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

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

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

I want to begin my remarks today on Bill C-38 by saying, and it should be said, that this clearly is not only a budget implementation act.

I found it very interesting to listen to the parliamentary secretary's comments just a few moments ago when she chided the Liberal member for the record of the Liberal government, bringing in a massive omnibus bill as well. I remember that bill, C-43, but it is curious, because I seem to remember that the Conservatives in opposition at that time certainly had lots of concerns about what was hidden in that massive bill. I think it was about 1,000 pages. I remember the debates in this House about how the Liberals were trying to hide things and rush them through.

Here we are today in 2012 with another budget implementation bill, which is anything but. It has become a massive cover for putting through major public policy issues under the guise of a budget implementation bill.

I want to say, just for the record, that it is really bad public policy. It is a terrible way to make decisions. It is a direct attack on the ability of members of Parliament to examine legislation.

Much of the stuff that is in the budget implementation bill should be coming to the House as stand-alone legislation. When we go through the list, go through those 422 pages that comprise the current budget implementation act, we can just see how far-ranging the directions are in the bill.

For example, we know it is raising the age of eligibility of OAS and GIS from 65 to 67, something that the Prime Minister never campaigned on in the last election. For heaven's sake, it repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, meaning that the government is no longer required to report on its emissions under the act. That is in a budget bill? The Conservatives are putting that through in a budget bill? Is there something they want to hide from Canadians? I think so.

As we have heard many times in the House, it guts the environmental assessment regime and fish habitat protection. Again, this should be stand-alone legislation that the government should have the guts to bring forward on its merit and be willing to debate in this House, instead of trying to sneak it through in a budget implementation bill.

Just in terms of the changing environmental assessments, this would have a major impact on my province of British Columbia, on things like the Enbridge pipeline, where there has been incredible public interest in being involved in a democratic public process to comment on the environmental impact and assessment of that project.

What is the government doing? It uses the budget and the budget implementation act to actually shut down and to gag the public and say that not only is it putting short timelines on these major assessments but it will also delegate authority to other authorities, including the provinces, so it is basically narrowing the opportunities people have to comment on these important things.

To add insult to injury, not only does the bill gut environmental requirements; it also goes after civil society organizations by saying that the Canada Revenue Agency will tighten up what kind of political activities they can be engaged in. There is an attack on both sides, by legislation and by trying to fetter and gag the work that very important organizations do in our country to bring awareness to these major environmental projects that have a huge impact on all of us.

Here are a few other little gems in the budget. It would repeal the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. I am familiar with this, because as a city councillor in Vancouver over many terms, we actually used the federal fair wage act to set a benchmark for what we did municipally to pay fair wages to municipal contractors.

Now all of a sudden this act is gone. It has been there for decades. I do not know how far it goes back, but it has been a benchmark of what is considered to be fair wages.

Presumably this is now being completely eliminated because the Conservatives want to give more handouts to their corporate buddies and they want to undercut union wage rates. This is an attack on labour, just like we have seen with Bill C-377, where the government is attacking labour and trying to allege that they are not transparent organizations when we know they are. This is hidden in a budget implementation act.

It would also amend the Employment Equity Act so it would no longer apply to federal contractors. This is a major shift in public policy. I was part of the standing committee that reviewed the Employment Equity Act. It has to be reviewed every five years. The federal government is mandated to cover employment equity both in terms of its own direct services and of all the areas it covers like transport, airlines and banks. To amend the Employment Equity Act so it no longer applies to federal contractors is just a sheer gift and bonus to the Conservatives' buddies in saying that things like employment fairness, fair wages and ensuring diversity in the workplace would not count anymore and they would not have to worry about it. This is a major and dramatic shift in public policy.

I also want to mention a few local things that are very concerning to me, such as the cuts to the CAP program, which is purely mean-spirited. Low-income people who can currently gain access to the Internet through the community Internet access program would no longer have access to that. This is just a small thing, but it really does affect people. We live in an Internet age but there are lots of Canadians who still do not have their own computer or access to the Internet and they use the community access program to have that opportunity and capability. Why on earth would the Conservatives go after that? Why would they target people in that way?

As the health critic for the NDP, I want to speak briefly about some of the health aspects in the few minutes I have left.

We have said in this House many times how absolutely staggering a $31 billion decrease in health transfers to the provinces would be. This is a massive shift. The Conservatives unilaterally made a decision about health transfers in this country without any negotiation, debate or co-operation with the provinces and territories. It is something that is unheard of. This is a major assault on our health care system.

It goes even further than that. One of the little sneaky things that is in the budget is the amendments to the Food and Drugs Act to give the Minister of Health more power, supposedly on the basis of streamlining and improving the efficiency of various classifications of foods and drugs. However, it would basically give the minister more power to set up her own regulatory process and go outside the system. Again, this is something that should be coming forward in its own piece of legislation.

I will conclude by talking about what the budget does not address.

I live in Vancouver, and in Metro Vancouver probably the greatest issue we face is the lack of affordable housing. I have met with the Canadian Rental Housing Coalition in Metro Vancouver, which by the way, is made up of building owners, apartment owners, tenant groups and co-op housing groups. It is a broad coalition and they are all saying the same thing: the federal government must be part of a solution to build affordable housing in this country.

Where do we expect workers to live if they are paying 50% or 60% of their income in rent? The hotel workers and the people who work in the stadiums, on the waterfront or in the service industry can no longer afford to live anywhere close to where they work. This is a major issue in Metro Vancouver and also in other Canadian cities, yet there is not a single word in the budget implementation act that would make this a priority. It is just zero. It is as if it does not exist anymore.

We look at the contrast of the handouts to the Conservatives' friends in the corporate world while ignoring the real priorities of Canadians for basic human needs like housing, shelter, good pensions or even access to the Internet. All of these things have either been ignored or cut.

This is a terrible budget, a terrible bill. We should be offended as parliamentarians that this budget implementation bill is so broad. It has so much in it that we cannot even begin to debate, especially now that there is a gag order on the time we have for debate, which was passed earlier today. What an affront to parliamentary democracy.

We are here to stand up to say we oppose the bill and will use everything we can to oppose it all the way.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, a few months ago the Prime Minister was overseas and he talked about senior pensions. A huge outcry swept our country from coast to coast to coast. It was, “How dare the Prime Minister look at our pension programs?” Canadians treasure these programs and they are seen as fundamental social programs that are absolutely essential, not only to keep and maintain but to look at ways we can enhance them. I appreciate, to a certain degree, they might have backed off from what the original thoughts were, but still a vast majority of Canadians believe, and the Liberal Party believes, that we have to maintain the option for retirement at age 65 as fundamental to our pensions.

Could the member comment on raising the age of eligibility from 65 to 67? We believe that is wrong and that it has to be maintained at 65.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the meeting the Prime Minister attended was a very exclusive meeting of billionaires and big movers and shakers in Davos, Switzerland. It was pretty insulting to all Canadians that he chose that venue to make a major decision about the Conservatives' intention to bring about a fundamental change in our pensions system. Therefore, I would agree with the member.

I recently held a public forum in east Vancouver on pensions. People are hopping mad, not only seniors but also younger people, because they know the impact this change will have. By raising the age of eligibility, it means people in their older years will have to work longer. It also changes the dynamic in the job market and means there are fewer opportunities because more people are now forced to work longer or else they will be on the provincial welfare roll. This is another example of provincial offloading.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, once again I stand to take advantage of this opportunity to tell Canadians that the member opposite is misleading them. The previous NDP speaker said earlier that democracy was at risk in all of this, but she was misleading when she said that the limited time was unprecedented. Seven days is actually, historically, the longest period of time in the last 20 years. She was upset about there being 10 years. Well let us go 20 years.

The member opposite who just spoke was also upset about seven days of debate. Over 20 years, the debate was two days in 1992, four days in 1993, four days in 1994, five days in 1995, three days in 1996, two days in 1997, three days in 1998, four days in 1999, three days in 2000, three days in 2001, four days in 2003, three days in 2004 and it goes on.

In 20 years we have never seen this length of debate ever before. Seven days is plenty of time. We need to start talking about the measures that the members will support and that can help Canadians do better.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2012 / 1 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have never seen such a terrible bill that has so much horrible stuff in it that we will not even get to talk about because the debate will happen so quickly.

We have to look at the context of what is taking place here. Almost every piece of legislation that has come the House from the Conservative government has been under a gag order of some sort of closure. What are the Conservatives afraid of? Are they afraid that more of us will speak to it, or are they so dismissive of democratic practice that they want to shut down debate in the House?

The member can read from whatever list she wants. The fact is the record of the current government in gagging members of Parliament in debating substantial issues in the House is happening on a weekly basis. The budget implementation bill is just the latest example.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, there are many things about Bill C-38 that I could speak about, such as the total rewriting of Canada's environmental protection law, repealing the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, raising the age of retirement to 67, the elimination of the National Council of Welfare, the elimination of employment equity for federal contractors, weakening the Auditor General, having cabinet-approved pipelines rather than the arm's length National Energy Board and the gutting of the regional employment insurance appeal process. However, as the only member of the opposition from the three northern territories, I will speak about how the bill would change the three acts that could be considered the constitutions of the three territories without having consulted the people of the north.

Clauses 214, 215 and 216 of Bill C-38 would amend the Northwest Territories Act, the Yukon Act and the Nunavut Act. They would amend these acts to give the federal cabinet the ability to make more regulations governing the fiscal capacity of the three territories. Instead of moving toward the Conservatives' promise of improving and devolving northern governance, which is the fourth pillar of the Prime Minister's much-promoted northern strategy, these amendments would actually increase the amount of control Ottawa would exercise over the three territories. There is no provision to ensure that the three territorial governments would have any input or that there would be any measure of consultation or approval over the nature of these regulations or any changes made to them by future federal cabinets. This is hardly responsible government for the territories.

All of us who use the Westminster system of democracy know the key to responsible government is having control over fiscal matters. These amendments completely make a mockery of any statements from the Conservatives that they believe in consulting with and building a better north.

In the past Parliament, I tried to lessen the intrusiveness of the federal government over the people of the north. Over and over, I spoke to northern leaders and my constituents and then presented a bill that would give more certainty and control in the Northwest Territories over their fiscal capacity. It was to be achieved through actual legislation.

Speaking to my bill at committee, Mr. Chris Forbes, the assistant deputy minister, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance, described how the borrowing limit provisions were a holdover from when the only institution the territories could borrow from was the Government of Canada. Since 1983, the territories have been able to borrow on the open market. Colonial at the start and colonial it continues under the Conservatives.

My bill was well supported across the Northwest Territories.

If the Conservatives had consulted with the people in the north, they would have heard that what northerners wanted was this federal control over borrowing removed. So far we have not been any consultations on these amendments, unless they have been done in secret. They exclude Canadians because they do not care what Canadians have to say about many of these aspects.

The Prime Minister has made a point of stressing the growth of governance in the territories. If that is what he wants, then the Conservatives should have done the right thing in amending these three acts, and that is to take the federal government and the federal Department of Finance completely out of the process.

Where are the members for Yukon and Nunavut on these changes? Do they support increased control over the territories by Ottawa? Is it okay with them that the legislative assemblies of the territories lose autonomy with these changes? Why the silence?

The people of the north have proven they can govern themselves. They have proven they are capable managers of money. Moody's Investment Services has given the Northwest Territories an Aa1 rating. This rating is second highest and places the NWT in line for credit risk with most of the provinces.

Moody's rating takes into account recent developments related to the Deh Cho Bridge project. The credit opinion notes that Moody's:

—had already included the Deh Cho Bridge liability in our calculations of the NWT's net direct and indirect debt, reflecting the government's debt-like obligation to make periodic availability payments. As such, formal assumption of the related debt is not expected to alter the NWT's credit profile in a material way.

According to Moody's, the rating reflects:

—prudent fiscal policies that have, over the past several years, limited debt accumulation. A well-developed fiscal framework (including a Fiscal Responsibility Policy which guides the NWT's fiscal policies and use of debt) should help to ensure that the debt burden remains low and affordable.

The NWT's fiscal responsibility policy mandates how the NWT may borrow. The policy guides the GNWT fiscal policy and use of debt and includes guidelines respecting the types of activities for which debt can be issued, as well as limits on total debt and debt servicing costs to ensure affordability. A borrowing plan is required to detail options and preferred choices for funding the short-term and long-term borrowing requirements of the government at minimum cost.

Our territory is responsible. It is acting in a manner which many other provinces should emulate.

However, these amendments do not treat the territories as responsible. Instead, they treat them in a paternalistic, uncaring fashion, without any concern what northerners think about changing their constitutions.

The people of the north have the same political rights as Canadians who live in the provinces. History has given us a designation as territories rather than provinces, but regardless what we are called, changes to our laws in Parliament should make northerners more equal to other Canadians instead of less.

All three territories are anticipated to be the great growth area of our great country. Northerners say “Respect us, treat us as equals, don't make us come cap in hand to Ottawa to be treated in a manner that other Canadians take for granted”.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all Canadians a right to a legislative assembly. It guarantees all Canadians that rights are held equally and that Canadians are treated equally by laws. These amendments do not move our legislative assemblies closer to equality with the provincial legislatures. These amendments actually move the northern legislatures further from equality.

Through a long and arduous process and negotiations on this issue over three years, my government was never told that the Minister of Finance would create these new powers for the federal cabinet.

Is the Conservative government so insensitive that it thinks it can now operate by decree?

A process that started as government-to-government negotiations has ended up as laws from master to vassal. Shame on this process that is blind to the desire of all northerners for equality, for respect and for their own political rights in our great country.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on another issue which I think is really important for us to cover, and that is the issue of health care. All Canadians are concerned with regard to the future of health care. They want to have a certain level of comfort in knowing that the federal government will be there for them in a very real and tangible way.

One of the greatest accomplishments of Paul Martin was the establishment of the health care accord, which ensured a guaranteed increase in funding. This would ensure that the federal government would continue to play a strong role in terms of demonstrating leadership on the health care file for all Canadians.

To what degree does the member believe the current Conservative government is committed to that ongoing financing commitment for the provinces across Canada?

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue in which the three northern territories are treated in an equal fashion to the provinces in Canada.

We have the same concerns as all the provinces do. After 2015, if we see reductions in the increases in health care transfers, with ever-aging populations, ever-increasing costs of doing business in the north, which is incredibly expensive, with the cost of energy climbing upward, we simply will be unable to afford the systems we need to protect the people who live in these territories.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed to hear my friend's position. His riding extends to the north of my boundary, in northern Alberta. I thought he would be very happy with this budget because it would do a lot for Canadians.

It would establish our place, as has been indicated the World Economic Forum, as the soundest banking system in the world for the fourth year in a row. We continue on with that same track record in this budget. We do that through promoting sound resource development, ensuring that one project, one review, is the order of the day and ensuring that during that review, Canadians have the ability to comment on it. We are also moving forward with the development of good, sound, straightforward environmental policy ensuring that the reliability of the environmental data instead of having five or six competing things going on at the same time with the same issue involved and getting different results.

I know he and his party did not support Canada's economic action plan in relation to building infrastructure across the country, $45 billion which is a record amount. Will he step apart from his party at this time? He knows this is a good budget for the north. He knows this is a good budget for Canadians and Canadian jobs. Will he not stand for his constituents right now and support this budget?

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, who resides in the riding next to mine in Alberta, is represented in the legislative assembly in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, which has rights and privileges that we in the Northwest Territories can only hope to have for the future. When he refers to my riding, he is actually referring to the jurisdiction of the Northwest Territories, a separate political entity in this country, one that has to move forward and one that will be part of the economic development of this great land through mining, oil and gas, and all measure of natural resource development.

The people in the jurisdiction I represent want control over what happens, just as the member has that same control in Alberta in his legislative assembly. We want what and expect the same things that other Canadians have. We do not expect to see the little that we have already denigrated by this legislation and this Parliament.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga—Brampton South.

I am happy to stand today and support the budget action plan 2012, Canada's economic action plan, because it is so important. It is certain to bolster Canada's long-term economic strengths and promote job growth, and that is what it is all about.

We are federal representatives who support Canadians in their endeavour to have a better quality of life, and hat is exactly what Canada's economic action plan 2012 does and I am proud to stand up for it.

This is such a good budget for the people I represent. This budget is all about me coming forward to talk about what my citizens are so excited for in this particular budget. It starts with job creation to innovation and invention. It is important to continue to invent things and to work hard to have patents and intellectual interests that actually stimulate growth in our economy because we can sell that to others.

I am proud to say that in my riding of Fort McMurray—Athabasca, we have more patents registered than in all of the rest of Canada combined. It is certainly more than any other jurisdiction of that area or that population. That is why it is important to have innovation and invention, which the budget speaks to.

From my background as a retailer, although the elimination of the penny for some people it is heartfelt, it is a good business decision, good for Canadians and good for northern Albertans.

We will prosper under this budget and continue to have a great quality of life. I am very proud of our government and I am proud of this particular budget. It goes without saying that we on this side of the House are proud of this budget because it takes a step forward.

We saved serious amounts of interest payments when we knocked down $39 billion in direct payments two or three budgets ago. Then we got into a budget of promoting economic wealth through creating jobs, infrastructure and a better quality of life. Now we have an austerity budget, a budget that, in my mind, is more about efficiency and productivity than any other budget in Canada's history.

I will elaborate on a few of my favourite initiatives. I am very happy to see in this budget that some education has been taken from the Senate, in particular the Senate's ongoing inquiry into the involvement of foreign foundations in Canada's domestic affairs. This has brought a lot of attention to the Senate and to this budget, and some people speak against this. However, for me that is not the case.

I donate a lot of money to charities. I support charities and I sit on a board or two. I have done that for years. I think it is clear that some charities are not respecting the rules regarding political activities. It is necessary to do that because Canadians expect their charitable donations to be used for those particular purposes and not for some political purpose or some economic purpose beyond the mandate of that particular charity.

I will quote Senator Finley who said in March of this year:

Shady foreign money is being used to influence Canadian domestic and commercial policy in an obscure fashion.

There is nothing wrong with groups advocating for environmental conservation. However, there is a problem when their unstated intent is to undermine Canadian industries and do irreparable damage to Canada's economy.

We are not talking about $100 here or there, or somebody paying for some protest signs. We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that are being funneled from other countries, other interests, including petroleum foundations that are in competition with petroleum foundations and petroleum companies in Canada. They are actually funnelling them to our country and to other countries to fund environmental and aboriginal activists working to block our economic development.

Some people say that they should be able to do that. I have no problem with Canadians doing that as long as Canadians know what they are doing, know where the money is coming from, know where the money is going and they obey the law. However, Canadians deserve to know. It is time to find out clearly where that money is coming from, who it is going to and what it is being used to fund. Bluntly, it works against taxpayer dollars and it costs more taxpayer dollars to follow through with that economic policy that this place and the members of this place put forward and have put forward. They are working contrary to that purpose, exactly contrary to it, and it costs Canadians more money. I do not think that should continue unless, of course, Canadians want it to continue and Canadians know about it.

Economic action plan 2012 proposes measures to ensure that charities devote their resources almost exclusively to charitable rather than political activities. How would it do that? First, by proposing that Canada Revenue Agency enhance its education and compliance activities with respect to political activities by charities. I do not think many actually understand the ramifications of this and that they need to stick to their knitting and do what Canadians expect them to do with their charitable donations.

Second, to improve transparency by requiring charities to provide more information on their political activities, including the extent to which they are funded by foreign sources. We do not know where this money is coming from. We are starting to learn a little about it. I think most Canadians would be shocked to find out that some of these groups that are opposing our development strategies are funded by oil companies abroad. That is troubling because it is Canadian domestic policy in which these foreign governments are interfering and that should not be allowed. We certainly should not be allowing them tax breaks.

Whether members agree with my position, the government's position, regarding exporting our resources throughout the world, I think 99.9% of Canadians, I hope, believe that this decision is about Canadian jobs, the Canadian economy, Canadian prosperity and our quality of life, every life in the country, including the lives of the constituents of the member for Western Arctic who spoke briefly before me. It is about Canadian policy and it should not be made by foreign trusts for foreign priorities that are operating strictly against our policies and what Canadians voted for last May, one year ago. I congratulate the Conservative majority government. Canadians voted for us to move forward with these initiatives, not to have foreign interests, foreign governments, foreign oil companies interfering in our domestic policy. This is Canadian policy that should be made at home in the best interests of all Canadians.

If Canadians do not like it, their job is to de-elect us, just like it is to re-elect us. I think they will like these policies because they will have a better quality of life, a better job and a better family life as well, because all of those things add up for a better quality of life.

Probably the most obvious budget proposal for me to speak to today is responsible resource development. This is one of the things that throughout my adult life I have pursued. I consider myself an environmentalist. I have spent a tremendous amount of time outdoors. I am a registered trapper in Alberta. I almost finished a masters degree in environmental law in Australia because that was my passion at one time.

I believe the concentration on one review for one project will be better in the end because all of the resources and thought processes will go into that one review. Instead of two, three or four reviews that are competing and have competing interests, we would have one review. We would get all the experts to work on that one review and we have the assessment forwarded with a yes or no so people know where they stand. We cannot wait 5, 6, 8, 10, 12 years where we have money to invest or where outside companies or Canadian companies have shareholders who expect to receive a return on investment. We cannot wait a decade or more for a yes or no answer. We need to ensure we provide that answer to them. What is so exciting for me today is that the budget has a responsible resource development part in it.

In the next 10 years, more than 500 major economic projects, representing $500 billion in new investment, are planned across Canada. I am proud to say that a recent study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates that in the next 25 years the oil sands growth, which I represent most of, will support an average of 480,000 jobs, which means $2.4 trillion to our GDP. What is important in relation to this is that there is one review. We would put all our effort into that review to ensure we streamline it, to ensure we give an answer to the people who are investing and to ensure we get the best possible results for Canadians. Protecting the environment, ensuring we stand up for Canadian families, Canadian jobs and consulting properly with first nations across the country, all of those things are important.

Our track record speaks for itself. We have gone through a minority opposition government, two minority governments and now a majority government. Canadians have spoken loudly. They trust the Prime Minister and they trust the cabinet to stand up for their priorities and we will continue to do that through this budget.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have learned something remarkable, that the government's attack on charitable organizations is a means of counteracting an economic war between oil companies. I just learned that. I would like the member to tell us a bit more.

Which foreign companies are we talking about? Which foreign governments are funnelling money into Canada? I believe it would be interesting to know this.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that the member was not at natural resources committee to hear testimony in relation to this particular activity. The testimony was very clear. I invite him to look at it. It was probably about a month ago that we heard testimony in relation to this. The member can follow the records and see how these foundations are funded.

It is more important to concentrate on their motives. Why would an oil company in some other part of the world work directly to block our ability to move forward with resource development? That is what I would like to know. That is a question that the member opposite should ask himself. Why would a foreign foundation funded by oil companies that are owned abroad fund protest movements and blockades in our country? There is only one reason I can think of as to why they would do that. The motive is clear.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I followed my colleague's speech intently. We worked together on environment committee for many years.

He and several of his ministers have been making pretty impressive and frankly wild comments about the funding of Canadian NGOs. We are hearing now that apparently international oil companies that are probably active in the oil sands are funding environmental NGOs to attack Canadian oil. I am wondering if the member could name the oil companies, the foundations, and their activities. More important, I wonder if he could stand outside the House and name them.

Is the member prepared to go as far as the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of the Environment who have said on public record that these contributions are illegal? Can he stand and state categorically that these contributions are illegal?

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have worked with the member. Although he wears the cloak of a Liberal he has a Conservative value in him somewhere; I have seen it.

My colleague wants to know what is standing between Canadians' quality of life, between moving forward with proper resource development and moving forward with regulatory change. He wants names, but I am not allowed to provide them. The member for Ottawa South is one of those people.

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, economic action plan 2012 builds on our successes. A number of tax reductions have been extended to Canadian seniors, to Canadian families and to Canadian businesses. Could the hon. member detail for us those tax reductions that will be most beneficial to his residents?

SECOND READINGJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

There are just so many of them, Mr. Speaker, that I cannot do them all justice. The best thing that we did as a government was in 2006 to 2008 when we paid down debt of $37 billion. That was the first thing we did.

My riding is diverse. The average age in the northern area of Fort McMurray is 29 but there are a lot of seniors in the south. We provided $2.5 billion in annual tax relief to seniors and pensioners, including taking 380,000 seniors from the tax rolls. That was just the start of it. We have provided many tax credits, such as the children's fitness tax credit and the children's arts tax credit. There are about eight or nine others.

The reality is that we give money back to Canadians. They know how to spend it a lot better than I do and a lot better than bureaucrats do. Canadians deserve more of their money and that is why we gave them Tax Freedom Day about 11 days earlier than ever before over the last 43 years. Conservatives believe that Canadians know how to spend their money better than anybody else in here does. That is why they continue to vote in support of this government.

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Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, economic action plan 2012 is Canada's plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. The plan is focused on the priorities of hard-working Canadians and on our families. Our economic action plan is focused on prosperity for all Canadians. We are taking clear and decisive action to further strengthen our economy, and create quality jobs and a better quality of life for generations to come for our children and our grandchildren.

I will use my time today to highlight certain economic imperatives and to frame the choices we face globally, as governments and citizens alike work to secure long-term prosperity in a difficult global environment that is not about to change soon.

The OECD and the International Monetary Fund predict that our economy will again be among the leaders of the industrialized world over the next two years. For the fourth year in a row, the World Economic Forum said our banks are the soundest in the world. Among G7 countries, Canada has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment. We have the highest credit rating. Canada is one of only two G7 countries to regain all of the jobs lost in the recession. This was achieved because our government made historic investments in infrastructure, and we encouraged businesses to invest and helped them to avoid layoffs.

In order to come out of a recession, during the recession we must take measures that are timely, targeted and temporary in nature. Governments should never create new permanent programs or institutionalize new government bureaucracies because of a recession. In today's era, resisting protectionism is crucial.

The best road to take to create long-term prosperity and new markets for Canadian products and services is to pursue free and open trade. For example, a trade agreement with the European Union is a key part of the most ambitious trade expansion program in Canadian history. With one in five Canadian jobs generated by trade, a Canada-EU trade agreement has the potential to benefit our nation enormously. It would mean a 20% boost in bilateral trade, a $12 billion annual increase to Canada's economy, which is the equivalent of almost 80,000 new jobs or about an additional $1,000 for the average Canadian family. Such an agreement would benefit Canadian workers, particularly those working in technology in Mississauga and Brampton, and chemicals and plastics, wood and wood products, and resource and renewable energies.

The second and even more important ingredient is the type of foundation we stand on. What we do to prepare before the storm is a good indicator of whether we will be the first to emerge once the hurricane has passed. The wealth we enjoy today here in Canada has been based on the good growth-oriented policies, the right and often challenging choices, and the hard work done in the past by our Conservative government. We have engaged in the transformations necessary to sustain job creation, economic growth and prosperity now and for the next generation. This means two things: making better economic choices now, and preparing ourselves now for the demographic pressures that our economy will face.

We need to keep tax rates down. Keeping taxes low and ensuring the sustainability of our social programs and fiscal position over the next generation is key.

Let us review the record of our Conservative federal government. We reduced personal income taxes and cut the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. We allowed seniors to split their pension. We established the working income tax benefit for low-income working people. We removed more than a million low-income Canadians from the federal income tax rolls altogether. We established the registered disability savings plan and the tax-free savings accounts, the most important personal savings vehicle since the RRSP. We introduced the children's fitness tax credit and the children's arts tax credit. Altogether, an average family of four saves more than $3,100 in taxes. That is money that stays in their pockets to spend on their priorities.

At the same time, our government reduced taxes on businesses that create jobs for all Canadians. That is a significant advantage for Canada and the global economy. It is helping to create jobs and preserve jobs in communities across our country, now and for the long term. Our Conservative government rolled out one of the largest and most effective economic stimulus plans among the nations of the G20. In Mississauga and Brampton, those investments put our neighbours to work. However, they also helped us to build lasting infrastructure like the new Sheridan College, new swimming pools, a new ambulance station and basic road construction. It was done without taking on the massive debts and long-term deficits now faced by many other countries. It was done without raising taxes.

As a result, in those difficult years Canada has outperformed most other industrialized countries. Since July 2009 our Conservative government has created nearly 700,000 net new jobs. Our net debt-to-GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7 by far. Whether it is family finances, running a small or large business or running the finances of the entire nation, what we do before and during the economic slump is a good indicator of how bright the future will be. That is why economic action plan 2012 builds on our successful approach. It is a clear plan to make effective and targeted investments to support world-leading research, innovation and entrepreneurship. It supports an ambitious trade expansion plan and puts into place a globally competitive business tax regime. It is also why we are focused on implementing economic action plan 2012 now.

For example, our Conservative government in the past has reduced the general tax rate from 22% in 2007 to 15% in 2012 and cut the small business rates to 11%, while raising the small business threshold to $500,000. That is more than $60 billion in tax relief for job-creating businesses. What does this all mean? KPMG says that business tax costs in the U.S. are 55% higher than in Canada. Forbes magazine says that Canada is the best country in the world to invest and grow a business. Canada has gone from being the least tax competitive G7 country to being the most competitive now. That is from 2005 to now.

So what does this mean on the ground? As I mentioned, it is almost 700,000 new jobs since July 2009. For those who are the proud beneficiaries of one of those 700,000 jobs, it means food on the table, the ability to pay their mortgage and to provide a bit more for their family.

Canada has regained all the output lost during the recession. Business investment in Canada is projected to reach record highs, well beyond pre-recession investments. In addition, we have removed over one million low-income families altogether from the tax rolls. We are cutting taxes in every possible way we can. We have targeted personal income taxes and cut them to the lowest tax rates. We have extended the hiring credit for small businesses. We have increased the amount Canadians can earn tax free. We have provided seniors with the much-needed ability to split their pension income. Most notably, though, we reduced the GST from 7% to 5%. That is something that helps all Canadians every day, every time they make a purchase. It puts approximately $1,000 back into the pockets of the average Canadian family. With this plan, total savings for the average Canadian family are approximately $3,100. Our government has cut taxes over 140 times since Conservatives took office, to the lowest point in almost 50 years.

This next subject is close to my heart as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs. Budget 2012 is a clear victory for our veterans. I have had the great opportunity to travel across the country to hear the priorities of our veterans. We made a commitment to maintain all benefits to veterans and budget 2012 delivers on that promise.

Our government is also increasing health care transfers to the Province of Ontario by 6%. That is at a time when Ontario says it will only increase its health care spending by 2%. We are delivering more for Ontario. That is this Conservative government delivering for the people of Ontario.

I am very proud to stand in support of economic action plan 2012.

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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested in the remarks by the parliamentary secretary because she talked about the bill as if it were about most of the things she was talking about today. However, it is curious that a bill that spends one-third of its time on environment deregulation was not even mentioned in her speech. A bill that provides for major changes in the employment insurance program, which will allow further changes in benefits without any reference back to Parliament, was not mentioned. The abandonment of federal responsibilities for fish habitat, which is very important for employment in sport and commercial fishing in my region, was not mentioned. The elimination of the Inspector General of CSIS, a very important part of the civilian oversight of CSIS, was not mentioned, nor were cuts to emergency preparedness, the raising of the old age security age and reductions in the coverage of federal contractors' employment equity.

The things she talked about, wonderful themes the government likes to put in its talking points, were not actually the stuff that we find in the bill before us today.

I wonder if she would like to comment on some of the actual content of the bill.

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Conservative

Eve Adams Conservative Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be delighted to do so. Perhaps if the hon. member had listened to my speech, I did in fact talk about transformative change in our departments and ensuring that we have long-term prosperity for future generations. That is exactly what we are doing with the OAS.

We continue to have a growing seniors population. As they continue to age, we will have fewer and fewer workers providing tax dollars to support their pension incomes and their health care costs. We need to take measured, prudent steps today to ensure the long-term sustainability of our programs.

This is exactly what our government is doing. We are acting today in order to ensure long-term prosperity for this generation and for future generations.

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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is no seniors crisis. There is no need for the government to look at increasing the age for OAS from 65 to 67. The government knows that. The Parliamentary Budget Officer knows that. There is no justification for increasing the age of retirement in Canada from 65 to 67.

In the budget, the government says it will cut 19,000 jobs. Many of those jobs will be the types of jobs that provide services to vulnerable Canadians from coast to coast. That is the real impact this budget will have.

The government has chosen to bring in time allocation, and this is not the first time. We can talk about back-to-work legislation for unions at Canada Post. We can talk about Air Canada back-to-work legislation. We can talk about the pooled pension program and the Canadian Wheat Board. In endless legislation, the government has brought in time allocation to prevent legitimate, good, solid debate in the House of Commons. Instead, we have a minister who wants to pay $16 for a cup of orange juice.

The government's priorities are all wrong. When will the government bring in the type of legislation that will deal with our environment through the front door as opposed to the—

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Conservative

Eve Adams Conservative Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

In fact, Mr. Speaker, our priorities are squarely focused on the priorities of Canadians, average Canadians who are struggling to meet their bills, struggling to make their mortgage payments, struggling to ensure that their children can go to hockey practice or soccer practice. These are people who work every day and then sit in their car and commute back home. They are focused on putting groceries on the table. That is why we have reduced taxes in every possible way we can. That is why we want to ensure that money is left in the pockets of average Canadians to spend on their priorities.

I do not believe that we can tax our way to prosperity. I do not believe any government can do so. Our record speaks strongly to that. Our country is the most successful country coming out of this recession.

If the opposition members have serious concerns about helping Canadians, they would stand in support of the budget.

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NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to enter the debate, but not so pleased to see that we are again faced with time allocation, especially when we are debating a bill that is so big. All too frequently time allocation seems to be the habit of the Conservative government, which decides it will simply crunch everything in. This is not a four-page bill, as some of them are; this is 400 pages that impact not only the budget but a multitude of other agencies and regulations, and it will dramatically change many areas.

I would like to share my time with the hard-working hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior.

In earlier comments the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca talked about this tale. I believe the member for Ottawa South asked him to please explain what the tale was about. I do not mean the tail on a donkey; I mean the tale with “e”, which is more like Aesop's Fables. He talked about the NGOs and charitable organizations that are going to be impacted because of their charitable status and that foreign oil companies will get them to do their bidding, especially when it comes to his riding of Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

I had a quick peek to see which foreign oil companies he was referring to. They are BP p.l.c., which I believe is a British company; Chevron, which I believe is an American company; ConocoPhillips; Exxon Mobile Corporation; Imperial Oil; Korea National Oil Corporation; Nippon Oil; Royal Dutch Shell; and Sinopec, the state company of China. They are not actually donating money to charities to get them to engage in destroying our energy policy; they are mining the oil sands. Why on earth would they ever give money to other folks to stop them from doing the very thing they are doing?

There are more foreign national companies in the oil sands than one can count. That is okay; no one says that is a bad thing, but for the member to suggest that somehow foreign companies are trying, through the back door of an environmental group with a charitable status, to lobby to stop what is happening when they are indeed doing it is the height of incredulity. Who would believe it for a second?

Clearly it was a bit of a fable. Maybe it was a mixed metaphor. Maybe that is what it was. Maybe I just did not quite get the mixed metaphor about the foreign oil companies that are actually mining. Bless them, they are entitled to do that. This country is a trading nation, and they can come here if they play by the rules. It is a little unfortunate that the state oil company of China made sure it got a sweetheart deal to ship out raw bitumen and did not actually create jobs in Alberta for Albertans or, better still, in Sarnia for Ontarians. I leave that to the Conservatives to defend, because clearly that is not something we did.

I have heard from the other side that when it comes to OAS, we have this demographic bump, which I happen to be part of. I am at the tail end of the baby boomers. There are others in the House who are at the front end of the baby boomers, but we all know that there is this demographic bump. However, it is a bump; it is not forever. It is a bump. When we are finished with the bump and go back to the other end—a little piece beyond the bump, because we will all, unfortunately, meet our maker—that group will be gone, and we do not have another baby boomer group after that. Is the government now suggesting that once that happens, there will be no reason for the retirement age to be 67 and we will go back to 65 when that group is gone?

Clearly it is about planning for the demographic that existed and that everyone knew about. Back in the 1960s, everybody knew there was a demographic called the baby boomers. Now a plan should be put in place, and the plan does not need to include retiring at age 67. Most actuaries across this country have said that it is not needed, that it can be financed, that it can be done properly if we make the choice.

Over and over again I have heard my colleagues on the other side say there will be fewer people working to support seniors, as if seniors do not pay taxes. There is this misbegotten belief that when one becomes a senior, it is a tax-free holiday for the rest of one's life. That is not true. Seniors pay into the system like everyone else, but they are made to sound as if they are some sort of parasite on the system, drawing money out and not actually doing anything for the country. I find that a very difficult thing to swallow, because clearly these are the folks who built this great country; we should have respect for them, but I really believe that has not happened.

I would say to the government that there is no legitimate, logical, rational reason to go to age 67, but then again, that would not quite go with its policy, would it? Still, there is no need to go to 67. There is no need to do it and there is no sense in doing it. The government should leave the age at 65.

The one thing that is rational and logical and the one thing that absolutely will happen is that when seniors living in poverty get to the age of 65, they will live in poverty until they are 67 because of what the government is doing. That indeed will be the reality for them. However, that reality does not need to happen, and the government should prevent it from happening by amending the bill and making sure that the age is kept at 65. I would ask the government to do that.

One of the things in the bill reminded me of the days in the province of Ontario when we had a Conservative provincial government back in the 1990s, led by a premier called “Harris”. I remember a number of folks from that government because I get to see some of them here. There are cabinet ministers in this place who were cabinet ministers in that place. I believe in 1995, or it might have been the spring of 1996, one of the first bills that Mr. Harris created was an omnibus bill that changed regulations and the face of Ontario for the worse. It attacked the poor and went after everyone else. Now we see it again. It is déjà vu all over again.

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Gary Schellenberger

Who was the leader of that government before that?

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NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Actually, the leader of the government before that is now a Liberal. Things change in life. At some point in time, leaders decide to do other things.

One of the things that bothers me a great deal in the bill is about the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and people need to be concerned because things get hidden in the bill. On the surface of it, many aspects of this agency appear to be on their way to being privatized, which sets a dangerous precedent.

Sheila Weatherill, who was hired by the Conservative government to look at CFIA, said that part of the reason the listeriosis crisis broke out was that there were not enough public inspectors doing the work that needed to be done to keep our food safety system and keep our food safe. She recommended that be changed. To give credit to the government, it decided to make the change, but now it is going back on those changes.

The government is moving backwards. It would take us back to a place before the listeriosis crisis of 2008, a place where the food inspection system would not be as rigorous as it should be and would not live up to the standards that Canadians expect or think it is, which is even worse. When Canadians think they have a certain standard in place and it turns out not to be true, they lose faith in the system.

On the labelling piece, as it starts to unravel, if there is a complaint or health concern about a label, I am not sure who the contact would be, but I guess it would be a 1-800 number. People would call 1-800-something to say that they did not like the label. The response might be, “Are you validated to complain about that label?” Of course, the answer would be no, they are not validated, and therefore they would no longer have a complaint. If someone called CFIA, they would say, “Sorry, we do not do that anymore. We have handed that off.” Whom would we call for health and safety complaints about labelling and food? Would it be a call centre? Where would it be and how would it be staffed? Would it be staffed with folks who just follow a chart that says if the question is Y, answer X, or if the response is Q, make it a P? Who knows?

Clearly this government has rammed a whack of legislation into a budget bill and made it an omnibus bill, which it did not have to do. Oversight is needed, whether on environmental regulations, CFIA or the multitude of other things in the bill. The government could have brought the budget implementation bill, which would have taken care of the piece that it is required to do, and we could then have debated the other legislation piece by piece. We could have had an honest, open debate in a democratic fashion and not be faced with time allocation.