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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

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, what the member just told us does not make sense. The Conservatives want to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67 and are telling people who are 54 that they will be affected, but not those who are 55 to 65. In other words, those who are 63 today will not be affected and will not work until they are 67. We know that, at present, a large portion of the population is between 55 and 65. Most of the aging population is in that demographic.

Why should we punish future generations, 13 years from now, by forcing them to work two years longer when there will be fewer seniors and we will have the revenue to support them?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me assure the hon. member that it is the future generation on which the government has its eye. We want to ensure we have a sustainable old age security system for future Canadian seniors. At the same time, we recognize it is completely unsustainable to require two future taxpayers to pay for what four taxpayers pay for today.

Clearly, it does not take a masters in mathematics to realize that when the number of people receiving the benefit is doubled and the number of people who are actually paying into that system is halved, that system is simply not sustainable.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us look at the math.

According to the OECD, Canada's old age security benefits represent 4.2% of GDP, whereas the average for OECD countries is 7%, and the figure is much higher in other countries.

Comparing Canada to countries in trouble only throws fuel on the fire and scares people for no reason, because this program is sustainable.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, what I will do is quote from a prominent economist in Canada, Patricia Croft, who says:

(Budget 2012's) initiatives in the job front and addressing the demographic challenge…in both regards I’d have to give the budget probably an 'A'…in a global context, I think Canada is in a fabulous position.

That stands in contrast to the hon. member's remarks. The hon. member suggests that we should going down a road and follow the same path some European countries are following, paths that have led some of those countries dealing with absolutely disastrous circumstances economically, circumstances that will take decades and decades to recover from.

Thankfully we live in Canada which leads the way economically and has a very bright future because of the measures the government has taken.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke of the ability for Canada to enact these changes for sustainability in our old age pension system over a longer period of time because of Canada's relative economic strength. Some of the measures our government has taken over the last six years, including the competitive corporate tax rate, have ensured that economic sustainability leads to this long-term planning ability.

Would my colleague explain some of the measures in budget 2012 that will ensure Canada's long-term prosperity?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, because of measures that we have taken over the past six years of government, Canada is the envy of the world economically. Organizations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Economic Forum and the OECD have commented that Canada is leading the way relative to other countries.

The corporate tax rate change the hon. member mentioned, reducing the corporate tax rate from 22% to 15%, is one of the things these commentators have pointed to as an absolutely critical step that has led to that result. We see on the other side suggestions to increase taxes across the board, corporate taxes, taxes on job creators and carbon taxes, a complete 180° from the measures we have taken to put Canada in this enviable position.

I hope that all members will take a really good look at the bill, and not just do what their leaders tell them to do when it comes to voting on the bill, but actually vote in favour of Canada continuing that positive momentum that we have made over the years.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, we keep unearthing all these little treasures hidden deep in the bowels of Bill C-38 that we did not even realize were being snuck into this omnibus bill. Now we know why they were put there and their significance.

Bill C-38 repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. This is the construction fair wages act for the federal jurisdiction. For 100 years, we have been fighting for fair wages and working conditions for the construction industry. It is an industry with a transient workforce. Contractors and the like can exploit desperate working people in the construction industry if we do not have regulations that prevent them from doing so. This legislation took wages out of competition so that contractors would win their jobs based on their merits, skills and productivity, not on their ability to find cheaper labour because, by virtue of the fair wages act, it was agreed that it does not benefit anyone.

We have a quaint expression where I come from that “fair wages benefit the whole community”. It is virtuous to have a well-paid, consuming, middle class. It is good for the economy. Driving down the wages of Canadian workers is in no one's best interest. Members would know that the federal government is one of the largest consumers of construction industry services in the country. This act applied to any construction project contracted by the federal government, including military bases, prisons, ports, banking and telecommunications. The Canada Labour Code, which is the federal labour code, applies to all of those including projects that go across provincial borders. What comes to mind when we think about large projects that might span interprovincial borders are pipelines. We have unearthed now that deep within Bill C-38 the federal government has eliminated the fair wages and working conditions that are found in this act. It has completely eradicated that.

The act also states that contractors, whether unionized or non-unionized, have to pay the prevailing wage. This is usually determined by the Minister of Labour by consulting in that area what a normal prevailing wage would be, not the union scale but somewhere in the same living-wage ballpark. As well, it sets the hours of work, including that no construction worker has to work more than 48 hours without time and a half overtime.

All of that has been eradicated. Now, a contractor can bid on one of these federal jobs and post a job notice saying “Wanted: Carpenters, $8 an hour, 84 hour work week, straight time”. No one will apply for that job, which opens the door to the other side of the coin, to mix a metaphor.

The other side of the coin is that the government has changed the laws for temporary foreign workers again by virtue of recent legislation to the point where a contractor can get temporary foreign workers within 10 days. Where do they come from? They are not some unemployed guys in Bangladesh who notice a job opportunity in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Rather, they come from international labour brokers who are peddling crews of temporary foreign workers all over the world for construction projects. We call them labour pimps. Unfortunately, many of the workers working for these international labour brokers are working in a form of bonded servitude for substandard wages with substandard living, health and safety conditions. Not only are they exploiting those temporary foreign workers, they are also driving down the wage and industry standards of Canadian workers by virtue of these contractors who will undoubtedly win every job.

I know construction. I am a journeyman carpenter. I spent my whole life in construction. I used to be a representative of the carpenters' union. I know the margins that construction contractors play with. There is only 2% or 3% between this bid and that bid. It is very competitive. Contractors who bid a job by pricing out labour at 20% and 30% and 40% lower than their competitors will win every job, every time. They will drive down the prevailing wage, because those other contractors will now have to start bidding lower if they are to ever win a job.

To whose benefit is it to drive down the fair wages of Canadian workers? Let me point out a secondary problem this raises. How are we going to attract bright, young men and women into the building trades if the normal wage is now going to be $8, $9 or $10 an hour instead of the $20 or $30 that it is now? Try feeding a family on $8, $9 or $10 an hour. Nobody in his or her right mind is going to go into that industry. We are going to have temporary foreign workers all over again. This is a recipe for undermining the integrity of the construction industry. I believe it is set up specifically to enable the construction of interprovincial pipelines, which used to be subject to these fair wage standards. It is going to create an open door for contractors to avoid paying fair wages to Canadians and these things are going to be built with temporary foreign workers.

Let me provide a recent example. Unfortunately, the pulp mill in Gold River, British Columbia closed down due to normal market forces. The pulp mill was sold to China. Instead of hiring locals to tear down the pulp mill, the 400 men and women who worked there all their lives and knew every nut and bolt in the place, the mill owner applied for temporary foreign workers. The permit was granted. I have a copy of the application. It asked if the mill tried to find Canadians to do the job. The answer was yes. It asked for the reason it did not hire those Canadians. The answer was that the price was too high. Therefore, it brought in crews of guys from India, who sleep six to a hotel room, to tear down the pulp mill while Canadian workers were outside the fence looking in, wishing they had another 12 weeks so they could get a pogey claim at least.

These temporary foreign worker permits are being given away like party favours at Conservative Party conventions to anybody who asks for them. Now the rules have been changed to make it a 10-day turnaround. A company posts an ad in the paper saying carpenters are wanted for $8 an hour, no overtime, no benefits. Nobody applies for the job. Within 10 days, that company has a crew from an international labour broker pimp who is going to provide all the manpower for that job.

Another example is the Winnipeg international airport. Winnipeg is very proud of its airport. Why is it that unemployed Canadian carpenters were outside the fence watching a crew of temporary foreign workers build that airport? It is simple. It asked the government for it. The crew consisted of 80 guys from Lebanon. The last job they came from was in Latvia, where they built another big concrete job. These guys are moved all over the world because it is cheaper than paying Canadians a fair wage. Companies would rather pay foreign nationals, not landed immigrants but foreign nationals, our wages. They are eating our lunches and those jobs should be going to Canadians.

As if there were not enough to criticize in Bill C-38, the government has just repealed the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. It makes one wonder what kind of a government is opposed to fair wages for Canadian workers. How many trusting blue-collar workers look to their government for support, not to undermine their living conditions? In its zeal to smash the unions, the government is dragging down the standard of living for the largest-employing industry sector in the country: the construction industry.

I know who is behind it: the merit shop contractors. They are regular and frequent visitors in the PMO. They went to the PMO and said, “It would be really great if we could win all the jobs. We win some of the jobs now, but it would be great if we could win all the jobs”. The government asked, “How can we help you?” They said, “Just eliminate the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act and then we can offer whatever wages we want, with no restrictions and no controls”.

It used to be that companies had to pay employees time and a half after 48 hours when they should have been paying them time and a half after 40 hours, but that was not good enough. Now they do not have to pay time and a half at all. Minimum wage is the only prevailing wage now, and I mean the provincial minimum wage, on these projects. It is destructive and counterproductive.

It is in nobody's best interest to ratchet down the wages and working conditions of Canadian workers. It is bad for the economy. The government says it is doing these things because it is good for the economy. What is good for the economy are well-paid, consuming, middle-class workers who are buying cars, houses and jeans for their kids, not people who are driven into the poorhouse by their government.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy the performance of my thespian friend from Winnipeg. I would like to make a connection to something his boss said, who is in favour of shutting down the oil sands. I would like to make the connection between the oil sands and the manufacturing industry in Ontario that he cares so much, which I applaud, and the construction industry across the country.

Talking about cars and toys for kids, if his boss had his way and shut down the oil sands, there would be nobody in Alberta buying the cars that nobody in Ontario would be making. There would be no workers building, not just in Alberta but in other parts of the country. Could he make that connection for me?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is making stuff up. Nobody has ever said that he or she will shut down the oil sands. People have said that they would develop the oil sands in a responsible and environmentally sustainable way.

Here is a fact that maybe my colleague does not know. I will bet dollars to donuts that he does not know that Bill C-38 repeals the fair wages act. I also bet that he does know that fully 30% of all the jobs created in this country from 2007 to today have been filled by temporary foreign workers, not by Canadians, and not just in high paying jobs but at Tim Hortons and as chamber maids in hotels. The reason Canadians are not taking those jobs is because of their lousy wage. Maybe if people paid a living wage, Canadians would apply for those jobs.

Temporary foreign workers is not a human resources strategy. It is the polar opposite of a human resources strategy. It is admitting defeat.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his speech, which focused on workers' quality of life. In speaking of workers' quality of life, the hon. member spoke a lot about contributing to the economy.

I would like him to say a few words about the fact that contributing to the economy can go hand in hand with sustainable development and respecting the environment and workers' health.

A study shows that in the United States, corporations have invested roughly $26 billion in green energies and technologies in order to adapt to climate change. They have earned up to $533 billion. For every dollar invested, they have earned $20, all while working toward preventing pollution-related respiratory disease.

What should the government do to improve the health of workers and contribute to the economy at the same time?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises a compelling point.

When I was head of the carpenters union, I conducted a study that showed that job creation through energy conservation actually employed as much as seven times the number of people as the extraction of energy production. A unit of energy harvested from the existing system through the demand side management is indistinguishable from a unit of energy created at a generating station, except that it is available at about one-third the cost, creates seven times the person-years in employment, does not create greenhouse gases and it is available online immediately. In other words, as soon as one turns a light switch off, the unit of energy one saves is available to resell to someone else at the same moment instead of six, eight or ten years to build a new generating station.

The way of the future, the largest single source of energy in the country, is that energy wasted in the current system. Harvesting that energy out of the current system would put more people to work and would be more sustainable than the extraction option that we seem to be reliant on today.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House this afternoon and speak to the important investments and reforms our government is making in budget 2012. Economic action plan 2012 is squarely focused on what matters to Albertans and all Canadians: valuable new jobs and sustainable economic prosperity.

We are moving forward with a stable plan to encourage long-term economic growth and job creation by maintaining our focus on supporting entrepreneurs, business innovators and world-class researchers.

Alberta understands the importance of business innovation. Alberta's cities and rural communities are home to some of the world's most innovative companies and research institutions.

Our government is committed to fostering an economic climate that encourages business innovation. Business innovation is increasingly vital to maintaining our international competitiveness and our excellent standard of living.

Economic action plan 2012 contains over $1.1 billion in significant investments for research and development and $500 million for venture capital and for increased public and private research collaboration.

This direct investment will support private sector business projects that will develop new and innovative technologies demanded in the global market.

Our government will help increase the number of persons employed in high paying research and development fields and will ensure long-term growth by enabling innovative Canadian companies to thrive in an increasingly competitive and global business environment.

In addition to strategic investments, our government is also committed to improving conditions for business investment. Our government will bring forward legislation to implement across the board changes to achieve the goal of one project, one review in a clearly defined time period.

This includes system-wide legislative improvements to the review process for major economic projects, which will establish clear timelines, reduce duplication and regulatory burdens and focus resources on large projects where the potential environmental impacts are the greatest.

In addition, Western Economic Diversification Canada will be launching the western innovation program, which is a new program that provides support to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises in western Canada.

This budget also places a renewed emphasis on cutting red tape and making it easier to do business in Alberta and the rest of Canada. Reducing red tape helps businesses to better compete; it represents a low-cost way to enable economic growth and to boost productivity as Canada emerges from the global recession.

That is why our government will propose new legislation to modernize and streamline its regulatory system.

In addition, economic action plan 2012 proposes $54 million over two years to continue to support effective project approvals through the major projects management office initiative, which has helped to transform and streamline the approval process for major natural resource projects.

Budget 2012's measures build on a strong foundation of investment and support for research and innovation in Edmonton, Alberta and all of Canada. For example, in May 2009, the Government of Canada committed $195 million to the Government of Alberta as part of Canada's economic action plan through the knowledge infrastructure program. These funds facilitated the enhancement of the science degree program at Grant MacEwan University with the building of new and renovated high quality science labs. They helped to build innovative facilities, like the Alternative Energy Centre at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and helped to upgrade the fume-hood exhaust systems in the chemistry and biological sciences building at the University of Alberta. These upgrades will improve the use and utility of high quality research space, ensuring that students and researchers have the best possible space to learn and conduct their work.

Since 2006, we have provided nearly $8 billion in new funding for initiatives to support science, technology and the growth of innovative firms. With economic action plan 2012, our government would continue to invest in research and innovation in Canada.

Budget 2012 proposes to invest $400 million to help increase private sector investments in early stage risk capital and to support the creation of large scale venture capital funds. Facebook, Google and Research in Motion were all at one time start-up companies financed by venture capital, and we want to help launch the next Canadian business success story.

The western innovation program is another proposal from budget 2012. Western Economic Diversification will soon launch this program to provide financial support to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises in western Canada. Budget 2012 also proposes further supporting advanced research at universities and other leading institutions. Our government plans to invest $500 million over five years to the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support new competitions, including the college industry innovation fund which we will begin funding in 2014.

These commitments demonstrate in concrete ways our government's commitment to following a new approach to supporting advancements in research and innovation by pursuing active, business-led initiatives that focus resources on better addressing the needs of the private sector.

However, we must remember what the lifeblood of our economic engine is. In the Alberta economy, as well as in the rest of Canada, our natural resources have given us a tremendously high quality of life.

These resources have also given jobs to hundreds of thousands of Canadians, which, in the current economic climate, is an extremely important asset. The oil sands in Alberta are merely one of myriad examples of natural resources that have helped to drive the Canadian economy forward with benefits to all provinces and territories.

In this global economy, we need to make full use of all of the assets at our disposal and, in this great country of ours, our natural resources are certainly one of those. In 2010, the natural resources sectors of our economy employed more than 760,000 Canadians in communities across the country. In the next 10 years, there will be more than 500 new major economic projects totalling $500 million in new investments. The oil sands industry currently employs over 130,000 Canadians and generates wealth that benefits the entire country.

A recent study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates that, over the next 25 years, growth of the oil sands industry will support approximately 480,000 jobs and will add $2.3 trillion to Canada's gross domestic product. In addition to all of this, the increasing global demand for resources, particularly from emerging economies, will create new economic and job opportunities from which all Canadians will benefit.

However, our economy and our people will only benefit from these demands if investments are made by the most important driver in our economy and that is the private sector. We need the private sector, with all of its drive and innovation, to bring these natural resources to market.

Recently, however, those wanting to invest in our resources have faced an increasingly large and tangled web of bureaucratic rules and reviews before being able to bring these resources to market. Such obstacles can add costly delays, deter investors and undermine the economic viability of major projects.

In order to achieve the greatest value possible from our natural resources, Canada needs a regulatory system that reviews projects in a timely and transparent manner while at the same time effectively protecting our environment. We will adopt a balanced and responsible approach to protecting our environment that makes a significant tangible difference but does not transfer Canadian jobs overseas.

That is why in economic action plan 2012 our government proposes to streamline and modernize the review process for major economic projects. As part of our plan, major projects will have fixed timelines, panel reviews will be limited to 24 months, National Energy Board hearings will be limited to 18 months and standard environmental assessments will be held to 12 months in length. This will create clear, certain and predictable timelines for businesses that will lead to quality, well-paying and skilled jobs for Canadians. These measures will reduce duplication and burdensome regulations while focusing resources instead on large projects where the potential environmental impacts are the greatest.

These improvements to the regulatory and approval process will benefit Alberta’s economy and, therefore, Canada’s and will position us competitively for long-term growth and future prosperity.

Canada is a great nation and we are in an excellent fiscal position. Budget 2012 keeps us on track to balance the budget, keep taxes low and create jobs and economic prosperity in the long term.

Many governments around the world would envy this budget and, if they were in the economic position of Canada, they might be content to rest on their laurels. Not us, not this government. We will not rest. We will continue to work hard to ensure that Canadian businesses, the industrial and educational sectors, are pushing the envelope in each of their respective domains. We will continue to ensure they have the resources and the environment they need to succeed and create jobs, deliver products to market, develop the next cutting edge technological innovation or make revolutionary scientific discoveries.

We will keep working hard as if it all depended on us, and, frankly, it does. Through all of our work, we will keep in mind the model of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which clearly sums up our goals as a government and the economic circumstances we have come through in the past four years: per aspera ad astra, which means “through adversity to the stars”, and if our history and emergence from past adversities is any indication of our future prosperity, Canada's future is very bright indeed.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, can my colleague opposite explain why the Employment Equity Act will no longer apply to federal contracts? I believe this is a direct attack on women, aboriginal people, persons with a disability and visible minorities. Why make this change?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it will come as no surprise to my colleague that I reject the premise of her question. We are working together in the interests of all Canadians, male, female, aboriginal, white, immigrant or whoever, to unlock the tremendous capacity that Canada has and that Canadian industry has in our scientific, educational, industrial and resource development areas.

We want to make the playing field as level as possible so that everyone from every part of the country can have an equal opportunity to share in the tremendous success that is Canada, and we will pit one against the other. We want a level playing field for all.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I will read a quote:

In the face of tough fiscal choices, the government showed leadership by continuing its investments in research, innovation, research infrastructure and university-private sector collaborations. These investments will build a stronger future for our society and economy.

This was said by Stephen Toope, the chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada as well as the president of the University of British Columbia.

I share this view. I have a past history working with research administration, and especially our investments in the Canada Foundation for Innovation. I would like to hear from my colleague how he feels that investments in CFI will continue to ensure the development of highly qualified personnel and the continued growth of our economy.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the CFI has been one of the driving forces behind innovation in Canada. Universities are hotbeds of research and development. I am particularly proud of the University of Alberta, which has been leading the way in a lot of areas. The University of Calgary and other great institutions across the country have been a big part of that. Without that kind of innovation, intellectual drive, curiosity and perseverance, Canada would not be the great country it is today. Therefore, I totally agree with the quote that was just read.

I know, from my association with the University of Alberta and the leadership there and in other institutions across the country, they are extremely happy with what the country has done with the economy and the budgets in the last several years because it is unlocking their potential, which will to the benefit all Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about the CFI program. It is, indeed, a good program, but the problem that we have had for many years now is that we need funds to operate the infrastructure that we buy. We need to train technical people. That is why there was a program called the MRS program at NSERC, but that was just frozen. It has ended. There is no new money allotted for places like the Brockhouse Institute. Neutron scattering groups will be losing their MRS funding so they will not have the money to use the infrastructure that we have. That is a problem.

Why did the government choose to cut that money?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is not true. There are various ways to fund things. CFI does have operational funding. In fact, we have given a record amount of money to the tri-granting council to operate those kinds of enterprises. I am hoping that my colleague across the way will see fit to vote in support of that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Environment Commissioner reported the other day about hundreds of contaminated sites across this country, the results, in effect, of lax environmental assessment laws and protection.

I ask the member opposite if he is not concerned that the gutting the Conservatives are proposing of environmental laws and the Fisheries Act would lead to further environmental devastation across this country.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

In fact, Mr. Speaker, it is quite the opposite. We would put some common sense into some of those rules and regulations. We would stop worrying about, on the fisheries side, for example, killing fish in a flooded farmer's field, which is absurd.

We would put our efforts, our expertise and our dollars where they would make the most difference, so that we do make sure we clean up contaminated areas in the country and we do operate in the best interests of the actual fisheries industry, for example, and not things that are completely extraneous.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a few minutes to talk about this omnibus bill, this huge 400- to 500-page budget bill, which is going to change the face of Canada. The bill is full of bundled information. I am disappointed that, instead of dealing with something that is maybe 50 pages, we have to try to dissect something that is 400 or 500 pages and full of all kinds of changes to everything we could possibly think of.

I have been here now for 13 years. I have been in cabinet. I have been on the back bench and I have been on the front bench. I have been in opposition and in government. I have never seen such a lack of respect for democracy in this country and for the Parliament of Canada and parliamentarians as this attempt to put all of this into an omnibus bill that would change so much with so little input from Parliament. The bill is designed specifically in a way that undermines the essential and historic role Parliament plays in writing and passing good and sound laws.

Bill C-38 attacks old age security and would implement budget 2012, which the Liberal caucus clearly opposes.

The bill includes many other items, including the gutting of 50 years of environmental protection.

Bill C-38 should not be a single omnibus bill, and for these reasons and many more, I will be opposing this legislation quite happily.

Bill C-38 would make sweeping changes to 60 different acts of this Parliament. It would rewrite a generation's worth of environmental regulation and oversight and roll back assistance for low- and middle-income seniors.

Bill C-38 would change program rules such as the employment insurance rules that would affect claimants' ability to reject jobs that are not within the field associated with their expertise. Just imagine being on employment insurance. Never mind being told one must take a job 50 miles away, but one must take a job possibly all the way to the west or to the east. Imagine what that would do to a family. It is bad enough to be unemployed without being forced to relocate away from family and all of the struggles that are there. It is all just part of the meanness that is clearly evident in the government. A lack of concern and a lack of compassion for Canadians is what it is all about.

I have no concern with change. Frankly I welcome change. I would welcome an opportunity to truly debate the bill, as would all of us. Our role here is to make Canada better, not to support making Canada worse and treating its citizens with disrespect.

Parliament has a constitutional role that includes spending oversight. Even the Conservative government cannot sidestep that, even though it is not for lack of trying.

The government has already moved and passed closure on the bill, limiting debate within the House. Rest assured; that will come back and the government will pay a price for that, if not today, then tomorrow.

The Conservative government has pursued a policy of forcing committees into closed sessions at every opportunity, further locking Canadians out of the parliamentary process. The Conservatives have set up special rules for senators that they are refusing to allow for elected members of the House. What are they so afraid of? Openness, public debate and discussion are allowed in the Senate but not allowed here in the House of Commons where we are truly supposed to be having that kind of debate.

We did have some success in the Senate though. The Liberals asked that the bill be split up so that the relevant Senate committees could study it, just exactly the kind of thing we asked for a couple of weeks ago here in the House. The Conservatives would not allow that because we might actually debate important issues that they might disagree with. There was a time when the Prime Minister rallied against the other place, but today he seems prepared to give it every consideration as long as it does what he wants.

There was also a time when the Prime Minister rallied against heavy-handed and reckless governing, but now that he is in charge he seems to enjoy it. These are not his first policy reversals, though, since becoming Prime Minister. Conveniently forgetting his election promises seems to be a speciality of the Prime Minister.

The bill attacks a variety of things, including our immigration laws. The bill would allow foreign workers who have come to Canada, be they seasonal or temporary, to be paid less than people working beside them.

Just imagine what that would do to the reputation of this country. We are looking to exploit people who are basically just looking for a day's pay, coming from another country for a short period of time, leaving their families and homes, to fill a need we have. We would pay them less than anybody else who is doing that job.

The bill would also raise the age at which seniors can get a pension. It would take $30,000 out of the pocket of every Canadian, while the government members stand back and say they are reducing taxes, or doing this or that. They would take $30,000 out of the pocket of every Canadian who is 54 years of age and under.

The budget would rewrite the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, handing power to cabinet, to be used behind closed doors. It would amend the Canadian Oil and Gas Operations Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, legislation that is all related, interestingly enough, to the northern gateway pipeline. One has to wonder what that is all about. It would not affect some areas, but specifically those areas, to get rid of what government members continue to see as roadblocks to their ultimate goal, which is to see that pipeline go through.

As I indicated before, the Prime Minister and the government are breaking a specific promise. The Prime Minister indicated two months before the election, in March 2011, that he would not change the health transfers. He would not cut health transfers or social payments, or touch pensions. That was in March 2011.

Now what is the Prime Minister doing? He is ignoring the advice of the worldwide OECD, Canada's chief actuarial officer, his own Parliamentary Budget Officer and even the government's experts, who all agree this change is not necessary, as Canada's OAS program is already and will continue to be sustainable. Worse yet, he is betraying the trust of Canadians, as all the government members have done. None of them have stood up and opposed it. None of them have had the courage to do that. This change is going to hit Canada's most vulnerable people.

Some of these changes negatively alter federal protection of waterways and limit the list of protected species, without a scientific basis, which is always the way the government does it. Never mind evidence-based science that shows one should not do this or that; it is all about political expediency.

Some of those changes to immigration would affect 100,000 immigration applications made by people who want to come to Canada, which have been in the queue for years. What does the government do? It throws them all out. It does not care. Let people start all over again. They will never get to this country in their lifetimes. Some of those changes would fundamentally change the way we welcome new Canadians to this country.

We at least owe it to Canadians to fully vet and debate the changes. That is what democracy is all about. It does not work in secret. That is not the way it is supposed to happen in Canada.

Bill C-38 would radically shift power from publicly accessible oversight and regulatory mechanisms to the bloated autocracy found within the Prime Minister's office. Bill C-38 is essentially a document that wrestles power from Parliament and Canadians and places it directly into the waiting hands of the Prime Minister.

I have to ask how long it will take before the Prime Minister will approve the northern gateway pipeline, after environmental oversight is removed. I do not think it is going to take very long.

I ask what the next cuts are that are going to happen, whether to seniors or other Canadians. What are the other things that are considered by this government to be irrelevant, that it does not care about and has little respect for?

This is just the beginning of many, many changes that are going to come to this country of ours that we call Canada. Clearly, in 2015, with these changes coming through, Canada will not look the same.

I for one, as a parliamentarian, find it very sad that we are also being denied the chance to debate these issues. It is one thing to have a healthy debate on them, where we respect each other, and something passes. That is the way it is. To have these changes made while muzzling everyone is truly a slap in the face for democracy in this country.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the sleeper issues that we are only just finding, deep in the bowels of Bill C-38, is that the bill repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. This came as a shock to me. Any federally-regulated construction project now has no federal fair wage employment standards. That includes military bases, prisons, telecommunication projects, banking, ports or cross-border, interprovincial projects such as pipelines.

Is it not a happy coincidence that pipelines no longer have any minimum standards, where the prevailing rates have to be paid to tradespeople, or any limitation on the hours of work they can work without any overtime? The Conservatives know full well these companies will not get Canadian tradespeople at $10 an hour for a 60 hour work week with no overtime, but they open the door to temporary foreign workers. With only 10 days' notice now, companies can get as many temporary foreign workers as they want.

Why would the Government of Canada sell out Canadian construction workers, drive down the prevailing wages and open the door for temporary foreign workers to eat our lunch on one of the biggest construction projects in the history of North America?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly the member and I know that the government does not give a darn about Canadians. It cares very little.

I believe repealing all of this is part of a master plan that has been in the works for a while. The government will repeal anything that will prevent it from facilitating fast action on whatever file it wants. Clearly, it will be able to bring all the foreign workers who are desperate for a day's pay. These workers will come in and will be the ones who will end up doing the pipeline and all the other kinds of projects, and all in the name of expediency.

It is just one more slap in the face to Canada and Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, the member says she believes we have a plan and we do. We will help youth gain skills and experience. We will help older workers. We will invest in small public infrastructure. We will connect Canadians with available jobs. We will remove disincentives to work. We will support families and communities. We will support Canada's reservists in the workforce. We will enhance the victims' fund. We will promote more active lifestyles. We will improve the registered disability savings plan. We will have sustainable social programs, secure retirement, ensure OAS remains strong and that there is a future for generations. We will review government spending, as we have, and get rid of waste, and more.

What part does the member not agree with?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is just another sales job. Anybody can stand and talk about all the these great things that will be done.

When we look beneath the surface, most of the time the government is giving us a sales job and not telling us the truth about the things it is really going to be doing, like making all of the other changes. That is what it is not telling us.

I can stand and read off all the wonderful things I did yesterday. When will someone challenge me about whether I am telling the truth on these issues?

To what degree is the government making the changes? To what benefit are the changes being made to the country in the things that we all believe in, which is advancing opportunity for all at the same time as it is being fiscally responsible, also caring about Canadians and ensuring those Canadians are being protected as we move forward?