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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

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

June 18th, 2012 / 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—