House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regard.


Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:05 a.m.


John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:05 a.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity today to highlight many of the pro-growth and job creation measures in Bill C-4, economic action plan 2013 act no. 2, which is a very important piece of legislation for our government.

We all recognize that during the global economic recession and throughout the recovery, Canada has experienced one of the best economic performances among G7 countries. Indeed, since the depths of the global economic recession, Canada's economy has created over one million net new jobs, nearly 90% of which are full-time, with over 80% in the private sector.

This morning, in fact, Statistics Canada announced that 21,600 net new jobs were created in the month of November, which is great news. Not only did this job growth beat market expectation, but solid gains were made in the manufacturing sector, where 24,900 new jobs were created. This continues Canada's strong job creation record, which is the best in the entire G7 by far.

It is not only that, but Canada's unemployment rate is at its lowest level since December 2008 and remains below that of the U.S. This is a phenomenon that has not been seen in nearly three decades.

However, that is not all.

All the major credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch, Standard and Poor's, have affirmed Canada's rock solid AAA credit rating. It is worth mentioning that Canada is one of only a handful of countries that can boast this top-notch rating. We can do this, thankfully, because the Conservative government understands the meaning of fiscal responsibility.

Indeed, when Standard and Poor's affirmed Canada's AAA rating on November 13, here is what it had to say:

The ratings on Canada reflect its strong public institutions, prosperous and resilient economy, fiscal and monetary flexibility, and effective policymaking. [...] Canada's success in the past decade in achieving credible monetary and fiscal policy, along with its openness to trade...will continue to support its economic performance.

Unlike other countries, Canada has found the right balance between efforts to support job creation and economic growth by respecting commitments to reduce deficits and return to balanced budgets in 2015. While many European countries, and even the United States, continue to struggle with their national debts, Canada is in the best fiscal position in the G7. In fact, Canada's net debt to GDP ratio was 34.6% in 2012, the lowest level in the G7 by far. Germany was second lowest, and closest to Canada, at 57.2%. If members are still not impressed, how about this: the G7 average is 90.4%.

While the Liberals may want to engage in reckless spending, our government is on track to return to balanced budgets by 2015.

Most importantly, unlike the previous Liberal government, we will balance the budget without slashing transfers for health care and education. Our Conservative government rejects that shameful practice and is protecting and growing transfers to help support the services that Canadian families depend on. Unlike the previous Liberal government, we understand that if we make government more efficient and control program spending, we can reduce the deficit while still increasing transfers.

As was recently outlined in the government's annual financial report in 2012-13, the deficit fell to $18.9 billion, which was down by more than one-quarter; that is $7.4 billion from the deficit of $26.3 billion in 2011-12, and down by nearly two-thirds from the $55.6 billion deficit recorded in 2009-10. The Liberals might be interested to know that the reductions in direct program spending played a key role in this outcome. Indeed, expenses fell by 1.2% from the prior year and by 3.8% from 2010-11.

Our government will also balance the budget without raising taxes. Unlike the high-tax NDP and Liberals, our Conservative government believes in low taxes and leaving more money where it belongs, in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families and job-creating businesses.

The opposition may be interested to know that since 2006 we have cut taxes over 160 times, reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years. In fact, our strong record of tax relief has meant that savings for a typical family of four, in 2013, totals nearly $3,400. This includes cutting the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%, increasing the amount Canadians can earn without paying tax, and introducing pension income splitting for seniors. It also includes measures like reducing the GST from 7% to 5%, which has put an estimated $1,000 back in the pockets of average families. This is a measure that both the Liberals and the NDP opposed.

That is not all. It includes introducing measures like the working income tax benefit, and the tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since RRSPs. Overall, we have removed over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls.

Keeping taxes low also helps the businesses in our communities grow and succeed. That is why, since 2006 we have consistently reduced the tax burden for small businesses. This includes reducing the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, while at the same time increasing the small business limit to $500,000. In fact, our government's low-tax plan has resulted in over $28,000 in savings for the typical small business.

The NDP and Liberals might not understand how the economy works, but lower taxes not only encourage businesses to innovate and grow, it also makes Canada a more attractive destination in which to invest. As a matter of fact, Canada has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7.

To question whether this is having a positive impact, one need only look at the facts. Both the independent International Monetary Fund, the IMF, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD, project that Canada will have the strongest growth among the G7 in the years ahead. Last week, Statistics Canada announced that the Canadian economy grew 2.7% in the third quarter of 2013. This represents the ninth consecutive quarter of economic growth in Canada and is an encouraging sign that Canada's economy is on the right track.

However, while this is certainly encouraging news, we cannot become complacent. While economic conditions are improving, there are still too many Canadians out of work. The global economy looks fragile, especially in the U.S. and Europe, both among our largest trading partners. This is why our Conservative government remains focused on what matters to Canadians: creating jobs and growing the economy. That is exactly what today's legislation is all about.

Bill C-4 would implement key measures from economic action plan 2013, which would help support job creation and growth in communities across the country. One such measure is the extension and expansion of the hiring credit for small business. The history of this credit illustrates our government's commitment to small business in Canada.

Indeed, in economic action plan 2011 our government first introduced the hiring credit for small business, which provided up to $1,000 to help defray the cost of hiring new workers. In fact, the credit was so successful that we extended it again in economic action plan 2012.

As I mentioned earlier, the economy is showing encouraging signs of growth. At the same time, there is still a large amount of uncertainty in the global economy. We have heard these concerns from business owners. That is why economic action plan 2013 and Bill C-4 extend and expand the hiring credit for small business.

As a result of this legislation, the credit provides for up to $1,000 against a small firm's increase in its 2013 EI premiums over that paid in 2012. It applies to employers with total EI premiums of $15,000 or less in 2012, an increase from the previous level of $10,000. Extending this credit would benefit over 560,000 employers, providing them with an estimated $225 million in tax relief in 2013.

As the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said recently:

The big change for small business is the extension and expansion of the EI hiring credit. [...] That's really good news....

That was from March 21, 2013, on the CTV News channel.

Clearly, our Conservative government recognizes the vital role that small businesses play in the economy and job creation. That is why we are committed to helping them grow and succeed.

On that note, there are many other measures in Bill C-4 that will support small businesses across Canada.

Bill C-4 increases and indexes to inflation the lifetime capital gains exemption. Not only will increasing the exemption from $750,000 to $800,000 make investing in small businesses more attractive, it will make it easier for entrepreneurs of today to transfer their family businesses to the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Our government also wants to ensure that the value of this exemption is preserved over time. That is why Bill C-4 will index the exemption to inflation for the first time ever. Overall, this will provide an estimated $5 million in tax relief in 2013-14, and $15 million in 2014-15.

However, there are still more measures in Bill C-4 that support Canadian job creators.

Bill C-4 provides tax relief to encourage more businesses to invest in clean energy generation, by expanding the accelerated capital cost allowance.

The message is simple: keeping taxes low helps attract investment, allows our businesses to expand their operations and to hire more workers. It also helps Canadian families keep more money in their pockets. At the end of the day, Canadians know best how to spend their hard-earned money.

How can we keep taxes low if people are gaming the system and exploiting tax loopholes? Our government does not think it is fair when a select few businesses and individuals avoid paying their fair share. That is why economic action plan 2013 introduces a number of measures to close tax loopholes and address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules and reduce international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.

When it comes to closing tax loopholes, our record speaks for itself. Since 2006, including measures in economic plan 2013, our government has closed over 75 tax loopholes. Bill C-4 includes some of these measures, such as eliminating the unintended tax benefits from character conversion transactions and 10/8 arrangements. It also includes a number of measures to strengthen the ability of the Canada Revenue Agency, the CRA, to crack down on tax cheats and combat international tax evasion.

Overall, the actions in economic action plan 2013 to close tax loopholes and improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system will provide about $350 million in savings in 2013-14, rising to over $1.2 billion 2017-18, for a total of $4.4 billion over the next five years.

Protecting Canada's tax base is essential, as Canadians need to have confidence in their tax system. They need to know it is fair.

Unfortunately, the Liberals and NDP do not seem to share this view. While our government has worked hard to close over 75 tax loopholes, the NDP and Liberals have voted against each of these measures each and every time. I have to ask what the NDP and Liberals have against closing tax loopholes.

However, there is no reason to worry. While the Liberals and NDP work to protect these tax loopholes, our government is committed to ensuring that Canadians have a fair and neutral tax system that keeps everyone on a level playing field. Indeed, Canadians can rest assured that our government will continue to take action to close loopholes, address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules and combat international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.

Our government is also taking steps to crack down on those who are trying to defraud taxpayers. It has come to the attention of the CRA that certain retailers have been using electronic sales suppression software, also known as “zappers”, to selectively delete or modify sales transactions in their computer systems. By engaging in this practice, certain taxpayers are avoiding the payment of their fair share of taxes. That is why Bill C-4 introduced new administrative monetary penalties and criminal offences to target those who use, manufacture or possess this type of software.

The Canadian Restaurant and Food Service Association welcomed this, saying:

These measures appropriately target the producers, installers, and users of sales-distorting software, while supporting the competitiveness of Canada's hard-working small business community, among them 81,000 restaurants, the vast majority of which pay their taxes and operate in full transparency.

It is important that our government crack down on these types of activities. When some businesses cheat, everyone loses, but when everyone plays by the rules and pays their fair share, we can keep taxes low.

On that note, I would like to quickly conclude my remarks by saying that I hope the opposition will support these measures and Bill C-4. It is clear that these measures will help grow Canada's economy and will create jobs for Canadians. If the opposition members decide to oppose these measures, as they have done so many times in the past, I hope, at the very least, that they will stop advocating for high taxes.

I must admit that I was very sad to hear just last week that the leader of the NDP confirmed that he would impose a crippling tax hike on job creators, even as they continue to cope with a challenging global economy.

The simple fact remains that we cannot tax our way to prosperity. Thankfully, our Conservative government understands that low taxes promote economic growth and job creation.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:20 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, with whom I serve in the Standing Committee on Finance, for his speech.

This speech is not very different from all the other ones we have heard on Bill C-4. When the Conservatives deign to rise and speak, they usually just rehash the same old arguments, the same script written for everyone.

I would like to correct what the member said. He is very well aware that the NDP and even the third party are in favour of eliminating tax loopholes. We would like the government to act much more forcefully to prevent tax avoidance. My colleague knows this, since he sits on Standing Committee on Finance.

The arguments presented here to tout the government's record contain elements that the government often chooses to ignore. For example, the austerity measures and provisions for deep cuts in Bill C-4, as well as the other budget bills in the last two years, have a negative impact on the economy. The Parliamentary Budget Officer spoke about this. An International Monetary Fund report released just two weeks ago shows that the budget cuts and various austerity measures enacted by the government will reduce the potential GDP by 0.2% per year. This is very close to the numbers quoted by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

I would like to hear the member's comments on this question: when I talked about the impact of certain measures included in Bill C-4, for example the phasing-out of the tax credit for labour-sponsored funds, his colleague from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River replied that this was a good measure because it would create jobs in his province of Saskatchewan. This measure will eliminate 20,000 jobs in Quebec, which depend on the impact of these labour-sponsored funds.

I would like the member to tell me whether the government's strategy consists of promoting job creation and growth in some regions at the expense of other regions.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:20 a.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member across the way so rightly pointed out, we share a spot on the finance committee, and I have great respect for the member.

I would disagree, though. I mentioned in my speech that it is impossible for us to spend our way out of this position. The austerity measures the member mentioned are very modest.

We saw the massive unemployment after 2008-09 and saw the losses in the private sector. The government had to look at the public sector to see if there were some measures we could trim.

I know the hon. member shares those opinions. There are economists who feel that austerity will heighten and worsen the situation. I believe that what we have experienced in this country and in the western world is a spending problem, and it is incumbent on governments to address that and do what is necessary.

I just want to say again that the measures we have taken have been quite modest, but they were necessary.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:20 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, walking into the House, it was encouraging to see the white ribbons we are all wearing today in recognition of the massacre that occurred at École Polytechnique back in 1989 on December 6. I would emphasize how important it is that we never forget it.

Having said that, I take issue with my colleague's comments from across the way when he says that Liberals, and in brackets, the NDP too, really do not understand jobs and deficits. I should remind the member that whether it was under Paul Martin or Jean Chrétien, the Liberals created more jobs than the current Conservative government. There was more small business investment from coast to coast to coast under previous governments than under the current government. In fact, it was the Jean Chrétien government that got rid of the massive billion dollar deficit created by the Brian Mulroney government. Not only did we get rid of that deficit, but when we handed over the books to the current government back in 2006, we provided a multibillion dollar surplus. It was not just the debt issue. We also provided a multibillion dollar trade surplus. A trade surplus equals thousands of jobs for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Does the member not recognize good, solid policy when he sees it? Look at the facts. If he wants to look at good governance, all he needs to do is look at the most recent years prior to the Conservative government. He would recognize that there were balanced budgets, surpluses, job creation, and a trade deficit, which was a lot healthier for Canada back then.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:25 a.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would love to answer that. I think he walked right into that one.

The fact of the matter is that he is correct. The former Liberal government did slash that deficit, which was massive in its time. However, it did so on the backs of the provinces. The Liberals made cuts to health care. We still feel the reverberations today. They practically eliminated the military as we know it today.

They did manage to do those things. We, however, and I brought this out in my speech, managed to do it by lowering taxes. The member is absolutely correct; there were some strong years of growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In those years, there was a budget surplus. We took those moneys and applied them to the national debt to the tune of $39 billion so that when we were faced with the global incident we now know as the great recession, we were able to weather it much better.

I would agree that it is important to erase those deficits, but the right way to do it is to lower taxes and to manage properly.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:25 a.m.


Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate that Bill C-4 introduced by the Conservatives is another undemocratic omnibus bill. What is more, the government has moved a time allocation motion to limit debate.

Once again, there was not enough time in committee to study the ins and outs of the bill and the negative impact it will have on the everyday lives of Canadians. This is another bill that attacks workers' rights instead of creating jobs. In this case, it is an attack on their right to work in a healthy and safe environment.

I think that nearly all of the members here met with Unifor workers, who came to tell us just how serious an attack this is and how difficult it was for them to refuse to work in dangerous situations. They feel that this bill makes it more difficult to refuse work when there never used to be an issue between the employers and the employees.

How can the member opposite justify those provisions, which now put workers at greater risk?

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:25 a.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the budget consultation last year was an extensive process, as it was this year. We heard from an enormous number of people. Not only did we hear from them at committee, we were given many other submissions, which the committee looked as well. It was on these recommendations and findings that the budget was created in the spring of this year.

The budget implementation we are now debating and that the member says we are rushing through has taken a year. These things must be debated and have been at quite some length. The finance committee spent a significant amount of time working on this. It is the process we go through, and it must be done. I believe that we are prepared to look at this, and we are prepared to vote on it. I hope the members would also vote for this budget.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:30 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-4. We do not have much time to debate it, despite what my colleague said, given that we have only one day for third reading debate. I am referring, of course, to the second budget implementation bill.

First of all, as we have already heard a few times, including during questions and comments this morning, it is worth reminding the House that this is another omnibus bill, at least the fourth one of its kind to be considered by the Standing Committee on Finance, where I was directly involved.

In order for an omnibus bill to really be effective, it must contain consistent measures. A budget bill should include budgetary measures, amendments to the Income Tax Act, for example, or the Excise Tax Act. We could understand such measures being in an omnibus bill.

However, the omnibus bill before us has practically everything in it. The Conservatives included measures that amend the process for selecting judges from Quebec for the Supreme Court, to correct an error they made. Furthermore, the bill contains measures dealing with workplace health and safety, as well as measures that alter the relationship between the government as an employer and the public service as employees.

These measures are extremely important and should be debated individually. Once again, however, despite what my colleague said, we did not have enough time to debate them. Time was very limited, particularly at the Standing Committee on Finance. A time limit on the debate was imposed from the very beginning of the committee's examination of the bill.

Three meetings were scheduled to study such an important bill that will add, eliminate or amend about 70 different acts. We heard from five witnesses during the first panel, which took about an hour and 45 minutes, and we heard from five witnesses during the second panel,which took less than an hour and 15 minutes. The Minister of Finance addressed the committee, but he did not really answer questions, as he often asked his officials to respond. Then four other witnesses spoke for about an hour and 15 minutes. We heard from an additional 13 witnesses over a three-hour period.

That is the extent of the study that was done of the imposing and important Bill C-4, just like all of the other budget implementation bills.

The Conservatives have a habit of ramming various measures down our throats, and most of them have absolutely nothing to do with the budget process and were not even in the budget that the Minister of Finance tabled in March.

This tendency has been criticized by several extremely credible organizations, which leads me to wonder why the government continues to do this. We heard some very interesting evidence in that regard. There is a generalized sense of frustration among experts and Canadians who are worried and concerned about the state of our democracy.

For example, the Canadian Bar Association gave a presentation on this. No one here can dispute the credibility of that organization. I will quote what the representatives told the Standing Committee on Finance:

All parties are now disadvantaged as they hastily review unexpected and unexplained changes in Bill C-4. The concern is compounded when those changes arrive in omnibus legislation, as the opportunity for serious reflection and debate is minimal. The [Canadian Bar Association] Section believes that eschewing consultation and employing omnibus bills diminish the quality of our laws and the democratic process. We urge you to reconsider these practices.

I do not know how we could make it any clearer that the kind of omnibus bills the government has been introducing for the past three years distort the democratic process and force members of Parliament to vote on bills that have a lot of flaws and deserve closer attention.

The Association of Justice Counsel agrees. The judicial process is at the heart of what they do. They testified at the Standing Committee on Finance, which is never mentioned by the government. This is what they said:

By virtue of introducing these changes under the umbrella of a budget bill, the government has effectively sidestepped the much-needed consultation process with stakeholders. The scope of this Bill, combined with the very short time span, is unduly pressuring elected officials to make uninformed decisions without the benefit of a solid understanding and healthy discussion and debate.

When the government tries to claim that there were wide consultations, extensive debates and all kinds of presentations in committee or the House, and that we had time for exhaustive discussion, I have to say that I have some serious doubts.

Omnibus bills like this one have a huge impact. They are introduced very quickly with a minimal amount of consultation. Since these bills have a broad scope and there is little time for discussion, they can contain serious errors that the government is then forced to fix.

We saw an example of this a year or a year and a half ago. The government had introduced an omnibus crime bill. We told the government that some of the measures in Bill C-10 were quite problematic.

We told the government precisely how it should amend the bill. We did not agree with the scope of the bill, but we made proposals in the House and in committee. The government said no and had the omnibus crime bill passed very quickly.

After the bill passed, the Conservatives realized that the opposition was right, that the bill contained a very harmful measure. Do you know what they did? Instead of admitting their mistake, they turned to the Senate to fix the mistake. Once the bill was amended in the Senate, the government brought it back to the House.

The same thing is happening here with the budget bills. The last budget bill contained a measure that affected caisses populaires and credit unions by changing their tax rate from 11% to 15%, effectively eliminating the 4% advantage they had. We felt that the caisses populaires and credit unions deserved that leg up given their mandate. They are not-for-profit organizations, unlike the banks, and they play a major role in local economies.

For extremely complex technical reasons, this change did not simply shift the tax rate from 11% to 15%. The tax rate actually increased from 11% to 28% for caisses populaires and credit unions.

We had very little time to study the bill and therefore did not have the opportunity to address this technicality. The government realized that there was a mistake.

The bill before us contains a measure that corrects the tax rate and brings it back down to 15%. Nevertheless, this mistake should not have gone through in the first place. I wonder how many of these technical mistakes are in bills that we have had to pass hastily over the past two years.

Bill C-4 contains numerous measures. As I mentioned, the bill adds, eliminates or amends 70 acts. We are opposed to many of these measures. We agree with some of the government's efforts. There is no problem with the fight against tax havens and tax loopholes. If people look carefully into the testimony and interventions before the Standing Committee on Finance, they will see that we support this measure and indeed find that the government is not going far enough.

This bill has some extremely harmful measures. I find it really interesting that in their speeches the Conservatives talk in very general terms about how their budget bill and their government have such a positive impact. However, they only talk about those tax issues they support.

In 2008, the Conservative government established the Employment Insurance Financing Board. It was supposed to be a means of correcting the Liberal government's misuse of the EI fund in the 1990s. We are talking about $57 billion.

The Conservatives did not promise to put this amount in an independent employment insurance fund, but they promised to correct the situation and ensure that such a thing would never happen again. They created the Employment Insurance Financing Board to set EI premiums and to determine EI benefits and eligibility criteria.

We are now in 2013, only to find that this bill contains a proposal to eliminate the Employment Insurance Financing Board, which has been essentially an empty shell since it was created in 2008-09.

We heard testimony from some public servants. They said that, ultimately, the minister will be given significant discretionary power so that he can decide on issues such as premiums, benefits and eligibility.

There is a recurring theme in the government's budget bills, and that is the fact that they give more power to the minister, whether it is the Minister of Employment and Social Development with regard to employment insurance or the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration with regard to changes to the system. The budget bill contains an amendment that will affect immigration and refugees.

Certain provisions will give the minister more discretionary power. Ministers are consistently assuming more and more power, and that poses serious problems. The Association of Justice Counsel commented on the Conservative government's tendency to centralize power in the hands of cabinet. That power used to be more spread out and dispersed among various experts and functions. The witness from the Association of Justice Counsel had this to say:

The government holds all the keys to the legislative closet. They hold all those cards, to use that analogy. The whole point of having a choice and giving that choice to the unions in terms of what route they choose was to recognize that unions are stacked when they're dealing with the government. We're not dealing with Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola can't draft legislation and say, “Go back to work”, or, “Here's wage restraint”. This government has used those tools, and our hands are tied.

Of course, the quotation refers to one element of the bill before us, namely the balance of power between the government as an employer—that is to say, the Treasury Board—and the public service. The government is using the bill to amend various aspects of the bargaining process. For one, it eliminates the possibility of using arbitration.

Arbitration is an extremely important tool when a government or an employer and an employee cannot come to an agreement. They may agree to have someone else make the decision for them. That is what arbitration is. The government is taking away that option.

Consequently, if the government wants to provoke a dispute with the public service for political reasons, for example, it can do just that. That poses a significant problem for government operations and for the system that provides public services. If the government wishes to provoke that kind of dispute, it will have a much easier time doing so now that the arbitration process has been amended.

Furthermore, the government is giving itself the right to define essential services, even after the fact. The government will be able to declare that a given area of the government, where a labour dispute might be happening, is now an essential service and therefore does not have the right to strike or use any kind of job action. The balance of power has shifted completely in favour of the employer, who happens to be the legislator. Thus, this is a huge conflict of interest for the government, but it chooses to ignore that fact, for purely political reasons.

I also referred to another aspect of Bill C-4 that I find completely appalling. There was a lot of media attention around the fact that the government made a colossal blunder when it appointed Justice Nadon to the Supreme Court to represent Quebec. Now the government is trying to correct that blunder after the fact by adding a measure to the omnibus budget bill. My comments have nothing to do with Justice Nadon's competency as a possible Supreme Court judge. However, the fact remains that the government really erred in this matter, as many experts agree. The government has included a measure to correct this process in a budget bill—a measure we will not be able to examine in detail. When measures like this are included, it makes it very difficult to see the relevance of the legislative process in terms of the budget.

A retroactive measure like this one will not make people forget the blunder, nor will it actually correct the government's blunder in this matter.

I talked about the attack on worker protection. Something else I would like to talk about is the issue of phasing out the tax credit for labour-sponsored funds. The government members know exactly where I stand on this issue.

This measure affects Quebec in particular because 90% of this tax credit goes to Quebeckers.

Once again, to clarify, this tax credit does not go to the funds. It does not go to big speculators, but to small investors. More than 600,000 Quebeckers save regularly for their retirement by investing in a program that is really like an RRSP. Instead of investing in speculative funds or mutual funds, where the money does not go directly to job creators, they invest in labour funds that work hand in hand with private venture capital funds and go directly into the Quebec economy.

This money is used to save businesses that need a hand during difficult times or a recession or to start up new companies, especially in very important emerging areas that promote innovation, research and development. I am referring to the medical and pharmaceutical fields and new technologies.

The Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Fondaction CSN specialize in these areas and work with private venture capital funds.

There is good reason why, the day after the government announced in its budget that it would phase out the tax credit, Canada's Venture Capital & Private Equity Association said it was opposed to this measure, even though the government is also creating a venture capital action plan.

Other associations, such as the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, the Regroupement des jeunes chambres de commerce du Québec and the Manufacturiers et exportateurs du Québec are also opposed to the phasing-out of this tax credit.

Even the witnesses that the government invited to praise the injection of $400 million and the creation of the venture capital action plan supported the opposition's arguments against phasing out the tax credit. They said that it did not make sense for the government to reject the agreement proposed by the Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Fondaction CSN.

That astounds me because the government had the opportunity to really make its venture capital action plan relevant and effective.

The two funds proposed an agreement with the government if it would decide to not go ahead with the phase-out. Under the agreement, the funds would voluntarily put a cap on their share issuing to save the government 30% in tax expenditures—in other words, the government would offer 30% less in tax credits. The funds would also inject the equivalent of $2 billion into the government's venture capital action plan.

The government is investing only $400 million. That is all. The funds proposed that they would invest the equivalent of $2 billion not only in Quebec but throughout the country.

I strongly believe that this model works in an area where Canada is lagging behind the other OECD countries. We are at the back of the pack. Quebec is a leading country as a result of the creation and administration of these funds. Of course, Quebec is not a country, but it is one of the leading jurisdictions in the OECD, ranking just below Israel and the United States when it comes to the amount of managed venture capital as a share of its GDP, its economy.

The proportion of managed venture capital in Quebec is nearly three times greater than the Canadian average and more than four times greater than Ontario's. The government should take note and learn from what happened in Ontario when it eliminated its tax credit. It got rid of it. That has been quite harmful to Ontario since its investment in venture capital, its amount of managed venture capital, has decreased steadily since the tax credit was eliminated in 2005. Despite having a much larger GDP than Quebec, Ontario's share of managed venture capital is equal to Quebec's in proportion to the total amount of venture capital invested in Canada. Right now, that figure is 36% for both provinces.

In many ways, Bill C-4 does not create jobs; it eliminates them. It stifles economic growth.

The IMF report shows the impact this will have on economic growth. The government should take that into account and take a more serious look at the measures it is proposing. That is why we, on this side of the House, will oppose Bill C-4.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:50 a.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, as usual, my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques made a very well-organized speech. He makes good arguments, and it is obvious that he has a lot of experience with economic issues.

Recently, we have basically been reduced to launching a campaign about the Conservative government's abandonment of the regions. A number of the points my colleague made were general, but most of his arguments were specifically connected to realities that are more prevalent in rural regions than in other regions.

I would like to give my colleague a chance to expand on what he said and to go into more detail on the consequences that can sometimes be harsher, relatively speaking, for rural regions, especially in eastern Canada.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:50 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, that is a very relevant question. The measures proposed by this government often affect the regions more than any other area of the country. That was the case.

That is why I responded to the speech made by the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River two days ago. He said that Bill C-4 would create jobs in Saskatchewan, right after I told him that this bill would destroy jobs in Quebec.

The member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup and I represent heavily rural regions. Some measures in the bill are absolutely disastrous for the regions, such as the reform of EI, as proposed by the government. Now, the government is going further and abolishing the Employment Insurance Financing Board. These measures hit regions like ours particularly hard, since our economies rely on seasonal employment.

I mentioned general measures. However, some of them affect labour-sponsored funds. The Fonds de solidarité and Fondaction have regional funds that specifically invest venture capital and development capital in areas like Rivière-du-Loup, Rimouski and Gaspé, where private venture capital is lacking compared to other regions.

These measures will hit rural regions very hard.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:50 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues facing Winnipeg North, and an issue that faces many other constituencies throughout the country as well, is the issue of crime and safety.

We hear a lot from the government about how it wants to get tough on crime. However, what it seems to shy away from is getting tough on the causes of some of these crimes. If it took a more aggressive approach to dealing with some of these causes, it would be more successful at preventing crimes from taking place in the first place.

There is very much we could talk about in the budget, everything from a particular budget line to the amount of legislation that is being brought in through the back door by this budget bill. One thing that concerns people is that the government is not giving enough attention to dealing with the causes of crime in the hope of actually reducing the amount of crime in our communities from coast to coast to coast.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:50 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Winnipeg North and I agree on the issue of prevention, whether we are talking about health and safety or crime. Prevention cannot be taken out of the equation.

I think it is extremely important that we try to reduce health and safety problems. One item in the bill amends the definition of danger at the workplace for organizations that are subject to the Canada Labour Code and runs counter to the notion of prevention. The same goes for crime.

In fact, I have not seen very many government initiatives to promote and enhance crime prevention in order to minimize the consequences.

During the recent debate on supervised injection sites, the government's approach went completely counter not only to the opposition's approach, but also to that of experts and organizations such as the Canadian Medical Association.

Unfortunately, one of the government's biggest flaws since being elected, and especially since winning a majority, is that prevention does not factor in to its approach to dealing with health and safety and crime.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my hon. colleague on his speech.

When the NDP develops its policy, it consults many people affected by the bills. Can my colleague say a few words about the people who support our position and provide some supporting figures?

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


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

Many witnesses support our position on various issues. At one point, we were discussing the gradual elimination of the tax credit for labour-sponsored funds. I found it very interesting to see the government witnesses—who came to say good things about the government's initiatives—learn about certain aspects of the bill that they had ignored or neglected, such as the agreement proposed by the funds. Once they had that information, the government witnesses told us that we were right and that the government should have accepted those proposals.

With regard to omnibus bills and the use of this tool, this bundle of legislation, to fast-track a number of bills, some knowledgeable organizations, such as the Canadian Bar Association and the Association of Justice Counsel, oppose the government's vision.

From everything we have seen in the most recent bills, the majority of witnesses are not siding with the government. The government invites its own witnesses and, obviously, it will get support for some aspects of its bills. However, the aspects that do get support are often the same ones that we support in committee.

We feel obliged to vote against bills such as Bill C-4 because of all the damage that these bills will cause and the consequences they will have. These are the reasons for our position. We will continue to fight, not only against the process but also against the damage caused by the government.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. It was a privilege to work with him on the Standing Committee on Finance. In addition to being an economist, he is our deputy critic for finance and also for international trade. This shows how much we trust in his expertise and his skills.

I would like my colleague to tell us about the macroeconomic impact of the upcoming budget. Since the Conservative government came to power, Canada has lost 400,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector, among other things. In addition, personal household debt increased, rising to 166%. This is a veritable attack on Canadians.

Could the member please describe the impact of austerity on the Canadian economy and on Canadians?

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the question because it allows me to elaborate.

In its interventions, the government always talks about the number of jobs that have been created since July 2009. Yes, jobs have been created. However, we were in the depths of the recession in July 2009, which explains the job numbers.

I want to point out two things about these numbers. First, when this government was in opposition, it kept saying that governments do not create jobs. However, this government is taking all the credit for job creation since the depths of the recession, to which it had a delayed reaction.

What is more, if we compare job creation to demographic growth or if we include demographic growth in the equation, we have more unemployed workers today than we did before the recession.

The government's policies are about one thing only, and that is taxation. Lower taxes is the government's leitmotif.

Making good investments can be more advantageous than tax cuts because of the multiplier effect. The Parliamentary Budget Officer and now the International Monetary Fund are deploring the adverse effect that the Conservative government's cuts and austerity measures are having on economic growth.

I hope that the government will take note of that in its next economic forecast.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2Government Orders

11 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for government orders has now expired. We will now proceed to statements by members.

BurmaStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, another atrocity is unfolding, while the world stands by and watches the persecution of Rohingyas in Burma. Violence against Rohingyas has resulted in thousands of men, women and children living in squalid conditions.

With a lack of sanitation and no medical supplies, the rainy season and disease are claiming lives. Aid has been blocked. Refugees are attacked if they try to leave. Local police have a record of discrimination and violence toward Rohingyas. They have failed to provide any adequate protection. The Rohingyas escaping to Bangladesh are denied even the right to register as refugees in that country.

Canada has called on Burma to take effective action against ethnic violence and religious discrimination. The world must take notice. The world must act now to compel Burma to assist UN access and to end the violence against Rohingyas.

Saint-Bruno Charity DriveStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I want to pay tribute to all the volunteers involved in the Saint-Bruno charity drive, who took to the streets last Sunday to collect donations for needy families in Saint-Bruno. Over 1,000 of us volunteered to brave the cold and knock on doors. I would like to commend the people of Saint-Bruno for their generosity. Thanks to them, the Saint-Bruno charity drive broke its own record by raising over $67,000.

Although much of this success is due to the kindness of the people in my riding, the contribution of the two organizers on whom the charity relies year after year is just as important. Ms. Fleischman and Ms. Lacharité, I sincerely congratulate you on this great achievement and I thank you wholeheartedly for your continued dedication to the needy families of Saint-Bruno. You are remarkable women, and I hope that the Saint-Bruno community can count on you for many years to come.

Religious FreedomStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, last month, South Korean media reported the execution of 80 people in North Korea, killed for among other crimes, possession of a bible. While North Korea may be the most extreme case, unfortunately, it is not the only country in the world that practises religious persecution.

Religious freedom is an inalienable right deeply intertwined with our other rights. Freedom to proselytize, to convert, to worship are all elements of religious freedom that are denied in dozens of countries around the world.

Our Government's establishment of the Office of Religious Freedom clearly shows that Canada continues to view religious freedom as a fundamental value. We will continue to promote religious freedom throughout the world.

Canadian MPs, as individual parliamentarians, must continue to press governments around the world on behalf of the persecuted everywhere.

On behalf of Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, Chaldean Christians in Iraq and Evangelical Protestants in Vietnam, we owe religious minorities our voice in defending their rights both in Canada and abroad.

Nelson MandelaStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, people around the world today are remembering the late Nelson Mandela.

During one remarkable trip to Canada, Mandela was walking up Parliament Hill to deliver a speech in the House of Commons. By complete chance, he encountered a group of Metis from Saskatchewan. It too was headed up the Hill to sit in the gallery to hear what this champion of human dignity would have to say.

As a spontaneous gesture of affection from a group in Canada that had felt the sting of discrimination and disadvantage, one of the Metis took off his traditional sash and presented it to the South African icon. A short while later, Mandela honoured the Metis by wearing that sash in the Canadian Parliament, while he delivered his speech. He knew how much that would mean.

Nelson Mandela was a beacon of goodness in his own country and his life illuminated the whole world. He changed things for the better and millions are grateful for the hope he inspired.

Fort St. John Army CadetsStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the young men and women who are serving proudly with the 2276 Fort St. John Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps.

In October, the cadet corps changed its affiliation from the Kamloops-based Rocky Mountain Rangers to the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry based out of Edmonton. The change will mean less travel time and more opportunity for the cadet corps to receive support and to learn from active military personnel.

The cadets will hold their change of affiliation parade this Saturday in Fort St. John to mark the occasion, which is a result of 10 years of hard work.

I congratulate Major Dan Davies, Captain Linda Nielsen, Captain Thor Toms, current commanding officer, Captain Ken Lane, and everyone involved with the Fort St. John army cadets.

Last, I would like to wish everybody a very merry Christmas.

Nelson MandelaStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the world lost a great man. The tributes from around the world reflect our love for Nelson Mandela.

We drew inspiration from his fight for social justice, for democracy and, above all, for freedom. Despite his 27 years of imprisonment, he chose reconciliation instead of resentment and anger. Through sacrifice, courage and compassion, he brought a nation together to conquer institutionalized racism, apartheid.

South Africa and the entire world have lost a father, but human history has gained a president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a great hero.

I wish to end with one of his quotes. It is simple and full of optimism. “It always seems impossible until it's done”.

Halifax ExplosionStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to commemorate the Halifax explosion that occurred 96 years ago today. The explosion destroyed much of the city of Halifax, the unfortunate result of a collision in the harbour between the SS Imo and the SS Mont Blanc.

The ensuing explosion travelled at more than 1,000 metres per second, propelling the barrel of one of Mont Blanc's big guns nearly six kilometres away to land in Dartmouth, while part of her anchor landed three kilometres south in Armdale. Every building within 2.6 kilometres, over 12,000 in total, was destroyed or badly damaged. The entire city of Halifax was devastated in what was to become the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb. Over 1,600 people were killed instantly and another 9,000 were injured.

Worse yet, the next day a severe nor'easter brought freezing temperatures and heavy snow, making the rescue effort even more difficult. To this day, the province of Nova Scotia sends a 50-foot Christmas tree to Boston every year in recognition of that explosion and the fact that the first relief train to come in with supplies and help arrived from Boston, Massachusetts.