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House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, regarding the environment, several times today in the House, I have heard that certain organizations are to be targeted because they are a thorn in the side of the multinationals and the oil companies.

I have trouble with this concept. I would go so far as to subscribe to a conspiracy theory because I find this strange. I think that the members across the way think that way. However, as far as I know, the organizations are made up of Canadian citizens, volunteers, people involved in our communities who see the impact of the decisions made by multinationals. The multinationals and oil companies, on the other hand, are made up of people from abroad, and the majority of these companies do not necessarily care about our future.

I am trying to find a balance. I get the impression that the government tends to forget that the social contract for the power that it holds comes from Canadians. Why attack the Canadians who are identifying these problems? They are the ones we should be listening to, not the multinationals.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is standing up for Canadian citizens and for Canadian jobs, 760,000 jobs in the natural resources sector.

We know the NDP members oppose any development of the oil sands and have called for a moratorium on the development. They oppose any hydrocarbon, fossil fuel development at all. So it is no surprise that they are also opposing the Canadian jobs that result from these projects.

We have seen that they oppose Keystone XL which created over 140,000 jobs. They opposed the northern gateway pipeline, right off the top. They are also opposing the private sector unions which are clearly onside with natural resources development, and have said they support our regulatory reform because they know that these projects give good jobs and good benefits to Canadians. That is why we will continue with our responsible resource development plan.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure if I got this right from the member. He mentioned British Columbia getting more in transfers from this government than the preceding government. I think that is based on a formula which is called equalization and has been in existence for quite some time.

As a matter of fact, Newfoundland and Labrador, where I come from, is actually getting less money. No, let me correct that, we are actually getting no money from the federal government. That is because of the resources that are off Newfoundland and Labrador's coasts and because of what we have done. I would go back to the fight, what happened between Danny Williams and the Prime Minister.

I want to ask the member about one thing. He keeps talking about skills and development. Small towns across this country just lost the community access program which delivers high-speed Internet for the smallest communities. It is an issue of poverty. People making below the median income of $30,000 cannot afford these large bills for high-speed Internet. The local library decided to provide that service for all citizens, and now it is gone. It is a little disingenuous for a member from rural Canada to be talking about the fact that they are losing this essential service.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question was all over the map, from British Columbia to Newfoundland. I will try to focus on equalization and transfers to the provinces.

I do not know the hon. member's electoral history or if he was here during the time when the Liberal government cut $25 billion in transfers in health and social transfers to the provinces. Certainly, we did fix the equalization program to ensure that it was fair for all Canadians.

I also have no problem discussing the small-town impacts of our bill. I toured a local production facility, Britco in Agassiz, British Columbia. It produces housing units for natural resource development projects. The company sees a direct link between our plan to have regulatory reform and its business model. It has increased the number of its good, high-paying, high-skilled jobs, because of our program to ensure that we have responsible resource development.

I will continue to support the budget, as people in small-town Canada do.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address Bill C-38 on behalf of my constituents in Mount Royal.

While my constituents might understandably assume that the bill relates to the budget, in fact this 400-plus-page omnibus bill actually has very little to do with the budget. Many of the proposals therein have particularly deleterious consequences for the environment. Accordingly, I will be splitting my time with our environment critic, the hon. member for Etobicoke North.

A related problem is that while this budget implementation bill is supposed to flow from the budget speech, which itself is not only a financial statement but a statement of values and a reflection of priorities, this budget, in its reflection of priorities, does not note or even utter the words “social justice”. It does not note or even speak of “fairness” or “equality”. It does not note or even reference the Charter whose 30th anniversary we celebrate this year, nor does it reference or note anywhere the word “humanitarian”.

While the budget speech did outline certain measures that we see legislated in Bill C-38, this budget implementation omnibus bill goes above and beyond anything we have seen and beyond any of the enabling authority of the budget itself.

In its 400-plus pages, there are amendments to more than 60 statutes. It covers everything from fisheries to nuclear safety, from territorial borrowing limits to air transport. It is an enormous hodgepodge, bundling together legislation not unlike Bill C-10 that does not allow for the necessary differentiated parliamentary discussion and debate, let alone the necessary oversight of the legislation. It imbues the executive with arbitrary authority to the exclusion of Parliament, thereby serving as a standing abuse to the canons of good governance, transparency and accountability. Indeed, this alone should be cause for its defeat.

As Andrew Coyne has put it, and I quote, “The scale and scope is on a level not previously seen, or tolerated”. He notes that this bill makes “a mockery of the confidence convention” and that there is no “common thread” or “overarching principle” between the legislative items therein, let alone its standing contempt for Parliament in matters of process and procedure.

Moreover, and again on the crucial issues of parliamentary process and procedure, which are principled concerns, while the bundling together of disparate pieces of omnibus legislation as a confidence bill is problematic enough on its own, this bill is slated to go to the finance committee in its entirety. Accordingly, the review of the environmental regulations therein, which overhaul, weaken and undermine the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and environmental protection as a whole, will thus not be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, where it belongs. The provisions that abolish the First Nations Statistical Institute and make changes to the First Nations Land Management Act will not be the subject of examination and study by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, where it belongs. I can go on with numerous examples in this regard.

If circumventing proper and thorough parliamentary review in committee was not enough, the government, as we saw earlier, has invoked time allocation to limit the amount of time and discussion on this bill.

I am not suggesting that invoking time allocation, as the government has done again and again, or the use of an omnibus vehicle, as has occurred with Bill C-10, are against the legislative rules. What I am suggesting, as have many commentators, is that its use here and now on this particular omnibus bill is unnecessary, prejudicial, suprisingly undemocratic, in effect, unparliamentary and otherwise unsubstantiated and unwarranted.

Surely if Parliament had to debate something like going to war, it would be easy to see why we might time-allocate to ensure we get to the most pressing debate first, or if there were court decisions that affected many statutes, we might easily welcome an omnibus bill that would make the same change to many statues. What is so disconcerting with Bill C-38 is that the government need not be in a rush. There is no coherent or compelling theme to the omnibus proposals contained in the bill.

The opposition is not opposed to some of what is in Bill C-38. For example, the proposed changes to the custom and tariff rules sound reasonable. What we are opposed to is the take it or leave it, one size fits all omnibus approach to legislating that does not allow the necessary differentiated and deliberative oversight or review, or review by the particular and appropriate parliamentary committees. The government and the opposition can co-operate if the government would simply respect the opposition and be responsive in debate.

Again, I will remind my colleague that the government assumes that its legislation in every instance is perfect and, in so doing, believes there are no amendments that need even be tendered let alone adopted. This occurred in the case of Bill C-10 when, in response to amendments I introduced at the time, the government summarily rejected them because they came from the opposition, it seemed. It reintroduced the amendments on its own, a matter that could have been avoided, as the Speaker then noted in terms of the procedural complications that then ensued. Moreover, while I will be voting against this bill in large part because of the way it was introduced and how it is being pushed through Parliament, in terms of matters of process and its abuse, I will use my remaining time to outline some of my objections to the substance of the bill. Regrettably, time is limited and I therefore cannot address every flaw of this legislation.

First, Bill C-38 marginalizes low-income seniors by increasing the qualifying age for OAS from 65 to 67. While the government claims this change is necessary, and it did so just now in debate, for the sustainability of OAS, this contradicts Canada's chief actuarial officer and the PBO, who agree that the change is unsound and unnecessary as the current situation and system is sufficiently sustainable.

Second, the government proposes to close the files of federal skilled workers who applied prior to 2008, without any chance on their part to review or appeal this decision. It is not surprising that some have announced plans to take the government to court over this as a matter of fundamental fairness and due process. Indeed, all who apply to Canada should have their applications judged on their merits, not an arbitrary deadline set by the minister and applied in a retroactive fashion.

Third, cuts are being made to various food inspection agencies. These agencies keep Canadians safe and secure while ensuring the food chain is not contaminated. The government has yet to explain how these cuts would not prejudice the health and safety of Canadians or how food safety would be maintained in the absence of complete and adequate funding.

Fourth, the true nature of public service cuts in this bill still remains unknown. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that in addition to the 19,200 positions being eliminated in budget 2012, there will be a further 6,300 jobs cut as a result of the government's previous strategic reviews that have yet to be implemented, and a further 9,000 cuts as a result of the government's budget operating freeze. That would create a total of 34,500 federal public service job cuts associated with this budget cycle alone. As well, the Parliamentary Budget Officer agrees that the government's figure of 19,200 public service jobs being cut does not represent the full number. He said, “...additional job losses will be required. ...we're actually talking about cuts on top of cuts”.

I raise this in particular to note that we are being asked to rubber-stamp the government's agenda without the necessary information, in a manner that precludes the necessary oversight and review and when it is clear that there are inconsistencies with what the government is saying and what independent experts assert. Parliamentarians must be afforded the facts and figures upon which they are being forced to pronounce, as was the case in Bill C-10. We did not receive it then and we are not receiving it now. This, in effect, amounts to a kind of standing contempt of Parliament.

Fifth, and my colleague from Etobicoke North will speak further to this in a moment, this bill rewrites Canada's laws on environmental assessment and repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, weakening our environmental regulations but with consequences far beyond this.

In an email just this morning, a constituent wrote this. Considering that when environmental damage is caused, it has a domino effect on our food and water and thus affects Canadians' health and livelihood, these issues are actually also human rights issues. We have the right to safe clean water, safe accessible food and the myriad of other essential benefits we get from a properly functioning ecosystem.

Sixth, we have the elimination of a series of libraries and archives throughout different departments as part of the latest budget cuts, including the Canadian Council of Archives, which may close as soon as this Friday. This would affect historians, researchers, the media, Parliament and the public who deserve to have information preserved in addition to access to this information.

While I do not have time to elaborate on what this bill includes, I will close with a note about what is not in this bill. This bill does not address that which must be addressed. First and foremost is job creation, not just loss of jobs. Nor does it address the issues that matter most to my constituents in terms of social justice, access to justice and the promotion and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Accordingly, and with this I close, whether it is marginalizing low-income seniors by increasing the qualifying age for OAS or cutting funds to regional development programs that create jobs or not announcing any new funding for affordable housing when the existing program funds are set to expire soon, this budget is simply wrong-headed, misguided, prejudicial and disconnected from the needs of Canadians and from my constituents.

In short, Bill C-38 marks a sad chapter in Canadian parliamentary history.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his remarks. There is a lot of talk about the environment, which is a hot button issue.

We know that the Liberals signed and ratified the Kyoto protocol. But why did the Liberal Party not do anything to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, in truth, we did reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We also introduced a bill in the House to this effect, but it was defeated by the government.

I think that my colleague from Etobicoke North, an expert in the field, will answer that question.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleague did not have time to talk about the effects of the closure of libraries and archives, and the lack of access to libraries and archives.

I would ask my colleague to speak briefly about the impact that this loss of knowledge and history will have.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, it will be very damaging in terms of both the teaching and appreciation of history. However, this is not just about history; we are also talking about getting rid of all the sources of information and every source that has to do with history, science and knowledge. Both members and the public need this information. The public is affected by this decision.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government thinks it is promoting oil internationally, the tar sands, yet it has taken such a retrograde attack on anybody who asks questions. It is so militant about dismantling the process.

Does my hon. colleague not think good luck to poor Enbridge trying to sell its products internationally, when it has to explain that it is coming from a country that has stripped environmental standards down to third world conditions, that in the end what the government has created is a situation where it will be considered an environmental pariah on the international stage because of its continual militant attacks on basic public process, basic public participation, and vilification of anyone who speaks out, that at the end of the day the last thing big oil wants is to have friends like that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, what is disconcerting is not only the overall approach with respect to environmental protection, or the absence regarding environmental protection, but the prospective chilling effect that the critiques of critics have on the overall discussion of this issue as a whole.

We saw the same thing with regard to Bill C-10. We see the same thing with regard to Bill C-26.

There is a pattern here in which those who criticize the government, if it is in matters of criminal justice, are said to be on the side of the criminals and not on the side of the victims, or on the side of the child pornographers and not on the side of those who seek to protect children.

This kind of indictment, and it is not even by innuendo but indeed indictment, by chilling debate, by silencing dissent, does credit neither to the substance of the legislation, which should be allowed to be debated on the merits, and there is no more compelling concern in that regard than that which relates to the environment, nor to the democratic process itself, which should allow for all forms of discussion, debate, dissent, critique and the like.

We are missing this, not only in this debate but on other bills as well.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a profoundly sad time for Canada. The government is gutting 50 years of environmental oversight and threatening the health and safety of Canadians, our communities, our economy and our livelihoods.

We need to be very clear that when the government came to power it inherited a legacy of balanced budgets but soon plunged us into deficit before the recession ever hit. It is absolutely negligent and shameful that the government would gut environmental safeguards to fast track development rather than promote sustainable development, development that meets the needs of today without compromising those of the future.

The government did not campaign in the last election on gutting environmental protection. Canadians should, therefore, rise up, have their voices heard and stop the Prime Minister's destruction of laws that protect the environment and the health and safety of Canadians. In fact, Maurice Strong, a prominent Canadian who spearheaded the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, just this week urged people who are concerned about the future of the environment to do an end run around the federal government. He urged grassroots groups to mobilize and make full use of social media, saying that there was still some time to bring the pressure of people power.

Instead of understanding the gravity of the situation and standing up for the environment, the Conservative government returns to tired talking points and trying to score political points by attacking the former Liberal leader, saying that the Liberals took no action on climate change, when it knows that is absolutely false. The Liberals implemented project green, which would have taken us 80% of the way to meeting our Kyoto targets. The Conservatives killed project green, reduced our greenhouse gas emissions target by an astonishing 90%, walked away from Kyoto, having just repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and continue to ignore the fact that failing to take action on climate change will cost Canadians $21 billion to $43 billion annually by 2050.

Maurice Strong says that the government may be totally negative when it comes to being a constructive force in mitigating climate change. For example, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment continues to rail against Kyoto. Is she aware, however, that her own minister has, for the second time, said that Kyoto was a good idea in its time? He first said it to The Huffington Post and has now said it to the BBC.

Norway's former prime minister, former chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development and former director general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, recently said that Canada was moving backward on the issue of climate change and warned Canada not to be naive on the issue. She recently told delegates in Canada that despite the weaknesses of the Kyoto protocol, the world could not afford to push it aside without an alternative, as emissions are continually rising. When questioned about the link between human activity and climate change, she said, “Politicians and others that question the science, that’s not the right thing to do. We have to base ourselves on evidence”.

While the Conservative government claims a balanced approach to protecting the environment and promoting economic growth, when has the parliamentary secretary or the minister actually ever stood up for the environment? Was it through cuts to Environment Canada, cuts to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency or cuts to ozone monitoring? The list of cuts goes on and on.

Canadians should not be fooled by mere snippets of environmental protection but should in fact pay attention to the government's reducing budgets at Environment Canada and other investments on environmental protection and research by hundreds of millions of dollars while maintaining several tax incentives for the oil and gas sector that the Minister of Finance's department recommended eliminating in a secret memo.

After we vote against this kitchen sink budget, a budget that devotes 150 pages of a 400-page budget to environmental gutting, the Conservative government will stand up and say that the opposition voted against some good things for the environment. However, the government gives us absolutely no choice, as we simply cannot vote for the wholesale destruction of environmental legislation and 50 years of safeguards.

If the parliamentary secretary, the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Natural Resources really believe that Bill C-38, the kitchen sink bill, is good for the environment, they should have the courage to hive off the sections on environmental protection and send them to the relevant committees for clause by clause study under public scrutiny, and end their affront to democracy.

I have a list of cuts to Environment Canada and just some of the changes on the environment to be found in Bill C-38. There are cuts of 200 positions at Environment Canada. Last summer the government announced cuts of 700 positions and a 43% cut to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. There are cuts to research and monitoring initiatives, air pollution, industrial emissions, water quality, waste water and partnerships for a greener economy, cuts of $3.8 million for emergency disaster response, and consolidating the unit that responds to oil spill emergencies in central Canada, namely Gatineau and Montreal, far from where emergencies, including those involving diluted bitumen, might occur on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and along the proposed route of the northern gateway pipeline project.

The government has repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. It has repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which allows the federal government to avoid environmental reviews of many potentially harmful projects and to do less comprehensive reviews where they still occur.

Canada's environment commissioner says that the changes are among the most significant policy development in 30 or 40 years and that there will be a significant narrowing of public participation.

While the Minister of Natural Resources complains:

...our inefficient, duplicative and unpredictable regulatory system is an impediment. It is complex, slow-moving and wasteful. It subjects major projects to unpredictable and potentially endless delays.

Premier Jean Charest says:

In Quebec, we've very well mastered the ability of doing joint assessments. ... I have learned, through my experiences, that trying to short circuit to reduce the process will only make it longer, and it is better to have a rigorous, solid process. It gives a better outcome, and for those who are promoting projects, it will give them more predictability than if not.

There are more changes: the weakening of several environmental laws, including species at risk and water; the near-elimination of fish habitat in the Fisheries Act, putting species from coast to coast to coast at increased risk of habitat flaws and population decline; the authority of the federal cabinet to approve new pipeline projects above the National Energy Board; and the elimination of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the independent think tank with a direct mandate from Parliament. The minister has never said what will replace it. The head of NRT does not know either, as what it does is unique. As well, we see the silencing of government critics through changes to the Canada Revenue Agency and the attempts to seize control of the university research agenda.

The government should be able to stand on its own merits. It should be able to withstand criticism. Instead of making its arguments, it is just looking to eliminate dissent.

For decades, Canadians have depended on the federal government to safeguard our families and nature from pollution, toxic contamination and other environmental problems through a safety net of environmental laws. This bill shreds this environmental safety net to fast-track development at the expense of all Canadians.

Instead, the government could have implemented my Motions Nos. 322, 323 and 325, which focused on Canada's commitment to sustainable development, recognizing that it was not a choice between saving the economy and the environment and, therefore, working with the provinces, territories and stakeholders to develop a green economy strategy and a national sustainable energy strategy to build the jobs of the future for our communities and for Canada.

When we compromise the air, water, soil and a variety of life, we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I fundamentally disagree with all of the member's speech this afternoon, but I did enjoy listening to her dissertation on what she believes may happen and to the fearmongering that goes with it.

Assuming that the member for Etobicoke North believes in balanced budgets, what would the member and her party do to balance the budget? Would there be any cuts that she would recommend be made to the Government of Canada?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am always evidenced-based, fact-based. This was a well-researched piece of work.

I will present the evidence for the hon. member. The environment is not a Conservative priority. In 2008, the climate change performance index ranked Canada 56th of 57 countries in terms of tackling emissions. In 2009, the Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th of 17 wealthy industrial nations on environmental performance. In 2010, SFU ranked Canada 24th of 25 OECD nations on environmental performance. Most recently, the environmental performance index ranked Canada 102nd out of 132 countries on climate change. In 2006, the Prime Minister remarked, “Canada's environmental performance is, by most measures, the worst in the developed world. We have big problems”.

This budget should have taken action to protect the environment, not gut it.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her charming speech.

When we talk about sustainable development, we are talking about development that we will be leaving to future generations. I have one daughter who is 26 years old and another who is 21. It is our young people who will be here tomorrow and who will look after our country's future.

When we talk about the environment, we are talking about the security of these young people. When we talk about oil development, about big businesses that exploit and export everything abroad without considering the cost to the environment, we are putting future generations in debt.

Yes, the budget is balanced, but by bringing down a balanced budget, the government is putting future generations in debt. They are the ones who will have to clean up the environmental mess we are making today. What does the member think of that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely agree with the hon. member. Climate change is our most pressing environmental issue. It requires moral responsibility and intergenerational responsibility. The government does not appreciate that. While it says that it is financially accountable, if it does not take action on climate change today, the costs annually by 2050 will be $21 billion to $43 billion for our children.

I just returned from Bangladesh, which has a population of 160 million. It is twice the size of New Brunswick and it produces less greenhouse gases than Manhattan. With the one-metre sea level rise, that will affect 20% of its land mass and affect 20 million people.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, an area in my riding of Kingston and the Islands is contaminated with heavy metal from about 100 years ago. It is pretty much unusable. We cannot touch the land. We cannot disturb the soil.

This is an economic burden on my riding of Kingston and the Islands today. It is a tax, really. Is that not an example of how lax environmental regulations from 100 years ago have an effect for decades afterwards on the local economy?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely correct. What scares me most about this budget is that it will not affect a few years; the gutting of environmental legislation will affect our country for decades to come.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Scarborough-Southwest, Public Transit; the hon. member for Manicouagan, Aboriginal Affairs; the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Fisheries and Oceans.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Delta—Richmond East B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Burlington.

I am proud to rise today in support of our Conservative government's 2011 budget plan. This plan is a cornerstone of our continuing unwavering commitment to provide Canadians with a stable economic road map within a thoughtful, comprehensive economic action plan.

The budget showcases a long-term prosperity vision for Canada through reasonable, pragmatic measures designed to maintain our enviable economic record and demonstrate our faith in the vibrant Canadian spirit, forged out of hard work, faith, common enterprise, ingenuity and compassion.

What is our focus? What is our agenda? Our focus, our agenda, is a stable stewardship of our economy to maintain and increase our prospects for success in the short term, in the medium term and in the long term. It is to foster a future Canada that works efficiently for us now and for our children and grandchildren, a Canada that is welcoming and productive and allows all Canadians the opportunity to live full and rewarding lives, a Canada that is prosperous enough that we can continue to support those of us in need and those around the world who need a hand up.

All of these noble ambitions require a foundational economic and financial strength for which our economic action plan sets a solid framework.

We cannot foretell all that is ahead of us. We cannot foretell, most assuredly, the actions and consequences of the decisions of other countries with whom we are interdependent in a global economic balance, but we can do our part and more within our sovereign borders to ensure that we are in a position to weather the storms that may come. We can ensure that we are flexible enough to deal with contingencies in an intelligent and caring manner and solid enough to plan ahead, so that a prosperous future does not have to include taking Draconian overnight steps because we have no choice but to raise taxes and overburden Canadian families and businesses.

It supports a future built on bold ambition that has at its core the certain belief that Canadians are capable of all things: of worthy endeavour in the arts and in business, of global competitiveness, of innovation that will amaze us and save lives, of all the stuff that dreams are made of.

We will improve Canada's labour market through employment programs and skills training for young Canadians, older workers, Canadians with disabilities and first nations; building a fast and flexible economic immigration system that responds to labour market demands; improving the employment insurance program; and better integrating high-quality researchers in the labour market. We will boost economic growth and job creation through supporting and fostering innovation, investment, education and skills.

How will we do this? Among the many initiatives outlined in the budget, I would like to highlight a few.

We will invest over $1 billion to support science and technology and we will provide $500 million to encourage innovative start-up companies.

Our government will ensure responsible resource development by streamlining the review process, something provincial and territorial governments and industry have been requesting for a long time. This streamlining will ensure reasonable timelines and clarity around the process requirements without compromising, and in fact strengthening, environmental oversight and while meeting strong federal standards.

We will expand free trade, which our Prime Minister and cabinet have been hard at work promoting.

The hiring credit for small business will be extended, something that will particularly help many in my riding.

The budget will provide $150 million over two years for the new community infrastructure improvement fund, $5.2 billion over 11 years to renew the Canadian Coast Guard, a vital resource in our coastal communities, and $275 million over three years to support first nations education and schools.

Specific programs will be aimed at attracting skilled immigrants to match our country's economic needs.

Our government will change our old age security delivery to ensure that younger workers today will also have this social program available when they are older, and we will phase in a proactive enrolment regime for both OAS and GIS, which will be warmly welcomed by the elderly and their caregivers.

We are also promoting more active lifestyles for all ages and enhancing the victims fund to continue our quest to better acknowledge the voices of victims in our federal justice and corrections system.

To my mind, the great news from this 2011 budget is that we will achieve all of these improvements without raising taxes and without slashing transfers to health, education or support for seniors.

In fact, we Conservatives have cut taxes over 140 times since forming government. From cutting tax rates and increasing tax credits to making our tax reporting system more reasonable and supporting families with both able-bodied and disabled members, we have provided savings for a typical Canadian family of over $3,100 per year.

Due in part to our government's low-tax approach, a stark contrast to the NDP and Liberals' higher-tax programs and philosophies, and the amazing fact, verified by the International Monetary Fund, that our net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7, Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in the world—let me repeat that: number one in the world—for businesses to grow and create jobs.

Canadians do not need the federal government to hold their hands every step of the way, as we are a nation forged on resiliency and a desire for freedom, but Canadians do need us to clear a path. If that path can be well defined and well lit, all the better, but the fact that such a pathway exists is all that some Canadians need to move forward.

We need to show ourselves as partners of Canadian enterprise and achievement, not as an extra burden. Everyone must contribute, of course, but confidence to achieve and to have the ability to help others whose time has not yet come often requires the incentive that a prudent, caring government can provide.

This is such a budget. This is such a time. This is Canada's century. We are being noticed as never before around the world. We are being recognized as never before as leaders out of the despair and confusion of runaway debt. We are the true north, strong and free, and I am proud to be a part of it, proud of who we are and who we intend to be.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her contribution to the debate and I want to come back on one of the points that were mentioned.

We know that the environmental assessment and review processes in this country may be viewed by some as a burden for any development project. However, I think this is what allows the balance between the economic, environmental and social aspects of any development. The government talks about consultations with aboriginal peoples in this country. I would like to know what it means by “consultation with aboriginal peoples” in this budget, because the Supreme Court already has determined that “consultation” may mean, at times, “consent” of aboriginal peoples in developing projects.

Is the government talking about consultation with aboriginal peoples in the constitutional sense of the word, or is it talking about consultation in the expediency sense of the word?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think there were two questions in there.

First, certainly, we do not see the environmental assessment process as a burden. We see it as a necessity. However, we also see the need for clarity.

For those who wish to move forward or who may not, in fact, be able to move forward because of an environmental assessment, we are streamlining that process. We are continuing with the exacting and high standards of the federal assessment process, but it will be administered through the one level of government. We are quite confident that would add more clarity to the process.

As to the meaningful consultation with aboriginal peoples, we know, of course, what the Supreme Court of Canada said about that with respect to first nations.

I am a British Columbian member of Parliament. First nations are always consulted with respect to any development programs. Their input is welcome and in fact necessary to bring all peoples together with respect to the future of that province and Canada.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about the pathway that the Conservatives have created. What one person may call a pathway another person, certainly me, would call tunnel vision, because in this particular case what we have is a lot of ideology being infused into the policy. The policy is somewhat understated by the government, but nonetheless it needs to be fleshed out.

That said, I do have a question. In all honesty, what I find is a little disconcerting. Time and time again through this debate—and up until the end of the debate, and going way back as well, even to the last budget—the Conservatives talked about the strong systems now in place that allow Canada to be number one out of seven when it comes to debt to GDP ratio. There are other markers out there that refer to Canada as being a leader in that particular area. Whether that may be the Conservatives or the preceding government is a whole other issue.

However, the question remains. Why would the government raise the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS from 65 to 67, citing that other countries are doing this, when those other countries do not have the financial strength that we do? Why would the government do that? What would be the impetus? I doubt if the demographers are really winning the argument over themselves who are saying that we have a strong enough economy to support that 20 years down the road.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, yes, we have an economy that is the envy of the world, and that was the point of my remarks—that we have been doing extremely well—but we are still in a fragile time, given our interdependence with other economies in the world. That is why sound stewardship and having the kind of focus our government has are so very important.

With respect to the specific changes to old age security, we have said time and again in this House that the funds for OAS come out of general revenue. It is not handled the same way as CPP, which we all know is sustainable and will continue. We need to be realistic about the future and we need to ensure that future generations will have the ability to access old age security.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the budget bill. I want to thank the member for Delta—Richmond East for sharing her time with me today.

We are dealing with a budget implementation bill. As members know, the budget is normally broken into two bills: one in the spring and one in the fall. We did not get a chance to talk about the budget in general because the NDP filibustered when we first introduced it, which took up all of the time.

I will talk about a few other things that are in the bill and put on the record how I feel about them. I will start with the jobs, balanced budget and future prosperity aspects of the bill. The budget, the bill, the plan is about this.

People ask me all the time what the major issue is that I hear about in Burlington. The major issue in my riding is that we need to get back to balanced books at the federal level. Our government has to get rid of the deficit spending that we did during the recession. That is what we are doing with the budget. That is why we need to proceed with what we are doing. The budget brings us back to what we promised.

I know it is hard for the opposition members to believe that we can actually promise to do something and then deliver it in our budget and policies. It is very difficult for them to understand that. During the election we committed to bringing back balanced books by 2015, and this budget puts us on the road to do that.

The Minister of Finance has been clear in the House that the budget will get us back and end the deficit spending we have had to do to overcome the worldwide recession. We are coming out better than any other country in the world. Those members know it, the public knows it and the people in Burlington know it. They are telling me that we need to get back to balanced books, and that is what we are doing. It is an election commitment.

Part of that commitment, and I make no apologies for it, is that we need to reduce some of the federal government spending, and that is about a $5.5 billion reduction. That sounds like a lot of money, but let us look at the whole picture.

If people follow along and are able to figure it out, the government spends $260 billion. We spend about $40 billion to $45 billion on interest charges on debt, which will still be there. That is why we have to get back to balanced books: so that we can start paying down debt in the way we were doing before the recession. We need to get that under control.

We transfer a whole bunch of money to the provinces for health care and social services, which are all important things. It is also an important support for the provinces. We did make changes to the equalization payments, as was mentioned earlier. We are committed to providing the provinces the money that we committed to provide. This is not like what happened in the past when we had deficits. What did the government of the day do? It cut its spending and assistance to its provincial partners. In this budget and in the campaign, we refused to do that. We said we would do it on our own.

That leaves us about $80 billion of federal spending over which we have control. Therefore, we are looking at about $5.2 billion and a few percentage points. If we cannot find a few percentage points to reduce the cost of government out of $80 billion, we are doing something wrong. Yes, it means that the public service has to come to the table with it.

We are also looking at programs and at what we are doing right. When we do a program evaluation, we look at what its mandate is and whether it has fulfilled that mandate. Is it over, or do we need to continue to fund it?

The ministers did not get together one night and decide on this. They had the departments come to them with suggestions of what was feasible, what could be done and what was reasonable. That is what we are implementing through the budget.

There are some great things in the budget, and members can ask me questions about what is in the implementation bill. I am happy to answer, but there are a few things for my riding of Burlington that I would like to highlight.

For example, we are spending $1.1 billion in research and development, including improvements to the IRAP program, basically doubling the money. This is a jobs budget.

We have heard the opposition ask us how we will create jobs. We will create jobs through innovation and research—not jobs necessarily for today, but jobs that will be there tomorrow if we commercialize research and development, if we take a leadership role on the industrial level and deliver not just to Canadians but around the world. Our country, like many others, is a trading country. That is why we need free trade agreements. That is why we are working so hard on them.

I am the co-chair of the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group. I have some relationship with Japan. Japan's government is coming to the realization that it needs partners, that it cannot do it all on its own and that it actually needs free trade agreements. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, we started discussions with Japan. We are moving forward. We already know as a country and as a government that we need to be traders in the global marketplace or we will get left behind. We deal with that in the budget.

Today, in this part of the implementation of the budget, there is discussion about what will do on the environmental side. I want people to read the legislation. It talks about substitution. It does not talk about elimination. If there is an environmental assessment at the federal level and another one at the provincial level, we can substitute one for the other, but they have to be at least equal. For those who do not know, most federal EAs have more restrictions and layers than provincial ones. Therefore, if the province takes it over, it has to meet the environmental assessment standards at the federal level. At the end of the day, the federal minister will make the final decision on it. All it is doing is reducing the layers of assessments.

When I was a municipal councillor, environmental assessments could be bumped up to the province. It delayed many projects, including one in my own ward. There were minor changes being made to save the bank of a creek that was running behind the homes of people. One person did not like how the environmental assessment worked out and how the problem was to be fixed, so it was bumped up to the provincial level. It took months and months to get that resolved. The bank deteriorated but was finally fixed.

The environmental assessment changes that we are making do not eliminate the requirements of assessment. However, why have two processes when there can be one? Why are people concerned about the timing? I would be surprised, and that is a pleasant word, if anyone could find new information after two years of study on a project. It is taking two years for environmental assessments to be completed. It is not like we are eliminating them. Just because an EA takes two years does not mean it will be approved. There is no automatic approval. It does not say that anywhere. It is a substitution, so instead of having the province do it and having it bumped up to the federal government to do it, we would be using the same criteria to do it once and get all the facts on the table. There is nothing wrong with those implementing the environmental assessment to look at the people who will have input into it and ensure they have professional experience and knowledge to add value.

There was a question from the previous speaker about the role of the aboriginal community. The aboriginal community is noted in our plan. We will be proactive in communicating with those individuals who will be directly affected, including the aboriginal communities.

On a personal note, there are some other changes in the budget implementation bill. As someone who has been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, nothing to be too worried about, there are some changes in the bill that will affect those who test their blood sugar every day.

As someone who thought he was very healthy and had no issues, I would urge everyone to ensure they see their doctor on a regular basis. Issues like type 2 diabetes, if we do not get them early, will be a big burden on the health care system, not today but in the future.

I thank the government for the changes in the budget.