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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

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can provide an explanation for the member opposite, if he is still paying attention.

Considering the profession of the father of my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord , if these changes had taken place when he retired, he would have suffered the consequences.

I see that he is clapping. That was the clarification needed.

We have to establish the facts. The NDP looks at the facts. Contrary to what some members opposite have said, our positions and our party's platform are based on facts. I hope that this positive influence will be felt on the other side of the House also.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want thank the hon. member for her excellent speech. She seems to have a good grasp of time and space, unlike the members opposite.

For days I have been hearing about “future generations”, “long-term growth”, “our children” and “our grandchildren”. In my riding of Laurentides—Labelle, thousands of my constituents are affected by the forestry crisis and the government is doing absolutely nothing about it. I wonder whether, amongst all this rambling rhetoric and everything they stuffed into Bill C-38, there is a single concrete measure for the people living in today's reality.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think there may be some measures for the people living in the Conservatives' reality, but for the other ordinary Canadians, I am not so sure there is anything that is really going to help them.

As far as the forestry situation is concerned, I am seeing the same thing in my riding. I talked about this in my speech. In Saint-Raymond de Portneuf and other municipalities in the region, people are affected by the forestry crisis and are not receiving any help from the government. This may be due to the restrictions that the government imposed on itself with certain free trade agreements that need to be given some thought. This needs to be taken into consideration the next time this type of agreement is negotiated. The government needs to provide help for the manufacturing sector, and the forestry industry is a big part of that sector. Just because this problem is in Quebec does not mean it should be forgotten.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest, Employment; the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, Employment Insurance; the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, National Defence.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Oxford.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity today to stand in support of Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, and highlight some of the key initiatives in economic action plan 2012 that would legislate.

When our Conservative government introduced Canada's economic action plan in January 2009, it was designed to fight the effects of the worst global recession since the Great Depression. It did so by providing significant stimulus to safeguard jobs and protect incomes, while making important productive investments that contribute to Canada's long-term economic prosperity. It worked, as those prudent decisions allowed Canada to emerge from the global recession in a position of strength.

Nearly 700,000 more Canadians are working today than in July 2009. This is the best job growth record in the entire G7. Last March alone, Canada's economy added 82,000 net new jobs, the single biggest monthly jump in national job creation since September 2008.

Canadians are looking to our government to build on that success and that is exactly what we will do with economic action plan 2012, a plan that has been praised by some of Canada's top economists.

This is what Avery Shenfeld, CIBC World Markets chief economist, had to say about budget 2012 and Canada's economy. He said:

—makes sense in a world economy that is still not what we would like it to be...Relative to what anybody else is doing, we still come out with flying colours.

This is what Craig Alexander, TD Economics chief economist, declared:

When combined, the various measures included in today’s budget [2012] are aimed at improving productivity and boosting private sector growth...In addition to being fiscally prudent in the medium-term, the government is taking action to pursue fiscally sound policies for the long run.

Even in southern Ontario we have heard great support for economic action plan 2012. Just listen to what Peter White of London Economic Development had to say:

—the plan includes several points of good news...including research and development dollars, venture capital dollars for public-private partnerships and job-skills training for young people.

The measures in today's bill focus on the drivers of growth, innovation, business investment and people's education and skills, as others on this side of the House will highlight.

What I would like to focus on today is how our ongoing commitment to keeping taxes low and responsibly managing the tax dollars of Canadians underpins all of the measures in today's bill.

Lower taxes support businesses by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money to invest, grow, undertake innovative research and hire more Canadians.

Canada's reputation for low taxes to create jobs is something in which we take great pride. Noted business magazine Forbes said recently, “Canada was the best place in the world to do business”. Today's bill builds on actions taken by our government by continuing to keep taxes low.

In order to keep taxes low, the tax system must be upheld. Canadians expect their government will take action to protect this fairness and integrity. That is why, since 2006, our Conservative government has closed over 40 tax loopholes to improve the fairness and the integrity of the tax system.

Economic action plan 2012 takes further action on this front through the introduction of a number of additional initiatives. To be clear, our Conservative government is committed to take aggressive steps to close tax loopholes that allow a few businesses and individuals to take advantage of hard-working Canadians who pay their fair share of tax. By broadening and protecting the tax base, these actions also help to keep Canadian tax rates competitive and low for all Canadians, thereby improving incentives to work, save and invest.

We understand Canadians willingly and honestly provide a portion of their hard-earned income to fund health care, social programs and other vital services, asking only in return that governments both manage their tax dollars wisely and ask no more from them than their fair share. For our government, this is a solemn responsibility and one that we take seriously. We are committed to managing the hard-earned tax dollars of Canadians.

It is in the spirit of fairness that the government and the Governor General have agreed that the income tax exemption for the Governor General's salary should end and that the Governor General's salary should be subject to tax in the same manner as the salaries of other Canadians.

This historic exemption, likely unknown to most Canadians, has been in place since the introduction of income tax in Canada. It is an exception to the general rules and principles of the income tax system. As is often the case, however, traditions change over time. Recently other Commonwealth countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have implemented legislation to make the salary of their governors general subject to income tax.

This may be a small measure in comparison to the significant tax reduction measures our government has introduced since 2006, but to us it is a principled one. In the words of the noted Winnipeg Sun columnist, Tom Brodbeck:

Governors general of Canada will no longer enjoy tax-free status on a portion of their salaries: The Queen’s representatives will have to pay taxes just like the rest of us. I didn’t even know they had tax-free status. Good.

I would be remiss if I closed without quickly mentioning one other important initiative in economic action plan 2012, the elimination of the penny. Forgotten pennies take up too much space on our dressers and far too much time for small businesses trying to grow and create jobs.

An independent study estimated the economic cost of maintaining the penny amounted to $150 million. The penny has lost its purchasing power over the years, and now most are hoarded, resulting in useless expenses for Canadian taxpayers. Taxpayers pay 1.6¢ for each new penny made now. This costs the government about $11 million a year. After hearing strong support from consumers, retailers and small business, a recent public study by a Senate committee recommended eliminating the penny.

In recent years, more and more countries, like Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and more, have removed their penny from circulation without any impact on consumers. Following these successful examples, Canada will no longer distribute pennies.

The penny's elimination will have no negative impact on consumers. Pennies can still be used indefinitely. They will continue to retain their full value for payments and can be redeemed at banks. Prices will continue being set at 1¢ increments, and payments by cheque or credit card will not change.

Our Conservative government is also actively working with and encouraging charities in communities across Canada to organize fundraising activities to benefit from the elimination of the penny. Indeed, in southern Ontario, we are already seeing local penny drives. For instance, Habitat for Humanity, Middlesex, Oxford and Elgin, a great charity, is looking to collect one million pennies to help those in need.

To quote Jeff Duncan from Habitat in the area:

I know $100,000 is an awful lot of pennies...But this is a grassroots thing and Habitat was founded on a grassroots principle. We thought this was a fun way to engage kids. We need the whole community to help.

Economic action plan 2012 sets out a comprehensive agenda to bolster Canada's fundamental strengths and address the important challenges confronting the economy over the long term, all the while keeping taxes low and managing tax dollars responsibly.

This provides an opportunity for the government to take significant actions today that will fuel the next wave of job creation and position Canada for a secure and prosperous future. That is why I encourage the House to support the measures in today's act.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about pennies. I imagine he was talking about cuts regarding food safety, for instance. Pennies will likely be saved, but the health and safety of Canadians is being jeopardized.

Does my hon. colleague believe that a scandal like the one that happened in Walkerton a few years ago could happen again?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish my colleague across the floor really knew the story of Walkerton instead of reading something that someone has provided for him.

The Walkerton story may not be as he perceives it to be, but it was a provincial matter. In fact, when the member talks about the cuts to the food inspectors federally, that is not really true. If my colleague would spend a little time talking to my good friend, the Minister of Agriculture, he would make it clear to him that those suggestions being promoted are not accurate in any way, shape or form, that in fact we have added food inspectors to CFIA over the years and continue to do so.

I have every faith in the community of Walkerton to monitor its water supply. More important, I have every faith in the Minister of Agriculture that our food supply is safe and secure.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to ask my colleague from Oxford, just south of my riding. He does such a good job of representing that area.

He mentioned a couple of things in his speech about the tax rates being low. Members understand that currently a family of four is paying $3,500 roughly less in taxes than it was when we took office. I get a lot of appreciation for that in my area. As well, the seniors comment about pension splitting and how that benefits their bottom line.

What I took note of in my colleague's speech was when he talked about our government's research, development and innovation agenda. I have the honour of having Conestoga College in my riding, which is partnering with industry to have research done at the college so it can help the industry with the innovation and commercialization of some of its new ideas.

Would my colleague comment on the importance of the innovation, research and development? Our colleague from Cambridge, the hon. Minister of State for Science and Technology, has made some incredible investments in that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, research and development is one of the pillars of our economy as we go forward.

Conestoga College and Fanshaw College are both in my area. I am fortunate to represent a riding that has campuses for both. As my colleague said, the innovations and the money that has been flowing through from the federal government to them has been of great benefit in many respects, not only in the automotive industry, and I have two automotive plants, both Toyota and General Motors, in my riding, but that has also been well-received by the agricultural community, which is a real cornerstone of Oxford.

This government knows where the future is. It is in the future of our young people and in research and development.

That is the finest minister of science and technology we have had in the House. However, at the same time, the Minister of Finance is the finest we have had in the last 15 or 20 years.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the comment about the Minister of Finance, he is the finance minister who actually put us into a deficit before the recession.

Perhaps the member would like to comment on that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is quite an interesting comment coming from the Liberal side of the House. Before the worldwide recession hit, this government had paid off nearly $50 billion of debt that the former Liberal government had helped us get into.

The member has played the straight man to the question. The Minister of Finance has done a wonderful job. As we go forward and see that steady hand, it is like saying my friend is the finest weatherman we have had in the House in a long time.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to rise in debate on Bill C-38. I have to agree with at least the last point made by my colleague who just spoke, which was that the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor was in fact an outstanding weatherman. He is an outstanding member of Parliament as well, although members might want to talk to him sometime about some of the stories he has about some bloopers he may have experienced during his time as a weatherman. They may be on YouTube, as a matter of fact. They would have to ask.

However, when my hon. colleague praises the current Minister of Finance, I find it rather humorous and remarkable, considering that the finance minister and the government inherited a $13 billion surplus and that by April and May of 2008, six months before the recession began, the government was already in deficit.

Members may not believe that, but if they doubt it, I invite them to Google “deficit April-May 2008”; they will find CBC and Reuters stories dated June 25, 2008, pointing that out. They could probably find out more about that later. In addition, that fall there was a further deficit.

The Conservatives have been trying to claim for a while that the deficit we have today was the result of the recession and stimulus spending. The fact is that there was a deficit in that fiscal year of 2008-09. The stimulus budget that the government brought in was not even announced until the end of January 2009, and it was for the 2009-10 fiscal year. It did not start until well after the deficit was in place. If there was a deficit for the year 2008-09 and the stimulus budget was for the year 2009-10, how can Conservatives claim that the earlier deficit was caused by the later budget?

In fact, articles even in December of 2009 talked about how the stimulus money was just getting going. There are articles about municipalities complaining about how long it was taking for that stimulus spending to get started. It took a long time.

Therefore, to claim that the deficit is a result of the recession is an outrage. The claim that this was one of the greatest finance ministers has no basis. By increasing spending dramatically, at three times the rate of inflation, the minister put the country back into deficit before the recession began. That is the context we are in when we come to this budget. That is the history of this government. It is outrageous for the government to claim that this was in any way a good finance minister. It is ludicrous.

Let me talk about Bill C-38. We even have well-known Conservatives criticizing the bill. Here are some comments from Andrew Coyne. He is not exactly a Liberal voice in Canada, but he is a well-known, respected commentator. What does he say about this? He says:

The bill runs to more than 420 pages. It amends some 60 different acts, repeals half a dozen, and adds three more, including a completely rewritten Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It ranges far beyond the traditional budget concerns of taxing and spending, making changes in policy across a number of fields from immigration...to telecommunications...to land codes on native reservations....

He goes on:

So this is not remotely a budget bill, despite its name.

He says further:

Moreover, it utterly eviscerates the committee process, until now regarded as one of the last useful roles left to MPs. How can one committee, in this case Finance, properly examine all of these diverse measures, with all of the many areas of expertise they require, especially in the time allotted to them?

How indeed, Mr. Speaker? Mr. Coyne has made some very good points about the budget, and my hon. colleagues across the way would do well to take note of the comments from this Conservative commentator about their own budget bill.

However, let us look at the budget. What do we expect from it? What are Canadians looking to the government for in the budget bill?

After Canada experienced no job growth during the last six months, I think Canadians expected this bill to have one focus: jobs, job creation and helping our economy strengthen. Instead, what does it have? It has dozens of disconnected themes that will do nothing to grow jobs or address Canada's skills shortage.

In fact, when I think of jobs, I think of the issue of what has happened with foreign investment. This bill is a complete abandonment of the industry minister's promise of a serious review of the Investment Canada Act.

The bill has so many parts. It is 425 pages long. For those who have not looked through or read it, I will just give a sense of how big this bill is. Division 28 of part 4 does authorize the minister to communicate or disclose certain information in relation to foreign investments, but it does nothing to prevent Canada from a repeat of the PotashCorp takeover fiasco that the government mishandled so badly and it provides no advance understanding of how it would handle matters like this and no explanation for its decision.

In fact, the Conservatives pledged in late 2010, after abruptly killing BHP Billiton's hostile bid for the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, to undertake a serious review of the Investment Canada Act. In fact, the minister talked about having a committee do this, but iinstead we get a few lines in a 425-page omnibus bill. The industry committee will not even study this measure.

I would like to see that happen. I put a motion before the committee to have that happen. Of course, as we know, the government insists that everything involving a decision about what a committee will study be done in camera, behind closed doors, so that the media and the public cannot follow it. As a result, I cannot talk about what might have happened to that motion, but I can say that it is no longer before the committee. If I put forward a motion and it is no longer available to be discussed and it has not been adopted, I think people can draw their conclusions about what might have happened to it and what the Conservative government, having a majority, decided to do.

What happened to the promise to clarify the key test used to judge foreign takeovers, the so-called net benefit determination? That was a promise the Minister of Industry made, another promise relegated to the trash bin.

It is the same with the minister's public declaration in June 2011 that he would ask the House of Commons industry committee to review the Investment Canada Act. Where is it? Why is that Conservative members would not be anxious to do this, considering their own minister was talking about it nearly a year ago and asking for it to be done? Perhaps he is not so keen anymore. We do know that members on the Conservative side tend to do what they are told by the Prime Minister's Office and by the ministers.

This review has not happened, despite several attempts from opposition members to call for a review of the act by the committee. Instead, the industry minister gets new powers to disclose a little more information about takeovers without betraying commercial secrets. It is all well and good, but it is too bad that there is no such commitment to prevent ministers from betraying their own promises, such as the one made in this case.

The fact is that this country needs to modernize its foreign investment policies. It is too bad that instead of moving on significant change, we get half measures buried in a budget bill. That makes it very clear the government is more intent on maintaining its ability to insert its political bias into these decisions than it is on focusing on and doing what is best for the Canadian economy and Canadian jobs.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, that was really good. How is that for a profound speech on an afternoon like this?

Members keep bugging me about doing the weather. For the record, I decided to leave the weather business. I got tired of lying for a living, so I got into politics. I am going to get angry emails from meteorologists; I appreciate that.

Nonetheless, we are talking about the budget. I get a lot of calls. I am inundated with calls on income security from seniors.

The pattern is very simple: it is that they are struggling to stay above the poverty line with a combination of old age security and GIS payments. A lot of them still live in larger homes that are difficult to heat. The extra money being put into the OAS program, of course, is not sufficient to cover the costs of things such as rising heat prices or gas for their cars in case they need them to get to the hospital or visit their families.

I would like my colleague to comment on two things. First, how is raising the age from 65 to 67 going to affect seniors? Second, how much of an extra burden is this change going to place on the provinces, which have to provide those social welfare services to help these people cope with extreme poverty?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, particularly for his glowing and effusive comments about my speech. He went on at such great lengths.

However, he makes a very important point about the old age supplement and the changes in this budget bill. In fact, I am looking forward to the debate later this afternoon—or this evening, for those living in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia—on Motion No. 307, which concerns the old age security program. I have more I would like to say about that.

The government's attitude to increasing the age that people would receive the OAS is similar to its attitude toward the CAP, the Canada access program, whereby people can get use of a computer.

In the other place, the Leader of the Government in the Senate was asked about this and said that people can use their iPhones. I do not know if she will be called Marjory Antoinette for that, but that comment does not really show much sensitivity to the real problem of people who are facing hardship in not having access to the Internet. People who have a need for OAS and GIS will be cut off by the government.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member a question about the community access program. It is enough to make you cry, if you really think about it. Someone said that people just have to use their iPhones. I cannot believe we are hearing such things.

In the member's opinion, how many people who rely on the community access program are likely to have an iPhone?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

I do not imagine it would be very many. I imagine that only a few of the people using the program have iPhones.

I talked to the people who run the program. In places where the program is available, many people are poor. They typically use computers and the Internet to access government programs so they can look for jobs and do various other things.

I find the decision appalling.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2012 / 4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of our Conservative government's economic action plan 2012 to be implemented through today's legislation, Bill C-38, jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.

This is a positive plan that would ensure Canada's economy continues to emerge from the global economic recession better than nearly all other industrialized countries. Indeed, Canada has seen nearly 700,000 net new jobs created since July 2009, the strongest job growth among all G7 countries. Even better news is that 90% of those jobs have been full-time jobs.

What is more, both the independent IMF and the OECD are forecasting that Canada will be at the head of the pack for economic growth in the G7 in the years ahead.

Clearly, those are all positive signs that we are on the right track for Canada's economy and for Canadian families. It is little wonder that a recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal praised Canada's economic leadership saying that “Canada is focused on private economic growth”, and also pointing out our “sound policies as a model for the world to follow”.

However, our Conservative government recognizes that we still have considerable global economic turbulence, especially in Europe where we see that continues, and too many Canadians are still looking for work. That is why economic action plan 2012 takes responsible action to support the economy now and over the long term while also keeping taxes low and returning to balanced budgets in the medium term.

Despite what the NDP and others would have us believe, economic action plan 2012 has been warmly greeted throughout Canada, especially in my region and riding of Kitchener—Waterloo.

I would like to share with the House and Canadians who are watching some of the positive feedback that has come from my region.

First, from the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, it says:

We are pleased that [the Minister of Finance] has extended the program that allows small businesses to receive a credit of up to $1,000 against employment insurance...premium increases. ...this extension will provide an incentive for additional hiring. ... The Chamber strongly supports measures proposed to restrain government spending and return the federal budget to a balanced position by 2015-16. Other positive measures include no tax increases or cuts in transfers to the provinces, which are critical for health care and other social services.

Overall, the government wants the private sector to step forward, create jobs, and compete on global markets.

Iain Klugman, the chief executive officer of Communitech, a local technology association, said:

I'm really encouraged to see the focus on job creation, innovation. I see a real acknowledgement of the importance of business commercialization.

I could not agree with Iain more.

Kitchener mayor, Carl Zehr, stated:

We're encouraged by the fact they [the federal government] have yet again confirmed a commitment to have an infrastructure plan in place when the Building Canada Fund expires in March 2014.

As one last example, this is what a Waterloo Region Record editorial declared. It said that economic action plan 2012 was:

...an intelligent and visionary plan to preserve a progressive, prosperous Canada in a global landscape filled with both upheaval and promise. And for this reason it is the most ambitious and important federal budget in a generation. Underlying it all is an astute recognition of how this nation and the world around it are changing.

...the budget envisions a scaled-back government that leaves people free to do more in their lives and with more of their own money. But it will still be an active government that aims to grow Canada’s economy with generous venture financing and research and development funding for businesses.

It is clear that economic action plan 2012 sets out a comprehensive agenda to bolster Canada's fundamental strengths and address the important economic challenges confronting the economy over the long term.

I am pleased to have the opportunity today to spotlight a handful of the measures in today's bill that would accomplish that and play a significant role in securing the well-being of Canadians today and in the future.

The first area I will focus on is targeted reforms to the employment insurance program, or EI. EI, as we know, is Canada's single largest labour market program, providing income replacement to help individuals and their families, as well as training and other labour market support to help Canadians return to employment.

Today's bill would make a number of targeted changes that would make EI a more efficient program, one that would promote job creation and quickly connect people to jobs that would improve the quality of life and Canada's economy.

Our Conservative government recognizes that Canadians want sustainable EI premium rates and a transparent rate-setting mechanism. That is why we will ensure predictability and stability with the EI premium rate.

Over the next few years, we will limit annual rate increases to 5¢ until the EI operating account is balanced. Once the account has returned to balance, the EI premium rate will be set annually, on a seven year break-even rate to ensure that EI premiums are no higher than needed to pay for the EI program itself. After the seven year rate is set, annual adjustments to the rate will be limited to 5¢.

Along with sustainability, matching workers with available jobs is critical to supporting economic growth and productivity. In the words of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the CFIB, which plotted our reform in this area, “There was some major progress on employment insurance”. It went on to say:

There was...early action on changing the EI rate-setting process. Any future increases will be capped at 5¢ for employees and 7¢ for employers, which will provide a great deal more certainty to job-creating small businesses.

Also, EI rates will be allowed to break-even on a seven year basis, which will help keep rates smooth and avoid the creation of large surpluses.

However, there is more in economic action plan 2012, including a $21 million investment to connect EI claimants with the necessary skills with available jobs in the same local area, including through targeted information and compliance sessions. Along with providing relevant and timely job information, the government will strengthen and clarify what is required of claimants who are receiving regular EI benefits and who are looking for work.

Through our measures, our government is helping Canadians who are looking for work, but we realize that true success only occurs when they can find work with minimal delay. The evidence backs that up. EI claimants who stay active in the labour market find permanent jobs faster than those who do not stay active. That is why our government will invest $74 million in a new national EI pilot project to ensure claimants are not discouraged from accepting work while receiving EI benefits. This new pilot project will cut the current earnings clawback rate in half, to 50% of earnings, and apply to all earnings while on claim.

Those three amendments would keep our economy strong. I am sure the opposition, if it is predictable, will perhaps vote against it yet again, after all, that is what it has done in the past. Every time our government moves to protect jobs, the NDP and the Liberals oppose it, as they opposed extending the EI hiring credit to help over 500,000 employers defray the cost of new hiring.

In that spirit, I urge all members to vote in favour of today's bill, which would help Canadian families, businesses and the Canadian economy grow and help fuel more job creation.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about EI and the way it would fundamentally change by moving people who are on EI into that permanent workforce. I would like to paint for him a scenario and perhaps he can respond with yes or no on how this would work.

Let us assume for a moment that we have a seasonal worker, say in Newfoundland and Labrador, who claims EI for part of the year but the other part of the year works at a fish plant making a wage of between $15 and $20 per hour. The person has been doing this seasonal work for about 20 or 25 years and this fish plant is the mainstay of this particular community. Will that person be forced to work at a local retail outlet in a job that pays half the wage but is full-time not seasonal? Would that person be pushed, encouraged or forced to go from that fish plant to the retail outlet?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague on the career change and the conversion that came to him some years ago.

As I explained, we are proposing to make changes to the EI program because we want EI to be an incentive to work, not an incentive to not work. We also want to ensure that workers who are finding themselves unemployed are better matched because of their skills with available jobs and occupations. At the end of the day, this is about ensuring that Canadians can have the fulfillment of employment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, my neighbour in the Waterloo region, for the great speech and for specifically outlining the improvements to the EI system. These are crucial, have been a long time coming and certainly will be welcomed by Canadians from sea to sea.

I wonder if my colleague would care to highlight some of the initiatives that our government has taken in terms of research and development. He has the honour of having two post-secondary education institutions in his riding, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, and I have Conestoga College. We have seen many examples of partnerships between industry and these post-secondary education institutions as it relates to research and development and then specifically to the commercialization of that research and development.

Could he comment on the forward-looking aspect of this in terms of future jobs and growth for the graduates of our post-secondary education institutions?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the riding next door to my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga for that stunningly excellent question. Both he and I are very proud to represent the Waterloo region, which is the centre of innovation in Canada.

Economic action plan 2012 contains numerous excellent initiatives that will support science, technology, research and development, the knowledge economy of the future. In fact, it is a major theme of economic action plan 2012. Over $1 billion will be dedicated from the budget to advance research, science and technology. For example, there is a doubling of IRAP. I hear consistently from SMEs and high-tech companies in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo that IRAP is a particularly valuable program. We heard what they had to say, we listened and we are acting. There is $400 million to help the venture capital industry in this country to create the next Research in Motion down the road.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:10 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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to our Conservative government's economic action plan 2012, jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

In March, the Minister of Finance introduced our government's pragmatic and prudent vision for the future of Canadians, one that looks forward to not only the next few years but also to the next generation.

Since 2006, our government has worked to build a strong economic foundation for Canadians. While the effects of the economic downturn of 2008 were felt in homes and businesses across the country, it was the steady leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, as well as the rest of our Conservative government, that ensured the Canadian economy emerged from the recession well ahead of every major developed economy in the world.

We have delivered for Canadians, and our strong record speaks for itself: the creation of more than 700,000 net new jobs since July 2009; a 3.9% increase in a year-over-year growth in manufacturing output; a reduction for personal income taxes and cuts to the GST; income splitting for seniors' pensions; the creation of the landmark tax free savings account; and lower taxes on Canadian businesses, with Canadians having the lowest tax rate on new business investments among major advanced economies.

Our banking system is regarded as the most stable in the world. Our net to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7. The OECD and IMF predict Canada's economy will be one of the international leaders over the coming years.

When we sift through the partisan rhetoric and inaccurate numbers and figures thrown about by my opposition colleagues, our government's strong economic record is laid bare.

While there is work to be done going forward, Canadians voiced confidence in the direction we have taken when they voted for a strong, stable Conservative majority government in May 2011, ultimately providing us with the mandate to continue our pragmatic economic agenda.

During the election, we committed to remain focused on job creation and economic growth, and with economic action plan 2012 we are doing just that.

We are continuing our job creation agenda and we are focused on the long-term prosperity of the Canadian economy, for all Canadians.

As a country, however, we must remain cognizant of the many challenges and uncertainties that are still confronting the Canadian economy. The recovery is not complete, and too many Canadians are still looking for work.

One only needs to look to the recent elections in Europe to recognize that the global economy still remains fragile. Canada does not want to become the next Greece or Ireland.

Canadian businesses face increasing competition from countries with emerging fast-growth economies, and our aging population will put pressures on public finances and social programs.

Economic action plan 2012 takes important steps to highlight these structural challenges in ensuring that the changing demographics do not harm Canada's public finances and social programs for the future.

My constituents in Simcoe—Grey elected me to be a strong voice here in Ottawa for them, to ensure that I work to bring jobs to our riding; to ensure that our government creates a climate where businesses can thrive without the burden of bureaucratic red tape; to ensure that our seniors are taken care of so they can receive the respect they have earned through their decades of contribution to our country; to ensure that our agricultural sector is supported in the manner that allows it to grow and be profitable; and to ensure that our health care system is protected by continuing our government's stable health care funding to the provinces.

My constituents do not want government handouts or a government that throws money to the creation of more bureaucracy. They want a government that will lower taxes and create a pro-business environment, while continuing to support Canadians by maintaining transfers for health care, education and social programs to the provinces. This is the surest way to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, and these represent the fundamentals of our Conservative economic approach. This is what our government campaigned on. This is the economic agenda I promoted in my riding of Simcoe—Grey. This is what our Conservative government has delivered on in economic action plan 2012.

Our government is committed to sustainable social programs and a secure retirement for all Canadians now and for future generations.

The facts on OAS are clear. The number of Canadians over the age of 65 will increase from 4.7 million to 9.3 million over the next 20 years. The OAS program was built when Canadians were not living the longer, healthier lives they are today.

Consequently, the cost of OAS would increase from $36 billion per year in 2010 to $108 billion in 2030. Meanwhile at 2030, the number of taxpayers for every senior will be down to two, down from seven in the 1970s and from four in 2010. In order to ensure the sustainability of OAS, the age of eligibility will gradually be raised to 67 starting in 2023 and fully implemented in 2029.

We have ensured that the changes that are being made have substantial notice and an adjustment period. These changes would not affect current retirees and those close to retirement. It would give people plenty of time to adjust to the changes and plan for their own retirement. Our changes would ensure OAS is put on a sustainable path so it is there when Canadians need it in the future.

Economic action plan 2012 takes action to create jobs now and provide more opportunities to Canadians. To create jobs, we will extend our one-year hiring credit for small businesses, a practical, proven measure that encourages businesses to hire more workers. For example, Rick and Susan Lloyd, in my riding of Simcoe—Grey, can utilize this program for their small business, Smart's Flowers, and continue to grow their business.

We will make new investments in local infrastructure through the community infrastructure improvement fund. Already our government has made significant investments in infrastructure, particularly in my riding of Simcoe—Grey, where mayors like Mayor Linda Collins and Mayor Sandra Cooper in Collingwood have praised our government for helping create opportunities in their municipalities, and for our constituents in Simcoe—Grey.

Moreover, we will provide more opportunities to Canadians. We will continue to help older workers transition to new jobs and new opportunities. One way we are going to achieve this is through the government support of the ThirdQuarter project, an innovative approach to help employers find experienced workers who are over the age of 50 and who want to utilize their skills in the workforce.

We are increasing funding for skills training and career experiences for young Canadians and for Canadians with disabilities. This is building on investments our government has made already in my riding. For example, most recently, I made an almost $0.5 million announcement for Tracks Employment in Collingwood, where more than 40 students will benefit from an initiative to provide them the skills they need in order to enter into the workforce, supported by the government's youth employment strategy.

Our government is also making improvements to the EI program to ensure it is fair, continues to meet the needs of Canadians and is responsive to local labour market demands, both now and in the future. Our focus is on the long-term prosperity of Canadians.

As we face unprecedented labour shortages, it will be critical that we work directly to help Canadians find available jobs more quickly. We are providing support to Canadians to help them find those jobs through more timely and relevant labour market information, as well as earlier access to skills training and job searches.

With our government's focus on jobs and economic growth, we will also introduce changes on how to calculate EI benefits to better align them with local labour market conditions. Canadians want to return to work. We are enhancing the tools to support them in doing so.

Budget 2012 presents itself as a historical opportunity for Canadians. It allows us to position our country in a way that will protect and strengthen the Canadian economy and continue our job creation agenda. Economic action plan 2012 will help create high-value, good-paying jobs by investing in entrepreneurship, innovation and world-class research. It supports jobs and growth through responsible resource development.

It invests in training, infrastructure and opportunities to create jobs while providing new opportunities to young Canadians, seniors, new immigrants and Canadians with disabilities. These are the types of initiatives our country needs, and they will continue to ensure the long-term prosperity of the Canadian economy.

I am proud to be part of a government that has delivered for Canadians. I would like to commend the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance for tabling this historic budget.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague her thoughts on the performance of the Minister of Finance in the fall of 2008, at a time when the government was in deficit. It had inherited a surplus of $13 billion back in 2006, and it had put Canada in deficit by the beginning of the 2008-09 fiscal year.

As we all know, the recession started in the fall of 2008. By September or October it was pretty clear we were in it. However, in November, when it was very clear, the Minister of Finance brought forward a fiscal budget update, suggesting that nothing was wrong, that there was no need for any stimulus measures and no need to react to this global recession that was developing.

What sort of a finance minister fails to recognize a problem and has to be forced into taking the measures for which he now claims so much credit?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance did such a fabulous job that, in 2009, he was voted the best finance minister in the world.

His decisions and those of the Prime Minister were to inject $63 billion of targeted stimulus money through Canada's economic action plan to protect Canada during the worst global recession since the 1930s.

What did that do? It put Canada on a footing such that, in the last number of months, we have had a record number of net new jobs, more than 690,000 net new jobs.

Canada has been number one with the strongest fiscal position in the G7, reported by Fitch Ratings, Moody's and Standard and Poor's. This government has been focused on jobs and the economy and the long-term prosperity of this country.

The Minister of Finance of this government has been the leadership to make that happen.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I find it quite amusing that the basis by which the Minister of Finance received this award was because of things like a strong banking system, good fiscal structures and that sort of thing, set down prior to when he arrived, which was certainly around the time of Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien.

To say that the current Minister of Finance is the best finance minister is like Milli Vanilli winning a Grammy, for goodness sake. That too was based on someone else's work.