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House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

The House resumed from May 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand in the House today to speak to the budget implementation act and Canada's economic action plan 2012.

I am proud that Canada is slowly emerging from the recent economic recession and atop all other G7 countries. This is something that we should all be proud of. We should remain committed to continued prosperity for years to come. I am positive that the budget will do just that. It will stimulate the economy through jobs and growth while helping to ensure long-term prosperity for Canada.

I would like to start by looking at the basics of economics. It is easy for those in government to lose track of the simple things. These simple rules ensure we are doing not only what is best but what is possible.

It is easy to say that we can provide many services to everyone but we also have to be reasonable. We have to be realistic and realize that there is only so much that government can or should do. The ability to work with what we have and deliver reasonable services within the budget is what makes good government.

When it comes to economics and operating a fiscally responsible government, there are certain things that we must all remember that are vital to remaining economically sound.

I would like to present five key points that cover some of the basics of economics. First, we cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. Second, what one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. Third, a government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not take from somebody else first. Fourth, we cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. Fifth, when half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and also when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they worked for, it is the beginning of the end of any nation.

All we have to do to realize this reality is to look at a number of European countries that are now in grave economic trouble.

These five points clearly outline the basic philosophy of how to succeed economically. The budget is very much in line with these points.

One of the main economic issues facing Canada in the past couple of years has been the deficit. No one enjoys paying down debt, but the hard truth is that it must be done. I am happy that economic action plan 2012 will address the need to reduce the national deficit and aim for a balanced budget by 2014.

To understand the importance of reducing this deficit, we can look to a simple example of managing and maintaining one's own house. There may come a time when the roof of a house needs replacing. It cannot be ignored, it has to be repaired. While the funds for this may not be immediately available, it is possible to take out a mortgage or loan so that this task may be completed. However once the roof is repaired there comes a time when that debt must be paid back.

Today, Canada has worked through the recent recession. With the aid of stimulus funding we were able to build a new roof for our country and we find ourselves reasonably economically sound.

However now that we have somewhat of an economic stability it is time to pay back what we owe. The 2012 budget addresses this by reducing the deficit in 2011-12 to be $8.5 billion lower than it was in 2010-11. Furthermore the budget would continue to lower the deficit in years to come. This is something we should be proud of.

As the member for Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound I represent a rural riding. I am happy about the commitment in economic action plan 2012 to support rural communities. There are strong programs and provisions in the budget that will ensure the stability and prosperity of economic growth in rural areas. One of these provisions would forgive portions of Canada's student loans for new family physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners who practise in rural areas. This would make rural areas, such as my riding, a more attractive place for up and coming doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. This would certainly help in ensuring that rural residents in Canada have the quality health care that they need and deserve.

In addition to advancing the medical field in rural areas, the budget also promotes economic growth in rural areas by providing $225 million to Industry Canada over three years. This funding would be used to develop and implement a strategy to extend broadband coverage to a number of rural communities. Anyone with a rural riding, and there are many across the country, knows there are still gaps in the ridings where that service is not there. This will help to address a lot of that. The new and improved Internet access for rural areas would ensure economic opportunities and would also provide access to valuable services that are needed to ensure economic stability in rural areas.

I was also very happy to see that the budget includes funding for Canada's port system. The budget calls for $27.3 million over two years to support regional port facilities and the continued operation and maintenance of federally owned ports. This funding would be very important in ensuring that Canada maintains a strong port system, which is a vital part of our national transportation system. For example, I have a number of ports in my riding and this funding has a potential benefit for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

This budget would continue to provide tax credits for hard-working Canadians, while at the same time reducing the deficit and creating long-term prosperity for Canada. Our government has implemented many tax credits that put money back into the pockets of Canadians.

One of these tax credits is the very popular volunteer firefighters tax credit. Volunteer firefighters are a vital part of Canada's emergency response system. They provide volunteer service to their communities and willingly put themselves in danger to protect their communities. In 2011, our government recognized the contributions made by volunteer firefighters in Canada by introducing the volunteer firefighters tax credit. This credit is based on an amount of $3,000 to volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service.

Another tax credit that our government introduced is the family caregiver tax credit. This tax credit gives support to those who take care of their families, whether they are dealing with cancer, MS or a number of medical issues. This is a very popular tax credit as well. There are many Canadians who are forced to stay home to support their loved ones, and our government recognizes their hard work through this tax credit. The credit is based on an amount of $2,000 for caregivers of ill dependants.

I am also pleased that economic action plan 2012 combines the ability to deplete the deficit, while at the same time providing beneficial tax credits, such as the volunteer firefighters and caregiver tax credit for hard-working, and certainly deserving, Canadians.

Along with the many tax credits we have provided are the tax cuts that the government has made to put money back in the pockets of Canadians. Our government has cut taxes over 140 times since 2006, and has also reduced GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. This will put nearly $1,000 back into the pocket of an average Canadian family.

It is very clear, Mr. Speaker, that this budget is on the right track for Canada. As I stated earlier, paying off our deficit is a top priority for Canada if we wish to continue to remain atop the world economic leaders. The budget would ensure that we start getting our deficit paid off while at the same time providing those tax credits I mentioned and tax cuts that would allow Canadians to keep their hard-earned money. The budget supports growth all over Canada, including supporting many rural areas by providing funding that would ensure economic prosperity in these regions.

I am very pleased with the budget and its commitment to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, but also to debt reduction and creating a realistic plan for Canada. Just today, new job recovery numbers came out just as I was leaving my office. It was great news and certainly went beyond expectations. It is just another sign that this budget is taking us on the right track.

I urge all members in the House to really think about what the budget can do. It is realistic. It is not a fancy, dressed-up budget, it is just plain realistic, and I urge all members to support it.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for the speech and for mentioning MS during MS awareness month.

I have some major concerns about the budget, particularly the fact that it would destroy 50 years of environmental safeguards. The repeal of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act would affect regulatory decision making and the risk of project specific and cumulative environmental impacts. I would like to know what analysis has been undertaken to ensure the adequacy of the environmental assessment process in each province, and what are the projected costs of changes to the act for the provinces and territories?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, like the hon. member across the way, MS has affected my family. I have a sister with MS. I certainly appreciate the member's hard work on getting the government to do what it can for MS.

To her question, I am certainly glad to hear that she is supporting our changes to the environment and the like, something that will definitely get rid of the delay tactics. There is a lot of fear-mongering out there as to what is involved in this.

I am very happy that these issues are in the budget. With respect to our rural caucus, approximately six years ago, the one thing we constantly heard across the country was what effect the Fisheries Act was having outside its boundaries on farmers' drains and ditches. We heard of a case in Manitoba last year where the banks of a river flooded and fish got onto a farmer's field. He was expected to get rid of those fish at his cost. This bill will address ridiculous issues like that. I am very happy those reforms are in there.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate there may be good news. I have not seen the numbers yet, but I will take my colleague's word that there has been job growth in Canada this month.

However, I am wondering what this budget does for urban ridings. I come from an urban riding in the city of Toronto where for about 30 years we have had growing poverty and no investment in housing or transit. There is a growing legion of working poor because the quality of jobs being created in this country is going down. We have lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs in and around the city of Toronto.

Would the member tell us what exactly this budget does to help urban ridings in this country?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a huge influx of jobs that have just been created that we heard about this morning. Urban ridings tend to be more populated, so I would think that this member's riding should benefit as much as anybody's from these jobs that have been created.

The member talks about housing, transit, and those kinds of issues. This government has made great investments in those over the years. I know that my own riding has benefited, not so much from the transit side but from the housing side. I know his has as well. I thank him for supporting those moves.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague also chairs the agriculture committee. He has been doing a great job in that area. I know the committee is reviewing some of the programs that have worked in the past and looking at what to put forward for the future.

I also know recently there was an announcement to encourage young people to get back into the field of agriculture. Would my hon. colleague elaborate on that please?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the constituents of the riding of Brandon—Souris are very fortunate to have a member like my colleague who understands agricultural issues.

He is right. As members know, one of the big obstacles in agriculture is high land prices and the ability of interested young farmers to purchase land. The changes that we have made relate to low-interest loans that will allow young people and new farmers, no matter what age, to purchase land with reasonable loans and reasonable payback conditions. We have had a lot of positive feedback on that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to address Bill C-38, the 2012 budget implementation act. This is a very important bill for all Canadians as it is a real plan for jobs, growth and prosperity for the near and long term.

We could take the easy road. We could sit back and say that everything is okay and just keep ragging the puck. We could continue to brag about Canada being a world leader in job growth, financial stability and strong presence in the world. We could kick the can down the road and say that looming issues are someone else's problem. We could but we are not.

Budgets are about choices. Just like families in my riding that make choices about how to spend their money, how to save and invest for the future and how to care for themselves and others, so, too, must government. In fact, I would argue that government must lead by example and, through budget 2012, we are doing just that.

However, we must remember the record. Through responsible management, our government has helped the Canadian economy create over 700,000 net new jobs since July 2009, most of which are full-time positions. Canada's economy has expanded for nine of the last ten quarters. Our unemployment rate is well below that of the United States. The World Economic Forum ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world for the fourth consecutive year. Canada continues to have a solid AAA credit rating.

Building on this success, economic action plan 2012 provides $1.1 billion over five years to support research and development and $500 million for venture capital. We know that prudent investments and partnerships with the private sector will continue to create good jobs for Canadians in the future.

The budget also improves support for advanced research through granting councils, such as Genome Canada, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Mississauga—Streetsville is home to many research and development companies in life sciences, pharmaceutical, high technology and niche manufacturing that will benefit from these programs.

Canada is a very rich country in terms of its resources. Whether it be oil, natural gas, forestry or mining, Canada has a unique natural advantage over most other countries in the world. That is why this budget bill focuses on responsible resource development by ensuring that major resource projects are not bogged down by duplicative regulations and that one project receives only one thorough review.

The city of Mississauga is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. We have residents from hundreds of countries of origin who call Mississauga their home, and we are happy to have them. What is even more exciting is that many of these people work in companies that do business around the world, rely on strong trade relationships and do import and export services worldwide. That is why I am so pleased that our government has the most ambitious trade expansion plan in Canadian history.

We know that free, fair and open trade is good for Canadian business. We know that Canadians can compete with the best in the world and we can win. We know that signing free trade agreements with countries around the globe give Canadians fair and better access to international markets.

As well, the bill would reduce red tape that often frustrates business and acts as a disincentive to invest. It would reduce the tax compliance burden for small businesses and make a number of significant administrative improvements at the Canada Revenue Agency.

I am also pleased to report that Bill C-38 would extend the hiring credit for small business for another year, providing up to $1,000 for one year to encourage the hiring of new employees. This budget would also provide $50 million to the youth employment strategy and $6 billion to expand the successful ThirdQuarter project to help employers find experienced workers over 50 who want to keep using their skills in the workforce. There also are $150 million for investing in small public infrastructure to support repairs and improvements to existing community facilities. This would build upon the very successful infrastructure stimulus program that brought together the provinces, territories and municipalities in the most co-operative program in Canadian history.

Like every Canadian family, the federal government, too, much re-look at how it spends hard-earned taxpayer money and constantly ensure both value for money and spending on the most important priorities. The budget focuses on eliminating waste in the internal operations of government and making government leaner and more efficient, totally $5.2 billion in ongoing savings. This represents just 2% of total program spending in 2016-17 and, with this and other initiatives, I am pleased to report that we will remain on track to balance the budget over the medium term as we promised.

To continue to help families, we are improving the registered disability savings plan, increasing the travellers exemption, continuing support for Participaction and enhancing the victims fund. No government in recent memory has done more to support Canadian seniors than this one. I was pleased in the first budget, on which I was able to vote as a member of Parliament, that we brought in the largest one-time increase in the guaranteed income supplement in over 25 years. We have significantly increased funding to the new horizons program, and I am delighted to report that the Hindu heritage seniors group in my riding has just received one of these grants.

Further, our government continues to provide support to the old age security program for existing recipients and those near retirement at current levels with no reductions or changes whatsoever. However, we have a responsibility to ensure that the OAS system is protected for future generations and not simply pass the buck to some government down the road. That is why we are moving forward with a prudent, responsible and proactive change to the OAS by raising the age of entitlement from 65 to 67 by 2029.

I just marked my first year of being elected to this place. It has been an exhilarating experience and an honour of a lifetime. I knew that part of my responsibility as a member of Parliament was to do my very best to make this a better country for everyone but I also knew that tough and maybe unpopular decisions would need to be made to make this happen. As one member of Parliament in this place, it would be completely irresponsible for me to sit here and pretend that the OAS will be sustainable for my generation. I cannot even imagine the MP who will replace me one day in the future having to deal with this issue a decade or so from now if we do not act today. Why on earth would I saddle a future government, a future Parliament or a future MP for Mississauga—Streetsville with this issue in the future when I know we can act responsibly now?

The number of Canadians over 65 will increase from 4.7 million today to 9.3 million in 2030. The cost of OAS will rise from $36 billion to $108 billion. Meanwhile, the number of taxpayers that pay for OAS will go from 4 today to 20 in 20 years. With statistics like this, how can we possibly close our eyes? Even though this decision may not be popular, it is simply the right thing to do.

At the beginning of my remarks today I said that we could take the easy road. We could sit back and soak it all in. We could say that we are better than most and rest on our laurels. However, that is not leadership for the future and that is not helping the next generation. We must move ahead.

I encourage all members to support this excellent budget.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech given by the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville.

I wonder if the hon. member is aware of what has been said about this enormous 425 page budget bill by people like Conservative commentator Andrew Coyne, who talks about the length of it, the fact that it amends some 60 different acts, repeals half a dozen and adds three more, including a completely rewritten Canadian Environment Assessment Act.

He wrote:

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

He goes on to say:

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?

I wonder if the hon. member would like to answer Mr. Coyne's question.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, like all journalists, Mr. Coyne is certainly welcome to his opinion. I read him thoroughly and there are days I agree with him and days I do not.

If the hon. member had been listening, he would know that I spoke about timely leadership in difficult times. That is why we have brought forward a budget that is comprehensive. It does a lot of things, no doubt. However, we will have the longest debate we have seen in 20 years on this budget bill. Members of Parliament have a lot of time to have input on a wide variety of issues that are covered under this budget bill.

The bill is about moving Canada forward in a responsible way in the near, medium and long-term. I think the hon. member should get on board and support the initiatives.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville does a fantastic job of representing his constituents in a neighbouring riding to mine. I would like to ask him about seniors who he is speaking to in his riding and what they are saying about OAS, particularly the sustainability of the program for future generations.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, during our last two week break I actually held a half-day seniors' forum. We talked about a whole variety of issues. I was pleased to do that for my constituents in order to update them on things that were going on.

It is interesting that when one sits down and talks to seniors today about the proposed changes that will start 11 years from now and one explains the numbers and demographic changes, it is amazing how they get it. They understand. They want the OAS system to be there so their children and their grandchildren will be able to collect it, just like they are collecting it today.

Generally speaking, in talking with constituents, I find they understand the challenge we have with respect to the long-term viability of the old age security system and that they generally support the direction in which we are trying to go.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member for Mississauga—Streetsville's speech, but unfortunately, I have not reached the same conclusions as he.

Certain facts cannot be denied. Canada is in an enviable position compared to other countries, but that is in spite of the government, not thanks to it.

I remember an election campaign a few years back just before the crisis hit. The Prime Minister accused those who saw the crisis coming of being defeatist and enemies of Canada. Today we see the same thing happening. It is all well and good to boast about how strong our banking system is, but it is worth pointing out that our banking system is strong because it is better regulated than those of other countries.

In the long term, if we continue down this path, we are headed for chaos. I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, actions speak louder than words.

We only need look at the actions of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance during the worst worldwide economic recession in my lifetime and compare Canada's results to the world's. We are the envy of the world in how Canada reacted to that crisis and the work that our Minister of Finance continues to do. There is no question that we have lots to be thankful for in Canada because of that leadership.

We have lots more to do, and that is why Bill C-38 needs to be passed by this House. We need to get on with the job.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the budget implementation act.

I am going to focus my remarks on three main areas. I am the member of Parliament for Charlottetown. Prince Edward Island is still a province, but it has been left out of this budget. I am going to focus initially on the impact of the budget on my home province. Then I am going to spend some time talking about the impact of the budget on veterans. I am the Liberal Party critic for veterans, and this budget has targeted them quite unfairly. Then I am going to talk about old age security. As members know, last night we had a debate in the House on my private member's motion with respect to old age security, and the budget effectively kills it.

The impact of this budget on Canada's smallest and nicest province is devastating. We feel left out. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the only federal government department that has its national headquarters outside the national capital region. Its headquarters are in Prince Edward Island. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, 232 jobs will be cut, partly as a result of this budget and partly as a result of what the Department of Veterans Affairs calls its transformation agenda. I will comment more on that later. The impact of those budget cuts in a province like Prince Edward Island and in a city like Charlottetown is devastating. It affects the entire community.

Prince Edward Island does not have oil in the ground. It does not have a manufacturing sector. We have a seasonal economy. The number of well-paying jobs is not what it is in other centres and to gut the public service, as this budget does, unfairly singles out our province. However, it is worse than that. It is not bad enough to cut the jobs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but Prince Edward Island will now be one of only two provinces in this country where EI claims are not processed, because the government has closed the EI processing centre in Montague. Again, more well-paying civil service jobs are being lifted out of our economy. Prince Edward Island is now one of the few places in this country where, if people want to talk to someone about their immigration issues, they will be out of luck because the immigration office in Prince Edward Island will close as a result of this budget. Prince Edward Island is the only province in this country where people cannot get a passport processed. If they want to get a passport processed, they have to go to Halifax or Fredericton.

Infrastructure is very important, particularly in my riding of Charlottetown. There are two very significant infrastructure projects right now that are in dire need. One is a storm sewer separation project. The storm sewer system and the sewage system are one, so every time we get a heavy rainfall, the bypass has to come through because the volume is too great to go into the waste water treatment facility in Charlottetown. As a result, untreated sewage pours into the Charlottetown harbour every time there is a heavy rainfall. This is an $18 million problem. It is a serious problem. It desperately affects those who depend on the oyster fishery in and around Charlottetown.

The City of Charlottetown and the Province of Prince Edward Island have stepped up to solve this problem. They have kicked in. The City of Charlottetown has repeatedly made representations to the federal government to have it cost share in the project. Basically what it has been told is maybe in 2014. This is something for which there is a dire need, and it is nowhere to be found in the budget.

Also on the subject of infrastructure, we are in a situation in our city where we are using more than 90% of the available drinking water from the source that we have in the Winter River basin. We need a new source of water. It is a matter of public safety.

Prince Edward Island is one of the only provinces that is 100% dependent on groundwater for its potable water. We need to develop a new well field. One has been identified. There is a need for infrastructure funds for that. Again, it is the city and the province that have stepped up and the federal government is nowhere to be found. There is nothing for that in the budget.

We have this dearth of public services in the province, and the rationale we continually hear from the Conservatives is that they are streamlining and modernizing, doing all these things in the back office, that they need to depend more on technology, yet they have cut the community access program. They have cut the CAP sites. Those who cannot afford a computer, those who do not own a computer, are out of luck. The CAP sites will close as a result of the cuts in the budget.

Prince Edward Island has 140,000 people. Last year, CAP sites were accessed more than 80,000 times. They are necessary. They are used, but thanks to this budget, they will be gone.

Veterans Affairs and the veterans of this country once again have been shortchanged in the budget. The party line is that veterans benefits have not been touched. That is what we hear the Conservatives say, that all of the savings supposedly have been found in the back office in reducing red tape.

The budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs is $3.5 billion, and 90% of that budget is paid out as veterans benefits. That leaves $350 million to run the department. The cut this year is $36 million. We will hear the Conservatives say that they have spared veterans, that the cut to the department was only 1%, $36 million on $3.5 billion, when in actual fact the cost to run the department has been slashed by 10%.

Way back when, we know that every federal government department was asked to submit a 5% plan and a 10% plan. We hear the Conservatives say that veterans have been spared. Spared? In actual fact, the Conservatives could not have swung a heavier axe. Given the choice between a 5% cut and a 10% cut, they took the 10%.

Make no mistake, veterans will be affected. We cannot believe for a minute that veterans are going to receive the same service when 800 employees are being cut from the department.

I see that I am running short on time, so I will sum up by saying that Prince Edward Island is an equal partner in Confederation, but as a result of this budget, it certainly does not feel that way.

I would urge all hon. members to vote against the budget, and to urge the government to afford fair-handed treatment to all regions of the country.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, Prince Edward Island is an important tourism destination, and tourism is an important part of its economy. Many small businesses welcome people from all over the world to see the great things that the island has to offer, including its wonderful environment, the ocean life and also some of the historic and cultural sites.

The Canadian Tourism Commission brings international tourists to Canada. It had its budget cut by 20%. We have now found out that visits by international tourists have declined by 15% since 2006. Under the Conservative government's watch, fewer international tourists come to Canada to spend money.

What will the effect be on Prince Edward Island of the government's policies to strangle the tourism industry with extra visas, cutting the GST rebate, cutting funding for the Canadian Tourism Commission, high airport taxes and fees, and other policies that are killing our tourism industry?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, the three biggest industries in Prince Edward Island are tourism, agriculture and the fisheries. It has a population of 140,000 and gets one million visitors a year.

While civil service jobs are extremely important to our economy twelve months of the year, the engine that drives the seasonal economy is very much the tourism trade. As I indicated, basically our population goes almost ten-fold. The summer in Prince Edward Island is not really long and that is when we see the bulk of people. The cruise ship industry is one of the success stories in Prince Edward Island.

Anything in the budget that has a negative impact on tourism is yet another blow to a province that has been treated very unfairly in the budget.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about Bill C-38.

I am sad because this bill is worse than any other this Parliament has debated, and that is for two reasons.

First, without consulting Canadians, the government chose to introduce sweeping changes to many laws that affect environmental, social and economic aspects of Canadian life. This approach is illegitimate and outrageous. The process is unacceptable and an offence to true democracy.

Second, beyond the process that is so offensive, the bill that purports to be a budget bill is, in substance, something quite different. The substance of the changes is equally alarming.

Laws this bad take some explanation. As I have sat through the truncated debate on this process at second reading, what we have had are presentations from the Conservative MPs providing lists of things they like in the legislation, and presentations from the opposition benches providing lists of things we do not like in the legislation. That leaves out a big piece of the puzzle.

We have also been confusing measures that are a budget measures that are not in Bill C-38, things like fighting the deficit. There are things we do not like, like killing the Centre for Plant Health in my own riding, which is necessary to protect the health of the economy, particularly in the grape growing regions and wineries, and killing jobs in national parks, again in my riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands, the Gulf Islands National Park jobs in ecological work.

However, again, these are not in Bill C-38. The debate has been combatting lists. We like this and we hate this.

I want to step back and try to understand what is going on here. Why do we have this enormous package of measures, most of the substantial changes being those that unravel environmental law in our country?

I have been involved in the development of most of the laws that we now see being unravelled, particularly the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act. What I see behind all this is a shift in mindset.

I worked in the Mulroney government. The Progressive Conservatives understood that conserving involved conserving the environment. This is not necessarily the current mindset of the current brand of conservatism, which I find alien from the traditions and roots of people like former fisheries ministers John Fraser and Tom Siddon. Both have spoken out against the devastating changes to the protection of fish habitat in Bill C-38 and the unintended consequences that this will surely have.

This mindset reminds me most of what the former senior economist to the World Bank, Herman Daly, used to describe as “treating the earth as a business in liquidation”, an everything must go mentality and it must be done fast. He offered the opposite view. He said that we needed to understand that the economy was a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, that these things were not in conflict and that it was so wrong-headed to say that we would only get jobs if we destroyed the environment. It boggles the mind.

When we understand that this is the way this entire omnibus budget bill has been prepared, then it begins to make sense. Then we understand the narrative and then we can understand that someone in the PMO picked up the phone, called the Department of Justice or maybe just sent an email, said that it should find all those things for which the federal government is responsible for the environment and find ways to withdraw from them to the maximum extent possible without offending constitutional requirements to protect such things as migratory birds, because we have a convention with the U.S., or fisheries, because that is in the Constitution.

For example, there is no other way to understand why the Conservatives repealed the Environmental Assessment Act and put in place an entirely new act. Most of what we have heard is that they wanted to have timely assessments. I do not think there would be much debate over that.

In 2005 I proposed to the minister of the environment that in order to get a review of the proposed cleanup at the Sydney tar ponds, which itself presented risks, a timeline would be a good idea. In fact, a 12-month timeline was put in place for the joint review panel of the cleanup proposed for the Sydney tar ponds back in 2005. That could be done under the existing legislation. We do not need to repeal the act and start over.

To all these complaints, the Conservatives claim that industry was demanding this be done, I have in front of me a briefing note from the Mining Association of Canada from January of this year in which it praises the current process under Environmental Assessment Review. It says, “the amendments that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act made in 2010 were implemented quickly and competently by the agency” and it has “provided mining project proponents with relief”. It says that for the first time “provincial and federal assessments are synchronized”. This is from the Mining Association of Canada, allegedly one of the interest groups for whom the Conservative government is destroying all of our environmental laws. The Mining Association of Canada says, “our primary interest in the review of the Environmental Assessment Act is to convey support for the new system brought in...and to renew funding for the Environmental Assessment Agency”.

It is critical to understand that the government did not have to repeal the Environmental Assessment Act in order to have a process that worked for all the players. It looks as though this desperate attempt to be in a hurry is where the problem lies. What the government has done is so egregious. The Environmental Assessment Act being repealed and replaced with a whole new scheme that will never get proper review through the process we have in an omnibus project.

The Conservatives are removing what had always been a federal trigger for a proper environmental assessment, if federal money was being spent. That is no longer there. They are removing comprehensive studies. They are no longer there.

There is no real definition of what an environmental assessment would be. We have a reference in the budget document to something called a “standard environmental assessment”, but Bill C-38 has removed all definitions of what the process would look like.

Killing the comprehensive studies and creating panels that can be substituted with the province without criteria, in my view, would have the industry coming to government asking what it had done as the process had worked pretty well. In fact, the Mining Association of Canada says, “very well”. Now we will not know what project has to go to review or what project does not, when we go to the province or when we do not.

At the same time, in order to unravel the federal responsibilities that trigger an environmental assessment, the government has created a crazy scheme for fisheries. It still requires a permit to add substances “deleterious” to fish, but the protections for fish habitat have been removed.

This means, and as we all know this is a real-life example, that if one wanted to have a large-scale project, for instance, to put tailings into an existing lake, we would be better off, if the lake were in a remote area where no one fishes, to drain the whole lake, kill all the fish and destroy the habitat because that would be legal without an authorization. Whereas adding substances “deleterious” to fish into a lake currently would require authorization. This is the ultimate example of haste makes waste.

The bill has not properly contemplated the changes to the Fisheries Act, the Environmental Assessment Act, or the changes to the Species at Risk Act. The bill is out of control through the false notion that we will create jobs through waste and haste.

I remind people that it is now 20 years since the Westray disaster in which 26 men died. There was no environmental review at that time, as it was back in 1988 when the project was approved, but there were warnings. The experts in the department of mines said that the area was too high in methane, but no, the local politicians and some federal politicians wanted those jobs. They wanted them so badly that they overrode expert advice. They said that they had to get that Westray mine built come hell or high water, that they would do it and that they did not want to hear complaints about causes or what might happen to get in the way. Therefore, federal money flowed. We created a bomb and put men in it, and 26 men died.

Now we are creating another kind of bomb. The first speaker on the bill was not the Minister of Finance, but the Minister of Natural Resources who brought forward all the reasons to change the scheme. He said that we must hurry as there was no time to waste. He quoted from the International Energy Agency on the current state of fossil fuel requirements around the world, but he never quoted the warning from the International Energy Agency that if we did not act on the climate crisis, it would soon be too late. The quote from the International Energy Agency from earlier this year is this, “Delaying action is a false economy. As each year passes without clear signals to drive investment in clean energy, the 'lock-in' of high-carbon infrastructure is making it harder and more expensive to meet our energy security and climate goals”. We must change direction. This bill is putting pedal to the medal to go as fast as possible to a very large brick wall.

Going back to the bomb we built for the men at Westray, we are now building a climate bomb, a carbon bomb. The proposed legislation is so wrong-headed it must be withdrawn in its entirety.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the past 10 minutes, I listened to my colleague as she tried to describe this omnibus bill in as much detail as possible. Providing a carefully considered opinion about a 400-page bill in just 10 minutes is practically impossible. It is an incredible tour de force.

She talked about attacks on democracy and on institutions and spoke at length about the environment. However, she did not say much about the actual budget.

I would like to ask her if she thinks that this omnibus bill introduced by the Conservative government has been deliberately designed to orient the debate away from the government's economic vision. Is the government trying to distract us with dozens of other things, all of which, unfortunately, are important? We should have a chance to focus on each of these issues individually in the House.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2012 / 10:55 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my friend.

It is true that some bills are too short, such as Bill C-36, which is only four paragraphs long. It is a very serious process. It is an important bill to protect seniors, yet it is a very small bill.

In stark contrast, here we have an omnibus bill that is over 400 pages long that fundamentally changes over 70 pieces of legislation and in which everything is hidden. This is because the Prime Minister knows that it is not a good bill.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. There will be three minutes left for questions and comments after question period.

Right now we will move on to statements by members.

Walk So Kids Can TalkStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, May 6, along with hundreds of great supporters and volunteers, I attended the Walk So Kids Can Talk event in Streetsville Memorial Park supporting Kids Help Phone. This walk raised more than $150,000 in Streetsville and $2.5 million nationally.

Walk So Kids Can Talk is held in over 40 communities across Canada and helps kick off Mental Health Awareness Week, which is concluding this weekend. Kids Help Phone is Canada's leading phone and online professional counselling service for youth. For more than 23 years, professional counsellors have been available to youth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This service is funded exclusively through fundraising and corporate support, such as the millions raised at last Sunday's walk. Unfortunately, one in five youth will develop mental heath struggles, but of those, only one in five will receive the support he or she needs.

I would like to congratulate the team at Kids Help Phone and thank them for being there to listen to our youth, often at times when no one else will.

Green PowerStatements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to congratulate the owners of the Café Morgane chain in Trois-Rivières, Suzanne and Guy Marcotte, on a wonderful initiative. In partnership with Duguay properties as well as InnovaTek and GRIDbot Canada, this week Café Morgane opened the first electric car charging station in Canada, under the banner “Puissance verte” or green power.

Unsurprisingly, travel by electric car requires occasional stopovers to recharge the battery. What better time to stop and have a coffee, read a book or—why not—even plan a business meeting? The recharging station will become the cornerstone of a new way of life.

With that in mind, Puissance verte is already developing virtual tools in order to make it easier for electric car owners to plan their travels. The innovative people at Puissance verte are also working on a residential version of the charging terminal, which will be assembled here in Canada, in Mauricie.

Founded in 1992, Café Morgane now has over 120 employees working at 11 locations. The firm is one of the most credible businesses in Mauricie. I doff my hat deeply to—

Green PowerStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Mississauga South.