House of Commons Hansard #230 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the 19th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights regarding the recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-273.

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

Vote #654

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

7:10 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

On Wednesday, March 6, 2013, due to many recorded divisions taken that day, private members' hour was cancelled pursuant to Standing Order 30(7). For that reason, the second hour of debate on Motion No. 412, standing in the name of the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming, did not take place.

Standing Order 30(7) states that this business “shall be added to the business of the House on a day to be fixed, after consultation, by the Speaker”. The Standing Orders then set out two conditions for the selection of the new date. First, the Speaker must attempt to “designate that day within the next ten sitting days” and, second, the Speaker must not permit “the intervention of more than one adjournment period”.

The debate therefore has to take place tomorrow at the latest, following private members' hour. However, I would remind the House that pursuant to an order made on Monday, February 25, 2013, the House will adjourn at 2:30 p.m. I am reluctant to interfere with that schedule, as it precedes an adjournment period for which members will no doubt have already made their travel plans.

Since we are now past 7 p.m., the House would normally be faced with having to reschedule the item, an option that is clearly not possible for the reasons I have just outlined.

Last week I was informed that there were consultations and that it was agreed that the second hour of debate on Motion No. 412 would be added to today's proceedings.

Being now faced with an unforeseen situation and bound by the provisions of Standing Order 30(7), I wish to inform the House that private members' business will indeed take place today, with the two items scheduled for debate as indicated on the notice paper. In doing so, the Chair is mindful of his obligations to “make all arrangements necessary to ensure the orderly conduct of private members' business”, as set out in Standing Order 94.

I thank hon. members for their collaboration.

It being 7:12 p.m, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from November 6, 2012, consideration of the motion that Bill C-463, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (travel expenses), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about my private member's bill, which I call “Discover Your Canada”.

This bill seeks to amend the Income Tax Act in order to make travel within Canada more affordable for Canadians by providing income tax deductions on the expense of purchasing tickets for taxpayers and their children, for non-business travel by airplane, train or bus, if travel covers at least three different provinces.

During the many speeches we will be hearing on this bill, some members of Parliament will erroneously discuss the potential high cost of the bill. However, this bill is intended to be about unifying Canadians and not about finances. As an accountant and former chairman of the finance committee, I am usually the first person to want to ensure that the numbers add up. I have written Bill C-463 in order that the federal treasury would not be impacted and that this bill would be revenue neutral, while perhaps even being an economic generator.

Therefore, the primary focus of this bill would not be financial. As is evident in the name “discover your Canada act”, I want more Canadians to have the option to travel across this country, something that is usually only an option for the more affluent. I want as many Canadians as possible to be able to visit other parts of their great country, and not as a layover to a foreign destination, not as a two-hour drive up to the cabin, and not as a business trip, where all they will see is an airport or perhaps a conference room. We want Canadians to see a part of Canada that is as distant and as different from their own little corner of this great land as possible.

I first got this idea years ago while I was in Vancouver chairing the finance committee during its pre-budget consultations. Anyone who has been to Vancouver can tell us that there are some impressive sights to behold. As a visitor walking the streets after a long day of witnesses telling us how the government should spend its money, I looked up and was astounded by what I saw. I thought that if more Quebeckers would see what I am seeing right now, none of them would want to separate. It was every bit as beautiful as my hometown of Montreal, but it was also very different. The vastness of the Pacific Ocean was different from the charm of the St. Lawrence River. The grandeur of the Rocky Mountains was different from the soothing humility of Mount Royal. The modern architecture was different from the classic beauty of Old Montreal. Pictures can never do justice to Canadian scenery, and one can never truly appreciate and feel like it is part of his or her natural heritage until he or she can see it and touch it in person.

In the past, even prior to being a member of Parliament, and afterwards of course, I have been to places in Canada as far east as Newfoundland, as far west as British Columbia and as far north as Yukon and the Northwest Territories. I have found in each place a newer and deeper appreciation for Canada. I am certain that all Canadians would have a better sense of their own national identity if they just had a chance to see parts of this country that are out of reach for some of them now. This is why I have chosen to refer Bill C-463 to the heritage committee instead of the finance committee. The discovery of Canada act would not be about dollars and cents; it would be about allowing Canadians to take ownership of their national heritage by providing them with a bit of assistance and incentive to see their own country.

Having said all this, it would be unlike me not to discuss costs at least a little bit. The deductions I propose in the Discover Your Canada Act are not extravagant. The deductions are also capped, and conditions to ensure that the deductions are not abused are written into Bill C-463.

As a result, the upper threshold of deductions will not be reached by most eligible travellers, as was confirmed by a Parliamentary Budget Office study I requested for this bill soon after it was introduced.

According to newspaper articles, the government says that this bill will cost money. However, even if the government is able to justify its estimate of the cost of this bill, nothing can compare to the $5.2 billion that Canadians spent in the United States in 2012.

During the second quarter of 2012, during trips to the United States, Canadians spent $3.4 million, the most money in 20 years. In June, they spent a record $1.9 million. This increased spending is a result of the increase in duty free allowances, which went from $50 to $200 for a stay longer than 24 hours, and from $400 to $800 for a stay of 48 hours. We are talking about travel abroad.

According to the government, this will result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in 2013-14. This is another gift for the American industry.

It is easy to add tax deductions. Administering them will cost the Canada Revenue Agency nothing extra. The Parliamentary Budget Office said so as well.

The last thing I want is for this bill to create more red tape.

When a new income deduction is proposed, there is always a measurable cost, but it is not so easy to calculate the economic spinoffs.

The Parliamentary Budget Office acknowledges that Bill C-463 will generate economic and financial spinoffs, but it cannot calculate those with certainty.

Generally speaking, I can say with confidence that increased travel within Canada is bound to generate positive economic and financial spinoffs.

Increased revenues from provincial and federal sales taxes are one such fiscal benefit.

I know that when I travel, I need to stay somewhere, I need to eat, and I want to take in some local attractions. I like to enjoy a night out on the town, and I enjoy bringing souvenirs back to family and friends. All this costs money and all this will contribute to government revenues in the form of federal and provincial sales tax.

Increased economic activity from more Canadians travelling domestically will also benefit the tourism industry in Canada in addition to industries that see spinoff benefits from increased tourism.

According to Industry Canada, almost 600,000 jobs in Canada are directly generated by tourism in every province and region of the country.

If that is not specific enough, I encourage each member in this chamber to visit the Tourism Industry Association of Canada website, where a breakdown of tourism jobs per riding is available.

I took examples from the ridings with the largest cities in the country. Tourism represents 4,905 jobs in Elmwood—Transcona, 5,460 jobs in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, 9,445 jobs in Vancouver South, 10,080 jobs in Calgary Centre, 11,150 jobs in Trinity—Spadina, and 11,170 jobs in Laurier—Saint-Marie in downtown Montreal. These are just a few examples. There is a list of all the ridings across Canada.

These are real jobs for real people in each and every one of our communities. We need to be cognizant of what stimulating this industry can mean to local economies and the national economy as a whole. The possible benefits are too big to ignore in my opinion.

I could go on, but as I stated earlier, the bill is not about dollars and cents.

Since I introduced the bill back in November, what has struck me most of all is how much Canadians have rallied around this idea. According to a Harris/Decima study released on November 7, 2012, total support for the discover your Canada act stood at 70%, and it enjoyed strong support throughout the country.

For example, the Atlantic region registered 78% approval, Quebec registered 68% approval, Ontario registered 69% approval, Saskatchewan and Manitoba registered 66% approval, Alberta registered 76% approval and British Columbia registered 74% approval.

The same study showed that 39% of Canadians would be more likely to consider travelling within Canada if the discover your Canada act were to become law, while only 5% would be less likely to consider travelling within Canada if the discover your Canada act were to become law, for a net gain of over 34%.

The same study also notes that the bill has the potential to address Canada's growing international travel deficit, which grew by $91 million in the second quarter of 2012 alone.

Beyond the numbers, I have been humbled by messages of support I have received from Canadians from all over the country who want to see the bill pass. One lady from Alberta wrote to tell me that “Despite not being one of your constituents, I am writing to tell you that I support your recent private member's bill, the discover your Canada act. I live in Alberta. However, I have strong ties to Quebec through my maternal grandparents. In such a vast country as Canada, I would welcome this initiative in assisting my travel within our own borders. Canada has so much to offer”.

I cannot go on all day quoting letters and emails, but this is just one of several letters of support I received. They all have the same theme: a desire for us as Canadians and as parliamentarians to implement this idea.

It is not because they want to save money or because they are looking for a handout, but simply because they love their country and like the idea of more Canadians visiting more places within Canada to strengthen their bonds to this country and to each other, especially when we have a travel deficit in this country.

It has long been said that Canada has too much geography and not enough history. In 2017, Canada will have precisely 150 years of history behind it. Our nation's history is no longer in question, but our geography remains both a source of pride and a challenge to our nation's cohesiveness. Facts are facts: there is no inexpensive way for people to traverse such a massive country as Canada. As parliamentarians, we should recognize this reality and react accordingly.

I have chosen 2017 for the coming into force of the bill, because I believe that for Canada's 150th birthday, we should give Canadians the greatest gift we could possibly give them: we should give them Canada.

The government will be investing all kinds of money in celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary, so I am asking the government to think about offering Canadians a choice of where they choose to spend their money and not have the government decide for them.

We do not know how much money the government will put towards the anniversary, but this investment is minimal. There will events across Canada, as I just stated. We should have Canadians plan today where they want to travel to get to know Canada much better so that they will not be watching the events on a TV screen because they cannot afford the trip. They will be able to watch and participate in these events, up close and in person.

We should remove some of the financial barriers that stop them from exploring this great land and tell them to go out and discover your Canada, because one thing I have learned is that financial incentives are one way to get people to change their behaviour.

Thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker. I am open to questions.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, there is something peculiar in my hon. colleague's choice not to submit this bill to the Standing Committee on Finance. Eighty per cent of the study that we received from the Parliamentary Budget Officer has to do with the bill's financial aspects. One billion dollars has been mentioned. Although it is not this entire amount that would have an impact on the public purse, I have difficulty seeing how my colleague can justify not referring a bill that could have such an impact on the public purse to the Standing Committee on Finance, first and foremost.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I started my speech by saying that it had nothing to do with finance. I know that it will cost money because it will be an initiative to get Canadians to travel. The more people travel, the more they will spend.

My bill gives the example of someone who takes the bus across three provinces. This is not going to take two or three hours. It will take at least two or three days. Someone who takes the bus will stop and spend money on food and drink. That traveller might even stop during the trip to sleep in a hotel, not on the bus, or go see the sights. This bus trip might involve all kinds of expenses.

Another example is someone who travels by airplane. People usually travel by airplane to go long distances. When you travel far, you spend money. I know that when I travel long distances, I stay in hotels for two or three nights.

All these analyses and all these costs are not in the Parliamentary Budget Officer's figures. I find it unfortunate that the member did not read that. The numbers are not in the billions of dollars; they are in the range of $10 million to $30 million, not to mention all the revenue that would go to the government. If I have crunched the numbers properly, when it comes to revenue, the bill's impact will be neutral.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know why my colleague chose the rule of crossing at least three different provincial boundaries. I think that if you start out at the far end of the Northwest Territories, cross just one border and go to southern Saskatchewan, for example, you have travelled a fair distance.

I just looked into purchasing airline tickets on the Air Canada site. It costs more to fly from Toronto to Rouyn-Noranda, which is in my riding, than it does to fly from Toronto to Vancouver. There is no logic to the three provinces rule. It is quite commendable to want to travel to far-flung parts of the country, but that does not cover the three provinces rule.

I do not understand why the member chose three provinces. It puts some regions at a disadvantage.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. This bill is not perfect and will not affect air fares because we did not work with the airlines.

The reason for the bill is to help Canadians get to know one another. What I have seen is that Canada is divided into three regions: eastern, central and western Canada. I would like Canadians to start travelling between the east and the west, passing through central Canada. That is the reason for choosing three provinces.

I do not want someone from Rouyn-Noranda to travel in Ontario, because that is easy to do. I know that the member is absolutely right about the price of an airline ticket. However, I will leave that for another bill at another time. Canadians have to start getting to know one another and discovering Canada. The only way to do that is to get them to travel as far as possible in the regions. When I talk about the regions, I am not talking about going from an urban area to a rural area. I am talking about travelling to eastern, western and central Canada. That is how people can get to know one another. That is the reason for this bill.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-463 brought forward by the Liberal member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.

I know that the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel is a proud Canadian, and I commend his efforts to give Canadians the opportunity to get to know their country better.

This bill is really just a novelty, a gimmicky distraction costing taxpayers over $200 million a year, without really encouraging tourism within Canada. While the member says his intent is to promote tourism, not only is his ill-considered proposal unfair, but there is absolutely no evidence it would have any effect whatsoever.

In fact, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada has already dismissed this Liberal idea as completely out of touch with the challenges faced by the Canadian tourism sector, saying, “we don’t think this is a particularly useful mechanism because Canada’s challenge is not a lack of domestic travel”. Indeed, our challenge is finding ways to compete in the international travel market.

In contrast, our government promotes travel in Canada by funding cost-effective programs and events proving that, unlike the Liberals, the Conservative government supports the tourism sector, while safeguarding taxpayer dollars.

Let me start by briefly highlighting our government's role in supporting the tourism industry in Canada.

Canada's strong economic performance during the global recession has been the envy of the world. While these initiatives may not have always been the most talked about, Canada's economic action plan provided funding to several organizations to stimulate the growth of tourism during the global economic downturn and it helped promote our country as a destination for Canadians and visitors alike.

During this time, economic action plan funding was provided to things like the National Trails Coalition, Parks Canada and its National Historic Sites, the Canadian Tourism Commission for greater domestic and international marketing and a grand total of 79 festivals and events through the marquee tourism events program. Our economic action plan also increased tourism-related infrastructure through investments in everything from local parks to convention centres.

Furthermore, our government already supports programs to discover Canada, programs geared to encourage Canadians to explore what is happening culturally outside their own backyards.

In particular, the Department of Canadian Heritage invests over $105 million every year to provide almost 100,000 youth with opportunities to learn about their country and connect with one another through its youth programs. I should add that these programs can benefit all Canadians, regardless of what region they live in, a point I will return to later in my speech.

In addition, the government supports programs to foster Canadian identity for people of all ages such as celebrate Canada, which encourages Canadians to come together in their communities to discover and appreciate the wealth and diversity of Canadian society and understand the significance of the rich heritage Canadians all share. These types of measures and programs achieve two important results: they boost our economy and they promote tourism in Canada.

Beyond what our government already does to boost tourism in Canada, the bill before us today is fundamentally flawed. Providing an income tax deduction for travel expenses of up to $2,000 for individuals and each of their dependants under the age of 16 raises concerns about fairness.

Let me explain.

Under the proposal, only travel within Canada that crosses three provincial boundaries is eligible. Here is the first problem with that. This requirement may disproportionately benefit some regions and favour particular travel routes. Given the shorter distances between provinces in Atlantic Canada, less travel would be required to meet the eligibility criteria.

Furthermore, the three provincial boundaries rule would unquestionably favour particular routes. For example, travelling from Halifax to Toronto by train or bus would cross three provincial boundaries and qualify for tax relief, whereas air travel, assuming the flight uses U.S. airspace, might not qualify.

The list of inequities continues. The value of the deduction would depend on the mode of travel: 100% for travel by bus; 75% for travel by train; and 40% for travel by airplane. From the onset, this makes no sense.

It bears repeating that the breakdown of how the deduction would be calculated makes no sense. Why should someone travelling by bus get a higher deduction than someone travelling by train or plane? Why does it exclude travelling by car or even by boat? There is no question this bizarre distinction is completely unfair.

Not only that, but Bill C-463 would provide more tax relief to higher-income individuals who tend to travel more and spend more on travel than lower-income families. Not only would higher-income individuals generally claim more, but the tax relief stemming from the proposed deduction would also be higher for individuals who were in higher personal income tax brackets, which vary from 15% to 29% federally.

Our government has been very clear. We believe in tax fairness for all Canadians. This discrimination alone is reason enough to vote against the bill, but there are many other reasons to vote against this bill.

On this side of the House, that is the government side, we believe a law that is meant to encourage interprovincial travel should, at the very least, encourage Canadians to travel. With respect to Bill C-463, there is no evidence that the proposal would encourage individuals to travel more often, over $200 million a year with no result. Not only that, but individuals who plan to travel anyway would gain significant benefits from the deduction. It would represent a windfall, again an unfair tax advantage without actually increasing tourism within Canada.

Furthermore, the proposal only recognizes the cost of tickets for traveling by bus, train or air, not other major travel expenses, such as lodging or car rentals, that may continue to be an obstacle for people to travel.

Finally, as I have already mentioned, the cost of the proposal would be significant. Preliminary estimates suggest that based on existing travel patterns and expenditures, the passage of Bill C-463 would cost about $215 million a year.

In a time of a certain fiscal restraint that we have now, it is not the time for a novelty Liberal subsidy, or as National Post columnist Kelly McParland put it, “silly ways to spend even more borrowed money trying to manipulate Canadian behaviour, just like the old days”.

Our government has been working diligently to keep taxes low and the economy strong in the face of turbulent economic challenges from across the world. Our economic action plan has delivered results for Canadian families. We will stay the course.

I would ask every member of the House to vote against the bill. It is plainly not in the best interests of Canadians.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has pointed out an inconsistency. Specific types of transportation were chosen. Ferries are one example.

I would like the member to expand on how this lack of reflection causes certain problems—

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I would remind the member that he has the floor to resume debate.

The hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have been recognized to speak to this subject.

The bill before us has the best of intentions, but the result is questionable and rather inconsistent. Unfortunately, the NDP will not be able to support this bill. I will take the time to summarize the bill so that those at home will understand what we are talking about.

This bill provides that taxpayers may deduct, from their taxable income in a given year, the cost of purchasing tickets for the taxpayer or a child or children of the taxpayer for non-business travel that involves crossing at least three different provincial boundaries. The bill is designed to encourage Canadian taxpayers to travel within the country in order to increase domestic tourism by providing a maximum deduction of $2,000 a year from taxable income.

It is complex and yet it is not. Basically, people need to travel a lot and need to cross three borders. If they can prove that they were not travelling on business, they can get a non-refundable deduction of up to $2,000.

The NDP has found six major flaws in this bill.

This bill is fiscally irresponsible. It would allow for up to $1 billion in tax deductions, but this measure would directly cost $110 million. A little earlier, I heard my hon. colleague say that if people travel, they will spend more money. But that principle does not apply here, especially in light of the current situation with the tourism industry.

Tourism within Canada is being squeezed dry. Domestic travel accounts for a majority of the travel in the country and this proportion continues to increase. There is no reason to believe that creating more travel in an industry that has already been squeezed dry would suddenly create enough economic activity to compensate for the $110 million.

The Canadian Tourism Commission is asking for about $110 million to create a real international marketing program. The tourism industry is always lamenting the fact that we do not have enough foreign tourism. Canada's tourism industry is already struggling to stay afloat with domestic travel.

There will surely be cases of fraud. How can someone prove that they travelled for work but stayed a few days at the destination to visit the beach or do some shopping? How do they sort that out come tax time? It does not appear as though that aspect of this bill was thought through.

Consider the increased amount of paperwork if, for example, the government has to contact a taxpayer or a business if there is any doubt that travel or an application for a tax refund was associated with business travel instead of leisure travel. How would we manage that? The bill does not address that problem.

The other important point is that this is a regressive policy. Only families that are well off can spend thousands of dollars on transportation costs. The study we received showed that 70% of the tax benefits associated with this bill will go to families that earn a minimum of $50,000. We want to share Canada and get Canadians to travel. However, we must help the lower-income families who will never be able to see Vancouver, not the well-off families who could afford a trip to Vancouver regardless.

This bill does nothing to address the fact that it is not easy to travel within Canada. One of the major problems with the tourism industry is that transportation services are irregular and inadequate. For example, train service out east between Montreal and the Maritimes was recently reduced by 50%. Providing a credit on a service that is no longer available is like the chicken and the egg. This bill has it backwards. First we must ensure that our infrastructure can provide adequate service.

Another point concerns the harmful effects of greenhouse gases. For the same reason that those who are well off will be more likely to be able to cross three borders—since that is what the bill requires—they will also be more likely to travel by plane to claim this tax credit. Once again, this bill favours the mode of transportation that causes the most pollution. It does not address this problem.

We can imagine another ridiculous scenario that the bill does not cover. Imagine that a family crosses three borders. Family members leave Quebec, go to New Brunswick and want to go to Prince Edward Island. One of the children tells his father that he wants to go to PEI by ferry. However, the tax credit does not apply to ferries. The father will have to apologize to his child and tell him that they will not be able to go to PEI because the method of transportation for getting there is not covered by the tax deductions for non-business, family travel. This bill has all sorts of problems like this one.

The asymmetry of the provinces, which is specific to Canada, is another factor that is completely unfair to the western provinces. I can cross three provinces and get a tax credit by going to spend a weekend with my family in the Maritimes, since I live in eastern Quebec. It would be impossible for someone who lives in British Columbia to even think about getting a tax credit for making a short weekend trip by train when he has two or three days off. It is not fair to the western provinces. The bill does not address this problem. The bill does not address the tourism industry's main problem.

The tourism industry is calling for more international tourism. Domestic tourism is being squeezed dry. Canadians are doing all they can right now. There is a lack of marketing to ensure that domestic tourism stays the same and even continues to grow and to convince hundreds of thousands of new international travellers to come to Canada.

With the emergence of BRIC, more and more people are travelling. They have money and we are not reaching out to claim our portion of it. That is the real problem. If this bill is passed, $110 million will be invested, but it will not be invested in solving the tourism industry's real problem.

We would like to ensure that agreements with the provinces and municipalities result in affordable infrastructure, so that low-income families can afford train tickets and go on a trip. That is our goal. We would also like to see the tourism industry finally gain increased revenues from international tourism.

None of these solutions and priorities are part of the bill. We cannot support a bill so badly put together. It is not right to introduce a bill and expect a committee to fix it.

What about families who travel by car? What about families who travel in two provinces by train, then take a ferry to a third province? Do they suddenly stop being eligible for the tax credit? What if a man goes on a business trip with his family tagging along, and they vacation together for seven or eight days? Should they report that they were travelling for business or for pleasure?

Such a convoluted and unmanageable solution is not acceptable. Some people think that if a bill is flawed, it can just be sent to committee to be fixed up.

However, when a bill creates more problems than it solves, there is no way we can support it at second reading and send it to committee.

Sadly, that is the position New Democrats find themselves in today. The bill was poorly conceived and poorly drafted. It would be costly and difficult to implement, and it would not solve the problems facing Canada's tourism industry.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2013 / 7:45 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill C-463, the discover your Canada act. I want to thank my colleague from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel for introducing this legislation and for giving the House an opportunity to discuss the importance of our tourism sector and to address Canada's travel deficit.

The goal of the bill is to make it easier for Canadians to travel within their own country. It would amend the Income Tax Act and create a tax credit of up to $2,000 for Canadian taxpayers who cross at least three provincial or territorial borders on personal travel. This credit would help reduce the cost of holiday transportation by covering eligible travel expenses. Taxpayers would be able to claim the amount not only for their own expenses but also for their children. This would provide much needed support for Canada's tourism sector.

According to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, this sector represents more of Canada's GDP than the agriculture, forestry and fisheries combined. It generates $78.8 billion of economic activity annually. It is responsible for more than $15.9 billion of export revenue despite this growing travel deficit. It generates $10 billion in federal government revenue and fosters over 600,000 jobs across the country.

Tourism plays an important role in the economy in my riding in Nova Scotia. People come to Kings—Hants from all over the country and all over the world to marvel at the world's highest tides, to come to the beautiful Annapolis Valley, to come to Windsor, the birthplace of hockey, and also to enjoy our growing food and wine industries.

Many of us in the House represent Canadians who make a living in the tourism sector. We know how vital this sector is to the Canadian economy. We also know how worried participants in this sector are about the future of this industry and the growing travel deficit.

There is a gap between how much money Canadian tourists are spending abroad and how much money international tourists are spending here in Canada. This gap is growing, and the government used budget 2012 not to address it but to slash support for tourism in Canada. By cutting the Canadian Tourism Commission's budget by $14.2 million each and every year, the government is cutting the commission's ability to promote Canada abroad and to attract international tourists to Canada.

David Goldstein, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada said:

The travel deficit has widened dramatically since 2002.... We used to be the seventh in the world in 2007 when it came to international arrivals. We are now the 18th. We used to have 20 million international visitors in 2002 and now have 16 million....

The fact that we are now contributing almost a third to Canada’s trade deficit is somewhat shocking....

Last December Mr. Goldstein told The Globe and Mail the Conservative cuts are hurting the sector.

While other countries are making tourism a priority and investing in marketing to attract international visitors, Canada lags behind. Australia, for instance, outspends Canada by three to one in terms of tourism marketing dollars, yet according to the Canadian Tourism Commission every dollar invested in direct advertising is actually earned back 37 times over.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has also asked the government to make tourism a priority. In a recent report on tackling the top 10 barriers to competitiveness, the chamber identified uncompetitive travel and tourism strategies as one of the most serious barriers to success in the Canadian economy. That report cited that tourism is a major industry in every reach of the country, but it is struggling.

Instead of damaging the sector's ability to market itself abroad, the government should recognize the risks associated with Canada's travel deficit and reverse these cuts to our tourism sector. We need a real tourism strategy and this legislation could be part of that. Bill C-463 gives the House the opportunity to help reduce our travel deficit by encouraging more Canadians to discover their country and spend their tourism dollars here at home. Canadians are onside. According to Harris/Decima, a public survey conducted last fall showed 70% of Canadians support the idea of a tax credit for travel within Canada.

It is not just about dollars and cents and business. It is about national unity and the reality that encouraging more Canadians to travel within our country and to understand regions within our country is important.

I have heard some of my colleagues from both the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party speak to the bill. I can accept that perhaps they can identify a design flaw or a problem that could be addressed at committee. However, the reality is that the intention of the bill is sound. The direction of the bill makes sense. Canadians want to find more ways to support their ability to travel within Canada.

I would urge members from all parties to support the legislation and to send it to committee. If there are technical design flaws that could be addressed at committee, that is fine. We are open to that. My colleague is open to that. However, we need to send it to committee in order to have a broader discussion on how we can strengthen tourism in Canada and, more fundamentally, how we can unite the country by giving more Canadian families the opportunity and the incentive to travel within Canada.

I heard my Conservative colleagues say earlier tonight that it would complicate the tax system by providing an incentive for somebody to do something. My goodness gracious, the Conservatives have grown the tax code by one-sixth since coming to power, with tax incentives for almost everything. The reality is that they have done that because people like a tax incentive to pursue one behaviour or another. The reality is that travel within our own country is a meritorious and positive economic activity, but it is also good for national unity.

Why would we not support any initiative that would enable Canadian families to spend more time within their country and spend more of their money in other regions of the country? What a boon to national unity.

I was born in 1967. A few months before I was born, my parents were at Expo 67. Now I cannot say that their trip to Montreal that summer was totally responsible for what happened, but how many Canadians, in 1967, went to Montreal as part of Expo 67? At what point in our nation's history were we as united as a country as we were when families from across the country went to Montreal in 1967?

I am not saying that this private member's bill would achieve the same level of national unity that Expo 67 did, but it is a start. It is a beginning. It is a recommencement of that spirit of voyageur that unites Canadians so that we will travel to other parts of our country and we will experience other cultures. God knows how many more parliamentarians would be born as a result of that.

I want to tell members that I am proud to be voting for and supporting Bill C-463 because I want it to be sent to committee. I want it to be studied. I want all parties to be able to contribute to shaping a national tourism strategy, the genesis of which might just be part of this legislation.

I think if there is a concern about eligibility, if there is a concern about progressivity and about how we could ensure that low-income people would benefit from this, let us address it. Perhaps if we would ensure it is fully refundable, that would address the concerns, for instance, for low-income Canadians. Certainly the tax credits offered by the government for disability tax credits, caregiver tax credits, firefighter tax credits, all these different tax credits, have been non-refundable. I do not support that. I believe full refundability makes sense in order for this to be progressive.

Whatever the issues that exist, they could be addressed at committee. However, it is important that we support this piece of legislation, that we send it to committee so we can have a fulsome debate on how to move Canada's tourism industry forward and also how we could unite this country around the majesty and the beauty of her geography.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:55 p.m.


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak about Bill C-463, which is sponsored by the MP for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel. Before I get into the details of the bill, I would like to begin today by taking a few moments to speak about the important contributions tourism makes to our economy in every region of our great country.

Each year, millions of visitors from around the world and from across Canada travel our great country to discover its many natural and man-made wonders. The industry that serves those people is an important part of our economy. Indeed, thousands of Canadians rely on tourism for their jobs and livelihoods.

While large hotel chains, airlines and tour operators are important, about 98% of Canada's tourism sector consists of small and medium-sized businesses, such as lodges, wineries and spas. As such, it is mostly made up of thousands of private sectors and not-for-profit organizations and associations, as well as departments and agencies at all three levels of government.

In 2011, tourism accounted for approximately 2%, or $31.1 billion, of Canada's gross domestic product, some $78.7 billion in revenues, over 600,000 direct jobs and 3.5% of total employment in Canada. Tourism-related businesses often work with destination marketing organizations, which exist at the municipal, regional, provincial and national levels. These organizations promote development and market Canada's various tourism destinations and experiences.

Through various agencies, the three levels of government directly run many of Canada's most important tourism attractions, including parks, museums, sports stadiums and convention centres. Governments also establish policy and legislative frameworks and administrative practices that support and affect how our tourism businesses operate.

The diversified nature of the tourism sector makes it critical that all partners find ways to collaborate to build world-class destinations that offer first-class services and uniquely Canadian experiences. In the fall of 2011, after consulting with the men and women who help to make Canada such a great place to visit, it became very clear that a new federal tourism strategy was needed to help position Canada's tourism sector for long-term growth and global competitiveness.

The strategy focused on four priorities. The first was to increase awareness of Canada as a premier tourist destination. Second was to facilitate the ease of access and movement for travellers. Third is encouraging product development and investments in Canadian tourism assets and products. Fourth is fostering an adequate supply of skills and labour to enhance visitor experiences through quality service and great hospitality.

Canada's tourism industry has expressed support for the four priority areas and recent federal actions to foster tourism, including investments in tourism, infrastructure and marketing, through Canada's economic action plan and the signing of an approved destination status agreement with China.

In 2008 to 2009, during the global economic crisis, we invested more than $530 million in direct support for the tourism sector. This included more than $360 million in product development and tourism infrastructure, such as convention centres, and $113 million in tourism marketing. An additional $782 million was spent, largely on artistic, cultural and sports-related activities that have an indirect impact on tourism. We also made significant infrastructure investments in roads and bridges in support of this industry.

In addition to this ongoing support, Canada's economic action plan provided economic stimulus to the visitor economy through direct funding from our key tourism events, national parks, cruise infrastructure and marketing. Under the plan, we also invested billions of dollars in transportation and community infrastructure and in economic development that will provide enduring benefits to the sector. These actions supported the tourism industry through the economic downturn, and the sector continues to be resilient in the face of today's frequently volatile environment.

Given these strengths, we do not believe the proposed amendments to the Income Tax Act would be necessary. Although Bill C-463 would be intended to encourage Canadians to discover Canada by recognizing the costs of travel involving the crossing of at least three provincial boundaries, it is unclear whether and to what extent the proposal would motivate individuals to travel more, or to change their travel plans to take advantage of the tax deduction. Moreover, the proposal would have a number of deficiencies and would raise a number of equity and fairness concerns. In particular, it would recognize only the costs of tickets for travelling by bus, train or air. Other travel expenses, such as lodging, which may be significant for travel outside an individual's home province, may well present a deterrent for people who might otherwise take advantage of the proposed deduction. This deficiency would likely create pressure to extend tax relief to travel expenses that are not eligible under this proposal. Such extended tax relief would come at a significant fiscal cost. The deduction would provide significant benefits to those who would have incurred eligible travel expenses in any case. As such, it would represent a windfall gain to these individuals without increasing tourism.

The proposed deduction would apply only for airplane, train or bus transportation. It would not apply to travel by other modes of transportation, such as motor vehicle or boat, which may favour certain urban centres or regions over others. The bill would also stipulate that the percentage that could be deducted from income would vary, depending on the mode of transportation: 100% for travel by bus; 75% for travel by train; and 40% for travel by airplane. There is no policy rationale for why particular modes of transportation should be provided different tax treatment. Those travelling by air or train would view the measure as unfair, and rightly so.

In addition, the proposed measure would likely provide more tax relief to higher-income individuals, for two reasons. First, the deduction would apply to discretionary travel expenses that are typically incurred by higher-income individuals. Second, the value of the proposed deduction would be greater for individuals who are in higher personal income tax brackets.

To conclude, the bill would be inconsistent with existing tax policy, which generally does not allow taxpayers to deduct personal expenses and could entail significant costs. Indeed, implementing this deduction could cost about $215 million annually in foregone federal revenue, starting in 2017. It would also entail a cost for the provinces that use the federal definition of “taxable income”, in other words, all provinces except Quebec. It is unclear to what degree the proposal would induce individuals to travel more or to change their travel plans. For all these reasons, and others, my colleagues will mention as this debate progresses that our government opposes Bill C-463.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

8:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Resuming debate.

This evening, the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue will have five minutes.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

8:05 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is too bad because I have a lot to say.

Bill C-463 seeks to amend the Income Tax Act to give taxpayers a deduction for the expense of purchasing tickets for themselves and their children for leisure travel by airplane, train or bus if the travel involves crossing at least three different provinces. We understand that the hon. member is trying to encourage Canadians to travel within Canada and to discover other regions. This intention to promote travel within Canada and to have people discover other provinces that they might not otherwise is good.

However, is this the right solution? Absolutely not. I would say this is a flop. First, this bill targets people who already travel within Canada or who are likely to do so. For many Canadian families who are already struggling to make ends meet, this measure will not make much of a difference. In my riding, families tell me they would like to come see me in Ottawa, but they do not have the money to get here.

In this bill, they are being asked to travel through three different provinces. That makes absolutely no sense. Families who are struggling financially are not going to discover Canada. This measure does not help them one bit because it is a non-refundable tax credit. In order to benefit from it, one has to pay taxes. Families with a very low incomes will never be entitled to this credit, so this is of no use to them.

It is very clear that only well-off families would benefit from this bill. If you are poor, you will not travel across Canada, but if you are rich and you can afford it, the government will help you visit Canada. This makes absolutely no sense to me and it is not the right approach to presenting a bill.

Let me focus for a minute on people living in Quebec and Ontario. The bill talks about crossing three borders, which means going to four different provinces. We estimated the distances involved using Google maps. I used as an example someone living in my riding, in the city of Rouyn-Noranda near the Ontario border. In order to qualify for the tax credit, that person would have to travel at least 2,300 km. However, someone living in B.C. or Alberta would only need to travel 1,500 km. The province of origin creates inequalities.

Things get even worse for people from Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Nunavut: since they are travelling south, crossing three borders becomes a near-impossible feat. The distances involved are truly vast. Obviously, it does not make much sense to base a tax credit on a requirement to cross three borders.

One only has to look at a map of Canada to see that the three-border rule is illogical, given the sheer size of our country and the way it is divided, with huge territories and smaller provinces. Logic alone shows that the bill would be very difficult to implement, and that it would create inequality between provinces.

Second, it is true that travelling can be a hassle. It is important to note that Canada's domestic transportation networks are not ideal. Transportation services are lacking and often costly for Canadian families, and even for tourists. For example, the Northlander, which recently shut down, serviced northern Ontario communities as well as communities adjoining my riding. Obviously, rail service is a provincial responsibility; nevertheless. there used to be a train where now there is none.

Often, passengers who take the bus are looking to head in a specific direction. That said, the fact that there are no buses that run from one end of Ontario to the other makes no environmental sense. One has to get to Montreal first and then cross Ontario before heading north. The bus routes make no sense. What is more, the tax credit does not apply to cars. People have to make a few detours in order to qualify for the tax credit. That makes absolutely no sense. We are penalizing those who live in remote places where trains and buses are scarce. We are forcing them to make a bunch of detours in order to qualify for the tax credit.

This penalizes people who live close to a transit line, in areas regularly serviced by public transit.

Discover Your Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

8:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for consideration of this item of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Pursuant to Standing Order 37, the House will now proceed to the consideration of Motion No. 412 under private members' business.

The House resumed from January 31 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

8:15 p.m.


Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity today to speak to Motion No. 412 on the federal loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project. The intent of this motion is to express support for using the federal government's sovereign credit rating to lower the financing costs for regionally significant natural resource development projects. In this particular case, it is addressing the financing of the lower Churchill hydroelectric projects in Labrador and in the maritime provinces.

Last fall, the federal government and the Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia governments reached agreement on the terms and conditions for this federal loan guarantee. The first thing I would like to say is that given that this agreement has been reached, I am not so sure it is so important for the House to be considering this motion. It feels a little too much like a pat on the back for the government of the day. In my opinion, it is a lost opportunity to make good use of the time in the House not only for the good of northern Ontario but for all of Canada.

I am a little surprised that if the government wished to discuss this issue, no Conservative members from Atlantic Canada sponsored this motion. A member from northern Ontario had to use a precious northern Ontario spot for private members' business to address an Atlantic Canada issue. Nevertheless, the motion is what it is.

Let me say that we in the Liberal Party support the principle of federal loan guarantees for regional resource development projects, assuming that due consideration has been given to the concerns of aboriginal peoples, environmental concerns, and the economic impact and viability of the projects. Therefore, we will be supporting this motion.

The Liberal Party is in favour of loan guarantees for such projects and other provincial resource development projects. That is why we support the motion. I feel the need to emphasize, however, that the Conservative government needs to let the other provinces and territories know whether or not it intends to extend similar guarantees for their large-scale clean energy projects and whether or not it intends to establish a national framework to that end.

There are other possible projects in the region, in fact, for which we might consider loan guarantees, such as bringing power from Quebec into Atlantic Canada or bringing power to Prince Edward Island, where electricity rates are very high. These are the other sorts of natural resource projects, which are important in a regional sense, that we should be thinking about in the future for federal loan guarantees. I would hope the government would consider setting up a framework, something bigger than just a loan guarantee for one project, such as the one we are considering today.

While we support the motion because we support its intent, we do not agree with some of the premises of the motion. We wish to point out that the reality of the situation is not as sunny as the motion would have Canadians believe. I believe that the less spin we have, especially here in Ottawa, and the more reality, the better it is for Canada.

I would like to expand on that point. We agree that electricity generation from these hydroelectric projects will displace the old oil-burning Holyrood thermal generating station. We understand that jobs will be created in the construction of this project and that a stable electricity supply will be available for industry and for export.

However, the reality is not as sunny as the motion implies, because for one, electricity rates will go up. Ratepayers in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia will be on the hook for the cost of these projects and for possible cost overruns. The federal government is not on the hook for cost overruns; ratepayers are. Yes, jobs will be created by the project, but there will also be a drag on the economy from higher electricity costs. The picture is only partly sunny.

The Labrador Inuit and the Labrador Métis feel that they have been left out and were not properly consulted. They feel left out of the benefits of the project. The Innu nations support the project and have signed agreements. Again, the situation is really only partly sunny.

To reiterate, it is important to bring out the complexities of any issue so that we talk more about reality in the House and less about spin. Environmental groups have launched a court challenge over the Lower Churchill project. Large-scale hydroelectric generation involves flooding, and that means damage to a watershed and damage to habitat. The Red Wine caribou herd is affected. There is also potential mercury poisoning from the release of naturally occurring mercury when flooding occurs.

Hydroelectric resources, if developed sustainably, environmentally, economically and socially, can be a great resource. In this case, it would be to the benefit of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Liberals support the federal loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill falls hydroelectric project. Liberals support the principle of loan guarantees, assuming that due consideration has been given to the concerns of aboriginal peoples, to environmental concerns and to the overall economic impact and viability of the project.

However, large projects can affect entire regions, as this one does. We know that benefits can be uneven. There is some controversy. Not everybody is in agreement. We have to acknowledge that, even as we express our support for the loan guarantee. Provinces can have disputes.

Canada, with its great geographic diversity, could benefit from the government thinking a lot larger than just one project. Canada would benefit if its federal and provincial governments thought about a pan-Canadian energy strategy. This set of hydroelectric projects really illustrates how a lot of different provinces—Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec and so on—are affected by a single project. In this sense, it is too bad this motion addresses only the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.

We support the motion, but this is an opportunity we could have taken to discuss a much grander vision to link the energy and economic futures of the different provinces and the diverse regions of Canada as we work together toward a shared future of prosperity and sustainability. I would ask that the government think about this and perhaps have a bigger and longer-term vision for the country's economic future and the future of using its natural resources for the most benefit for all of its people, provinces and diverse regions.

I wish to conclude simply by saying that I support the motion. I hope that it will lead to a much larger discussion.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

8:20 p.m.


Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is great to have the opportunity to speak to the motion, M-412, brought by my colleague from Nipissing—Timiskaming.

We have a process in the House of Commons called an order of precedence. The last speaker talked about why someone from Atlantic Canada was not bringing this to the table. I would love to have brought this to the table, but I am number 231 on the order of precedence. I doubt in this four-year time arising that I will ever get a chance to bring a private member's bill to debate in the House.

I appreciate the member bringing forward this motion because it is important to Atlantic Canada and important to all of Canada, when we talk about the economy and the jobs that it would create. There is no question in my mind that this is a key project for Atlantic Canada. It is a key project when it comes to clean, renewable energy. That is why the governments of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia announced in 2012 that we had reached an agreement on the terms for the federal loan guarantee.

As the Prime Minister said, the agreement represents a promise made and a promise kept. That is exactly what that is, and I am proud that we kept our word to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that we would do this.

Last summer, we had a chance to be in Labrador for our Atlantic caucus meetings, and it was tremendous to fly over the site where the development will take place. What was even more important and interesting was that, as we flew over the town, we watched the development of the housing. What is going on in Labrador is incredible, not only with this project but the tremendous development and mining potential and export business for Newfoundland. Newfoundland and Labrador is booming.

The motion is important because there are four key elements. First, it is an important part of a clean energy agenda. It is an economically viable project that would create thousands of jobs and economic growth. It would be significant to the Atlantic region, which would benefit from a stable and sustainable electricity source for decades to come.

I will talk a little bit about that because my colleague across the way mentioned the pricing. This project would provide stable pricing, because when we look at the alternatives, such as the oil station at Holyrood, the price will only go up. It is also environmentally friendly with substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions.

The first point I will deal with is the economic benefit. This project would create 8,600 person-years of direct employment. Almost 3,000 people would be working on the project at peak employment times, and it would have a Canada-wide employment of 47,800 person-years. That is Canada-wide employment, and Canada-wide income to business and labour would be $3.5 billion on this project.

This is continuing a tradition of significant projects. We only have to look at the Churchill Falls project, which started in 1967. At the time it was the largest civil engineering project ever undertaken in North America, with 300 metres underground. I do not know if any of my colleagues in the House have been to Churchill Falls, but it is impressive. It is impressive to go down 300 metres underground. People with heart devices are not allowed to go down there because of all the generators. Their heart devices would shut off.

The system that they have to feed the power is just tremendous. We visited the project a few years ago with the natural resources committee and I was duly impressed. At the time it was the third largest hydro station in terms of capacity in North America, almost 5,400 megawatts.

This project is another great development for Newfoundland and Labrador. The $6.2-billion project that we are talking about involves the development of the Lower Churchill. It involves the lines to connect to the mainland and, as well, the line to connect to Nova Scotia.

This maritime link that is going to bring this power into Nova Scotia is going to be important in Nova Scotia's long-term plans to lower their greenhouse gases because, as we know, in Atlantic Canada there is a tremendous reliance on fossil fuel.

New Brunswick has coal-fired power. I know my friend from Nova Scotia is in the House here today, and he knows the tremendous reliance in Nova Scotia on coal-fired power. This represents a tremendous opportunity in terms of lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

I will just go to Holyrood for a minute. This is going to allow Newfoundland to retire the Holyrood station. It burns somewhere in the order of 6,000 barrels a day for every unit at the Holyrood station. It goes through 250,000 litres a minute of seawater, and 90,000 litres per day of fresh water.

Let us just imagine 90,000 litres a day of fresh water. I know all my colleagues in the House appreciate the water resource that we have. Using the water resource to generate electricity as opposed to using it for cooling and everything else that we need it for is a tremendous benefit to the region and to the environment. We cannot talk just about emissions on this issue.

As well, retiring the Holyrood station will make the Newfoundland system 98% carbon free, eliminating 96 million tons of emissions. These are great stats, great metrics on a project that is going to mean a lot to Newfoundland and Labrador and also to Nova Scotia.

What this does is start the development. It is the first station, 824 megawatts. Potentially, the next one could be 2,500 megawatts. When we look at these benefits and reflect on the recent budget of this past week, the thing we think about is the number of jobs that are going to be created and the specific jobs that will be created in trades.

The other great thing about this what we will call a bit of a social aspect. The folks who are in Fort McMurray realize that there is a tremendous number of Newfoundland and Labradorians who are actually in Fort McMurray now.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

8:25 p.m.

An hon. member

The biggest city in Newfoundland.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

8:25 p.m.


Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

It's the biggest city in Newfoundland, exactly. With that in mind, projects like this allow an opportunity for our folks to come back. That is a tremendous opportunity for alleviating some of the strain on families and the challenges that the strain presents.

I have always said that folks are not going to come back for one or two years, but if there is a project that is going to take five or six years to build, and then hundreds of jobs are available in each of these stations over 30, 40 or 50 years, that represents long-term, stable employment in the region and a great opportunity for folks to actually come back to the area.

As I was indicating before, with the budget bringing in implementation to develop the skilled trades that are going to be so needed for all these different projects, this is a tremendous opportunity and lays the groundwork for some of the key work that is going to have to be done in the years to come.

I want to conclude by saying that Motion No. 412 clearly sets out the many benefits of this Lower Churchill hydro development. I prefer to look at this as the glass being half full. It not only offers tremendous opportunities to the many folks who are out west, but it also offers tremendous opportunities to the untapped potential of our first nations communities to participate in this in terms of employment and working with the governments to actually benefit the first nation communities.

With projects like the Lower Churchill and other hydro developments in Manitoba, Quebec, and British Columbia, we are a strong leader in the efforts worldwide to expand the use of hydro power as a way to reduce global greenhouse emissions. In fact, as members would know, Canada is the third-largest producer of hydro power.

We have an opportunity here to benefit the Atlantic region. We have an opportunity for all this power potentially being developed and going all through New Brunswick as a corridor, right down into the U.S., which is actually now starving for renewable power.

This is a tremendous motion for this House to get behind, because it helps the whole region. It helps Canada. I really want to thank the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming for bringing this forward to the House. It was a great job. I encourage all members to support it.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

8:30 p.m.


Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, as the member before me, I too am pleased to speak on the motion. I thank the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming for bringing this motion forward. The federal guarantee is important for the Atlantic region and, frankly, for Canada.

I will make a couple of points and then focus on the benefits for Nova Scotia, the province I am from.

First, we support the federal government loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill project and we have since the 2006 election. Our leader at the time, in 2011, Jack Layton, wrote to the governments of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia indicating he would do what he could to work with the federal government, whomever that would be at the end of the 2011 election, in order to make sure this loan guarantee went forward.

Second, the project offers extensive environmental benefits. We believe that the federal government must play a role in facilitating the transition in a way that is fair to all provinces, and I will talk a bit more about that as it relates to Nova Scotia.

The third and final message is that New Democrats believe the federal government should be taking a leadership role in supporting renewable energy and interprovincial co-operation across the board. We would like to see the federal government be more assertive and take seriously its constitutional role in developing equity and support across this country. We believe it could be doing much more, and this is an example of a type of project. Some would suggest this is a nation-building project that would benefit the Atlantic region and this is the kind of thing that should be going forward across the country.

Nova Scotians have lived for decades now with a dependence on either coal or bunker C, and they have seen world market prices continue to go through the roof. At the same time, there is environmental damage that is caused as a result of burning coal, which is surely known by all members here. The economic damage, let alone the environmental and health damage of burning coal, is something we know we have to do something about. The Province of Nova Scotia, along with the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, has reached an agreement which goes a considerable distance to accomplishing this.

Back in April 2010, the Government of Nova Scotia released the renewable electricity plan. In addition to the commitment of having renewables provide 25% of all electricity by 2015, the plan specified a new goal of 40% renewable electricity by 2020.

At that time, the government of the day saw three ways to do that: one was with more intermittent sources, such as wind, complemented by natural gas; two was hydroelectric energy from Lower Churchill; and three was more clean energy imported by neighbouring provinces.

A number of months later, the Province of Nova Scotia signed an agreement, along with Emera Energy and Alcor Energy, and with the involvement of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. In return for bearing 20% of the cost of building the hydro facility and associated transmission facilities between Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia ratepayers would receive 20% of the energy from Muskrat Falls for 35 years. This would be supplemented by what they referred to as a “supplemental block”, which would provide another proportion of energy for the first five years of the agreement.

In addition to the base and supplemental blocks, Nova Scotia Power would be able to purchase additional hydroelectric energy from Alcor at market rates.

It is important to recognize not only is this meant to replace or greatly lessen the reliance on hydrocarbon-producing coal-burning plants, but it would also establish a dependable price that Nova Scotians have not seen for a period of 35 years. I just heard Liberal Party representatives say that ratepayers are going to be paying the cost, but ratepayers are paying the cost right now of a dependency on coal and bunker C. They are paying it right up the nose and they are paying it every day on their bills.

This was a courageous decision by the government of Nova Scotia, along with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, to begin to actually do something about establishing some stability in rates for ratepayers, while at the same time to deal, and again in a courageous fashion, with environmental and health concerns by the burning and production carbon.

There continues to be naysayers in the province of Nova Scotia and across the country. This deal has been supported by the federal government. It was the right decision to make for not only taxpayers in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador but for all Canadians.

Provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia need to make strides to end their dependence on coal-burning power plants. The provinces do not seem to recognize the fact that the world has a serious climate change problem and Canada has to do its part. One way for Canada to do its part is to deal with how it gets its electricity. For Canada's economy, for the economy of the Atlantic region, it just simply makes sense.

Right now Nova Scotia is at the end of the power grid, or at the end of the line. We can only receive power from one end, and there have been problems in negotiating prices both on the world market and with our neighbours because of that dependence. Now we are going to be in the middle of the loop, between Newfoundland and Labrador, between Muskrat Falls and Quebec. We are going to ensure that we negotiate the best deal for Nova Scotia ratepayers. We are going to continue to deal with our neighbours in Atlantic Canada. We are going to continue to deal with Quebec. Nova Scotia buys power from Hydro-Québec and it will continue to do that. It is another source within a range of sources.

However, this guarantee allows us to ultimately stand up for ourselves, to develop a source of power generation in Atlantic Canada that benefits Atlantic Canadians. It allows us to stand on our own two feet, to continue to develop our economies and contribute to the country as Canadians would expect us to do.

I want to again thank the member opposite for bringing this important motion forward.