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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

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, one project, one review. It is what I have heard from my constituents in Kootenay—Columbia with Tech Resources who go through a number of these every year. One project, one review for the oil sands, one project, one review for all natural resources.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the Conservatives truly want to ensure that all Canadians live in prosperity, then how do they explain that there is nothing in the budget for social housing when everyone knows that the gap between the rich and the poor keeps growing?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, by creating jobs for Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and not only the natural resources sector, but other sectors across this great land, we will be able to provide greater transfers to the provinces to allow those provinces to work with social housing and to assist those who need it.

I believe that by creating jobs it will do what the hon. member asked for.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, representing British Columbia, I would like the member to tell members of the opposition why they should consider voting for the bill. When it comes to our environment, one project, one plan, because of how important it is for the pipeline to go through northern Alberta and British Columbia.

I would like him to expand on how important that is for our economy.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is important to everyone in British Columbia, not only for the Enbridge pipeline but for all natural resource projects in British Columbia to move forward. It is vastly important, not only to British Columbians, but all Canadians because of the amount of jobs that will be created. It is an awesome opportunity for everyone across this country.

I believe that when Canadians see how much opportunity is available in British Columbia, they will come, they will work, they will create families there and they will be able to do a lot of things that make Canadians prosper.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate what the member had to say. His interests are no different from mine or anybody else's in wanting people to have access to good jobs.

I wonder if he would comment on the fact that in the government's haste to create good jobs is the effect of taking away of the Fisheries Act or the environmental assessment legislation to sufficiently guard against the soiling, the contamination of rivers, streams, air and land that will not be fixed for generations. Is that not a distance too far to go in our haste to create a few jobs in the short term.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, in British Columbia, as well as across Canada, we have some of the greatest environmental assessment processes in place. I do not believe at all that by eliminating what we are about to do that we would jeopardize anything in any type of recognition of assessment.

I believe the EA process is one of the best in the world.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is inconceivable that the Conservatives could present a bill that is 421 pages long and then limit debate to the bare minimum. It is clear they want to pass this bill quickly, but does that not suggest that perhaps they are afraid of the public's reaction to the bill if we were to take the time to properly examine it?

I have examined this bill thoroughly and I can assure you that I have never seen such a hodgepodge in the House of Commons. In true Conservative style, this document is not at all what it claims to be: rather than a budget implementation bill, it is a bit of a free pass for businesses and politicians who have no use for transparency.

Bill C-38 is much more than just an omnibus bill, like those we have become accustomed to with these Conservatives. This bill constitutes a brutal and unreasonable seizure of power that leaves Canadians unable to challenge any of it. We are therefore very surprised as we watch this government getting rid of anything that could limit the damage caused by its blind ideology. After taking a laissez-faire approach for so long, now they want to dismantle everything.

This bill ridicules the institutions of the very government that introduced it. Is that not ironic?

We have already seen the Conservative government's bias in favour of employers in certain disputes, for instance, those involving Air Canada and Canada Post. However, this government does not seem to care at all about well-paid, stable jobs for Canadians, because this new bill will cause even more poverty.

This government is allergic to basic rights and has restricted the right of free association by giving a minister—a minister, mind you—the power to veto collective agreements.

In other words, this government thinks it is okay to scuttle a good-faith negotiation between two parties to further a partisan and ideological political agenda. That applies to all workers. In addition, a significant number of federal government workers will also be affected: women.

I have fought for women's rights for 40 years. There are no words strong enough to describe how angry I was when I realized that the government no longer intended to make its contracts compliant with the Employment Equity Act. The Conservatives seem to believe that father knows best and a woman's place is in the home. All the historic progress we have made toward achieving equality is being recast as purely cosmetic.

Women have the right to be treated fairly, and trying to make women pay the price for the government's penny-pinching is downright disgraceful. How can the government justify such an irresponsible decision?

By so doing, the Conservatives are saying that feminist struggles, which were particularly successful in Quebec, were simply a glitch in history's patriarchal plan. Well, that is not how I see this country and I am certain that many of my fellow Canadians agree with me.

While the Conservatives are throwing the door wide open to privatization, I am saying that we are soon going to take over this government and give the control and the benefits back to Canadians. This government, which seems to work harder for shareholders, has gone too far this time. Canadians are not fools and they can see that the Conservatives are trying to deceive them.

And what is all this for? Over a third of this giant bill is dedicated to doing away with environmental protection measures in a clear path that goes from the plains to the Pacific Ocean, where the Conservatives hope to get a share of Asia's wealth. What a plan.

Promoting the economy is not a bad thing in and of itself. However, Canada used the approach of putting all its eggs in one basket for too long for us to want to go back to it.

Focusing all our energy on oil can only lead to a historic dead end of monumental proportions. It is a well-known fact that the wealth of economies that depend on a single resource is short lived and poorly distributed.

In any case, sustainable development is not of interest to this government, which is also doomed to be unsustainable. The champions of “bigger and better” will end up realizing that irreversible climate change has already begun to transform things.

Although some believe that they are in the Texas of the 1950s, I would like us to be rooted in 21st century Canada.

In terms of the environment, it is not surprising to learn that the Conservatives intend to broaden the definition of prohibited political activities for environmental groups, but only so they can place more restrictions on these groups.

While this government cozies up to oil companies and eliminates all the so-called legislative constraints with respect to the environment, it is also limiting the fundamental right of freedom of expression for hundreds of Canadian groups.

Do Canadians who have been given the right to assemble under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and who choose to express their opinions, again by virtue of this Charter, not have the right to enjoy the full benefits of their citizenship?

On another matter, Bill C-38 confirms what we already knew: Rights & Democracy will be abolished. It was obviously an embarrassment to this government to support an organization that was neutral, independent and dedicated to the cause of democracy. Totalitarian governments, oil dynasties and, worse, communist dictatorships do not favour the independence of institutions. Have the Conservatives become communists?

For the Conservatives, it is all about the open market, except for matters under state control, which they manage with an iron fist. The Conservatives seem quite motivated to give more and more arbitrary powers to their ministers. That is the case for the Minister of Health, who will now be able to approve certain products without having them go through the usual inspection process, which is supposed to take place with any imported product.

Based on the government's priorities, Canadians' health has taken a back seat to profitability. But who will benefit from this profitability? When we consider that so much freedom is being given to business and so little to the people, we are justified in wondering who this government is working for. The answer is obvious.

More proof that this government does not care about well-paid jobs is that it thought it would be a good idea to enshrine in this bill the possibility of allowing 2,500 foreign workers to fill highly specialized positions in Canada and then leave again. Now the government wants to contract out Canadian citizenship.

Neo-liberalism loves outsourcing because it sets workers in a race to the lowest wages. This government has taken that to a new level. If it cannot outsource our resources, then it will import workers. Importing workers means the commodification of human beings by virtue of an ideology that would eliminate all trade barriers, but add many barriers to life for the general public.

With the Conservatives, it is law and order for the people and anarchy for big business. It was not enough for the Conservative government to considerably reduce the powers of the Auditor General and to completely get rid of the inspector general of CSIS, who was getting in the way of its agenda; now the government is opening the door to privatizing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

In other words, by playing with alliances and subsidiaries, a business could wind up doing its own inspections. Is that the kind of rigour that Canadians deserve? In addition to the Conservatives' devious behaviour and their refusal to submit their bill to thorough examination, we also see a threat to freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, transparency and oversight.

While perhaps not an outright coup d'état, this bill places Canada on a dangerous path towards dictatorship. This bill's shortsighted short-term vision is eclipsed only by the long-term, harmful effects it will have. We all want a prosperous economy, but that should not be a government's only goal, since a government has many roles to play. There are many important responsibilities that only a responsible government can assume with authority. Otherwise, it would be too easy.

With this bill, the Conservative government is undermining its own legitimacy and giving up on what it sees as inevitable. It is high time that this government started showing some leadership and did us the honour of behaving like a real government for this orphan country. Instead, it seems to be doing everything in its power to destroy our institutions, sully our international reputation and shoot down everything that reflects basic common sense.

The Conservatives do not think like us. They spend. They spend money on prisons, on F-35s and on $16 glasses of orange juice, yet they slash away at the very essence of our democratic way of life. It makes no sense. This government already looks old, used up, wasteful and tired. It seems incapable of assuming the most basic responsibilities towards the public. The government must always remember this: Canadians are not fools. No, we are not fools.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her speech. I think she raised a number of interesting points that I agree with.

I am very concerned about the fact that the government is using its budget and its omnibus bill to attack environmental institutions. For example, it has significantly weakened protection provided by the Fisheries Act, including fish habitat protection. I think that is a mistake. In the long term, industries will suffer because of this government's obsession with abolishing all possible restrictions preventing companies from doing things like building pipelines across rivers. In the long term, that will cause tremendous economic harm to people who depend on natural resources such as fisheries.

Is my colleague as concerned as I am about the way this omnibus bill attacks environmental institutions and laws?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague made a very good point.

Yes, I am very worried about our environment and about fish. Obviously, if our rivers and oceans are polluted, we will not have any fish to eat, nor other creatures, such as shellfish, because they will be too contaminated by chemicals such as petroleum. That is why we must protect our environment. That is the only way to ensure our food sovereignty.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her incredible and passionate speech.

She was saying that she has advocated for women's rights in her riding and in Quebec for a long time. I would like to know to what extent this budget does not meet the needs of the public and, by extension, the needs of women.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question.

Yes, I have been working for 40 years to advance the status of women, not to have it move backward. I did this work at an association in Quebec.

With regard to pay equity, this is another step backward. We are once again regressing. However, it is important to know that it is not only the situation of women that will be regressing, but also that of single mothers, who will have less income when they retire.

It is very important to achieve pay equity because, if not, women will still be poor at age 67.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's comments but under this government's leadership Canadians are better off.

Parents are recognized for the investments they make in their children's sports and arts. I had a group of seniors here from Aurora this week. When they visited Parliament Hill they thanked us for allowing the pension income splitting , because many of them are now able to stay in their own homes.

I know that constituents in Newmarket—Aurora are very pleased with the fact that our government has created over 700,000 net new jobs across the country.

This budget continues these kinds of investments in Canadians, creating opportunities for the next generation. We consulted across the country. When will the NDP get on board with the rest of Canadians?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question.

That is certainly not what I personally am hearing in my riding and it is not what I am hearing from my NDP colleagues. Back home, people are concerned and do not know how they are going to pay their rent or make their mortgage payments.

They are concerned about having to retire at 67 when they may no longer be able to work at 63 or 65. I am thinking, for example, of those who work in construction or of women who spend their days on their feet behind a cash register at a business of some sort. They are very concerned.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to highlight some of the key measures in Bill C-38, our government's plan to legislate economic action plan 2012, which will, undoubtedly, help to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

Economic action plan 2012 contains numerous measures that would benefit Canadians, and I will highlight a few today. Today I will talk about something that is very imperative for any politician. As I stand here today and speak in the House of Commons, New Brunswick is in the midst of a municipal election. Members are probably wondering why I am raising this today. I have had the opportunity in the last weeks and months to speak to various organizations throughout my riding and, undoubtedly, the municipal election came up.

The comments that I provide with respect to the municipal election are that when people are approached by candidates looking for their support, they should ask what it is the candidates see as priorities for the communities and what they will focus on if they are elected. I believe that it is very important for governments to outline very clearly what it is they will focus on, what they see as priorities and that they listen to the people they represent and understand very clearly what the priorities of the people are.

I have had the benefit, pleasure and honour of serving at all three levels of government in this great country. I have been elected to municipal office, provincial office and now I serve in a federal capacity. I believe that when we ask for support, we should outline very clearly what it is we will focus on if we are elected. Our government has done that. It has been very clear. Members are probably wondering where I am going with this. We are very clear when we talk about the need to ensure federal transfers to the provinces. The provinces are the lifeblood of our country, the very fabric of our federation. We have had governments in the past that have broken that trust, tattered the fabric and have brought great concern to the general public.

I speak from experience when I talk about how important federal transfers are to the provinces. I speak from experience in the province of New Brunswick where its federal transfers will be in excess of $2.5 billion through this budget and economic action plan 2012. Why do I highlight this? It is because it is important that Canadians, New Brunswickers and the people of my riding of Saint John, New Brunswick know and understand that our government feels that this is a priority. Our government is committed to this priority because Canadians have told us that it is a priority. We will maintain that trust and certainly continue to grow the transfers. We have done that every year that we have been in office and in every budget that we have brought forward. This is not by chance or happenstance.

Many members in the chamber have had the same experiences I have. The Minister of Finance was a provincial politician before he came to this great House. The member for West Nova was the minister of finance for the Province of Nova Scotia and he understands. Many members in our caucus understand how important these transfers are to maintaining the services that our constituents in our provinces depend upon. It is very important that we maintain these transfers so that the Province of New Brunswick, in my case, is able to provide the health care and education programs that the people of New Brunswick desire, require, depend upon and have come to rely on our government and the provincial government for.

I did not come to this realization by just walking into this chamber. It comes from the experiences that I have had in my past life, whether in municipal or provincial politics. I served in a government that was very clear and focused provincially. I served with a premier who laid out priorities and strategies to the electorate and stayed very true to them. In my lifetime, he was the only premier in New Brunswick's history to deliver seven consecutive surpluses and the only premier in that province to ever pay down debt. Just so there is no misunderstanding, I am 48 years old. That is a long time. That is a huge commitment. However, that shows that when a government is prepared to focus on the priorities, it can achieve what it set out to do.

We have had governments in the past. We have had Liberal governments provincially and federally that did not maintain that commitment, did not stay true to their priorities and were not focused. They did not have the same level of respect for the provinces that make this federation great. They tried to balance the books on the backs of the provinces. The results were that we had less health care services in the province of New Brunswick and less money for educational and social programs. Was the federal government of the day concerned about that? No. It was not concerned because it did not see the provinces as a true partner. It did not see the value in the relationship that the provinces and the federal government needed to maintain. We in New Brunswick suffered, Atlantic Canadians suffered and this great nation suffered.

That Liberal government made a choice and today it is paying the price. Canadians did not give the Liberals the trust that they thought they deserved. Canadians put them out of office and put our government into office because we demonstrated that we understood the priorities of Canadians. We understand that Canadians value the relationship between the provinces and the federal government. We respect that and we will maintain it.

The Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister have been very clear in saying that we will not balance the books on the backs of the provinces. We see the provinces and the federal government in a true partnership. They have demonstrated that commitment over and over again.

Just recently the Minister of Finance announced that we will see health transfers continue to grow by 6% for the next five years and 3% at a minimum beyond that based on economic growth. That is an increase in health care transfers. That is quite the contrast to the days when the Liberal Party ruled this House. It did not understand how important it was for Canadians to see that partnership and its value.

I know my time is running short so I will talk about how important it is that we maintain this relationship. However, I also want to ensure that people know that this budget demonstrates very clearly that we value that relationship, that we understand the priorities of Canadians, that we are focused on those priorities and that we will deliver when it comes to jobs, growth and true prosperity. We will deliver for Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on my hon. colleague's mention of transparency. I certainly appreciate his point. I appreciate governments that are transparent.

However, I will focus specifically on one of the many changes that will happen as a result of the budget implementation bill, and that is the changes to the Fisheries Act. I submit that these changes will be huge. The fact that nobody knows about these changes and that nobody was consulted on them poses the question about how transparent the government has been with respect to one aspect. I know that 70 amendments to legislation have been included in this budget, most of which are non-finance related, including changes to the Fisheries Act, without consultation.

Would my hon. colleague comment with respect to those changes, especially with regard to the lack of transparency around those changes.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2012 / 12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his question, but I wonder if he listened to my speech at all, because I did not talk about transparency but about a focus on priorities. I spoke about how we as a government are very focused on the priorities of Canadians.

Canadians have told us very clearly that they want to see economic growth and long-term prosperity, and we are taking the steps that are necessary to ensure economic growth and long-term prosperity.

That is what I am trying to say here today: that we are focused and that we are committed to ensuring that Canadians get the government they want.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, our colleague for Saint John spoke about his service in the New Brunswick legislature, where he served in the cabinet of a friend of mine, Bernard Lord.

In light of his service in the provincial government, he would undoubtedly be aware of a very important institution in Kent County, the Hervé Michaud agricultural research station. It is an experimental farm operated by the Government of Canada that has, unfortunately, been slated to close.

World-class scientists, people like Dr. Jean-Pierre Privé, have come to New Brunswick and have done world-class research, particularly with respect to small fruits such as strawberries and berries. They have developed a working relationship with local producers; as an example, my colleague representing Saint John will know La Récolte de Chez Nous, which brings together local producers. Very small local producers have developed a partnership with this experimental farm. They are very concerned that the loss of that farm and that research will have very negative effects on their ability to compete as a local agricultural industry.

I wonder if my colleague for Saint John would cast his mind a little east of Saint John and think of these poor farmers in Kent County that his government appears to be abandoning.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague knows full well, in my time in government in New Brunswick I was the minister of agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, so I know full well what the member speaks of here today.

However, if the hon. member had been paying attention to my comments here today, he would know that we are talking about priorities. The member supported the previous government in New Brunswick, which had the ideology that we could be all things to all people. However, if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

That is what we had. We had a government in New Brunswick that gave us the largest growth in the debt of the Province of New Brunswick in four short years. It was because they had no priorities, because they were not focused. In four short years we saw a $3 billion increase in the debt of the Province of New Brunswick. We will not repeat those mistakes.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition of Bill C-38. As the Conservatives' first budget as a majority government, the budget implementation act serves as a road map to the government's priority for these four years. Let me say that the future does not look very green.

The biggest theme I drew from this budget is the government's focus on large industrial projects as the key to Canada's economic success. Behind the guise of such words as “streamlining” and “modernization”, the government is stripping away long-standing protections for our environment from short-sighted, unsustainable development projects such as, for instance, the Enbridge pipeline proposal.

One-third of the budget implementation act is dedicated to gutting environmental laws that protect Canada's fisheries, rivers, oceans and ecosystems. With the stroke of a pen, the government would eliminate decades of progress, condemning future generations to deal with its mess.

I would like to speak on the changes to the Fisheries Act the Conservative government is attempting to sneak through in this Trojan Horse budget implementation act. These changes are an undemocratic and egregious abuse of power that would do permanent harm to the ecosystem and to Canada's fisheries.

Let us make no mistake: these are radical and dangerous changes. Rather than prohibiting the harmful alteration, disruption and destruction of fish habitat, it would narrow habitat protection to apply to those activities that would harm “...fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery”. The Conservative government does not seem to understand the concept of an ecosystem or biodiversity. If the Conservatives did, they would know that they cannot protect only one species of fish and forsake the others.

The Conservatives would like Canadians to think that they care about creating jobs, yet Western Economic Diversification Canada would be cut by $16.3 million by 2015. Our economy in western Canada is still facing economic challenges, and we need Western Economic Diversification Canada to assist in the development of new industry and jobs. Downturns in commodity prices generally lead to volatility in western Canada, particularly in forestry, agriculture and manufacturing. Canada's New Democrats believe we should invest more in research and development, encourage more participation by aboriginal peoples and get people properly trained for jobs for the future.

For months I have heard from constituents who are furious with the government for raising the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67. Canadians understand that our demographics are changing, but these negative changes to OAS are motivated not by statistics but by ideology.

Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and the old age security program is sustainable in the long term. Seniors who would be hit hardest by these changes are those who have worked all their lives for modest incomes at jobs that often take a toll on their bodies. Instead of raising the age of retirement, Canada's New Democrats continue to put forward practical solutions that would strengthen Canadians' retirement security. We propose working with the provinces to increase CPP, with the goal of eventually doubling benefits. We also propose increasing the guaranteed income supplement. This measure alone would immediately lift every senior in Canada out of poverty.

I have also heard from constituents who believe that the government's move to eliminate all funding for Katimavik is short-sighted. Past participants have written to me to describe the multitude of economic and social benefits that this program brings to communities across Canada. The government's cuts to youth programming come at a time when the youth unemployment rate in Canada remains at over 14%. That is double the national average.

Budget 2012 also outlines millions of dollars in cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, including the elimination of 100 food inspection positions. Canada's New Democrats are calling for the reversal of these cuts so that Canadian consumers can be assured that their food is safe to eat.

Despite repeated election promises to maintain support for our public broadcaster, the Conservatives are cutting CBC's budget by almost 10%. These deep cuts will result in significant programming cuts and hundreds of jobs lost. More troubling is the government's move to weaken the public pillars of Canadian culture rather than to invest in a more vibrant, innovative and creative future.

In my riding, constituents remain concerned about chronic overcrowding in the ERs of Royal Columbian Hospital and Eagle Ridge Hospital, as well as long surgery wait times and expensive prescription costs. They look to their federal government to provide leadership by enforcing national health care standards and implementing long-awaited reforms. Instead, the government seems more concerned with downloading responsibilities to the provinces and territories, which will inevitably result in increasing disparities in the quality of health care among the provinces and territories.

Small businesses are also looking to the federal government for leadership. While I was pleased to see that budget 2012 extended the hiring credit for small businesses, more needs to be done to ensure small and medium-sized businesses continue to be the job-creating engine of our economy. I have been consulting with small businesses in my riding; they overwhelmingly support an overhaul to regulations governing credit card processing fees. It is time to make the system more fair and more transparent.

I have heard from constituents who continue to be frustrated by the lack of adequate public transportation infrastructure in our communities. While the federal government continues to ignore this vital issue, cities across our country lack a mechanism for sustainable, predictable and long-term funding. Canada's New Democrats propose a national public transit strategy as well as immediately allocating another cent of the existing gas tax to public transit funding for municipalities.

Let us focus on getting more cars off the road and reducing commuter-caused pollution by ensuring municipalities have the tools they need to build public transit systems that are forward-thinking and that contribute to building healthy, sustainable communities.

While our economy is said to be in recovery, many Canadians remain unemployed or underemployed. The majority of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque and work hard to make their monthly budgets balance. Those who are close to retirement are worried about the security of their pensions and are upset at the government for mandating them to spend two additional years of their lives working.

As managers of the public purse, the Conservatives have shrunk national revenues by slashing the corporate tax rate to 15% and subsidizing the heavily polluting and highly profitable oil and gas sector. On the other hand, in the past few weeks Canadians have learned more about the Conservative government's secretive plan to spend some $30 billion on F-35 fighter jets, as opposed to the $10 billion figure quoted by the Conservatives in the last election.

Canada's New Democrats believe the Conservatives' spending priorities are out of line with the priorities of Canadians, which include ensuring the viability of the public services Canadians rely on, such as universal public health care, a strong pension system, affordable advanced education and a healthy environment.

It is time to address the growing inequality we see in our schools, our neighbourhoods and our cities. It is time to stop sacrificing the long-term economic, environmental and social health of our country in order to achieve short-term economic gains.

Budget 2012 makes it clear that the majority Conservative government has no intention of addressing these pressing issues. I will be voting against the implementation of budget 2012, and in doing so, I believe I will be reflecting the majority views of my constituents.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, one of the parts of the budget is a program that will help small communities and small community centres. This program was particularly popular during the RInC program. Western Economic Diversification was key to delivering that program, so the moneys flowed through my department. The NDP voted against that program and has stayed firm on that. The member is saying today that he is going to vote against our budget.

The Department of Western Economic Diversification is again going to be delivering a program that would help small communities. Part of budget 2012 helps small businesses. Small businesses have not only asked for credit card regulations but have also asked that they be streamlined and made more efficient.

Is the member going to tell his constituents that he will be voting against some of the very programs and projects that his riding would benefit from?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will tell my constituents that I cannot support the budget and the priorities within it. While there may be some good things in it, it is overshadowed by the overwhelming things that are not good for Canadians. I point to 70 amendments to legislation that are not even related to the budget. That alone should be worth not supporting the budget.

However, in terms of western economic diversification, there will be a $16 million cut to that department by 2015. If we are looking at investing in western Canada, we can start by investing in western economic diversification, and that is not the kind of investment I support.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech.

I would like to hear more about the consequences of abolishing the Katimavik program and, above all, environmental monitoring programs. We know very well that climate change is a serious concern for a majority of Canadians.

I imagine that my colleague could give us more details about the demise of Katimavik and all the benefits of this program for Canadian youth.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have had a number of constituents and others who have written to me about their experience with Katimavik. One person wrote a letter to the editor, which was very insightful in terms of the economic impacts as a result of the visit of the Katimavik program to Yukon and the economic spinoff from the people in the program who went there. They participated and helped not only the community, but they spent money in the shops and on services.

She did an interesting calculation that showed the economic spinoff of those participants in that one area in that short period of time, then calculated all the projects in all areas across Canada. It is a tremendous benefit to the country, just in economies alone, not to mention the social impacts of the cultural exchange across Canada, as well as the knowledge gained by young people at a time in life when they make transitions and important decisions.

I am sure I will run out of time to talk about the environmental changes in the bill. One-third of the 450 or so pages of the bill are dedicated to weakening or changing the environmental protections to the Fisheries Act, to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and to many other important legislation. That alone is why I cannot support the BIA.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act as this legislation is vital to the implementation of the economic action plan 2012.

Economic action plan 2012 is a positive plan that will ensure Canada's economy remains strong. It is already forecasted to be at the head of the pack for economic growth in the G7 in the years ahead by both the independent International Monetary Fund and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In the words of former Liberal finance minister John Manley, current president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives:

Budget 2012 builds on our country’s reputation for fiscal responsibility, while at the same time establishing a more positive environment for private sector investment and growth.

In my time today I would like to focus on the necessary adjustments today's bill would make to the old age security program, or OAS, to ensure its long-term sustainability.

In 1952 the old age security program was launched, and I think we can all agree it was a very different world. At the time, life expectancy was significantly lower than it is today. Government policy-makers built the program around the understanding that seniors would be collecting OAS for only a few years after retirement. They also assumed there would always be a sufficient number of younger workers to finance OAS benefits through taxes. Because of these two assumptions, they were confident that the cost of the OAS system would continue to be manageable.

Those policy-makers could not have predicted 60 years ago the rise in longevity or the fall in our birth rates. They could not have anticipated how these two trends would threaten the sustainability of the OAS program. Let me be clear. This is not an issue of how much money will be saved, but rather whether the OAS program will be sustainable over the long term.

We want to ensure these benefits will be there for future generations when they need them. According to the World Health Organization, average life expectancy in Canada is one of the highest in the world. It is now almost 81 years, and it is increasing. Already one in seven Canadians is over the age of 65 and in 25 years nearly one in four Canadians will be a senior. The number of basic OAS pension beneficiaries is expected to grow from $4.7 million in 2010 to $9.3 million by 2030.

Canadians can be rightfully proud of our public pension system, which has been influential in dramatically reducing the incidence of poverty among seniors and enhancing their dignity and independence. As I said, the world has changed. When I say the world, I mean every country.

The demographic trends we are seeing in Canada are occurring all over the globe. Life expectancy is rising and birth rates are dropping. Population aging is happening more quickly in industrialized nations, which is why many of those countries have already moved to adapt their retirement support programs to account for this new reality.

In most cases, industrialized nations are raising the age of eligibility for retirement benefits, as this is the simplest and most effective way to ensure the sustainability of the program. Of the 34 nations in the OECD, 22 have made or will make the kinds of changes we have now proposed. Thankfully, because of the strong economic leadership of our Conservative government, Canada has the fiscal room to bring in these changes over a longer period of time.

Our government has pointed out that by 2030 there will only be two working age Canadians for every retired Canadian. If we do not adjust OAS, those two working age Canadians will support the tax burden that is currently shared by four working age Canadians.

Times change and government policies and programs must change with them. I would ask the NDP members to pay close attention to the words of Keith Ambachtsheer, director of the Rotman International Centre for Pension Management. He said:

You can't put your head in the sand...When you look at the underlying economics of what's going on...It's perfectly logical in a general sense to say, yes we're going to have to look at all social programs because of these demographics that are baked into the pie. There should be nothing surprising about that.

This is why we are making modern changes to OAS to strengthen it for the future.

We will gradually increase the age of eligibility for OAS and the guaranteed income supplement benefits from 65 to 67. This change will start in April 2023, with full implementation by January 2029, and will not affect anyone who is 54 years of age or older as of March 31 of this year. We owe it to future generations to leave them a solid OAS program and an affordable tax burden. We understand that we have to make these changes in a sensible way. That is why these changes do not apply to seniors or near seniors, and there will be no reduction in benefits to seniors.

We are also making other significant positive reforms to OAS through today's act. To improve flexibility and choice in the OAS program, starting on July 1, 2013, we will allow for the voluntary deferral of the OAS pension for up to five years, allowing Canadians the option of deferring take-up of their OAS pension to a later time and receiving a higher actuarially adjusted annual pension.

We are also putting in place a proactive enrollment regime for OAS and GIS to reduce the burden on seniors of completing application processes and reduce the government's administrative costs, a major positive change.

In the words of noted personal finance author, Gordon Pape, writing in the Toronto Star, it is:

—a welcome elimination of bureaucratic red tape that should have the effect of putting a lot more money into the hands of seniors....This means that many people will no longer have to apply for benefits when they turn 65 – the payments will come automatically.... The potential gain for seniors is huge....any change that simplifies the process and gets some of that foregone money into the hands of needy seniors has to be welcome.

Our government is proud of our record with respect to seniors. We have increased the GIS to help Canada's most vulnerable seniors and we increased the GIS earnings exemption. We have provided $2.3 billion annually in additional tax relief to seniors and pensioners. We have abolished the mandatory age of retirement in federally-regulated industries so older people have more choice as to when they retire.

We have increased funding for the new horizons for seniors program to support seniors who want to participate in community projects. We are supporting healthy and active aging through a number of initiatives and we are funding projects to combat elder abuse.

All of these policies and programs will be adapted to meet new needs and circumstances of seniors as they evolve. In the same way, old age security must also adapt to new needs and circumstances. That is why the provisions in today's bill are the right thing to do and why I call on all members to support it.