his intensity and determination have prepared his teams well to play and perform at a high level.

I cannot wait to see what the Lions have in store for us next season.

Boys and Girls ClubStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand before the House to share some of the fantastic work that is being done in the Niagara peninsula.

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting with JoAnne Turner, executive director, and Barbara Greenwood, a board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Niagara. The staff and volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club of Niagara are devoted to bettering the lives of underprivileged youth.

I am proud to say that over 9,883 youth are helped each year through the Niagara region in 14 locations across 8 municipalities.

Each week, during the school year, 667 rides are provided to school children, more than 1,039 meals are delivered to schools and 1,869 sport and recreation opportunities are promoted. Also, 256 at-risk youth are supported annually to turn their lives around.

The Boys and Girls Club of Niagara is helping underprivileged youth achieve their true potential and be successful contributors to our society. I commend the Boys and Girls Club of Niagara and those across this country for their continued commitment to bettering our community.