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House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservatives.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

March 30th, 2012 / 12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, if Question No. 464 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 464Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

With regard to Confidential Services for Victims of Abuse (CSVA) program: (a) what steps are being taken to ensure stronger federal-provincial coordination in the delivery of CSVA; (b) once a victim enters the CSVA, what steps are being taken to make sure that access to a secure identity is provided as quickly as possible; (c) how does the CSVA ensure that victims receive adequate support and services during the period in which their new identities are being processed; (d) how does the CSVA adequately provide access to secure housing and financial support for victims entering the program; (e) how does the government intend to redress the fact that victims in the CSVA program in the past were not provided with adequate housing and financial security; (f) what steps are being taken to ensure that the victims entering into the CSVA program now will not face similar difficulties with accessing housing and financial security; (g) what services are provided to victims in the CSVA program after the secure identity is obtained; (h) how are these services coordinated among the provinces and between each province and the federal government; (i) in the event that the secure identity is compromised or revealed, what recourse within the program is available to victims; (j) how can victims whose secure identity is compromised access further services and support; (k) if a victim has complaints about CSVA services received, what recourse is available to them; (l) if a victim has complaints about the timeliness of services provided, what recourse is available to them; (m) what is the timeline for distribution of services in the CSVA program; (n) how is the timeline for distribution of services from the CVSA coordinated with the provinces; and (o) what is the government’s policy concerning the relationship between the CSVA and its international obligation to protect women and girls from violence?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to continue this discussion. I have already flagged it will take some time to go over the Conservatives' economic record and what they have done with the budget to provoke a worsening of the Canadian economy.

Madam Speaker, to start off with, I would like to say through you to Canadians who have been sending in all sorts of commentary by emails, faxes, tweets, and messages on Facebook that I will read some, but by no means will I be able to read all of them today. There has been such a huge amount of information coming in.

I want to thank Canadians very much for making their thoughts known and to encourage other Canadians who are concerned about the reckless and meanspirited cuts that are contained in the Conservative budget, the cuts to old age security and the cuts that we saw in December to the long-term sustainability of our health care system, to write or to phone their local NDP MPs. If they do not have an NDP MP yet, we certainly encourage them to phone the nearest NDP MP across the country, because this information is very important.

I want to thank all of the people who are writing to us and sending us messages via Twitter, Facebook, email and fax, as well as the people who are calling us. Their thoughts are important.

I will read some of their messages before getting back to the Conservatives' lack of credibility on economic matters. First up, a woman from Montreal's south shore posted this message on Facebook: “This is a partisan and biased budget that will not help the country or its people. This budget was created by and for Conservatives. Is that what democracy is about nowadays? I think that we should remind the Prime Minister, who was elected by fewer than two out of five voters—fewer than one in four Canadians of voting age, taking voter participation rates into account—that he has to consider the 75% of Canadians who did not vote for him. The nation's budget is a budget for all Canadians, and I am willing to bet that this budget does not respond to the needs of 75% of Canadians. Just who is this government working for?”

A man in Montreal wrote, “Isn't it more than a little suspicious that the Conservative government, which is suspected of bending the rules and has been found guilty of violating the Elections Act, has cut Elections Canada's budget? That should raise more than a few eyebrows.”

I have many other messages here, but I will not read them all. I had to put many of them aside because question period was just 45 minutes long. Canadian families are certainly interested in this budget, but not in a good way. Canadian families are very worried.

Here is another comment. We have received a number of comments about the programs that have been eliminated, including the following comment from a person in the West Island area of Montreal.

Here is a little bit of good news for the Conservatives. A Canadian says that abolishing the penny is a good move. We have said that this is a penny-wise and pound foolish budget. Certainly we do not mind the abolition of the penny. In fact, it was the member for Winnipeg Centre who first raised this issue in the House of Commons. He has succeeded in his campaign. It will save money for the Royal Canadian Mint.

However, that was the only good thing this individual had to say about the budget. He went on to say, “That very minor point aside, there are numerous serious flaws in this budget from obfuscation on details to ideological moves towards libertarian chaos that the Prime Minister seems to be fond of.” He also said that the New Democratic MPs should keep up the great work.

Someone in Manitoba wrote, “The amount in the budget is a really inadequate amount for Canada's first nations. We will no doubt continue to hear of horror stories on reserves that are far enough north that they will not be easily seen by Canadians. The government continues to believe that most Canadians do not care about what is happening in aboriginal communities. They are wrong.”

Someone in Ontario wrote, “I heard your interview on Anna Maria Tremonti's program this morning on the CBC. Good job. There was also one person who was interviewed who brought up a good point about the budget and R and D. Some of the best innovation in Canada for all types of enterprises have come from our large cities in part because a large influx of immigrants bring all types of talent and work experiences from around the world, but this government is removing itself from the type of co-operative federalism and seems to be doing it from a perspective of ideology. This will leave our cities underfunded as provinces will struggle with their own budgets.”

We made that point as well. This is where we miss Jack Layton. He came from municipal politics and had a deep understanding of the needs of cities and the influence they will play in the future as a result of globalization.

The individual also wrote, “Hopefully the NDP will keep a careful eye on the impact of the federal budget and on provincial budgets as a result of this federal budget.”

We have a number of comments about the cuts to Katimavik. I will read some of them. As I said, the comments are flooding in and we will certainly endeavour to intersperse the comments we are getting from Canadians. As New Democrat MPs, it is our job to bring those comments to the floor of the House of Commons along with prepared presentations that we are getting as well.

My colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour just mentioned another one and I thank him for that. We live in a very interactive world. It is instantaneous. As soon as Canadians raise these concerns, we can bring them to the floor of the House of Commons. Evidently, there is a lot of opposition developing to this budget. People are emailing, twittering, and posting on Facebook their concerns.

A grade 12 student at Auburn Drive High School in Dartmouth said:

Seeing that yesterday the Conservatives and the budget cut has had a serious impact on my life and all those who are anticipating the dates on which we were able to go, the cutting of Katimavik is a serious blow to my future plans and without it I am completely unable to know what I am able to do without such a wonderful program. I have talked to many people about the amazing things that the Katimavik program does for youth participating within it. It helps not only students like myself learning to grow into a more mature and successful adult, but it also helps the community in which Katimavik is placed into. It is an opportunity for youth to do some good, to learn about the vastness of Canadian cultures as well as a volunteer program that had no reason to be cut. It does more good than harm. This is a serious issue. Please work as hard as you can to restore funding to Katimavik. Thank you for reading.

I thank her for writing in.

I have another message from a young woman from Saint Hubert who said, “I am writing to you about something that is very important to me and that is Katimavik. I just learned that this program will not be receiving any more funding from this government. That really saddens me because I am currently in the program. I just finished my first three months of the program and I have been living in Lethbridge, Alberta. Now, for the past two days, I have been in Sainte-Foy, Quebec. The fact that this program will be cut makes me really sad because before this program I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. Now, after going through these first three months I know exactly what I want to do”.

That is another young Canadian writing to us to denounce yet another program elimination by this government for purely ideological reasons.

Here is another message, from Sherbrooke this time, “I have not had time to read the Conservatives' entire budget yet, but I see that they have cut the Katimavik social program. I believe it is a very worthwhile program for youth development in our Canadian communities”.

I have received a message from a woman in the Eastern Townships. She just wrote to me on Facebook about the elimination of the Katimavik program and she thanks me for my prompt reply.

I will read one last comment. I have received so many that I could go on reading them, but I get the impression that this afternoon's session cannot be extended, unless the Minister of Foreign Affairs wants me to keep reading these emails.

I will read one last one about Katimavik, from Vancouver.

The email says, “Our family has been supporters of yours. We also strongly support Katimavik. Today's announcement to end Katimavik was a shock to me. Our family has been a host family with this organization for a long time. We have kept boys and girls from all over Canada in our home. All of them have been friendly, articulate and unique. Some of their best qualities grew and flourished through this program. Katimavik has nurtured young people to grow up, be great and give back to Canada. I believe the decision to terminate its funding was a short-sighted one. Please do your best to battle this decision.”

I would like to thank all of those who are writing in about Katimavik, about the cuts to food safety, the cuts to transportation safety and the cuts to environmental assessment.

The NDP caucus will continue to fight for these people on the floor of the House of Commons because Canadian families deserve better than they got in this budget.

I also received a couple other emails that are not directly related to the budget, but I thought I would answer them just the same. One of them was not a very kind email. It basically said, “Where does your suit come from?”, I think implying that, given the collapse of the manufacturing sector, I must buy my suits offshore. Madam Speaker, through you, I want to assure that Canadian that this suit is made by unionized workers in Hamilton, Ontario. I believe in supporting Canadian manufacturers. I am very proud of the suit.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Me too.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

And the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, as well.

The second less kind comment I received was, “Who are you to comment on the Conservative economic record?”, implying that we should not question what the Prime Minister's Office puts out as a spin to cover up Conservative failures. That person implied that somehow I had not worked in a real job.

I just want to say through you, Madam Speaker, to this Canadian, I started working at the age of 12. I worked as a manual labourer for many years, saved up my money to go back to university as an adult learner and became a financial administrator. I worked for a number of organizations, both nationally and in the province of British Columbia, as a financial administrator. I always balanced my budgets, paid down debt and maintained services. That is a particular talent of New Democrats.

As financial administrator and executive director for WIDHH, a social enterprise, I was fortunate, on behalf of that organization, to be a recipient of the Consumer Choice Award for Excellence in Business in 2003 and 2004. My longest affiliation, of course, has been with the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce. I am also a proud member of the Burnaby Board of Trade.

This NDP caucus, the largest in history elected to this Parliament, including the class of 2011, which is a brilliant and dynamic class, comes from a wide variety of backgrounds. We have business experience. We have labour experience. We have experience in a wide variety of occupations, running small businesses, as doctors, as lawyers, as teachers, as nurses, as people who have come from manual professions. There has never been so much diversity around occupations as we see in the current NDP caucus. We bring that multitude of experience, that raw depth of experience to the House of Commons.

The other point that I want to raise is the NDP's record on fiscal management. Members should know that the annual fiscal period returns published by the Ministry of Finance show which parties are best at balancing budgets. It is important to note that every year now for 20 years, as the fiscal period returns are presented, one party outshines the rest. Now, of course, the NDP governments that are part of those fiscal period returns are provincial governments. We have not yet governed at the federal level. We are fighting very hard to be governing as of October 20, 2015.

However, NDP provincial governments, compared with Conservative and Liberal provincial and federal governments, have had the best record at balancing budgets and paying down debt for every single one of those 20 years.

So, to the individual who asked who am I to question to the Conservatives and who is the NDP to question the Conservatives, it comes from having strong fiscal management experience on a personal level, always managing money and paying down debt without cutting services, because that is how Canadian families do it. They do not invest for thrills like F35 fighter jets and stick to it even when the budget goes from $9 billion, to $13 billion, to $15 billion, to $20 billion, to $25 billion, to $30 billion, to now somewhere between $30 billion and $40 billion.

With an NDP government in power, we would have tendered it in the first place and kept the close cost accounting in place so that boondoggle, that fiasco, would never have occurred. I will come back to that in a moment.

The government pushed through the crime bill to build more prisons in the country. I will come back to the study that evaluates the overall cost at $19 billion, at a time when the crime rate is falling. This agenda was put forward for political reasons. If we look at that package, we can say that the NDP does have the best record—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, there does not appear to be a quorum in the House, requiring 20 members.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I now see quorum.

On a point of order, the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, I wonder if I might ask for a ruling. For 20 minutes, there were no members of the Liberal Party present. Is the House allowed to sit when there are no members of the Liberal caucus in the House?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

On the hon. minister's question, the rules forbid members from mentioning the absence or presence of members in the House.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I respect your ruling, Madam Speaker. I want to categorically withdraw that I mentioned there were no Liberal members in the House.

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12:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, the final point is in regard to the feedback I received during question period.

A number of individuals wanted me to do a quick recap of the information I gave out in the first hour of debate. They said that they wanted to take some notes because they had not received this information from Statistics Canada, and understandably so. We are bringing forward this economic information so that Canadians can compare the difference between the rhetoric we get from the Conservative government and the reality. I will quickly recap the concerns I mentioned in the first hour of debate.

First, we have a record merchandise trade deficit. In other words, we have never had a deficit this large on our exports of manufactured goods in Canadian history.

Second, the current account deficit on balance of payments covers all exports. We have never had a greater deficit in that regard in Canadian history. It simply shows that the raw materials, bitumen, logs and minerals, we are shipping out of the country, along with the value added jobs that should go with them, simply have not compensated Canadians. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It has accelerated the economic decline of Canada.

Third, manufacturing jobs are at the lowest level since we first started keeping records in 1976,. At that time there were about 1.75 million jobs. Today, under the present government, manufacturing jobs stand at 1.7 million.

Fourth was the issue around lost jobs. We lost over 50,000 jobs in the last quarter of 2011 and the first couple of months of 2012. I will come back to how that is accelerated by the budget. I also said that the job losses over the last six months have been disastrous.

I also raised the point that the government was simply wrong to wildly throw figures around saying that it had created jobs. The actual figure is 200,000 net new jobs since May 2008, which might sound like the government has done something, except that the labour force grew by 500,000 people over the same period. We are well over 250,000 jobs short just for the new job seekers who are going into the labour market.

The final point I had made this morning was that the vast majority of the so-called 200,000 net new jobs since May 2008 were part-time. Estimates are that as high as 80% of those so-called net new jobs are actually part-time.

I will now go on to what all those economic values have meant for the average Canadian family. The first is something I think would be clear to most members. When we look at the job losses we have seen over the last few months, the fact that the jobs being created are part-time and also the fact that the jobs being created as a whole are paying less than the jobs we have lost, it comes as no surprise that we have seen over the past year a real wage reduction. In other words, we believe Canadians deserve a raise. Under the Conservative government, we have actually seen falling wages because the inflation rate is much higher than any increases in salaries, whether those are for part-time or full-time workers.

As a result of that, Canadian families from coast to coast to coast are finding it more difficult to make ends meet and more difficult to move forward. They are finding it harder and harder to keep a roof over their heads, to buy clothes for their kids for school and to ensure their medication is taken care of. It is not just a perception. It is a reality that, under the Conservatives, Canadians are poor.

A real wage reduction has taken place. Last year it was about 2%. In previous years it was smaller than that but over time Canadians are earning less and less. However, that is not for all income categories. Under the Conservatives, 20% of the top income earners have seen their incomes skyrocket by well over 30%. We are now seeing a small minority of high income earners taking half of the income pie in the country. We are now seeing middle class and poor Canadian families receiving a smaller piece of the pie while more and more of the pie is going to a small proportion of people.

One of the chief problems that Canadian families are facing as they struggle to make ends meet is the fact that, as part-time work replaces full-time work, salaries continue to decline. That is relative to a couple of phenomena. First is the fact that the jobs being lost are full-time and the so-called net new jobs are largely part-time or temporary, which does not give people the chance to raise a family. They are not family sustaining jobs if people are going from contract to contract month to month. That is one part of the dynamic.

The second part of the dynamic is that the Conservatives have lost the high paying, value added, family sustaining jobs. We have seen 400,000 manufacturing jobs lost over the course of just six years of the government of the day. I hate to see what another six years might bring. What that means is that as these new jobs come on the market, which are largely part-time or temporary, the wage levels go down by about $10,000.

We need to look at this picture. This is a key Conservative economic failure. The jobs that have been lost paid $10,000 a year more than the jobs that the government is managing to create in today's economy with billions and billions of dollars in corporate tax breaks. Ten thousand dollars a year less means over time that has helped to contribute to what has been a clear erosion in the quality of life and standard of living of Canadians.

I will now move on to the next index of Conservative economic failure. I talked earlier about record levels of inequality. It now reads in the OECD that, because of the government's policies, we are seeing above average inequality in Canada. Three million Canadians are living below the low income cut-off line and the richest 20% of Canadians now earn most of the Canadian income pie.

What have all these dynamics, the rising inequality, the falling levels of full employment and jobs and falling levels of wages, meant? They have meant, as a whole, that for the average Canadian household to make ends meet, to ensure the kids have new clothes or adequate cloths for school, ensure the kids have school books, ensure their elderly parents have their medication and supports in place and ensure everyone in the family is being taken care of, they are now, tragically, going into more and more debt.

This situation is nothing less than a debt crisis in our country among average Canadian families. The average debt to income ratio is now well over 150%, which means we are talking about debt levels that cannot be resolved in a year or two or three of income. We are talking about crippling levels of debt.

Members will recall the last time a country reached those kinds of debt to income ratios was the United States, at 160%, just before the collapse in 2008.

The Governor of the Bank of Canada has warned about this and consumers organizations are concerned about this. We are hearing a wide variety of professionals, like the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada, raising concerns about a crisis level of debt in the average Canadian family.

However, it is inevitable with this push to the bottom that has taken place under the present government. There is no doubt, with the policies it has put in place, with the cuts to services and benefits, such the OAS and health care support, as well as producing lower paying jobs and part-time jobs and getting rid of the value added full-time family sustaining jobs of before, which is the only way to put it because the government seems to be deliberately putting policies in place to cripple our manufacturing sector, that is what has led to crippling levels of debt in this country under the watch of the government.

What we are seeing increasingly is a country where a small number of Canadians are benefiting from the government's policies while the vast majority of middle class and poor families are struggling under record debt loads, trying to cobble together two or three part-time jobs just to keep a roof over their head and struggling to keep their head above water.

That is the context of the budget that was presented yesterday. It is nothing less than a slap in the face for middle class and poor Canadian families. It strips away some of the services they depend on. It forces them to work longer after a full working life struggling to make ends meet. And, with the announcement in December in Victoria, it also undercuts our health care system, which is not only the chief economic advantage that Canadian companies have compared to their American counterparts but it is also one of the most important aspects of the Canadian social safety net.

The Conservatives will say that they have failed on all of these various indices, jobs, exports, wages and debt, and yet they say that we are doing better than other countries. When we think about it, that has really been the their message. They mention Forbes magazine, too, but far less often these days since Davos, Switzerland and the Prime Minister's speech to the world billionaires.

We need to look at the facts. I have the GDP growth rankings. If the Conservatives failed in all these other measures, we will perhaps see how well they are doing in terms of overall growth.

In terms of the projected economic growth for 2012 in industrialized countries, the OECD countries, Canada ranks in 14th place. When we think of the economy six or seven years ago when we were doing better, although with the Liberal government it was hard to tell as it did not manage the economy generally very well at all, we have now been dragged down to cellar dwellers within the OECD numbers.

Now we need to look at how Canada did in 2011 in projected economic growth worldwide. The Conservatives will say that, yes, we are at the bottom in the OECD but that we did better worldwide. Unfortunately, I have bad news for them. This is not something they will find in the Prime Minister's Office speaking points but it is important to have the facts on the table.

I will ask my colleagues if they think Canada ranked in the top 20 worldwide? No. Anybody for top 30? Anyone for top 40?

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Forty-six.

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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

We have 46 over there. I thank my colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Anyone for top 60? Anyone for top 80? Anyone for he top 100? Anyone for top 110? Anyone for top 120?

No, in economic growth under the Conservative government in 2011, Canada ranked 130th worldwide. Incredible.

Let us look at the projections for 2012. We would expect, after their deplorable record in 2011, that the Conservatives would then say that 130th was pretty bad, that it was embarrassing and they could not go back to their ridings and say that Canada was 130th. They would be embarrassed.

In 2012, with this budget, where does the IMF put Canada? Do members think it is in the top 50? How about the top 80? Top 100? Is there anyone for the top 100? Okay, I understand, members are skeptical about Conservative economic performance.

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Liberal

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

It is 136.

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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

My colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador is saying 136.

Actually it is not even in the top 150 in 2012. In 2012, according to the IMF, with this budget, the Conservatives will succeed in dragging us down to 152nd. We will be 152nd worldwide in economic growth under the Conservative government.

I do not understand how Conservatives can come to work having dragged Canada down to 152nd and be proud of that. Do they have signs up in their constituencies saying “We are 152nd”. It boggles my mind—

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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

I just want to thank the member for bringing that information forward. It is really important for us to know, especially for the members across.

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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I thank my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

We are 152nd. Who is ahead of us? Who is doing a better job with economic management and economic growth? Pretty well everyone is, I think it is safe to say. When one is 152nd, one has to try to a little bit harder. This budget obviously dragged us even further down.

Ahead of us are Slovenia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Malta, which is five places up on the list, Finland; and Japan, which is no surprise; and then Turkey, El Salvador, the Bahamas, Iceland; and there is Norway, another industrialized economy that is way ahead of us; and Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Luxembourg, Iceland, all of whom are better than us—

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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Did their banks not default?