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House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

Old Age SecurityPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 16, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to talk about the important employment insurance issues in my riding.

London has been hard hit by the downturn in the economy and the collapse of the auto sector. The manufacturing sector in particular has been devastated in the London region, and it is not just in London. Statistics Canada reports that automotive parts manufacturing lost more than one-quarter of its employees from 2004 to 2008, while motor vehicle manufacturing lost one-fifth. Parts manufacturing saw job numbers go from 139,300 to 98,700, which completely cancelled the strong growth from 1998 to 2004. For their part, motor vehicle manufacturers lost 15,900 jobs between 2004 and 2008 following a rather modest job growth of about 5% from 1998 to 2004.

Canada has lost nearly 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the Conservatives took office in 2006 and we lost over 40,000 manufacturing jobs in the last year alone. We are currently at an historic low in terms of manufacturing jobs, going back to when statistics were first gathered in 1976. I would like to note at this point that this low is quite significant because both our labour force and population have grown significantly over that same period. In other words, there are fewer manufacturing jobs in Canada now than there were in 1976.

In my own community of London, we have been particularly hard hit. The city's manufacturing sector has been shrinking at a rapid rate and the auto sector jobs, as I have mentioned, have all but disappeared. Electro-Motive Diesel was one of those few plants in London offering good jobs. That was in operation as late as December of last year, Those jobs were well-paying jobs that helped support a family and support an entire community. To add insult to injury, the plant is gone now, the jobs have been lost and families have been devastated, and yet orders are rolling in for that same diesel engine that was built at the Oxford Street plant. These orders are coming from Canada but the locomotives will be made in the state of Illinois. It is frustrating to note that the company maintained that it needed $30 million out of workers' pockets to keep the plant open but it spent $38 million to close it and then gave a $15 million bonus to the CEO. The workers in London were left waiting for EI payments to kick in, feeling violated by the company and by their own government.

The members opposite like to talk about job creation and yet no one stood up in defence of the good jobs that we already had at Electro-Motive Diesel, jobs that were shipped across the border.

The only support that remains for these auto workers and EMD workers is employment insurance. With the cuts made to Service Canada, there are fewer front line workers who can process claims in a timely fashion and help my constituents and others struggling to navigate through the system.

These are families just like ours, people who had their income revoked suddenly because their job got shipped to a plant in Indiana.

I will repeat my question of March 7. Why did the Conservatives raise billions of dollars on corporate tax giveaways instead of supporting out of work Canadians and the services they need? Tax cuts, I should add, do not guarantee a single job. I want to know why the government did not help to reinvest in Canada.

6:35 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the member for London—Fanshawe on the layoff situation of Electro-Motive Canada and the support Service Canada is providing.

I can tell the House and Canadians that Service Canada has worked very closely with the union and the workers.

Service Canada officials are helping workers understand how to access employment insurance and are providing the required information and assistance to establish claims.

Our thoughts are with the 465 workers who have been put out of work by the closure of the plant. We are focused on helping the workers make the transition. This means making sure workers, if eligible, receive employment insurance benefits to support them as they seek alternative jobs.

Following the plant closure, the employer advised that a settlement had been reached with the union on the payment of separate monies. The records of employment were delivered to the Service Canada centre and entered within a week of receipt.

I will not get into the details of the settlement other than to say that it includes a lump sum separation payment, a lump sum ratification bonus, wages and vacation pay, and settlement of outstanding grievances.

A dedicated team in Service Canada has been working with laid-off employees on how to separate monies which had been affected by their EI benefits. Individual letters will be sent to each claimant detailing the impact. Service Canada has provided information sessions to the employees and will continue to work with them.

General information on other applicable Government of Canada resources, such as income supports, skills development training and market information, as well as provincial programs and services, are also being provided to the laid-off workers.

I can assure my House of Commons colleagues that Service Canada has the situation under control.

I would like to reiterate that our government is dedicated to helping Canadians get back to work.

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I have to say that the hearts that go out do not move my heart. Where was the government when 465 workers were being told to take a 50% cut in pay, to lose their benefits, to lose their pensions?

In terms of Service Canada workers in London, Ontario, they are magnificent. They work hard, they do their job and they are committed to helping people in my community. The problem is that there are not enough of them because too many have been laid off.

It is women in particular who have difficulty accessing EI. Many of them waited weeks to get employment insurance. In terms of women who work part-time or have caregiving obligations, employment insurance is simply not there for them. There are more hurdles to access it than I can begin to describe here. People are left without the money they need. There are too many restrictions and the Conservative government sits and has the audacity to say all is well.

All is not well and it is up to the Conservative government to make amends and fix it.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, Service Canada is working to ensure that those who have been laid off through no fault of their own can have access to the benefits to which they are entitled just as quickly as possible. Service Canada works closely with affected workers when there are massive layoffs. It provides workers with assistance to fill out application forms for EI and ensure documentation, such as records of employment, is available.

Canada has created 690,000 net new jobs since the dark days of the recent recession in July 2009. Canadian businesses continue to create jobs. When it comes to supporting workers, our government has delivered. Through our economic action plan, we have offered a wide range of supports such as extending the targeted initiative for older workers. We have provided unprecedented funding for training through the provinces and territories to help those who have lost their jobs to get the skills they need for new jobs today and tomorrow. I wonder why the NDP continues to not vote for these initiatives.

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, on February 17, I rose in this House and asked when the government would finally help Toronto families deal with rising inflation and higher gas prices, and help them to make ends meet.

I asked specifically when the government would come up with a real jobs plan, a plan that would provide jobs to help support families instead of low-wage, part-time jobs many families depend on. The government has not created jobs in Toronto. The people in my riding of Scarborough Southwest know and live it every single day. There are fewer and fewer good jobs in Toronto, and therefore more and more families continue to struggle.

When I asked the question of the government, I received a glib, meaningless, puerile response from the Minister of State for Finance. The citizens of Scarborough Southwest, Torontonians and indeed all Canadians deserve much more respect from the member for Macleod and indeed from any member of cabinet in the Canadian government. This would include the parliamentary secretary actually paying attention to a question when it is being posed to her, which she failed to do last night.

We need the member for Macleod and the whole Conservative government to take the needs of Canadian families seriously. The Conservative government has no jobs plan. Canada is losing quality jobs under the Conservatives. Since the Conservatives took office, we have lost over 400,000 good manufacturing jobs. Since September alone, we have lost 60,000 more full-time jobs.

Unemployment now stands at 1.4 million Canadians and three-quarters of the new jobs created since May 2008 have been part-time. Now with the cuts coming as a result of the recent federal budget, 102,000 more may be added to the ranks of the unemployed.

This is shameful, and the government should indeed be ashamed. Yet the Conservatives are sticking with their failed approach of blind, unconditional tax cuts for profitable corporations. They are not creating jobs. Too many multinational companies are taking their tax breaks and then turning around and shipping good jobs overseas, as the member for London—Fanshawe was mentioning with Caterpillar in London as it closed the 450 job Electro-Motive plant.

New Democrats have a practical, affordable plan to create good, full-time jobs, offering targeted tax credits for new hires, implementing investments to help businesses that create jobs, investing in job-creating infrastructure and ensuring foreign investment keeps good jobs here in Canada.

The job situation is getting worse under the Conservatives, not better. Their policies have failed Canadian workers and failed to create Canadian jobs. Now, the Conservatives have introduced a budget which will do nothing to create jobs but, according to journalist, Don Martin has everything but the kitchen sink in it. Believe me, we have looked at it, and we found the kitchen sink in Bill C-38.

Frankly, the bill is just an end run around accountability and transparency from the very Conservative government that made commitments to govern better than the Liberals and to be accountable to Canadians.

6:45 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I did receive the question for this evening's debate and response. Yesterday, as the member opposite may recognize, the question was surprisingly almost exactly the same as the question this evening that was presented to us.

Surprisingly, I am sure very surprisingly for the member opposite, our position has actually not changed since yesterday evening. I ask the member opposite to refer to that answer. He can have the opportunity to do that, and that will be my comment.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, it would seem that the member wants to refer to an answer that she gave last night when she was not even paying attention while the question was being posed. She was a little busy chatting with a colleague.

The question was about jobs, and the parliamentary secretary got up and gave an answer about early childhood education. Then tonight she says to refer back to that answer.

Has she absolutely no respect for Canadians or for Parliament? I would like the hon. member to give a real answer.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, the question that was posed, I know, was provided to you, and it was the same yesterday evening as it is this evening.

I will answer that question as I did yesterday, but my answer is quite simple. I ask the member opposite to please refer to the answer I provided yesterday in response to his question that he provided to the House.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I still have not received a response to the question I asked on February 15 about the F-35s and the government's plan B. Of course, the debate has gone on in the House, but there are still many contradictions that have not been explained.

When we ask about these contradictions, we ask simple questions such as “Why does the government not have a plan B?” and “When will we get these aircraft?”. I would like to point out, from the outset, that the government has said that we need to replace our old fleet of CF-18s by 2020. This is something we all agree on.

According to the government, the fleet will be too old to be in acceptable condition to fly after 2020 and the cost of maintaining the CF-18s so that they could continue to be used would be astronomical. The government has also assured us that the Canadian fleet of F-35s will be ready to replace the CF-18s in 2020 so that our air force will not be left without fighter jets.

One of the main criteria for a new fleet of aircraft was that the jet selected was to be operational in 2020, according to what was said. Since 2010, the government has maintained that a fleet of F-35 jets would be operational in 2020. However, there have been delays in the past two years and the government has not changed the delivery dates. On April 11, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence stated that a contract would not be signed before 2017-18.

It seems to me that the timeline for delivery of the aircraft will be a little tight if it is expected that the contract will only be signed in 2017-18 for 2020 delivery of a fleet of 65 jets that will be operational and tailored to the Canadian Forces. Furthermore, yesterday, in committee of the whole, my colleague asked if the government thought it would keep the CF-18 jets in service until 2025. The Associate Minister of National Defence responded as follows:

Madam Chair, again, contingency plans are being developed. We are in a position of having to make some of the decisions once other answers are forthcoming. There is work being done.

My first series of questions is as follows: When does the government plan to purchase these fighter jets? When will they receive them? When will our armed forces be able to pilot an operational fleet of new fighter jets? When will the CF-18s be retired?

Another question remains unanswered: how many F-35s will they buy and for how much? For months, the government has repeated that a $9 billion envelope will be allocated to the procurement of 65 F-35s. Now they have changed their tune a little. They are talking only about the $9 billion that has been frozen. We heard the government say that studies had established that our air force needed 65 planes.

Yesterday, however, when my colleague asked whether the government could confirm that it would be procuring 65 F-35s, the minister said that we clearly needed fighter jets.

The government is no longer giving us any figures. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that 80 was probably a reasonable number of fighter jets.

I would like to know how many fighter jets the government wants to buy, how much it will cost, whether the $9 billion envelope remains unchanged, and how many planes we will be able to buy with that envelope. Could the government provide some clearer answers with regard to these figures?

The other thing we do not know is where this money is going. This program does not respect the traditional standard of equivalent economic domestic spinoffs. When we sign military contracts, we usually ask for that clause. This contract does not include this clause, which means that the guarantees are hypothetical. I would like to know what the government's plan is for that.

What is the government going to do to guarantee economic spinoffs for Canadian businesses and Canadian workers if they are not formally negotiated in the contract itself? I would also like to know if it has begun any negotiations with Lockheed Martin to demand industrial offsets.

What can Canadian workers expect?

6:50 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House before you and my hon. colleague, whose interest in this very important matter regarding the future of the Canadian Forces, and the Royal Canadian Air Force in particular, never seems to wane.

Her questions are entirely relevant and are questions that we must consider very carefully, given the importance of this issue. I appreciate having the opportunity to respond.

When will we have the planes to replace the CF-18s? It is impossible to know, and I am giving a very honest answer here today in the House. Why? Because we are nowhere near the point of procuring any planes to replace the CF-18s and because we have a plan—as we have mentioned repeatedly in this House—that will govern our actions over the months and years to come, before any spending of any kind takes place to replace the CF-18s.

We are being very careful in this matter. We are very aware of the complexity of the matter. I repeat, we are fully aware of the complexity of developing a new high-tech aircraft, with eight other partners, because the development is not yet complete.

We have made a lot of progress so far, but we are not there yet. As all members of the House are well aware, no decisions have been made about what will replace the CF-18s. That is why, in response to the Auditor General's spring report, we launched a better, broader framework to guide our decision-making process with respect to replacing the CF-18s.

The hon. member probably already knows all seven points by heart, but there are really three key elements among them. First, no decision will be made without presenting all of the costs to Parliament, and that includes not just estimated costs, but full life-cycle costs for the aircraft. Those costs will have to be tabled in the House and verified by an independent authority commissioned by the Treasury Board. That is part of our commitment and our plan, and we will keep that promise.

Second, we will continue to compare Canada's options. Of course, we are participating in developing the F-35. Our involvement started 15 years ago in 1997, when the member was very young and perhaps still a member of the Canadian Forces, or maybe even before she embarked on her military career.

Fifteen years is a long time. We have a certain amount of experience and a certain amount of expertise. However, that does not mean, even today, that the F-35 is definitely Canada's choice. We have to follow the steps set out in our plan before making such a decision. And we are going to compare the F-35 with the other options.

Third, it is very important to ensure that our procurement exercise complies with Canada's military production laws. There is a law in this regard. The Minister of Public Works is responsible for it. These three things are very important.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, if I understand correctly, the Conservatives were not telling us the truth before. They were giving us information that may not have been verified. Now, at least, we may have made some progress, since they are telling us the truth. However, the truth is that we still do not have an answer. So, I am not sure if this can really be considered progress or not.

I would like to come back to one last question: which plane?

In July 2010, the Conservatives announced that Canada would be purchasing 65 F-35s and, until the beginning of this year, they were assuring us that only the F-35 could meet our operational requirements.

We have learned that, for now, the F-35 does not meet all those requirements, particularly, in terms of the 360-degree helmet display. What is more, we do not know whether these planes will ever be able to meet those requirements.

Since that time, the Conservatives have changed their tune. The ministers are saying that a definite choice has not been made. But it is 2012. If the government wants to have an operational fleet in 2020, I hope that it will examine the possibilities very carefully.

I would therefore like to know whether the government has definitely decided against the F-35 and whether it is aware that the only way to—

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, we have not eliminated any of our options. We have not decided against the F-35 development project. That is a different program from the one to replace the CF-18s.

However, we do know the operational costs of the CF-18s. We have spoken about them at length in committee and in this place. We will have to cost out the options for replacing the CF-18s. How many aircraft will we purchase? We shall see. We have a budget and we will work within it.

However, we must really prove, show and verify the cost before giving a definitive answer.

It is not true that the benefits for the Canadian industry are hypothetical. I know that is what the Leader of the Opposition believes; he denied that the F-35 purchase would create jobs in Montreal and other regions in Canada. These jobs are already real. We have invested more than $300 million—

6:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. This is a debate that will have to be continued at another time.

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:00 p.m.)