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House of Commons Hansard #188 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was asbestos.

Topics

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, what I find so difficult to grapple with is not only that we have this massive omnibus budget bill but also time allocation motions that have restricted our ability as parliamentarians to fully examine this bill. That is the most difficult aspect, whether in trying to deal with so many amendments in the finance committee or in not having adequate time for witnesses. This bill is being rammed through and dealt with far too quickly without proper examination and without sufficient information being made available to the Parliamentary Budget Officer and members of Parliament, so that we can hold the government to account and do our jobs properly. That is the biggest problem with this bill.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, one thing that astonishes me with this omnibus bill, similar to previous omnibus bills, is that with each day that we peel back more and more layers we find many hidden dimensions within this bill. It is absolutely astonishing and I believe the member alluded to that.

One of the things I have noticed is a recent trend to increase certain fees, which the government is slowly trying to put through under the table for its administration of government. One of them, of course, is in regard to the hiring credit that the CFIB and the Liberals called for, but which now includes an EI hike for many small businesses.

Could the member comment on how the Conservatives seem to be the government of lower taxes, but that fees seem to be creeping in everywhere.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker, all of these user fees are in fact a tax hike on Canadians.

I want to speak specifically about EI. Both the current government and the previous Liberal government helped themselves to tens of billions of dollars in the EI fund, which meant that when there was in surplus, they took that money, and when we went into a period of high unemployment, the money was not available for the unemployed workers who had paid into the fund along with the employers.

Yes, there is a hike, but it is partly because governments helped themselves to that money, which should belong to the working people of Canada.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, when I visit my riding, I sometimes go to shopping centres to do some errands, and I speak to the women who work at the Zellers store, which will soon be closing. I ask them if they know what they will do after the store closes and whether they will have a job. They tell me that they have no idea. These are often immigrant women.

Big changes are being made to employment insurance. I would like my colleague to explain how these fundamental changes to EI will affect women, and more specifically immigrant women.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, increasingly we are seeing that some of the most marginal people in the workforce, including newcomers and women and young people, are simply not qualifying for employment insurance. In fact, today in Canada less than 40% of Canadians qualify for an insurance program they paid into and ought to be entitled to. It is a national disgrace that started with the Liberal government and has been perpetuated, sadly, by the current government and made even worse. It is a factor in increasing inequality in Canada.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to yet another budget omnibus bill. I suppose I should not use the word “pleased”.

I want to first make a few comments on the subject of omnibus bills and what we have seen in this one year. We essentially have seen budget 2012 used as an excuse for the tabling of 900 pages of legislation largely unrelated to the budget itself. This exercise is both illegitimate and undemocratic in combining 70 different bills in Bill C-38, allegedly related to budget 2012, and now 60 different bills in Bill C-45.

I have fewer amendments today than I had tabled for Bill C-38 and Canadians might want to know the difference. Bill C-38, while a couple of pages shorter, did far more damage to the fabric of environmental laws in Canada. Bill C-38 took an axe to our Fisheries Act, destroying habitat protections; , repealed the Environmental Assessment Act; and put in place a substitute piece of legislation that would be an embarrassment to a developing country. It was absolutely abominable.

In Bill C-38, we also saw the explicit removal of pipelines as a category of obstruction under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. I would have thought that the Conservative agenda toward pipelines was satisfied with Bill C-38, but we go on to Bill C-45 and see that the attack on environmental laws includes the evisceration of the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

In Bill C-38, I made the case, as members may recall, to ask the Speaker for a ruling that the bill was out of order and not properly put together. I think we need to revisit the rules and to create some rules t around omnibus bills because this is clearly illegitimate.

In Bill C-45, we have proof of how appalling the process was in Bill C-38 in that some of what we are voting on this week are remedies for errors made in the drafting of Bill C-38. These were obvious errors that could have been caught if the normal legislative process had taken place.

Now we are asked, in Bill C-45, to correct drafting errors made in Bill C-38 where the English does not accord with the French, or where, under the Fisheries Act, they forgot to protect certain aspects of navigation through the fisheries corridors where there are weirs and other fishing apparatus. We also have changes to the Environmental Assessment Act because of poor drafting the last time around. Why was the drafting poor? It was because 70 different laws were put together in one piece of legislation and forced through the House without a willingness to accept, in 425 pages of legislation, a single amendment.

This is not proper parliamentary process. No previous Privy Council in the history of this country has ever equated an amendment to a bill between first reading and royal assent as some sort of political defeat that must be avoided at all costs. This is a level of parliamentary partisanship that takes leave of its senses. It is essentially a form of parliamentary insanity for the government to decide that it cannot possibly accept an amendment from first reading to royal assent and then to come back and give us this which finally provides some of the corrections.

I will speak to my amendments relatively quickly. I want to stress that neither Bill C-38 nor Bill C-45 are really about jobs, r growth or the budget. I will highlight the things in Bill C-45 that I hope to amend because they will hurt jobs.

Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill, would hurt jobs in tourism through this quite extraordinary proposal, which is not a proposal but will be passed into law unless we are able to persuade Conservative members of Parliament that they should vote for what they think is right and not how they are told, ordered and instructed to vote.

When tourism in this country is such an important part of our economy, it makes no sense to pass into law a requirement that tourists from around the world, from countries that do not currently require a visa to come to Canada, regardless of whether they have any aspersions on their character, whether they are considered to be a risk, every tourist to Canada, except those from the United States because of our agreements over a shared border security process, would need to fill out a form to find out if they are allowed to come here for a vacation. This is a terrible change and it would significantly hurt tourism.

Another terrible change is reducing the tax credit, the SR and ED, the scientific research and experimental development tax credit. This is where Canada lags. If we listen to the economists, there is tremendous concern about our competitiveness and productivity, which is directly related to research and development, and to why we need to have the scientific research and experimental development tax credit available to Canadians. We think it would be a big mistake to reduce that.

I will now talk about what I like in Bill C-45. The assumption is that every opposition member hates everything in Bill C-45. That is one of the reasons I object to omnibus bills. There are measures here that I would vote for were they not coupled together with so much destruction. I would vote for the actual budgetary measures that one finds at the beginning of Bill C-45, the tax credits to encourage investment in clean energy and energy efficiency. They are too small but I am certainly not against them. Rather, I am for them.

I would vote for the closing of some of the tax credits to encourage oil and gas development, such as the Atlantic investment tax credit for oil, gas and mining, and for the corporate mineral exploration and development tax credit. I would also vote for the closing of the loopholes in transfer pricing and foreign affiliate dumping that have been used by corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Those are the measures I would vote for.

What deeply disturbs me in this bill, in addition to the measure that I had mentioned to create a new requirement for filling out a form to come to Canada under immigration, is the elimination of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. My amendments would keep that commission in place.

As well, we could do more with the hiring credit for small business.

The changes to the Fisheries Act are largely to repair mistakes made by the Conservatives to the Fisheries Act that had weakened it. They are now fixing some of what they did not need to weaken so desperately. However, we have suggested an amendment to allow for the definition of “aboriginal fisheries”, on the basis of first nations advice, to ensure that the definition is fully respected and takes into account the constitutional and treaty rights of first nations in any definition of “aboriginal fisheries”.

Before moving on to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, I wish to speak to the Canada Grain Act. My amendments oppose a move to take away the independent bond actors in terms of looking at Canadian grains. The third party inspection that is now being proposed would create a conflict of interest between the private sector and the grain companies. We think that would be a mistake. We have certainly learned from the XL Foods beef scandal that it is important to ensure that inspections are truly independent.

The bulk of my amendments deal with the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The Conservatives have taken three runs at it through three different omnibus bills, the first being in 2009. The objective definition of what is “navigable” was changed to a discretionary definition wherein “navigable” would mean whatever the Minister of Transport says that it means.

In Bill C-38, just this past spring, the Conservatives took another run at the Navigable Waters Protection Act with the specific exclusion of pipelines as works or undertakings. Pipelines are no longer in the Navigable Waters Protection Act. These new amendments are certainly not about pipelines because the Conservatives took care of that in Bill C-38.

What this does is it takes an act that we have had since 1882 that directly comes from the Constitution of this country, that being the federal responsibility for navigation. The Navigable Waters Protection Act, which was brought in by Sir John A. Macdonald, has protected the rights of Canadians to put a canoe or kayak in any body of water and paddle from there to wherever they want to go. As Canadians, we have a right to navigation. This is now being superseded with the false story that there is somehow a burdensome regulatory amount of red tape that offends people in municipalities. Therefore, we need to blow apart the Navigable Waters Protection Act to say that a body of water is only navigable if it can be found in the schedule at the back of the act. Ironically, the 99.5% of Canadian waters that are not listed there are not ones near municipalities, cottages and people who want to build wharfs, but are in our wilderness areas where, without the Navigable Waters Protection Act, nothing stands in the way of obstructions to navigations for Canadians.

The government will tell us that is all right because Canadians have a common law right. If people have a couple of hundred thousand dollars and are prepared to go to the Supreme Court of Canada to defend their right to use a waterway that is not listed, they can do that. However, this is an egregious abdication of responsibility for a federal head of power that no other level of government has the right to step up and fill the void.

I urge my colleagues on all sides of the House to give due consideration to these serious and important amendments.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, as a member of both the fisheries committee and the environment committee, I stand in this House and strongly defend the measures we have taken to reform and strengthen our environmental laws.

One of the things I am very curious about, however, is that the opposition parties never actually focus on the environment itself. All they focus on is protest, like environmental lawyers always do.

Let us look at what is actually happening to the environment, in our environment, on our watch: sulphur dioxide emissions are down, nitrous oxide emissions are down and carbon dioxide emissions are down. We are number two in the world in water quality based on a 2010 UNESCO report. We were in government when this report came out.

We have doubled the amount of protected areas. We have increased the number of environmental farm plans. Randle Reef in Hamilton harbour is getting fixed. I could go on and on with measurable environmental achievements. Why do the opposition parties not actually focus on measuring the environment itself?

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette that,as leader of the Green Party, I pay a lot of attention to measurable actions of the party that he represents. Those measurable actions include recklessly ignoring the worsening state of the Great Lakes; failing to appoint a commissioner to the International Joint Commission, which the Conservatives have left vacant for almost a year; the abdication of responsibility by cancelling science across this country: closing the Experimental Lakes Area; shutting down the Polar Environmental Atmospheric Research labs; cancelling all research into climate science; and pretending, by throwing money at Lake Simcoe, that they are somehow dealing with water quality.

This is a big country and the reality of what the current government has done is an appalling assault of negative action for protecting our wilderness and the air and water that we need to live.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask the Green Party leader a question about the Conservative Party's intentions regarding the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act in Bill C-45.

Can she tell us what she thinks is behind those changes? Personally, I think those changes are meant to speed up the pipeline approval process and ensure that there is no legislation standing in the way of that development.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

In my view, the motivation behind the huge changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act is to eliminate the protection of most of Canada's lakes, rivers and waterways. It is not meant only for pipelines, because before Bill C-38 was passed, developers had to obtain a permit issued by Transport Canada for any pipelines that went through navigable waters. Since Bill C-38 was passed, pipelines are no longer included in the groups known as works and undertakings.

Pipelines were specifically excluded in Bill C-38.

The decision in Bill C-45 to reduce the protection of navigable waters has to do with mines, dams and all other aspects that present a danger to Canada's waterways.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to share my opinion on this omnibus bill. I am very happy to speak, but I am very unhappy that the Conservatives are once again trying to shove a bill down Quebeckers' throats that is going to be harmful not only for urban and rural areas but for all Quebeckers.

One of the amendments that I proposed, the one I am speaking about, deals specifically with the federal government's desire to reduce tax credits that are useful to research and development.

For companies and research centres in my area, in eastern Quebec, the Conservatives plan to make very harmful and risky cuts to investment tax credits by cutting the scientific research and experimental development program.

Economic diversification is essential for our region. The Conservatives' cuts to investment tax credits will harm a program that is used by companies that hope to develop new expertise through the college centres for technology transfer. This program allows Quebec companies to claim a tax credit when they sign a contract with the college centres for technology transfer. It therefore encourages these companies to try to diversify and find ways of developing new niches through research, development and creativity.

This program provides direct assistance to companies but also provides indirect assistance to all the centres in eastern Quebec. These centres, which are located throughout the province—and there are eight in my area—help companies to diversify their expertise in more traditional areas. For example, the Merinov technology transfer centre in the Gaspé works in the area of fisheries; the Innovation maritime centre in Rimouski works in the marine industry; the Service de recherche et d'expertise en transformation des produits forestiers de l'Est du Québec in Amqui, in my riding, and the Centre d'expérimentation et de développement en forêt boréale in Baie-Comeau on the north shore, work in the area of forestry; and the Bioproducts Development Center in La Pocatière works in the area of agrifood processing.

These centres play a vital role in strengthening our traditional economy, which is experiencing a downturn. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are lowering tax credits. Thus, the businesses that traditionally worked with the technology transfer centres will lose some of the incentive to diversify. Solutions Novika, in la Pocatière, works in industrial manufacturing and is a very pertinent example.

These cuts will also have an impact on sustainable development. For example, the Centre d'initiation à la recherche et d'aide au développement durable, which is based in Carleton-Sur-Mer, is a technology transfer centre that promoted its services to businesses with tax credits.

But let us rise above the ideological differences we sometimes have with the Conservatives. The Conservatives say that they promote the regions and, according to their slogan “Our Region in Power”, which they used extensively in the last election campaign, they were there to develop the regions.

The regions feel very misunderstood by the Conservatives. I urge them to remove this part of their omnibus bill, as it will be detrimental to innovation spurred by research and development.

I have to speak out about all the changes to the employment insurance program that will hurt the regions. The government laid the groundwork with the previous omnibus bill, Bill C-38. And now Bill C-45 will finish the job, as we say. At present, this program no longer meets the needs of workers who lose their jobs, especially in regions such as mine where seasonal employment is vital to the economy. I am speaking on behalf of workers who lose their jobs at a time of year when there are no more jobs to be had.

The Conservatives do not understand that winter comes around every year in some corners of our great region and that it is impossible for forestry and fishery workers to work during that time. They are trying to penalize these workers by telling them that if they do not try to find a job outside of their region, their benefits will be cut.

This directly targets the regions and drains their pool of skilled workers. This can put a strain on families and on our region's development, but also on the employers that need skilled workers when they are ready to hire again.

The Conservatives are being short-sighted with this very harmful reform. I urge the minister—as I have done many times—to reconsider the reforms she is currently making to the EI program. First and foremost, we can understand the need for a program to help workers get through a difficult time in their lives—one that they did not ask for. No one wants to be unemployed. Forestry, fishery and tourism workers are very important to the regions.

Tourism will be drastically affected by this reform. Not too long ago, I was speaking to a business owner in my region who runs an arts centre. He employs skilled workers, whom he trained. He has diversified his operations over the years. He told me that he had development projects that he invested a great deal of energy into, but that he was not sure if he was going to be able to make his business grow, develop and prosper, because he was not sure that his skilled workers—which represent the determining factor for him—would come back. We are talking about his customer service and his business's reputation.

In a very large region like ours, many representatives from municipalities, businesses, community groups and development agencies have spoken out about how they do not understand the Conservatives' plan. They are wondering—and I have asked the Conservatives this many times—if the Conservatives truly want to shut down the regions. I think we have the answer.

The omnibus bill targets many different things, including the environment. The federal government is once again lowering its environmental criteria. The leader of the Green Party made an eloquent speech about this just now.

The St. Lawrence River, which runs through my riding, is an extremely busy waterway, with rivers flowing into it and ships providing marine transportation. Relaxing the criteria and decreasing protections could cause changes to the quality of waterways, which would open the door to potential dangers. I am talking here about the St. Lawrence River, the sea.

On that note, I would like to talk about the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, a research centre that, since last spring, has been affected by cuts resulting from the Conservatives' desire to cut back on science, to reduce access to knowledge. This knowledge is embarrassing to the Conservatives. The research conducted by the scientists at the institute makes it possible to determine the causes and effects of dumping toxic substances into the river.

The Conservatives are directly attacking science under the pretext of wanting to make cuts. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans must do its part and cut its budget. As a result, organizations such as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, the largest francophone research centre at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, are paying the price.

I will certainly have another opportunity to talk more about this, since I am going to ask a question today during question period about very specific techniques, extremely precise cuts that may sometimes appear to be innocuous, for example the elimination of two librarian positions and the closure of the Maurice Lamontagne Institute's library.

These cuts are planned and serve to directly promote the Conservative ideology of curbing access to knowledge.

My time has run out. I would like to thank my colleagues for listening to my comments about this omnibus bill. I hope that the Conservatives will accept the opposition's amendments.

The last time, they ignored all the amendments, so I urge them to accept my amendment.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was very happy to hear those comments about employment insurance. People in my riding have been talking a lot about problems with the new changes.

I have a very specific question for the hon. member. I would like him to talk about the benefits. We have been talking about the Conservatives' misdeeds, but I would like him to comment more generally on the benefits of a Canada-wide employment insurance program that would enable all regions to help each other. The regions that need it most could benefit from a program that would enable the wealthiest regions to help those with the most problems, regions like his.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Sherbrooke for his question. He has given me an excellent opportunity to talk about the employment insurance program.

There have been problems for many years. There have been many attempts to reform the system since 2006, when the Conservatives came to power. Each time, the opposition and the government blocked these attempts. The Bloc Québécois's proposed changes focused on getting the government to understand that the program should do more to address Quebeckers' concerns.

Many people, including the former chief actuary of the employment insurance program, Mr. Bédard, and economist Pierre Fortin, came to the same conclusion we did: Quebec must be in control of its own employment insurance program. The program must meet Quebeckers' needs. During its election campaign, the Parti Québécois said that it wanted to take control of the program.

I urge all of my colleagues in the House to support transferring the program to Quebec City so that our government can create a program that meets the needs of Quebeckers, which the current program does not do.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is about changes to support for businesses conducting scientific research and experimental development. In Montreal, there have been job losses in this sector.

In this bill, the Conservatives are ignoring the need for a meaningful, detailed, coordinated and effective policy for the research and development industry. Does my colleague agree with that?

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Honoré-Mercier for giving me the opportunity to speak again, clarify a few things and answer her question regarding the Conservatives' cuts to tax credits.

When tax credits are decreased, they become less attractive, and that goes for my region as well as the rest of Quebec. This is especially true in Montreal, where high-tech companies are trying to figure out how to succeed in this still fragile economy. The Conservatives are saying that everything is fine, yet we know that these are still tough economic times. And since times are still tough across Quebec, it is dangerous—as I said in my speech—to reduce a tax credit that is very popular and that helps businesses to develop. As these businesses grow, they employ more people. Regardless of the region, this increased economic activity will create secondary jobs, including jobs for subcontractors for instance, and economic benefits for all businesses.

As I said earlier, I urge the government to reassess the situation and maintain the current rate for tax credits in order to avoid harmful consequences across Quebec.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague opposite. In this bill, the government has included a number of measures to help small businesses and to eliminate duplication.

I wonder if he could comment specifically on the measures to close tax loopholes? That is very important. We are listening to what Quebeckers are saying about tax loopholes. I would like to know his thoughts on the measures proposed in the bill.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Saint Boniface for the question.

Yes, tax loopholes need to be closed. It is important that Canada, through its Parliament, bring in increased controls and regulations to ensure that people pay their taxes.

In that regard, the Conservatives are not going far enough and sometimes talk out of both sides of their mouths. For instance, they recently concluded a free trade agreement with Panama, which opens the door to certain tax loopholes.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my Bloc Québécois colleague who just spoke. Obviously, it is extremely important to speak on behalf of Quebeckers here in Ottawa. That is what we intend to do, that is what we have been doing for some time now, and that is what we will do with regard to this bill by introducing specific amendments that affect Quebec in particular.

These amendments also affect other regions. Employment insurance is not exclusive to Quebec. However, my colleague who just spoke gave examples of problems with regard to tourism and agriculture in his region. These types of problems exist throughout Quebec. They also exist in my riding. I will speak about them a little bit later in my speech.

We have presented substantive amendments to emphasize the importance of preserving Quebec's assets. The government wants to make cuts to those assets, by introducing an omnibus bill. We do not understand why the government does not agree to split up this omnibus bill, which the media refer to as a mammoth bill. This has now become the way to describe the Conservative Party's bills. First we had Bill C-38 and now we have Bill C-45.

The countless pages of the bill are flooded with a host of measures that, in the end, will have drastic effects on the everyday lives of Canadians, but people will not find about those effects until later because we do not have time to debate this bill. The government is imposing gag orders. The Conservatives have now imposed about 30 gag orders on bills. Unfortunately, I expect that there will be another one for Bill C-45, and we are lucky to have a chance to speak before that happens.

As a result of these gag orders, parliamentarians are not able to properly debate this type of bill and are being muzzled in committee. A little while ago, I learned from a Liberal colleague that the NDP had accepted or overlooked the time allocation motion. When that happens, the amendments proposed by the other parties are not debated in committee.

Clearly, there is a problem with regard to democracy in this Parliament. This problem is exacerbated by the attitude of the Conservatives, who refuse to present reforms one at a time so that members can debate them properly and vote on them. Whether we agree or disagree, I respect members' decisions because that is democracy. However, we have to be able to have a minimum amount of debate and make Canadians aware of what is happening.

Mr. Speaker, everyone here is an MP, including you. Many people are coming to my riding office to talk about the changes to employment insurance. We are learning more about these changes every day. Why? Because we did not have a proper debate about them in this place. The minister and the government simply refused to split the omnibus bill, in order to create a separate, proper bill that we could debate properly.

Therefore, we are proposing a series of amendments so that we can at least discuss some of the issues. I hope that the parties, and especially the government, will listen to reason and accept these amendments.

My colleague just spoke about research and development. Members are also talking about amendments that affect employment insurance, the environment and labour standards. I proposed an amendment concerning research and development because in Bill C-45 the government has decided to decrease its support from 65% to 55%. That is a substantial decrease in research and development tax credits. Naturally, this will affect investments in the manufacturing and forestry sectors by Quebec businesses.

We know what this Conservative government did to the forestry sector, even though the Minister of Transport is from Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, in the Roberval area, where forestry is vitally important. During the recession that began in 2008, this government favoured Ontario's automotive industry. I am not saying that it should not have. However, billions of dollars were poured into the auto industry while Quebec's forestry industry received peanuts.

Now, the government has introduced an omnibus bill that cuts research and development. We know just how important R&D is for the forestry industry. The government's initial response to the problems in the forestry industry was unfair. Now, it is compounding the problems.

My region, which covers a large part of central Quebec and the Eastern Townships, has a forestry industry and many small and medium-sized businesses. There are also big businesses such as Cascades, in Kingsey Falls, which employs more than 2,000 people in Quebec, the United States and Europe.

It has been in the recycling business since 1964. It makes cardboard, paper, and so on. Pretty much everyone has, at some point, used a Cascades product. Obviously, research and development are the lifeblood of this kind of manufacturing business. The government will probably say that this is not a very big cut, but tax credits are extremely important for the growth of businesses in the sustainable development sector, extraordinary job-creating businesses like Cascades. This is a harsh blow, particularly at a time when the Canadian dollar is so high.

Again, the government will probably say that this is not its responsibility, but when everyone is struggling with the effects of an economic crisis—such as the high-flying loonie—the government has no business trying to drown companies that are managing to keep their heads above water. I am not talking about Cascades. I am talking about all of the companies whose research and development over the years have made them what they are today.

That is especially true for Quebec, and that is why we proposed this amendment. I hope that everyone will consider this matter carefully before agreeing to these cuts. The government is being penny-wise and pound foolish when it should be doing the opposite. It still does not get that investing in research and development pays off. I do not understand how a government that claims to be so focused on the economy can propose measures as unfair as those in Bill C-45.

Some members talked about employment insurance. My Bloc Québécois colleague discussed it in some detail, but I would like to reiterate the importance of protecting what we have. I am not talking about wanting to collect employment insurance. I am talking about making sure that people working for businesses in the tourism and agricultural sectors can do what everyone wants to do, which is keep working close to home. Are the people making these decisions from major urban centres exclusively? It certainly seems that way. Employment insurance affects them too, but the new measures will primarily affect the regions.

I do not think this is what we should do, but in Switzerland, farmers are paid to leave sheep in the fields, not because they are raising sheep and producing wool, but because tourists like seeing sheep in the fields. I am not saying this is what we should do, but some places are aware of the importance of land use.

My colleague spoke about the Gaspé. My father comes from a municipality in his riding, Causapscal. He was born in agricultural area where there is a lot of tourism. As the member pointed out, winter comes every year and there is a period during which seasonal businesses unfortunately do not operate. But as soon as tourist season returns, people line up to take in the beautiful landscapes and all that these regions have to offer tourists.

We have a choice to make: do we want to shut down these regions and ensure that there are no skilled workers able to work there, or do we want to adjust the employment insurance program so that it is fairer to everyone and so that we can protect these jobs that are so important to keeping the regions going? If we shut down these regions, everyone will end up in big cities and major centres, and then we will definitely have a problem with employment insurance.

I wanted to talk about other amendments, but I urge my colleagues in the House of Commons to examine the important amendments very carefully. If we are stuck with Bill C-45 because this is a majority government, we could at least make amendments to improve it before it is passed.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my Bloc Québécois colleague, the industry critic, for his thoughtful remarks in the House about the Conservatives' vision as expressed in this omnibus bill.

I would like to focus on the Conservatives' cuts to science and technology. They are planning to close the Maurice Lamontagne Institute's library, which, as I mentioned earlier, has two employees—librarians—and promotes French-language science culture. It is Fisheries and Oceans Canada's only French library. The Conservatives decided to transfer the books elsewhere and put them in storage. The books will no longer be accessible because they cannot be digitized because of the Copyright Act.

What is the Conservatives' vision for scientific progress? I would like my colleague to comment on that. What is his understanding of the Conservatives' proposed vision?

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have sat in the House for a long time, so I speak as a veteran, and I have always been flabbergasted at the Conservative government’s disdain for science and technology. There are blatant examples of this, including the cuts in my colleague’s riding that he spoke about.

The leader of the Bloc Québécois recently visited Chicoutimi, and the people there had much to say to him about how we had brought the House’s attention to the cuts the government wants to make to the Aluminum Technology Centre. For the Cascades company, in my riding, research and development is the driving force. In the Chicoutimi region, what is now called the City of Saguenay, research and development in connection with aluminum is obviously very important.

These days, when we have a growing need for research, development and the contribution that scientists make to finding new, more effective approaches, if the government makes cuts like these, as I was just saying, it amounts to standing on the head of a person whose head is barely above water.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

Noon

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, once again, I would like to thank my colleague for his comments.

I would like to talk about two things that are important to Quebeckers. The people and the Government of Quebec say that these things are important to them.

So I would like to hear my colleague’s comments in the House of Commons about the implementation of the fiscal framework for pooled registered pension plans, which the Government of Quebec is waiting for impatiently, and the improvements to registered disability savings plans that are proposed in the bill.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

Noon

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question, which gives me an opportunity to reiterate what I said at the very beginning of my speech. She is entirely correct. There are very important measures in Bill C-45, as there are in any other bill.

If she has heard the things I have said in the past, she knows that I nearly always say there are never just bad measures or good measures in a bill. This is why it is so important that the government split these bills, particularly when we know that there are measures that are very important to Quebec, as she so rightly said. That is how we make sure that we talk about registered savings plans or tax measures in a bill that concerns those subjects.

Bill C-45 is a catch-all that contains an unending series of measures. It is 400 or 500 pages long and deals with 70 bills that have nothing in common, be it the environment, employment insurance or taxation. It never ends. About the only thing not included in this bill is the justice system.

What we are telling the government, over and over, is that we have to split these measures. Why did we do this when the issue was members’ pensions, when everyone was in agreement? The government agreed to remove that idea from the bill so we could vote on it separately, probably because, from a political perspective, it looked good. We cut our pensions and members were unanimous on that. It worked well and it went quickly.

If the government can do that for issues that affect members, I do not see why it would not do it for issues that are very important to Quebec and the other provinces.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

Noon

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute to report stage debate on this vital piece of legislation that is so incredibly important for the continued economic strength of Canada, Bill C-45, jobs and growth act, 2012, which we all know implements key portions of economic action plan 2012.

As Canadians know, in the midst of global economic turbulence, Canada's economy, with the help of our government's pro-growth agenda, has performed relatively well compared to our international peers. Whether it be job creation, economic growth, or our fiscal position, Canada is actually leading the way.

Canadians can take pride that we have seen the strongest job creation record over the G7 in recent years, with more than 820,000 net new jobs that have been created since the recession. The vast majority of those jobs are full-time. Canadians can take pride that we have the best finances in the G7 with the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio by far. The list goes on and on.

It is little wonder that more and more third-party and international observers have applauded our government's economic record. Why do we not listen to some of those observers?

Listen to Finn Poschmann of the C.D. Howe Institute who had this to say: “The economic outlook for Canada is a lot stronger than the rest of the world”.

What about Pier Carlo Padoan, the chief economist of the OECD who declared, “The Canadian economy is doing well. ...the Canadian economy...is doing much better than most of the other advanced economies”?

However, we cannot be complacent, especially at this time. We must remain vigilant and focused on the economy, as we know all too well that the global economy continues to face considerable challenges, especially when we look to the United States and Europe, two of Canada's most important trading partners.

That is exactly what our government is doing with economic action plan 2012, as demonstrated with today's important legislation. Canadians expect their government to be working on and moving forward with exactly this type of targeted, pro-growth and job-creating legislation.

Canadians, who are cautious about the state of the global economy and its possible impact on Canada, want to know that their Parliament is taking the situation equally as seriously. They would be incredibly disappointed if they were to witness their politicians use this opportunity to play partisan games with the Canadian economy. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Liberal Party did at the finance committee, engaging in a costly, multi-day filibuster. Instead of moving forward with key economic reforms, the Liberal Party decided to play partisan political games, moving thousands of frivolous amendments, mainly only serving to delay economic action plan 2012.

I should note that the Liberals did move a handful of substantive amendments at finance committee and actually argued quite forcefully for them. However, and shockingly, the vast majority of the amendments the Liberal Party actually chose to discuss surrounded tax loopholes.

In fact, in a rare moment of agreement between the government and the NDP, we both expressed our stunned collective disbelief as the Liberal finance critic time and again spoke to demand that we actually leave tax loopholes open and turn our backs on the basic principles of tax fairness. I am still scratching my head trying to figure out why the Liberal finance critic was so adamant that we leave these tax loopholes in place so that a select privileged few could avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

I am proud that our Conservative members stood up to the Liberal Party and voted down every attempt it made at committee stage to leave tax loopholes open. I am also very proud that our Conservative members stood strong for days on end, night and day, and stopped the partisan Liberal attempt to block economic action plan 2012 and its support for the Canadian economy.

As I mentioned earlier, our plan and its elements legislated through the jobs and growth act 2012 is a positive plan for the economy and Canadian families. Indeed, I want to share with Canadians many of the initiatives in this legislation that will assist them and their communities, initiatives that the opposition opposes and is trying to stop.

For instance, our Conservative government is helping build a stronger economy and creating jobs in today's legislation by extending for one year the job-creating hiring tax credit for small business, promoting interprovincial trade, improving the legislative framework governing Canada's financial institutions, facilitating cross-border travel, removing red tape and reducing fees for Canada's grain farmers, supporting Canada's commercial aviation sector and much more.

Today's legislation also helps support families and communities by improving registered disability savings plans, helping Canadians save for retirement by implementing a tax framework for pooled registered pension plans, improving the administration of the Canada pension plan and, again, much more.

The jobs and growth act, 2012 also takes concrete action to promote clean energy and enhanced neutrality of the tax system by, for instance, expanding tax relief for investment in clean energy generation equipment and phasing out tax preferences for the mining, oil and gas sectors.

Furthermore, today's legislation also works to better respect taxpayer dollars by taking landmark action to ensure the pension plans for federal public sector employees are sustainable and financially responsible. We are also closing tax loopholes. We are eliminating duplication and much more.

With all these positive pro-growth initiatives to help the Canadian economy and Canadian families, why would the opposition parties stand in their way and try to block them?

In my time remaining today I would like to focus on one very important initiative in particular that will really support economics in local communities right across Canada by supporting small businesses, especially in my home riding of Saint Boniface.

We all know the importance of small businesses, from the local hairdresser shop to the small manufacturer and more. Canada's small and medium-size enterprises account for 99% of companies. They employ 60% of working Canadians and they contribute about 40% to Canada's GDP, proving to be economic drivers and important sources of job creation.

That is why I am very pleased that economic action plan 2012, through today's legislation, extends the hiring credit for small business, making it easier for businesses to hire more Canadians and growth. By extending the temporary hiring credit for small business, today's legislation will make available a credit up to $1,000 against the small employer's increase in its 2012 EI premiums. This credit would be available to about 536,000 employers whose total EI premiums were at or below $10,000 in 2011, thus reducing their 2012 payroll costs by about $205 million. That is $205 million that our small businesses were able to keep in their pockets thanks to this temporary hiring credit.

This and many other positive initiatives in economic action plan 2012 will help Canadians and the Canadian economy. That is why Canadians support this plan and today's legislation. That is why the opposition should really stop trying to block it and stop the political games. I call on members to put political games aside, focus on the economy and help support the timely passage of today's legislation and economic action plan 2012.

Now on a personal note, as many Canadians know, parliamentarians are here sometimes five days a week and we miss special moments back home. As a result, I was unable to attend a funeral for a friend and I would like to take a moment to talk about Peter O'Kane who died suddenly in an accident at 42 years of age, a police officer I worked with very closely, a friend and a colleague that I admired quite a bit. In memory of Peter, I would like to read a special poem called “Final Inspection”:

The Policeman stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining as brightly as his brass.
“Step forward now, officer. How shall I deal with You?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To my Church have you been true?”
The officer squared his shoulders and said,
“No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Cause those of us who carry badges can't always be a saint.
But I never took a penny that wasn't mine to keep,
Though I worked a lot of overtime when the bills just got too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help, though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God forgive me, I wept an unmanly tear.
I know I don't deserve a place among the people here.
They never wanted me around except to calm their fear.
If you've a place for me here, Lord, it needn't be so grand.
I've never expected or had too much.
But if you don't, I'll understand”.
There was silence all around the throne where the saints had often trod.
As the officer waited quietly for the answer of his God.
“Step forward now, Officer, you've borne your burdens well.
Come walk a beat on Heaven's Streets. You've done you time in Hell”.

This is an ode for Peter O'Kane who died recently and I am very apologetic I could not be at the funeral.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to offer my condolences to my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, for her loss.

The Standing Committee on Finance met for many hours to discuss Bill C-45. On most of what we discussed, including the amendments, we were in strong disagreement with the government.

Our view is that the government is headed in the wrong direction. The government is missing out on obvious opportunities to play a positive role in Canada's economy. I do not have a lot of time to ask a question, so I would like to focus on one specific aspect on which we were in disagreement. That was the issue of scientific research and experimental development.

In committee, we heard several witnesses, particularly from the world of business, including the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association, which described its concerns about how changes were being made. The government is claiming that investment in private sector research and development has dropped by $500 million, whereas according to Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the figure is closer to $633 million. According to the association, this will lead to 18% to 20% less private sector research and development.

Another significant component is the elimination of capital expenditure eligibility for the research and development tax credit. The NDP has accordingly suggested postponing the changes for five years so that the implications could be studied more carefully.

I would like to know why the government is refusing a measure like this one, which would make it possible to study the changes proposed by the government in greater detail.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from the Standing Committee on Finance. We work very well together, and it is a pleasure to work with this member of the official opposition.

I would like to begin by noting that a report, called the Jenkins report, was recently tabled. Experts were asked to give us advice on how to introduce measures that would support research and development.

On the basis of the Jenkins report, we added measures to the bill itself to allow for direct funding to certain organizations. These measures were recommended by the experts who prepared the report. They are also supported by other organizations. I should point out that even the organization mentioned by our NDP colleague supports several of the other measures that were recommended. It supports us on the hiring credits, and it supports us in terms of giving more money to research and development.

This should indicate to my colleague that many people support our measures. We intend to continue in the same direction.