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House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-38.

Topics

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, we are in 2012. We have just come through one of the greatest recessions that our globe has seen. What Canadians have asked our government to do is to continue to implement a successful economic action plan that has gone from implementing stimulus into the economy to, at this point, reducing the deficit, as well as implementing a number of measures that Canadians have been asking us to do.

I have been hearing in my riding, since and I was elected and before that, people say that we should do something to streamline the Fisheries Act. These are measures that Canadians have asked our government to undertake. The opposition is only concerned with delaying. It is criticizing our oil industry and talking about pouring a lot of money into Europe. We are focused on Canada, on growing our economy and on making our country stronger.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, by April 2008, three years after the government came into office and before the recession began, the country was back in deficit, as my hon. colleague may know. By March 31, 2009, the end of that fiscal year, there was a deficit of $5.8 billion and stimulus spending did not start until later that year. In fact, by June of that year there were articles in which municipalities were complaining that it still had not started.

In view of the fact that the government put us in deficit before the recession began, how much responsibility does she feel her government bears for the cuts that are now resulting?

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, it is very clear from the results of the last election who Canadians put their trust in when it comes to the economy, stimulating the economy and reducing the deficit. That is our Conservative government.

It was very clear that, when the Liberals were in government, their idea of reducing spending was slashing transfers to the provinces. We have done the exact opposite. In fact, we have guaranteed the amount that provinces are receiving, for example, for health care.

We presented a plan to Canadians. Everything that we told Canadians we would do we are doing. Canadians know they can count on this government. When we make a promise, we keep our word. When we campaigned, we met and consulted with Canadians. We said that we had a spending plan that was targeted and temporary. Now we are moving forward, continuing to see jobs, growth and prosperity, but also reducing the deficit. The result is a Conservative majority and the Liberals over there in the third spot.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Madam Speaker, with Bill C-38, when I talk to other members of the House and others who have been around for a while, I feel that we are witnessing a massive transformation of our country as we know it and, unfortunately, it is our future generations who will bear the consequences of these reckless actions today.

We are told that somehow all the budget cuts are necessary in these difficult times. We have the cutting and slashing of the programs that we as Canadians value, and legislation that protects us is also being cut, all this against a backdrop of massive corporate tax cuts.

I would like to remind the members of the House that, between 2006 and 2014, the government will have given over $220 billion worth of corporate tax cuts to the corporations that do not need this money. We can just think about what $220 billion could do for our country.

In addition to that, we have had over $50 billion stolen out of the employment insurance fund. Now, fewer than 60% of those who are eligible receive this money because of the fact that the government wants to make more cuts.

This massive 421 page bill not only contains measures outlined in the budget, but includes many previously unannounced changes. A full one-third of Bill C-38 is dedicated to the gutting of environmental regulations and protection.

In addition, the bill includes a series of previously unannounced measures that will contribute to a less transparent and more secretive environment, including a massive gutting of the powers of the Auditor General.

Among other things, this bill raises the eligibility age for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits from 65 to 67. It weakens the environmental assessment system and the measures to protect fish habitats, in order to expedite approval of large projects, including pipeline projects.

This bill also repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Work Act, which will allow employers to circumvent the wage rates set by unions for construction workers hired on projects funded by the federal government.

This is an important point. This was outlined by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre, who found this one line in the budget that basically guts the rights of construction workers to have contracts that must pay the prevailing wage. Combine that with other recent Conservative legislation that allows contractors to get temporary foreign workers within 10 days, eradicating fair wages and hours from the laws, it is yet another nail in the coffin of Canadian labour rights.

International brokers or, as my colleague from Winnipeg Centre described them, labour pimps, pedal foreign workers from all over the country for construction projects. What does this mean? Soon, all a company will have to do is post an ad in the paper saying that it wants carpenters for $8 an hour, no overtime and no benefits. In the likely event that nobody applies within 10 days, international labour pimps can be called to provide all the manpower needed at the prevailing provincial minimum wage.

It does not take a lot of imagination to see how such an easy access to cheap labour will drive down construction costs on the backs of Canadian workers in the largest employing industry sector in the country and the trickle down effect this will have on our economy.

I have a few letters that I would like to read into the record that I have received, as all of us have from our constituents. One letter is from Castlegar. A constituent writes:

It therefore is distressing in the extreme to see the Conservative party taken over by a distorted...world view that has more in common with the current state of the Republican Party in the USA than it does with the kind of conservatism practiced over time in Canada. Voter suppression, unlimited power to corporations, the suppression of science and denial of scientific knowledge are not historically Canadian practices....

This is another quote:

I am becoming very disheartened about our country, due to the threats to our democracy...and the potential disasters that could befall our northern coast and rivers if the pipeline is approved.

Please continue fighting this ludicrous project! I spent many years on Haida Gwaii and know the challenges of running boats in those northern waters. Even when things are “normal”, large ships can run aground. It has happened already and will happen again....

The whole tar sands development sickens me, knowing the potential of major environmental disasters and the current contamination of northern rivers. What bothers me most is the ignorance of the Alberta and Canadian governments and their general lack of environmental regulation and monitoring...

He and others are concerned about the fact that we are losing environmental oversight so we can go forward with a balanced plan instead of a one-side plan as is currently projected.

This is another quote:

Bill C-38 is a “trojan horse” bill containing much more than just Budget items. It is bad for the environment, bad for Canada's worldwide image, bad for the social safety net that Canadians WANT, bad for fish, water and all living creatures, and it is bad for democracy. Everything that is not a direct Budget item MUST be split off this Bill and debated properly by the appropriate committees, before the Budget Bill itself is presented to Parliament.

Act democratic--split the Bill to permit study and debate.

This is another quote:

I am concerned about the revision of the Fisheries Act tucked inside the current omnibus bill. I feel these changes threaten the environmental assessment and project implementation process and therefore threaten viable fish habitat throughout Canada. Without viable habitat for fish, interior, coastal and ocean ecosystems will suffer, and so will the economies and cultures that depend on them. I am requesting that you pressure the current government to please reconsider the process under which these changes are being implemented.

I would like to add that this point of view is not only felt by people right across Canada, but by four former cabinet ministers, two of them having served under the Conservative government. They have called the current changes to the Fisheries Act unprecedented and not in the best interest of our country.

The final letter that I have, one of many, says:

The federal budget legislation...puts our land, water and climate at risk by making enormous changes to Canada's environmental laws. It also contains sweeping new powers to limit debate and silence legitimate voices, including those of land owners, First Nations, charities and other Canadians.

I care about nature and democracy, which is why I'm asking you, as my representative in our Parliament, to express my concern about changing Canada's environmental and charitable laws without sufficient public input and Parliamentary debate.

I might add that my party went across the country and we listened to people. We conducted hearings. The overwhelming majority of people who talked to us are saying that something is not right. We should not be supporting this legislation that lumps all of these different pieces of legislation and measures into one act.

I would like to close with part of a speech given by Andrew Nikiforuk in Nelson regarding the tar sands development. These are a couple of quotations from the speech. He says:

The Northern Gateway pipeline will result in 300 to 400 supertankers annually having to negotiate the treacherous waters of BC's northern coastline;

The ships will likely be owned by PetroChina and Sinopec, two companies that are only accountable to the Communist Party of China;

This is where we are sending our raw bitumen if this goes through.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed my hon. colleague's comments about the possible environmental impacts of the budget bill. They are certainly very worrisome.

Would he like to talk about his views in relation to the changes to the old age security program?

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Madam Speaker, I respect my hon. colleague's thoughts and judgment. He is an experienced member of Parliament and he certainly has a point about the old age security.

We have been told that somehow we need to raise the application age to 67 from 65. In fact, studies and responsible people have shown that is not necessary, that we can maintain the level at age 65.

It is quite ironic that at a time when this economic impact is being felt around the world, France is going to actually lower old age security for its citizens, not raising it as we are doing in Canada.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from British Columbia for sharing his insights and also those of his constituents. We come here to represent our constituents. I asked one of the Conservatives earlier for comments on what the Prime Minister had said about representing constituents when he stood up, when he was opposition leader, and said that this was wrong, that this was anti-democratic. We know that one of the B.C. MPs from the government side tried to do the same and represent his constituents and we know what happened there.

This is about the fundamentals of democracy when we have a bill this size and we are asked as parliamentarians to go over it and assure our constituents that we have done everything we can do with due diligence. I would like the member's comments as to what he thinks this is doing to our parliamentary democracy, to representative democracy, and what it is doing to the role of the MP as we ensure we are representing our constituents. What does this bill do to that job?

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Ottawa for his very pertinent and wise comments. To answer his question in a nutshell, this is making a mockery of the parliamentary process. This bill is making a mockery of the democratic process, in spite of what those people over there say. They take so much legislation, ram it into over 400 pages of a budget bill then we are told to vote on it and if we do not vote for it, we are somehow not acting in the best interests of Canada. The bill should be split. There should be a discussion on each of the important aspects. Democracy is about that. This is not democracy and we are losing that.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, what does my colleague think about the fact that the government members talk with such pride about what is in this bill, yet they are not letting Canadians take the time to understand exactly what they are doing with those 70 pieces of legislative change that are being proposed in the bill? What does that say about how proud the Conservatives are of what they are doing?

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Madam Speaker, my immediate reaction is that the Conservatives are not very proud of what they are doing. Otherwise, they would allot time for this.

As I mentioned earlier, when we have four former cabinet ministers, two of the them in the Progressive Conservative Party, who are asking what the Conservatives are doing in the whole area of the Fisheries Act, then something is wrong. These people should be appearing before committees and explaining their view. This should be taken right across the country. None of this is happening and this is totally undemocratic and a threat to our parliamentary system.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am proud to be here to speak in favour of Bill C-38. As I do, I reflect on much of the debate that has gone on, not just tonight, but the constant hours and hours of debate that have gone on in the finance committee. The amount of time that has been allocated to the bill and is still yet to come is unprecedented.

I find as I listen to colleagues opposite, while I have great regard for them, I hear more questions about the process than I do about actual questions about the budget. Therefore, it strikes me that while at one point there is a lot of broad talk about the importance of being able to ensure that we spend more time talking about the budget, it feels more like talking about talking. That is the concern I have.

Members in the House have heard me say in the past a great comment that my Cape Breton mom used to say, “After it's all said and done, there's a lot more said than done”. I really feel in some respects that this is what we have as this circle goes around and around.

In my city of London, in my riding of London West, people are concerned about their families and the economy. I get comments about how the Conservatives have handled that relatively well in the worst recession in all of our lifetimes, not just in the House, but Canadians throughout the country. We weathered that with high marks. We have created some 750,000 jobs, most of them full-time since that time as well. That is positive. We have the strongest financial institutions in the world. We are the envy of the G20 countries.

It would be great if I could ask members opposite to come forward and say that they are proud of this as well because there are some things that we do that we can take pride in as a country. We have those opportunities. There are rare times when members come together in solidarity and say “This is something that matters to us”. We respect the importance of Canadian workers, the people who are trying to do the best they can for their families.

There is a greater optimism now than there has been in some time. There are a lot of countries in the world, tragically, that we are glad we are not there because their tragedy and their stories are very suspect. I think their futures are much more bleak than Canada. I have great optimism for Canada, so I would invite members opposite to share some of that optimism.

I have some formal comments I would like to make because I think that is all part of this process as we try to get into some of the specifics of it.

The bill in front of us, Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, is intended to bring into force significant measures that we have introduced to ensure the long-term strength and sustainability of Canada's economy and its finances. Despite what others would say, these are measures that are decisive, effective and above all, fair.

It is said that if one wants to anticipate how one acts in the future, then look how they have acted in the past. I am exceptionally pleased and proud of how the government has respected our seniors. One just has to look at some of the incredibly positive benefits the government has provided seniors since coming to government, all to make the point that there is no greater respect than honouring those who have built our country and given us the many opportunities that all of us enjoy today.

I am honoured that our government introduced, then doubled the pension income credits for seniors to $2,000. The most dramatic benefit for married seniors has come in the form of pension income splitting, allowing Canadian seniors who receive qualifying pension income to allocate to their spouse, or common law partner with whom they reside, up to one-half of that income. That is phenomenal.

The government increased the age limit for converting RRSPs to RIFs. The tax-free savings account, or TFSA, is one of the most tax-effective and novel ways for seniors, in fact for all Canadians, to benefit. Canadians currently benefit from a retirement income system that is recognized around the world as a model that succeeds in helping Canadian seniors and we want to keep it that way for future generations.

That is why this bill, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, would ensure that it remains that way now and, frankly, for generations to come. We took action in this regard because quite simply, the old age security program was designed for a different time.

Let me give some background. Most members of the House will realize this and some will have to read it in the history books because they are a little younger than others. However, we have very bright young members who would get this. In the 1970s there were seven workers for every one person over the age of 65. In 20 years, there will only be two.

In 1970, life expectancy was age 69 for men and age 76 for women. Today, it is age 79 for men and age 83 for women. At the same time, Canada's birth rate is falling.

The good news about these statistics, though, is that Canadians are living longer and healthier lives, but there are fewer workers to take their place when they retire.

Here is the reality: Canada has changed. Therefore, old age security must change with it if it is to serve the purpose for which it was intended while remaining sustainable and reflecting evolving demographic realities.

If we were to remain complacent in the face of these developments, it would be financially unsupportable in the long term. The cost of the OAS program is scheduled to rise from $38 billion in 2011 to $108 billion in 2030. Clearly that is not sustainable, and not acting for Canadian taxpayers who expect this benefit when they retire would be economically irresponsible. In a caring country committed to its people, the government has an obligation to balance care and cost.

It is important for members of this House to realize that the OAS program is already the single largest program of the Government of Canada.

A recent National Post editorial stated:

Unlike the CPP, OAS is funded out of general government revenues, and will eat up more and more tax dollars as Baby Boomers enter their senior years.... That is not something that we can afford to ignore.

I would just challenge members. If they have never read the book Boom, Bust & Echo, which talks about the demographic reality, the changes that are coming through, such that the baby boomer generation is the one that is going to create the greatest demands on our social system, I would encourage them to read it just to give them some of the background. I think it would help all of us to understand better.

With the passage of Canada's jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, the age of eligibility for OAS and the GIS would be gradually increased from the age of 65 to the age of 67, starting in April 2023, with full implementation by January 2029. It is intended in that way to give the gentlest implementation and give a lot of advance notice for people to be able to plan and prepare. This change would not affect anyone who is 54 years of age older as of March 21, 2012. I feel it is a responsible and measured approach for taxpayers, particularly with those who have an expectation of these benefits and who expect and deserve no less.

To improve flexibility and choice for those wishing to work longer, our government will also allow for the voluntary deferral of the OAS for up to five years, starting July 1, 2013. This would provide the option for people to defer take-up on the OAS to a later time and receive a higher annual actuarially-adjusted pension as a result. The adjusted pension would be calculated on an actuarially neutral basis, as is done with the Canada pension plan.

This would mean that on average, individuals would receive the same lifetime OAS, whether they choose to take it up at the earliest stage of eligibility or defer it to a later year. The annual pension would be higher if they choose to defer. GIS benefits, which provide additional support to the lowest-income seniors, will not be eligible for actuarial adjustment.

These sorts of changes are in keeping with international best practices, as many OECD member countries have recently planned or are announcing increases to the eligibility ages for their public pensions and social security programs, including—and this is a long list—Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

However, these are not the only areas where Bill C-38 would implement improvements to OAS.

The bill would also improve the way we administer OAS for Canada's seniors, while at the same time generating operational savings. The act would do so by putting in place a proactive enrolment regime that would eliminate the need for many seniors to apply for OAS and GIS. This measure would reduce the burden on seniors of completing application processes and it would reduce the government's administrative costs. What a boon that is going to be to seniors.

With the passage Bill C-38, proactive enrolment will be implemented under a phased-in approach from 2013 to 2016.

It is interesting that Gordon Pape, the noted financial columnist, also applauded this move, calling it:

...a welcome elimination of bureaucratic red tape that should have the effect of putting a lot more money into the hands of seniors....This means that many people will no longer have to apply for benefits when they turn 65 – the payments will come automatically. The potential gain for seniors is huge.

The federal government's task force on financial literacy reported that an estimated 160,000 seniors who qualify for old age security are not receiving benefits because they have not submitted a formal application. The loss in pre-tax income to these people is almost $1 billion.

However, the changes that simplify—

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I regret the hon. member's time has elapsed. Perhaps he can complete it with questions and comments.

The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, the member is often noted for being reasonable, so I ask, when looking at such a bill as this budget implementation bill—or, as it has been called, the Trojan Horse bill—which contains changes to 70 pieces of legislation, would the member not agree that it would at least be reasonable to separate those pieces of legislation so that they could go into the appropriate committees to get the proper review and expertise?

This is obviously something that we as the official opposition had proposed as reasonable for an omnibus bill that is so huge and so far-reaching in its changes. Would the member not agree that it is reasonable to request that the bill be studied at committees that have the appropriate expertise to look at and comment on these changes?

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Madam Speaker, as I think about the question, it reminds me a bit of the situation when the Minister of Justice put forward the Safe Streets and Communities Act. It was a compilation of some eight different bills.

At that time, members opposite said that if we broke this down into individual bills, perhaps they might be able to support some of these things. Here is the challenge: every one of those bills had gone in front of Parliament and every one of them was rejected by the opposition.

Therefore, it strikes me that while perhaps it is a noble thought at one level, I frankly do not believe that the result would be any different from what it is today. Every aspect of the bill that is in place relates to financial issues, and I think it really does show a very clear path of where the government is going.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my friend and colleague across the way.

I would like to be clear also. The government's raising of the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 years is not necessary and is not needed to maintain the sustainability of the old age security.

Experts from the OECD, leading universities and the government itself have all said that our OAS program does not face major challenges and that there is no pressing need for change. Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer says that the OAS is sustainable. Payments today cost 2.4% of our national GDP; when the baby boomers max out in 2031, it will climb to 3.1% and then drop off again.

Why is the government refusing to listen to its own experts and creating a false crisis?

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friend from Etobicoke North for posing that question. I think it is an important question, and let me explain why.

I explained in my comments earlier that the CPP is funded through employer and employee contributions. It is through that process that we come up with the funding that is available. However, the funds that are available to support OAS and GIS come from general tax revenues. In other words, there is no magic base of premium incomes to do that.

As I indicated, in 20 years the costs will go from $38 billion to $108 billion of taxpayer money, so with a modest, slight adjustment—and we are asking for a modest accommodation from folks who will eventually get to that senior group—we are going to ensure that we sustain a program for people's retirement that will allow them to live in dignity and that will show respect to them. That adjustment is the key to that outcome.

I would hope that members opposite appreciate that when prices triple in such a very short period of time, it is just a demographic issue. Again, I will reintroduce the name of that book, Boom, Bust & Echo, for their consideration as well.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, an auto analyst once said that the future of the auto industry is the six inches between our ears. It is our ability to innovate and think long range. That is a key pillar of our budget and the necessary architecture to implement it.

Can the member talk about innovation and how it is going to drive long-term economic prosperity?

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting. In my former life, when I was in the insurance business and specifically in employee benefits and pensions, one of my dear colleagues once said that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have a circumstance with the government where, frankly, we are allowed to be a little hopeful that our economy is getting stronger in a world where the economy has some great challenges worldwide. We can be proud of that, and innovation has a very direct impact on that. We will see that the government's commitment to innovation across various departments will help sustain us as we go forward.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, right off the top I would like to address the conflict and divisiveness that is being created at this very moment when households across this country have to choose between watching the awarding of the Stanley Cup or listening to the comments presented by the member for Cape Breton—Canso.

Congratulations to Darryl Sutter and Dustin Brown, captain of the L.A. Kings. I heard second-hand that they ended up beating New Jersey tonight, so congratulations to the 18 Canadians on that team. Way to go.

There are any number of issues that I could address during this budget discussion. One is certainly the cuts to ACOA of $19 million over the coming years.

There are the cuts to the regional development authorities, groups that have done so much for their various communities and contributed in many different ways to programs and projects over the years. They are being cut.

We are seeing regional offices of Veterans Affairs being shut down in Sydney and Charlottetown and being centralized. If we owe anything to anybody, it is the veterans of this nation. We at least owe them the courtesy of being able to meet with a live person to discuss their files and current challenges. That is being taken away from them through the measures within this budget.

I could talk about the OAS and how the changes to the OAS in this budget are going to disproportionately impact the poorest in our country: disabled persons and persons who live close to the poverty line. It is not only those who live in poverty, but those with low-income households and single mothers. Those who most need that support will be the ones most impacted by these changes to the OAS. I could talk about that, but I am going to limit my comments to five letters. The first three letters will be DFO and the last two letters will be EI.

My riding of Cape Breton—Canso is a coastal community, and it has been seized by both of these issues. I heard a government member say the Conservatives have done what they said they were going to do and the government has delivered what it said it was going to deliver. I know that in 2008 they identified in their platform that they were going to bring forward a new Fisheries Act in 2008. They are in a majority position now and pretty much ram through whatever they want. This piece of legislation is its marquee case in point.

They could have brought forward a Fisheries Act, but instead lumped all of this stuff together—the environment, natural resources, the fisheries. Changes to the application of the Fisheries Act are going to be felt in fishing communities right across this country, and not only by coastal communities but by communities on inland waters as well.

A couple of the changes to DFO are certainly cause for alarm when we look at what the Conservatives have done with the science branches and science within DFO. Regardless of the species, we know that the health of the stocks, the biomass and the exploitation rate are generated and driven by pure science. If the Conservatives do not have access to the science, the health of our sustainable fishery will be put in question going forward. That is something we should all be very concerned about.

With regard to enforcement, we know that front-line officers are being taken out of regional offices. I spoke with my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour about something we were made aware of last week, the change in policy whereby DFO is no longer going to require lobster fishermen to buy tags because there is nobody in the offices to sell and administer them. The government is going to stop the practice of selling tags. The lobster traps are not going to be tagged, yet what the lobster fishermen have done over the last generations is put in place conservation practices that have sustained that fishery and those communities by having that fishery.

One thing that has been a key component of those conservation methods is a limited number of traps per fisherman. When the fisheries officers do pull a trap, if they are not marked, how would they know who owns that trap? That is an obvious step backward in conservation in what should be a move toward further sustainability in those fisheries. We have seen that.

The most egregious one that really gets the hackles up on anybody is this. I have a great number of friends who are progressive Conservatives. They are good people and they want to see people succeed and prosper. St. John's, Newfoundland, long before oil and gas, was the hub of finance for the Atlantic coast fishery. That is where people came and did their trade. Fish were bought and sold. Certainly, DFO has a long history and long presence in St. John's, Newfoundland. The government is taking 28 jobs out of St. John's, Newfoundland, and moving them to Fredericton, New Brunswick, which is the only constituency in Atlantic Canada that does not have a wharf. Coincidentally though, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is from Fredericton, New Brunswick. I am sure there are Reformers over on that bench who, when they heard that, wanted to take a shower. That was so cheap and tawdry that the Conservatives should apologize to the good people of Newfoundland for taking on such an activity. They should be embarrassed. I hope that the Reformers in that caucus would address that particular move.

If Loyola Hearn were in this House, that would not happen. Those jobs would still be in St. John's, Newfoundland. Loyola Hearn would not let that happen. I guess it is a penalty for not electing Loyola Sullivan.

The other two letters are EI. We know that the changes to this EI system are nothing short of an attack on rural Canada, on seasonal industries. What they are doing is robbing a group of industries. Seasonal industries contribute about 26% of the GDP of this country. That is seasonal industries, such as tourism, forestry, the fishery, contractors and construction workers. It is about 26% of the GDP. What these measures under this bill would do is rob those industries of a pool of labour going forward. I will just typify this.

We all have landscapers in our communities. Fifteen years ago, anybody with a half-ton truck and wheelbarrow was a landscaper. That industry has come so far now that they have red seal approval, so they have attracted people and professionals to the industry and we see that in the projects they create and the job they do. It is a very professional organization. They know that these changes would steer people into other professions that will steer them away from landscaping. This is just one small seasonal industry. Even more so than the workers who would be chased out of rural communities, it is the industries and the communities that are driven by these industries that would pay the price for the changes in the EI system.

They made a couple of good changes. Had this been a smaller bill or legislation coming forward and if they had debated the EI changes in this House, I think we could have done something to make it better for all Canadians.

I look forward to any questions.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciated my colleague's very entertaining speech at this late hour.

The Conservatives are talking about natural resources, but they need to expand their definition of that term, and I think my colleague could enlighten them with his wise remarks in that regard. Indeed, natural resources are not just minerals, oil and natural gas, but they also include our forests, our lakes and our fish. Natural resources include more than what the government would have Canadians believe, that is, just oil, gas and minerals. They also include Canada's nature and our environment. I wonder if my colleague could enlighten this government as to what a natural resource is.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member made a valid point.

It was interesting to note that when the Minister of Finance appeared at the finance committee and he was asked about the components that apply to natural resources, he said it was not his responsibility. In defending the budget, the Minister of Finance was not able to respond to components of the budget that were included in the omnibus budget because they were not within his purview.

My colleague addressed one of the major concerns that has been identified throughout this debate this evening, and that is that there has just been so much rammed into the budget. This could have been eight different bills and they still would have been big bills to deal with.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to give my hon. friend some data. 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 industrialized nations on environmental performance. I could give 2010 and 2011 data that is similar.

The hon. Thomas Sidden has repeatedly voiced concerns regarding Bill C-38. He said the government is totally watering down and emasculating the Fisheries Act. The government is making Swiss cheese out of it.

I am wondering if the hon. member could comment on the Conservatives' repeated failing grade on the environment.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, one thing I can say with great certainty is that is the first time I have ever been asked a question by somebody who won a Nobel Prize. It is very similar to the question that has been asked by my NDP colleague.

If one can throw enough in, if one can slough enough off, then one does not have to answer the tough questions. One does not have to get into any kind of detail. One views the issues from 36,000 feet. If one lumps enough in, that is going to be the end result. That is what we are seeing in this case.

Whether we want to talk about the fishery or the environment, the state of the water or the state of our oceans, they are all connected to the health of the resource. As they are masked inside this legislation, it does all of those sectors a great disservice.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, we know how much is in this bill. Up to 70 bills would be changed by this omnibus bill. It would change the face of the country.

The hon. member spoke about the effects on the Fisheries Act. I am wondering if he could briefly talk about the kind of consultation that happened either in his riding or in Atlantic Canada or even across the country on the specific changes to section 35, which is fundamental to the protection of fish habitat, which is the trigger for environmental reviews.

Report StageJobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I spent some time together on the fisheries and oceans committee. He knows that would have been the place for any changes in the fishery.

The Conservatives had said in 2008 that they wanted to bring forward a new fisheries act. When my colleague from Halifax was Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, he was charged with the same responsibility. Now that there is a majority government, this would be the time to do that, bring it to the fisheries committee and deal with those issues, but in a budget bill? No, we are hurting the people it impacts most.