This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #152 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

Natural ResourcesOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, thanks to our economic action plan, we have the fastest growing economy in the G7. In fact, just today, Statistics Canada announced that retail sales rose in July, beating all forecasts.

However, the economic recovery remains fragile and cannot withstand the dangerous economic experiments proposed by the NDP.

I am wondering if the minister could please update this House as to how the imposition of a new tax could hurt Canadian families and the economic recovery.

Natural ResourcesOral Questions

3 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Conservative

Joe Oliver ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, our government's economic action plan is working, but while we are working to protect Canada's economic recovery, the opposition is advocating a carbon tax.

Let us be clear. While the NDP is in denial about it, it is written in black and white on page 4 of its costing document. It talks about taking $21 billion straight out of the fragile Canadian economy and dumping it into the government coffers.

Of course, it is middle class families that will play.

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Thunder Bay Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre that monitors Lake Superior, the St. Mary's River and the north shore of Lake Huron will close in 2014. Fewer operators, farther away, will be answering almost 400 more calls.

How can the government forget tragedies like the Edmund Fitzgerald?

This closure will lead to even more disasters on our Great Lakes.

Why are Conservatives making reckless cuts to essential services in northern Ontario? Why are they weakening marine safety?

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

3 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth.

Technology has evolved over the last number of years, and our government is investing in the Coast Guard's infrastructure to take advantage of today's technology to deliver the same services from larger centres at strategic locations across the country.

Better connected centres equipped with modern technology will ensure improved reliability of service.

The Plains of AbrahamOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the chair of the board of the National Battlefields Commission has just dropped a bomb, so to speak, in Quebec City, by threatening to drastically reduce the number of major events on the Plains of Abraham. This senseless decision will have serious consequences for the success of Quebec City, for its tourism and for the economy of the entire region. As Mayor Labeaume said, the Plains of Abraham are part of the city and part of its life.

Does the government support the ill-considered decision of the National Battlefields Commission, or is it going to take steps to protect the vitality of our national capital's culture and tourism?

The Plains of AbrahamOral Questions

3 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, we are currently in discussions with Quebec City and the National Battlefields Commission in order to come up with a formula, a process to protect Quebec City's great cultural community and the heritage of that structure and area that is so special for Canada.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Retired Colonel Hadfield is a Canadian astronaut who will be going into space for a third time in December.

He is scheduled to spend six months on the space station and in the second half of the mission he will take command, which will make him the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

September 25th, 2012 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain wants to make a statement to the House. We all shared his concern before question period. Perhaps he could fill us in now on the news from Saskatchewan.

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that the fire at the Rocanville mine has been put out. The miners are safe. We trust that they will be rescued soon and will be at home with their loved ones.

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am sure the House appreciates the good news.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

When question period started the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor had questions and comments left.

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

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question that the member asked earlier today in question period. I am wondering if maybe he could incorporate that question into the motion that the Liberal Party put forward this opposition day.

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, yes indeed. It was interesting that after question period, I received a message from my office, but I will first set up the question if members did not get to hear it.

Her name is Louise. She lives in my riding. She is the single mom of two. She was able to achieve a job for two days a week as a receptionist, and because of the rules under the old system she was allowed to earn up to 40%. She was allowed to keep her benefits and at the same time to keep the money from part-time work. So finally Louise was able to move ahead. I asked the minister why these new rules would claw back 50¢ on the first dollar that she makes. Basically she is going to earn less. The minister stood in the House and said that is not the case. She is actually going to earn more.

The question that came from the riding is why is she making $100 less every two weeks in EI benefits than she was last year? Am I missing something here?

In the United States, Bill Clinton talked about that key word “arithmetic”, which sometimes escapes us here. I do not quite understand. As my colleague from Cape Breton pointed out, the paycheque does not lie. She makes $100 less.

Again, I would ask the government this: When things were getting better for her, why did it then make them worse for her?

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as the member would know, EI is a program based on a percentage of income. There are a whole number of variables that can lead to different amounts of money being received.

I will ask the member a more basic question. He brought this up at the end of his speech when he started talking about U.S. politics and the 47%. He was rambling on about things that really do not apply to Canada. The Liberal Party has brought this motion forward today to talk about income inequality. I am curious that if the member has seen virtue in so many of the programs that we have brought forward, why has he consistently voted against these measures? Specifically with respect to EI, why does the member not recognize that the EI system today is encouraging and supporting people in a fashion it never did under the Liberal Party?

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, what part of the fact that she is making less than she did under the last program does he not get? Can I keep using that word “arithmetic” again? I stand up and say arithmetic escapes us and all of a sudden someone stands up and defies the logic of arithmetic once again.

Why did I vote against them? It was because they do not work. Why? It is because Louise told me so.

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was present when my colleague made his speech before question period. I was quite interested in the motion, but I only had time to read it quickly, unfortunately. I was especially interested in the last point. I wonder if he could elaborate a little more on this point:

(e) removing interest charges from the federal component of student loans.

Since I was a student not too long ago and since a number of my colleagues are worried about loans to young students, I wonder if he could go into a little more detail on this.

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would wholeheartedly like to thank my colleague.

I thank my colleague very much; she is too kind.

I did not get to that part of my speech as I had limited time before question period. That is a very essential point. I talked about students under the guise of youth unemployment, but when there is youth unemployment it becomes that much more difficult to pay off student loans with high interest charges. We have to look at that by zeroing in and targeting that particular expense, which is an impediment to people buying first-time homes, first-time cars and students being able to get their first job.

More can be done on that account. There were many policies in the past that should be looked at and resurrected so that students can get a break on tuition while in school. At the same time, the interest charges have become crippling, as my colleague has recognized.

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague made an excellent presentation and put out some examples of the issues that affected his constituents. I think quite often that is when people can really relate. Paycheques do not lie. If person is receiving $100 less today than he or she did a year ago then, clearly, the changes the Conservatives are making under the premise that they are helping people certainly are not helping that group of people. I guess they refer to them as “those people”.

I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak today about a very important motion, our opposition day motion on income inequality. What that means, quite simply, is the difference between those who have and those who do not have. The Liberals have always tried to eliminate that, so everybody has to some degree. Some have more, some have less, but we do not have the difference between those who have next to nothing and the others who continue to get richer.

The motion is important because it urges parliamentarians to consider the kind of Canada we all want. Do we, as parliamentarians, want a country where only the strong survive, or a country where we all work together to build and maintain communities where everyone has an equal place? I have a hard time believing that is not a goal of all parliamentarians, regardless of their party flavour.

The motion today calls upon the government to take several simple and immediate steps to reduce the growing income inequality in Canada. The measures are simple things. They are not complex and they are not going to cost millions of dollars. They include a rollback on the employment insurance premium hikes, which inflict a relatively higher burden, again, on low to modest-income workers, and end the punitive new clawback from employment insurance that are clearly discouraging people from working.

I think the goal of us all is to have those who are on employment insurance working a few extra days or a few extra hours because maybe it will lead to a full-time job, eventually. It improves their skill sets and provides more opportunities for them.

Another measure is to make tax credits, such as the family caregiver tax credit, refundable. It makes no sense giving tax credits if the only people who will benefit are those in the high-income bracket. We are talking about many people in the lower-income bracket who need these, but they are of absolutely no use because they do not make enough money.

Another measure is to make the registered disability savings plan available to sufferers of serious chronic diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. My colleague from Etobicoke North has done a huge amount of work on the whole issue of MS. We have heard from many of them in the House and the difficulties they face. I use MS as one of the chronic disease. Let us make the registered disability savings plan available to them as well.

Interest from federal students loans should be removed. We hear from students all across Canada about the massive amount of student debt they carry. Why can we not forgo the interest as a good measure? It is not going to be millions of dollars. A lot of it gets written off because the students cannot find jobs. Why not do the right thing and eliminate it?

We are calling upon the government to set aside its “might is right” agenda just for a moment. Let us seriously look at this whole income inequality issue. We ask the government to vote for our opposition day motion and help those who are unemployed as well as employers, those who are in the lowest income bracket, the elderly, families, the disabled, those suffering from chronic diseases and those students who are struggling to get their education.

This motion is about helping those who sometimes fall between the cracks, and we all know of many of them.

In simple terms, in a country like Canada, it is unacceptable that these people would be subjected to the poverty and squalor and the suffering out there. Not everybody is happy. Not everybody is doing really well and has two or three cars. There is a lot of suffering and struggling out there.

As parliamentarians, we can, and we must, do more to help those who struggle to make ends meet. Who knows what a difference these small measures might make in the lives of many who need the most.

For example, last night my office received a call from a man in southern Ontario named Dan. Dan came to Canada with his family 47 years ago, with absolutely nothing in his pockets, like many new immigrants.

Over the years, Dan and his family struggled, had two jobs, three sometimes and they often had difficulty making ends meet. However, they were able to access a variety of government programming and supports when it was available. As a result of their work and an occasional hand up, today Dan is the CEO of a successful and growing multimedia business.

If those programs had not been available, where would Dan be today? Dan would probably be still living on welfare and who knows the impact that would have had on his quality of life, on his family and on his children. Today Dan gives back to his community by operating a food bank and by helping, on a voluntary basis, other fledgling businesses to grow because he had a hand up, not a handout. He is a father and a grandfather and he has helped other members of his family to grow and expand in their own lives. That was a great investment in Dan.

Who would have been better off had we as a country opted not to help Dan? Sadly, I remember when the Prime Minister said these words, and I shuddered thinking surely he would never get a majority, he would never have that opportunity. Well that day is here. The Prime Minister once said that if he was given a chance, he would change the face of Canada forever. Step by step, that is exactly what is happening. Even though only 39% of Canadians voted for him, he has the votes to do whatever he wants in the House.

Many of the programs that once helped people like Dan have fallen by the wayside under the watch of the government. I referred to them in question period. Leaving people behind seems to be an emerging policy of the current government. Inflation is driving up the price of everything from education to groceries to home heating. With median family income stagnating or declining, Canadians are being hit from both sides.

However, instead of taking the steps to reduce income inequality, the government is sticking its head in the sand by refusing a committee to do a study on it. Let us look into the issue of what is happening. We hear “income inequality” used a lot. To get an understanding of what it was, we tried to do that through the good work of our finance critic at committee and that was voted down because the government would rather stick its head in the sand and ignore these kinds of issues than truly move forward.

Earlier today, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills asked what these measures would cost. The bigger question is, what is the cost of doing nothing? If nobody did anything, Dan would not be where he is today as a very successful business person, helping other people. If we can find billions of dollars for new fighter jets, for high-priced orange juice and for fake lakes, why can we not find a few bucks for someone who is struggling with MS or a student struggling with high tuition? It is all about priorities.

Liberal priorities are people. For me, this debate shows the philosophical difference between Liberals and Conservatives. Whether we are referencing the old age pensions delivered by Mackenzie King's government, or the Old Age Security Act delivered by the Louis St. Laurent government or the Canadian pension plan and guaranteed income supplement, both delivered by Lester Pearson, all of these were delivered by the Liberal Party of Canada, while we continued on a fiscally responsible government and left a $14 billion surplus in the bank for the Conservatives when they came into power. Surely we can find some common ground on this issue. It does not have to be an issue of Conservative versus NDP versus Liberal. It is something that we could all vote for. Let us look into it because it affects all of our families.

The parliamentary secretary admitted today that poverty was still a problem in Canada, and I agree with her. However, when one finds oneself in a hole, why would one continue to dig down further and further? Why not say, “Yes, we have these issues but let us work together with all parliamentarians to make that difference?” The cost of inaction is very high and blaming people is not the way to go. Let us all vote for the motion and move forward Canada's agenda.

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the Liberals are concerned, and I would argue all members in the House are concerned with those less fortunate in their communities. We would all like to see them do better and we would all like to see better outcomes for each and every person in our riding. We may have different ideas and philosophies about how to make that happen, but it is very difficult to encourage across the aisle dialogue and co-operation on these issues when those members impugn the motives of the government and members on this side by suggesting that our priorities are something other than what they are.

The government has indicated that it is focused on the economy, on jobs and on creating opportunity for Canadians. The Liberals may disagree with how we have gone about that, but the results speak for themselves. If the members opposite would like to see co-operation across the aisle, I would encourage them that we cannot seek to impugn the motives of each and every member of the House who all want to see better outcomes for their constituents.

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is all about how we get there. It is all about investing in jobs and the economy. However, the bottom line seems to be to lower taxes because somehow that will create jobs.

I think every Canadian wants a job. When people do not work, they do not feel fulfilled. There are so many other things that happen as a result of unemployment. The idea is this. What else do we need to do to ensure we are creating jobs? It is not just about lowering taxes.

My comments were not disparaging. My comments show that the government does not seem to recognize that while it may have its own agenda, and that is the economy, the economy is on everybody's agenda. The economy helps to produce a strong country. We can be fiscally responsible, but we can also be socially responsible at the same time.

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech and her party for the motion it moved in the House today. The motion seems very interesting.

I took my time reading the motion, particularly the following point:

(c) making tax credits, such as the Family Caregiver Tax Credit, refundable so that low income Canadians are not excluded;

I think this is an extremely important point in the motion. There are a lot of family caregivers, and the number will grow as Canada's population ages.

Does my colleague not think it important to adopt this motion, especially that part, to ensure that the tax credits are refundable for low-income families? Does she not think it sad that the Conservatives want to vote against that part of the motion?

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of caregivers and their struggles, all of us know of several, if not hundreds, of people who care for a sick family member. Giving them a caregiver tax credit sounds great, but if it is not fully refundable, it does not help the very people we are talking about today. They have taken time off from their jobs, or quit or put an end to their careers so they can take care of a sick family member.

There is clearly much more to be done. This is one step in that direction, but we want it to be refundable so it truly helps everybody who needs it.

Opposition Motion--Income InequalityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member was a minister of government when the Liberals were in government. Could she comment on the Kelowna accord and how agreements between different stakeholders can assist in bringing more equity among all people if governments work together to achieve things like the Kelowna accord?