House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was changes.

Topics

Divisions at report stage on Bill C-38Points of Order

11:05 a.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it has come to my attention that I have been inaccurately recorded as voting yea in Division No. 325 at page 9478 of Debates and page 1650 of Journals for Wednesday, June 13. If you were to look at the video, you would clearly see that I stood and voted nay to Motion No. 273, along with my government colleagues.

I would ask that the records of the House be changed to reflect that fact.

Divisions at report stage on Bill C-38Points of Order

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. government House leader for bringing this to our attention. We will certainly look into it and make sure that the record is accurate.

The House resumed from May 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, be read the third time and passed.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Don Valley East has eight minutes left to conclude his remarks.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand this morning to talk about Bill C-300, the federal framework for suicide prevention act.

Suicide is a tragedy that not only affects the person who actually commits suicide but all the people around him or her, the whole community and relatives, et cetera, who are actually involved. The tragedy of suicide is that most people do not understand why.

A close friend of mine woke up one day and went into the washroom only to find his brother hanging there, having committed suicide. The effect of that on him and his family was tremendous. Years later, he remarks that he just does not understand why. Understanding why has been a quest for many people for a very long time.

This bill is very supportive in terms of trying to understand why. The framework allows some investigation and research to be undertaken and pushed forward so that we can better understand what causes these tragedies.

For example, a very famous footballer in England had a successful football career and was a coach in one of the first division leagues. He was seen the night before, partying and enjoying himself. The following day, it was discovered that he had taken his life. Nobody really understands why people feel this despair and that they have to take their own lives, ending it like that. He was a successful, wealthy man.

Suicide affects people from the entire spectrum of life, from the very rich to the poor and everybody in between. Understanding suicide in this country can help. We have had many tragedies of suicide among aboriginal people, particularly among youth, in the prime of their lives, who take their own lives. There must be some reason for that.

To understand that reason has to be a quest that we as a Parliament can undertake. The question is, “Why are these tragedies happening?” This bill puts forward a framework whereby research can be done, as well as follow-up with the victims and the communities around them, to try to understand and prevent some of these tragedies that are happening.

I ask all members on all party sides to support this bill.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak, today, to what no one can doubt to be an incredibly important and urgent issue: the need for a pan-Canadian suicide prevention strategy.

The House of Commons demonstrated its commitment to developing a national strategy in October of last year. The hon. member for Toronto Centre, the interim leader of the Liberal Party, introduced an important and powerful motion passed by this House almost unanimously when we agreed that suicide is more than a personal tragedy; it is also a serious public health issue and public policy priority. As a government and as national representatives, we must work with our counterparts in the provinces and territories and with representatives from non-governmental organizations, first nations, Inuit and Métis people, to establish and fund a comprehensive, evidence-driven national suicide prevention strategy.

I was proud to stand along with nearly every other member in this House to support that motion.

This issue with other mental health and end-of-life concerns has been forefront in my mind for more than two years, both here and as a member of the all-party parliamentary palliative and compassionate care committee, which I helped form with Bill C-300 sponsor, the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar and the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

What brought us together goes back to our initial reactions to a private member's bill dealing with end-of-life issues. At that time I felt, and still feel, that if people are given a reason to live, feel their lives are relevant and significant and truly do not feel that they are a burden on society and are able to live pain-free, they just might be less inclined to turn to more desperate measures as a relief from the emotional, mental or physical pain from which they suffer.

Over the course of our hearings, we travelled widely and Canadians from across the country came to Ottawa, at their own expense, to share their stories and experiences with us. These were men and women, parents, siblings and families who were directly affected by mental health issues and suicide, as well as experts who deal with mental health and suicide prevention daily.

Our committee ultimately concluded and recommended that the federal government establish a suicide prevention secretariat and that it provide the secretariat with adequate funding so that it might conduct and support research and act as a conduit between the provincial and municipal governments and community stakeholders to accomplish these goals.

The result of this federally directed collaboration would be the development and implementation of a national suicide prevention strategy, similar to the one we are discussing today. By working together, the various levels of government and stakeholders could develop and implement a program with nationally recognized and accepted standards for the training of suicide intervention personnel. By providing a nationally directed body to coordinate with other levels of government and groups, research and information could be more easily shared instead of being isolated in a series of silos across the country.

More important, it would enable the development of a national public awareness program on suicide and suicide prevention, as well as facilitate social media around reducing the stigma associated with suicide and mental health issues.

We have all heard various notable figures speak out and tell marginalized youth that it gets better; an important and valuable lesson that too many Canadians do not hear in time. However, our efforts to reach youth and others in need more effectively must be better coordinated across the country.

The facts behind suicide are staggering. Ten Canadians take their own life every day. By the time we wrap up here tonight, 10 more Canadians will have committed suicide because they are struggling with pain and hopelessness, depression and desperation. By the end of today, 10 more Canadian families will be devastated by the loss of a loved one. For every Canadian who commits suicide, there are 100 who attempt to kill or deliberately harm themselves. That is 1,000 Canadians a day, hundreds of thousands a year. Many of those Canadians will be men aged 25 to 29 or 40 to 44, or women aged 30 to 34. Suicide is the leading cause of death in those age groups. It is the second leading cause for young men and women between 10 and 24 years old. It may be one of our veterans, where the suicide rate is nearly three times higher than in the general population.

Suicide rates among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, intersexed and two-spirited youth is seven times the rate of heterosexual youth. The leading cause of death for aboriginal males aged 10 to 19 is suicide and the rate for Inuit youth is among the highest in the world, at 11 times higher than the national average. Yet, in the face of these staggering statistics, and for not one good reason, we remain hostage to our inability to appropriately deal with the crisis, which affects us from coast to coast to coast. We are one of two countries in the G8 without a national suicide prevention strategy.

We also know that suicide intervention works. Countless lives are saved every year through intervention. We know that so much more can be done and so many more can be saved with the appropriate public funding of research and a national direction to guide the response in each of our provinces. Many organizations have called for a national suicide prevention strategy. In October 2004, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, known as CASP, issued the first edition of the CASP blueprint for a Canadian national suicide prevention strategy, a document that was later revised in 2009. The CASP blueprint called for an awareness and understanding of suicide, so that we might all understand this tragedy better, and so that fewer Canadian families would be needlessly victimized. It called for prevention and intervention that not only features community-based programs which address the specific needs of at-risk sections of our population, but that can be implemented more broadly. In order to adequately address these needs, the call for funding and support, as well as a more coherent approach to the gathering of information, must be answered.

A month ago, the Mental Health Commission of Canada reported on its mental health strategy for Canada, once again calling for a national suicide prevention strategy. It stated, “Despite the fact that pan-Canadian initiatives could help all jurisdictions to improve mental health outcomes, planning documents that address these matters from the perspective of the country as a whole are rare.”

The testimony is voluminous, the statistics are clear. Suicide is so much more than a personal and sudden decision made in a time of great pain, angst or isolation. It is a terrible scourge that affects nearly every family across the country.

In closing, all of us here want to see this national tragedy end, and we have yet another opportunity with this step forward. We came together in October to pass a motion calling for a national strategy for suicide prevention. We came together as members of an all-party committee to advocate a national strategy for suicide prevention, outlined in the committee's report, “Not to be Forgotten”. Now we can come together again and support Bill C-300.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-300 would require the government to establish a federal framework for suicide prevention in consultation with relevant non-governmental organizations, the relevant entity in each province and territory, as well as with relevant federal departments.

I support this bill because suicide is a major health issue in this country and it must be recognized as such, so that Canada makes it a real public policy priority. There are some 4,000 suicides in Canada every year, so this is an urgent problem and the government must take a stance. We must increase awareness and understanding of suicide across the country and make prevention a priority. This bill will open the dialogue on suicide prevention.

Suicide is a public health issue that requires proper public intervention in terms of prevention, treatment and funding. For intervention to be even more effective, the government must take some responsibility, by calling on the provinces and territories, first nations, the Métis and the Inuit to work with the federal government to develop a long-term national suicide prevention strategy.

This is what families and stakeholders have been calling for for years. We need clear measures to ensure that our commitment gives rise to tangible, concerted actions with stakeholders across the country. Any strategy must also take into account groups at risk, which we must absolutely not ignore in light of what is at stake. I am thinking in particular of young people, the first nations, persons with disabilities, veterans as well as gays and lesbians.

The only way to help them is to understand their realities and the taboos associated with the issue and stigmatization, which is common. Take, for example, persons with disabilities, whose condition is deteriorating every day, who struggle with instability and social isolation, and who have a much higher unemployment rate than the general labour force. Needless to say, these are factors that lead to situations of great despair.

We are also seeing new social groups in distress that are harder to reach, such as farmers. This group of people rarely, if ever, turns to crisis workers despite high levels of stress and intense distress. In recent years, the Canadian armed forces also reported a higher suicide rate as soldiers returned to Canada by the hundreds: 20 of them took their own lives in 2011, nearly twice as many as the year before. According to the Canadian army, 187 soldiers have committed suicide since 1996. Mental health issues and post-traumatic stress are taking a heavy toll, putting soldiers at increased risk of suicide. It is clear that there are serious, ongoing deficiencies with screening and prevention services for these soldiers.

We must also consider the aboriginal communities that the government has been neglecting. The suicide rate among young aboriginals is much higher than among non-aboriginals—four to six times higher. The situation varies from one community to the next, which points to the need for targeted initiatives that take into account the unique cultural and spiritual makeup of each community.

The riding of Montcalm is also especially affected by suicide. According to the suicide prevention centre in Lanaudière, the suicide rate in this region is above the Quebec average. Statistics Canada determined that the Quebec average in 2006 was 14.8 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants, and that of Lanaudière was 16.1 suicides per 100,000.

That said, it is very difficult to put numbers on suicide attempts, but there are 210 hospitalizations for suicide attempts in Lanaudière in an average year. Despite a gradual decline in youth suicide among Quebeckers since 2000, we should still be concerned about this excess mortality, especially among boys, whose suicide rate is much higher than that of girls.

On the other hand, the rate of attempted suicides is twice as high for girls. For each of the groups affected, we must find all the factors that may lead to suicide and we must intervene. It is absurd that a national suicide prevention strategy has not yet been established, after nearly 20 years of demands from NGOs. The impact of suicide on Canadian society is clear to everyone; nearly 4,000 people take their own lives in Canada every year. It is one of the highest rates among the industrialized nations.

Suicide is not an issue that affects only one region of the country; it affects them all. In order to meet the needs of people in distress, however, the appropriate public health resources must be in place and we must work with the communities to reflect the special factors in each cultural and community group.

Prevention initiatives must reflect these specific realities. Combatting this phenomenon is possible, but in order to do so, we need to take concerted, coherent and intensive action so that people who are in distress have access to the effective resources they need. We must be able to guarantee access to mental health and addiction services, provide adequate support to professionals and stakeholders, reduce the stigmatization and focus on research.

In terms of suicide prevention, I find Canada's poor record compared to other industrialized countries very disturbing. Our suicide rate is far too high, and yet we do not have a national strategy to address the problem. Furthermore, industrialized countries that have a national suicide prevention strategy have lower suicide rates and are doing much better than we are.

In the 1990s, both the United Nations and the World Health Organization called upon every country to establish its own national strategy. Many countries answered that call. Unfortunately, Canada was not one of them. It makes no sense. Why did Canada depart from this trend towards adopting a national strategy?

Nevertheless, I want to commend the hard work of mental health care professionals across the country. They do an outstanding job of answering calls, engaging the public and working with schools and workplaces. However, their work would have a greater reach and be more effective if their efforts were coordinated and best practices were shared nationally.

Currently, efforts are fragmented and organizations working on prevention are underfunded. The government can do something to change this situation by clearly identifying current shortcomings and disseminating best practices on prevention, research, expertise and primary care. We absolutely must have national guidelines on this.

With this government, we also have very few effective suicide prevention initiatives for our soldiers and veterans. It is inconceivable considering that modern-day veterans have a higher suicide rate than other Canadians, according to three studies released in 2011 by Veterans Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence and Statistics Canada.

It was the first reliable statistical study of its kind, and I would like to share some of the findings. The suicide rate among veterans is 46% higher than that of other Canadians in the same age bracket, and the only cause of death that is proportionally higher.

Why is there no ongoing evaluation of initiatives and monitoring of trends? What are we waiting for to take suicide seriously?

The World Health Organization calls suicide a huge public health problem but, we should remember, it is a problem that is largely preventable. In Quebec, there has been a 34% decline in the suicide rate in the past 10 years. Research has led to significant progress in suicide prevention. Consequently, it would be unfortunate to not share these advances and new means of prevention.

I will close by saying that this bill reminds us that we must take immediate action, and it will help prevent people from committing suicide. Given the extent of the scourge we are trying to eliminate, the government must act and continue to act. Because the high rate of suicide is a concern, prevention must be a public policy priority.

Therefore, I encourage all my colleagues to support this bill and to continue our suicide prevention efforts. After all, suicide is a concern for all of us. We must ensure that this issue becomes a priority for Canada so we can help more people in distress and save as many lives as possible.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a little bittersweet for me to rise today to discuss this issue. Nevertheless, I am here to speak about the troubles that my home community is facing.

I inevitably return to my roots and talk about my community and other aboriginal communities in the country. Now, members must understand that the kind of reasoning I am using also applies to the rest of Canada.

Although I always try to distance myself or separate myself from the negative discourse surrounding the realities in Canada's aboriginal communities, after reviewing my recent speeches, I see that I tend to bring up some obscure points when I talk about the realities in the communities. What members must know is that I spent part of my life in a community that really struggled socially. This will necessarily be reflected in my speech. My colleagues have mentioned this to me, and since I am capable of introspection, I must say that these obscure points sometimes come out.

As I have said many times over the past year, my professional orientation probably has been guided and shaped by the idea of culturally appropriate social intervention. When I say, “culturally appropriate social intervention”, I refer to my criminal law practice, and also to my work in mental health.

In addition to providing legal services, I made sure that I took action, spoke to people and tried to find agreement or a way to connect with people more directly by referring to their everyday reality. That is why I was so successful with the legal aid office, where I began working when I was quite young, in 2007. As I have said before, I dealt with 400 files. Word got around quickly and people in the community asked me to help them more and more, because, in addition to providing legal services, I tried to improve their quality of life and influence everyone's future.

When I finished my bar admission course, my employer asked that I take responsibility for contentious matters involving the Innu and Naskapi communities. With time, my activities in the mental health field grew, and became a large part of my professional practice.

When I joined the legal aid office in 2007, I was assigned to the circuit court. As we travelled, I discovered that there was a rather significant demand for mental health services in my community. Rapidly, I found myself being asked to go to the psychiatric wing of the Sept-Îles hospital to meet clients who were sometimes dealing with the criminal justice system or the penal system, as well as custody orders, or custody in institutions under the Quebec Civil Code. In each of these cases, I had to specialize and reorient my career, because of the huge demand.

Now, when talking about problems and care with respect to mental health, there is always the concept of suicide, along with violent death and other elements that reveal the deterioration of the social fabric. These elements often come to the surface when clients are receiving services.

At the tender age of 24, 25, 26, I was called to work in fields that typically require specialized knowledge. The other lawyers who took these cases on had much more experience than I in the field, but I took the cases on anyway. Over the years, I gained more and more specialized knowledge. Now I can talk about Seroquel dosage and anticonvulsants because I was assigned to many of those cases. I am also familiar with the concept of toxic psychosis, which I will discuss in further detail shortly.

Inevitably, exposure to marked social dysfunction during childhood, combined with the career path I chose, influenced my understanding of social problems like suicide and associated issues. Everyone in my community has a passing familiarity with violent death.

I am not saying that this problem is the norm. Still, every time I return to Uashat, one of the first things I do is ask my family and friends whether there have been any violent deaths. By that, I mean everything from suicide to cirrhosis and overdose. That is the first thing I ask people in my community about. Invariably, they have names to add to the list. Many of the dead are people I represented in my legal practice, neighbours or friends. At times, when I call, people name others too. I do not necessarily need to go to Uashat to get that information. However, every time I return to my community, people tell me things that, while anything but banal, are part of daily life there. Children grow up intimately familiar with the atmosphere of bleakness and gloom in the community. That is part of everyday life there, and that background inevitably informs my own views.

I did a little research, and my community of Uashat won the gold medal for having the highest suicide rate in the world in 2003, as reported in Le Soleil in that same year. That is a very sad record, I know, but it simply illustrates the scope of the problem in my community.

I brought this up at a meeting of the aboriginal affairs committee. One stakeholder said that Uashat was going through a period of economic growth and increased socio-economic affirmation. However, I reminded that individual that this has always been a major problem for the community. Although, technically, there is some economic vitality, as I said in committee, in the end, it has very little impact on maintaining any quality of life or on the quality of the social fabric.

Aside from emphasizing the need for a national suicide prevention strategy, we also need to ensure that government initiatives and efforts on the ground somehow converge in order to really understand the causes and variables that will ultimately give us some answers. Not only is the suicide rate far too high—at dozens of suicides every year—but these suicides are being committed by very young people. In our communities, violent deaths are not necessarily limited to young people, but the suicide rate among youth is nevertheless especially high. Government efforts will have to address this problem. I will always be willing to work on this problem.

Aside from the fact that Canada will have no choice but to adopt a national suicide prevention strategy, I believe that particular efforts must be made to help aboriginal Canadians and aboriginal youth.

I submit this respectfully.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members of the House for the discussion we have had on this important topic.

It is never easy to talk about death, and as members have acknowledged, it is even more difficult to talk about suicide. That is why this conversation was so important. I am grateful to all hon. members who joined in.

As I have said so often, in this case the conversation is just as important as the legislation, but the legislation is important. We know that 10 Canadians die by suicide each day. We know that suicide is the second largest killer of our youth. We know there are identifiable communities which suffer from suicide rates that are grossly disproportionate to their general population.

These are broad statistics that do not lie, but while the statistics are depressing, the thousands of stories behind the statistics are tragic. Let me share one person's story.

This individual was molested at the age of seven. This person also experienced severe bullying. Today, he is openly talking about taking his own life. This individual just turned 11. It is one thing to hear numbers about youth suicide, but it is another thing entirely to be confronted by a real-life story where an 11-year-old child requires intervention.

As the father of three children and the proud grandparent of nine, I was sick when I heard this story. What to do? I am not trained in crisis intervention, but when this child's mother sought help from my office, we were able to connect her with people who possess the skills, experience, understanding and training to offer help.

It was on the recommendation of a friend who follows the deliberations of this House that the mother contacted me. The conversation has already made a difference.

Bill C-300 is only under debate. The legislation has not yet been enacted and is not in force. This conversation, though, has been ongoing for months, and without this conversation, at least one child would still be contemplating a very permanent response to some temporary and surmountable challenges, but with connections to help has now found hope.

I thank all hon. members for the quality of debate they brought to this topic. I thank members from my party and also members from the opposition parties who were willing to attach their names to this effort as joint seconders.

This conversation has already helped at least one child. Please do not let this conversation end with this debate. I ask all hon. members to keep it alive, both here in Ottawa and at home in their constituencies.

Every riding in Canada needs to engage in this dialogue. The most important type of leadership members of the House can provide is not as makers of the law, but as local leaders of critical and crucial conversations. By continuing the conversation, each one of us can help break the stigma and the silence. We can provide hope, the oxygen of the human spirit.

I ask members to allow Bill C-300 to proceed without a standing vote. I ask them to let Bill C-300 move as quickly as possible to the Senate to become law and provide hope as soon as possible. With each day's delay, 10 Canadians will fall victim to suicide.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time for debate has expired. The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Suspension of SittingFederal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House will suspend sitting until 12 o'clock.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:37 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 o'clock)

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

Noon

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

Noon

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I wish a belated happy Father's Day to you and everyone else in the House.

It is my absolute pleasure to kick off third and final reading of the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act. This is a very good measure that the government has put forward which will help Canadians across the country secure jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

Before I speak to the bill, I will take a brief moment to thank my fellow members of the finance committee and the special subcommittee that was created specifically to study the bill. Together, both committees held nearly 70 hours of hearings on the legislation, making it the longest committee study of a budget implementation bill in over two decades.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the hundreds of witnesses we heard at committee, including government officials, business leaders, union representatives, economists, industry associations and many others. Their words and testimony made clear that we need this legislation to keep our economy strong, especially when events in Europe remind us that the global economic outlook remains fragile.

We heard from witnesses such as University of Guelph Professor Jane Londerville and Carleton University Professor Ian Lee. Both applauded this bill for the increased oversight it brings to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which will strengthen Canada's housing sector.

The Mining Association of Canada explained how the mineral exploration tax credit would help northern and remote communities to grow.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities voiced its approval for the measures taken by this bill to increase the availability of registered disability savings plans.

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters praised our government's focus on more efficient and responsible resource development because it believes our plan will “maximize our economic opportunities while maintaining the right balance between environmental protection and economic growth”.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business gave its approval to reforms to employment insurance that would better assist and encourage Canadians looking for work.

Witnesses such as the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and Consumer Health Products Canada were pleased to see the elimination of bureaucratic red tape that delayed new products already approved by Health Canada from coming to market for years on end.

The Canadian Museums Association noted that amendments contained in this bill would mean that Canadians right across the country would get to see more and more of the world's finest art in our museums.

We heard from witnesses such as the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and the Rotman International Centre for Pension Management, which commended the government for common sense reforms to old age security, which will ensure that the program remains sustainable for generations to come.

Windsor Police Service and the RCMP explained how provisions contained in this legislation would allow them to better partner with American law enforcement to keep Canada's border with the United States safe and open for business.

There were many more witnesses who provided countless hours of testimony and spoke to the great importance of this bill and the positive impact it would have on Canada's economy. I encourage Canadians to visit the finance committee's website and read about all of this first hand.

At times like these, Canadian families want their government and elected officials to stay focused on the economy, not on partisanship or procedural games. Canadians see the headlines about Greece and Spain. They read about how those economies have hit hard times. They know that European governments have been unable to effectively deal with their economic crisis.

While it should be clear to everyone in this Parliament, sometimes it does not seem that way, so I will say it anyway. Canadians do not want economic uncertainty. Canadians do not want their politicians to play procedural games while the economy teeters. Canadians want a government with a plan to grow Canada's economy and create jobs in their communities so they can continue to focus on what matters to them, such as raising their families, saving for their retirement and continuing to live in the very best country on Earth. That is exactly what our Conservative government has committed to do since being elected in 2006.

Despite what the NDP and Liberals would have us believe with their constant talking down of the Canadian economy, our Conservative government's plan to grow the Canadian economy has worked and it has worked very well. It is a plan that has included record investments in research and development, record investments in infrastructure, over 140 tax cuts leaving over $3,100 in the pockets of an average Canadian family, lower business taxes, investments in skills, training and education, and so very much more.

We know that our plan has been effective but members do not have to take my word for it because the facts speak for themselves. Let us look at the facts.

Fact, since we took office in January 2006, Canada has created nearly 1.3 million net new jobs, which is the best job growth record in the G7.

Fact, Forbes magazine, one of the world's leading business publications, has ranked Canada as the best country in the world to do business.

Fact, the World Economic Forum, a respected independent financial leader, has declared Canada's banks to be the soundest in the world for four straight years in a row.

Fact, both the OECD and the IMF have forecast that Canada's economic growth will be among the strongest in the industrialized world in the coming years.

Fact, Canada's net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7 by far.

Fact, all three of the world's major credit rating agencies, Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch, have recently renewed Canada's top credit rating.

When Conservative members point out these facts, the NDP and Liberals are quick to attack them, dismissing undisputed international praise of Canada's economy as somehow having nothing to do with our government's economic policy since 2006. Naturally, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, I do not agree with that statement at all.

Canadians might expect some bias in my assessment, so I do not want them to just take my word for it. This is what the OECD said only a few short days ago about Canada's economy, “overall, Canada's...performance has been very good in recent years. We attribute that to good macro policy settings, good structural policy”.

When Canadians watching at home hear the NDP and Liberal speakers stand up bashing Canada's economy and our government's economic policies, I urge them to consider all of the facts.

Despite our careful stewardship to grow and protect Canada's economy, we cannot be complacent and rely on our past achievements to carry us forward. That is something almost every Canadian can relate to, be it a small business owner who is hoping to grow, an employee looking for a promotion, a high school student applying to college, or a family trying to pay the bills while also trying to save enough for retirement.

To succeed we must look forward and be prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead. Both today's legislation and economic action plan 2012 would do exactly that and are unapologetic in their comprehensiveness and ambition. The challenges we face are equally multifaceted and wide-ranging.

There are many challenges and uncertainties still confronting the economy. The recovery is not complete and too many Canadians are still looking for work. The global economy remains fragile and any potential setbacks would have an impact on Canada. Canadian businesses face ever-increasing competition from emerging fast-growth countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Our aging population will put pressure on public finances and social programs. Let us not kid ourselves: it will not be easy during this particularly intense time, but we know that we have the leadership that it takes to get things done.

Economic action plan 2012 takes important steps to address these structural challenges and ensure the sustainability of public finances and social programs for future generations.

International experience shows the importance of taking action now, rather than delaying.

Economic action plan 2012 focuses on the drivers of growth and job creation—innovation, investment, education, skills and communities.

Underpinning these actions is the ongoing commitment to keeping taxes low, which is central to the government’s long-term economic plan. I am pleased to announce that since its release nearly four months ago, economic action plan 2012 has received some extremely positive reactions.

As the Quebec Employers Council said, the economic action plan contains “measures to support economic development and job creation in Canada”.

These are the words of the Vancouver Board of Trade:

This budget reflects the type of long-term thinking that needs to be shown in a global context of the need for more free trade, particularly with Asia, South America and Europe.

The St. John's Board of Trade said that budget 2012 “focuses on the future and on future generations. It's a focus on high-quality job creation. We have a focus on innovation that is going to help us diversify the economy, which is going to be critical for future success”.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said:

The 2012 federal budget presents a plan for long-term economic growth that builds on Canada’s economic fiscal advantages.

Finally, a recent Waterloo region editorial in the The Record stated that budget 2012 was an:

...intelligent and visionary plan to preserve a progressive, prosperous Canada in a global landscape filled with both upheaval and promise.

And for this reason it is the most ambitious and important federal budget in a generation.

Underlying it all is an astute recognition of how this nation and the world around it are changing. Canada is aging. The growth in its workforce has slowed to a crawl. New economic superpowers — China, India, Brazil — that have emerged or are emerging offer new markets yet greater competition.

This budget tackles these challenges head-on....

What do all those third party assessments of economic action plan 2012 have in common? They recognize that our Conservative government's plan is forward looking and focused squarely on Canadians' long-term economic prosperity.

We contrast that with members of the NDP who continue to push their failed high tax, anti-globalization, anti-trade agenda and the ever-expanding government bureaucracies of the 1970s that go with it. Or, the LIberals who also want higher taxes and who are guided by the belief that every aspect of Canadian life should be managed by a government program run by an endless stream of bureaucrats. Or, let us consider the radicalism of the Green Party which wants to shut down huge sectors of the Canadian economy, punish Canadians with a new tax on the energy they use and labels Canada's natural resource industry and the people it employs a “disease”.

None of the oppositions' proposals are based on facts, like how Canada's population is aging or the continued fragility of the global economy. Instead, the oppositions' plans are based on a rigid ideological belief that government must always grow larger, control more and leave less in the pockets of its citizens through higher taxes. That is why they have been so vocal in their opposition to economic action plan 2012.

I want Canadians at home to know that today's bill is a solid plan for our economy that will bring jobs today and prosperity for tomorrow. With today's act, we are encouraging business to invest and create jobs in Canada by making the review process for major economic projects more timely and transparent while protecting the environment under the principle of one project, one review; extending the mineral exploration tax credit to support junior mineral exploration; and getting rid of dated foreign investment restrictions that prevent Canadian telecommunications companies from growing their operations.

We are improving training by making employment insurance more efficient and focused on job creation by removing disincentives to work while continuing to support unemployed Canadians. We are bolstering Canada's immigration system to better meet our economic needs by ensuring that skilled immigrants can come to Canada and apply their skills where they are needed most.

We are supporting families and communities by guaranteeing the increase of health and social transfers well into the next decade, expanding tax relief to better meet the health care needs of Canadians, expanding accessibility to the registered disability savings plan, requiring that federally regulated long-term disability plans be insured, and ensuring wider access to OAS and GIS through proactive enrolment.

That is a lot in one paragraph and there is so much more covered in this bill.

We are also better managing taxpayer dollars and getting back to balanced budgets by refocusing government programs, including completely eliminating dated and ineffective programs that are duplicative or no longer serve the needs of Canadians.

Before closing, allow me to say that our government's economic policies have made Canada a model of stability in a struggling global economy. We are one step closer to passing this important piece of legislation, which will support job creation, the responsible development of our resources, small business and vital sectors of our economy.

This bill has had the longest debate in the House of Commons and the most extensive study in committee of any other budget implementation bill in over 20 years.

Canadians want their government to concentrate on what is most important: jobs, growth and economic prosperity.

That is exactly what we are doing by implementing economic action plan 2012.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, how can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance present such a rosy picture of this omnibus bill when we see our trade deficit worsening, our employment rate sluggish and our personal debt rate at an all-time high?

We have heard expert testimony, including from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, at the finance committee that this budget implementation bill will worsen unemployment and be a drag on our economic growth. It will cut services, cut jobs and cut growth. At a time of such global economic uncertainty, why would we backtrack on our international environmental commitments? Why would we backtrack on developing growth and our economy?

If the hon. parliamentary secretary is so confident in what the government is doing in this omnibus bill, why does the government not have the courtesy and honesty to break it up and allow for a full and honest debate throughout this country?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for the question but, unfortunately, I do not agree with much of anything that she said.

In fact, as I made perfectly clear in my speech, Canada is seen by many countries across this world as being the leader when it comes to job creation following a recession that hit us all.

When my colleagues across the way talks about a sluggish employment record, that is absolutely not true. We have the strongest economic growth and the strongest employment growth as a result. In fact, we have seen over 760,000 jobs created since 2009, thanks to the economic policies and thanks to the environment that was produced so that economic growth could continue.

When we talk about the measures in the budget implementation act, all of the things mentioned by my learned colleague are actually false. We have protected the environment. We have taken some measure to move forward to protect the safety and security of Canadians. We have moved forward to ensure that there are health measures that protect generations to come.

There is more and more to see in the budget. I wish the member would take the time to actually read it and not continue to argue about process.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with the hon. member as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and, as such, a member of the finance committee as we undertake our work on the study of income inequality now that the House of Commons has overwhelmingly supported my motion on income inequality. I do look forward to working with her , and with members of all parties on the finance committee to address this important issue.

My question for the parliamentary secretary is about the issue of accountability, transparency and respect of Parliament. This morning, the Parliamentary Budget Officer came forward with a legal opinion, which had been sought, that actually says that the government is breaking section 79.3 of the Parliament of Canada Act in its refusal to provide detailed information on the impact on the fiscal situation of the cuts that the government is proposing to make.

The government is refusing to give members of Parliament and the Parliamentary Budget Officer the detailed impacts of the legislation we are passing on the fiscal situation, such the impacts of spending initiatives and the impacts of cuts.

Today we have an unprecedented situation where the Parliamentary Budget Officer has attained a legal opinion that the government is actually breaking section 79.3 of the Parliament of Canada Act.

Why is the parliamentary secretary not actively defending the interests of Parliament to have this information before we vote on this kind of legislation? Why are the Conservative members of Parliament complacent and comfortable voting blindly without knowing the impacts of this legislation on Canada's fiscal situation?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing my work in the finance committee with the hon. member of the Liberal Party as well.

With regard to the budget implementation bill and savings measures, I clearly remember hosting a briefing for all parliamentarians, which included House of Commons members, senators and anyone belonging to their staff. A four and a half hour session was held to educate members and to answer any questions they had about those savings. A number of questions were asked about savings in different ministries that were answered at that time. Unfortunately, a number of people were missing and they may not have received the information, but the information was nevertheless provided when asked for.

When it comes to the deficit reduction action plan, we have been clear. Thanks to the work done by this government, by cabinet, $5.2 billion in savings will be found in the area of ineffectiveness and waste in ministries.

We also have to be clear that we have collective agreements that also have to be honoured. We will not disregard the rights of union members to know upfront some of the situations that they will face. Our ministers are diligent about ensuring that they allow for those processes to take place.

We will continue to provide the information and continue to respect all aspects of the rollout of the deficit reduction action plan in time.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. friend for her great work as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

I have listened to members opposite, especially members of the NDP. They have never talked about how to create wealth, but they are good at talking about how to spend money. Their solution to every problem in government is to spend more and more money. We have seen how that particular approach has taken the European economies, especially Greece, Italy, Spain and so on.

Could the parliamentary secretary please inform the House why it is so important for Canada to not only keep its financial house in order, but to make its financial position even stronger?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy working with my colleague, who is chair of our Manitoba caucus. It has been a thrill to work with him since he was elected in the past election. I look forward to working with him again in the future.

With regard to our economic fiscal advantage, Canada is seen as a leader because of the record we have with regard to our economy. However, we are not alone in this world. We are affected by outside sources. We are affected by things like what goes on in Europe and in the United States. We must remain diligent to ensure that our economy is protected from outside forces as much as possible. We do not want to be in a position like we see in Greece or Spain, where there has been some devastating economic news. They have had a heck of a time trying to secure the future for their citizens.

It is absolutely imperative that we deal with the economy in a very prioritized way, which is what the BIA and economic action plan 2012 would do. It focuses on jobs, growth and economic prosperity, along with other prosperity measures, for all Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member across often mentions that she is basing things on fact, however, she tends to cherry-pick the facts. She has mentioned the OECD report as a fact that Canada is doing well. Yet this report states that Canada is going through a mild case of Dutch disease. Total employment numbers since 2006 are lower than pre-2006 figures. When we say sluggish job growth, that is what we are talking about. We are not growing jobs.

Would the hon. member agree with the facts in the OECD that state that Canada is going through Dutch disease? Would she agree with the fact that total employment numbers are lower than pre-2006 numbers?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, once again, Canada has the strongest job creation record in the G7, which is over 760,000 jobs. That is a fact.

When we look at measures with regard to the OECD report, I wish the hon. member would have read it. Here is a quote directly from the OECD report, “Canada weathered the global economic crisis well” and “thanks to a timely macroeconomic policy response and a solid banking sector...Canada enjoys strong institutions and policy credibility”.

The head of the European Financial Stability Board, who is also our Governor of the Bank of Canada, said just the other day, “It's too simple” what the NDP has said. “The factors influencing our currency are more complex than one price or another” and “He rejects completely the argument of Dutch disease put forward by the NDP” completely.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to make it clear that NDP objects, in the strongest possible terms, to Bill C-38, what we call the Trojan Horse bill. Here we are, regrettably, at third reading of this massive omnibus bill, consisting of 425 pages and 753 clauses. Let me be clear about what this bill would do.

One-third of the bill is dedicated to gutting environmental protection and turning back the clock on it. It would make sweeping changes to old age security and employment insurance, vital programs on which Canadian families rely. It would press the delete button on over 300,000 federal skilled worker applications for people who have been playing by the rules and waiting their turn. It would open the door to the privatization of our food safety system and would roll back the clock on government transparency and accountability for the future by concentrating powers in the hands of ministers and reducing oversight and reporting requirements. These are just a few of the measures contained in the bill, everything but the kitchen sink, all bound up in one massive package.

There is growing national consensus that this is the wrong way to make significant changes to government policies and programs. Matthew Carroll of Leadnow confirmed that “Canadians are hungry for a truly participatory democracy that works. The majority are outraged at the direction the current government is dragging our country”.

Even those who agree with some of the proposed changes are decrying the lack of proper oversight and study of the bill. Conservative commentator Andrew Coyne wrote about this Trojan Horse and stated:

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

We have tried from the outset to reach out to the government and work with it to find an acceptable way to divide this bill into manageable parts for a more effective and democratic study. Our attempts were thwarted. We tried to offer amendments at the finance committee, but not one of the 53 amendments was accepted, this even in the face of testimony that seriously cautioned the government on several of its proposed changes.

Will Amos of Ecojustice testified. He stated:

There is no law that we can recall that has ever, in such a broad and structural manner, changed the federal environmental governance regime....Canadians are not ready for this. Parliament is not ready for this. There has been inadequate process to consider the transformative changes that are being proposed.

Professor Marjorie Griffin Cohen cautioned, as follows:

What we don't often understand or look at is how various portions of the budget will interact with each other. For example, when you change the OAS and you then change the employment insurance, you're going to see that older people who are over 65 are probably going to be doing part-time and temporary work; they're not going to be able to qualify for a pension, nor are they going to be able to qualify for EI, if they aren't employed. We may be pushing a lot of people in specific kinds of groups into positions of poverty...

On the removal of the Inspector General's oversight from CSIS, and that is also in this bill, Paul Kennedy told the commons committee the following:

The cost associated with the Office of the Inspector General is a small price to pay if one wants to maintain a covert intelligence agency in Canada. The elimination of the Eyes and Ears of the Minister, if that is the course that you chose to adopt, should be accompanied by a common recommendation that future missteps by the intelligence service will be accompanied by the resignation of the Public Safety Minister. Wilful blindness as to potential problems at CSIS must carry a price. After all, responsibility ultimately rests with the Minister.

Mr. Kennedy is a former senior assistant deputy minister of public safety with 20 years of experience in national security. The Conservatives dismissed his testimony as simply wrong.

Finally, after time allocation in the committee, which left us with about four minutes of study per clause and further time allocations in the House, we were left with attempts to delete and amend the bill at report stage and every amendment was voted down by the government.

We urged the government to consult with Canadians about some of these massive changes, to hold hearings to meet with political and community leaders. However, the Atlantic premiers were not consulted about the impact of the proposed EI changes on their provinces and key environmental organizations were not consulted about the impact of gutting environmental laws.

National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations testified at the subcommittee. He said:

Part 3 of Bill C-38 needs to be withdrawn to take the time to work with first nations to ensure their rights and interests are reflected and will not be compromised through such legislation.

New Democrats did our best to open up the process by holding hearings across the country and encouraging Canadians to contact us by email, mail and social media, and thousands did. However, just as Canadians are realizing what is at stake, the government is determined to ram this bill through. We can only believe that the Conservatives' original intent was to pass this massive bill without most Canadians even knowing what was in it. It is abundantly clear that the Conservatives are determined to shut down debate and shut Canadians out of the plans they have for our country.

We believe we have made the process somewhat democratic, but it is still unacceptable that such major changes are being implemented without consultation or adequate oversight. Unfortunately, the impact of this so-called budget bill will be felt not just for a few years, but for decades. If the government is so confident about the measures it is implementing, why did it not promote them in last year's election campaign? Why is it so afraid of a public debate today? Why does it not want Canadians to find out what impact the proposed changes will have on them and their families? When did the Conservatives begin to fear accountability?

I must also emphasize that the short title of this bill, “jobs prosperity and long-term growth”, more than misses the mark. The vast majority of these 425 pages have nothing to do with the budget or economic growth. In fact, some measures would create downward pressure on the income of Canadians. The proposed EI changes would quickly move unemployed workers to lower paying jobs or else right off EI and onto welfare.

We see other measures such as the temporary foreign workers provisions already announced by the Conservative government that would require an employer to only search for a Canadian to fill a job for two weeks before bringing in temporary foreign workers who, now for the first time, can be paid 15% less than the average wage.

Economist Jim Stanford testified before the finance committee. He said:

It is an enormous shortage of jobs, not a lack of workers and not a lack of work ethic, that explains the decline in the employment rate...policies should be designed not to compel more labour supply but rather to support Canadian families in an era where there's a chronic shortage of jobs that dominates the outlook for our labour market moving forward.

We are already living in volatile economic times. Personal debt is at an all-time high of 152% of household income and yet there are nine times more in cuts than in job creation measures in budget 2012. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has cautioned that these changes will have a negative drag on our economy and, overall, unemployment would likely rise. Our trade deficit is high and growing.

To continue with Jim Stanford, he says:

There’s a big difference, however, between signing free-trade pacts and actually doing something about trade. Canada’s trade performance deteriorated badly over the past decade. The quantity of goods and services shipped abroad is seven percentage points lower than when the [Conservative] government took office, lower even than back in 2000....Our once-impressive trade surplus has melted into deficit.

Yet irresponsible, no strings attached budget cuts and tax cuts to the largest corporations have reduced the government's capacity for flexibility in these times. This omnibus budget bill does not address these problems. Instead, it makes them worse.

I look at my own community of Parkdale—High Park. There are people who are desperate to find jobs to support themselves and their families. People work hard, sometimes at two or three jobs, yet they cannot get their heads above the poverty line.

It is a sad fact that in the city of Toronto, with all its wealth and opportunity, one in three children lives in poverty. I see other families who are making a higher income but who are paying exorbitant child care fees, many thousands of dollars on top of an increasing cost of living on everything from housing to food, but their incomes are not rising accordingly. These families see nothing in the budget to provide more affordable housing, nothing in child care, nothing to create jobs and improve their incomes in Toronto.

I see young people who would love the chance to have a decent future and to be part of the economy of tomorrow, but there is almost nothing here in skills development and apprenticeship training.

Young people now have twice the national unemployment rate. If they lose hope, our country will pay the price in years to come. If we invest at the front end, in job skills training and child care and better housing, we will all reap the benefits for years to come.

Regrettably, the government's determination to grow the prison population and purchase fighter jets at the expense of these measures takes Canada in the wrong direction. It is not just morally and socially wrong. It is economically unsustainable.

We believe that it is wrong to attempt to sneak measures past Canadians and to ram them through Parliament as quickly as possible. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said repeatedly that MPs are not getting the information they need in order to reasonably be able to exercise their power of oversight. And today, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has come forward with a legal opinion that backs his battle to obtain information about the proposed cuts.

We are living in uncertain times, and forces beyond our borders will likely continue to have a significant impact for some time to go.

We will have a jobs crisis, likely to get worse. We have an environmental record that has plummeted, among the worst under the Conservatives, and we have a government that repeatedly misleads Canadians to serve its agenda.

Canadians need a government committed to job creation in a meaningful way, not just talking points. We need a government that understands that economic growth and environmental protection must go hand in hand. And we need a government that not only sets up a Parliamentary Budget Office but that provides that office with the information it needs to provide real accountability for Canadians.

That is why New Democrats have been standing firmly against this undemocratic Trojan Horse bill every step of the way and that is why, today, I would like to introduce the following reasoned amendment. My reasoned amendment is as follows:

That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“this House declines to give third reading to Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, because this House:

a) does not know the full implications of the budget cuts given that the government has kept the details of the $5.2 billion in spending cuts from the Parliamentary Budget Officer whose lawyer Joseph Magnet says the government is violating the Federal Accountability Act law and should turn the information over to the Parliamentary Budget Officer;

b) is concerned with the impact of the changes in the Bill on Canadian society such as:

i. making it more difficult for Canadians to access Employment Insurance when they need it and forcing them to accept jobs at 70% of what they previously earned or lose their EI;

ii. raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement from 65 to 67 years and thus driving thousands of Canadians into poverty while downloading spending to the provinces;

iii. cutting back the federal health transfers to the provinces from 2017 on, which will result in a loss of $31 billion to the health care system; and

iv. gutting the federal environmental assessment regime and weakening fish habitat protection which will adversely affect Canada's environmental sustainability for generations to come; and

c) is opposed to the removal of critical oversight powers of the Auditor General over a dozen agencies and the systematic concentration of powers in the hands of Government ministers over agencies such as the National Energy Board which weakens Canadians' confidence in the work of Parliament, decreases transparency and erodes fundamental democratic institutions by systematically eroding institutional checks and balances to the government's ideologically driven agenda.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The amendment appears to be in order.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, even though the member's amendment points out a number of flaws within Bill C-38, unfortunately the amendment might defer the ultimate passage by, let us say, nine minutes or something of that nature.

It is unfortunate in a sense because the government has put into place a time allocation, which will in essence prevent any real, thorough, healthy debate, whether it is on this amendment or other amendments. The best example I could cite is that the Liberal Party introduced more than 500 amendments, which has to be a record inside this House, and the government chose only to debate a few of those 500 amendments.

Because of time allocation, the hundreds of Liberal amendments were never really debated. Yes, they were voted on. Yes, it did prolong the passage. Unfortunately, the government has not seen the error of its ways and made the changes that are necessary in order to satisfy Canadians. Those changes are that Bill C-38 needs to be thrown out and a new budget bill brought and put into place.

Would the member not agree with that simple statement?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question and for his support for my reasoned amendment.

I would just reach out to other members of the House. I have heard some members on the Conservative side argue that in order to prevent the mega quarry being built in Melancthon township in southern Ontario, they are calling for an environmental assessment, an environmental assessment that would be deleted by Bill C-38.

I would like to reach out to members on the other side, to think about their constituents, to think about their families, to think about the future of their communities and to vote their conscience to understand what the bill would mean for all Canadians, not now alone but for decades going forward, and all it takes is 13 members on the other side to vote their conscience and then we could win this amendment, break up the bill and have a proper debate going forward. The government has the power to do that. These individual members have the power to do that, and I would urge them to do so.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member talks about environmental protection. Obviously everyone is concerned about that. Responsible resource development is important.

However, I would put this fact to the member. In 2010, natural resource sectors employed 760,000 workers in communities throughout the country, and in the next 10 years more than 500 major economic projects representing over $5 billion in new investments are planned across Canada.

By opposing the budget with rhetoric and delay tactics, which we have seen here, what does the member have to say to groups like the Saskatchewan Mining Association and Cameco? They provide a lot of jobs in northern Saskatchewan and are concerned about eliminating duplication between the provinces and the federal government. They are concerned about overlap between the provincial and federal processes. It has cost them time, resources, money and jobs. They say the budget needs to be passed to ensure that is rectified.

Why will the member not encourage her members to get behind the budget and pass it so that we can eliminate this duplication and address the concerns of many in the industry?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. However, I disagree with the implication that somehow we are opposed to any debate or discussion about the environmental regulations. Absolutely not.

Of course we are happy to open up the process to consult with those affected, but not just the mining businesses. Let us talk to first nations and the people who work in the mines about workplace protection and communities that are affected. Let us talk to the broader public so that we are not just catering to one group or one region.

It is important that we have sustainable development of our natural resources. I think most Canadians would agree, but goodness gracious, let us not destroy fish habitat or run roughshod over sensitive wilderness within Canada of which we are all so proud.

Let us not run roughshod over our democratic institutions. Let us have a fair, open debate, consult broadly and then make a reasoned decision. That is what we are asking for.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Parkdale—High Park for her excellent work on this file.

She may be aware that last week the World Health Organization declared diesel exhaust to be a carcinogen on the same level as asbestos and mustard gas. As she knows, that is a serious concern for the residents of her riding, my riding, Davenport and all of Toronto.

However, the Conservative government has proposed a bill that, if passed today, would remove human health from the list of things that are an effect of the environment. It would not matter whether the WHO has said that something is now dangerous, because if there were to be an environmental assessment under the proposed law, human health would not be part of the mix. Only fish, waterfowl and species at risk would be studied as a result of the changes the Conservatives are proposing to make. Human health would be in danger as a result of these changes, particularly in Toronto. I wonder if the member would like to comment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

I thank my colleague from York South—Weston for his excellent question and his diligent work on this file around the issue of diesel and the impact of diesel exhaust. He is quite right that in many of our communities in the west end of Toronto, we are facing the prospect of diesel trains rolling through neighbourhoods every seven minutes, past child care centres, schools, community centres and homes built near the tracks.

This dramatic densification of rail traffic is completely unjustifiable. We have been pushing that this train be electric so that it would be clean, efficient and without noise or vibration, like cities all around the world have.

However, without the requirement to consider human health as part of the environmental assessment, how would we ever capture this important, crucial element of the carcinogenic properties of diesel and the very dramatic, concrete impact that would have on communities in my riding and throughout the west end of Toronto?

I thank my colleague for his question and hard work on this issue. I would also call on my counterparts in government. If they want to do something to create jobs, to improve the environment, to build communities and to support our urban environment, then they should invest in clean trains, especially for the air-rail link in Toronto.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague across the way. A number of times she has insinuated that the changes regarding the environment in Bill C-38 are going to be harmful to the environment, when in fact they will be helpful to improve the environment.

Regarding the assessments, there was a legislative review of the Environmental Assessment Act in the previous fall session. A number of recommended changes came from that study. Those changes are now part of Bill C-38, and they are good changes. Those changes make environmental assessments much more effective. There were a lot of inefficiencies before.

Why would the member oppose improving the environment and mislead this Parliament and Canadians by trying to make Canadians think it is going to be harmful, when in fact it will actually be very good for the environment?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, that question makes me feel profoundly sad, because if that is the kind of approach the member wants environmental organizations to take, I can see why every major environmental organization in this country is somehow deemed radical by the government. It is because they are speaking the truth by saying that what the government is doing will harm the environment, will gut our environmental protections, will harm fish habitats and our wilderness areas.

The government is eliminating the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which was a body designed to bring together diverse viewpoints from business, environmentalists and first nations and bring people together to try to find common ground. Is that not what we should be doing here in Parliament—trying to find common ground and concrete solutions that work for Canadians—rather than demonizing environmentalists, disregarding their reports and somehow having this doublespeak that pretends what is bad for the environment is good for the environment? I do not think that is helpful.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-38 amends or repeals 70 different pieces of legislation. It is 425 pages of legislative text with 753 clauses.

There has been a lot of focus on the length of the bill. In fact, my party and I are more concerned with the breadth of the bill and the range of legislative changes made by Bill C-38. In fact, that is much more important than the number of words or pages. To put this in perspective, it often takes just a single clause in Bill C-38 to repeal or introduce an entire act.

Proposed in Bill C-38, we now have an entirely new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in clause 52. This one clause replaces decades of environmental protection and oversight in Canada.

Clause 441 repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act.

Clause 447 increased the old age security qualification age from 65 to 67.

Clause 686 abolishes the National Council on Welfare.

Clause 699 repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.

Clause 711 introduces an entirely new Shared Services Canada Act.

These are just a sampling of a few of the 753 clauses contained in this legislation.

Under the Conservatives, budget bills have grown tremendously in breadth. These pieces of omnibus legislation have become more complex, affecting widely disparate subjects and putting them into a single bill. At the same time, the Conservatives are limiting Parliament's ability to examine these different topics in several ways: first, by limiting the amount of time we have to examine the legislation before rushing it through committee; second, by limiting the number of expert witnesses we can hear from at committee; and third, by limiting the debate on this legislation in Parliament.

There is another way that the government is operating at committee to try to subvert reasonable debate and quash any dissension to its views. We heard from a number of witnesses who spoke at length in opposition to parts of this legislation. National Chief Shawn Atleo spoke to our committee. Perversely, most of Mr. Atleo's testimony and the intent of his testimony were actually expunged from the report that the committee presented. Contrary to what the researchers provided, the governing members on the committee worked together to ensure that we would effectively expunge any piece of testimony that may be critical of the government's system.

The same was done with Tom Siddon, a former minister of fisheries in a Progressive Conservative government, who said that this legislation would make “Swiss cheese” out of the Fisheries Act and warned us of the remarkably harmful damage to the Fisheries Act that would be rendered by this legislation. Most of the intent of his testimony was effectively expunged from the final report.

Over 600 clauses are included in parts 1, 2 and 4 of the bill, but the finance committee had just over a week to hear from a grand total of 57 witnesses from outside of the government. Most clauses in this legislation were not properly examined by the finance committee or addressed by even a single witness. Simply put, the process to study Bill C-38 was a farce.

Unfortunately, last spring the Conservatives learned that parliamentary process does not seem at the present to matter a lot to Canadians. They also learned this in Ontario with the omnibus bills of the Harris government.

I mentioned last spring that it was this Conservative government that became the first government not only in Canada but in the British Commonwealth parliamentary system to have actually been found in contempt of Parliament by the previous Speaker and House.

Elections are about a lot of issues. Sometimes an issue will resonate with Canadians and sometimes it will not. In that election, for whatever reason, a lot of Canadians did not seem to be paying attention to the fact that we had a sitting government that had been found in contempt of Parliament.

The Harris Conservative government in Ontario repeatedly used massive omnibus legislation. It disrespected Parliament, disrespected taxpayers and got away with it.

The Conservatives have in some ways been positively reinforced for negative behaviour, but things are changing. We are increasingly hearing from Canadians. We are hearing from them through all forms of media, whether it is opinion letters in newspapers, online fora, or in person.

Last evening I was at my home in Cheverie and I took my Gator down to the end of our drive to plant some trees. A fellow on his motorbike out for a Sunday evening drive stopped to speak to me. I had not met this fellow before. He told me that he has paid a bit of attention to politics but has never been involved, but he wants to get involved now. He said this has gone too far, that the Conservative government is out of control. He said that what we are seeing in Ottawa is not a democratic government.

I hear that also from people at the farmers' market in Wolfville. They tell me that the government wants to celebrate the veterans of the Second World War who fought for our freedoms, but they want to know how the government can on the one hand celebrate the sacrifices and commitment of the veterans who fought for our democratic rights and freedoms while on the other hand attacking those same democratic rights and freedoms.

I am hearing that from people in my riding, and I am hearing from members of our caucus from across Canada that increasingly Canadians are noticing and are willing to get engaged and involved to find a better alternative.

This is not esoteric parliamentary procedure stuff that the Conservatives are trying to pretend. This strikes to the core values of respect for Parliament and democracy.

I will be speaking later about our inability to get legitimate information from the government about the legislation we are going to vote on, but suffice it to say that by limiting public debate and oversight, the Conservatives are hoping that Canadians will be too distracted by process issues to notice what they will really be doing with this legislation. The Conservatives are trying to distract Canadians with the process issues, and a lot of us have focused on the process issues. The Conservatives are quite happy about that, because they do not think Canadians really care about the democratic institutions that govern us and defend our freedoms. The Conservatives are wrong. They are betting against the goodwill, the good faith and the intelligence of Canadians in the long term.

I want to talk about a couple of the changes being made that the Conservatives are largely ducking responsibility and accountability for. One is the OAS change. The Conservatives are saying that this is really not a cut. They should explain that to a low-income Canadian who is looking forward to becoming 65 to quality for OAS. Let us look at who will be affected by these changes.

Forty per cent of OAS recipients make less than $20,000 a year. Fifty-three per cent of OAS recipients make less than $25,000 a year. The Conservatives are telling Canadians that they will have 11 years to start saving a bit more money. It is pretty hard to tell people who are making $20,000 a year that they have to save more money, and that is effectively what the Conservatives are telling a lot of Canadians.

The Conservatives are telling Canadians that they are living longer, that they are healthier. Lawyers, accountants, members of Parliament or journalists can probably work, if health permits, until 75 or 80 years of age.

My father was a businessman. He worked until he was 82. However, in the case of manual labourers, working in a cold, damp fish plant on a concrete floor every day, on their feet all day; welders; physical labourers; carpenters; or pipe fitters, chances are by the age of 65 their bodies are ready for a break. There was no consideration of these people, the low-income Canadians being affected by this.

The government is quite happy that the issues around Bill C-38 have focused on parliamentary process and not on the actual issues. We have lots of time before the next election to ensure that we get back to those substantive issues with Canadians.

I am hearing from a lot of industries across Canada, and specifically in Atlantic Canada, on changes to EI, particularly from significant employers in seasonal industries, including horticulture. They tell me that these changes could wipe them out, that programs to support seasonal workers are part of the production chain of agriculture and horticulture, not just in Canada but globally. They say that any impediment to the use of seasonal workers or seasonal worker programs in the horticulture industry could wreak havoc on their capacity to be competitive with industries in other countries.

The legislation is also hurting Canada's international brand by tearing up 100,000 immigration applications. The Conservatives are imposing their unilateral decision to reduce health care transfer payment growth to the provinces and territories. They are enabling themselves to target charities with which they disagree. While they are at it, they have eliminated groups with which they disagree, including the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, Rights and Democracy, and the National Council of Welfare. What do those groups have in common? Number one, they were set up decades ago. Number two, they reported to governments and would disagree with governments from time to time. Number three, their funding was continued under both Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments, which could accept the principle that governments do not just fund organizations that agree with them. They have a responsibility in a functioning democracy to accept truth from experts, from people who spend their lives dealing with these issues, like the National Council of Welfare that understands the issues of poverty in Canada, or the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

Most people have accepted that we cannot put in silos the economy on one side and the environment on the other, that good environmental policy can actually be good economic policy and that the jobs of the future are going to be increasingly green jobs, including areas of opportunity in cleaner conventional energy in places like the oil sands where we can develop those technologies. Why then, for goodness' sake, would the Conservatives get rid of a government council that has operated for decades dealing with this issue, just at the time when Canada has to deal with the issue of bringing the economy and the environment together?

Bill C-38 reduces the Auditor General's oversight of a number of government agencies. It reduces democratic oversight of Canada's spy agency by abolishing the office of the inspector general. It eliminates a number of the government's reporting requirements on climate change and public service jobs. It makes changes that some experts are warning us are unconstitutional, like changes to parole hearings.

However, I believe Canadians are hitting a tipping point where we will no longer accept this anti-democratic style and substance of the government. For some time the Conservatives have been starving Canadians and members of Parliament of the information we need to have informed debate and to make informed decisions.

The Conservatives treat Parliament as an enemy, one that they try to starve of information and co-operation. They refuse to provide basic information, for instance about how much legislation would cost. In the fall of 2010, I put forward a motion at the finance committee, demanding that the government provide us with information about the costs of the F-35s and of its prison agenda. My motions were adopted, but the government continued to refuse to disclose the information. I appealed to Parliament through a question of privilege. I argued that MPs have a fiduciary responsibility to Canadians. We must know how much legislation would cost before we vote on it.

This is not just a responsibility we have as opposition members of Parliament. It is very important that the members of Parliament in the government recognize that the Conservative MPs have the same job description that we do. We have the same fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers and to citizens and to our electors to know the cost of the legislation we are voting on. To vote blindly, without even demanding that information, is to not do our job. That is effectively what the Conservatives are failing to do when they are complicit with a government that starves Parliament of this vital information. The Conservative MPs are failing to do their job. By denying us that information, the government is denying Canadians this information.

That is why we see today that the Parliamentary Budget Officer, appointed by the Conservatives, has been pushed to the limit where he is not being given information on legislation from the government. He asked for simple information on the impact of cuts over the future fiscal years. He received the response that the government cannot provide him with that information. A legal opinion came out this morning that the law the Conservatives are breaking is section 79.3 of the Parliament of Canada Act. We have a government that is actually breaking the law. This law gives Parliament, through the Parliamentary Budget Officer, free and timely access to any financial or economic data. Who brought in that law? I think it was the Conservatives. It was part of their Accountability Act. So they make the law and then they break the law.

The reality is that the Conservatives, many from the Reform Party background, rode into Ottawa on this white horse of accountability, defending the interests of Parliament against the executive, defending the interests of the taxpayers against those who would not defend their interests here in Ottawa and those who would not provide them with information on legislation. Now it is the Conservatives who are quashing all that. The reality is that the Conservatives, who won an election promising openness, transparency and accountability, are the least open, least transparent and least accountable government in the history of Canada.

We have a responsibility. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has a responsibility to do his job. He takes that seriously. He has asked for information, not on his own behalf but for Parliament, so that members of Parliament can do their job. Our parliamentary system relies on hon. members to act honourably and it expects that members of Parliament's questions will be answered fully and completely. However, when MPs ask substantive questions to ministers or even to officials at committee, these questions are routinely evaded or ignored. Even order paper questions are now ignored. Shortly after budget 2012 was released, I submitted several order paper questions, seeking a government-wide breakdown of financial information in the three most recent budgets. I believe I am the only MP to have done this. The response from the government was basically “no”. In fact, it sent me a copy of the table that I referenced in my request and asked for more detailed information. It simply sent me the table, to add insult to injury.

In disrespecting Parliament and members of Parliament, the Conservative government is disrespecting the Canadians who chose the Parliament. It is in disrespecting Parliament, and not giving us the cost of legislation, that the government is disrespecting taxpayers.

We will have, in the coming years, an opportunity to debate with Canadians some of the substantive and deleterious impacts of this legislation on the lives of Canadians. It is very important that we fulfill our responsibility as MPs to defend this Parliament against a tyrannical government that no longer cares about Parliament and the democratic rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Kings—Hants for his very fine statement.

I know that the people in his riding, in his region, are experiencing much the same thing as the people in my region.

In Bill C-38, there is one component that obviously affects employment insurance. In my riding, surprisingly, although seasonal workers have been vocal on the issue, they are not the ones who have been the most vocal—the employers have been. The reason is that seasonal employers train their workforce. The employment insurance reform announced in Bill C-38 could cause these employers to lose the workforce they trained, since their workforce could be forced to accept lower-paying jobs or to move in order to take a more stable job outside the region. I am sure that regions like mine or my colleague’s will be caught off guard.

I would like to hear what the member for Kings—Hants has to say about the reality of the proposed employment insurance reform and the impact it will have on his riding.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the hon. member's question.

According to business leaders in my riding, there will clearly be a negative impact on businesses and their ability to survive, particularly in the tourism and agricultural industries. I am hearing that it will be very difficult for these industries to stay in business.

When I speak with business and industry leaders in my riding and elsewhere, it is clear that there was no consultation process before these ideological changes were introduced. When the government makes decisions without consulting anyone and adopts a completely ideological mindset, it creates a lot of crises—not just for workers, but also for businesses—regarding the possibility of increasing the number of jobs in the future.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member is a colleague on the finance committee. We have spent quite a few hours together the last couple of weeks. We have exchanged a lot of ideas and opinions and listened to quite a few witnesses. We had 50 hours of extra committee time for this budget. That is just the finance committee. I am not talking about the 20 hours in the subcommittee. There were 70 hours of committee time committed to the budget itself. Many witnesses testified. In fact, there were so many witnesses and so much time allocated that the NDP kept asking the same questions over and over again.

I find it really interesting that he complained about the process. I think the reason opposition members are talking about process is due to the fact that the budget is such a sound and good document for the economy as a whole. The Liberals would rather talk about process because they know the budget itself is good.

My question for my colleague is with regard to environmental assessments. The premier of Saskatchewan has talked quite extensively about the one-stop shop for environmental assessments. The member must agree with this government that one-stop shop is more efficient, and that getting projects through the environmental assessment process is not only good for business but can also be done in a manner that is responsible to the environmental itself. Could he add some comments on the one-stop shop for environmental assessments?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, we shall agree to disagree as to whether the process at the finance committee was a legitimate one. Suffice to say that testimony, contrary to the government's position, was magically expunged by some invisible hand that government members were able to exert during that process.

The reality is that there are substantive problems with the budget. I mentioned a couple, including the OAS, the changes to EI, among others, and including accountability and oversight.

On the changes on environmental oversight, we have several former presidents of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, CAPP, who have said that the NEB operates well. They were saying that it has operated very well. These changes would gut that process such that the decision-making would not be at the NEB level. It would be at the minister's office level. The capacity to actually politicize the decision-making process is not good for the economy and is not good for the environment. When I say that it is not good for the economy, what I mean is that when a predictable process, which is public servants who are doing their jobs as part of that NEB approach, is taken away and it is made more political that creates some real problems.

I have no difficulty with the streamlining of environmental process and regulation. I think that can be fair and good for business and the environment at the same time. However, I do have a concern about the government's politicizing of the environmental approval process, which would be the effect of this legislation.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, my friend from Kings—Hants spoke of the government's denial of information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

However, there is another way the government is denying access to information and that is through the gutting of the community access program. Tens of thousands of people across Canada have, as their only means of access to information, an opportunity to go to libraries and go on a computer or on the Internet, which they could not otherwise afford at home. This happens in urban areas. In Guelph, 300 people a day use that program. It happens in rural areas that would not otherwise have access to the Internet.

The government has, in its wisdom, decided to gut the program and deny access to information and deny access to the Internet for some of the most needy people in Canada. It is one thing that my friend did not comment on and I am wondering if he would be willing to do so now.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Guelph for his hard work on this file and his hard work as an exceptional member of Parliament for the people of Guelph and the people of Canada.

I can also say that these cuts to CAPP come at a time when the government is saying that it will communicate vital information to those Canadians who are out of work on job opportunities twice a day every day.How will it do that? It will do that via the Internet even though 30% of rural Canadians do not have the capacity to access the Internet.

These CAPP sites are important. I know in my riding there are lines, in parts of the day, for people to have access to these CAPP sites. On these changes to EI, the government is saying that people should not worry about it, that it will contact people twice a day. What if people do not have access to the Internet? What if they do not have a computer? The reality is that a lot of Canadians do not own a computer or cannot afford access to the Internet. A lot of Canadians are living in poverty and it is often those people to whom the government is saying it will communicate new jobs opportunities twice a day.

There is a real inconsistency and a logic gap. On the one hand the government is saying that it will cut the CAPP programs that aid low-income Canadians in their ability to access the Internet. On the other hand, it is saying that it will communicate job opportunities to low-income Canadians twice a day through the Internet. Let us try to square that one.

That is another reason that the government is off-track when it comes to helping low-income Canadians. It is another reason that I think this whole issue of poverty and income inequality is an issue the House of Commons finance committee will be studying in great detail coming up. I am looking forward to this day, as are my Conservative colleagues I am certain. These are issues that are important to Canadians. These are issues that we will delve into as part of the House of Commons finance committee in the coming months.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my seatmate, the member for Newmarket—Aurora.

I will begin my remarks on Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, by reminding the House about the excellent progress we have seen as a result of the government's leadership on the economy in recent months.

We saw record levels of job growth in March and April. The latest figures show that we are continuing to build upon those important gains. I have to say that number because it is so important: 760,000 net new jobs since July 2009.

Because we know it is an important priority of Canadians, our government remains focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. A strong economy is central to ensuring that our country continues to thrive and also allows all levels of government to provide the services that Canadians rely upon.

We also understand the importance of a fair and equitable tax system. That is why the bill includes a number of important measures to improve on certain tax credits and other issues. Overall, these measures would improve access to some important tax programs, leaving more money in Canadians' pockets so they can spend according to their needs. We think that Canadians know best and that is why we are working to support them and their families.

Some of the important tax changes from Bill C-38 are meant to improve access to medical supplies. The medical expense tax credit would be expanded to include blood coagulation monitors and their disposable peripherals so that Canadians who require these devices can access them at lower costs.

The Excise Tax Act would also be amended to expand the list of HST exempt non-prescription drugs that are used to treat life-threatening diseases. Certain pharmacists' services would also be exempted from HST in order to support Canadians in accessing these important medical supports.

As stated by its past president, Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull, during the finance committee's study of the bill, the Canadian Medical Association feels that these were very positive measures. I am confident that Canadians will agree. I am happy to inform the House of these important steps to ensure the tax system better reflects the evolving nature of the health sector and, of course, health care needs of Canadians.

Recognizing the importance of savings to both individuals and to the overall economy, our government has further put in place measures to make it easier for Canadians with disabilities to access registered disability savings plans. Our Conservative government was proud to put in place this important savings tool in 2007 and committed to a thorough review last year. Based on feedback from over 200 individuals and organizations, we are now acting to ensure that the program continues to meet the needs of Canadians with severe disabilities and their families.

The jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act would introduce a temporary measure to allow certain family members to open an RDSP for an adult who is unable to enter into contracts. It is important that all disabled Canadians can access the benefits of this program. We are taking steps to ensure that those who might need the support of family members to sign up can do so.

As we heard from Vangelis Nikias of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities during his testimony at the finance committee, the RDSP has been a successful program for families. I am proud that the bill would ensure its continued success for many years to come.

Another important measure in the bill recognizes the good work done by Canada's charitable sector. One specific change would allow certain literacy organizations to claim a rebate on the GST paid on the acquisition of books that will be given away for free. Education and literacy are key to our knowledge-driven economy, so I am happy to see these measures included.

I would also like to note that some of these books affected would undoubtedly deal with financial issues. So, hopefully, this measure would build nicely on the fine work of my colleague, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, and his efforts on financial literacy with Motion No. 269.

Further measures would increase accountability and transparency for charities. We understand that charities do great work in our country and we encourage Canadians to donate generously. However, we also understand that, when Canadians donate to charities, they want to know that their donation is actually being used for its intended purpose. The measures announced in the budget would provide more education to charities to ensure they are operating within the law and more transparency for those Canadians who donate so generously. In order to protect these important donations, we have a duty to ensure that Canadian charities are operating in compliance with federal law.

As there may have been some attention to this measure, one thing should be clarified. The rules for charitable activity are long-standing and are not being changed. We are simply taking action so that Canadians can be sure that charities are using their resources appropriately.

In addition to ensuring that our tax benefits are accessible for Canadians in supporting the charitable sector, the bill also makes important improvements to support the fishing industry.

As far back as I can remember, there have been significant concerns regarding the regulatory and legislative focus that had our protection officers buried in mounds of paperwork that often had little or no impact on the protection of fish habitat. Having to arbitrate dock locations among cottagers or travel great distances to meet with municipalities regarding a drainage ditch was part of the regulatory requirements, all the while we continued to see a dwindling of salmon returns and significant concerns about this important resource. We believe that efforts should be focused on where they will be most effective.

I will give another example. Tobiano in my riding was an important development. All approvals were in place, including DFO approval, when it was determined that a minor modification to the marina location was required. The current legislation required that the entire approval process had to begin again. In this case it caused a very significant delay and likely had critical impact on the timing of the project and, ultimately, decisions by the capital investors. Again, a very minor change created a significant and undue negative impact.

The bill proposes to amend the Fisheries Act to more effectively manage those activities that pose the greatest threats to fish. The amendments provide additional clarity for the authorization of serious harm to fish and of deposits of deleterious substances. The amendments would allow the minister to enter into agreements with provinces and other bodies, provide for control and management of invasive species and, most important, clarify and expand the powers of inspectors. These are changes that would enhance our ability to focus and protect this most important resource.

In addition to the measures I have talked about already, I want to talk briefly about health care and health care transfers because this is something near and dear to my heart. Being involved in the health care sector in the nineties, I saw first-hand how much damage was done to the communities by those reckless Liberal cuts. We made a commitment that we would get back to balanced budgets without impacting transfers to the provinces. We have taken a very responsible approach. We understand that we all use the same health care system. We want a strong health care system and we want it to be there for our families when we need it.

For my province of B.C., the health transfer this year will reach over $4 billion for the first time. That represents an increase of over $1.2 billion since our government was first elected.

Across the country, health transfers have increased by over 40% since our government took office. This significant funding increase has gone a long way to help offset the damage done by the previous government. It also represents the highest level of funding the federal government has ever provided to support the provinces and territories in the delivery of health care. We are extremely proud of that accomplishment.

Going forward, our new funding formula will ensure that all provinces can continue to rely on strong and stable increases to health transfers and that these transfers will always keep pace with growth in the economy.

With so many positive measures in the budget bill, I am proud to have this opportunity to speak in support of it. I was also happy to have had the opportunity to take part in its thorough review at finance committee where we had an unprecedented amount of time to hear from expert witnesses and officials.

Whether its continued health transfer growth, support for our fisheries sector, more transparency for charities or increased access to tax benefits, I think most Canadians would agree that this bill does an excellent job of addressing their priorities. It is for this reason I will be happy to vote in support of the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, my constituents are very worried about a new oil pipeline that is proposed from Edmonton to Burnaby. They are worried about a number of things with this proposal by Kinder Morgan.

First, they are very concerned about oil leaks and spills, as we have seen in Abbotsford, Burnaby and, most recently, in Alberta near Red Deer.

They are also really worried about expropriation of land and how these changes in the budget would affect their input into this process.

I wonder if the member could explain how shortening the length of time constituents can input into this process and maybe even limiting it so they do not have any say at all into this project is somehow protecting the environment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk about the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which has gone through my riding for almost 50 years. I have letters from constituents who talk about what a good corporate citizen Kinder Morgan has been and how very pleased they have been as a community and as property owners.

What is most important is that we recognize Canadians are concerned with ensuring pipeline safety. Perhaps the member did not read the budget, because within this budget there are measures that not only increase the opportunity for inspections of pipelines much more regularly, but also tanker safety. There are many important measures that deal with safety. There is a critical balance that we absolutely need in terms of pipeline safety and tankers which people are concerned about.

If the member would read the budget, I am sure he would be very glad to see the important measures that deal with the concerns he just addressed.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just heard the member talk about safety.

The closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base is widely held in metro Vancouver to be a major mistake. This is the busiest port in Canada. The Kitsilano Coast Guard base responds to over 300 emergencies every year. The claims that this service can be replaced by hovercraft from Richmond have been discounted by a retiring senior Coast Guard employee in Kitsilano, who spoke with me on the weekend.

I would ask the member how closing the Kitsilano Coast Guard base, with the risk of loss of life that is widely believed it will cause, helps with the jobs agenda of the government.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, we certainly recognize that is a busy area, which is why there will be additional resources in terms of structures and supports in that area for the busy season.

However, we need to look at the bigger picture. We see what is happening in Europe. There are two things which we as a government have to do. One is modest reductions in all departments. We are looking for 5% to 10% in savings. Two is that we need to get back to a balanced budget. We cannot hand over a deficit and a debt to our children. Every single department has made some very modest savings that will move us in the direction of getting back to a balanced budget by 2015-16, which is absolutely critical for the long-term future of our citizens.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very important to recognize why we oppose the budget. It is not just because it contains economic measures that will not help Canadians at all, but because it contains a wide range of measures that will in no way create jobs and growth, no matter what the government claims.

This is particularly true of clause 602 of Bill C-38. If my colleague has read the budget, she will have seen that clause 602 eliminates the clause of the Employment Equity Act that applies to companies bidding on federal government contracts.

Can my colleague explain how eliminating a clause that allows the government to ensure employment equity for women will create jobs and growth?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I sat in the finance committee and listened to officials explain in very great depth and detail each of the clauses and why they are common sense changes. We are not going to have a giant, red tape, up-front process. Anyone who has a contract with the government will need to have an equity plan as part of the contract. We are trying to reduce red tape and the burden on businesses, but in absolutely no way impacting the important issues around employment equity.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today to support Bill C-38, the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act.

Last week the opposition tried to block the vital measures contained in Canada's economic action plan 2012, which was first introduced in this chamber nearly four months ago. Since then, Bill C-38 has received the longest House debate and committee consideration of any budget bill over the past two decades. Indeed, it was reviewed for nearly 70 hours at finance committee and at a specially created subcommittee which heard from literally hundreds of witnesses.

Unfortunately, last week the NDP’s only concern was to delay and defeat Bill C-38.

It is not only our government that finds these tactics appalling, but Canadians right across the country do as well. Indeed, a recent Toronto Sun editorial summarized the NDP's actions as follows:

[The NDP leader's] hypocrisy and self-obsession is in full flame...vowing to delay the passing of... [economic action plan 2012] by playing silly [games]...with amendments and procedure....

Let us be clear. Economic action plan 2012 increases support for families, the backbone of communities from coast to coast to coast. Through the introduction of Bill C-38 our government is building our strong record of support for families across the country. These measures include, but are not limited to, the creation of the universal child care benefit, the family caregiver tax credit, the children's fitness tax credit, the children's arts tax credit, and the introduction of the landmark tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since RRSPs. These measures build on an impressive record of tax relief for Canadian families.

Since 2006, our Conservative government has cut taxes over 140 times, removed over one million Canadians from the tax rolls, increased the amount Canadians can earn tax free, and reduced the GST from 7% to 5%. These measures have made an appreciable difference for families all across the country. In fact, they have put over $3,100 back into the pocket of the average Canadian family.

It is little wonder that under our Conservative government tax freedom day is now over two weeks earlier than in the last year of the previous Liberal government. Our government did this without slashing federal transfers for health or education like the previous Liberal government in the 1990s did.

Unlike the opposition, we support a low-tax plan that leaves more money where it belongs, in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families. In this bill, our government is committed to maintaining its strong record of supporting and standing up for Canadian families. That is why moving forward with economic action plan 2012 is so important.

Bill C-38 improves the registered disability savings plan, the RDSP, giving peace of mind to Canadian families by helping to ensure the long-term financial security of children with severe disabilities. Most importantly, the legislation improves access to RDSPs.

Due to provincial legislation currently in force in certain provinces, some people with intellectual disabilities are barred from opening RDSPs without compromising their legal status. This means that in order to access the plans, they would be required to be declared legally incompetent. This is time consuming and emotionally challenging and could result in unintended consequences for individuals and their families. This is an unfair imposition on disabled Canadians and their families and we are working with the provinces to correct this. In the meantime, Bill C-38 will allow a family member to open an RDSP on a relative's behalf without that individual being declared legally incompetent.

This measure has been very warmly received by the Canadian disability community. Indeed, listen to what Laurie Larson, president of the Canadian Association for Community Living, had to say:

[T]he Government of Canada heard the message of people with disabilities and their families across the country. These changes mean that people will no longer be pushed to undergo guardianship in order to access this plan.

Improving access to RDSPs is just one way that economic action plan 2012 helps support Canadian families. It also promotes more active lifestyles with continued support for Participaction and its community-based physical activity and fitness programs to promote the health of Canadian children and families. The plan also enhances the victims fund to ensure that victims of crime have an effective voice in the federal justice and corrections systems.

Sheldon Kennedy, a well-known former hockey player and victims rights activist, was pleased with this initiative and praised it by saying that this government has been listening to victims by providing funding to support recovery for victims and their families, assist with the court process, improve conviction rates and increase punishment for perpetrators.

These are not the only measures our government has taken in support of Canadian families. All across this country, parents' number one priority is the same: securing a bright and prosperous future for their children.

That is why Bill C-38 also helps to ensure that the old age security program, OAS, remains strong for future generations. Much like Canadian families, our Conservative government is dedicated to ensuring that future generations have access to an OAS program that remains sustainable over the long term.

The measures contained in Bill C-38 guide the program toward long-term sustainability with no impact on today's seniors. Economic action plan 2012 gradually raises the eligibility for OAS and GIS benefits from age 65 to 67 between 2023 and 2029. I should note that seniors who are currently receiving OAS and GIS will not see a single cent lost to these new changes. The advanced notification and phase-in period will give Canadians time to plan and prepare for their retirement and minimize the impact on vulnerable groups.

Our government believes that today's prosperity should be enjoyed by future generations. It is because of this belief that economic action plan 2012 is squarely focused on keeping Canada on track to balanced budgets, building on our outstanding record of success to date.

We all know that Canada benefits from the best fiscal position in the G7. Both the IMF and the OECD have forecast that Canada will be at the head of the pack for economic growth in the G7 in years ahead. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada the number one place in the world for businesses to invest and create more jobs. Also, for the fourth straight year, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world.

However, our government believes that we should never simply be content with our past accomplishments. We must always look forward. While the NDP and the Liberals want to engage in reckless deficit spending sprees, our Conservative government is committed to returning to balanced budgets and maintaining our favourable global fiscal position.

That is why our government is so dedicated to reducing debt. It frees up tax dollars that would otherwise be used to cover interest costs. This means lower taxes for all Canadians and more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families.

Our plan to get back to balanced budgets is working. In the past two years, we have already cut the deficit in half. With economic action plan 2012, we are building on these existing efforts by refocusing government, improving service delivery and streamlining back-office administration to achieve over $5 billion in ongoing savings for taxpayers.

Almost 70% of these savings will come from eliminating waste in the internal operations of government, making it leaner and more efficient. This better respects the hard-earned tax dollars that Canadians send to Ottawa.

Canadian families are the backbone of our country and deserve the support and respect of their government. That is why we are working hard to implement economic action plan 2012 to ensure long-term prosperity for hard-working Canadian families.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's speech and was quite fascinated by her reference to balanced and constructive spending and management of our fiscal realities by the Conservative government.

I would like her to explain the lack of proper tendering of contracts for the F-35, the outrageous price that was demanded by the manufacturer, and the failure of the government to manage our fiscal realities legitimately and responsibly.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have to recognize that this project was initiated in 1997 by the previous Liberal government. We entered into discussions regarding the F-35 with all our allies to look at what would be the next operational vehicle for our air force. We know we have to supply our men and women in uniform with the best materials they need to go into the situations we ask them to do to protect Canadians.

While no contract has been signed to this point, we continue to look at what we can do to best acquire the vehicles and supplies for our military. We will continue to do so, working in conjunction with all our global partners.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, in the member's speech she mentioned the Toronto Sun and that it had mentioned the antics of the Leader of the Opposition. In its editorial on June 14, the Toronto Star said:

The opposition has rightly argued that given the scope and ambition of the proposed legislation, the bill should have been broken up and its component parts duly debated.

What does the member have to say?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, the budget bill was introduced in the House on March 29. We are four months post that introduction. The bill has had the most debate in the House of any budget bill in the last two decades. It has also had considerable discussion in the finance committee as well as in a subcommittee that was established specifically to look at the bill. It is not that this bill has not been studied.

It is time for us to get on with getting Canada back on track for growth, jobs and long-term prosperity, to put money back into the hands of hard-working Canadians. That is what our government wants to do.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct the hon. member; it has been two and a half months since the budget was passed. There is a difference between the budget and the Act to implement certain provisions of the budget. The budget has already been passed. We are now talking about the budget implementation bill.

Actually, I would like to go back to something that an hon. member mentioned earlier as well. I am referring to charitable organizations. Mr. Lauzière, from Imagine Canada, gave testimony before a committee and talked about the impact of statements such as the one made by the Minister of the Environment on charitable organizations and their political activities. The minister accused groups—without ever naming them—of money laundering. In addition, just two weeks ago, the Prime Minister, his leader, said:

We're certainly trying to comb through our spending to make sure it's all appropriate. If it's the case that we're spending on organizations that are doing things contrary to government policy, I think that is an inappropriate use of taxpayers' money and we'll look to eliminate it.

I think that goes against the democratic principle whereby we allow organizations that are opposed to the government to express their views in order to set the record straight and point out flaws in government bills.

Does the hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora agree with the comments made by the Minister of the Environment and the Prime Minister?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, so my colleague knows, it is Newmarket—Aurora. Aurora residents would be very disturbed if they were left out whenever the constituency was mentioned in the House. I thank the good people of Newmarket—Aurora for electing me to represent them here.

We know that charities do very good work in our society and we are very thankful to the generous Canadians who contribute to those charities across the country. However, we also know that charities are restricted in what they can do with that money. This bill would put in place the responsibility for charities to focus on the mandate they have been given and on the charitable work they are to do in their communities.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I assume that I will have about three minutes to speak at this point and that I will be able to continue after question period.

I rise in the House to speak one last time about Bill C-38, the budget implementation bill, or, as the Conservative government likes to call it, the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act. However, this title implies the complete opposite of the kind of impact and consequences this bill will have. I would like to use my time to explain why.

Before I address the impact this will have on jobs and growth, I would like to take the time I have before members' statements and question period to talk about something the government keeps mentioning, which is the number of hours spent discussing the bill. The member for Prince Albert and some other members mentioned that we have had more time than ever before to study this budget implementation bill, in comparison to previous years.

They are absolutely right when they say that we discussed the bill for about 50 hours in committee and about 20 hours in subcommittee. But what they need to realize is that the budget implementation bill amends approximately 70 acts. It modifies, amends, adds or eliminates about 70 acts. If we average out what we do in Parliament, specifically in committee, when we study a bill, we spend four or five hours discussing it, studying it in depth and looking at the scope and consequences of it.

It is important to realize that, if we are talking about 70 different acts, that means that about 350 hours of study should have been required for a bill of this magnitude. However, we barely had 70. In addition, we could not focus on any specific elements. In part 4 alone there were about 56 divisions, 56 different acts that were affected. So it was impossible for the members, as parliamentarians, to study this bill properly. I find it appalling that the government is boasting that we spent 70 hours discussing this bill when, given its size, we should have spent over 350 hours and even longer to fully understand its scope.

I want to raise another issue that the government has, yet again, refused to comment on: the fact that there is not merely consensus, but unanimity among political commentators and analysts in Canada and Quebec, not necessarily on the content of Bill C-38, but on the way the government chose to introduce that content. The problem is that, at the end of the week, we will vote one single time to pass or reject, in its entirety, a mammoth 430-page bill.

I will talk more about this after question period because it deserves to be talked about. The government's approach is threatening the very foundation of our parliamentary system, our parliamentary democracy.

I will stop here so that we can move on to members' statements.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques will have 17 minutes remaining to complete his remarks.

Statements by members. The hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.

MulticulturalismStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we approach Canada Day, I think it is important to reflect on some of the nationalities that have helped make Canada the great country it is.

Three weeks ago, Mississauga held its annual festival of cultures, Carassauga, and I was lucky enough to visit most of the pavilions and enjoy the people, food and music of many great cultures.

Over the past month, Italian Republic Day, Slovenian Statehood Day, Philippine Independence Day, Polish Constitution Day and the Croatian National and Armed Forces Day have been celebrated. These are just a handful of cultures I have had the good fortune to celebrate recently and just a handful of the many wonderful cultures in the great riding I am proud to represent, Mississauga East—Cooksville.

Waves of new Canadians have constantly reached our country over the 145 years since Confederation. As we get ready to celebrate the best country in the world, let us also think about the many cultures within our great country, Canada.

Health CareStatements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, our country has been built on the idea that we all have a responsibility to take care of one another, especially the vulnerable. However, the Conservative government is targeting this basic Canadian value with its mean-spirited cuts to refugee health care.

These cuts will effectively deny health care to refugee applicants who need to see a doctor and who have limited or no financial means to do so. Most egregiously, some legitimate refugees will be cut off from even basic medical coverage. That means a refugee undergoing emergency surgery for a heart attack at a Canadian hospital would have to pay for it out of pocket or be denied care.

Is this our Canada?

Today, doctors and other health care professionals across the country are taking action against these cuts. I call on the Conservative government to have a heart and reverse this decision before it comes into effect at the end of June.

Owen Sound AttackStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to congratulate the Los Angeles Kings on their recent Stanley Cup victory and also to recognize the Kings connection to Owen Sound.

Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound is home to the Owen Sound Attack and I am proud to say that three Attack alumni were a part of the LA Kings cup run this season. Trevor Lewis, Brad Richardson and Mike Futa all had once been a part of the Owen Sound Attack.

Trevor Lewis, who put up nine points this post-season, played his only season in the OHL for the Owen Sound Attack. Also, Brad Richardson, a key part of the Kings lineup played four seasons in Owen Sound. Finally, Mike Futa, the director of player development for the Kings, is a former Owen Sound Attack general manager. Mr. Futa has already indicated he will be bringing the Stanley Cup to Owen Sound this summer.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Owen Sound Attack appreciation barbecue and was very proud to once again see the tremendous support from the best fans in the OHL.

In closing, I would like to congratulate these three alumni and wish them and the Owen Sound Attack the best of luck next season.

Academic AchievementsStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour three extraordinary young women in my riding.

Emma Archibald of Bedford, who attends Charles P. Allen High School, won a McEuen Foundation scholarship to attend the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Terra Lanteigne of Hatchet Lake, who attends Bedford Academy, won a gold medal in the junior grade category in this year's Canada-wide science fair.

Julia Sarty of Bedford, a Gorsebrook Junior High School student, won a bronze medal in the intermediate grade category of the Canada-wide science fair.

The hard work, dedication and achievement of each of these three young people is a testament to their character. Their parents and teachers have reason to be proud. I am sure members will join me in congratulating them.

Brampton—SpringdaleStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege today to highlight the remarkable participation of Bramptonians for great causes, such as iRock Pink which, led by Preet and Parminder Mangat, raised $16,000 for Wellspring Chinguacousy cancer support centre, in my wonderful riding of Brampton—Springdale.

Bramptonians also participated in the 12th annual Race Against Racism, which is hosted by the Peel regional police each year.

On the same day, Brampton held its annual Flower City Parade, which brought thousands of families together.

I also had the opportunity to take part in Love Brampton, an event organized by over 25 organizations, which provides vital services like dental and medical for those in need.

A special thanks for Donna Burt, the project coordinator for Love Brampton, Dr. Lung from the Health Mission Outreach and the more than a thousand volunteers who made this event very successful.

I am extremely proud to call Brampton home.

International Year of CooperativesStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, 2012 is the UN's International Year of Cooperatives. This is a global acknowledgement that co-operatives drive the economy, respond to social change, are resilient to global economic crisis and are serious, successful businesses creating jobs in all sectors.

The reason for their success is that they are fundamentally different from other businesses. Co-ops and credit unions use the one-member one-vote system, not the one-vote-per-share system used by corporations. As a result, co-ops and credits unions serve the common need of their members, as opposed to just the need of their largest shareholders. People, not capital, control the organization.

This model has ensured that co-ops succeed at a higher rate than the private sector, without relocating jobs offshore. There is indeed much to celebrate when it comes to Canadian co-operatives.

That is especially true in my riding of Hamilton Mountain, where the Halam Park Housing Co-op just received the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada's inaugural Award for Co-operative Achievement. Halam Park is adding much-needed units to Hamilton's housing stock. In doing so, it is providing more than the just the bricks and mortar of shelter; it is offering stability, security and dignity to even more Hamiltonians.

Congratulations, Halam Park, for proving the UN right: co-operative enterprises build a better world.

Whitchurch-StouffvilleStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to thank Mayor Wayne Emmerson of Whitchurch-Stouffville, who on Friday gave the Governor General's Horse Guards the freedom of the town.

They showed up, thousands of people, three rows deep, to welcome back the Governor General's Horse Guards to my home town. It was a unit that was founded some 200 years ago in our community.

It was a spectacular day, and at the same time I was able to present two Diamond Jubilee Medals to Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Develiadias and to Dr. John Button, two people who have contributed so much to our community.

It was a wonderful day for the town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, welcoming back this historic unit to our community. It was a display of vintage military vehicles. It was just a spectacular day for the people of Whitchurch-Stouffville. I thank the mayor and the members of council for making this happen, and of course I thank my team who worked over six months to bring this spectacular military parade to our community.

I thank them, God bless Canada and God save the Queen.

Scleroderma Awareness MonthStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the month of June holds a special place in my heart as it does for many Canadians, because it is Scleroderma Awareness Month. My mother suffered from scleroderma and eventually passed away from complications of this painful disease.

Scleroderma is a chronic, often progressive autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis, in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues. Unfortunately, scleroderma afflicts women three times more often than men.

I am proud that the government has invested almost $1.5 million through a CIHR grant for the Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network and in doing so has recognized the ground-breaking work of this team.

It was with great emotion and fond memories of my mother that I joined hundreds of walkers a couple of Saturdays ago in Hamilton, Ontario, for the 12th annual walk in the park for scleroderma.

Funds raised support the search for a cure, a day that cannot come too soon.

John Michael ClarkeStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the people of Hamilton were saddened this past week to learn of the passing of John Michael Clarke, and I certainly was one of them.

John Clarke was a veteran of World War II, who following the war served as president of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 58, for 10 years. John was also chairman of the Hamilton veterans committee.

He was well known in Hamilton as a proud Canadian who worked to ensure veterans had a strong presence at all of Hamilton's citizenship swearing-in ceremonies for new Canadians. Among his other good works, John chaired Camp Maple Leaf, an organization that sends children to summer camp.

John's close friend, Johnny Bissell says of John,

I have known John for several years and never met anyone more inspiring in his tireless willingness to volunteer and assist any organization.

I knew John Clarke personally. I very much respected him as a friend. I was honoured by his support for many years, and I will miss John Clarke.

Pacific Coast Hockey AssociationStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, this year marks the centennial of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. The Patrick brothers, Frank and Lester, established this league in B.C. with the Vancouver Millionaires, the Victoria Senators and the New Westminster Royals.

The Patrick brothers' hockey innovations over the years included the assist, the blue line, the goal crease, the forward pass, the boarding penalty, numbers on jerseys or sweaters, as they were called sweaters at the time, the playoff, and they allowed goalies to fall to the ice to make a save.

As a Vancouverite, I am proud to say that Frank Patrick's innovations remain and are still an important part of the NHL rule book today.

This little upstart league also brought Vancouver its first Stanley Cup in 1915. It was the PCHA that helped make hockey the game that is loved by Canadians nationwide.

I am happy to mark this centennial and, as a Vancouverite, am hoping that the Stanley Cup finds its way back to the west coast soon.

Democratic ValuesStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, democratic values are the reason I ran as an NDP candidate and the driving force behind my day-to-day work in Honoré-Mercier and here in Ottawa.

Last week, we participated in a voting marathon to stand up for the interests of Canadians. The Conservatives rejected every single amendment presented in the House of Commons. They also treated the votes as an inconvenient interference in their exercise of power. But the truth is that it is our job as members of Parliament to represent the people.

A majority government should never stand in the way of democracy. In 2015, Canadians will demonstrate their opposition to the Conservative government's undemocratic changes.

Brain Injury Awareness MonthStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, Brain Injury Awareness Month is recognized nationally every June in order to raise awareness of the effects and causes of acquired brain injury across Canada.

Automobile accidents, sports injuries, cycling accidents, falls, strokes, tumours, aneurysms and other non-degenerative conditions are all leading causes of acquired brain injury. There are no drugs or techniques that can cure a brain injury. Prevention is the only cure.

Since 1985, the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association has striven to prevent brain injuries and to improve the lives of survivors and their families.

Today, I rise in this place to bring attention to the great work that the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association does in my home province. I encourage all my colleagues to join me in recognizing the importance of Brain Injury Awareness Month.

The Vancouver CanadiansStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, for many, the summer begins with the season's first pitch. This summer, my home team, the Vancouver Canadians, which I am proud to say is also the 2011 Northwest League champion, will throw its first home pitch this Wednesday at the beautiful Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver.

The Vancouver Canadians are the Northwest League affiliate to the Blue Jays, but they do much more than just support Canada's number one team. The C's franchise hosts an annual Thanksgiving food drive for the Salvation Army. It ensures every child has a chance to step up to the plate with confidence through its Vancouver Canadians Baseball Foundation.

If members happen to be in Vancouver this summer, I invite everyone to come down to the Nat, eat a Fungo hot dog, enjoy our dancing grounds crew and, with a little luck, get to watch a grand slam by the great Balbino.

Let us play ball.

HealthStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, for months, my constituents have been speaking out, understandably upset that bogus asylum claimants receive better health care coverage than Canadian citizens.

Our Conservative government has listened and taken action to restore fairness by making sure asylum claimants no longer receive better benefits than Canadian taxpayers.

Unfortunately, the NDP opposes these sensible changes. It wants Canadian taxpayers to provide braces, glasses and prescriptions, even for failed asylum claimants who refuse to follow our laws and leave Canada.

As we all know, Canadian taxpayers do not get these same health benefits paid for themselves or their families.

I urge all Canadians to write to the NDP leader and make their voices heard. Tell the NDP it is wrong for opposing these important changes.

Bill C-38Statements by Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, there seems to be some denial on that side of the House about the implications of Bill C-38.

Last Thursday, on a local radio station, the member for Nanaimo—Alberni lamented the closure of the Ucluelet communications centre and the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.

However, Instead of taking responsibility, the member blamed “bureaucrats in Ottawa” for these closures.

Ironically, he made these remarks less than 12 hours after he voted on the Trojan Horse budget bill, the very bill shutting down these stations.

When government MPs cut services in Ottawa, they should at least have the courage of their conviction to defend them at home.

However, Bill C-38 represents more than just cuts to Coast Guard services, cuts to OAS and cuts to health care. It represents the erosion of the once strong and independent voices of Conservative MPs.

As we approach the end of the session, I am hopeful more Conservative MPs find their riding voice and speak out against these cuts. Maybe one day, with some practice, they will be able to use that voice in Ottawa.

The EconomyStatements by Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, our Prime Minister is in Mexico today for a key G20 summit.

Reflecting on Canada's leading economic strength and job growth during the economic recovery, our Prime Minister is bringing important advice. He will tell world leaders that economic growth and fiscal discipline are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go hand in hand. He will emphasize that Canada's low taxes, balanced stimulus and deficit reduction measures have worked.

More and more the world is looking to Canada as a positive example of successful economic leadership. Indeed, in the words of the OECD last week, “overall, Canada's performance has been very good in recent years”. We attribute that to good “macroeconomic and structural policy settings”.

Here is what Iowa governor Terry Branstad said only days ago:

“...in the '80s and early '90s.... Canadian financial institutions weren't as healthy as ours. And their taxes were higher. Now.... Their financial institutions are healthier and their taxes are considerably lower. Their federal corporate tax—

The EconomyStatements by Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Oral questions.

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, once again the Conservatives are trying to hide the truth about their Trojan Horse budget. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has told the Prime Minister's Office that they are breaking the law by refusing to hand over information to Parliament. Now the PBO's legal counsel, among the most respected in Canada, have told the Prime Minister the same thing, saying, “The 64 departments that have not yet provided the requested information to the PBO are not acting in compliance with the act”. This is the Prime Minister's own accountability act that we are talking about.

Why is the Prime Minister breaking his government's own accountability law?

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the government will continue to report to Parliament through the means that have been used for many years. They includes the estimates, the supplementary estimates, quarterly reports and the public accounts. Based our current collective bargaining arrangements with our employees, we are working with the departments to inform unions and employees of any affected changes. We think we owe it to them to tell them first before they learn about it on television.

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, they are breaking the law.

The President of the Treasury Board said that he could not give specific information about the cuts because of the unions. Yet the unions have written to the Clerk of the Privy Council specifically asking that that information be made public. MPs are about to vote on this omnibus bill at third reading without having all pertinent information, and even government members are starting to complain. By hiding this information, the Conservatives are wilfully breaking the law. That is an order that only a prime minister can give.

When will the Conservatives start respecting law and order?

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we had unprecedented debate about budget 2012 in the House and in committee. We sat for more than a full day, 24 hours, discussing, debating and voting on the bill just last week. We will continue to have more debate on this important legislation.

What we cannot debate is the reality that this government is on the right track when it comes to the economy. The Prime Minister, right now, is meeting with world leaders, and they all look to Canada as an island of stability. That has happened because of the fiscal measures taken by this government, and we are very proud of them.

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the law is crystal clear. The Federal Accountability Act requires that members of Parliament be given “free and timely access to any financial or economic data in the possession of the department”. That is the law. Financial and economic data sounds like the sort of thing that Conservative members might like to see themselves before they vote on the budget.

Why is the Prime Minister showing his own MPs such blatant disrespect?

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is this government that held unprecedented consultations in preparing budget 2012. It is a plan for long-term economic growth and prosperity. It has low taxes and balances the budget, and those are absolutely key and essential to creating a good economic climate.

Those of us on this side of the House consulted for many months leading up to that budget. We have had an unprecedented amount of debate in Parliament and committee, and we saw last week, more than 157 times, the House vote full confidence in the measures brought forward by the Minister of Finance for job creation and economic growth. He should respect that as well.

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is no surprise that the Conservatives are hiding information on the budget. Cuts to services are going to be worse than previously announced. More jobs will be lost and government services will be jeopardized. By refusing to share this information, the Conservatives are asking their own members to cast a blind vote. Legal opinions are clear: the Conservatives are breaking the law.

Why are the Conservatives refusing to properly inform the Parliamentary Budget Officer? Why so many blind votes?

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to report to Parliament by the normal means, including the estimates, quarterly financial reports and the public accounts process. As was clearly shown in Canada's economic action plan 2012, we have found fair, balanced and moderate savings measures to reduce the deficit.

We have a plan to make sure that we continue to grow jobs and economic opportunity in this country and we are in the midst of implementing that plan.

PensionsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, we know that the facts have a well-known anti-Conservative bias. However, even though it is on the chopping block, the very last Statistics Canada report on labour and income dynamics that was released today shows that over the last few years, seniors' income has declined and the number of seniors living in poverty has increased.

The Conservatives' cuts to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement only hurt seniors more. Why are the Conservatives ignoring the facts and punishing seniors with this Trojan Horse budget bill?

PensionsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, in fact, we have done just the opposite. We have helped seniors become better off. Through our tax cuts—and there have been over 150 of them in the last few years—380,000 seniors are no longer having to pay tax. That is money that they are keeping in their pockets. We have also increased the guaranteed income supplement by record amounts in the last 20 years.

We have done a lot to help seniors. Unfortunately, the NDP has voted against every one of those initiatives to help our seniors be better off.

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is an officer created by Parliament. This office was promoted by the government as a new way of adding to accountability and transparency, so when the government says that it is doing all the things it normally does, well, the government has not adjusted to the “new normal”, which is that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has a right to free and timely access to economic and financial data.

The simple question to the government is this: why is it showing not only contempt for Parliament but contempt also for its own backbenches, for the Parliamentary Budget Officer and for the law?

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, when this government sought election this past year in May 2011, we came forward with a solid economic plan to create jobs and opportunity. Part of that was to reign in government expenditures and to live within our means. The other part was to grow the economy to create more jobs.

We will continue to report to Parliament through the estimates, the supplementary estimates, the quarterly reports and the public accounts and we will continue to be fully accountable to this House.

What the leader of the Liberal Party needs to do is join this government and be focused on job creation and long-term economic growth. That is the real priority of Canadians.

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have only been gone for three days and I am already getting an offer from the government.

However, I can assure members that unlike the Leader of the Opposition, this does not come from me but from the government. Let the record show that.

The problem is this: this is not an extraordinary request. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has the right to have access to the information. However, the government is refusing to give him that information. The Reform Party of Canada was elected to ensure that the executive was accountable to Parliament.

What happened to the Reform Party?

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this party is the party that was elected on a plan for job creation and economic growth. We are focused on delivering that for Canadians. We have seen the creation of more than 750,000 net new jobs since the recession ended. It is that type of focus, commitment to job creation and economic growth that has made Canada an island of stability.

We will continue to report to Parliament through the normal means, whether through the estimates, the supplementary estimates, public accounts, or quarterly reports. We will continue to provide Parliament with the important work that it needs to undertake.

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is not good enough. The government is denying the fact that it created a new job, the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The government created it by reforming the laws affecting Parliament and parliamentary scrutiny. That was not simply coming from the opposition; it was coming from the government.

How can the minister stand in his place when he was the minister then and pretend that there is no such person as the Parliamentary Budget Officer? The Parliamentary Budget Officer is not fiction; it is a real job that requires real scrutiny. Why does the government not--

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Government AccountabilityOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we will undertake to ensure that we meet all of our obligations under collective agreements, ensure that unions and employees are informed in a timely manner and ensure that the results of these are communicated appropriately to everyone.

When we brought in the Federal Accountability Act, it was designed with one big goal: to clean up the ethical mess that was left by the previous Liberal government and the influence of big money and big lobbying. Thank goodness Canada has come a long way since those very dark days under the previous Liberal government.

International TradeOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, we go from ethical breaches to behind closed doors.

The Prime Minister has taken the unusual step of sending his chief of staff to negotiate for Canada on the trans-Pacific partnership. We know that Canada has been asked to make substantial concessions to be part of the TPP, and Canadians want to know if the government has now agreed to drive up drug costs with longer patent protection, weaken intellectual property rules or sell out milk and egg producers who rely on supply management to make ends meet.

What did the Prime Minister and his chief of staff give away to get the Americans' endorsement?

International TradeOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the question is sheer nonsense.

As a Pacific nation, Canada's interest in joining the trans-Pacific partnership is consistent with our active, ongoing and growing presence in the Asia-Pacific region. The Minister of International Trade has met with his counterparts from all nine TPP countries, and all have welcomed Canada's interest. We look forward to helping develop a 21st century agreement that benefits all the TPP countries, and Canada will be an ambitious partner at the TPP table.

International TradeOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, how about a trade deal that benefits Canadians? The fact is that the minister just appointed a panel of trade advisers without one single defender of supply management. Three out of ten are actually opposed, and John Manley even called supply management “an obstacle”.

To make matters worse, if Canada agrees to U.S. demands on intellectual property, our prescription drug bills will skyrocket. Can the government assure Canadians that it has not sold out affordable medicine as the cost of joining the TPP?

International TradeOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, we know that the NDP does not support free trade agreements in any way, shape or form anywhere in the world. It simply does not support trade.

Here is the issue. Maybe the hon. member does not want to listen to the government side, so maybe he should listen to Wally Smith, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Mr. Smith said:

Supply management has not stood in the way of Canada's ability to successfully negotiate trade agreements in the past and it is unlikely to do so in the future.

International TradeOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, having watched the Conservatives dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board, the rest of our agricultural sector, not surprisingly, is concerned about international pressure to undermine supply management so that Canada can join the trans-Pacific partnership.

The profitability of livestock, milk, egg and poultry producers is at stake.

The question is simple: has this government sacrificed supply management in order to join the trans-Pacific partnership, yes or no?

International TradeOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should have listened to the last question, but I do not mind repeating it.

It is very clear. Supply management has not stood in the way of Canada signing any of our free trade agreements with any country in the world. We continue to support supply management.

PrivacyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, quietly and without telling Canadians, Canada Border Services Agency has installed new surveillance equipment to eavesdrop on travellers in airports across the country. The Conservatives did this without even consulting the Privacy Commissioner, which they are required to do by law. As a result, we do not know how these recordings will be used and stored or how long they will be kept.

We are all for making airports safer, but this will give the minister access to a mountain of private information. Will the minister tell the House how this blanket spying on Canadian travellers will make our airports or our borders more secure?

PrivacyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, Canada Border Services Agency operates customs-controlled areas for screening international travellers arriving at airports across Canada, including monitoring video and audio in order to detect and prevent illegal smuggling. I assure the member that the privacy rights of law-abiding Canadians are respected at all times.

PrivacyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, there has been no evaluation of the consequences for travellers or workers.

Canadians have the right to know how their private conversations will be stored and used and if they will ever be made public.

Of course it is a question of security, but it is also a question of the right to privacy.

Will the Conservatives put this project on hold until there is an actual assessment of its impact?

PrivacyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that the privacy rights of law-abiding Canadians are respected at all times.

I also want to point out that two years ago Justice Major completed the Air India report. Our government responded with the Air India report action plan which focused on key areas, including combatting the financing of terrorism, streamlining the prosecution of terrorism offences and protecting air travellers.

We will continue to take steps in line with the recommendations of Justice Major.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, eavesdropping on conversations should not be happening at airports; it should be happening inside the Conservative Party.

Then, at least, we would have an idea of what happened with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister's falsified documents, or use of front men, during the election campaign. Now people working for a company owned by the cousin of the hon. member for Peterborough are saying that they gave money to his campaign, money that they got back with a $50 bonus.

In the face of this deluge of scandals and ethical lapses, is he going to step down from his duties while he is under investigation?

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member gave all the documents to Elections Canada almost four years ago. The documents were audited and verified by the agency. The hon. member has not been contacted by Elections Canada since.

But while we are on the subject of donations to political parties, the hon. member now has a chance to rise and tell the House whether, after his donation of $3,700, he still supports Québec Solidaire. Will he do so? I will accept his answer.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it must be a real pain for him to have to sit on his behind and listen to someone else give meaningless answers for him.

The parliamentary secretary's campaign runneth over with false documents, front men and who knows what else, for goodness' sake. And now the hon. member for Peterborough is taking a leaf out of the President of the Treasury Board's book. When he was caught with his hand in the secret G8 kitty, someone answered for him too.

Does the parliamentary secretary realize that he cannot remain in office while he is under investigation? He is not answering, not doing any work, as it is. Replace him.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has already filed, explained and had audited all of the documents related to his election filing.

However, what the hon. member across has not done is explain why he gave $3,700 to Québec solidaire, a party that states in its own declaration of principles that “Québec Solidaire Opts for...Sovereignty”. It is the hardest line separatist party in Quebec. The hon. member even gave donations to this party while he sat in the federal caucus of a supposedly federal party. I am simply asking him to stand up and say that he no longer supports Québec solidaire and that he will not give it any more money.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the Conservatives raised the issue of donations because nobody on our side is being accused of a kickback scheme, unlike the Conservatives.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Your whole party.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Except you were.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, this has gone on and on. Last week we learned about fraud and forgery in the Peterborough election scandal. Now we are learning about this alleged kickback scheme for donations. Yet the Prime Minister seems to think that he will just damn the torpedoes and ride this one out. It is a question of his judgment. Does he really think that Canadians would believe that he was not aware of these damning court documents? When was he aware—

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member claims that the NDP is facing no existing allegations of breaking electoral financing laws. He might be right because his party has already been found guilty of the allegations that were outstanding against it. It had to admit that on two separate occasions it broke the law, once to funnel money to a left-wing pressure group and on another occasion to accept illegal donations explicitly outlawed under the Accountability Act from a union.

I am just asking for him to stand and explain this. How much illegal money did his party take and how much has it given back?

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, again I appeal to the member for Peterborough. He has a pretty lousy defence attorney because the issue here is the fact that he is being investigated for concealing and misrepresenting spending. He is being investigated for fraud and forgery. Now there are allegations of a bonus-for-bucks kickback scheme. Could he just move the Nepean member out and explain whether or not he has spoken to the Prime Minister, whether the Prime Minister is backing him, and why the Prime Minister is not asking him to step down while this ethical cloud hangs over his head?

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member in question filed all of his documents almost four years ago with Elections Canada. That agency confirmed those documents. They were audited and verified many years ago. The member has still not even heard anything from the agency to this day.

By contrast, the NDP admits now to having accepted illegal donations from union bosses and admits that it had to give some of that money back. I am just asking that those members come clean now, stand up and tell us all how much illegal money they took and how much they gave back.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary is facing the highest personal election fines amid allegations--

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member for Avalon has the floor.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

--allegations of thousands in unlawful spending and the filing of a false return. Now, employees of his cousin's company have come forward and signed affidavits saying that they were paid to help the company pump illegal donations into the member's campaign. Shockingly, the member continues to act as the Prime Minister's personal parliamentary secretary and ethics spokesman above all else.

Will the government at the very least support a motion to have the member appear before the ethics committee so we can get to the bottom of this?

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious why that member would want to discuss this in a parliamentary committee. As he knows, such committees being creatures of parliament are extended parliamentary privilege, meaning he can level any false allegation he wants there without facing any of the consequences that normal Canadians would face when they speak outside the walls of Parliament.

Last week I challenged the member to repeat his false allegations outside this place. In great braggadocio he claimed that he was going to run out and do it. Instead, we had nothing but radio silence from the member all weekend long. I have to admit though, that was rather merciful of him.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Lise St-Denis Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister allegedly exceeded the election spending limits and submitted a false declaration. His cousin's employees declared under oath that they were paid to have their company illegally finance this member's campaign.

Will this government fire him? Will the government support our motion calling on the member to testify before the House ethics committee?

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member already handed over all the documents to Elections Canada nearly four years ago. The documents were verified and confirmed. Since then, he has not been contacted by Elections Canada regarding this situation.

The hon. member for Avalon again last week promised that he was going to storm outside and repeat the allegations that he made. Then he became curiously quiet, which is very unusual for him and merciful for us.

I would ask him to stop using parliamentary privilege as his security blanket as he makes these kinds of serious allegations.

International TradeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, under our system ministers should be in charge of their files and accept accountability for their results. It used to be that, failing that, they were removed from cabinet. But now on the most important of files, the trans-Pacific partnership, the Minister of International Trade has been replaced by the Prime Minister's chief of staff.

Why has the Prime Minister humiliated his trade minister on the international stage? Why has he placed a person in charge who is not accountable to Parliament?

International TradeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

What sheer nonsense, Mr. Speaker.

As a Pacific nation, Canada's interest in joining the trans-Pacific partnership is consistent with our active, ongoing and growing presence in the Asia-Pacific. The Minister of International Trade has been very active on this file. He has met with all nine of the TPP countries and all have welcomed Canada's interest.

As a full and ambitious partner at the table, we look forward to helping develop a 21st century agreement that would benefit all of the TPP countries.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, Enbridge's oil spill response plan is obviously deficient. That is really not surprising considering the Conservative government's laissez-faire attitude toward pipeline safety.

The National Energy Board admits there has been an increased trend in the number and severity of incidents in recent years. Yet the Conservatives are ramming through the budget bill that would repeal the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and would allow cabinet to overrule expert advice on pipeline safety.

Why is the minister willing to put Canadians at risk?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Conservative

Joe Oliver ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, the northern gateway project is currently before a joint review panel, which will study all aspects of the proposal to ensure that it is safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.

Our officials analyzed the plan and agreed that the proposal was safe for the environment with certain mitigation measures. This is precisely the purpose of the review and it happens in the case of every review. Our government is further increasing pipeline safety by devoting significant funds to increasing inspections by 50% and doubling the number of audits.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canadians would have more faith in what the minister was saying if the National Energy Board did not fail to follow up on violations 93% of the time.

The Conservatives are gambling with Canada's west coast, and now we hear that down in Rio, they are reneging on their promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Basically they are doing whatever their big oil friends want them to do. Is there anything that this minister would not do for his big oil lobby friends?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, let me remind my colleague that Canada is committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, at least as a member of G20. Our position at Rio has not changed. However, I will also remind my colleague that Canada will not, in the development of the outcome documents, surrender sovereignty over either our environmental policies or responsible resource development.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, instead of advancing sustainable development, Canada is once again being mocked internationally for its attempts to ruin all progress toward environmental protection. Canada's negotiators in Rio received the fossil award for their all-out efforts to gut a text calling for the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies.

The Conservatives have said—and still say—that they were in favour of eliminating these subsidies, but, as usual, they are saying one thing and doing the opposite.

How can the minister justify maintaining these subsidies?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, Canada is negotiating in good faith on fossil fuel subsidies and across the range of conference issues.

Canada has already provided a useful contribution to Rio+20 by sharing a number of policy tools and best practices that had been developed and implemented in Canada. I could run through the list if my colleague would ask another question. One of those accomplishments involves the establishment of a federal sustainable development strategy.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is not what the environmental organizations are saying. It is the oil and gas lobby calling the shots, not the ministers.

The Conservatives have completely lost control of the development of our natural resources. In 2010, Enbridge, which wants to push through the Northern Gateway project, submitted a clearly inadequate oil spill response plan.

According to the National Energy Office, reported incidents involving pipelines are increasing in both number and seriousness. The interests and the health of Canadians are clearly threatened. What is the Conservative solution? Reducing environmental assessments and subsidizing fossil fuels. How—

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Conservative

Joe Oliver ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, under current legislation on responsible resource development, our government will invest more than $160 million to improve environmental protection, marine protection and pipeline safety by doubling the number of inspections—

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Scarborough Centre.

HealthOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, for months my constituents have been writing to my office, understandably upset, that bogus asylum claimants receive better health care coverage than Canadian citizens. Our Conservative government has listened and taken action to restore fairness to the system. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the NDP is against these important changes.

Can the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism tell this House why the NDP is wrong for thinking failed--

HealthOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

HealthOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I have asked hon. members before to hold off on their applause until the member has finished asking the question.

The hon. member for Scarborough Centre has the floor.

HealthOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the NDP for applauding me. I really appreciate it.

Would the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism tell the House why the NDP is wrong for thinking that failed asylum claimants deserve better health care coverage than Canadian taxpayers, including our seniors who fund these very same benefits?

HealthOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. Canada and Canadians are proud of our tradition of humanitarian protection for refugees. We resettle one out of every ten resettled refugees worldwide. We are increasing the support we give them through the refugee assistance program. We are increasing the number of resettled refugees who we accept. However, when false asylum claimants come here and they have had the benefit of our fair and generous legal system and their claims are found to be unfounded, they should not be receiving taxpayer funded health care benefits that are better than those available to taxpaying Canadians.

Yes, we have a humanitarian obligation to protect people but we also need to treat all Canadians equally.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the more hearings there are before the Military Police Complaints Commission, the more examples we hear about inadequate assistance being provided by National Defence to soldiers and their families, as was the case with Corporal Langridge. The corporal admitted to having suicidal thoughts, but no one would help him. He should have been placed under preventive monitoring, but instead he was told to go back to work as though everything were fine.

Why does the minister refuse, despite these revelations, to submit all documents to the commission?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, this is a very tragic case that is working its ways through the Military Police Complaints Commission, a process that we have not only funded through the regular budget but have given additional funding so the Fynes family could have independent counsel. There are issues, of course, of solicitor-client privilege that are well established by the courts, just as privilege here in the House of Commons is there to protect communications.

This case will be decided by the Military Police Complaints Commission in a fair and arm's-length process. It is unfortunate that members in this place have chosen to politicize this very tragic case.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister referred to solicitor-client privilege as justification for refusing to hand over all documents. He said that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled repeatedly on the issue of solicitor-client privilege.

Who is the client in this case? It is the Minister of National Defence himself.

The Supreme Court has never issued a ruling ordering a minister of the Crown to stop investigations that are in the public interest. So why is the minister hiding behind an excuse that simply does not hold water?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely false. Who ruled on this issue?

I will quote for the hon. member what Mr. Justice Binnie of the Supreme Court of Canada said in the blood case in 2008. He was crystal clear, to use the Leader of the Opposition's phrase, “Solicitor-client privilege is fundamental to the proper functioning of our legal system”. That is in fact the case.

While I am on my feet, I hope the House will allow me to express, on behalf of all members present and all Canadians, our prayers and thoughts for Matthew Schuman who was very critically injured in a shooting in Edmonton last week. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the minister's own lawyers at the Military Policy Complaints Commission have admitted that the department is withholding documents and have said that it is not willing to give them up. However, it is the minister who is the client and it is up to him to waive the privilege and release the information. The Department of National Defence has delivered a board of inquiry report to Ms. Fynes that blamed her for her son's suicide.

Does the minister not feel any sense of accountability for this? Why does he continue to make excuses?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Well, Mr. Speaker, there he goes again talking about evidence in an ongoing hearing here on the floor of the House of Commons. He is a lawyer. He knows better. He knows that Parliament has been unequivocal in expressing its support for the Military Police Complaints Commission and its support for privilege, as have the courts. He knows this full well. This is interference on his part now. He is trying to drag this out under privilege here in the House of Commons. It is quite ironic, does everyone not think?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, this is what it has come to: a minister who is refusing to release legal documents and who denies the facts as they have been presented to the commission. He will not even admit that this family has been abused by the system, and now he is hiding behind a legal principle that he knows does not prevent him from releasing the information.

Has he no shame? Why can he not do the right thing in the interest of fairness?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Imagine, Mr. Speaker, hiding behind the Supreme Court of Canada in a long-held solicitor-client privilege precedent.

We have co-operated with the Military Police Complaints Commission. We have provided additional funding in this very tragic case. I have met personally with Ms. Sheila Fynes on this issue. This is a very tragic case involving an individual who took his own life.

What is very disturbing is that the hon. member and others seem prepared to make this matter political. He is becoming Parliament's ambulance chaser.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, health care workers in lab coats and ordinary Canadians are unified across Canada today denouncing the government's decision to strip refugees of much of their health benefits, including insulin and emergency surgery.

An Afghan man who worked for the Canadian military in Kandahar before resettling his family here in Canada as government sponsored refugees now says, “I need to decide if my kids should suffer hunger or let my wife go without her medicines”.

How can the government turn its back on the core Canadian values of compassion and caring?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, the member has it all wrong. The reality is that, under our reformed interim federal health program, resettled refugees will receive the same comprehensive health insurance that all Canadian permanent residents receive from their provincial governments. What they will not receive are supplementary benefits that Canadians do not get.

Canadians have told us that they do not think they should be forced to pay through their taxes for supplementary benefits for refugees that Canadians, including low-income Canadians, do not get.

What is it that the member does not understand about basic fairness? Yes, all Canadians should get quality basic health care but we should not be choosing refugees alone to get taxpayer funded supplementary benefits, and we stand by that.

Privacy RightsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, we learned over the weekend about microphones being installed to record conversations at Ottawa airport, as well as others. Canadians are right to be concerned about their own privacy.

My question is for the Minister of Public Safety. Before I ask the question, I would like to remind him that in no way am I on the side of any terrorist cell or child pornographer, so I will continue with it.

According to his statements earlier, the minister only read from his website but I would like him to answer specifically. Will he refer this issue to the privacy commissioner and to the proper parliamentary committee for scrutiny?

Privacy RightsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the privacy rights of law-abiding Canadians are respected at all times. I would indicate that two years ago Justice Major completed the Air India report and made certain recommendations about protecting air travellers and the country of Canada. If the member wants the privacy commissioner to look at any practices inside the CBSA in this respect, I would invite him to make that request. I do not think CBSA has anything to hide.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, we cannot put a price on a human life. Today, the NDP is supporting the cause of thousands of doctors and refugees across the country who are condemning the Conservatives' irresponsible cuts to the refugee health program. These cuts are putting lives and public health at risk. Doctors are worried about the additional long-term costs.

Will the minister listen to the medical community and reverse these careless and dangerous cuts?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, as I just said, with the changes to the interim federal health program, asylum seekers and resettled refugees will continue to receive basic health insurance. That same level of service is available to all Canadian taxpayers. We are ending supplementary insurance, which is not available to Canadians.

Does the NDP think that visitors and refugees who have been turned down by our legal system should receive supplementary benefits in addition to the basic insurance?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister's attitude is shameful. Sitting here, I am wondering if we should believe the minister or the doctors? I will take the doctors any day.

On this side of the House we believe that no one in Canada should have to choose between food and health care. No one should have to wonder if their sick child will be denied treatment because of the balance of their bank account. Canadians expect leadership to improve access to health care, not senseless cuts to limit it.

Today we stand with doctors and refugees across the country and ask when the minister will reverse these cuts.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, unlike the NDP, this government stands with Canadians, Canadians who pay taxes to provide generous benefits to refugees. We will continue to do so. We will continue to meet our humanitarian obligation to provide the same basic package of health care insurance to the vast majority of asylum claimants and to resettled refugees that are available taxpaying Canadians through provincial health care programs.

What we will no longer do is provide supplementary extra benefits that are not available to taxpaying Canadians. Nor will we provide health insurance to failed rejected asylum claimants who should no longer be--

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore.

Human RightsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, with Iran beating its political prisoners and innocent Syrians enduring the Assad regime, Canadians expect the United Nations to devote its time and resources to serious violations of human rights.

And yet, in a speech this morning, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights felt the need to criticize Quebec's Bill 78, which was democratically adopted by an elected assembly.

Can the minister tell the House how Canada is reacting to these disturbing comments?

Human RightsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, our government respects the jurisdiction of each province, and especially the right of the Quebec National Assembly to make its own laws for its own territory.

We have a robust judicial system here in this country, and citizens are able to contest laws if they think they are unconstitutional or otherwise flawed. It is quite strange that the high commissioner would say such things, given the situations in Syria, Iran, Belarus and Sri Lanka.

Although some NDP members have participated in the student conflict, we believe—and hope—that the NDP will join us in denouncing the statement by the high commissioner and affirming the right of the province to adopt its—

Human RightsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

National DefenceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the much ballyhooed seven point action plan for the F-35s is now down to six points and a maybe.

Apparently, the minister does not want to disclose the price of the F-35 because “we want to get it right”, this time.

I have two questions. First, does that mean that the minister never did get it right in the first place? Second, does the minister accept that the American price of $137 million per plane will in fact be the Canadian price?

National DefenceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

No, Mr. Speaker. What it means is that we are following the recommendations of the Auditor General and he recommended that the Department of National Defence table updated cost estimates.

We have gone further than that. We have said that we want those cost estimates to be independently validated.

The National Fighter Procurement Secretariat recommended, on Wednesday, that it be given more time to provide a complete and independently verified update. We agreed with this approach and have given the secretariat more time to do its work.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

José Nunez-Melo NDP Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, every year, thousands of immigrants choose to make their life in the city of Laval. It is their home port.

Yet the Conservatives want to make life more difficult for all current and future claimants. Laval needs immigrants in order to keep developing. With Bills C-38 and C-31, the Conservatives are putting the brakes on Laval's prosperity and economic development.

Why are they attacking immigrants?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, that question is rather special. Indeed, the government has noticed that immigration in Canada is at an all-time high and is the highest per capita in the developed world.

Quebec selects its own economic immigrants under the Canada-Quebec agreement on immigration. That being said, Bill C-31 is not about immigration. It addresses the abuse of our asylum system and human smuggling.

Do the hon. member and the NDP believe that Laval's economy depends on bogus asylum claims and illegal immigration? I do not. I believe that the people of Laval agree with this government: we need to fight human smuggling and the abuse of our asylum system—

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans.

Library of ParliamentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Library of Parliament is an institution that goes back to the 1790s when the legislative libraries of Upper and Lower Canada were created.

To this day, the professionals of the Library do exceptional work to facilitate our tasks as part of ontarians.

The library houses an outstanding collection of books and documents that illustrate Parliament's rich history, as well as our country's majestic geography and enviable economy.

With that in mind, could the government House leader please give the House an update on the status of the search for the next parliamentary librarian?

Library of ParliamentOral Questions

3 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans for his excellent work and for his support of libraries and librarians.

I am pleased to announce that today the government nominated Sonia L'Heureux as the new Parliamentary Librarian. Ms. L'Heureux is currently the Assistant Parliamentary Librarian and provides an exceptional and professional service to parliamentarians. She is the perfect person to run the Library of Parliament. We are pleased that she has accepted this nomination.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives did not respond to all of the questions regarding the employment insurance reform because they slapped a gag order on all steps of the process and prevented proper study in committee.

I will give them another chance to explain.

What will happen to someone who loses his job and is forced to accept a job at 70% of his salary, when he then loses that job? Will he be forced to accept another 30% pay cut? Where will the cheap labour spiral end?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, our government's priority is economic growth and job creation. What we are going to do is help unemployed workers find jobs. This will be better for them and for their families.

I have to wonder: while we want to help people find work, why does the NDP not want to help people work?

ImmigrationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are obsessed with their many austerity measures, but they are refusing to tell us where and how the most draconian cuts will be made.

We have learned that cuts to embassy staffing will force people to wait nine months instead of three for the visas they need to adopt children from the Philippines. Quebec families that were at the final stage of the process have just been informed that they will have to wait many more months for the children they are so eager to adopt.

How can the government justify causing such a terrible situation and forcing families and orphans to pay the price for its ideological cuts?

ImmigrationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, frankly, I do not know what the member is talking about because there has been a huge increase in immigration and the number of visas at our Manila office in the Philippines.

Over the past three years, Canada has received more immigrants from the Philippines than from anywhere else, and we have increased our service levels accordingly.

I believe that the hon. member is absolutely wrong.

Decorum During Voting on Bill C-38Points of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Conservative

Joe Oliver ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, last Thursday evening, I rose on a question of personal privilege to say that two members had directed a Nazi salute against the Prime Minister when he stood to vote. I did not name the individual members as a matter of courtesy because their gestures followed a very long day of votes. Also, I did not mention the Liberal Party by name, since I did not believe then and do not believe now that the members' behaviour would be acceptable to members of that party, in particular its interim leader, nor indeed to any party in the House. My purpose was to comment on an utterly unacceptable incident which I personally found to be exceptionally offensive, and to preclude it from happening again.

However, after I spoke, the member for Malpeque rose to say that he had merely waved at the Prime Minister. Then on Friday an article appeared in The Guardian in which the member stated that there were no salutes from his side and that he was peeved and insulted. He also said that not naming anyone created a controversy. Furthermore, the article referred to comments in the House from the member for Bourassa and the member for Richmond—Arthabaska, who said I was blaming the entire opposition by not naming the individuals.

While I had not wanted to prolong this, the member's denial and his and other members' demands for identification of the individuals involved compel me to respond. It was in fact the member for Malpeque and the member for Vancouver Centre who raised their arms in a rigid position at a 45° angle, clearly the gesture of a Nazi salute. There was no ambiguity. When I saw it, I said “disgusting” in their direction several times and they did not ask what I found so offensive. Later, when I rose on my question of privilege, the member for Vancouver Centre left the House, only to return later to stand for awhile behind the curtains in the corridor.

There are members in this House whose relatives fought and died for Canada in the Second World War and others whose relatives perished in the Holocaust. Such a vile and universally condemned gesture is particularly shocking in this place of honour and tradition. The heat of partisanship never justifies a vicious personal attack that sullies the reputation of our parliamentary democracy.

I had hoped the members responsible would have apologized to the House on Thursday, or at least remained silent and then apologized to me privately. That would have been the decent and smart thing to do. Since this was not to be, I call on them to apologize now. Doing the honourable thing would permit us all to move on.

Decorum During Voting on Bill C-38Points of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would agree that such a salute, as the member said, would be vile and unacceptable in this place. I would agree with that. However, as I said the other night, there was no such salute from me. I sat in my chair and I pointed at the Prime Minister. That is what I did, and I pointed exactly like this. It was not a wave and it was not and should not have been construed as a salute. No such thing happened on my part. I cannot answer for others in this place. If I had made that gesture, I would have recognized that it was wrong and I would have apologized to the member, because I agree 100% that such a salute should not be made in this place. I accept that.

Decorum During Voting on Bill C-38Points of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I reluctantly stand in this House to say that I too saw the action of the member opposite and unfortunately it was not as he describes it now.

Actions and words, even if accidentally done, elicit emotional responses. I believe that the actions as they would have been interpreted by any reasonable person seeing them would have been seen as the minister describes. They defile the memory of the Holocaust and are something which we in this House would find reprehensible. If the hon. member did not intend to communicate what was in fact communicated by his actions, I would ask that he apologize for how they would be interpreted because it was clear in the way it was presented that anybody would see it as a gesture that would be unacceptable in this House.

Decorum During Voting on Bill C-38Points of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the allegations made by my friend, the Minister of Natural Resources, are very troubling. Let us recall that it was a rather unusual session which came at the end of 24 hours. It is something that we all take very seriously. We all know the significance of the salute to which the minister is referring. I want to say two things.

First, no one in this House, in this party or any other party, would condone such an act or would expect such an act to go without an appropriate apology. I would also apply that to people who compare their opponents to Hitler. I would also apply that to people who refer to members, like the member for Mount Royal, as an anti-Semite. I would also apply that to members who, in leaflets throughout the last couple of years, have said that members of the Liberal Party of Canada, including its interim leader, are somehow anti-Israel. I would include all those things in saying they are indeed reprehensible.

Second, what we have today is a clear statement from the member for Malpeque that he in fact did not make any such gesture. Something could have been misunderstood or misinterpreted. He has clearly indicated that. He is somebody whose record and history in this House and his work on behalf of the people of Canada would belie any such effort on his part. I think his word should be taken for what it is: his word. That is the way this House has always operated and that is the way this House should continue to operate.

Decorum During Voting on Bill C-38Points of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I sit directly behind the two hon. members who have been accused in this matter, the member for Vancouver Centre and the member for Malpeque. I was not watching them every second, but I do know that when the hon. member--

Decorum During Voting on Bill C-38Points of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Decorum During Voting on Bill C-38Points of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am finding it difficult to continue. I will try again in a minute.

Decorum During Voting on Bill C-38Points of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will take a look at what was said Thursday night. I have heard from both the member for Malpeque and the minister. If there is anything that the video can help shed light on, then I will get back to the House.

Decorum During Voting on Bill C-38Points of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Decorum During Voting on Bill C-38Points of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. This is not a subject for debate. I have indicated to the House how I will handle it and I will come back to the House in due course.

Certificates of NominationRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 111.1, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a certificate of nomination, with biographical notes, for the proposed appointment of Sonia L'Heureux as Parliamentary Librarian. I request that the nomination be referred to the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 25 petitions.

While I am on my feet, I move:

That the House do now proceed to the orders of the day.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #443

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

As the Deputy Speaker promised the House when she initially ruled on this matter, I am now prepared to rule substantively on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Winnipeg North on Tuesday, June 12 in relation to the allocation of hours in the motion by the hon. government House leader to allocate time at report stage and third reading of Bill C-38. As members will recall, the motion called for an additional 10 hours of consideration at report stage and 8 hours at the third reading stage.

The Chair wishes to thank the hon. government House leader, the hon. opposition House leader and the hon. member for Cardigan for their interventions on the matter.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North has argued that the number of sitting hours that can be allocated to a given stage of a bill pursuant to Standing Order 78(3) must, at a minimum, mirror the number of sitting hours in effect when the time allocation motion is moved and applied. This week and last week, depending on the day, due to the adoption of the motion for extended sitting hours, that could be up to14 hours.

The hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition and the hon. member for Cardigan have echoed that view, claiming that the intent of the Standing Order is that a time-allocated debate have as a minimum duration of one sitting day, however long that day may happen to be, as per Standing Order 78(3)(a) which states:

...that the time allotted to any stage is not to be less than one sitting day...

For his part, the hon. government House leader has argued that the minimum number of sitting hours that can be allocated to a given stage of a bill pursuant to the same Standing Order need only be equal to the shortest day possible, in his view, 2.5 hours.

In the Chair's opinion, a close reading of the Standing Order and relevant precedents will show that none of the arguments advanced have exactly hit the mark.

A review of the best and most relevant precedent available, that of 1987, cited by the Government House Leader, illustrates well the equilibrium that the Chair always tries to achieve in cases of this kind. Let me explain.

The government House leader stressed that on that occasion in 1987, four hours were allocated for report stage and a further four hours for third reading on a government bill during extended sitting hours in June. He added that he believed, “Mr. Speaker Fraser likely interpreted the length of the shortest available day to be the minimum time required by the Standing Orders”.

However, it should be pointed out that in 1987, the sitting hours of the House were very different, and this is of critical importance if we are to extrapolate a rationale for what occurred.

In 1987, the House sat Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays. If one were to subtract from these sitting times all the time allotted to statements by members, question period, private members' business and, in those days, lunch hour, 18 hours were left for the consideration of government orders in a normal sitting week. That number divided by the number of days in the week, five, yields an average of 3.6 hours per day. In my view, it is reasonable to conclude that this is where the four hours comes from: in other words, to reason that, on that occasion, in moving time allocation, the government of the day appears to have rounded up to the nearest hour.

In fact, on June 11, 1987, at page 7001 of Debates, Mr. Mazankowski, in giving notice of his intention to move time allocation, stated: “I give notice that I will be moving at a later sitting...that four hours, the equivalent to one day’s sitting, shall be allotted to the further consideration of report stage of the bill and four hours shall be allotted to the third reading stage.”

This was in keeping with an earlier example on November 13, 1975, at page 9021 of Debates, when Mr. Sharp in speaking in debate on the motion to allocate time stated, “This motion allocates another five hours of debate, equivalent to at least another full sitting day”. That the two ministers, while specifying a specific number of hours, indicated that these were equivalent to a sitting day is consistent with the current interpretation that requires at least one further sitting day when allocating time under Standing Order 78(3).

Normal sitting hours for the House are at present 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Fridays. Applying the same calculation to these hours by accounting for statements by members, question period and private members' business leaves 23.5 hours for the consideration of government orders in a typical week in 2012. That number divided by the number of days in the week, five, yields an average of 4.7 hours per day. Rounded up to the nearest hour would make it five hours, which is coincidentally exactly the number of hours used with regard to third reading of Bill C-25.

Accordingly, the Chair finds that the allocation of hours to report stage and third reading of Bill C-38 is in order since it respects the terms of Standing Order 78(3). Should future instances arise where arrangements pursuant to this Standing Order are contested, the Chair will continue to be guided by this method of calculation.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, before statements by members and question period, I briefly explained why Bill C-38 is antidemocratic. There are several reasons. As I explained, we were given very little time to debate it despite the government's claim that 70 hours of study in committee was plenty of time. The bill amends, adds or repeals 70 acts, which would take some 350 hours—four to five hours per act—based on the committees' traditional practices. That is not what happened.

In addition, the scope of this bill is immense. In 2009, the budget implementation bill was over 500 pages long—552 pages to be exact. However, every clause in the 2009 budget implementation bill related to the budget. There were amendments to the Income Tax Act, sales and excise taxes, the customs tariff, employment insurance, financial system efficiency and so on. Every item in the bill was related to the budget. That is not the case with Bill C-38.

Not only did we not have enough time to deal with such a vast bill, but we also had to deal with a number of provisions that had absolutely nothing to do with the budget, which causes a specific problem.

If I have time at the end of my speech, I will add some interesting quotes.

However, it is interesting to note—and I insist on doing so—that the way the government proceeded has really created a consensus that crosses party lines. Both left and right are against the way the government presented the budget in an omnibus bill, a kitchen sink bill.

Let us come back to the economy. In fact, as we know, the bill is called the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act. However, when you get right down to it, it is exactly the opposite. It is important to understand that the 2012 budget tabled in March, which has already been passed, even though the government does not seem to remember that, talked about $5.2 billion in cuts and the elimination of 19,000 jobs. This will have major repercussions. It is an austerity bill that will have recessionary consequences. That is why the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act is ill-advised, or at least the title is.

Let us talk about growth. The Parliamentary Budget Officer made an estimate using the same model as the Minister of Finance did. He did not pull it out of his hat. There is nothing new about it. For his projections, he uses the same methods as those used by the Department of Finance and the Minister of Finance. By adding in the elements of the 2012 budget, the Parliamentary Budget Officer came to the conclusion that we could expect 0.9% less growth than the potential we might have expected. So that means that if we had been expecting an increase of 2.5% in the GDP, for example, we will get an increase of only 1.6% in the GDP instead. That will be a problem in the future because a reduction in growth like the one the Conservative budget will entail will also have an effect on the number of jobs. In that context, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, still using the same model as the Minister of Finance, estimates that, in 2014, 102,00 jobs that could have been created will likely not be, and will therefore potentially be lost.

In that sense, the government's bill does not promote jobs. It does not promote economic growth. The effect will be the opposite.

A number of provisions in Bill C-38 will result in downward pressure on salaries and will have terrible consequences for jobs. I will describe four in particular. We all know that the bill contains many provisions. It has 753 clauses, after all. In the time I have, I will focus on four aspects that will have harmful effects on the economy.

The first is employment insurance. There is nothing much about it in Bill C-38. Two items that define suitable employment are being eliminated, specifically the reasons for which a claimant may refuse a job without fear of losing his benefits. Two specific aspects are being eliminated. The first is that he can refuse work if it is not in his profession. The second is that he can refuse work if it is of lower quality than his previous employment.

Why are we eliminating those two clauses? It is to give the minister the discretion to draw up regulations that will make up the rules of the game. By giving the minister this discretion, we end up with a situation where the rules of the game can change without the consent of Parliament and its elected members. That will be in the hands of the minister.

Actually, I think she was feeling the heat because she had to justify those regulations. She refused to explain, and so did the Minister of Finance. She had to justify herself and explain what the provisions would be at a news conference. Those provisions kill jobs. The Conservatives are going to, or are likely to, force unemployed workers, who are laid off and are entitled to employment insurance—be they seasonal or other workers—to take a job at 70% of their previous salary or risk losing their benefits.

That in itself is an incentive for companies to lower salaries. A negative effect could very well be that companies will let employees go, in order to be able to rehire them perhaps by offering them 70% of their previous salary.

There are also other negative effects.

The question was put to the member for Madawaska—Restigouche in the Rimouski media. The journalist’s question was very simple and very enlightening. The hon. member was asked to imagine a situation where someone loses his job and is forced to take a job at 70% of his salary and is then laid off again. Does that mean that the bill would force that person to potentially accept employment at 70% of the 70% he had before? The answer from the minister of ACOA, who is also the member for Madawaska—Restigouche, was very clear: if we follow the logic of the bill, yes. That is why we have minimum wage laws.

We already see that this particular provision of the bill is going to drive down wages. Another consequence of this bill is that employers who hire people for seasonal jobs for various reasons—and there is still seasonal employment in my riding, in my region, as is particularly common in eastern Canada—risk losing the workforce they trained, because they will want greater stability, because they will not be interested in hiring people for two or three months, even at 70% of their wages. Generally, employers want to have a permanent workforce.

Another component of the bill is the elimination of the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. This act allowed construction employees working on government contracts to enjoy standards comparable to the rest of the industry. We know that in the construction industry, federal contracts are tendered. So the fact that wages had to be protected ensured that all companies were on a more even playing field. Now, with the disappearance of this act, companies will be able to arrange it so their employees are paid quite a bit less in order to meet the specific conditions and successfully bid on government construction contracts.

This means that there is no more real incentive for companies to ensure that their employees are well paid and that working conditions are respectable. This is yet another part of Bill C-38 that will end up driving down the wages and living conditions of Canadians.

Another element raised by my colleague during a question is the elimination of the Employment Equity Act provision, which obviously ensures that for the same work, women and men can be paid the same. What we need to realize is that with the bill, companies doing business with the federal government and subcontractors will no longer have to comply with the act.

Now, the government tells us that it will be in the form they will have to fill out. They will have to put in provisions; nothing is going to force them. What the government is being asked to do is allow companies to regulate themselves. We know very well that a company’s main motive is to maximize profits. This will be done on the backs of women working in these companies that will potentially receive federal government contracts. This is just another example of wages being driven down.

Lastly, a measure that will occur later on, something that has been talked a lot about and something the government has never given a crystal clear justification for, and that is increasing the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67 in 2023.

With this measure, anyone 53 years of age and under will end up paying the equivalent of $12,000 per person per year for the two missing years. We are talking about approximately $25,000 per couple.

It will be the middle class and less fortunate Canadians who will end up paying for these measures. This is serious. If we look at the evolution of salaries in Canada—people watching at home will probably be very interested to know—employees these days earn an average salary. But the average salary is not necessarily a good indicator. Large salaries will often bring that figure up, but that is not necessarily reflected in the standard of living.

The best indicator to assess salary levels is the median salary, which is the point at which 50% of Canadians earn more and 50% of Canadians earn less. In 2010, the median salary for all Canadians was lower than the median salary in 1981. The median salary is calculated in inflation-adjusted dollars. The country has grown richer since 1981, but not all Canadians have benefited from that.

The government loves to pat itself on the back for our economic performance. But we are headed in the wrong direction. This has been acknowledged by the International Monetary Fund, which estimates that in 2012—the current fiscal year—the Canadian economy is headed for 152nd place in the world. There will thus already be implications for Canada's performance and its competitiveness in the future.

We have an income inequality problem, and this is where I was going with the question of median salary. It was stated that the top 1% of salaries now make up 24% of income in Canada. This has been mentioned often over the past two years. Concentrating income in such a narrow band has quite a negative impact on investment and the real economy. Up to a certain point, people with that much money can consume. They will even consume luxury goods.

However, ultimately, everything they do not consume will mainly go toward trying to generate a return by investing in capital markets. We are not talking about investing in capital markets to support the real economy; they will invest in the casino financial market, the one that creates its own bubbles, either real estate bubbles or stock market bubbles. In this respect, the real economy is left behind. What matters now is the financial economy.

The federal government budget is set to grow this bubble. Since wages are shrinking, Canadians as a whole will not benefit. This will cause problems with the growth of the GDP, which is measured in part by consumption.

What we are doing today is really forgetting the lessons that we learned during the Great Depression. We are moving in that direction once again. What is interesting is that the difference between our salaries today, the gap between rich and poor, is almost the same as it was before the Great Depression, so before the 1930s. The government does not seem to be aware of that.

As a result, the government is ignoring all the indicators that should be pushing it in the right direction so that it can develop policies for all Canadians. However, that is not what the government is doing at the moment. It is creating policies that will stand in the way of the poorest, most disadvantaged and, in many cases, the unluckiest Canadians. Bill C-38 is a good indication of that.

I would like to quickly come back to another key element of our opposition to this bill. I spoke briefly about it: it is the undemocratic nature of a bill that is 435 pages long, includes 753 clauses, and modifies, amends, adds or eliminates close to 70 laws in a single vote, which will take place this week.

When I said that it created a consensus among policy analysts and commentators, I meant among everyone, from left to right. A number of columnists in Quebec and across Canada have spoken out against the way that the federal government is operating.

I would like to quote Andrew Coyne who made the following comments in a Postmedia article right after the budget implementation bill was introduced:

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.

This was written at the end of April. He was back on the attack to comment further on the consequences of the direction the Conservatives are taking at this time.

On June 13, so just last week, he had this to say:

...we can look forward to a future in which Parliament would be reduced to two votes of consequence per year — one to rubber-stamp the government’s spring agenda, a second to cover the fall. This is how it happens. This is how it has happened: the more powers government acquires at the expense of Parliament, the harder it is for Parliament to resist still further encroachments, or even to recall why it might. And if somebody doesn’t stop it, somewhere, this is how it will continue.

These extremely wise words clearly explain the problems we are facing right now.

Another journalist, Dan Gardner, summed up the fundamental danger of the Conservatives' approach with this bill—and he did it really well in under 140 characters on Twitter. He said:

“I'm prepared to say it's no longer a parliamentary system. It's a presidential system, minus checks and balances”.

That is what we are seeing here now, with the anti-jobs, anti-growth, anti-prosperity bill that has been presented as a package for us to vote on in its entirety without sufficient time to study the consequences of each of its provisions.

As I was saying, although we have studied the bill for 70 hours in committee and in subcommittees, if we had spent five hours on each of these bills, as is customary in the House of Commons, we would have spent 350 hours.

Thus, the government is trying to keep us in line. We must—of course—oppose that, not only because we are opposed to the bill and its provisions, which are, as I said, anti-jobs, anti-growth and anti-prosperity, but also because of the way the government is doing this. That is why we stood up and presented the amendments in the House. That is why we voted for 22 hours.

In conclusion, I will quickly say that many of my colleagues think this is a bill that will change the face of Canada for a generation. I do not subscribe to that view, because in 2015 we will take the place of the current government and we will do away with most of these measures.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, while the member quotes Andrew Coyne's observation, I will quote the Toronto Sun that said:

As Europe stands poised on the brink of a disastrous economic wildfire that could blacken the world, [the] NDP leader['s] hypocrisy and self-obsession is in full flame.

...vowing to delay the passing of [economic action plan 2012] by playing silly bugger with amendments and procedure....

This is nothing but grandstanding.

This is a budget designed to create jobs and inspire economic growth, and it comes to the House of Commons at a moment that can only be described as the 11th hour of a global economic conflagration....

Right now, there is only one enemy in our fight to protect Canada from the repercussions of Europe's burning.

And it's [the NDP leader]....

This is inarguable.

While the member can quote someone who speaks to democracy, the member also belongs to a party that unequivocally decided to vote against it before its members even read the budget, so I do not think that was exactly a representation of democracy.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can do nothing but laugh at that statement.

With respect to the budget, the hon. member already knows full well that, for starters, we had eight hours to read it in camera before giving our opinion. Then, we voted on the budget itself, and we are currently voting on the budget implementation bill, which includes a large number of provisions that have nothing to do with the budget. Third, she is quoting the Toronto Sun. I have not read the article in question. It is probably the only newspaper, the only statement, that was in favour of the government's approach.

I mentioned Andrew Coyne and Dan Gardner, but I could have spoken about John Ivison and John Ibbitson, people who do not generally support the NDP's politics but who have great integrity when it comes to Parliament and respecting the democracy we are currently developing. These people spoke out against this way of operating. I could name plenty of others, including Pierre Duhamel, in Quebec. The Toronto Sun article is really the only one that supports the government. I am not necessarily surprised, knowing its editorial leanings. However, I must salute the integrity of most of the commentators who criticized the way the government is operating.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that the number of pages in Bill C-38 and the number of bills that it would change and impact make it very much an anti-democratic bill and completely unprecedented. This Conservative majority government has a different type of attitude in the way in which it wants to manage the House, which is most unfortunate.

There are many issues but I want to make reference to one specific issue and it is the world renowned Experimental Lakes Area. The government is hoping to save $2 million. There will be an impact on water research, scientists, fish habitat and water quality. The government is now looking at getting rid of it completely. There are those specific things that this budget would impact and then there are the bizarre things that, through the back door, the government is bringing in, such as wiping out environmental legislation and neglecting and being cruel to immigrants who are being processed.

I am wondering if the member would agree with me and members of the Liberal Party that the best way to fix this bill is to take it back to the drawing board and bring in legislation that is in fact a budget implementation bill because, as this bill currently stands, it is the farthest thing away from that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with the hon. member. The official opposition and the third party have combined their efforts to divide this bill up so that we can study its key parts.

In the 2009 budget implementation bill, which I believe was 552 pages long, most of the provisions were not fundamental reforms to our public policies. But in this budget implementation bill, they are. The environmental assessment should have been studied in much greater depth, not over 10 days, during four or five compressed meetings. I am quite familiar with the situation.

I was actually talking about the budget that I considered to be detrimental to employment and growth for the reasons that I mentioned. We could also say that it is detrimental to science, because some aspects clearly show that the government is trying to minimize the contribution of scientists. Not only is this true for the legislation itself, but also for the decisions that were made. As the hon. member mentioned, the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, near my riding, is also feeling the Conservative government's wrath.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has put his finger on a problem we have had repeatedly in these debates, which is that hon. Conservative members appear to confuse Bill C-38, which is before us, and the budget itself. Earlier today in debate, a parliamentary secretary said that this bill had been placed before us March 29. That is clear confusion. This bill was placed before us April 26 and the budget was March 29. They are not the same thing. In the same way, the Toronto Sun was misinformed, as if this is somehow holding up the economic action plan. If the economic action plan is to remove the Inspector General from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, I wish we had time in the House to find out how they are connected.

In point of fact, this illegitimate, monstrous bill represents 40% of the legislative agenda of the House of Commons in the last year with totally inadequate debate.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, that also raises an interesting question.

As everyone probably knows, I am a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. We spent about 50 hours studying those provisions. It was really odd and surreal; some experts talked about employment insurance and then the next expert talked about the Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Then we talked about the Fisheries Act, followed by old age security. So we did not really have an opportunity to focus on one particular issue.

In my opinion, one factor in particular really raises some questions about the government's approach. Specific legislation will be created on the interoperability of Canadian and American police forces in Canadian territorial waters. In co-operation with the RCMP, the FBI could make arrests in Canadian waters.

The government said this had to be adopted now, because it had to do with an international treaty, a long-standing agreement that had to be ratified. The Senate and the House have tried to ratify it on two separate occasions. The government could have introduced this in a separate bill following the 2011 election so that the issue could have been studied independently, but it did not do so.

Now it is telling us that time is running out and that we must absolutely pass it. Yet the government could have done so six, seven or eight months ago. It has no one to blame but itself for its failure to do so.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the problem with the NDP members is that it is not just on economic matters that they filibuster. We had a bill before this House with respect to opening up the barriers so that producers can bring wine across the borders and they actually filibustered and caused that to be delayed.

The member for Kildonan—St. Paul had a bill to protect some of the most vulnerable men, women and children and they delayed that bill. So it is not just on economic issues.

The hon. member said that we should talk and we should debate for hundreds and hundreds of hours. Does he actually think that the global economy will sit around and wait for the New Democratic Party so that its members can talk among themselves about how great they are and how good their non-economic policies are? Is he not ashamed of the fact that the NDP has just become a sad, pathetic protest party with absolutely no policies? The fact is that what they are—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think we need to maintain a level discussion. The words “sad and pathetic” are pitiful. The member should stick to the facts when we are number one in the country.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The Chair would ask the hon. parliamentary secretary to quickly come to his question.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. The NDP is number one at delaying, obfuscating and ensuring that the economic policies which create jobs do not get through.

I am wondering how long the hon. member thinks we should hold back economic progress in this country so that the NDP members can debate among themselves and with their big union bosses.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where to begin.

How nice that the parliamentary secretary thinks he can rewrite history to say that the NDP is going to filibuster or speak out on this. No, the NDP only does that when we have good reason to do so. The NDP opposes not only the provisions of Bill C-38, but also its undemocratic nature and the manner in which it was introduced.

I called this the anti-jobs, anti-growth, anti-prosperity bill, and that is exactly what it is. The parliamentary secretary must realize that we need to have these debates not only for discussion in this House, but for all Canadians. They have a right to know that decisions are being made transparently and responsibly. They have a right to understand the debate on the various issues. That is what the government refuses to do.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The last question should have gone to the NDP. It was my mistake in the rotation. Therefore, I will take one more question from the NDP.

The hon. member for York South—Weston.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill is part of a larger pattern, a pattern of hidden agendas. It was not in the campaign, in the Speech from the Throne or in the budget but now we find out about it as a result of the budget implementation bill. It is also part of a pattern of attack on Canadian working people.

I want to talk about the 30% wage reduction for those who are coming off EI. A 15% across the board wage reduction in any occupation in Canada that a temporary foreign worker will come and work in and something like a third of the jobs that the Conservatives keep talking about that have been created are actually being held by temporary foreign workers, not by Canadians.

Then there is the federal contractors' fair wage policy, the federal contractors' employment equity policy and the move from age 65 to 67 without a move to allow those people to continue to work. The federal labour code actually permits employers to force people to retire at age 65, not at age 67, as the government wants them to do.

I believe this is part of a significant pattern of attacking working people in Canada. Would the member like to comment further on that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member gets it. The government does not.

In my speech I mentioned that this is an anti-jobs bill. In fact, the budget itself will directly eliminate 19,000 jobs. If we include the provisions that are not in the budget, but that are consistent with the undermining efforts already started by the government, it is closer to over 30,000 jobs. It is anti-growth because the government’s policies, in both the budget and the budget implementation bill, will lead to a 1% drop in the GDP.

The government brags about its accomplishments. It says that we urgently need to continue going in the same direction as this bill, but this does not make any sense for all Canadians, especially those who are working, but also those who, unfortunately, are currently not working for reasons very often beyond their control.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, the Guaranteed Income Supplement; the hon. member for Winnipeg North, Air Canada.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is again an honour to be able to stand in this place to debate the bill and to speak in support of budget 2012. Today we are here debating, at third reading, Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend an event in southern Saskatchewan. Many people came up to me and said they bet I was happy that the budget is now passed, that the implementation bill is passed and that it is all over. I explained to them that, although we got through report stage and we dealt with the amendments, we have not completed it yet, we have not finished voting on this. They said, “You mean you've got to go longer on this?”

For all those who may be watching, many know that most members of Parliament from all sides of the House were up for 41 hours. There were 21 or 22 hours of voting, but when we look at the clock, most were up for well over 40 hours during that span, and it is not finished yet.

In fact, this week before we rise for summer break, we will be sitting until midnight every night and there very well could be a vote later this evening. And so, it is not completed yet.

Why? It is because the opposition, in the last report stage, brought 871 amendments before this place. The Speaker had to advise the opposition that the rules and practice of this place do not lend themselves to taking 871 consecutive votes and so he cut them back to 159.

Today, again, we get to debate the implementation of the bill.

The budget was tabled March 29. This House has been debating it for close to three months. The finance committee has held special meetings, subcommittee meetings, as per the request from the opposition. Together, all these committees have held more than 70 hours of meetings and have heard from more than 100 witnesses who came in front of the committee to testify.

Bill C-38 has had more debate in Parliament than any other piece of legislation for the past 20 years.

As the member of Parliament for Crowfoot, in Alberta, I could say a great deal in support of budget 2012 and Bill C-38.

Speaking positively, I can begin my remarks by assuring my constituents and all Canadians that our Conservative government has committed, in this budget, to maintain health care transfers to the provinces at record levels. We have made this long-term commitment.

Where I come from, we do not soon forget the type of budget that the former Liberal government brought forward to this place, which balanced the federal books, and we applaud it for that, but did it on the backs of taxpayers and, in large respect, it did it by cutting $20 billion to the social and health care file.

We have said we are not going to do what the Liberals did.

My constituents have told me that access to quality health care service is one of our most important priorities. Especially in a rural area, we want to make certain it is stable.

Mr. Speaker, before I go on any further, I should have mentioned before that I will be splitting my time with my good friend from York Centre.

My constituents know that health care is important. This budget and our government answers to the idea of long-term funding that would be assured to the provinces.

As the government, we know that in the short term we must provide the policies that would lead to the fiscal conditions necessary to foster a strong health care system that would serve all Canadians over the long term. A strong economy is where Canadians can find work that would allow them to pay their taxes to the federal government and to the provincial governments, so that many of the programs and services they rely on will be able to deliver for them. Budget 2012 would establish the policies that would maintain the services our government provides and ensure that they are sustainable.

There are a large number of initiatives in Bill C-38.

How would Bill C-38 take short-term measures to ensure long-term sustainability? There are a number of examples. First, it would do so by streamlining the process for the approval of energy projects. This one topic we could speak on at great length, especially for provinces with a growing resource sector. It goes even further than that because it would allow for jobs to be created across the country.

The budget implementation bill will spell out how it would help Canadians to find jobs and to create new jobs. We can stand in the House and the opposition will say that we are not doing anything to help Canadians find work and we will stand up and talk about the 700,000 jobs that have been created in this economy. Having a strong economy is the key to being able to find work for most Canadians.

The budget would help remove redundant or extra layers of bureaucracy. It would take the Department of Fisheries and Oceans out of the creeks and watersheds of the Prairies and focus its work on the fish habitats on our coasts and in our lakes. I was not going to speak specifically to this point, but I think I want to because when I go out and visit my county councils and my municipal councils, especially in the rural municipalities but even in some of our towns and smaller cities, they talk very pointedly about this being their number one issue.

People might chuckle, but it used to be that when we went out years ago, most of these rural councils talked about the importance of strychnine, because of gopher and rodent control there. That was their issue. Second to that was the issue of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and even navigable waters, because every time they wanted to do even some minor project two and a half hours from Calgary, they would have to bring someone out just to give it a check of approval. Then they would have to bring another department out to do a check of approval. The councils complained that we were killing them with red tape and asked us to do something. I am thinking of Wheatland County and Stettler County, I believe, from which I received letters asking me to do something about this.

The opposition comes and says they are killing the fisheries. That is not a fact. That is rhetoric. We are delivering requests that Canadians have made to this and former governments over the years. We are responding in Bill C-38.

Obviously, I support the budget. I looked at some of the amendments. When we have 800 and some amendments we are not going to read through all of them, but I did look at some of them. I found it disappointing. It was blatantly obvious that what the opposition members were trying to do was not make the bill better. They would say we cannot make the bill better, so we have to scrap it, but they were going to try to amend it. Basically what they were doing was simply stalling everything they could. Of the amendments I read there was nothing really helpful to specific sections of the bill. They were all basically just trying to stall at every juncture. They were trying to change every point the government was trying to accomplish in the bill.

The opposition parties had their opportunity to go forward with their political high tax, high debt agenda. They offered their plan to Canadians in April 2011, and in May Canadians voted our Conservative government to a strong majority position in the House. Canadians wanted us to get the job done.

Some of the opposition members are suggesting we have gone too far. I chair a committee, and I sat through the last Parliament. Although I think most committees are working fairly well, and I will give the NDP and Liberals credit where it is due, in the last Parliament we would do a study and we would sit through the whole time and at the last possible moment they would come in and completely change the report, not to what we said, but they pushed their agenda through.

This here is not the type that tries to push something through. This was debated more than any other budget implementation bill in the past.

We were elected to govern and we intend to govern. We intend to govern in the best interests of all Canadians. It is a tough task. How are we going to satisfy everyone? The bill is not going to be stalled only for the sake of stalling.

A lot of governments are gridlocked right now. This government does not want to be gridlocked, but we do want strong, wholesome debate. We have had it; now let us move on with the vote.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my Conservative colleague talk about people in rural areas and the environment. He said he has heard from people in municipalities, councillors and so on, who told him to get rid of all the red tape. They did not want a guy from Calgary coming down to sign a piece of paper and go back. I hope the person from Calgary was not just coming in to sign a piece of paper. I hope he was doing his job and looking at whether the part about the environment was right or not. Is the member not worried about that?

People will feel free to do anything. Some will want to start a business, never mind the environment, never mind the red tape, never mind listening to the experts. They will just go ahead and do it.

The population will not accept that. People will not accept an environmental assessment not being done, and that is what the bill would do. Bill C-38 proposes to bypass any environmental assessment, which is not good for our planet and is not acceptable.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me assure my friend from the New Democratic Party that is not the government's intent. We would not support it if it meant there would be no environmental review, if it meant people could do whatever they wanted, as he has just suggested. I dare say the member would not find anyone on this side of the House who would accept that. That is not what this legislation proposes to do.

Bill C-38 would ensure that no conflicting departments would be doing separate reviews. When there is a project, there would be an environmental review, there would be an environmental assessment. Many of these deal with small culverts, small projects that in the past have been handcuffed. The red tape did not stall a lot of the projects, but it added a huge cost for our municipalities.

We want to see that environmental assessments are done but not one environmental assessment and then another environmental assessment and then another department with an environmental assessment. We want to see one project, one assessment, and then we can proceed. That is how jobs are created, that is how an economy is kept strong, and that is how we encourage our municipalities to better the communities in which Canadians reside.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lise St-Denis Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that environmental assessments were conducted at two levels, both provincially and federally, and that a number of departments were involved in the process. However, the federal departments had already been grouped under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

In cases where there are problems that fall exclusively under federal jurisdiction, for example with respect to the protection of fish species, will the provincial government, which wants to immediately launch a very specific project, be able to respect the environmental assessments that used to be conducted by the federal government?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be part of a government that is encouraged and proud of the significant steps it has taken to enhance responsible resource development.

Augustana, a small satellite university of the University of Alberta, is in Camrose in my riding. During the last election campaign many of the environmental students there stopped by my constituency office with questions for me. Some of them ended up being good supporters of mine. When I asked them where they would be working when they finished, most of them said they wanted to work for oil companies or resource companies so they could be certain that the proper environmental assessments and standards are adhered to. Most young environmental students do not end up working with some environmental group that protests every project to ever come along, regardless. Most of them want to work for resource companies so they can see that the wise environmental practices are carried out in those companies.

I want to assure the hon. member across the way that we are proud of what we want to do.

The member talked about the fishery. We want to see the fishery grow, but we do not necessarily want to see the department in downtown Calgary grow.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak in favour of Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act. The budget we introduced on March 29 is a moderate budget that keeps us on a strong fiscal track to balance the budget by the 2015-16 fiscal year.

On the weekend I was reading a story, Chicken Little, to my young daughter. In the story, a leaf falls from a tree and lands on the little chicken's head, and the chicken thinks the sky is falling. My daughter was very intrigued by this story, and we started to talk a little about it. I was curious about the origins of the story.

We went on to Google, looked and did a little research. We found that there is such a thing as a Chicken Little syndrome. I have to say that the first thing I thought about when I read about Chicken Little syndrome was the NDP. I dug out a definition. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Chicken LIttle syndrome is “one who warns of or predicts calamity especially without justification”.

That pretty much describes what the NDP is all about. It seems to be frozen in perturbation. What I mean by that is if we go back in the NDP history, back to J. S. Woodsworth, to Coldwell, to Douglas, to these great giants who were leaders, they—even Hazen Argue, the only NDPer ever appointed to the Senate, although he did switch to be a Liberal upon appointment—worked with the governments of the day. They were not destructive entities within the House. They did not oppose for the sake of opposing.

I had a number of calls from constituents over the end of last week and throughout the weekend. They said to me, “Mark, what is the opposition up to?”

When I was canvassing last year, on this side of the House we promised the people we would go to Ottawa and would sweat and bleed for them. We would work our hearts out for the people. We would not play games of process and procedure.

This is what the NDP does. The NDP and its Liberal partners stop us from doing the work of the people, the people who sent us here in a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government. The NDP members talk about how they did not have enough time to examine the budget. I sit on the finance committee, and we had 50 hours of debate on the budget. We had a subcommittee that looked into the budget for 20 hours.

If we combine the total hours of debate on the previous seven budgets, this budget has received twice as much debate. Absolutely, wow. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster consumed 13 hours reading Twitters from his mother, and he restricted 27 members—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. In all fairness, I love fantasy and fiction as much as anybody, but the member needs to be careful about what the member for Burnaby—New Westminster was talking about. It was the failure of the budget. I want that on the record. This member is just making things up.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

That is not a point of order.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member across the way has just brought up this point of order, but in fact he constantly heckles, and I am having great difficulty hearing my own colleague. I would ask that he respect the parliamentary procedures of the House.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to him. That is why I stood up to tell him he had to correct the record, because he was making big—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please.

The hon. member for York Centre.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will move on.

The budget is built on four pillars. One of them is trade. Since 2006, we on this side of the House have negotiated nine free trade agreements. We have a number of others in the hopper, free trade agreements that the NDP opposition opposes each and every time.

Free trade, as we all know, creates jobs, and Canadians want jobs. We have provided, since July 2009 and the end of the recession, 760,000 new jobs. We are the only country in the G8 that has recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession.

The second pillar is resource development. We are stripping away needless regulation, needless red tape, so that projects can get approved in a timely manner, because if they do not, the investment goes elsewhere.

The NDP does not care about that. They were down in Washington just a few months ago saying, “Forget about the oil sands. We think we should shut that down”.

The third is—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please.

Before I go to the member for Timmins—James Bay, I would like to remind all hon. members that disagreeing with something that another member has said is not in itself a point of order. The last time the member rose on the facts that had been raised.

I am not prejudging this time. The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue is about misrepresenting facts in Parliament.

That is what we are here to do. The Conservatives call us out all the time if they think we are off the line. I am asking him to speak truthfully, as opposed to misrepresenting facts in the House. That is something we all have to respect. We cannot just make things up and attribute them to people. That is an abuse of his position.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I would ask all hon. members to obey the rules of Parliament. That said, disagreement over the facts is considered debate.

I would ask the hon. member for York Centre to continue.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third pillar is major investments in research and development and the fourth is the immigration system. We are going to redesign the immigration system so that it meets the needs of the 21st century workforce here in Canada. It is going to meet labour needs.

There has been some talk about the OAS. The OAS is not an entitlement and it is not the CPP. It is a social program. We are sustaining the OAS for younger people so that when it comes to reap the benefits of OAS, it will be there for them.

I will read an extract that I found recently. I will attribute the source in a moment. It is called “Meeting Canada's Demographic Challenge”:

The Canadian population is growing older—first, because our birth rate for the past three decades has been below replacement rate. And second, because the post-war baby boom is about to hit retirement age. The implication of this is significant—fewer workers supporting more seniors. By 2015, Canada's domestic labour force will actually start to shrink.... This transformation entails everything from increased demands on health and other public services to potential skills shortages in key sectors across the country.

This is from the 2006 “Securing Canada's Success” Liberal Party platform.

The Liberal Party claims that we do not have a demographic challenge; well, the Liberals seemed to recognize one six years ago.

It is clear that when we on this side of the House see opportunity, for us it is equality of opportunity. On the other side of the House, they see opportunity of condition, opportunity of outcome. We want to create jobs for Canadians, investment for Canadians and a quality of life for Canadians that is second to none in this world.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have pointed out that Bill C-38 is a real Trojan horse. I would like to remind the hon. members of what a Trojan horse originally was: it was a ruse to deceive an enemy. With Bill C-38, Canadians are being deceived.

This government claims that its budget focuses on job creation, but everything in the bill demonstrates the opposite. Last April, the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that the Conservatives' austerity budget would result in the loss of 43,000 jobs and would slow Canada's economic recovery.

Can the hon. member tell us why he continues to talk a lot of nonsense about job creation when the outcome will clearly be a loss for our economy?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the opposition member is missing here. The World Economic Forum, the OECD, Forbes magazine and every recognized major economic institution around the world has said that Canada is the best place to do business, has the strongest economy of the G8 and is the strongest in job creation. There have been 760,000 net new jobs that have been created since July 2009. I really do not know what the opposition is missing here.

We have a plan that is working. Our Prime Minister is down at the G20 in Mexico right now, and world leaders are asking him what Canada's secret is.

I was in business before I got here. I was in Hong Kong and I was in the business of getting people to come in and speak. Two years ago, in Hong Kong, they wanted to know what Canada's secret was and why we were doing so well. They said they needed to know.

It is practical, on-the-ground business experience that the NDP certainly lacks. I encourage them to get some.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting how this member and the member before him talked about Bill C-38 as a bill that has been here for hours of debate and that for that reason it should be passing. However, what the members did not point out is that the bill is fundamentally flawed.

Put simply, the fundamental flaw is that it is not a budget bill. Yes, on paper it is a budget bill, but in reality it brings in numerous changes to 60-plus pieces of legislation that the Conservative majority government is trying to sneak through the back door.

My question to the member is related to the member for Kootenay—Columbia. This Conservative member went to his constituents, sat down with them and then, after having a discussion, came up the revelation that, yes, it is a bad bill. There might be a dozen or so Conservatives who agreed with that. The problem is that the Prime Minister will not allow those members the freedom to express themselves. In fact, he implies that the backbenchers did not have a say on the bill.

My question to the member is this: did he have a say in this bill before it came to the legislature? Did he consult with his constituents? Are they like the Prime Minister's constituents or like his colleague's from British Columbia?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me just read out some acts: the Auditor General Act, Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada Act, Broadcasting Act, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador Additional Fiscal Equalization Offset Payments Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Canada Post Corporation Act, Employment Insurance Act, Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act, the Department of Human Resources Development Act, and there are many more.

What do they have in common? They were all amended in the Liberal budget of 2005.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, just because some people may say that the contents of this omnibus bill, Bill C-38, are admirable does not make the use of it any less offensive. Bill C-38 clearly is being used to slide past Parliament controversial amendments to a number of pieces of non-budgetary legislation. Equally important, if not more important, it was done to slide them past the Canadian public without allowing adequate scrutiny or due diligence. Let us be clear. The Conservatives are doing this so as to minimize the political damage to their government.

Let us consider for a moment a few items contained in Bill C-38 which on their own would have been problematic for the Conservative government.

Just one issue is the raising of the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67. Had this change been given the airing it deserves, it clearly would have become a larger flashpoint with most Canadians than it had been already while neatly tucked inside Bill C-38. On that point, in my time in Parliament I have never seen such blundering and mishandling of a trial balloon as happened with the changes to OAS eligibility. It began in Davos when the PMO media notes contained a reference to a potential change to OAS. Then after the opposition questioned the minister daily for a full week, finally the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development gave indications there was some need for something to happen to OAS. Finally, after 10 days, the Minister of Finance spoke, saying something was likely to happen but not before 2020 or 2025. Of course, during the time lag before anybody from government had the decency to respond, there was a firestorm from seniors that somehow their incomes would be cut. Then of course seniors got mad, as they learned their kids would have to work two additional years.

I remind government members that OAS is not a pension. OAS is a retirement security payment to protect seniors from literally starving. One has to ask what would have become of these changes had they been given stand-alone consideration in a single bill before the human resources committee.

Equally concerning to thousands of Canadians are the changes within Bill C-38 that move to make it harder for seasonal workers to claim EI on a repeating basis as their seasonal type of work demands.

I personally believe that the Conservatives' limiting the length of time environmental reviews of major construction projects can be drawn out may well be considered wise in Conservative circles, but I ask, does anybody here truly believe that the one-third of Bill C-38 that deals with the environment should not properly be in a bill or bills of its own? Having said this, I also believe the Conservatives have significantly underestimated Canadians' commitment to the environment. Surely no one in this House of Commons believes Canadians can be fooled simply because major environmental changes are tucked inside an omnibus budget bill.

The very existence of Bill C-38 suggests that the Conservatives believe Canadians are so dumb as to not realize this is all being done solely to minimize public awareness and avoid criticism. This Herculean act of misjudgment, will certainly come back to haunt each and every Conservative who votes for Bill C-38. Just as the Conservatives drove the agenda on the gun registry for 20 years, using it over and over to raise millions of dollars, Bill C-38 has now handed their opposition the very same type of issue going forward to the 2015 election.

In a solely political sense, I would have to say that the Conservatives' use of Bill C-38 in such a comprehensive manner is an especially terrible use of an omnibus law-making bill. Bill C-38 contains in excess of 750 clauses and amends nearly 70 laws.

One area alone affected by Bill C-38 which I believe has yet to strike home with Canadians is the changes in the oversight of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS.

Bill C-38 removes the office of the Inspector General of CSIS and passes the responsibility of that office to the Security Intelligence Review Committee and the minister. Canadians, at least the ones my age, will remember when CSIS was formed in 1984. It was formed because a so-called dirty trick squad of the RCMP had crossed the line and was ultimately disbanded. When CSIS was created, the position of Inspector General was created to avoid a similar failure at the organization as the one that had happened with the RCMP.

In the shadowy world of counter-intelligence and in light of the shadow of the 9/11 tragedy, the oversight of CSIS is all the more essential. It should not be surprising to anyone in this place that a government that wants to hide its massive changes to Canada's laws on protecting the environment from Canadians in an omnibus bill just might want CSIS' secrets to remain in that secretive world.

What is amazing to watch is how so many good people across the way have allowed themselves to become party to the omnibus bill. How can they so easily set aside in their minds what is right and proper about the parliamentary system? How can they take partisanship to such a new low? They do not have to agree or even remotely accept what the opposition parties think, but they have decided that their opinion is so solid and so right, that the changes contained in Bill C-38 are so urgent that they must forgo proper committee and expert scrutiny.

The parliamentary system evolved for a single purpose and that was to protect the rights of the Canadian people, rights first enshrined by the Magna Carta nearly 1,000 years ago.

The consolidation of power within the PMO is not a new thing in this place. Pierre Trudeau used it. Mike Harris used it in Ontario. Does anybody recall the minister of education in Ontario, John Snobelen, in the mid-1990s? He was the minister who was caught on camera saying his government had to create a crisis in education in order to advance its right-wing agenda.

It is strange how those who evoked the great ideals of government accountability and transparency during the 2006 election are violating those very promises with Bill C-38.

Parliamentary language rules prevent me from declaring the Conservatives for what they have become, but I can say that Canadians are already doing just that. Of course, instead of humbly accepting well-earned criticism and withdrawing Bill C-38, we will shortly see them follow through with its passage, all the while hiding a gross abandonment of their parliamentary responsibilities to the Canadians whom they represent behind the bill's title: jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. That title is one of the most offensive misuses of that particular language ever seen in this place.

Even if some changes to the environmental law proposed in Bill C-38 may be warranted, that fact has not been established. Yes, it would be inconvenient for the government to deal with its proposed changes in a public session with expert witnesses. Would that be because the Conservatives cannot get experts to back their assertions, or could it be because expert scientists already clearly do not support the Conservatives' views on global warming and the degradation of our children's environment is okay because it generates enough profit?

When the official opposition puts the hard questions to this group of Conservatives, we often hear them bellow and roar a variety of responses that may in the short term relieve their stress but do little to relieve their responsibility for the travesty they are taking part in here today.

There is a mantra we hear that big government is bad, that it spends too much, that low taxes are the only way. The same people will say they always pay their bills and that they are honest citizens. They may well be, but they are wrong about a couple of things. Canadians are willing to pay for the services they receive. They simply want transparency and accountability for those costs.

Does that sound familiar? It sounds like 2006 again. It should. Governments, it has been said, are not defeated; they, in their actions, defeat themselves. Just as the gun registry bill led the Liberals to their defeat in 2006, I predict that Bill C-38 will become the turning point that leads to the end of the Conservative government in 2015.

Can any of the Conservatives across the way tell me how changing the access to EI would help Canada's unemployed? Can anyone across the way tell me how removing the Auditor General's examination of 12 agencies would somehow help Canadians? Can anyone tell me how forcing Canadians to work two years longer would help them? Can anyone across the way tell me how changing the environmental laws to reduce environmental assessments a hundredfold would somehow help Canadians?

This Conservative government, with its reckless excessive corporate tax cuts and the HST cut, has taken $30 billion a year out of the income of the federal government.

I recall when I first started my working career what was being said was “a fair day's work for a fair day's pay”. I lived my working career by that saying, and I still do.

Because I believe in health care, because I believe in a good retirement security system that protects our seniors, because I believe we are responsible for those who cannot take care of themselves, I have never once complained about paying my taxes, but I have complained about how they have been spent over the years.

Yes, I support government accountability and transparency. The question that remains to be seen is if the Conservatives in this House still do.

I will move now to a summary. Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, goes far beyond tax and monetary measures to make changes to dozens of policy areas, including the environment, natural resources and human resources.

All of the opposition parties were clear in the finance committee. We believed we should not have been asked to vote on a budget bill that grants cabinet the power to make far-reaching regulatory changes as seen within Bill C-38. Bill C-38 has 400 plus pages. I want everyone watching at home today to clearly understand that this is just the beginning. There will be yet another budget bill in the fall.

Here are a few points. First, there is a near total environmental overhaul in Bill C-38 that does not belong in a budget bill. The government wants a one project, one review environmental system so it is repealing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and replacing it with the Canadian environmental assessment act 2012. I want to stress that it would reduce assessments a hundredfold. That type of decision does not belong with the finance committee.

The bill also sets out limits for completion of reviews. The minister would have the power to shut down a review panel if he thought it would not finish on time. What is on time? On time is when we give the proper study to protect the environment for our children and our grandchildren. How can anyone say that this belongs in a budget bill? This particular type of decision needs the due diligence supplied by a comprehensive review by experts and by the committee that is tasked with such a review, not five minutes of questions at finance committee.

One day in finance committee when we were reviewing Bill C-38, we had witnesses. One wanted to talk about genetically modified seeds, another one the environment, another one the fisheries, and it went on. We had seven people sitting there. Each one had a serious topic. We got to ask five minutes of questions. Where do we even start with that comprehensive panel? We went through panel after panel with the same type of problem.

Consider the EI definition for suitable work. That does not belong before the finance committee. Anyone here clearly knows it should have gone before the human resources committee. Bill C-38 would remove the definition of suitable work from the Employment Insurance Act and give the federal cabinet the power to create new regulations about what constitutes suitable work and reasonable efforts to work. The bill gives no details about what the new criteria would be.

How does the decision on removing the oversight of the Auditor General belong in a finance bill? After Bill C-38, the Auditor General would no longer be required to annually audit several agencies, including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Northern Pipeline Agency and the Canadian Polar Commission. These agencies would submit annual financial reports to the minister instead. I said this at committee and I will say it again here today: how does putting the fox in charge of the henhouse create jobs and prosperity?

Backlogged immigration applications would be eliminated. Among the amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, there is a move to wipe out a backlog of 280,000 applications under the skilled worker program. Skilled workers are particularly what western Canada is screaming for. That list would be wiped out. Applications made before 2008 would be deleted. The Conservatives are gracious though, they would refund the fee. They have just taken away people's dreams of coming to Canada and being a part of and contributing to this great country.

At the finance committee, we heard a very compelling intervention on these immigration changes from the member for Newton—North Delta. She asked the committee to consider, and I will ask the people here today, “How do these changes which will destroy the dreams of people who trusted in Canada somehow create jobs and prosperity? How in the world can this be justified within a budget bill with the claim that it will improve our prosperity?”

The Fisheries Act changes contained in Bill C-38 do not belong at a finance committee. Where is our expertise at finance to deal with the fisheries? It is very clear where that belongs.

Bill C-38 would shut down several government-funded groups and agencies, including the National Council of Welfare, the Public Appointments Commission, Rights and Democracy, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal, and Assisted Human Reproduction Canada.

It would create a new social security tribunal to hear appeals on decisions made by old age security, employment insurance and other programs. It would create a Shared Services Canada department.

When we stop to consider the breadth of what is happening here, if we really pause and look at the 400-plus pages, the 700 clauses, there are areas of the bill that require expertise in given areas that are not areas of responsibility of the finance committee, areas that clearly belong with human resources, immigration and other places.

What is happening in this place is the removal of the trust that Canadians have given us, each one of us. We were all elected to come here for one purpose: to stand up and scrutinize the government, and to work with the government to provide the due diligence on governmental laws and legislation necessary to ensure that the changes being made are the best possible changes for the people.

We hear members on the other side talk about working together. In the same motion they turn around and limit debate or they come out with a bill like this. A bill like this hand-ties all members of Parliament to the place where they cannot do the due diligence that they are responsible to do. I ask the members on the other side of this House to reconsider what is being done, to stand up for Canadians they claim to support and represent, and do the due diligence.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite asked about the changes to EI in Bill C-38 and how they would benefit the people who are collecting employment insurance benefits. Bill C-38 would increase the ceiling at which earnings are clawed back from the benefits on EI. Someone who is on claim, officially unemployed but doing a job not quite at the level he or she was employed at previously, can still earn money and earn more money as a consequence of the bill.

How is being able to earn more money while on claim a bad thing? How is it not a benefit to the employee?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, it may shock the member but I actually think that is a good provision. I think there are a number of good provisions contained in Bill C-38.

However, because they are masked in the fashion they are, because they have been slid under the table where people cannot give them the scrutiny, we will never know. The provisions are not allowed to go to the appropriate committee to be looked at, for us to do due diligence. So we will never know. What is worse is that Canadians will not know until it hits them.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the issue of the ability of members to scrutinize this legislation. I thought the member's comments were well placed.

The member will be familiar with an exchange of correspondence between the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Clerk of the Privy Council. The Parliamentary Budget Officer asked for financial and economic data for 82 departments and agencies. He was blown off by 74 of them, and 8 responded.

Now the Parliamentary Budget Officer is having to take the government to court to fulfill the government's Bill C-2 in 2006, the accountability legislation. The ironies are resplendent. We have spent more than 24 hours voting in the last week. We were not only tired, but now we are also voting blind. How is it that members of Parliament, let alone the PBO, can scrutinize legislation, if in fact the government just blows off the Parliamentary Budget Officer?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raises a good point. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is at arm's-length from this place. He was put there by the Conservative government to help with its accountability and transparency and it shut the door on him. He is closer to the Canadian people now than he is to the government, because he is standing on guard for the Canadian people.

When people talk about deregulation and red tape, I am reminded of my favourite country singer Kris Kristofferson who has a song entitled The Law Is for Protection of the People. It is time for the Conservative government to follow the law that it created.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek for his fine work in the House of Commons. I would like to ask him a question on OAS. All of us in the House know that only the poorest of the poor seniors are entitled to OAS. Even the deniers on the other side of the House know that is a fact.

Why does the hon. member think that the Prime Minister went to Davos to announce the change to the OAS and did not campaign on that issue during the last federal election?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not profess to read the mind of the Prime Minister but I do understand that the Prime Minister is somewhat of an expert on tactics.

Anybody who considers this change understands that the Canadian people would be strongly concerned by it. People now under the age of 54 would have to work two years longer. People on Ontario disability who would have received a modest boost at the age of 65 would not receive it until 67. People who, God help them, have lost their jobs and are on welfare would have to wait two more years to get it. Would the member want to raise that in Canada?

The reality is that the total, abysmal mishandling of that situation and the fear that it caused Canadians from coast to coast is reprehensible. The reality is that it took 14 days for the government to come to the House with a clear message. Seniors had two weeks. Some misunderstood the message and thought they were going to lose their pensions. That was a total disregard for their feelings.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I do not often agree but we sit on finance committee together and I certainly appreciate his work there.

I want to focus more on the NDP's argument that certain issues only belong in certain committees. If we are dealing with OAS, we have to deal with human resources committee. If we are dealing with environment, we deal with environment committee. Finance committee should not be dealing with these issues.

As my colleague knows, the budget implementation act follows the budget and the budget follows prebudget consultations, which have just started again at finance committee. When we do prebudget consultations, we hear about OAS, retirement savings, employment insurance, and we hear from all sorts of environmental groups. Does my colleague think we should restrict the prebudget consultations and not hear from any of these groups? Over 400 of them presented at finance committee. They expect their views to be reflected in the prebudget report, then in the budget and then in the budget implementation act. If they are restricted at this end in terms of which committee they should go to, is my colleague now suggesting that we change the whole gamut with respect to prebudget consultations and make them more restrictive?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that those briefs we hear at the prebudget hearings that apply to other areas, like fisheries, be shared with those committees. I would suggest that any legislation that comes out of those hearings should be the prerogative of the group within that ministry, with that minister, to put forward.

Finance committee should not be the catch-all for everything. An omnibus bill like this does not serve Canadians well. The reality is that it needs more due diligence than we can provide within the context of finance committee. Many hours of work were done but the limited focus that we could apply did not allow us to dig down in the manner we should have. Anybody can judge whether or not our questions are of good quality or low quality, but it belongs with the expertise of fisheries committee, or it belongs at HRDC committee. It does not belong in finance.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Crowfoot took the position that none of the amendments were meant to improve the act. I am picking up on a point also made by the hon. member who just spoke.

I want to make it clear that the amendments that I put forward honoured the government's intent to streamline and shorten the hearings. My amendments proposed to continue the 24 month limit on a panel review of an environment project. I added an important amendment. If the proponent is dragging out the time, the clock stops. A large oil company, for instance, could not say it did not get its environmental assessment report done on time, it took 18 months, so the rest of the intervenors have 6 months to study the project.

Much is wrong with Bill C-38. One of the most egregious things is the failure of the House of Commons, with only 12 hours of witnesses before the subcommittee that dealt with both environmental assessment and the Fisheries Act, to even scratch the surface of the damage that will be done.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am in agreement with the member on this point. There are a lot of disadvantages to sitting as one person from a party, but one of the advantages is that the member was allowed to give those kinds of proposals in the House.

We gave over 61 very focused amendments at the finance committee. Each and every one were defeated by government members. Again, if we had people who were more expert on the given topic, on the given part of the legislation, they may well have come to a different determination. We had people who were focused on putting through a particular bill, and that is their job.

However, the job of an MP goes much further. The job of an MP is to do the honest due diligence. Part of the job that we are all failing on these days is working together to make legislation better. We have to take down the walls in this place. We have to start to work together. It is not what comes out of the PMO that runs the Parliament of Canada. It has to be the work of this body.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and contribute to the debate on the third reading of Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.

Bill C-38 would implement the measures announced in the March budget speech. My comments this afternoon will focus on several of the themes contained in that budget, and those are the need to return to fiscal discipline, reduce the size and cost of government, reduce deficits and eventually pay off the Canadian debt which is in excess of $590 billion and counting.

Certainly the Canadian economy is the envy of the industrialized world, with healthy job growth, a manageable rate of unemployment and comparatively low levels of debt. However, this is not to state that Canadians can be complacent about either our debt or our economy. The recovery is fragile and the situation in Europe is even more so.

As countries in Europe, specifically Greece, Spain, Italy and even Great Britain, have demonstrated, growth in public sector spending in excess of growth of the economy cannot continue forever. High deficits will inevitably lead to higher interest rates and exchange rates, capital leaving the country and higher taxes in the future.

High debt mortgages our country's future and imposes higher taxes on future generations that are forced to pay for the current borrowing. This is the ultimate violation of the principle of no taxation without representation.

I forgot to mention at the outset, Mr. Speaker, that I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga—Streetsville.

Several months ago, I attended a conference in Ottawa put on by the Manning Institute, Preston Manning's Conservative think tank. The Manning Centre has published credible research indicating that a vast majority of Canadians are becoming less dependent on government. In fact, 66% of Canadians expect less of their government, except in core areas of government services such as in public safety. Canadians are increasingly becoming more reliant on themselves, their families and volunteer organizations such as churches and as a result they are becoming less reliant on government.

Sadly, part of this is due to Canadians' perception of government's inability to actually solve any of their problems. As Ronald Reagan famously said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help”. Regardless, I believe that self-reliance is a positive trend.

Stimulus spending notwithstanding, the cost and size of the federal government is bloated and I would suggest bloated unnecessarily. Between 1999 and 2009, the Canadian population increased by 11%, but the federal government's civilian workforce grew by 35%. Meanwhile, public-sector compensation grew by 59% as compared to only 30% in the private sector. Canada is fortunate to have an outstanding civil service. However, if balanced budgets are to be achieved, all sustainable trends must be addressed.

Any business which has experienced human resource shortages in its own business, and we have a lot of them in Alberta, knows all too well the competition from the public sector, with attractive wages, benefits and pensions, adds to the difficulties a private business has in attracting and retaining qualified labour. We simply cannot continue to grow government in the way that we have been.

I will talk about some specific areas where the federal government must engage in cost containment to avoid a system that becomes so expensive that it will eventually collapse under its own weight. These costs would be contained by measures taken in Bill C-38.

The first is the old age security system. The old age security system is funded through tax revenues and is premised on there being enough taxpayers to support retirees. However, by 2030, the number of Canadians over the age of 65 will increase from today's 4.7 million to 9.3 million. Two demographic trends that exacerbate the issue are that Canadians are living longer and our fertility rates have steadily been declining. When OAS was first introduced, life expectancy for Canadians was 71. Today it is 82. Consequently, the cost of OAS will increase from $36 billion per year in 2010 to $108 billion by 2030. Meanwhile, by that same year, the ratio of taxpayer to retiree will be 2:1, down from its current 4:1. This trend is clearly unsustainable and must be addressed now in order to avoid a catastrophic collapse of the entire system.

Second, Canada must seriously look at many of its social safety net mechanisms, given their increased cost and ultimate unaffordability. In my view, no problem is more troubling than our current system of employment insurance.

In Alberta and Saskatchewan employers cannot fill tens of thousands of high-paying jobs and are often forced to seek expensive temporary foreign workers to fill everything from skilled jobs in the construction and pipeline industries to service jobs in the hospitality and restaurant industries.

However, in other parts of the country hundreds and thousands of Canadians are collecting employment insurance, many for parts of the year, every year, for decades. In fact, employment insurance, by its very design, incents unemployed workers to do just that: to go on and off employment insurance rather than seek out stable employment elsewhere.

In the areas of the country with the highest unemployment, the qualifying period for employment insurance is the lowest. This, in my view, represents one of the worst failures of the modern welfare state. In an attempt to reduce income equality and regional disparity, the government has actually created a system which discourages human resources for moving to parts of the economy that are operating more efficiently.

Those who can work should work. Bill C-38 makes it clear that unemployed Canadians are expected to find a job when and where it is reasonable to do so. Safety net programs such as EI were designed as temporary insulators from unemployment, not as a substitute for employment. Dignity is enhanced not diminished when reliance on EI is replaced by gainful employment.

I just want to mention a word about environmental protection because much misinformation has been proferred concerning the government's concern or alleged lack of concern for environmental protection.

Clearly, Canadians deserve the cleanest air, water and environment possible. However, Canadians also value jobs and a functioning economy. In fact, over the next 10 years, more than 500 proposed new projects, representing potentially $500 billion in new investment, will be under consideration in Canada.

Currently, developers undertaking major projects must navigate a complex often repetitive maze of regulatory requirements and processes. However, by providing predictable timelines for project approval, Bill C-38 would streamline and rationalize the environmental approval process. This is key. Canadians should not confuse quantity and length of the environmental approval process with a quality environmental approval process. Bill C-38 would prevent long delays that kill potential jobs, investment and stall economic growth for projects that would not have any negative environmental impact.

Bill C-38 fulfills the government's commitment to practise fiscal discipline and return to balanced budgets. Although short-term debt is tolerable and sometimes even necessary, excessive long-term debt is incompatible with long-term economic growth.

Currently, $30.9 billion, almost $31 billion, or 11¢ of every tax dollar, is paid on public debt charges, otherwise known as interest. Accordingly if we had no public debt, and therefore no interest charges, we would be running essentially balanced if not surplus budgets. Alternatively, for those members how are interested in program spending or social engineering, had there been no public debt, there would be an additional $31 billion available for spending on whatever programs are important to them.

Government cannot, in the long term, sustain economic growth through public spending. Canadians spending left unchecked has not led to economic growth anywhere. It is quite the opposite. Extreme public debt has led to crises in Greece, Italy and Portugal, economic downturn and political deadlock in the United States and extreme austerity measures in Great Britain.

However, some Canadians believe that we are somehow immune from such basic economic realities. Worse, there appears to be a real disconnect between government and the taxpayers who we represent.

Fiscal Conservatives understand that the government has no money except for that which it taxes from its citizens and corporations. Fiscal spendthrifts erroneously believe that the government magically like fairy dust has resources of its own and therefore can generously spend on all projects and all programs without consequence. Government does not create wealth. It merely redistributes wealth. It only spends resources taken out of the private economy.

Government programs and Public Works can and do sustain demand in the short term, but they also monopolize available resources, taking them away from private business and resulting in the eventual slowdown of our economy. Accordingly the best long-term economic stimulus is for government to reduce its spending, pay down its debt and let resources be allocated in a sustainable method through private investment.

The great Margaret Thatcher once said, “And, you know, there is no such thing as a society“. She went on to say:

There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour...people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation...

The next time a member of Parliament asks if a certain program or project is a necessity and affordable, we should ask two questions: Who is entitled? Who has the obligation to pay? We will soon learn that the answer is one and the same.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, part of this budget is streamlining environmental assessment. I know his riding sits at one end of a pipeline and my riding sits at the other end of a pipeline. I wonder if the member, like many of his colleagues, supports the new Kinder Morgan pipeline running from Edmonton to Burnaby?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows I represent a riding, the northwest part of Edmonton and parts of St. Albert, which is immediately north and west of Edmonton.

Pipelines are, of course, the conduit to how Alberta gets its energy resources to market. Subject to environmental approval, which is a key condition, subject to there being no adverse consequences to the environment, I support pipeline projects. I support Keystone and I support gateway. I support any pipeline that safely and economically can get Alberta's energy resources to the market.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I think the passage I heard during the speech was simply to say program spending or social engineering.

The first question is two part. Does the member consider health care or even public broadcasting as two examples of social engineering?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe that health care is a service that Canadians demand and expect, and that all governments are inclined and, at this point, legally obligated to provide.

When I referred to social engineering, I certainly did not have health care at the top of my mind. As the hon. member will know, this government has formulated a new formula with respect to the health care accelerator that goes to the end of this decade. I forget the exact details, but it grows by 6% for a few years and then by the rate of GDP after that.

Health care, I believe, and I think most members believe, is a human service that all Canadians expect and that all governments, including this one, will provide to Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for his intervention.

The jobs, growth and long-term prosperity bill would implement our budget. The document is 490-odd pages. I would expect a budget implementation bill to be more than 12 pages long.

Hidden in here, oh goodness, let us look at page 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, et cetera, responsible resource development. That was no surprise. No wonder it is going to be debated in a budget implementation bill.

Could the member comment on the importance of the responsible resource development and how it is no surprise we have been debating this since March 29?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the budget implementation bill is subtitled, “the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act”.

As the member knows, and as most members know, the Canadian economy is diversified. Currently one of the big strengths of the Canadian economy and the part that insulated Canada from much of the worst of the recession in 2008 was the energy resources largely, but not exclusively, located in western Canada.

Responsible resource development, concomitant with environmental protection, is a big factor within the government's response to dealing with a fragile economy, and therefore there should be no surprise in my view that that is contained within this legislation.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, if Canadians want clean water drink and clean air to breathe, why would the government remove human health from the definition of environmental effects to be studied in an environmental assessment? The only study now, according to the government, is for fish, birds and species at risk.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my comments, one should not confuse a quantity and length of environmental regulation with quality of environmental regulation. One can have a thorough, complete and fulsome environmental debate in front of one tribunal as opposed to having a number of piecemeal tribunals looking at different parts of the puzzle.

I would suggest that, at the end of the day, having one comprehensive review will lead to a more clear and consistent result than having numerous, voluminous and often repetitive processes.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this afternoon to speak to Canada's economic action plan 2012 through the budget implementation act, Bill C-38. I thank the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert for sharing his time with me today.

Canada is emerging from the global economic recession. The economy's strengths provide an opportunity for the government to take significant actions today that will fuel the next wave of job creation and position Canada for a secure and prosperous future. Economic action plan 2012 sets out a comprehensive agenda to bolster Canada's fundamental strengths and address important challenges confronting the economy over the long run.

Specifically, this plan supports entrepreneurs, innovators and world-class research. Our government will increase investments in research and development and in streamlining and enhancing the scientific research and experimental development tax incentive program, including shifting from indirect tax incentives to more direct support for innovative private sector businesses. We will also enhance the access to venture capital financing by high growth companies so they can have the capital they need to create jobs and grow.

Further, we are making changes in Bill C-38 to ensure responsible resource development so that Canada may take advantage of the natural resource opportunity we have that benefits all regions of the country, including Mississauga. Many businesses rely on a strong and responsible resource sector to sell their goods and services. By creating an efficient regulatory system, we can provide effective protection of the interests of Canadians while minimizing the burden on business.

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

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

I am pleased to see that we are reforming the immigration system to place a strong emphasis on skilled workers, investors and job creators who want to come to Canada and make a strong economic contribution. The temporary foreign worker program will be realigned to better meet labour market demands and we are making significant improvements to the foreign credential recognition process.

I am also pleased to report that Bill C-38 extends the hiring credit for small business for another year, providing up to $1,000 for one year to encourage the hiring of new employees.

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

Canada must ensure that its social programs are relevant for the times but also cost effective for taxpayers. Bill C-38 proposes changes to strengthen and support the employment insurance program and old age security.

With respect to OAS, no government in recent memory has done more to support Canadian seniors than this one. I was pleased, in the first budget on which I was able to vote in this House, that our government brought in the largest one time increase in the guaranteed income supplement in over 25 years. Further, our government continues to provide support to the old age security program to existing recipients and those near retirement at current levels with no reductions or changes whatsoever.

However, we have a responsibility to ensure that the OAS system is protected for future generations and not just simply pass the buck to some other government down the road. That is why we are moving forward with a prudent, responsible and proactive change to the OAS by slowly raising the age of entitlement from 65 to 67 by 2029. The number of Canadians over 65 will increase, from 4.7 million today to 9.3 million by 2030. The cost of OAS will rise from $36 billion to $108 billion. Meanwhile, the number of taxpayers who will pay for OAS will go from four today to two in 20 years. Even though this decision may not be popular, it is simply the right thing to do to ensure the long-term sustainability of the OAS system for generations to come.

This budget also continues its support for families and communities. It would improve health-related tax treatment under the GST-HST, strengthen Canada's food safety system, provide enhanced support for the victims' fund, improve the wage earner protection fund and improve the registered disability savings program.

I will conclude by quoting the Minister of Finance in his budget address of March 29:

We see Canada for what it is and what it can be—a great, good nation, on top of the world, the True North strong and free. Our government has been inspired by this vision from the beginning. Today we step forward boldly, to realize it fully—hope for our children and grandchildren; opportunity for all Canadians; a prosperous future for our beloved country.

I am pleased to report to the House that I will be supporting Bill C-38 at third reading and ensuring that economic action plan 2012, jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, becomes a reality.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find it a bit strange listening to all of this, especially when the Parliamentary Budget Office said that there was no financial or budgetary reason to make changes to the OAS, and past ministers, including Conservatives, are saying that attacks on the environmental assessment is just wrong and stop.

Then I heard my colleague say that hitting the delete button on close to 300,000 skilled workers would actually make improvements in bringing more skilled workers into this country.

How does my colleague think hitting the delete button on 287,000 skilled workers who have waited in line and have played by the rules made by the government would help provinces like Alberta and B.C. get the skilled workers they need right now.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that this government inherited a system that was a complete mess from the previous Liberal government that had played the game of , “We promise you a spot. We promise you a job in Canada. Just sign up and we'll get it processed”. It just did not happen.

We have had a number of years now where we have had to deal with the problem. It has grown. We made a decision, as a government, that we would reassess the foreign worker program, that we would redo it, start it over again and allow people who want to reapply to do so right away and have their application processed in a timely manner. It was completely unfair to keep hundreds of people on a waiting list that was not getting any better because of the previous government's mismanagement of the file.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just finished reading The Guardian. I do not know if my colleague reads it or not, but it talks about the urgency around the world to get a new environment agreement. This is a British newspaper, but it specifically mentioned Canada as a country that cannot be trusted because of the Conservative government's attitude. The Guardian talks about how the Conservatives break international agreements and have a reputation now of undermining environmental standards. We see that all through this budget.

I want to concentrate specifically on the decision to attack the Freshwater Institute. Not only Canadian scientists but international scientists have decried that as an attack on science that is going to undermine our capacity to manage our freshwater resources. The government has shut down the round table on the environment. However, we now find out that it is going to cost millions to actually shut the program down, so my question to my hon. colleague is this: why would the government spend millions to shut down a world-class program when for less it could keep it open? Where is the fiscal sense?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, part of our government's review of various agencies, boards and commissions was to make sure that those organizations and the services being provided were actually doing what they were mandated to do and to make sure that what they were doing in 2012 was still relevant.

What we found with many of these agencies, especially the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, was that after 25 years, the mandate that the organization had over that period of time was not reflective of the needs and advice that we as a government, and the general public, wanted in 2012. As a result, yes, some decisions were made to close some things or to reduce their services, and in others to create new, purposed bodies that would make more sense and have more relevance to 2012.

That is the package. Obviously you folks do not support it. We believe it is the right way for Canada to move forward in an efficient and effective way to continue to deliver strong environmental sustainability to the people of Canada.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton) Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the hon. government House leader rising on a point of order?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table documents that are the government's responses to Questions Nos. 642, 644 to 649, 651 and 652.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton) Conservative Barry Devolin

The House thanks the hon. House leader for the intervention and for the tabling of said documments.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on budget Bill C-38.

I wish to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for London—Fanshawe.

When our Conservative colleague was talking about some of the panels or organizations that the Conservatives had stopped giving money to on the environment, the simple reason is that if they criticize the Prime Minister, that is it; they lose their funding.

The Prime Minister went to another country and said clearly that if somebody criticizes the government's work, they would lose the funding the government gives them. That is the only plain answer. There is no other answer.

This is a government that does not like to be criticized. It is as simple as that. Canadians know it, and they will make a decision one day on who they want to run the country.

The problem with Bill C-38 is that it is a budget bill that contains a lot of things that have nothing to do with the budget.

According to this government, the previous government passed things in its budgets that had nothing to do with budgetary matters. But just because one government has done it does not make it right. Why have a budget bill if all sorts of things are going to be hidden in it?

I am sure that I am not the only one who has not read the budget's 421 pages. Few members of the House can have read it, not even government members. This budget hides all kinds of things. One day, people are going to wake up and realize what it all means.

I would like to bring up a number of points. The Conservatives say that 50 hours to support or to attack the budget are enough. They feel that it is plenty of time. But it is funny that hon. members on the Standing Committee on Official Languages have been studying the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality since September.

Take the 150th anniversary in 2017. Committee members have been studying the 150th anniversary celebrations since September.

In this case, the Conservatives have introduced 70 amendments to existing laws. I will give a few examples, for instance, the Employment Insurance Act. In the past, if there were changes to EI, they would usually be studied by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. Thus, people in industry and workers across the county would come before the committee as witnesses and tell us how they would be affected by these changes. For example, with this bill, people will have to travel an hour from their homes if work is available. The government will be reasonable, it seems: refusal would depend on the job being suited to the worker, and that sort of thing.

Moreover, the government is getting rid of the board of referees. I am not sure if people understand this completely: 1,000 people across Canada sit on the boards of referees that decide whether the Employment Insurance Commission has made a good or bad decision. EI claimants have always had the fundamental right to appear before a board if they have been denied EI benefits.

Each board of referees is made up of three people: one represents the employer, one the employees and the third is supposed to be independent.

These people examine all the facts before them and decide whether or not the commission has made a mistake. If, like the commission, the board of referees rejects a claim, then the employee can appeal to an umpire. Conversely, if the board of referees agrees with the employee, then the commission can appeal to an umpire.

It is a transparent system where people can seek justice and accomplish something. The government is now doing away with the board of referees and the umpires. It is in Bill C-38.

Are the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada—who rises every day to tell us how good the employment insurance system is—and the Conservative government doing justice to workers covered by a program that belongs to workers and employers? The government does not give a single penny to the program. Now that the penny is being eliminated, we will be saying that the government does not give a single nickel to this program. It is paid for by the employees and employers.

They pay for insurance in the event of job losses. The government is now eliminating the board of referees and umpires and replacing them with 38 people who it will appoint. Honestly, that scares me.

I remember that, when the Mulroney government made changes in 1988 and in the 1990s, Canadians took to the streets. They did not accept the changes of Brian Mulroney's Conservative government. I remember that, in 1996, when Jean Chrétien was in power, Canadians did not accept the changes. They took to the streets.

We can imagine what it will be like when there are only 38 people in Canada to handle these cases. They will never be able to take care of all the cases deemed inadmissible by commission officials.

Conservative MPs are going to wake up when they get numerous calls to their offices from people who will be telling them that they are not entitled to employment insurance benefits and who will be wanting to know what their MP intends to do. I am eager to see how the Conservative MPs will respond to those people. If they do not do justice by them, they will then wonder why people are taking to the streets.

The other aspect concerns the age of eligibility for old age security, which is increasing from 65 to 67. I listened to what my Conservative colleague said.

He said the Conservative government does not want to pass the buck to somebody else or the next generation and that we have to look after the retirement of people from 65 to 67 to make sure we have money for them. Well, it has been proven that there will be money for their retirement, and the Conservatives are saying they do not want to pass the buck? They will be passing the buck to the provinces.

The people who really need the old age pension are the ones who do not have any pension. They did not work for an employer that gave them a pension plan. Many worked hard physical jobs in a number of areas. As an example, I have seen women working in fish plants where there are 3,000 people working in one area. They can take their retirement at 65, and I honestly cannot see them working until the age of 67.

People who work in factories, for instance, do not have pension funds when it comes time to retire. There are no pension funds for these people. Who will be hit even harder? The women who work in these jobs. These are jobs without pensions. These people will not be able to retire, and the government is deciding that they will continue working until they are 67. If they cannot continue working, they will have to turn to social assistance, and the provinces will be the ones to pay.

The government says that it does not want to pass the cost off to future generations, but it is passing it off to the provinces. The provinces do not have the resources to assume the cost.

All of that is hidden in Bill C-38. The government is absolutely not honest. When it talks about creating 720,000 jobs one day, 740,000 jobs another day or 760,000 jobs yet another day, the government is not talking about the 19,000 jobs it is eliminating in the public sector that help people every day.

For these reasons, we cannot vote for Bill C-38. It is not a good bill, and the government has failed in its duty to represent Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. He seems to have a much clearer vision of what is actually in the bill than the Conservatives and some of the stuff we heard earlier from them. They were talking about how senior citizens in this country were creating such a dead weight on the system that it was all going to collapse. We know the attack by the Conservatives on OAS is an attack on the poorest of seniors, the people who do not have savings or RRSPs. They will have to work until age 67. The Conservatives did not campaign on that but they are now bringing it in.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that the government's numbers were made up. Ever since then the Conservatives have been denying the Parliamentary Budget Officer access to information. The Conservatives broke the law by denying Parliament the ability to do its work, to do due diligence, to ensure that people, senior citizens for example, are not unfairly targeted by the government.

Could my hon. colleague tell me why he thinks the government has made up this fiction about senior citizens being a dead weight on our tax system when OAS is sustainable? Could he tell me why the government has gone to the lengths of breaking the law to deny the Parliamentary Budget Officer access to information and keep him from doing his work?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what workers have done to the Conservatives to make them hate them so much. For example, we saw what happened with Air Canada. We saw the arbitrator go towards the employer this week. We saw what happened at Canada Post. When Canada Post was ready to give its employees a 2% increase, the Conservative government brought a bill to the House which gave them a 1.5% increase. What did the workers do to the government to make the Conservatives hate them so much?

I have never seen the government go after big business. As a matter of fact, the government gives big business a tax break. When it comes to the workers though, the government just looks them in the eye and bingo they are gone. What is wrong?

We are here to make laws, yet the Conservatives break the law. They have been breaking the law day after day. The Conservatives have no conscience when it comes to Parliament, to what our democratic institution is all about. They have been like that since they became a majority government. They do not care. They have a big bulldozer and they ride over everybody. Now they are--

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. Questions and comments. The hon. member for Kitchener--Conestoga.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was not in the House for a good part of the debate, but based on the question by my hon. colleague across the way, I can imagine there is considerable angst about the fact that we are proposing to change the rules as they relate to OAS way down the road. The opposition continues to paint this as if we see some crisis. There is no crisis. We are planning in advance to avoid a crisis. Why would members opposite not agree that we can plan in advance to avoid a crisis so we have a sustainable program going forward?

My colleague said that we are against workers. Our government has had a track record for the last number of years of economic action plans that have resulted in a tax reduction for the average family of $3,100. How could the member possibly suggest that we are against ordinary Canadians?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, when I see people at Canada Post losing their jobs at a call centre and the government creating jobs with independent private sector groups where people are paid $12 an hour, that is a hit to the workers. The government closed down a call centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Individuals were being paid over $20. The government opened one in Bathurst where people earn $12 an hour.

Canada Post was ready to give its employees a 2% increase. The government passed a bill, and that member voted for it, giving them a 1.5% increase.

What did the workers do to the government that makes it hate them so much? It is unbelievable.

Look at the pension plan in France right now. Instead of raising the age to 67, the government brought it down to 60. We can see the difference. There is a difference because that government has a conscience when it comes to the people. The Conservative government does not have a conscience when it comes to the people. You just drive a bulldozer over all of them and you will pay a price very soon for that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. I would remind hon. members to direct comments and questions through the Chair.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for London—Fanshawe.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to once again thank the staff and pages for all their hard work last week and indeed throughout the year. Without them this place would not function and we owe them a debt of gratitude. I thank them all.

New Democrats have fought this Trojan Horse budget bill every step of the way. We proposed that this massive and unprecedented 425-page bill be split into separate sections to permit proper study of its substantive measures, but unfortunately for the people of Canada, the Conservatives refused. Now we hear from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that legal advice provided to him has determined the government is in fact withholding savings measures and is not just breaking the law and contravening the Parliament of Canada Act, but also is breaking the Federal Accountability Act.

In response to this omnibus bill, the NDP caucus organized alternate public hearings in Ottawa and other cities across the country in May of this year to ensure that Canadians' views were indeed heard. I attended the hearings in Ottawa and I also hosted one in my riding. We heard many witnesses outline their concerns about this massive budget bill and how it impacted their lives, their jobs, the environment and Canada as a whole. The picture they painted was not pretty.

We tried to make this bill better at committee and report stage. We introduced hundreds of amendments that would have corrected the most egregious parts of Bill C-38. We wanted to take the sting out of this legislation and make it better, but the Conservatives defeated every one of our amendments. The votes that took place last Wednesday were a testament to the opposition's resolve and the dire need to make changes to Bill C-38, yet all amendments were just ignored and even openly mocked by members opposite, so here I stand once again in the hope that we can drive some sense into members opposite.

This budget implementation bill is supposed to implement the budget, but it goes far, far beyond what was outlined in the recent federal budget. Quite simply, it is profoundly inappropriate for any government to put so many sweeping changes in so many different areas to more than 70 pieces of legislation as this bill does. It is bad public policy. It is becoming abundantly clear that the government members opposite are trying to hide from their obligation to provide responsible oversight. Rather, they seem determined to avoid accountability.

I have spoken to this bill previously and in those remarks I have outlined the impact this bill will have on the retirement of future generations. We know that changes to old age security will have the biggest impact on the poorest people. Sadly, senior women and those with disabilities will be most affected. While the Conservatives claim it is necessary, the reality is that OAS is sustainable. It is sustainable now and in the future. We can absolutely afford to ensure all seniors are free from poverty and live in dignity in their retirement. A secure retirement is about making smart choices and intelligent practical investments. I say to the government that it makes much more sense to invest in people, our seniors, than in unnecessary megaprisons, expensive fighter jets and unaffordable tax breaks for profitable corporations.

The choices made in this so-called budget bill will have a dramatic impact on the Canadian landscape. I want to highlight a few of the choices the government has made.

The Conservatives claim that budget 2012 is about job creation, but the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that this budget will cost 43,000 Canadians their jobs. In fact, the budget actually plans for unemployment to rise.

Speaking of unemployment, Bill C-38 concentrates power in the hands of the minister in regard to what constitutes a reasonable search for work or suitable employment for those on employment insurance. Unfortunately, the bill does not provide any details about what the new definitions of “suitable employment” or “reasonable search” might be, but we have already seen the minister freelancing and defining “suitable employment” in a manner that will hurt hundreds of thousands of Canadians. The government is asking Canadians to just trust the minister.

EI is funded by Canadian workers and Canadian employers. EI belongs to them. It is not government money, yet the government believes it is all right to force many of those unemployed workers to accept a 30% pay cut in work outside their field. This is unacceptable.

Another decision made by the Minister of Finance is to gut environmental protection regulations. Canadians want their government to take action to fight climate change and protect our environment. Instead, Bill C-38 reduces Canada's accountability on the world stage by repealing the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. By dropping out of Kyoto, Canada will no longer be required to report on its emissions. By bowing out, the Conservatives have made us the laughing stock of the rest of the world.

In fact, a full one-third of Bill C-38 is dedicated to environmental deregulation. The government is doing all the negative things it announced in the 2012 budget and more. Bill C-38 delegates environmental assessments to other authorities, including the provinces. Once again the government is downloading federal costs and responsibilities onto other levels of government.

The bill also takes aim at environmental groups. It amends the rules for determining the extent to which a charity has engaged in political activities. It grants the Minister of National Revenue the authority to suspend a charity's privileges with respect to issuing tax receipts if the charity, according to the minister, devotes too many resources to political activities. This attack on charities is in part aimed at environmental groups that have actively opposed the government's reckless inaction on the environment.

Bill C-38 also has consequences for our fisheries. It changes the rules around fish habitat protection and the deposit of deleterious substances in fish-bearing waters, and it weakens regulation regarding disposal at sea. Our oceans are already at risk, and the government is determined to make things worse.

Let me remind the government that as members of Parliament, we are stewards of this country and its environment. It is our job and our absolute obligation to protect that environment for future generations. By passing the bill, we would utterly fail in this task. The changes to environmental regulations will most tragically impact future generations.

Perhaps the most egregious part of this Trojan Horse bill is its size and scope. Its flagrant disregard for democracy and accountability is breathtaking. Within Bill C-38 also lies the single largest move to restrict accountability by way of the broad reduction in the oversight powers of the Auditor General. The Conservatives claim that the Auditor General requested these changes, but the reality remains that his office was impacted by the government's austerity agenda.

The Conservative government is so hell-bent on cutting spending that it is willing to roll back government oversight on key areas like food safety. Imagine, reduced oversight by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the agency that ensures the safety of the food we feed our families.

The bill also eliminates mandatory Auditor General oversight of financial reporting on 11 other key agencies: Northern Pipeline Agency, Canada Revenue Agency, Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, Exchange Fund Account, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canadian Polar Commission, and Yukon Surface Rights Board.

There are many more issues with the bill, but I do not have time to outline them all. No one does.

I do, however, wish to point out one more very troubling issue. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said repeatedly that MPs are not getting the information they need in order to reasonably exercise their power of oversight.

How can we as members of Parliament in good conscience vote on a bill for which we do not have all of the necessary information? As I already said, the Parliamentary Budget Officer requested a legal opinion and it showed that the government is breaking the law of Canada.

I fear for democracy in this country. The bill is designed to strip away accountability, increase ministerial powers and hide financial data. It is an affront to the democratic process. It seeks to hide within the confines of budget implementation a wide array of things that will undermine our country.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult listening to that speech coming from this member because as I am sure members will recall—and if they do not, I will remind them—that this is a member who was actually a cabinet minister in the Ontario government in the nineties, which actually ran one of the highest, fastest deficits in the history of the province. It almost bankrupted the province, but thankfully, the Conservatives took stewardship later on and righted the ship.

However, in its time in office that Ontario government actually unilaterally shredded the collective agreements of hundreds of thousands of Ontario workers, forced them to take days off, cut their salaries without even asking them and rammed that through.

My question for the hon. member is this. Why does she and the NDP hate workers to the extent that they would actually rip up their contracts, as was done when that member was a minister of the Crown? Why does the NDP dislike families so much that it would vote against tax cuts for our families, the GST? Why does the NDP hate seniors so much that it would vote against the GIS?

Is she not embarrassed that the NDP is nothing more than a protest party that stands for nothing?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted that this member has finally had the courage to ask that question of me instead of into some blank space, because I was indeed a member of that government.

Let me tell him just some of the history. Brian Mulroney, and members may remember him, brought in a free trade agreement. At that time, he said there would be training money for Ontario and there would be all kinds of support for all those unemployed workers.

Five hundred thousand job losses later, there was nothing for the workers of Ontario. There was no training. In fact, that government reduced employment insurance to the point where people were being forced onto welfare. We had welfare rolls that we could not manage.

Then, to add insult to injury, that same Mulroney government decreased the amount of transfers.

It was a very difficult time, thanks to Conservative governments.

With regard to all the other things that he seems to think were important, I have a very concise response, too. We would have been fine if there had been no Conservative government in this country—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

Questions and comments.

The hon. member is rising on a point of order?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just want to clarify. The reason they stripped the workers of their rights back then was that we brought a free trade agreement in that has created—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. That is not a point of order. We are into debate as to the facts and, of course, that is a principle in the debate as it goes.

Questions and comments.

The hon. member for Saint-Lambert.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for her remarks. As she pointed out, this massive omnibus bill goes way beyond the budget. Once more, the Conservatives are trying to rush their bill through without letting Canadians study it carefully, let alone the hon. members here. To make things worse, they are trying to include changes that will reduce transparency and democracy even more. Can the hon. member comment on this affront to our democracy and to parliamentary debate?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is happening to our democracy is absolutely terrifying. This is 425 pages of so-called budget implementation and no opportunity to fully respond. This is 72 pieces of legislation that are being changed. An undertaking like that should be considered over months and years, not in a matter of days.

The Conservatives are pleased that they have given all these hours. Yes, they have given hours. However, an ordinary budget implementation bill is about 30 or 35 pages long.

The current government has committed a travesty against the people of this country.

Fortunately, there is an opposition. New Democrats are standing up for our country, our democracy and the people who are counting on us to save our social safety net and protect them from what can only be called unfair austerity and a deliberate destruction of what we value.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to voice my strong support for Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, which would implement key measures from economic action plan 2012.

I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Prince Albert.

In an uncertain global economy, our Conservative government has a positive, forward-looking, low-tax plan for jobs and growth, a plan that is working and has served Canadians well. Since we first introduced the economic action plan, Canada's economy has been among the strongest in the western world. Indeed, Canada's economic record has every reason to make Canadians proud. Since July 2009, employment has increased by 760,000, the strongest record for job growth among the G7 countries. Even better, close to 90% of those jobs created since July 2009 have been in full-time positions and about 80% are in the private sector. Canada's GDP is now significantly above pre-recession levels, again the best performance in the G7. These are the facts.

Our opposition colleagues do not like to listen to us share these facts, but they might want to listen to those from the rest of the world and what they are saying about Canada's economic record and how Canada has weathered this economic storm.

Both the IMF and the OECD forecast that we will be among the strongest economic growth nations in the G7 over this year and next. For the fourth year in a row, the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system as the world's soundest. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in its annual review of the best countries for business. Three credit rating companies, Moody's, Fitch and Standard & Poor's, have reaffirmed their highest AAA ratings for Canada.

The praise from independent observers does not stop there. Indeed, listen to what Iowa Governor Terry Branstad recently told CBS News in the U.S. He stated:

...in the '80s and early '90s, a Canadian dollar was only worth 65 cents to the American dollar. Canadian financial institutions weren't as healthy as ours. And their taxes were higher. Now their dollar is comparable with ours. Their financial institutions are healthier and their taxes are considerably lower. Their federal corporate tax is only 15 percent. So I think we can learn from Canada. Not follow the European example of spending and spending and getting ourselves into such a tremendous financial mess....

Clearly, as the quote suggests, Canada's economic resilience reflects the actions of our Conservative government that we have taken to date, such as lowering taxes, investing in research and development, rebuilding Canada's infrastructure, reducing red tape and promoting free trade and innovation.

However, we all know there is more to be done and we cannot be complacent in our success.

Despite solid job creation since July 2009, too many Canadians are still looking for work. We also know that the global economy remains highly fragile, and all the more so due to the recent economic developments in Europe. That is why economic action plan 2012 focuses on the drivers of growth and job creation—innovation, investment, education, skills and communities—underpinned by our ongoing commitment to keeping taxes low and returning to balanced budgets over the medium term.

In the Waterloo region, the capacity of our economic engines has been enhanced. Our airport, our post-secondary institutions and our high-tech business incubators are all better positioned today than they were, thanks to the efforts of this government to rise above the noise and focus on the economy.

Moreover, we also know that balancing the books is important to maintaining a healthy economy, something the opposition just does not seem to understand when it is advocating for big government and bloated bureaucracies. Quite simply, eliminating the deficit in the medium term is our goal. We will maintain and enhance our Canadian economic advantage now and for generations to come so that our children and grandchildren can benefit from a strong Canadian economy. On the other hand, the opposition wants to leave our children and grandchildren a massive credit card bill.

Balanced budgets are important not for their own sake but for what they make possible for governments to accomplish. Reducing debt frees up tax dollars otherwise absorbed by interest costs, which can then be reinvested in what matters to Canadians, like health care, public services or lower taxes.

This keeps interest rates low, encouraging businesses to create jobs and invest for the future. It signals that public services are sustainable over the long term. It strengthens the country's ability to respond to economic shocks such as the recent global financial crisis and challenges such as population aging. It preserves the gains made in Canada's low tax plan, fostering the long-term growth that will continue to generate high wage jobs for Canadians.

Perhaps, among the benefits I have mentioned, low taxes are the most tangible evidence of our good economic governance, guided by the principle that Canadians should keep more of their hard-earned money. We understand that taxpayers willingly and honestly provide a portion of their hard-earned income to fund health care, social programs and other vital services that benefit all Canadians, asking only in return that governments manage their tax dollars wisely and everyone pay their fair share.

That is why our Conservative government is committed to taking aggressive steps to close tax loopholes that allow a few businesses and individuals to take advantage of hard-working Canadians who pay their fair share of tax. That is also why our Conservative government took key steps in economic action plan 2012 to eliminate billions in wasteful, inefficient and duplicative spending.

Specifically, economic action plan 2012 and today's act would move to ensure responsible management of taxpayers' dollars by refocusing government and programs, by making it easier for Canadians and businesses to deal with their government and by modernizing and reducing the back office.

One of the highest profile ways we would accomplish this is by modernizing Canada's currency by gradually eliminating the penny from Canada's coinage system, something almost every Canadian agrees was long overdue. In contrast to other coins, taxpayers lose money on every new penny produced by the Royal Canadian Mint, as the cost to government is 1.6¢ to produce each new penny. The estimated cost to the government of supplying new pennies is approximately $11 million each year.

Other countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and Sweden have all made smooth transitions to a penny-free economy. Again, this was long overdue, a long overdue example of a common sense change that would benefit Canadian taxpayers.

In the words of Brett Wilson, a leading Canadian entrepreneur best known as a former panellist on CBC's Dragon's Den:

It comes down to the economics of creating these things.... If it costs a penny and a half to make a penny, the more you make, the more you lost. It is just dumb business.

These are measures that deliver results to Canadians, measures that do respect taxpayers' dollars

. I am proud to say that our Conservative government has a record that is second to none when it comes to spending tax dollars responsibility, allowing our government to keep taxes low. That is why the overall federal tax burden is the lowest it has been in 50 years. This is the lowest tax burden in 50 years.

Bill C-38 further demonstrates our government's commitment to responsible use of tax dollars. With a comprehensive and forward-looking agenda that would deliver high quality jobs, economic growth and sound public finances, economic action plan 2012 would allow Canada to meet these challenges and emerge from them stronger than ever, today and into the future.

As my local daily paper, The Record, noted, economic action plan 2012:

... is a moderate, intelligent and visionary plan to preserve a progressive, prosperous Canada in a global landscape filled with both upheaval and promise.

And for this reason it is the most ambitious and important federal budget in a generation.

Obviously, there are so many more positive things included in economic action plan 2012, and unfortunately my time has almost run out. I would love to spend a little more time explaining all these great things to Canadians, but in the end, I urge all members of the House to support economic action plan 2012. It would be good for Canada and especially for our children and grandchildren.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, speaking of our children and grandchildren, one of the things we hope to do on this side of the House is to leave the planet cleaner and better for our children and grandchildren.

Unfortunately, Bill C-38 would remove environmental oversight from the landscape, from federal responsibility, and would limit the number of environmental assessments.

The most troubling thing, and one to which no one has given us a straight answer, is that it would remove the requirement of a federal environmental assessment to study human health. How does that improve the end result for Canadians, and in particular for our children and grandchildren, if all we are looking after is birds and fish? What about us? What about our children and our grandchildren? The Conservative government has removed the requirement to study human health from that bill.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague inadvertently answered the question himself when he said that we had removed a number of environmental assessment actions. It does not make sense to have three or four environmental assessments on the same project. We have a policy that once that environmental assessment is completed, it is complete. We do not need to have another agency come in and reassess that project.

On protecting the environment, the misinformation coming from the other side on this is really not helpful at all. In fact, we are strengthening the environmental protection, putting timelines on the need to get these environmental assessments done in a timely manner so that when a company comes into Canada and wants to create a project which will create jobs, within a specific timeline it will have a “yes” or a “no” answer. It still may be no because it is too damaging.

However, there has to be some certainty for companies so they can plan and produce the jobs that our country so desperately needs.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in listening to the member, I could not help but reflect upon the Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien era. When the Conservatives took over the reins of power, they needed to recognize that we had a healthy economy, that we had a budget that had a huge surplus, well into the billions of dollars, and that in fact at a time in which the recession did not exist, they turned that healthy surplus into a deficit situation.

When we talk about budgets, budgets are about priorities. This year the government has demonstrated its priorities. It says that it wants more members of Parliament, more politicians, which I would argue goes against what the member's very own constituents would want to see. At the same time, it is reducing the number of civil servants.

Would the member not agree that the budget is in fact about priorities, that the government was wrong to increase the number of MPs at the same time, in the same year, in which it would cut back on 19,000 civil servants—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think anyone in Canada thinks it is fair for Winnipeg North, for example, to have a population of roughly 79,000 or 80,000 represented by one MP and another MP sitting on this side has over 200,000 constituents to represent. Where is the fairness in the that? Of course Canadians want us to address this inequity.

However, I want to go back to the point he made in his opening comment. Only a Liberal could make conjecture that somehow paying down $37 billion of debt is a waste of taxpayer money. Only a Liberal could imply that using $52 billion of the EI funds that were specifically for EI and squandered in the general revenues was somehow good management.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear ConservativeMinister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned the opposition did not like to share facts. He might be a little off there. The NDP member for London—Fanshawe goes back to her riding and never misses an opportunity to stand behind a fake cheque or show up to cut a ribbon when we fund the great projects that the member actually has voted against in the House. That happens all the time.

Again, this year in this budget we have $1.1 billion for science and technology. Would the member encourage the opposition to vote for science and technology?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his great leadership on the science and technology file and also on his leadership on the FedDev Ontario file. This has been amazingly successful in creating research and development opportunities, not just in my riding but across Canada.

One example is the Conestoga College research and development. Conestoga College partners with industry and business partners. They come to Conestoga College with a problem. Conestoga College's engineers, students and staff help that business solve the problem. In the process, the student gets the opportunity to work in business, in a real life environment, and the business gets the expertise of a new engineering student. It is a win-win.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House at third reading in support of Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-prosperity act, and the important steps it takes to implement Canada's economic action plan 2012.

Specifically, I would like to discuss the many ways that today's act would strengthen Canada's immigration system

We all recognize that Canada needs a flexible and efficient immigration system. Practically speaking, we need an immigration system capable of addressing the very real labour shortages faced by communities right across Canada, especially in my home province of Saskatchewan.

As Chris Dekker of Enterprise Saskatchewan has noted, “Labour shortages and demands are the No. 1 barrier to doing business in Saskatchewan”. It is no longer a provincial NDP government; it is actually labour shortages.

The degree of labour shortages has forced the provincial government to undertake numerous creative recruitment efforts, such as a recent skilled worker recruitment mission in Ireland, led by our Premier Brad Wall and numerous Saskatchewan businesses. I have to give them credit. They went out and looked for the skills that their employers needed and talked to people who were looking for jobs. What a way to bring them together. I give the premier credit for going to Ireland and recruiting those people.

To assist the good work of the province, our Conservative government has made significant progress in recent years to refocus our system to reduce backlogs, reverse wait times and improve the timeliness of the services we provide.

These reforms ultimately ensure that Canada's economic prosperity is our system's number one priority.

For example, we have placed a high value on attracting newcomers to Canada with the skills and experience to meet our economic demands. However, we need to do more. We must deliver transformational changes to the immigration system that will better generate economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians.

We envision a just-in-time system in which the entire process for a skilled immigrant to apply to come to Canada, be accepted and admitted, and become gainfully employed would take only a few months instead of many years. To achieve this vision, we must first address the legacy of the large backlog of applicants under our federal skilled worker program.

We took measures to address the dysfunctional federal skilled worker backlog of 640,000 persons that was allowed to fester under the previous Liberal government. However, the fact remains that we still have a backlog of nearly 300,000 old federal skilled worker applicants.

I am pleased to inform the House today that economic action plan 2012, along with today's act, would help us to reform the immigration system, so it aligns more closely with our economic needs and so it achieves better results, both for newcomers and for Canada. These reforms, I note, have been warmly welcomed in Saskatchewan and beyond.

Canadian Home Builders' Association president Ron Olson of Saskatoon has applauded economic action plan 2012's immigration reform saying, “We have urged the government to address the growing shortage of skilled people required to build and renovate homes. We're pleased that the budget tackles this issue”.

Listen to what Janice MacKinnon, a former NDP finance minister in Saskatchewan, had to say, “[As] somebody from Western Canada...our biggest problem are labour shortages. We have projects that can't proceed because they can't find the skilled workers. The changes they're proposing [in economic action plan 2012] to immigration matter to us so we can get the immigrants we want, when we want”.

How are we doing that?

First, we will eliminate the backlog of old federal skilled worker applications that has nearly crippled our immigration system. This will transform the federal skilled worker program from one that has moved at a snail's pace for older applications, to one that will be able to bring to Canada the people we need when they are needed. The backlog hurts our economy by impeding our system's abilities to respond quickly to our changing economic priorities.

As a result, we will now be able to shift our processing priority toward newer federal skilled worker applicants who are more likely to have the current, in-demand skills that our economy requires.

To ensure that Canada's immigration system will benefit our economic future, Canada needs immigrants who are ready, willing and able to fully integrate into Canada's labour market, particularly where there are existing skills shortages. However, we also need to ensure that the skilled immigrants we choose are the ones Canada needs and that once they arrive here, they are able to put their skills to use immediately.

Economic action plan 2012 also commits to continue working with the provinces and territories to speed up and streamline the credential recognition process for regulated professions.

Under the pan-Canadian framework for the assessment and recognition of foreign qualifications, our goal is to give applicants an answer within a year of their application. We can tell skilled professionals whether their credentials will be recognized or if they will require additional education, training or experience to become licensed in their field.

To date, we have processes in place for eight regulated occupations and we are working with an additional six regulated occupations to add to the list this year. We have also made considerable progress toward improving the foreign credential recognition process for many newcomers who are already in Canada, but we can and must do more.

Skilled immigrants come to Canada with the expectation that they will be able to work in the profession in which they are trained and we owe it to them to ensure that is the case. That is why the changes we are proposing to our immigration system will ensure mandatory assessment of foreign education credentials for federal skilled worker program applicants. This will involve a new requirement for applicants to first have their overseas education credentials assessed by a designated third party before they are accepted. The results of this assessment will be part of the immigration application. The process will be separate from more in-depth assessments that regulatory bodies will use to license professionals from abroad.

Our Conservative government believes that by working together we can find practical ways to give people a green light before they get to Canada, especially if we know they are going to have a better than even chance of being licensed and joining the workforce in Canada. Our goal with this change is to better select immigrants, so they can hit the ground running once they arrive by integrating quickly into our labour market.

This is part of the broader changes we are proposing to improve the federal skilled worker program, bringing it in line with the needs of our modern economy. For instance, we are working to introduce a new skilled trades program that would create a means for skilled tradespersons to be assessed based on criteria geared to the reality of the job, putting more emphasis on practical training and work experience.

It is common sense that to ensure immigration will fuel our future prosperity, we need a system that will help position Canada to attract the world's best talent. That is why our Conservative government is committed to strengthening the immigration system to make it truly proactive, targeted, fast and efficient to help sustain Canada's economic growth and deliver prosperity into the future.

The Canadian Construction Association, or CCA, one of the many of the many supporters of this portion of Bill C-38, states:

CCA was...encouraged by the measures outlined to build a fast and flexible immigration system...In order to continue to build the economy and remain cost competitive, businesses across Canada must have access to the required skilled workers in order to grow and take advantage of the tremendous international demand for Canadian products and services.

I join the Canadian Construction Association and others asking that this House support and pass today's legislation.

When I go back to my province and my riding and talk to the constituents there, they talk about this budget and they see so many benefits and structural changes to our future economy. It really lays a proper foundation for Canada to grow and move into the future. This is a good budget. I cannot see why anybody would vote against it. I encourage all members to get behind the budget and move it forward.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to what the member had to say and I do not understand where the Conservatives are coming from. On one hand, they say that we have to fill the skilled labour shortage. On the other hand, they want to take skilled labour people who are seasonal workers and force them into other jobs that do not really meet their skills, because we will not using them to their full potential.

However, at the same time, the Conservatives would create a void in the seasonal workforce. Where are these people going to get their training skills? Where will they get people to fill those, if they force the seasonal workers to work somewhere else and then they cannot go back to their seasonal jobs?

Maybe the member can tell me this. Will those workers be able to go back to their seasonal jobs and will they be penalized that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate my colleague does not understand how the process will work. As we see it unfold, hopefully she will get a better understanding of why this would be better for all of Canada.

I will use the example of what happens on the farm in Saskatchewan and has happened throughout the last 15 or 20 years. We have a lot of grain farmers who farm throughout the summer and spring. Once the snow hits in the fall, they have all their grain hauled out. Now that we no longer have the CWB, they actually control their product even better. They go into Alberta or southern Saskatchewan and work in the oil patch and they take on that seasonal work in the winter. That is something of which they can take advantage. When we have a strong and vibrant economy, we have all sorts of opportunity and people have choice of employment.

When we take on policies that restrict business activity and suppress people, which the NDP government did in Saskatchewan, our kids are forced to go to another province to find jobs. Hopefully, with these proposed changes in the budget, we will see so much economic activity across Canada and that issue will take care of itself.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to challenge the member on his assertions in regard to the backlog in immigration.

First, the member should be aware that the Minister of Immigration, through ministerial instructions, increased the backlog significantly, over 150,000 virtually overnight. Then the minister tried to say that the Conservatives would get rid of this backlog and he tried to blame it on the former Liberal government. In reality it is the Conservative government that needs to take responsibility for the backlog of skilled workers. Now, to put icing on the cake, the government has made a decision to hit the delete button. My question—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The hon. member for Winnipeg North has the floor. I am sure the hon. member for Prince Albert would like to hear the question.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government pushes the delete button for those individuals who were in the process. That is a cruel policy.

Now that the federal court has ruled that what the government has done is morally wrong, would the member not agree that those individuals who applied to come here as skilled workers should be allowed to at least go through the process?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the member has misconstrued the facts of what is actually going on. I will explain it for him as we go through.

The reality is that they had a system that we inherited from the Liberal government that was totally inadequate and not functioning in a way that was appropriate for both the employer or the person trying to come to Canada. How could it be acceptable for people to be on a waiting list for six years to find out whether they can come into the country? That is something we inherited from the Liberal government.

I want to clarify one other thing that will happen. Yes, there will be a reduction in the backlog. We will give the money back to the people who have been in the queue for six years but they can apply right away and they will know within a year. They will not be waiting six more years to get their application processed. That is what the Liberals think is acceptable. Well, let them have 10 kids and wait an entire life--

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Essex.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, going back and looking at our budget document, some 498 pages long, and not expecting a budget implementation bill that would be 12 pages long, but hidden on page 146 and several pages forward are changes to employment insurance. We find them in our budget implementation bill. Could the member comment on the positive aspects of the changes that we have been debating now since the end of March?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hard work my colleague does in representing constituents in his riding. I also congratulate him on the hard work he has done in bringing that new bridge to his riding. It is something that has been needed for such a long time. I congratulate him for getting that job done. He did a great job there.

As far as employment insurance, the one thing I found talking to businesses in Prince Albert was that they were looking for employees from areas where there is high unemployment. The first thing that came back to them when they had approached those people with jobs was that they had another five or six months of unemployment insurance so they were going to wait until that ran out and then maybe take a job. We are just correcting some of those problems and making it easier so those people can find a job that much quicker.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, following the last comment that was made, that is a pretty bad stereotype and a dangerous thing to say. Anyone who is considered to be using EI on a frequent basis may be in a circumstance of seasonal work and would love to be working year round. The stereotype that is being put out is a pretty sad one.

I went to the town of Port Union just two weeks ago and was told about how people hoped the plant would be sold to someone diversified enough to provide double the amount of time throughout the year to allow them to work that many months. The people agreed. I hardly consider that to be something akin to repeat offenders.

I will talk about EI in depth in just a few moments but I have another point to make about the bill. I first came here, like other members, in 2004. At that time the contentious issue was the Atlantic accord. The negotiations were back and forth between the then prime minister, Paul Martin, and then premier, Danny Williams. To say it was heated is quite the understatement. When we finally settled on a deal that was satisfactory to both the province and the federal government, we knew the best mechanism by which we could establish it was through the budget. In other words, it was affixed to the budget as one lump sum payment with changes that would affect the equalization formula.

Here is the issue. When we brought this to the House to debate within a budget implementation bill, the anger from the Conservative side of the House was vehement. It was like watching Pavlov's dogs. Every time a member mentioned that there was a budget implementation bill, the Conservatives were incredibly angry. They asked how dare we slip this through. They said it was like some kind of”, is everyone ready for this term that I have heard, Trojan Horse. The Conservatives said that we had produced a Trojan Horse. That Trojan Horse was a miniature pony compared to what we have now. This thing is the size of an elephant.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

A Trojan elephant.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Liberal

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

A Trojan elephant, if it exists. It is 400-plus pages plus. It is unbelievable.

This is like looking for steak and ending up with about 200 tonnes of Spam that is shoved right through the system because everything is in here, clause after clause, change after change to this regulation and that regulation. One of the fundamental things the government has done to EI when it comes to the rules and regulations about employment insurance is to bring the decision making from the legislature to the cabinet table. It makes it much easier.

When we brought in pilot projects in 2005, we were faced with the prospect of an EI system that was falling down in seasonal industries, so we changed it. We went to the best 14 formula, which at the time was a pilot project, but it was voted on in the House under a minority Parliament. How is that? The idea of actually doing that is foreign. It is passed off as something that has been done before, something that is necessary, but yet it was only back in 2005 and even prior to that when it was considered sacrosanct to the validity of the chamber, the heart of democracy as it were.

When we look at this bill, one of the biggest changes is to old age security. Many of my colleagues have talked about this quite a bit, whether it is OAS or language. One those members, I am honoured to say I will be splitting my time with, is the member for Ottawa—Vanier. I look forward to his speech. He is a hard-working employee of the people who he represents and a fantastic member.

I will go back to the OAS changes. One of the fundamental things about old age security is that the government had talked about upping the GIS payments before it won its majority. I I would argue that only one-third of it was covered at the time. It could have upped it by more, probably closer to $700 or $800 of total expenditure. That would have raised the income level for the poorest of our seniors to a much higher level, taking many more people out of poverty.

Not once during the last election did anybody on that side of the House, whether it was Conservative propaganda or not, or even through ministers at the time, say that in no way, shape or form would this program meet the brick the wall. In no way, shape or form will this run itself into trouble 20 years down the road.

Shortly thereafter we found ourselves in a situation where the Conservatives decided that it would be a tough program to maintain at the current funding levels in 20 or 30 years from now. I could understand if the Conservatives had been in opposition and then went to government and decided that the program was not feasible in the future. However, when they had been in government since 2006 right up until 2011, certainly to God they had to know at some point that this program would need to be looked at.

The chief actuarial officer of the OECD, the organization that the Conservatives brag about quite a bit, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer all agree that this change is not necessary as Canada's old age security program is already sustainable.

A lot of people would say that it is only two years but we should think about that two-year period. Some people say that it is well down the road and that we should not worry about it. In other words, we should not worry about it. We should let our kids deal with it because we will not around. That is pretty short-sighted and it goes against everything else when it comes to things like investments that we make.

Given the situation we are in and the fact that experts are saying that this does not need to be changed, even at that particular year down the road, why would the Conservatives be doing this? That is two years. To me, that represents a downloading to the province. People who are in a situation of extreme poverty may rely on the provincial welfare system and there is supplementary health care involved. Now, all of a sudden, that has to be extended for two years because at 65 they were able to claim old age security and if their income level was at a lower level they could have also qualified for the guaranteed income supplement.

That two years will be downloaded to the province, something the Conservatives said that they would never do. It has to be done that way, according to them, because it will save the system. However, time and time again we are hearing more people say that it is not really serious.

I will now go to employment insurance. What I am hearing time and time again is a fundamental misunderstanding of what seasonal work is to areas of the country. The mayor of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Mayor O'Keefe, had a point when he said that if these changes occur, the downgrading of services like search and research, the downgrading of other services, do we centralize outside of the island?

EI changes that affect seasonal work, where frequent users, under the government's category, represent 80% in my area of people on EI. They are not repeat offenders. It is the industry they work in. If there is one company across the street, as the minister heckled earlier, with full-time work and the person leaves the fish plant to go to that store and work all year round. That is one job to be filled by approximately 100 or 150 fish plant workers. Then the government says that maybe they can go from the fish plant over to the tourism sector because it is a newer industry and it is hoping to expand it. All that does is take one seasonal worker and put him in other seasonal work. That does not help seasonal workers at all.

What are these fish plants going to do? The plant that I spoke of earlier in Port Union wants to diversify its plant. It wants to attract industry, except now it will have nobody to work in the plant. It will shut down and will have little hope of opening because of the workforce problems. It is not workforce problems in the sense of getting temporary workers but in the sense that people will be shuffled around. They will not have the opportunity to fend for themselves or to get something else. The proverbial vacuum will suck all the skilled labour out of these smaller communities. If that is what the Conservatives want why do they not be honest?

My colleague from Essex earlier talked about how nothing was hidden in this budget, yet everyone has questions about seasonal workers. If people are within an hour's drive, they have to go to these jobs. What happens if a person lives on Fogo Island and there is ice in the harbour and the person cannot make it on the boat? What happens if someone does not have a car? What happens, what happens, what happens?

I am hoping that at some point the government will answer these questions, that it will take this into a full debate in the House. It is unfortunate that the government did not do that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to talk about seasonal workers. My colleague is absolutely right. This is very problematic for industries in a lot of provinces, whether fisheries, forestry or MNR. We have extreme concerns with the impact that this will have on the skills shortage that we can see with seasonal workers.

I am wondering if he has some concerns as well. If someone is a machinist or a driver who can drive a big truck, if his or her job is only seasonal does that mean that the individual would now be forced to deliver pizzas because he or she can drive a vehicle? We have real concerns on this side of the House that this would create a void in seasonal workers. Who would fill those jobs if the government forced people to take full-time jobs at minimum wage?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, indeed the provisions in the budget regarding EI are fraught with contradictions. The member has a point. Let us think for a moment about taking someone out of a seasonal industry that is the main industry of a smaller community and having that person deliver pizza. The pizza store only exists because of the fish plant. Therefore, money that is being generated, money that is coming into the community, goes to smaller retail outlets that are now running the day according to the Conservatives. If they keep taking seasonal workers out of this particular area, the pizza store will not exist anymore.

This is the problem with it. There is a lack of understanding. I wish, I pray, I hope that the government will stop treating people like they are repeat offenders whose only intention is to not work that part of the year. These people would love the opportunity to put in 12 months, but the markets right now do not dictate that to happen and never will if the government policy is implemented.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, the member should understand that it is not seasonal workers who are the concern. Employers want employees. For example, in Fort McMurray, Tim Hortons and other employers are looking for people to fill positions. They are offering $15 or $20 an hour and because they cannot get anyone to fill the jobs they would like to have foreign workers come in. In some areas there is high unemployment not very far from these centres. This is not targeting seasonal workers. It is trying to help fill positions where employers are asking for foreign workers and foreign workers are being brought in to fill positions for which there are probably people available. I would like the member to understand the broader picture for the legislation.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, let us try this again with the example of Tim Hortons in Fort McMurray. The government would provide it with domestic workers not foreign workers. These domestic workers would come from the government's category of frequent users of the system. There is no other place to get these workers, according to the government.

I do not know where these people would come from. If people come from Port Union and decide to work at Tim Hortons in Fort McMurray, the government is not even going to help pay for the move. What if these people cannot afford to move? What happens then? They would go to the province and go on welfare. That is downloading on a province if I have ever seen it.

The government might say, “We are not going to bother with them, we are going to go to someone else.” Here is what the government is not providing: who is that someone else if it is not temporary workers or foreign workers, or it is not the people in seasonal work? They do not just appear out of nowhere.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak on Bill C-38, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget. If the bill were simply to implement certain provisions of the budget, it would not have become such a big problem. The problem is not just here in the House—as we saw last week and again today. The problem can be felt across the country.

I have heard a multitude of comments from the people I have the honour of representing in the House. They are extremely concerned by the government's approach of introducing a catch-all bill into which they are stuffing all kinds of things. People are well aware, for example, of the importance of the oversight body at the intelligence agency. The elimination of this inspection office concerns them tremendously. That has nothing to do with the budget.

I want to mention a number of points. First, I want to talk about the public service. There has been talk that the budget will eliminate 19,200 jobs. That is not quite accurate. They have forgotten to mention that, in the previous two budgets, there is already a loss that could go as high as 6,000 other jobs. There is no mention of fixed-term appointments that expire at the end of March, for example, and that have not been renewed. Thousands of jobs were not renewed when they expired.

The real number, according to most experts, is more than 30,000 jobs. I think the government is deliberately trying to provide inaccurate information.

Nonetheless, the method for