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

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are now at the report stage. I am very sad to say that the Government of Canada has been totally deaf to our entreaties to reconsider its outrageously anti-democratic approach to the budget implementation bill, an approach which will have profound implications for our country. Simply stated, the Conservative government has said to Canadians, “This is how we do things and that is the way it is going to be”. It brings to mind the schoolyard bully who never felt the need to explain his actions but just went ahead and did what he wanted to do.

However, I have news for the government. Canadians do not like it and they are waking up to the way the government is doing things. Who would have thought that Canadians would be familiar with procedures such as prorogation or time allocation during debates or the use of in camera in committees? Slowly but surely, Canadians are beginning to understand these procedures and beginning to question what the government meant when it promised, six and a half years ago, to be open, transparent and, most of all, accountable. I believe Canadians are beginning to feel that there is a contradiction between what has been promised and what is actually being done by the government.

It has come to this. All the opposition parties have been asking the government from the start to split the enormous, 425-page Bill C-38. That way, the changes that are not directly or even indirectly related to the budget but that will have significant consequences on our country could be addressed separately.

I am talking about the changes that affect the way we assess the environmental risks associated with developing our natural resources. I am talking about changes to the Fisheries Act, which will put endangered species at greater risk of extinction. I am also talking about changes to the criteria for old age security, or the OAS eligibility age, which will go from 65 to 67 as of 2023.

In our analysis, we found that this change is not necessary and that the Canadian economy has the means to allow Canadians to receive old age security at 65. In any event, is this change proposed by the government so urgent for the economy that we need to include it in this budget bill? Why does this change not merit its own bill?

The same can be said about the unprecedented changes to employment insurance, which could result in significant changes in the regions, especially those where seasonal employment is the norm. These are unprecedented changes and the federal government has not even taken the time to consult the provinces, which could be hard hit by a decline in population or an increase in requests for social assistance.

In all, more than 60 pieces of legislation would be modified, created or deleted by Bill C-38. The government's only argument for charging ahead is that the economy is fragile and it cannot wait. This is, of course, preposterous since many of the changes in the bill are not remotely time critical or, in many cases, even related to what we would expect in a budget implementation plan. Old age security changes would be 11 years away. Why do the Conservatives think they can behave this way? And will somebody in the government explain to me why Canada's economic stability is critically dependent on changes to the Fisheries Act being implemented immediately?

We live in a democracy. In democracies, even those with majority governments, there is a proper way to enact legislation and it is not by cramming a very large number of pieces of legislation into a single bill.

I would like to repeat an important point. Not only should Bill C-38 be split into several bills dealing with the environment, fisheries, employment insurance and old age security, among other things, but a government committed to working with the provinces would have consulted them before going ahead with Bill C-38, a bill that will definitely affect the provinces.

Unfortunately, this government ignores everyone and consults no one. This was the case recently with the premiers of the Atlantic provinces on the issue of employment insurance and with the National Assembly last Friday, which once again voted unanimously on changes to employment insurance.

We in the Liberal Party knew from the beginning that the government would not suddenly become reasonable. It is simply not its style. We knew that its members would charge blindly ahead with no intention to listen to reason or to compromise and damn the torpedoes. For that reason we decided that in addition to speaking out loudly and clearly about the government's abuse of democracy, we needed also to maximize the effectiveness of our procedural tactics. If I may say, here the Liberals have quite a bit of experience. We did try to propose substantive amendments to Bill C-38 in committee, but they were rejected. The government simply refused to listen. The result is that we introduced 503 report stage amendments to delete clauses that we felt were unacceptable to this bill.

In addition to this, we worked closely with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and told her we would support any substantive amendments that she proposed and with which we agreed.

I recognize that the Conservative government has the majority of seats in the House of Commons. I respect that reality. Ultimately, that allows it to do what it wishes. However, that does not mean that ignoring the arguments raised by opposition parties is the smart way to behave, given that opposition parties sometimes propose sensible amendments to government bills. In fact, one might argue that a smart majority government will occasionally listen to the opposition parties and sometimes put a little water in its wine. That is a smart move. It is viewed not so much as a concession or a surrender, but more as a willingness to work together, something Canadians admire and expect from their politicians. So far, this has not happened, but it is not too late.

If this government is willing to listen and make compromises, we could work together in the interest of Canadians.

My party is prepared to vote right now on the parts of Bill C-38 that are related to the budget, but the clauses in Bill C-38 that have no direct bearing on the budget should be removed. The government should not be trying to hide important changes to Canada's legislation in this bill.

The Prime Minister did not raise the issue of changing the age of old age security in the last election. He did not talk about overhauling the environmental assessment regulations and legislation or the Fisheries Act. He never mentioned important changes that were coming for employment insurance. These require fulsome debate as well as consultation with the provinces.

I close by appealing to the government to listen to reason. At the end of the day, it can get a great majority of what it wants. However, what it needs to remember is that Canadians will judge it by the way it goes about it.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I understand that seasonal industries are an incredibly important part of the economy, not just of Atlantic Canada but right across this country from coast to coast. The changes buried within this budget bill would have a significant impact on access to labour for those people who run businesses in seasonal industries, such as forestry, tourism, agriculture, the fishery and construction. We have heard right across this country that the end result would be a depleted pool of skilled labour for those industries.

I am wondering if my colleague could comment on this. There is a total lack of consultation. If there was a bit of consultation, might we be able to avert the negative impact it would have on those seasonal industries?

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the changes to EI being proposed in the budget implementation plan, which were suddenly inserted at the very last minute and for which there was very little detail, which we had to push the government to provide, would have a profound impact on certain parts of this country, particularly for those where employment is seasonal.

At the very least, this extremely complex question, which could result in the depopulation of certain areas and could be a greater burden on the provinces with respect to paying welfare, would have a profound transformational effect and, frankly, simply looks like a policy designed to pull people away from certain regions so that they go to other areas where there is a need for labour. This kind of profound change requires consultation, not only in this House of Commons where we should have had a fulsome debate as a separate bill, but more primarily with the provinces.

We heard the four Atlantic provincial premiers express their concerns. We heard l'Assemblée nationale du Québec last week unanimously vote against these EI changes. That really was a statement more about the fact that they were not being consulted.

Yes, this would have profound ramifications for Canada. The government should have consulted.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of questions for my colleague.

Is the hon. member aware that the last three budget implementation acts in the last three years have been larger? Is he aware that there has been more study on this legislation than on any bill in 20 years? Is he also aware that there is an excellent summary at the very start of this legislation that talks about each change?

I think members can actually look at the changes and if something perks their interest they can look at the details.

Would the member not agree that our government is behaving very responsibly, as compared to the Liberal government of the 1990s? We have committed within this budget to maintain health care transfers to the provinces at record levels and have made a long-term commitment, as opposed to the Liberal cuts, to health care, which impacted the provinces in a significant way.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, if one looks at the length of budget implementation bills, one gets a very misleading picture of the situation. It is the breadth of what it entails. Even if one looks at the length and at the last 22 budget implementation bills, on average, the Conservatives' implementation bills are three times longer. I have done the math and that is the situation.

I want to get back to the breadth of the bill. The breadth of this bill is staggering and cannot remotely be linked to important budgetary changes that need to be done at this time to protect a fragile recovery. The point here is the breadth of the bill. It touches 70 acts of Parliament, either deleting them, modifying them or in some cases creating new ones.

One clause, clause 52, would create an environmental assessment act, 2012, for Canada, and runs for 30 pages. That is what we are concerned about here today, not the length of the document.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the past few weeks, parliamentarians have been invited to look into the massive so-called “budget bill”. And, as we have been saying for weeks now, this bill is a real Trojan Horse.

It has all sorts of provisions that will have an impact on everything, from old age security, food inspection and healthcare transfers right through to immigration. Of course, one third of this Trojan Horse bill includes significant changes to environmental protection regulations.

In short, this bill repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and, as a result, cancels all international accountability measures on climate change. Briefly once again, this bill repeals the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and, as a result, allows the Conservatives to considerably weaken the assessment system. So, in a nutshell, this bill dismantles the measures that were implemented to protect our environment and turns its back on climate change.

Just imagine what the rest of this bill contains. It is over 400 pages long and amends 60 different pieces of legislation, rescinding half a dozen and adding three, including a complete overhaul of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

I want to stress that the short title of the bill, “jobs, growth and long-term prosperity”, does not reflect its content. First, much of the bill has nothing to do with the budget and, second, the bill is about austerity. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has confirmed that public sector job cuts will be in the order of 26,800 over the next three years. In addition, about 6,000 contract positions are being cut. The government has refused to detail where many of these cuts will be made but many of the services and programs that Canadians rely upon will be diminished or eliminated.

It also seems clear that, since our economic recovery has stalled and in the face of global economic uncertainty, the last thing we need are further cutbacks, which will be a further drag on the overall economy.

Have we gained new jobs from the very depths of the economic downturn in 2008-09? Yes, of course. However, since the employment rate fell dramatically by 2.5% of the working age population at that time, it has only rebounded by 0.6%. Only about one-fifth of the labour market damage from the recession has been repaired. Between one in four or one in three net new jobs created in Canada from the end of 2007 to the end of 2011 went to temporary foreign workers. We have still not recovered from the lost jobs and we have not kept up with population growth.

However, the changes in the bill to employment insurance, rather than helping Canadian families adjust to a chronic shortage of jobs in most parts of the country, seem designed to compel them to abandon their skills in a rush to take any job at all. What a waste of skills at a time when Canada needs vision and leadership to help us transition to a more modern and environmentally sustainable economy.

We have somewhat succeeded in opening the debate. The minister finally clarified, in a way, what she has in store for employment insurance, but that cannot replace the normal democratic process.

Even though the Prime Minister has expressed opposition to omnibus bills in the past, the Conservatives do not seem too concerned about them today. But this bill is different. For many of the measures proposed, this is the first time we are hearing about them being in the bill. However, despite the bill's scope, the government is determined to pass it as quickly as possible, without consulting Canadians and their members of Parliament, and without having the bill carefully examined by experts and other stakeholders.

Conservative commentator, Andrew Coyne, wrote in the National Post:

Not only does this make a mockery of the confidence convention, shielding bills that would otherwise be defeatable within a money bill, which is not: It makes it impossible to know what Parliament really intended by any of it. We’ve no idea whether MPs supported or opposed any particular bill in the bunch, only that they voted for the legislation that contained them. There is no common thread that runs between them, no overarching principle; they represent not a single act of policy, but a sort of compulsory buffet.

But there is something quite alarming about Parliament being obliged to rubber-stamp the government’s whole legislative agenda at one go.

That was said by a Conservative commentator, and I could not agree more.

The Conservatives' approach is very worrisome. The official opposition has tried to work with the government to split the bill and allow the various measures to be debated more substantively and studied more carefully within the proper committees. The Conservatives refused.

We have asked for enough time to study the bill within the Standing Committee on Finance. The Conservatives gave us only four minutes per clause. And they refused to give us more time when witnesses representing both sides were unable to attend the meetings, whose schedule was strictly controlled by the Conservatives. This reduced the time for debate even more.

The finance subcommittee set up to study part 3 of the bill had just 12 hours to hear from witnesses on a wide variety of changes to environmental regulation and changes impacting our fisheries and species at risk, including an entirely rewritten environmental assessment act. Our colleagues on the subcommittee reported that hearings were often rushed, often interrupted, that consultation was extremely limited and that a lack of opportunity to draw on the expertise of the standing committees on environment, fisheries and natural resources prevented a proper and robust evaluation of the proposals in the bill.

I regret to say that our experience in the finance committee was much the same. The extremely tight timeline made it impossible for several witnesses to appear, which significantly cut down on our hearing time. Some witnesses, who did appear but did not support the government's position, often had their testimony dismissed. One economist had his work dismissed as garbage, and Paul Kennedy, who spent 20 years in the area of national security and who served as a senior assistant to the deputy minister of public safety, had his testimony dismissed as simply wrong. His error. He voiced concern over the impact of the elimination of the position of the inspector general of CSIS.

Canadians have every right to expect that their government will listen to the public. The New Democrats were listening, both at committee and at public hearings across the county. We heard from Dr. Haggie, of the Canadian Medical Association, who warned that raising the age of eligibility for old age security was certain to have a negative impact. He emphasized that gnawing away at Canada's social safety net would no doubt force hard choices on some of tomorrow's seniors. The choice between whether to buy groceries or buy their medicine will, in the end, put a greater burden on our health care system.

We heard from a number of experts who warned that the proposed changes to employment insurance would contribute to a low wage policy by forcing people to take significant pay cuts or be cut off from the benefits they paid into. One, Professor Marjorie Griffin Cohen, said:

Going from making $14 or $15 an hour to making $10.25, the minimum wage, makes a very huge difference for women. We see that this legislation will contribute to a low-wage policy, and already the vast majority of low-wage workers are women, so these policies will affect them. I would like the committee to understand that.

Last fall, I spoke with one of my constituents who came to Ottawa to protest peacefully on Parliament Hill against the government's inaction on climate change. She is in her sixties and had never participated in civil disobedience or been arrested but she felt so strongly that Canada was going down the wrong path and that the government was not listening, she felt she had to do something, so she travelled to Ottawa to make her voice heard. This person is not a radical. Is it radical to believe that government policy should involve public debate. In a democracy, this should be commonplace but the Conservatives are determined to shut down debate.

We have fought tooth and nail every step of the way to have debate on the bill. We will continue to do so. That is why we brought witnesses forward to the finance committee and subcommittee. That is why we held hearings across the country. We are trying to make it clear that we do not want the government to balance its books on the backs of seniors and to make clear that massive changes to EI should only come after a substantive debate.

We want to provide an opportunity for all Canadians to have their voices heard on this important bill which would have very real impacts on them now and on generations forward.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know how hard my colleague from Parkdale—High Park works and how hard other members of the NDP as well as all opposition parties have worked on the bill at committee. They diligently and in total good faith tried to find a way to split the bill to ensure there would be overall examination.

Even yesterday, coming back from my riding, people were drawing to my attention various things in the bill that are still being discovered. There is still very little known about the changes.

One of the particular concerns I have is the change to the health care funding formula. As we know, the Conservatives unilaterally changed the health care funding formula to the provinces. This will have a huge impact on health care in the future in Canada. I wonder if the member could comment on that because I know it is an aspect of the bill that probably has not had the in-depth review and coverage that it needs to have, which is precisely why we needed to have much further examination of the bill.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right that in this massive omnibus bill of 753 clauses, one small part of it attempts to lock in the take-it-or-leave-it offer from the government to the provinces for the future of health care funding.

There will be increases to funding going forward, but over time they will continue to be less than the cost of inflation, less than growth, less than population growth. What we are going to see over time is like a noose around the neck of the provinces that will gradually squeeze them on health care costs.

Canadians are going to see the impact of this on their health care services. Will there be more privatization? Will more services be cut?

We think that this is a very dangerous step forward, and it has been done with a take-it-or-leave-it offer rather than through a collaborative approach of working with the provinces that deliver health care.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this debate now for quite some time. What escapes my understanding is that this budget was tabled in the House in March, close to three months ago. I have just checked with the parliamentary secretary to my right, and the committee and subcommittee have held over 70 hours of meetings and have had over 100 witnesses come in front of committee. All I hear from the opposition is “process, process, process”.

The opposition members do not actually talk about what is in the budget, and that is the most important part. When Canadians look overseas and see what is happening in Europe, Spain, Greece and other countries, they are worried about jobs and the economy, and what is going to make our economy stronger is contained within the budget.

What do we not hear from the opposition? We do not hear what is actually in the budget to strengthen our economy.

Enough with the process. I would like the opposition members to talk about what is in the budget and how it will move Canada forward in terms of strengthening its economy.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, there we have it. Suddenly democracy, this House and the public debate are dismissed as “process”.

I have to say how profoundly offensive that is, because we have, for example, changes that will result in people being in poverty or being forced onto welfare, and we have not had open discussion and debate. The government did not even talk to the Atlantic premiers before tabling these changes on EI, changes that will have a drastic impact on seasonal workers in those provinces.

To dismiss this as “process”, to me, is profoundly offensive. Democracy is what this House is about. It is not just about process. It is about what we do here and why we are elected.

I am proud to stand with my NDP colleagues and I will defend democracy. I will defend open debate. I defy any member of the Conservative Party to say otherwise, to say that we should not be defending democracy, parliamentary debate and open hearings with Canadians.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak at report stage on Bill C-38, a bill that many other colleagues in the House have accurately described as an affront to democracy.

I heard my hon. colleague say that somehow we, in the opposition benches, should speak to the content of the bill. I propose to do so, but I also must point out that it is the appropriate role of the Parliament of Canada to review legislation. It is not a mere process that gets in the way of the grand aims of the particular Conservative who is ruling Privy Council. The role of Parliament is, at its essence, to review legislation.

In this case we have before us a bill of over 420 pages repealing, amending and changing over 70 different laws. We now have before us hundreds of amendments grouped into 159 votes, but we know that this legislation will not receive adequate review.

I am going to direct my comments to those aspects of part 3 that are changed in Bill C-38, but I note that my amendments cover things that are changed in part 1 under the Income Tax Act, changed roles that are important, for instance, for the various agencies that are being ended, such as the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which does not end up in part 3, which is generally reviewed as the environmental changes that are hidden within Bill C-38.

There are many changes within this legislation that will have long-term, serious and negative repercussions for Canada, for Canada's society and, yes, for Canada's economy. It is a false piece of rhetoric.

We have to beware. I do not like to be Biblical very often, but let us beware of the wages of spin. We are told a lot of spin in the House all the time, told that this is going to bring great jobs and prosperity. By asserting our rights to examine Bill C-38, we are not threatening the economy; we are trying to protect the integrity of Canadian institutions and our ability to forge policies that protect the environment and develop our resources at the same time.

In that light, I want to turn to some of the evidence we heard. I was not a member of the subcommittee on finance, but at its essence the repeal of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is appalling. It has served Canada since 1993 and was working well up until these amendments, according to industry sources I have already cited in this House. We will repeal, under Bill C-38, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and we will see a whole new act in its place.

That new act, on the basis of expert evidence to the subcommittee on finance, will not work well. It will not work well for proponents who want to build projects. It will not work well for Canadians, who have an interest in the proceedings and wish to come forward to present their concerns. It will definitely not work well in respect to first nations and their inherent and treaty rights, which the federal government has an obligation, a fiduciary duty, to respect, as numerous court decisions make clear. As well, It will not work well for industry.

We have an entirely new scheme of legislation put forward without adequate review. We have had less than 14 hours of hearings, combined, on the changes to the Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act. I do not blame those in the legal departments who drafted this bill, clearly without adequate time and without adequate preparation. The drafters of Bill C-38 have taken a sledgehammer to environmental law and policy that have served this country well for decades, and that sledgehammer approach has left environmental law and policy in ruins.

I hope the Conservative members of Parliament will examine and consider voting in support of the amendments I have put forward today in order to make Bill C-38 serve the purpose they themselves say they want: to protect the environment while pursuing economic development.

In specific cases, the proposed co-called Canadian Assessment Act 2012 fails to define what environmental screening is. It fails to describe what an environmental assessment is. The Conservatives have done so much damage to the scheme of the legislation that they have created new chasms of uncertainty. Anyone who is about to do a project will not be able to tell from reading the new so-called CEAA 2012 what it will cover and what it will not cover.

I have heard the hon. members for Wellington—Halton Hills and Dufferin—Caledon call numerous times on the floor of the House for a federal review of the appalling megaquarry proposed for Melancthon Township, and I applaud them for doing so. However, if Bill C-38 passes, we should watch out. We would not want a federal review. That is the last thing we would want, because the only thing the environmental assessment panel would be able to examine would be the effect of the megaquarry on fish, marine plants and migratory birds.

The essence of the threat posed by the megaquarry is to the water table, to the surrounding farms and to the fertility of the soil, which is absolutely world-beating. No one can grow better potatoes than they do in the soils of that area of Melancthon County, yet if that megaquarry had a federal assessment, it would be restricted to looking at the impact on migratory birds and fish. It has the effect of a sledgehammer.

The witness I want to mention, whose testimony people can read in Hansard, is Stephen Hazell. He worked as a member of the legal staff of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and said exactly this: that this change will lead to greater uncertainty, more economic losses and mistakes that will cost us well into the future.

The same point was made by National Chief Shawn Atleo with the Assembly of First Nations. These changes will lead, in his words, to greater conflict, greater uncertainty, conflicts in the courts and conflicts in terms of direct action. If we are interested in democratic processes that respect all parts of society, this is not the way we want to go when we embark on large new projects.

The other pieces I must speak to in the limited time I have are my amendments, which attempt to repair the damage done by the sledgehammer to the Fisheries Act, particularly subsection 35(1). I know that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, in addressing the House numerous times, has claimed that the municipalities of Canada were clamouring for these changes so that when they installed various municipal works, they would not have to worry about whether there was a habitat for fish in the vicinity. That claim is belied by the vote last weekend in Saskatoon, when the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, representing hundreds of municipalities, passed a resolution on an emergency basis calling upon the Prime Minister to stop, rethink this and remove the Fisheries Act changes.

In the same tone, we have the words of four former fisheries ministers. I can mention their names in this place because they no longer sit among us. They are fine and honourable public servants. They are former fisheries minister Hon. Tom Siddon, the Hon. John Fraser, Hon. Herb Dhaliwal and Hon. David Anderson.

It is not just by chance that I stand here as the only leader of a federal political party from British Columbia. I note that those four former fisheries ministers all hail from British Columbia, where people understand that wild salmon are as important to British Columbians as the French language is to Quebeckers. It is part of who we are as British Columbians to defend our salmon when there could be changes that would allow the wholesale destruction of fish habitat that supports the sockeye, the endangered wild salmon runs and the coho. Why would we make changes in this place that would do such damage to the linchpin of environmental protection in Canada?

Subsection 35(1) of the Fisheries Act does not protect just a few fish. It is a fundamental piece of legislation and is part of federal jurisdiction in the Constitution that leads to the protection of fresh water. It leads to the protection of grizzly habitat, of forests and of ecosystems. Without subsection 35(1) of the Fisheries Act remaining intact, we open up the gangway to reckless destruction not only of our extraordinary natural resources but of nature itself.

We are constantly being told that we have a false choice, that we have to choose hell-bent-for-leather economic development with no attention to what it means to first nations rights and sustainability of natural capital. As I mentioned in the House before, we are told that the planet is a business in liquidation, and everything must go as quickly as possible.

I beg my Conservative colleagues in this place to reflect on the voices of their former colleagues, people like the former member of Parliament for Red Deer, Bob Mills, who pleaded that we keep the national round table, and people like the former fisheries ministers and scientists right across Canada. Report stage is the time to rescue Bill C-38 from being a bill that destroys the environment over the long term to one that respects it.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for her passionate plea. However, I would like to say on behalf of the government that this is not something that was put together at the last moment. This is something we have been working on for many years, so I would hope the member would take much of that into consideration.

However, I do have a couple of questions for my hon. colleague. First and foremost, she spoke at length about many of the environmental assessment measures, et cetera, but I am interested in knowing, on behalf of her riding, how she feels about the integrated cross-border law enforcement operations act. It is important to her riding. Her constituents are waiting to hear from her on this measure. Therefore, I would like her to address it. So far, it has been very well received from all the stakeholders.

The last question I would have for her is this. Is she considering a run for the Liberal leadership given that its members seem to have found their sea legs under her guidance and leadership? I am just curious to know if she has considered it.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I remind my hon. colleague across the way that this kind of approach, making these numerous changes under cover of a budget implementation bill, were once called by her own leader a backdoor way and a dangerous way of proceeding and would certainly not have the support of his party of the day. That was the current Prime Minister speaking in 1994.

I will say to all colleagues, and I know I have limited time for an answer, that I am grateful for the support of the Liberal Party for my motions. I do not for one minute suggest that I will be anything other than the leader of the Green Party of Canada, serving the interests of the voters of Saanich—Gulf Islands, and I believe that the so-called free rider provisions are an intrusion on Canadian sovereignty that should not be allowed.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her speech in defence of democracy and the environment.

It was interesting to hear the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance saying that the government had been working on these ideas for destroying environmental protections for years. I wonder whether you could comment on the timing and urgency now, because it seems to me that part of what this omnibus bill does is facilitate pipelines across northern British Columbia by removing the necessity of environmental assessments? Perhaps you could comment on whether you think the timing of this bill, since the Conservatives have been working on it for years, has some connection to pipelines?

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. Before I go to the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, I would like to remind all members to direct their comments and questions to the Chair rather than to their colleagues.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was also surprised to hear the parliamentary secretary say the Conservatives have been working on these measures for years. Perhaps it was in some back room or some shadowy part of the House of Commons but certainly not before committee and certainly not in any public, transparent or accountable fashion.

Of course, we became aware of the threat to the fisheries habitat through a leaked memo. Having had an alert from a former fisheries' biologist within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Otto Langer, whose concerns were reported in the media, I read the budget very carefully on March 29, in case there was anything there about proposed changes to section 35(1) of the Fisheries Act. It is not mentioned at all in the budget and is not part of a budgetary measure.

In answer to my friend, when we are looking at Bill C-38, I believe that many of the changes could have been written from within the corporate boardrooms of the oil industry, perhaps in Beijing as well as in Canada.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2012 / 1:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her speech and pick up on the theme that was raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

If indeed the government has been working on these changes for years, I am wondering if the member could help us understand why it is that just recently the government dispatched 10 senior cabinet ministers around the country to try to convince Canadians that the environmental assessment process would be capped to two years, only to then have to admit that in fact, when a project proponent delays, the two-year timeline no longer applies.

Maybe the member could help us understand, for example, how that applied in the case of Imperial Oil in the Northwest Territories.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has put the case very well. I will just say that most of the delays we have seen take place in the past, for instance, on large projects such as the review of the Mackenzie gas pipeline, were directly due to the proponent not being ready, and that has created delays.

A lot of us would like to see certainty around reviews, but we want to make sure the proponent cannot rag the puck so long that the process gets delayed and then those interested parties, and in a different category particularly, the first nations interested parties, have to rush to catch up with their analyses when the proponent is responsible for the delay.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, before talking about the clause I am asking to be deleted, I would like to congratulate the leader of the Green Party on the excellent speech she has just made. The Bloc Québécois joins in her argument and is entirely in agreement with her demands regarding this Bill C-38.

Clause 16, the elimination of which I am calling for in the amendment I am proposing, concerns the Governor General. It is unreasonable for the Governor General’s salary to be doubled. About a month and a half ago, I introduced a motion in this House after discovering that the Governor General did not pay income tax. It is unreasonable for him to be the only person in Canada who pays no income tax, when the Queen of England pays tax, as do the governors general in the other Commonwealth countries.

The government agreed with my argument in the last budget: it decided to have him pay income tax. The great injustice is that it decided to double his salary because he is going to be paying income tax. I know of no one in this country, no working person, no member of the general public, who is getting their salary doubled all at once overnight. The government’s argument is that it is going to double the Governor General’s salary because he will be starting to pay income tax like all Canadians. That is absolutely ridiculous. His salary was $137,000 and it is going up to $270,000. The net salary will therefore be higher; that is unreasonable. His pension will also be higher.

The purpose of my motion was to remedy an injustice. Not only is it not being remedied, but a flagrant injustice is being created toward all members of the public, in both Quebec and Canada. Are there working people whose salaries have gone up by 100% in the last year? The government is making cuts everywhere: for seniors, unemployed workers and not-for-profit organizations. Would this not be an excellent opportunity for the government to put an end to this monarchy madness? But doubling the Governor General’s salary because he will be paying income tax in future is not the way to do it.

Note that the Governor General receives a pension equal to 100% of his salary after spending only five years in office. Is there any citizen or worker in Canada who receives that benefit? On average, Canadians work 35 years for a pension of approximately 75% of their salary. Note as well that this is merely an honorary position held for five years. During that term, the Governor General is clothed, transported, housed and fed. He enjoys unlimited international travel and then leaves office with a pension equal to 100% of his salary. He also has 160 people in his service and an annual budget of more than $60 million in cooperation with six departments.

Let us consider the cost of the Senate. It comprises 104 senators and costs $45 million, including staff and everything else. The House of Commons costs approximately $200 million. And it will cost $60 million for this person alone. Is it normal to attach so much importance to this position? I do not believe so.

This would be a good opportunity for the government to require the Governor General to pay income tax on the same salary, to put an end to this monarchy madness in which it has been engaging since the start of the year, and to consider the will of Quebecers and Canadians.

In fact, 80% of Quebeckers and 50% of Canadians in the other provinces would like to sever ties with the monarchy.

I repeat: only 16 Commonwealth countries have maintained this link to the monarchy. It is time this government listened to the population. The Governor General must pay income tax; that is fine, but does it mean that we have to increase his salary by 100%? That is utterly ridiculous.

I do not believe the monarchy is equal to or synonymous with democracy—quite the contrary.

I am going to conclude by saying that, in addition to clause 6 of Bill C-38, which is completely unfair, we also disagree with a number of other provisions. This legislation affects 60 departments. For example, seniors will have to wait two additional years to receive their old age pensions. The changes to employment insurance were made without any consultation, without taking into account the reality of the regions.

The Bank Act is unfair to Quebec. The minister responsible, the federalist Liberal Quebec minister, is preparing to go before the courts. This will be the third or fourth time that the Quebec government has taken such action against this government. It is unacceptable for the federal government to be solely responsible for the Bank Act. It violates Quebec's Public Protector Act. As of 2016, health transfers will be reduced, but there have been no consultations on this.

So, many measures were decided in haste, with few if any consultations, and are being imposed in a 460-page document. That is unusual. It is not normal. That way of doing things is unprecedented. It completely contradicts the spirit of British parliamentarianism which, after all, is one of the noblest forms of parliament among the major democracies. However, we must take the time to debate issues.

In conclusion, I hope that clause 16 will be abolished, or at least amended so that the Governor General's salary remains the same when, in 2013, he begins paying taxes just like every other Canadian.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech, which sums up the Bloc Québécois's position on Bill C-38 very well.

I also want to ask him about his views on the proposed employment insurance reform. This reform is a direct attack on the regions, because it does not take into consideration the reality of seasonal workers in the forestry, tourism, fishery or agriculture sectors. The approach ignores the way the regional economy is structured. The bill attacks the regions by forcing workers to relocate over an hour away from their homes, and by forcing them to accept much lower wages, somewhere around 70% of their of their previous income.

I wonder if my colleague could elaborate on this issue.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

During a press conference, he explained the consequences for the regions very well because he, himself, is from a region we would call "remote": the beautiful Gaspé. That is where this employment insurance reform would do harm. While this may be appropriate in an urban region, it seems that the government has in no way considered the consequences of this employment insurance reform on the maritime provinces, or on Quebec specifically.

I have been a member of Parliament for a long time, but I have rarely seen a bill that management and employees are both unanimously against. Not only does this bill destroy the economy, but it also destroys businesses built by families. For example, in the wood industry, in sawmills, workers are trained year after year. But we have winter in Canada. So, these individuals are unemployed for a few months and then they return to work at the sawmill. If the workers who are trained to work at the sawmill are moved, that means that the sawmill will have to close and, if those workers have been moved elsewhere, they might not come back.

So there is a huge danger for the regions. This is a direct attack on those regions, and the government should change its position.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I share the concerns that have been raised by my colleague. If he has the statistics, the numbers, could he share them with the House?

About 28% of seasonal workers come from Atlantic Canada and close to 40% come from the province of Quebec. I know that those seasonal industries in Atlantic Canada contribute about 54% of the regional GDP, which is a significant part of the GDP of Atlantic Canada.

Could my colleague tell the House, even anecdotally or statistically, what component of the regional economy is drawn from seasonal industries because this budget would place those industries at risk?

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the statistics for the remote regions of Quebec are basically the same as those for the Atlantic provinces. In fact, this is the way it is when a region relies on a single industry, such as fishing or wood. Fishing cannot necessarily be done all year long, nor can wood be cut and processed year-round.

In that respect, it is absolutely tragic for the regions to see cuts being made to employment insurance, which ensures a distribution of wealth. In fact, let us not forget that the government does not pay for employment insurance; it is the employer and the employee who pay for it to provide against these months of unemployment until the regional economy improves thereby ensuring that workers are receiving an essential minimum income. If, however, the workers are sent outside the region, the immediate region will not receive any economic spinoffs during that short period of time.

Since my time is up, once again, I hope that the government will give more thought to the situation of unemployed workers in the regions.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I truly appreciate this opportunity to highlight some of the very important initiatives in the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act and to speak against the opposition amendments to delay this important legislation.

I listened intently this morning to a number of the speeches. I do have tremendous respect for democracy and tremendous respect for this place in which we all work. However, the suggestion by opposition members that democracy is in question here I refute completely and wholly. This is democracy. This is democracy in its finest hour because the government is defending democracy today.

My speech will address a number of things that defend democracy here today. Before I continue, as a member of the finance committee, i will acknowledge the detailed examination of this bill at committee stage. I will give all members the facts.

The finance committee and a special subcommittee, which is one of the first times we have ever seen a special subcommittee on a budget implementation bill, studied today's bill for nearly 70 hours. This is the longest consideration of budget legislation in decades. We heard from literally hundreds of individuals and organizations, from government officials, business leaders, academics, labour groups, industry associations and countless others.

The bill we are debating today positions Canada for economic prosperity, job creation and long-term fiscal health. It is designed to create a climate for private sector investment, innovation and opportunity.

It is crucial that Canada achieve its economic potential so that it can weather another period of global economic uncertainty. The economic upheaval abroad is bound to have an impact on our economy. Even though we must not underestimate the risks, Canadians can be sure that their country is in a good position to face the challenges posed by the global economic situation, as it has done in the past. To that end, we will continue to focus on measures that will keep Canada as competitive as possible during this time of economic uncertainty.

I am convinced that the bill before us today is a blueprint for a strong, prosperous Canada.

Having said all of that, I will now talk about how today's bill builds on Canada's commitment to make us more competitive in the future by removing red tape and bureaucratic obstacles.

As a trading nation, we understand how important an efficient border is to Canadians and our economy. Canada, like many other countries, provides residents returning from abroad with a personal exemption from duties and taxes for goods purchased up to a certain dollar value. Some of these exemption limits for Canadians have remained the same for many years. Given the considerable amount of travel that Canadians undertake every year, it makes sense to update these limits, as consumer groups have long requested.

Effective June 1, 2012, residents returning to Canada after being out of the country for 24 hours or more are exempt from duties and taxes on up to $200 of goods they purchase abroad. The exemption limit for those returning after at least 48 hours abroad has also been raised to $800.

These changes would reduce red tape for travellers who bring in goods within the new exemption limits and make it that much easier for Canadian residents returning home to complete the customs process. More important, these exemptions are exactly the same exemptions the Americans have when they shop here in Canada and return home. Consistency means efficiency. Our government understands how important an efficient border is to Canadians and to our economy.

These new exemption limits would expedite customs clearance for returning Canadian consumers, making cross-border business and personal travel more convenient for Canadians.

To facilitate access to Canadian tourist destinations, Bill C-38 will also eliminate or reduce the taxes on foreign-based rental vehicles temporarily imported by Canadian residents.

Before these changes were announced in Canada's economic action plan, foreign-registered rental vehicles that were temporarily imported by Canadian residents were usually subject at the border to GST on the full value of the vehicle, the green levy and the automobile air conditioner tax.

Until recently, this type of import was prohibited by federal vehicle safety rules, unless the vehicle in question was proven to comply with all Canadian standards.

Rental vehicles temporarily imported by foreign tourists visiting Canada are generally not subject to any taxes or similar restrictions.

In other words, the bill we are discussing today will eliminate or reduce the taxes on foreign-based rental vehicles temporarily imported by Canadian residents and, consequently, will make it easier to access Canadian tourist destinations. That is a good thing.

As households across this country understand, ensuring prosperity also means being responsible in how we treat every dollar.

Canadians know the importance of living within their means and they expect the government to do the same. For example, today's legislation would modernize Canada's current system by eliminating the penny from Canada's coinage system. Over time, inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the penny and multiplied its manufacturing costs. Until penny production was halted recently, it cost taxpayers 1.6¢ every time we made a penny. For businesses, the time and cost of processing pennies has increased, taking them away from the task of growing their businesses and creating jobs.

Other countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and Sweden, have made smooth transitions to a penny free economy. The government expects that businesses will apply rounding for cash transactions in a fair and transparent manner. Canadians can rest assured that they will be able to redeem pennies for full value.

As consumers and businesses begin to rely less and less on the penny in their day-to-day lives, we hope that all Canadians will consider putting their last pennies to good use by donating them to charity. Eliminating the penny from Canada's coinage system will ensure that the Canadian currency system remains efficient and responsive to the needs of consumers, businesses and the economy.

We are also proposing to simplify administrative formalities as we strengthen our immigration system.

The jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act supports the government's commitment to better focus our immigration system on our economic objectives with the following three measures.

First, we are going to return applications to some of the applicants to the federal skilled workers program and refund as much as $130 million in fees. This will shorten the backlog in processing applications in the Canadian immigration system and will allow us to focus our efforts on responding to the real needs of the job market.

Second, we are going to work with the provinces, the territories and other stakeholders to further improve foreign credential recognition and to identify the next set of target occupations beyond 2012. This will help highly qualified new arrivals to find work in the area for which they have been trained and to contribute quickly to the Canadian economy.

Finally, we will continue to study other ways to improve the temporary foreign worker program in order to support economic growth and recovery and to make the program correspond better to the requirements of the job market.

From the countless hours of testimony we heard before the finance committee, I recall the comments of Richard Kurland, noted immigration policy analyst and attorney who told us:

I feel the government is doing the right thing. This is the right solution for a problem that has been plaguing this country for over 25 years. It is the first time it's being fixed.

The door is not shut; it's just that those are no longer the skills we need.

All of these measures would help to ensure that the Canadian economy continues to move in the right direction. We must take these actions in order to respond to the challenges of today while setting out a plan that our long-term goals demand.

I, therefore, urge all hon. members in this House to please take the work of the finance committee and the subcommittee to heart. This is a good bill that would move Canada forward. It would secure jobs, secure long-term prosperity and secure our economic growth.

I implore members from the opposite side to stop arguing about process, to look at the content, to see that it is good for Canadians and to vote in favour of moving this forward.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her remarks.

In her opening comments, she claimed that members on this side of the House do not respect democracy. I must point out to her that democracy is not about passing a bill in haste or about saying to other hon. members, “Too bad—we have a majority”.

But let us talk about the economy. They claim that Bill C-38 will help the economy. Tourism is very important where I come from. Not only will it be affected by the changes to employment insurance, but Parks Canada services are also going to be cut. That will prevent Fort Chambly from providing the same level of service that it previously provided. Fort Chambly is one of the most frequently visited Parks Canada sites in Quebec. In spite of that, services are going to be cut, and the quality of tourism services in the region is going to be lowered, which in turn will have a negative impact on the region.

How will this contribute to economic prosperity and job creation?