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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

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, at the finance committee, the member actually voted against adding Kingfisher Lake to the list of protected waterways under the Navigable Waters Act. I am told that Kingfisher Lake is a magnificent place. It is located less than 10 kilometres from the member's riding. On a hot summer day, all 2,000 parking spaces at its beach are usually filled with Winnipeggers and St. Boniface residents who flock to the lake for recreation in the summer. The lake has received seven Master Angler Awards for rainbow trout, like the 58 centimetre one caught a few years ago by Jason Everett.

Why did the member not stand up for her constituents, who love Kingfisher Lake, and vote for the Liberal amendment to add the lake to the protected list?

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely the Kingfisher Lake is protected. This government supports the Environmental Assessment Act, which protects those lakes, and we continue to move forward on a number of other environmental measures.

Let us talk about what that member did in committee. The member should answer these questions. When given an opportunity to put forward amendments on tax loopholes to actually ensure that Canadians paid their fair share, that there were no elite Canadians who would get away with paying less than is fair, the member put forward amendments to leave tax loopholes open. They included amendments like the avoidance of tax through the use of partnerships, or ensuring there was more integrity and fairness in thin capitalization rules, transfer pricing secondary adjustments, foreign affiliate dumping. Those are measures that we need to close those tax loopholes. That member ought to be ashamed that he made amendments to take those out, leaving tax loopholes open for other Canadians to abuse.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this important piece of legislation.

I first want to talk about a couple of things that build on the accomplishments that we have made as a government with our economic agenda.

First, I will mention the 820,000 net new jobs created since 2009. There is strong jobs growth in this country. Also, Canada's economy has expanded for nine of the ten past quarters. This is a great track record, one of the best in the G7. Indeed, Canada's unemployment rate is well below that of the United States. I cannot stress enough how significant that is. This is the first time this has happened in more than three decades, and we continue to see a lower unemployment rate here in Canada than the United States. That is absolutely a direct benefit of the policies of this government and, of course, the economic action plan.

The list goes on and on. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada and the number one place in the world for businesses to grow and create jobs. What will that do? Getting an award like that will lead to more direct investment in Canada, leading to a stronger economy and more jobs for Canadians.

Canada has one of the strongest fiscal positions in the G7. Fitch Ratings, Moody's and Standard and Poor's have all renewed Canada's rock-solid AAA credit rating. Again, this is a direct result of Canada's economic action plan. Furthermore, Canada has taken its place among the top five countries with the most economic freedom, according to a new Fraser Institute report. We are now leaps and bounds ahead of the United States.

These things all clearly show that our government is on the right track with our economic policies. We will continue to expand the economy and grow jobs. The amazing thing is that all of these accomplishments have been achieved without a carbon tax, and we will make sure there is not a $21 billion carbon tax to derail our progress.

I want to talk about some of the highlights, some of the important things that would be implemented. We are talking about extending the hiring credit for small business up to $1,000 to encourage additional hiring. That will also lower business payroll taxes by an amazing $205 million. The amazing thing about that is that it has helped 536,000 employers across Canada. We should think about that, because it benefits a huge number of small businesses, which we all know, especially on the Conservative side of the House, are the ones that drive the economy and are benefiting from this policy.

There is $110 million for the National Research Council to increase support through the industrial research assistance program and industrial technology advisers. Investing in technology will move our economy forward.

There is also $95 million over three years and $40 million per year in ongoing funding to make the Canada innovation commercialization project permanent. This is a very important initiative. We have to move these technological advancements to commercialization so we can continue to be successful, not only here in Canada but of course also in the ever competitive global economic market.

There is also $14 million to expand the industrial research and development internship program, which will place more Ph.D. students in practical business internships. That will benefit our businesses.

Talking about another wonderful program, we have extended the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturers to purchase processing machinery and equipment. I have heard directly from businesses in my riding how important that is. It allows them to invest in new machinery and equipment and quickly write off the cost of purchasing it, thereby improving productivity and making our businesses more productive. Enhancing the productivity of our businesses is very important and will spur economic growth.

We have also increased the lifetime capital gains exemption, which allows capital gains on qualifying small business shares to be realized tax free. We have increased that from $500,000 to $750,000. This is the first increase since 1988. We think that overtaxing capital gains is not a good idea.

I want to talk about clean energy and the economy, because that is important as well. We are investing $97 million to develop and promote clean energy technologies. There is $1 billion for priorities such as green energy generation, transmission infrastructure, carbon transmission and storage infrastructure. We also have $1 billion allocated to support pulp and paper mills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, there is $1 billion in support of clean energy research and development demonstration projects, and $252 million in support of regulatory activities to address climate change and air quality. The list goes on and on. In short, our government has made significant investments in the clean energy economy.

I also want to talk about the amendments to land designation. This a very important piece of the legislation. We on the Conservative side of the House believe that we have to allow our first nation communities to move at the speed of business. They have to be able to engage in land transactions to be able to spur their economies.

One of the most powerful things that we have in Canada is an ability to leverage our land and to be able to use that for financing and development. We want to help first nations do that.

We are doing a couple of things here. First of all, we are going to reduce the voting threshold to a simple majority vote when dealing with land designations, as opposed to the majority of the majority. Why is that important? It is going to speed up the process of approving land designations on reserve. The current process can take one to two years, with two votes spanning four to six months. It is going to reduce the cost of doing business with first nations, as well as reduce the expenses in the designation process.

Some may criticize this, but a majority vote is currently sufficient to elect the chief and council of a first nation, to accept multi-million dollar out-of-court settlements and accept a settlement of a specific claim with a value of between $3 million and $7 million. If a majority vote is good enough for those kinds of things, a majority vote is good enough for a land designation.

The second aspect of that is the removal of the Governor in Council requirement for approval. Section 39 of the Indian Act requires that the Governor in Council approve land designations. Given that lands do not lose their reserve status, this level of authorization, we believe, is counterproductive to Canada's efforts to support economic development on reserve.

By allowing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to authorize the land designation, this will reduce the time required for land designations, thereby reducing costs for economic development on reserve and spurring the development of these local economies.

We are also amending the Navigable Waters Protection Act. It is one of the oldest pieces of legislation, dating back to 1882, a time when our waterways were the primary transportation routes. This act's main purpose was to facilitate trade and commerce by balancing the efficient movement of maritime traffic with the need to construct works, bridges, et cetera. Over time, the scope of this act has increased significantly as a result of many factors. The act now applies to all waters in Canada. Imagine that. It even applies to a temporary creek from a spring runoff but that then dries up within a month or two. It triggers a review under the act. That is not the purpose of this act. It is a hindrance to economic development.

The vast majority of our waterways will still continue to be protected by Transport Canada's marine safety laws, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and various provincial statutes. We are going to continue to protect our waterways but also make amendments to allow business to move faster and things to move more quickly.

This is a great piece of legislation, and I am hopeful that the members on that side of the House will see the light and not continue to propose amendments, like changing the implementation date 365 times, which has no purpose. They should vote for this bill and vote for the economy, and let us move forward.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech.

I would point out to the member that it was one of the richest corporations listed in Forbes magazine that unfortunately emptied out most of the pension fund that belonged to the workers at the Stadacona plant in Quebec City.

I would like to come back to a subject that is no less amusing. In 1994, the Prime Minister criticized the Liberal government of the day for introducing an omnibus bill. I must admit that, as hard as I tried, I could not come up with anything better than his own words. He said:

I just regret that we are proceeding with this omnibus approach to legislation...because it lumps in things we support and things we do not support....This bill will ultimately go to only one committee of the House, a committee that will inevitably lack the breadth of expertise required for consideration of a bill of this scope.

Beyond the schemes to try to justify the so-called studies in other committees, how can my colleague keep a straight face while defending the government's decision to introduce such a huge omnibus bill that is impossible to study?

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is where we are at: They are going to argue about process because they know that this piece of legislation will be an excellent thing for Canadians and the Canadian economy. All they have left is to attack the process. That tells us exactly how good this piece of legislation is.

If the member wants to talk about what the leaders of parties have said, what does the leader of his party say? He says they are going to impose a $21 billion carbon tax and generate billions of dollars from the program. That is not what we are going to do.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Etobicoke--Lakeshore for his nice summary of what the bill will do and how important is will be for our economy.

I found it ironic listening to the things that the member for Parkdale—High Park thought should be in the bill. She added item after item, which to me showed that she recognized that a budget plan needs to be comprehensive. Therefore, would the member for Brampton West perhaps share with the members how it is important to have a comprehensive plan to deal with the economy, and how the bill does just that.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is ironic that the opposition says that this piece of legislation has too much in it, but then proposes thousands of amendments to put more things in it. I am not sure I understand the logic of that. We certainly cannot have it both ways.

It does point out exactly what the member has said, that this piece of legislation is an important driver of the economy. It needs to be expansive and include all kinds of things to move the economy forward. That is why we are doing it.

Of course, the most important thing is what is not in it, a $21 billion carbon tax, which is one of the things they would love to stuff in there if they could.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, we completely object to this process, because this bill is huge and the process does not allow enough time for debate. Also, there was hardly any consultation.

As for the Navigable Waters Protection Act, what is most troubling is that the Conservatives are placing the burden of responsibility onto citizens, who will have to take developers to court themselves. Meanwhile, developers no longer have to conduct any public consultation and their projects will no longer be subject to environmental assessments, because permits will be automatically granted.

How can the member justify all these decisions, which go against the public interest?

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to explain to my colleague that there are still lots of things left to protect our waterways. I mentioned them in my speech. Perhaps she did not hear them. It is not just necessarily the Navigable Waters Protection Act. There are Transportation Canada's maritime safety laws, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the Species at Risk Act. All of these things are still going to be there to protect the water in the country. Those are the pieces of legislation that should be doing it, not the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

The important thing that is not in there, and will never be in there, is a $21 billion carbon tax.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know my friend from a Etobicoke—Lakeshore would want to be telling the truth in this place. However, he was a bit misinformed. He said that the NDP had put thousands of amendments forward at committee. I want to be clear that we put forward 72 very considered amendments at committee.

Not everything in this bill is bad. That will come as a shock to some members over there. However, I want to go a bit further and talk about what the NDP was looking for. We as a party are focused on what we think are the real priorities for families in Canada, which, obviously, are jobs, health care, pensions and protecting our environment. When we look at Bill C-45, we see aspects of those areas that are being infringed upon or even destroyed in some respects.

We only need to look at what happened with environmental assessment between Bill C-38 and Bill C-45. I have been told that in the past approximately 5,000 environmental assessments were conducted each year, whereas now there would be roughly 40. If the Conservatives had a legitimate concern with environmental assessments, maybe that would warrant an adjustment but not a hundredfold decrease. What is lacking here is common sense, which does not appear to be common here anymore.

The NDP believes in rewarding people who create jobs. In our last platform, we had rewards for people who employed new workers for a year. I know that sounds contrary to the rhetoric we have heard, particularly in the speech by the member for Winnipeg North.

The OECD's best practices for budget transparency states that draft budgets should be submitted to Parliament no less than three months prior to the start of the fiscal year. It also notes that budgets should include a detailed commentary on each revenue and expenditure program, the comparative information on actual revenue expenditure during the past year, and a forecast going forward. If some of that had been contained within the 400 to close to 1,000 pages that we have gone through with respect to Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, there might have been a different response.

We were troubled this past spring when Bill C-38 came before the House and then committee. We were troubled with its content and stated our problems we saw with respect to that, but we were also very troubled by the process. With Bill C-45, we see an extension of the process that is generated when there is an omnibus bill that addresses too many areas and tries to do too much, much of which, we would argue, is not related to budgetary matters. Bill C-38 amended 72 pieces of legislation. I understand that Bill C-45 addresses 70 pieces of legislation.

Let us picture the meetings we had with our six to eight expert witnesses, good souls who gave up their time to come and provide testimony at committee. Each member had five minutes to ask a question. From those six to eight people who spoke on different subject matters we had to select who we wanted to hear from. These were witnesses who could cross-converse and offer other testimony. They were witnesses from all over the place. I do not think that offers MPs of all parties the opportunity to proceed with the due diligence that is expected of us in this place by the people who sent us here.

I have argued that, due to the size of the bill and the amount of changes made in such a short period, it was nearly offensive to Parliament. I still stand by that comment. I have said numerous times in this place that committees should be in place to improve legislation. Members should think about that statement. The official opposition brought forward 72 amendments, none of which were frivolous. Other parties chose to bring in thousands, some of which were reasonable. However, the amendments we brought forward were intended to improve this legislation but not one was accepted by the government side.

The problem is the my-way-or-the-highway approach to the governance of our country and to the changing of legislation. The advice that came from many people on issues around the environment, in particular, raised grave concerns. Those concerns, in my opinion, were ignored by the government side. It is difficult when the government is not prepared to give due consideration to the opinions and amendments offered by the other side.

That brings us to a place where we need to face a hard reality. I listened to the member for Winnipeg North go on about how the NDP was hand in glove with the government, trying to politicize the situation. The hard reality is, whether we like it on this side of the House or not, that the government has a majority and in committee it has the ability to shut down the opposition. When we offered our 72 amendments, the Conservatives' decision was that they were not acceptable. No one can tell me that out of the 72 amendments not one amendment could have been accepted. I believe a majority of them were certainly worthy of being accepted.

I was going to say something about the member for Winnipeg North but I do not want to get too partisan. The one comment I will make is that the remarks in that member's speech earlier were vested purely and simply on political rhetoric. We should be past that point in this place.

In its content, Bill C-45 has a large variety of very complex issues. I alluded to that when I talked about expert witnesses. We need to consider, for example, the overhaul of the Canada Grain Act and the changes to the scientific research and experimental development or the SR and ED tax. I thought we had put forward a reasoned amendment. The proposal from the government moved, not necessarily in a bad way, but counter to the advice we were getting from people who testified, so we suggested that the government delay it for five years which would allow Canadian businesses time to plan.

One of the crucial things for businesses today is to plan their cash flow and research and do it in a very careful manner because we are inches away from a potential recession. They know that, they understand that and they realize the risks they face. To my mind, that was a reasonable suggestion on behalf of the official opposition and I am baffled as to why it was not received.

I will now switch to the content of the bill and we think in terms of the areas of responsibility that the committees are tasked with in this place. To my mind, an omnibus bill takes away a committee's ability to offer its opinions, due diligence and evaluation of the portion of this omnibus bill that really belongs in a specific committee, environment being the clearest example I can give, and then it is sent to a different committee, such as the finance committee.

I sit on the finance committee and I am far from an expert on the environment. I go to that committee thinking I can bring something to it. When there are changes to the Canada Grain Act, the Fisheries Act or the Environmental Protection Act, they should be sent to the committees that are tasked with hearing testimony from people with expertise so they can interpret the testimony to the benefit of the bill.

As a result of the fact that I feel this bill is blatantly undemocratic, I will not be supporting it.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for some of the candour and flashes of common sense in his speech. He did admit that there are good measures in the bill. We think all the measures are good. They would give Canadians better, more efficient government and above all a better business environment, one that would bring jobs, growth and long-term prosperity to this country. In fact, they are already bringing those things to this country.

I will ask the member about transparency and candour. We campaigned on this platform, in favour of budgets and action plans such as this. We campaigned to focus on the economy, to bring sector-by-sector change, reform and restructuring, to make Canada's economy stronger and to make our business environment the best in the world.

If our eyes have not failed us, the New Democrats campaigned on implementing a $21 billion carbon tax. Will the hon. member, with some of the candour he has shown, stand up and explain to us what that proposal means and why his colleagues on the opposition benches will not talk about it?

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to talk about Bill C-45. However, I find it astounding that what we proposed in the 2011 election was precisely what your party proposed in 2008—

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. I would remind all hon. members to address the Chair with their comments, not their colleagues. I think the point was raised earlier this morning that all Chair occupants are going to be reminding members and enforcing the rule more clearly. Members must refer to colleagues in the third person and address their comments to the Chair.

The hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you and I apologize for that. We do get carried away a bit in this place, probably more than we should.

However, the fact of the matter remains that what we were offering up was precisely what your party has offered up—

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

“Your party”, what is this?

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a choice of words. I am not an expert in this.

The Conservative Party of Canada, in 2008, offered the exact same thing as we did in our platform. If the member is going on about whatever it costs, he had better check back because that is what he was suggesting.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member from the New Democratic Party for his comments and I quite enjoy working with him at the finance committee.

I want to know why the New Democrats on the finance committee voted in favour of the Conservatives' time allocation motion on Bill C-45. That happened on October 31. Did they not understand that this was a time allocation motion?

Also, the finance committee chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc is widely respected by all parties for his fair and balanced approach. Therefore, I wonder why his members, the New Democratic members on the finance committee, worked with the Conservatives and ganged up on the chair and actually voted against the chair's ruling, overruled the chair and effectively changed the rules at committee. Why did New Democrats not insist that the rules be respected?

Does the member recognize that a dangerous precedent has been created, where now the Conservatives can use their majority on committees to challenge the chair, say the rules mean black instead of white and have their way on any debate whatsoever? Why are the New Democrats complicit in this?

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, very simply put, when the motions were put before the NDP in the context at the time we felt the chair was incorrect.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, when I decided to immigrate to Canada, it was mainly because of the strength of its democracy and its parliamentary system. When one speaks of the parliamentary system, it includes debating ideas.

One thing that bothers me about this bill is that once again, certain commissions are being removed and even more power is being given to ministers.

I would like my colleague to speak about the weakening of Canada's democracy.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no way I can begin to address, in the 30 seconds I have left, the offence that I feel is happening in our country. When they take the democratic process and subvert it with omnibus bills to the point where, for pieces of legislation that are critical to the needs of our citizens, MPs are not given the opportunity to do the due diligence that Canadians expect of us, it is very troubling.

Immigration is a significant one. The environment is another significant one. Seniors is another one that would be affected by this bill, where we did not get the opportunity to do what was needed.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, to respond to the points made by my previous colleagues, my parents are immigrants and they love this country because it is a strong democracy. I spent 33 years in the Canadian Forces fighting for our rights and ensuring that we have a strong democracy.

Our government demonstrates the fact that a strong, stable government has a steady hand on the tiller and that is why Canada is one of the greatest countries in the G7 right now in so many different ways, not just economically.

The previous speaker mentioned a few times in his speech about being baffled. I would respectfully submit that the New Democratic Party often is baffled. That party does not understand why Canadians need such strong legislation and a budget implementation act such as this. Canadian families depend on tax savings. They depend on those moneys being reinvested in their families and reinvested from businesses into the economy, thereby creating a stronger economy overall. This government facilitates that and allows Canadians to be able to do that.

Ever since this government came into power in 2006, it has been committed to ensuring economic growth and prosperity. I am proud that this government has delivered, with Canada emerging as one of the top countries in the G7 with 820,000 net new jobs created since 2009. Canada has had the best rate of job growth in the G7 and both the IMF and the OECD say so themselves. They forecast that Canada will be at the head of the pack for economic growth in the G7 in the years ahead. All we have to do is go outside of this country to hear what other nations are saying about Canada, and it is absolutely glowing. We are the envy of the world and I wish the New Democratic Party would take a look at what others in the world, our peers on the global stage, are saying.

The jobs and growth act would implement key initiatives from economic action plan 2012 and it would ensure that our economic advantage remains strong today and into the long term. This legislation would help our families and small businesses, consumers, seniors, students and manufacturers across Canada as well. The budget will provide tremendous opportunities for my constituents in Etobicoke Centre.

As someone who served as a reservist both full time and part time for 33 years, I know the extraordinary commitment that reservists make to keep Canadians safe. They can be called upon to serve abroad for extended periods, which can place significant financial strain on their employers, particularly small businesses, which are supportive of Canada's democracy and Canada's foreign policy and the need to sometimes send reservists abroad.

Canada Company numbers well over 250 of our captains of industry in this country, some of the same people who participate in True Patriot Love and similar organizations. Canada Company's motto is “Many ways to serve”. It builds the bridge between business and community leaders and the Canadian Forces.

The government is working to ensure that our reservists remain gainfully employed and that members of our military receive the widest support, care and recognition, which they deserve for the important contributions that they have made and continue to make to the security of Canada.

Building on our government's commitment to support the men and women of our armed forces, economic action plan 2012 commits to providing financial support to employers of reservists to offset such costs as the hiring and training of replacement workers or increasing overtime hours for existing employees. As a former commanding officer of a regiment and having worked for the Canadian Forces Liaison Council and others, this is a huge initiative because allowing reservists to deploy overseas has always been a sticking point. This is going to make it so much easier for those employers to make that contribution to their country, while maintaining their businesses and giving soldiers an opportunity to serve their country in uniform. Small businesses provide gainful employment to our reservists and a wide variety of Canadians. They play a vital role in the economy and job creation. Our government is committed to helping them grow and succeed.

Economic action plan 2012 includes a number of key measures to support the growth of small businesses, such as extending the hiring credit for small businesses.This is a temporary credit of up to $1,000 against a small firm's increase in its 2011 employment insurance premiums over those paid in 2012. This temporary credit is going to help approximately 536,000 employers defray the costs of additional hiring.

Many are familiar with the burdens of red tape and how it can negatively affect a business trying to grow. By the way, that often affects non-profit organizations as well. Our government is committed to reducing red tape by implementing a one-for-one rule and committing to develop a red tape reduction action plan to reduce unnecessary and ineffective regulations, allowing small businesses to focus on growing and creating jobs.

Other ways our government is reducing the administrative tax burden on small businesses include enhancing the Canada Revenue Agency secure “my business account” portal, and that improves the business section on CRA's website; doubling the thresholds for eligibility to use the GST/HST streamlined accounting methods; enhancing the predictability of the scientific research and experimental development tax incentive program; and providing written responses to business inquiries by the CRA.

These important measures all build on top of our government's significant action to reduce taxation for small businesses since 2006. For example, we provided $20 million to support the Canadian Youth Business Foundation's activities. The foundation works with young entrepreneurs to help them become the business leaders of tomorrow through mentorship, learning resources and start-up financing.

We extended the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment to help manufacturers and processors make new investments in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment.

We increased the small business limit to $500,000. This refers to the amount of income earned by small businesses eligible for a reduced federal tax rate. We reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, and we lowered the federal corporate income tax rate to 15% to help create jobs and economic growth for Canadian families and communities. We increased the lifetime capital gains exemption, which allows capital gains on qualifying small business shares to be realized tax-free, from $500,000 to $750,000. This is the first time it has been increased since 1988; it is incredible.

Our government also released a code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry of Canada to protect small businesses. This was heralded by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who I quote as saying:

Merchants have new powers under the Code that have helped them achieve tangible results in their dealings with the industry....

This simply wouldn't have happened without the code.

As important as small businesses are to our economy, students represent Canada's future. I think all parties here can agree on that. Our government has an impressive track record of supporting Canada's students and growing our labour force. We have invested more than $10 billion annually in students and education, including more than $3 billion in transfers to provinces for post-secondary education and over $7 billion in direct support to students and their families.

As well, we have established the Canada student grant program, which is providing up to $250, per month of study, to low-income students and up to $100 per month to middle-income students. We have created a new textbook tax credit to help with the cost of textbooks for students; and $342 million a year is provided for the youth employment strategy giving young Canadians much-needed support as they pursue an education and career.

Apprenticeships have the potential to create a wealth of new talent in this country. Our government realizes the importance of practical hands-on experience. That is why we have provided $140 million per year to encourage more young Canadians to pursue apprenticeships, including the new apprenticeship incentive grant and the apprenticeship completion grant. We have created the new apprenticeship job creation tax credit to encourage employers to hire new apprentices.

Our Conservative government's major new investments have already helped better prepare Canada's students for the opportunities and jobs ahead. But we continue to expand on past initiatives and measures to provide students even more opportunities.

We are ensuring that students are even better equipped and better integrated into the workforce by increasing support for youth employment opportunities with an additional $50 million to the youth employment strategy.

We are doubling graduate internships in innovative firms with an additional $14 million for the industrial research and development internship program, to place even more students into practical hands-on research internships in Canadian companies.

This takes us to the fast and flexible economic immigration system. Immigrants are an important component of our economy. Many immigrants chose to settle down in my riding of Etobicoke Centre, as my parents chose to settle in Toronto. They are hard-working and eager to contribute to our economy; however, we need a fast and flexible economic immigration system.

Our government has placed a top priority on attracting immigrants who have the skills and experience our economy needs. The economic action plan will enable them to transition to an increasingly fast and flexible economic immigration system. In the future, our government will explore with provinces, territories and employers approaches to developing a pool of skilled workers who are ready to begin employment in Canada.

The federal skilled worker point system will be reformed to reflect the importance of younger immigrants with Canadian work experience and better language skills. Canada's immigration system supports a vibrant workforce by attracting skilled workers who will contribute to the growth of our economy.

I encourage the opposition to get behind this bill and support Canada's economic growth and prosperity, because all the things I have just laid out are why Canadians need to support to this bill, why the opposition needs to support this bill, and that is why they claim to be baffled.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, my question will be relatively short, and it concerns the speech made by the member for Etobicoke-Centre. I suggest that he start making corrections to the talking points that he uses for his speeches.

For example, he spoke about the fact that the International Monetary Fund and the OECD have acknowledged the government's sound performance. I would like to know whether he has read the recent IMF report that ranked Canada 12th among the 30 OECD countries in 2012-2013 in terms of economic growth, and that instead of improving, Canada's position will be deteriorating by 2016-2017. In fact, because of the measures taken by the Conservative government, and in particular the austerity measures implemented at a time of economic uncertainty, Canada is expected to drop to 17th place among the 30 OECD countries by 2016.

Having compared these figures to those mentioned in the talking points presented this afternoon, I would like to know what the member for Etobicoke-Centre thinks about the IMF report, which would appear to contradict what he said earlier in his speech.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I reject the premise of what the hon. member is saying.

Many reports, the IMF and others across this world have touted Canada for its economic performance and its G7 performance. Even the Bank of England has now taken our bank governor to assist it in its troubles. That is speaking significantly about Canada's prowess in the economic world and what we are doing with our economy and our country.

We are one of the best G7 countries in the world. There are many reports, many bodies, many countries and others, including the G20 and G7 themselves, that lay that out.

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member should know, the Conservatives' so-called hiring credit will actually punish small businesses if they either hire new employees or pay higher wages to existing employees.

In fact, companies that qualified in 2011 but then grew too big to quality in 2012 could face an EI premium hike of as much as 14¢. This is eminently fixable. We Liberals proposed an amendment in the finance committee that would have fixed it. We were supported by CFIB, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

My question to the Conservatives is: Why are they forcing EI premium hikes on Canadian small businesses?

Motions in amendmentJobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member highlights why there are so few members of his party in that corner.

The amendments the Liberals tried to introduce tried to derail the system. They tried to derail the process through that effort, tried to cripple Canadians in their ability to save taxes and earn, as well as contribute to their families, their small businesses and the EI program.

That is why the Liberal Party of Canada does not understand what the economic action plan 2012 is all about.