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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

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca for sharing his time with me today. I look forward to visiting his riding this summer, and seeing the resource development of the oil sands and the great things that are happening in Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

It is a pleasure to rise and speak at third reading in favour of Bill C-38, jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, and the many economic action plan 2012 initiatives that it enacts.

In particular I want to highlight how today's bill reduces pointless bureaucratic red tape to help jump-start Canada's economy. I should note that the measures I will speak to today flow from the work of the Red Tape Reduction Commission.

For over five decades, the Food and Drugs Act has served to protect the health and safety of Canadians by providing them with one of the safest and most rigorous food and drug regulation systems in the world. It has served us well, and continues to serve us well. However, it is reasonable that in over 50 years certain aspects of that act may need to be updated from time to time, especially those that do nothing but harm Canada's economy.

Before I begin, let me clearly state that the changes to the Food and Drugs Act proposed in Bill C-38 do not change the scientific assessment process in any way. I repeat, we are maintaining the current high standards of the act.

What we are targeting is the pointless, antiquated and often times bizarre red tape that presented itself after the scientific assessments were completed, red tape that increased the regulatory burden and creating lengthy delays for businesses to get approved food and drug products to consumers.

At present, once a scientific assessment is completed and a food safety decision is made by the experts at Health Canada, be it concerning the safety of a new food additive, setting the limit for a chemical contaminant or approving a new health claim for food, it can take years to circumvent the red tape required to implement that decision. These delays, between decision and implementation, can impede the entry of safe new food products to the marketplace. This disadvantages Canadian businesses and workers by harming the food and consumer manufacturing sector of the Canadian economy that employs 300,000 Canadians, the largest employer in the manufacturing sector in every region of our country.

It can also limit Health Canada's ability to protect the health and safety of Canadians. For example, under the current system, Health Canada determined that a food additive used to combat harmful bacteria in certain processed meats was safe, but it took 36 months for the required regulatory change to enable the use of this product in Canada.

The targeted amendments to the Food and Drugs Act would eliminate these types of delays. They would improve Health Canada's ability to protect the health and safety of Canadians while cutting red tape. More specifically, these amendments include new authorities that would shorten the time it takes for safe food products to be put on the Canadian market.

Streamlining the regulatory process would significantly reduce the approval time for food additives. These new regulatory tools are marketing authorizations and incorporation by reference. I should note that these amendments have received widespread support.

Food and Consumer Products of Canada has voiced its strong support, saying:

This legislation will give Canadians access to the new and innovative products they are demanding, protect product safety and help our manufacturing sector grow.... We strongly support the federal government's move to address these regulatory delays. [This] will bring Canadians more of the products they have been asking for, support innovation and jobs in our sector, and uphold Canada's exemplary safety standards.

The Retail Council of Canada has also added its voice of support, saying:

These amendments will reduce delays and red tape while maintaining the highest level of food safety in Canada...

...in the past, Health Canada would have to seek a regulatory amendment each time a new use was requested for a food additive that the department had already deemed to be safe; this process could take years. Now, the same process will take a matter of just a few months allowing industry to keep pace with growing and changing demands from consumers...

They also demonstrate the government's ongoing commitment to do away with red tape.

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association has also noted that the changes “support efforts to reduce regulation and simplify the process by which new products can come to market”.

Bill C-38 also proposes amendments to reduce the regulatory burden associated with managing Canadians' access to safe, approved drugs. These changes would give Canadians a more responsive drug safety system. As the Red Tape Reduction Commission reported, the current process is burdensome.

Let me take a minute to illustrate exactly what these amendments would and would not do. Currently, for instance, once Health Canada scientists make a decision, the process used to make a simple regulatory change to remove a drug from Schedule F of the Food and Drug Regulations can take years. Implementing a decision to change a drug status from prescription to over-the-counter can be delayed by as much as 24 months after the scientific review. What does this delay between decision and implementation mean? It means a great deal to Canadians and their health care system. Delaying timely access to effective and affordable treatments costs the health care system money. It also costs Canadians.

Under the current system, they must continue to take time off work, go see their doctors, get written prescriptions and then fill them at the pharmacy long after Health Canada's scientists have determined that a particular drug is safe and effective for over-the-counter use. I should note that the science used to assign prescription status would not change at all. As is the case today, the scientific criteria, together with the new process for making changes to the web-based list, would continue to be regulated.

Without a doubt, this portion of Bill C-38 would help replace costly and outdated red tape around drug prescription status. In the words of Consumer Health Products Canada:

Without changing the scientific review process, this measure will eliminate the 12-18 month regulatory delay that currently holds up access to new over-the-counter medicines after Health Canada approval. These consumer health products reduce consumer costs and have been shown to save provincial health care systems money...and this measure will quicken access to those savings.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage all members of the House to support Bill C-38 and its measures to reduce red tape and grow the economy while advantaging Canadian consumers.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I will advise my hon. colleague that I will not be supporting Bill C-38. Liberals have a great concern about what is taking place. For example, Bill C-38 would tear the EI program to pieces. A lot of people would have to work for 70% of their salaries. It would make changes to the Fisheries Act. Over the years, when there were changes to the Fisheries Act, it was always felt that members had to go from coast to coast to talk to fisheries groups in order to find out what they felt should be changed in the Fisheries Act.

I wonder if my hon. colleague would comment on why there was no consultation on the east coast or the west coast of people who are involved with the fishery and the EI program. Why did the government unilaterally decide on what was going to take place? Does my hon. colleague realize the enormous hardship that it is going to create among people?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, economic action plan 2012 is geared to jobs, economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians. With regard to consultation, the finance committee and subcommittee that were formed spent over 70 hours in consultation with Canadians from industry and consumer groups right across the spectrum. They spent more time than any consultation process in the past 20 years for any economic bill of this nature. Quite frankly, the consultation process has been thorough and extremely fair.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech about expediting the approval of medicines or pharmaceutical drugs in the country. I have a friend who just received her Ph.D. at Dalhousie University, lauded as the best Ph.D. of the year. Her analysis was the input of the public into the review of drugs for breast cancer and the difference in the end analysis when organizations were given the opportunity to have input or not. We need merely refer to the issue of Oxycontin and the disaster that resulted when there was no proper review of what its implications might be given the form in which that medicine was allowed to be released.

I am giving the member the opportunity to rethink whether or not it makes sense to always short-circuit and fast-track the approval of drugs.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. There has to be serious consultation and consideration in every one of these cases. Short-circuiting for the sake of short-circuiting is not the answer.

The Red Tape Reduction Commission reviewed a number of avenues by which redundancy occurred and impeded the development or the sale of products over the counter in the health care system. My understanding is that the commission achieved a reduction in redundant costs and redundant steps in processes that keep the appropriate medications from getting to market on time and on budget.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I heard the government member talk about the scope of the consultations that took place. It is not the first time I hear this. They talk about 70 hours in committee. That is 50 hours at the Standing Committee on Finance and 20 hours at the subcommittee.

However, we have to keep in mind that some 70 acts were either added, abolished or amended. If we had followed the usual process and spent about five hours in committee to review each piece of legislation—usually, it is much more than five hours—the various committees would have spent 350 hours reviewing the scope of these changes.

I wonder if the member for Don Valley West could elaborate on this. Does he not agree that 70 hours to review this bill is much less than the minimum of 350 hours that would have been required to review these changes in an appropriate fashion?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government did its job in recruiting consultation and input on the bill, whether it was through the Red Tape Reduction Commission or the hours of study that went into the consultation process. Finance committee and a special subcommittee studied this bill for nearly 70 hours. That is the longest consideration of budget legislation in committee in decades and likely ever.

It is one thing to try to extrapolate an arbitrary number. The reality is that 70 hours of consultation went into the bill. There were 70 hours of solid input. This government has done an exceptional job in bringing the right bill to the House.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, my question is regarding the changes to OAS. This is an area which will affect all seniors across Canada when the time comes. Seniors and soon-to-be seniors from across our country, as well as organizations such as CARP and others have spoken out.

How does my colleague respond to the concerns of his own constituents? How can he stand up for what his government is doing when it comes to cutting back on the dignity of seniors across Canada?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I have had the opportunity to hold quite a number of sessions with seniors in my riding to discuss this issue. Seniors hear our news. They talk to their friends. They hear the information that is coming from the other side and they become terrified that their economic security is going to go away. That is not the case. That is not what--

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but his time has elapsed.

The hon. member for Chambly—Borduas.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, when I found out I was going to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-38, I re-read an almost endless number of emails and letters I received at my office in which people spoke out against the bill.

Obviously, as a member of Parliament, delivering a speech before the House is the best way to represent the support or criticism—in this case the criticism—of the people of Chambly—Borduas. Unfortunately, with all the dissatisfaction of my constituents over this bill and all the measures in this Trojan Horse bill, I have decided to take a different approach to describing how it will affect my riding.

Madam Speaker, if I may, I will relay an anecdote. On the weekend, on Saturday, I took part in an activity that gave me the opportunity to travel down the Richelieu River, which splits my riding in two. It is the heart of my riding. In travelling down the river, I truly saw to what extent Bill C-38 would harm my community. The point of departure was Chambly. Our canoes had not even touched the water and I could already see that my riding would be adversely affected in a number of ways.

I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance a question last week, but unfortunately she did not give a satisfactory answer in her speech.

This bill will initially affect the tourism sector. As I have said many times in this House, I was pleased to learn in committee that Fort Chambly is one of the most popular Parks Canada sites in Quebec. Unfortunately, its operations will be reduced because of the cuts to Parks Canada. That is interesting because it is a very important site that commemorates the War of 1812. Colonel Salaberry, one of the greatest heroes of the wars, was from Chambly, Quebec. A statue of Colonel Salaberry is located in front of the town hall and a street has been named after him. And yet, the hours of operation at this heritage site will be reduced.

I am just at the beginning of my story, and I have already pointed out very significant repercussions. Obviously, this will have a negative effect on all businesses in the region, such as restaurants and local organizations. All these places, all these people and the services they provide to the community will be adversely affected by these cuts.

We could talk about the Festival Bières et Saveurs, which is held at Fort Chambly, and which allows people to visit the fort at the same time. Parks Canada officials have told me that these cuts will first affect events held in the fall. That is a very significant repercussion.

We then got into our canoes and passed by two very large signs that said “Caution: pipeline”—the Montreal-Portland pipeline to be exact. My predecessor said that there will be a number of problems with this pipeline because the flow of oil is going to be reversed. The infrastructure is 60 years old, and the integrity of the structure could be affected, which would cause a disaster. This pipeline runs under the river; we canoed over it. When we think about the heritage value of this river and its economic and environmental value, we come to realize just how devastating the repercussions could be.

You will surely ask me what the connection is between a 60-year-old pipeline and Bill C-38. It is not complicated: it shows how important it is to have operational, adequate, in-depth environmental assessment structures to ensure that we will never have such a situation again, where the infrastructure is unable to contain an oil spill under a river. We all agree that environmental regulations are not the same as they were 60 years ago. The reason regulations were improved was to ensure that these problems would not occur again.

Representing a community that faces such a problem, I realize the importance of these procedures and I realize that destroying and removing all these measures in order to expedite a process would have negative repercussions. We cannot hurry environmental protection, because it will have repercussions for many generations. We have seen this at home in my riding for 60 years. This is not a new pipeline, like that proposed by Enbridge; this is a 60-year-old pipeline. That is almost a lifetime.

We continued our canoe trip and stopped to attend a first nations ceremony. I should mention that this Festival des voitures d'eau was organized to celebrate the Iroquois's journey with Samuel de Champlain from Lake Champlain to Quebec City. In making this journey to celebrate this heritage, we participated in prayers with the first nations peoples, people from the Maison amérindienne in Mont-Saint-Hilaire in my riding.

During these prayers, as my colleague from Churchill and a number of other colleagues pointed out, I realized the negative impact that this will have on our aboriginal communities because of the lax environmental procedures that will result from the proposed changes in Bill C-38, or because of various funding shortfalls and cuts to social services and health services. My colleague next to me is our health critic for aboriginal communities. Services will be affected, but that is not all.

When other cuts are made, it puts more pressure on the provincial governments that might want to help their aboriginal communities, but will be less and less able to do so. In praying with these communities, I realized more and more the impact this will have on the communities.

Let us continue on our journey and pay a visit to the Résidences Richeloises in the municipality of McMasterville in my riding. Last August, I had the pleasure of celebrating the sun festival with the residents there, who are seniors. I could not help but think of how this will affect them. They told me how proud they were of us, and of our new leader, the member for Outremont, but also of Mr. Layton. Why were they so proud of him? Because he talked about our seniors' dignity, which was improved by this celebration and this residence. Unfortunately, their dignity is not being improved at all by the cuts and measures proposed in Bill C-38.

I thought of these people and of the fact that they asked us to fiercely protect their dignity and their rights. As a little aside, that is why it does not bother me in the least when members opposite, the government members, talk about how we tried to stop this bill, to prevent this undemocratic act, and to allow real debate by separating this bill into the various pieces of legislation that it should have been in the first place. Clearly, these measures should have been introduced in several bills, rather than a single budget implementation bill.

Last week, when we rose almost 160 times in this House, I was not at all uncomfortable that we had launched this process and that we were fighting in this manner. Indeed, I knew that the people I met last summer would be pleased, because this is how we defend their dignity.

So we continue our canoe trip on the river. We finally arrive at our destination. I thought once again about the environment as we reached Pointe-Valaine, which is a woodlot in the town of Otterburn Park that people are fighting for. We could raise the same issues that I already raised regarding the protection of our environment.

On my way back home, I also went by several businesses that provide seasonal work. The workers and owners of these businesses came to see us in our office to explain the impact of all that. I find it very interesting and I will conclude on that note. Obviously I would not have had time to go through all the emails I received, since I do not even have time to finish my story.

These people came to see us, which proves, contrary to what the government claims, that it is not just citizens and workers who are affected. It is also employers, people who help, through team work with employees, to improve our economy, our heritage and our environment. They work to create beauty in the region that I am so proud to represent.

That is why I oppose Bill C-38, why we will continue to do so, and why I am proud of the actions that we have taken so far as the official opposition.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I am sure I speak for all of my colleagues and certainly should for all of those in the House. I want to thank the hon. member for putting a human face on the bill.

This is precisely the reason why we have fought so hard to have the bill split and broken up, so that Canadians can come in and speak to members of Parliament about their views on all the measures in the bill.

I think about the people I have worked with for 40 years in aboriginal communities and small communities across the Prairies, across Canada, who simply want to be able to come to a hearing and have their voice heard, so they can tell the tribunal what the impact would be on them, so they can have input to the terms of an environmental impact assessment to make sure there are measures that would protect their communities.

I would like to give the hon. member the opportunity to perhaps tell a little bit more about his canoe trip, and I really want to profoundly thank him for his speech today.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

As she explained so eloquently, her work also brought her into close contact with the community. Anyone working with the community and talking to people knows that this will have a serious impact. That is why I thought the story was so important to tell. As she said, we have to put a human face on the work we do here. Bill C-38 does not have a human face.

We often think of those who feel disconnected from the political process because of what the government has done. It is important to talk with people.

Earlier, my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher asked a member opposite a question about whether he not only heard, but also listened. The member opposite seemed to find the question insulting, but that is how things are. People learn that lesson when they are very young. We cannot just hear people.The point of consultations is not—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I was also very impressed with the hon. member's speech—and he didn't even use notes. It was excellent. I just wanted to say that it will also have an impact on Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, the riding I represent.

As we know, there are many lakes in my riding. There is a lot of concern about the impact of these changes on tourism, especially because new mines may be opening soon, and because of the effect on environmental protection.

We need only think of the Grassy Narrows First Nation and the fact that the mercury poisoning that occurred years ago still has an impact today. The environmental laws have been tightened up a great deal since that happened. Still, they are all being dismantled and the impact of new projects on the environment will, I think, be bad for our health and for everyone's health. Perhaps my colleague would care to comment on that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

I am happy to hear questions like this because it shows the passion we have for our work in our communities and our ridings.

The hon. member talked about health. It is extremely important, because, as I said in my speech, we have already had to deal with the consequences of our errors. We have already seen what can happen when there is no adequate, in-depth process in place.

Once again, we do understand the importance of proceeding rapidly. No one is against that. But, when the environment is at issue, we must be aware of projects that might, if poorly designed and constructed, have a devastating impact on the communities where they are built. That is especially true in first nations communities, as my colleague mentioned. When the impact is considerable, it is important not to rush things, because we are not just talking about short-term benefits, but about long-term reality. We are talking about long-term impact. That is not true just for the environment and health; it applies to everything. It applies to old age security. When we talk about people my age who want to retire, we have to know what the long-term impact will be.

The government likes to talk about responsibility and making choices. Making choices and taking responsibility mean more than considering the impact for just the next year or two and saying it is no big deal, because people who are retiring in two years will not be affected. They need to think 10, 20 or even 30 years into the future.

When we think of it that way, this is definitely a mistake. It is important to think outside the box. That is the real duty of governance. An NDP government would take on that duty.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, what are we about to sacrifice in the name of this so-called economic prosperity?

It is important to point out that this omnibus bill is more than a budget implementation bill. The Conservatives are trying to impose measures that were never previously announced, without allowing Canadians and their MPs an opportunity to study them carefully.

First of all, let me just say that, after one year, we are beginning to see the Conservatives' true colours. Bill C-38 clearly demonstrates the arrogance and irresponsibility of this government, which seems to think anything goes.

The Conservatives pass themselves off as experts at good governance, but in fact, they are going to make workers, families and seniors pay the price.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for Canadians to believe the Conservatives when they talk about economic prosperity, because so far, only the Conservatives' friends and cronies seem to be benefiting from their measures.

When the Parliamentary Budget Officer worries about the lack of transparency and the culture of secrecy, I worry about the interests of ordinary Canadians. This omnibus bill needs to be studied carefully and presented to Canadians for what it is: a partisan bill that defies common sense.

I was always under the impression that the government should build and improve society for the common good and for the general public, but with Bill C-38, the exact opposite is happening. The Conservatives are destroying, degrading and vandalizing what Canadian parliamentarians have spent years building. The rights of workers, environmental protection and Canadians' health are simply not enough for them.

Why is one third of Bill C-38 devoted to environmental deregulation?

Is it so hard to add ecology to a Conservative budget? It is simply irresponsible and undemocratic.

Is this really what Canadians voted for? I do not think so.

Unfortunately, to the Conservatives, a majority mandate means they can do whatever they want, even if it is illogical or harmful. This is a very clear attempt to quickly pass new legislation without having a parliamentary debate.

This budget will cause some very tangible harm. For example, as far as old age security is concerned, increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67 is unacceptable and does not make any sense. Just because life expectancy is increasing significantly does not mean that working conditions will get easier. Even though a number of experts, including the Parliamentary Budget Officer, have confirmed that the old age security program is viable, the Conservatives insist on balancing their budget at the expense of our seniors. It is shameful.

Bill C-38 also changes the Employment Equity Act so that it no longer applies to federal contracts. That is a direct attack on women, aboriginal people and visible minorities. In fact, it was recommended 10 years ago that the employment equity provisions for the federal contractors program be strengthened. This government is weakening those provisions and, as usual, it makes no sense.

In the Conservatives' world, logic no longer applies. They are in an ideological world, where they are becoming increasingly out of touch with Canadians.

When he appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on April 26, the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that the Conservatives' austerity budget would lead to the loss of 43,000 jobs and slow down Canada's economic recovery. He confirmed that the combination of this budget and the previous cuts would result in the loss of more than 100,000 jobs. The Parliamentary Budget Officer's figures show that this budget will cause the Canadian economy to backslide.

It is important to speak out against the changes made to unemployment insurance. We must remember that the federal government has not contributed a single penny to the fund since 1990.

Its reforms are based on prejudice against the unemployed, and those mainly affected, the workers, were not consulted even though employees and employers fund the program.

One of the most fundamental changes will hit workers with precarious employment very hard. The government is again targeting “frequent” claimants, people who have made three claims and collected more than 60 weeks of benefits in the past five years. It will require these people to accept any job starting in the seventh week of unemployment, with a salary equal to 70% of the salary of their previous job. This measure targets seasonal workers who rely on EI year after year.

The Conservatives are also planning to make other changes that will penalize claimants in remote areas in particular, while making legal procedures for challenging an unfavourable decision more cumbersome. Unions believe that abolishing boards of referees, umpires and appeal mechanisms restricts access to justice.

The changes proposed by the Conservatives threaten regional economies, especially where there is a lot of seasonal work and people make their living from the fishery, forestry, tourism and agriculture.

Moreover, there is no question that these changes will put downward pressure on salaries. What a nice way to bring prosperity to our economy and our country!

The Conservatives' approach is counterproductive. Instead of focusing on creating wealth by providing better support for quality jobs, including in the manufacturing sector, the Conservatives are going after the unemployed and society as a whole by forcing them to accept jobs where their skills will not be put to contribution.

Bill C-38 even repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, which was created in the 1930s to set minimum standards for wages and hours of labour for construction workers engaged in projects funded by the federal government. In practice, removing these minimum standards will allow employers to undercut wage rates set by unions. This shows the scope of the legislation.

Last fall, we brought forward a motion calling on the government to take immediate action to create economic growth and jobs. The Conservatives supported our motion, but the budget does just the opposite. It cuts essential services and it weakens environmental regulations.

As regards old age security, the government has once again surpassed itself, although not in the positive sense of the word. The Conservatives never mentioned that they were going to cut old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, and certainly not during the election campaign. We have known for a long time that costs would increase. Therefore, the Conservatives cannot claim that this was not expected during the 2011 election campaign.

In 2010, the Standing Committee on Finance examined the Canadian retirement security system. None of the recommendations—not even those of the Conservatives—suggested that old age security and the guaranteed income supplement were not sustainable, or that the age of eligibility should be increased.

During the 2011 election campaign, the Conservatives even said they would not reduce transfer payments to individuals or provinces for basic needs such as health, education and pensions. This is some lack of respect for democracy! Not only did the Conservatives hide their agenda, they also misled Canadians by saying repeatedly that they would not cut pensions.

Then they came along with irresponsible and ideological choices that do not reflect the values of most Canadians: major cuts to environmental protection, food safety, old age security and employment insurance, among other things.

The Conservatives have no problem with their ministers spending thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money to take limousine and helicopter rides, but they have no scruples about cutting measures that keep Canadians safe and protect our most vulnerable citizens.

There is so much secrecy in Bill C-38 that it is unacceptable for it to be passed as is in the House. The government should come clean and redo its homework to protect the best interests of Canadians.

I would like to come back to old age pensions. I used to work in a factory where we were familiar with occupational illnesses. It is true that great strides have been made in factories, but the work is still extremely hard. People back home are known for suffering from bladder cancer, lung cancer, industrial deafness and all kinds of things. So how can the government force factory or mine workers to return to work at the age of 60, 62 or 63? What will the Conservatives do with these people?

I would like to talk more about seasonal workers. Here is a solution for the Conservatives. In Tadoussac, when the whale-watching season is over and tourism is done, they could shut down the town and transfer workers to La Romaine to work on the hydro dams. That makes no sense. These are seasonal workers. They make their living off of fishing, tourism and whale-watching. There is no work for them in the winter. The Conservative government did not take that into account.

The employment insurance situation is even worse. The government is creating three classes of unemployed workers, three kinds of people to justify that approach. There will be short-term recipients who collect employment insurance occasionally; others, less fortunate, who find themselves out of a job more often; and yet others who collect employment insurance regularly and will have no choice but to accept lower-paying jobs. Moreover, these people will not be working in their chosen field. It will not be fulfilling for them.

People can accuse the NDP of anything they want, of wrecking one thing or standing up for another, but there are some things we do not understand. Yes, the Conservatives have to make changes; yes, there will have to be cuts. Cuts must be made, but the Conservative government is not cutting in the right places. Cutting health care and seniors' benefits and forcing people to take lower-paying jobs will not contribute to the nation's progress.

Anyway, I have been here for a year now. I have always believed that we should be working for the good of communities, workers and Canadians. But that is not the sense I get here. I get the sense that the government holds workers in contempt. As I have said here in the House, workers pay taxes, and they are the reason that we are here to participate in these debates and get to the bottom of things.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I really appreciate my colleague's comments. He really knows the issues facing people who work in the industrial sector and truly cares about employment insurance.

With the changes being made by this government, people will lose their benefits in no time at all. Perhaps we need to remind the Conservatives who really pays for EI benefits. I find it truly disturbing that people can lose all the money that would really make a difference to their families when they lose their jobs.

I would like to hear my colleague's comments on the government's cuts to employment insurance.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

My concern is that when we think of employment insurance, it is supposed to be a safety net. Now the government is going to force people to accept 70% of the wages they were previously earning. If people are truly unfortunate and are let go after three months, they are gong to be offered 70% less in wages. Where will this ultimately lead? Are we headed for cheap labour? That is our concern. That is what many workers are worried about. People do not make a decision to be seasonal workers. People who live on the North Shore live off the fishery. There is no fishing in the winter. Everyone could transfer to La Romaine, I guess. This makes no sense. It is completely absurd.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I also want to congratulate my colleague from Jonquière—Alma on his presentation.

He has identified a serious problem with Bill C-38. In the House of Commons, we have employees who are unemployed almost all summer. They are long-standing employees who have worked here for 10 or 11 years. For instance, there is the group of servers in the restaurants or the House of Commons bus drivers. In the summer, they are not paid, but in September they get their jobs back. That is how the House of Commons system works. The same applies to people in the tourist regions, the fisheries and forestry.

I will ask my question in English.

I know what happens to people who are in the seasonal industries. If we tell them they have to find another job somewhere for two months, three months, four months, it is unfair to the employers who hire them. Are employers going to hire and train people, knowing they will be gone in two months for the job that is waiting for them back here at the House of Commons?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, that is a concern I have seen among employers. Often, when things start up again, when the organization resumes its activities and the tourists come back, people come to the ticket office and board the boats to go fishing. It is almost always the same people who come back to work for the same employer. The employers fear that they are going to lose some employees with expertise who might go work elsewhere. If the difference in pay is $1 or $2 an hour and they are given a regular schedule instead of having to work seasonally, there is no problem. The thing that concerns the employers is that their employees are not going to come back when the fishing or tourism season opens.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague, the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma, a question.

One of the least discussed items in the budget is the weaker foreign ownership regulations, especially those concerning telecommunications. I would like the member for Alma, a community that has its own challenges as a result of the weaker regulations, to talk to us about what the government needs to do to support our communities.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2012 / 9:30 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, I will give a short answer.

I would like to mention that there are large multinationals in my riding, but it is the small and medium-sized businesses that create employment. When a big multinational catches a cold, the SMEs cough. We want to create something, keep our people working and have good, well-paid jobs so that people can live decently. We are not asking for MPs' wages. We are asking for decent wages that people can live on.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, on Sunday we celebrated Father's Day in Canada and other parts of the world. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on some of the teachings I was raised on. I really thank my dad, my stepdad and other people who have acted as father figures, someone who is sitting in the Senate gallery today, for their wisdom.

I was talking on the phone with someone about the principle of balancing the books in a household. Something that was instilled in me at a young age was that the principle of balancing books means that one can either spend less money or make more money. This is a challenge that Canadians face every day, how to balance their books. It was an interesting conversation, because we were speaking about how this affects my life as a legislator. Bill C-38 has this embedded in it as a fundamental principle.

Government has a role in managing programs, laws, services and public goods that underpin the competitive advantage our country enjoys internationally, programs such as employment insurance, our health care system, ensuring our streets are safe. Government has a role in all of these things. We provide them to Canadians. These programs also ensure that we have a healthy, productive and vibrant population and subsequent workforce. Those who are able can contribute to our society, and those who are not able are cared for and whenever possible are assisted in finding opportunities to succeed.

These practices are valued by Canadians, and yet, as in anything that has a value, they come with a cost. Programs are funded by taxes, royalties and levies on Canadians, be it individuals or job-creating companies. This means these individuals and entities lose access to these funds and subsequently will change their spending habits, be it for the consumption of goods, saving funds, hiring of employees, investment endeavours, and the list goes on.

Therein lies the rub. Government programs and services play an integral role in our society, and yet they come at a cost. I would hope that all of my colleagues would agree that achieving a balance in this regard is part of the responsibility we are charged with as legislators.

Embedded in this duty is the duty to review the efficacy and delivery of the programs and services, laws and regulations that we manage to ensure they are doing what they are intended to do, to improve on them whenever possible, and to ensure we are being wise stewards of taxpayer dollars.

These are important principles to remember as we watch what is happening in parts of the eurozone. In Greece, we see a country that has borrowed to the brink. Its economy is stalled, and the sustainability of the social programs it provides and which I talked about earlier is in question.

That is why our government has introduced Bill C-38. It is to ensure the long-term prosperity of our country in light of global economic fragility. It is the message that our country is taking to the G20 summit that is happening this week, the need to work toward balanced budgets around the globe while putting forward policies that encourage economic growth, so that populations can ensure they see that prosperity and sustainability of programming which underpins the fabric of our societies.

I talked about the need to ensure there is balance in spending and program delivery.

Since 2006, our government has reduced the tax burden on families. The average family of four pays $3,000 less in taxes. I know that $3,000 makes a lot of difference to the average Canadian family of four, and Canadians have recognized that.

We ensure that job creators operate in a competitive tax regime. People want to invest in our country. We are seeing job creation here. Over 760,000 net new jobs have been created since the economic downturn in 2009. It is also why we have introduced the responsible resource development aspects of Bill C-38, which I want to speak to tonight.

I was speaking with my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport. He gave a speech recently in which he noted that two of the biggest shareholders in Canadian Natural Resources Limited, the country's largest independent oil producer, are the Quebec pension plan and the Canada pension plan, with $576 million and $165 million invested respectively. There is clearly an interplay between the companies that are undertaking natural resource development projects and energy projects with other fabrics of our society.

In fact, I believe $2.1 trillion is what the oil sands is expected to drive for economic growth in our country over the next 25 years. We talk about long-term sustainability for funding our social programs. The sum of $766 billion is what the oil sands industry alone is estimated will pay in provincial and federal taxes and provincial royalties over the next 25 years. There is no denying that we need to ensure that for the long-term prosperity and growth of our country we recognize that the resource sector is important to Canada's economy.

The measures that are included in part 3 of Bill C-38 are not designed to weaken environmental protection. We still have robust environmental assessments embedded in the country's laws and regulations. We have recognized the fundamental principle of window to market, the concept by which we assess whether or not a project is viable is recognized in our regulatory process. That is why we have inserted predictability and timeliness in the review process.

I was at the subcommittee that reviewed Bill C-38, as well as the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, where we reviewed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Absolutely, the need to protect Canada's environment came up over and over again. Certainly, I do not think there is anyone on the government side who would refute that point. However, we need to ensure that we have predictability and timeliness so that when projects are environmentally sustainable according to our laws and they meet those criteria, they can go forward. We as regulators are achieving that balance. We are talking about creating more revenue for the funding of our social programs, creating more jobs for people to enjoy the good standard of living that we have in Canada.

We have heard a lot about the environmental components of the bill and it behooves the House to listen to some of the measures that actually strengthen environmental protection in the bill. At the subcommittee, the environment commissioner noted that something like 99.4% of the environmental assessments that are currently undertaken by our government through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, have “little to no environmental impact”. One of the examples that was given was a park bench being added in a national park.

We also asked him if he felt that if the resources that were being allocated to the review of these projects were allocated to larger projects with significant environmental impact would be a better use of taxpayer funds. He said yes. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency agrees with this as well. That is a component we are using to strengthen environmental protection.

Another thing is that for the first time people who break the terms of their environmental assessment would be faced with stiff monetary penalties. Penalties could range from $100,000 to $400,000. This is a new measure in Bill C-38.

We require follow-up programs after all environmental assessments to verify the accuracy of predictions regarding potential environmental effects and to determine if mitigation measures are working as intended. Again, this is strengthening environmental protection. For the first time, we would provide federal inspectors with authority to examine whether or not conditions set out in environmental assessment decisions are met. I could go on and on.

The opposition is not talking about these things. We are trying to create balance between environmental stewardship and economic growth.

A lot has been said about the consultation process around the bill. As a member of the subcommittee that reviewed part 3, I would like to read a list of those who participated in the consultation process through the subcommittee: Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Environment, Department of Transport, Building and Construction Trades Department, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Canadian Construction Association, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Canadian Nuclear Association, Federation of Ontario Cottagers Association, Mining Association of Canada, Ontario Commercial Fisheries Association, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, Assembly of First Nations, British Columbia Coast Pilots Ltd., Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Ecojustice, First Nations Tax Commission, Office of the Auditor General of Canada, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Pacific Pilotage Authority Canada, Canadian Hydropower Association, and as an individual, Tom Siddon.

I am getting the signal that my time is expiring.

The point to be made is that we have talked to Canadians. Canadians understand that we need long-term growth and prosperity in this country, and that is what Bill C-38 seeks to deliver.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

9:40 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity to speak with Ducks Unlimited in the last two weeks. Its concerns around this legislation were quite strong.

We have lost 70% of the wetlands in Canada. The Conservative side has made much about drainage in farmers' fields. Ducks Unlimited said to me in my office that drainage in farmers' fields is an issue. The wetlands in this country that have been lost are important. So when we talk about drainage on any large piece of land, there has to be some understanding of the impact that draining that land would have on the environment. Installing a culvert is not a simple matter.

I would like to ask my colleague from the Prairies, where the wetlands are in so much danger, what she thinks we should do to promote wetlands in this country. How does she think we should move ahead with that, considering the great problem we have?