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House of Commons Hansard #248 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was syrian.

Topics

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Some want them back.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

I do not think so.

When we focus on what we have gone through in the global economic downturn and we look at how we have come though it, there is a lot to be proud of in what this government has been able to do. Now the rest of the world is looking at Canada as the example of how to make it through and continue to provide a balance between keeping an eye on the bottom line while being able to make strategic investments to help grow our economy.

Since July 2009, we have seen the Canadian economy add over 900,000 jobs. Our employment levels are nearly back to where they were in pre-recession levels. The typical Canadian household now pays more than $3,000 less in tax each year, and seniors pay more than $2,000 less each year. We have reduced the GST to 7% and harmonized the 7% and 5%. It has made a big difference, especially in the province of Ontario, which I represent. We on this side have a lot to be proud of.

The opposition members have continued to criticize what we have done. However, time and time again we have proven them wrong. We continue to deliver for Canadians and the Canadian economy.

One point I would like to highlight with respect to Bill C-60, our budget implementation bill, is the gas tax fund. This has been an important mechanism for municipalities, and in my area, the counties, to continue to deliver on key infrastructure projects. We know that in 2009 our government doubled that from $1 billion to $2 billion, which was a huge investment commitment to our communities. Whether those projects are water, sewer, roads or bridges, it has provided the municipalities with long-term stable funding. It is ironic that at a time when Ontario is clawing back what it provides to rural municipalities, our government, in spite of a deficit and tough economic times, has continued to deliver that funding to our municipalities. With this BIA, we are expanding and indexing that. More importantly, we are expanding the number of areas that can be covered and where we are making investments for municipalities, such as economic development, shipping, whether through water, rail or airports, and broadband, to allow them to continue to develop and grow.

That is a key and important factor for economic development in the municipalities and counties in rural southwestern Ontario. Also, it is important to be able to apply some of that to economic development and tourism in the riding of Huron—Bruce, which from north to south along Lake Huron on the west side is known as Ontario's west coast. It is important that our municipalities can continue to deliver services to American tourists as well as those from the cities, so they can enjoy what we have and, more importantly, drive on safe roads and have safe reliable water and sewer services.

I will provide some information just to give members an idea of the scope and scale dollar-wise that we are able to deliver on.

When our government came into office in 2006, Bruce County received just a little over $600,000 in funding; Huron Country received $582,000; and Central Huron, the municipality within which I live, received $76,000.

In the 2011-12 budget year, the annual investment made by our government into Bruce County had more than tripled, to nearly $2 million from $600,000 just a few years ago. For Huron County it was $1.8 million, and for Central Huron it was $234,000.

The opposition likes to do a lot of talking and criticizing, but the fact is that those are real dollars going into our communities that are helping to make our roads better, our sewers operate at a higher efficiency and our drinking water clean. As we move forward, it would provide great opportunities for the topics I have mentioned in the past. These are all positives.

FCM is strongly behind us, as is the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, AMO. As well, if we look at the average age of our infrastructure, it is coming down from 17 years on average to 14 years. That is delivering.

I have not mentioned the massive commitments we made through the downturn, through RInC and accelerations through the building Canada fund, which helped to get projects on the go. In my riding where there is a huge number of contractors and so forth, it kept them at work and allowed them to make new investments in their machinery and keep people on. I think that really helped deliver, and it is something we can all be proud of, at least on this side of the House.

Another area we need to focus on, which some of my colleagues have touched on, is the commitment to the last post fund. For people watching at home and members in opposition who are listening, I should mention that our government, in the face of recession and economic downturn, maintained our funding to veterans. We did not cut and run, we did not duck, but we maintained our investment and funding to our veterans. Members can go back just a few short years to see the investments we made with the new veterans charter. We completely enhanced it.

I can hear the member for Malpeque pecking away, and usually when the truth and the facts start coming out, his blood pressure starts to go up. He was there 20 years ago when the Liberals went in and slashed benefits to veterans, especially our allied vets, the whole gamut. However I will try to stay focused on the last post fund at this time.

We would double the amount we commit to veterans in need from $3,600 to more than $7,200 a year. This is important because those men and women served us well in World War II and in Korea; they put their lives on the line. When they came back from battle, some had ailments or impairments, which they likely lived with for their entire lives. However, through the hard knocks of life sometimes, maybe the finances did not come out as they would have hoped, which is why we are here for them today, so they can receive a funeral that represents their commitment and sacrifice to the country.

It is a shame, specifically when looking at this, that the opposition would not support this bill just on that alone. It would show the support, that this can be a non-partisan event and that we can all vote together on this BIA to show veterans from one coast to the other that we are all in it together with them on this.

The last post fund runs this program in a highly efficient manner. Every dollar it receives goes toward the program and there is virtually nothing in it for administration. The fund does a great job, and I am very proud that we would be able to deliver and in a way that respects its work.

I previously worked in the manufacturing sector, and I wanted to touch upon the fact that our accelerated capital cost allowance would be renewed for two years at 50% from the previous 30%. Basically, this would allow businesses to make investments right off their machinery in three years instead of nine years, which is hugely important, especially in Ontario because of its manufacturing and industrial base.

I could do a 30-minute speech on all the investments we have made in manufacturing in Ontario and, Mr. Speaker, being from Windsor, you would certainly know of some of those investments that have benefited your region. However, I am sure members of the opposition have a question or two, maybe even the member for Malpeque, and I welcome them.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, is my colleague opposite aware that, on numerous occasions, we have asked to split this legislation to ensure, for example, that provisions affecting the Department of Canadian Heritage would be addressed separately? Does he not believe that it is better to have a public broadcaster as opposed to a state-controlled broadcaster?

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me read a quote the member may be interested in. I know his province also has manufacturing. This is from Jayson Myers, the President and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. It goes on quite a way, but it talks to the last point that I made about the accelerated capital cost. He says, “It creates an incentive because manufacturers will lose these tax savings if they do not continue to invest”. It all—

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Point of order. The member for Huron—Bruce will have to take his chair for a moment.

The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher on a point of order.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to make sure that the interpretation was working because he obviously did not understand a word of my question.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

That is not a point of order. Returning to the member for Huron—Bruce.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, he can flap his gums all he wants over on the other side, but what we are talking about here is what would deliver for Canadians. It would deliver for people in my riding. If he were to get on board, it might even help people in his riding.

We are talking about helping manufacturers. We are talking about getting people back to work. What is he talking about? We have put a billion dollars into the CBC. How much more do you want?

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I would again direct all members to direct their questions and comments to the Chair, not to each other.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Charlottetown.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Huron—Bruce for his comments. I serve with the member on the veterans committee. He is indeed one of the hard-working members of the committee and someone who I think really does have the interests of veterans at heart. This is why some of his remarks with respect to the government's record on veterans are somewhat troubling. When he trumpets the fact that the government says it has maintained funding for veterans, he forgets that there have been more than 800 job cuts. He forgets that there has been a download of services to Service Canada at the very same time that it is making cuts; cuts of 46% in my province. He forgets about the comments that were made by the Auditor General, highly critical of the case management services provided by Veterans Affairs. I would add that my province is the only one that has no case managers. They were all taken out in the last budget.

However, I want to focus on the last post fund. He trumpets the last post fund. My question for the hon. member is this. There have been improvements made in the budget for the last post fund, but two-thirds of all claims are rejected. Of those two-thirds that were rejected prior to these changes, how many of those two-thirds of veterans who were rejected would now receive help under the fund?

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member asked about four or five questions, but one I would like to answer. He did make a point about the efficiencies that have been found within the department. It is not 1972 anymore. It is 2013. We can do things differently. We can do things more efficiently. As taxpayers, we expect that.

I choose to look at the fact that it is 2013 today. We can operate business differently. Up until a few years ago it was almost as if the highest technology Veterans Affairs had from the Liberal legacy was a typewriter. Therefore, we have made the investments. We have gone on our initiative to transform Veterans Affairs. I am proud of that. We are operating in a way that delivers funds to veterans, and they do not get spent on administration.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois members to voice our views on the Conservatives' recent budget.

Although the federal government claimed it would negotiate pragmatic agreements with the Government of Quebec in good faith, instead it is directly attacking Quebec's unique approach with measures announced in budget 2013 and Bill C-60, the budget implementation bill.

I would like to ask the government what happened to negotiating in good faith. Where were the negotiations on the labour program that will deprive Quebec of millions of dollars? Where were the negotiations on abolishing the tax credit for labour-sponsored funds? Where were the negotiations on higher taxes for the Caisses populaires Desjardins, which will wipe out a portion of Quebec members' dividends? Where were the negotiations following the unanimous vote by the National Assembly to retain Quebec's jurisdiction over securities? Where were the negotiations after the National Assembly's unanimous vote to keep Quebec's approach to homelessness? Where were the negotiations following the unanimous vote by the National Assembly against changes to worker training? Where were negotiations following the unanimous vote by the National Assembly against changes to employment insurance? Where were negotiations when the federal government imposed, once again, the “Ottawa knows best” doctrine to the detriment of Quebec's organizations and Quebec's approach? Where were the negotiations with Quebec when the federal government decided to finance the Lower Churchill project? Where were the negotiations with Quebec following the recognition of the Quebec nation?

There are many eloquent examples of conflicts.

Let us talk about employment insurance. As hon. members will recall, previous budgets have chipped away at the very foundation of our social safety net: government services and the old age security program.

Budget implementation Bills C-38 and C-45 were also a direct attack on seasonal workers and the regional economy of some areas of Quebec.

To justify its employment insurance reform, which harshly penalizes the economy in regions like the Lower St. Lawrence and the Gaspé, the government claims that it is trying to connect unemployed workers to available jobs, but really, it is tearing up its labour market agreement with Quebec, which helps unemployed workers find jobs.

In the last couple of budgets, the federal government has been trying to centralize Canada's economic development at the expense of Quebec's land use strategies, the well-being of the people in the regions and regional economic development. The federal government is trying to gradually strip us of our dignity and our pride in our distinct identity.

With last year's budget, it was clear that the Prime Minister was continuing to build his version of Canada based on his values and interests. He proved that there was no room for Quebec to develop within that model. This year's budget is simply more of the same.

Budget 2013 is a direct attack on the way Quebec does things. As for labour market issues, Ottawa will take away millions of dollars from Quebec that helped the unemployed find jobs.

In its place, the federal government is pushing a program that will force employers and the Quebec government to provide more money if they want the federal government to contribute. In order to hand out cheques with the maple leaf on them, the federal government is ready to axe initiatives that are working well.

Ottawa also wants to bring in a new formula whereby the federal government, the provinces and employers would put in up to $5,000 each to train workers. Although worker training falls under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government is stubbornly forging ahead, to the detriment of our financial services industry. The Quebec Minister of Finance has also criticized this.

Now I would like to talk about labour-sponsored funds. The elimination of the labour-sponsored funds tax credit is another direct attack on Quebec and its workers.

In addition to impoverishing people who are trying to save for their retirement, the federal government is also going to deprive Quebec SMEs of a key economic lever. Labour-sponsored funds are an integral part of Quebec's economic organization, as demonstrated by the fact that $312 million of the $355 million Ottawa plans to take away from workers will be from Quebec.

The Chantier de l'économie sociale has strongly criticized the abolition of the federal tax credit for labour-sponsored venture capital corporations, such as the Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Fondaction CSN. Quebeckers, including unionized workers, use these funds as savings vehicles and commit to helping develop Quebec businesses, such as social economy businesses.

Bill C-60 again includes provisions on securities, as mentioned in the latest budget. The federal government is extending the mandate of the Canadian Securities Transition Office and still insists on creating a Canada-wide securities commission, despite clear decisions from the Quebec Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

In response to the federal government's budget, the Government of Quebec said, “Allowing the federal government to insinuate itself in securities regulation, which is within Québec’s exclusive jurisdiction, is out of the question.”

We have long known that Canada's Minister of Finance dreams of getting his hands on Quebec securities. Even after he was turned down by the Quebec National Assembly and the Supreme Court of Canada, the minister has not concealed his intentions to interfere in Quebec's key financial sector.

I would like to talk about homelessness and how the government does not respect Quebec's way of doing things. In its latest budget, the federal government said it supports the housing first approach, which could threaten community-based, universal homelessness initiatives that currently respond to very real needs in Quebec.

According to the Réseau Solidarité itinérance du Québec, all of the support services for some 50,000 people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless are in jeopardy as a result of the federal government's new policy. The federal government's actions on homelessness are worrisome. In addition to reducing funding, Ottawa wants to impose its housing first approach, which will force Quebec to sacrifice its expertise and the programs tailored to its needs. The National Assembly unanimously denounced Ottawa's attitude and asked that the homelessness strategy be redesigned according to the existing model and in compliance with Quebec's policies.

The Bloc Québécois thinks that the federal government's approach is unacceptable. It could severely hamper the work that people have done over the years on this issue. It would disregard the expertise that has been developed over time to reach the people in need most effectively. This is a direct attack on Quebec's way of doing things.

I would now like to talk about health transfers and social programs. Budget 2013 is one step closer to a $36 billion reduction in federal health transfers. It will have devastating consequences on Quebec's finances because it imposes new agreements for equalization, health transfers and social programs and withdraws money transferred to Quebec for worker training. This is essentially a slap in the face for Quebec. To achieve a zero deficit, the Conservatives, like the Liberals before them, are lobbing the deficit into Quebec's court. Budget 2013 ushers in fiscal imbalance once again.

For all these reasons, and many others, the Bloc Québécois will not support the next federal budget, a budget that is unfair to Quebec, takes aim at Quebec and takes away some of its fundamental powers.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, we in the NDP have considerable concerns about the budget implementation act. In particular, I would like to bring up the issue of the direct control that the government is now going to have over crown agencies that it often describes as third party or at arm's length to the government. It seems as though the arms are getting shorter with each passing month here in Ottawa.

I wonder if my colleague would speak to the concern that many of us have around the fact that the government has now, in a sense, placed itself in control over the agreements that the CBC and other agencies may make with their unionized and non-unionized employees.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

Basically, the government is trying to interfere in various ways in the internal policies of crown corporations. This is not the first time the government has done that; it has done so in the past. That is clear once again today, and in other recent events. Among other things, the government wants to be involved in the CBC.

As members may recall, the CBC's new code of ethics, imposed by the federal government less than a year ago, may also be dangerous, since it infringes on journalistic freedom and integrity.

The government now wants to interfere in collective agreements, which is completely unacceptable. Crown corporations must remain at arm's length from the government to remain independent.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague across the way for his speech. Although we know that he does not support the government's budget, which is no surprise since he is part of the Bloc Québécois, there are measures in the budget that are good.

I would like to ask him about one of the points in the budget and how important it is to his municipality. Every time I go to the gas station and fill up my car or my truck, there is about a 10-cent excise tax. That 10 cents that the governments collect gets transferred back through the provinces to the municipalities.

The fuel tax rebate is a major thing for our municipalities, as we heard from the member for Huron—Bruce. It has tripled over the last number of years. Municipalities now know that they are going to be receiving that much.

What it also does is allow the municipalities to borrow, knowing that the money is coming. The budget would also implement a measure that would not only guarantee that it is going to happen but that it would be indexed, so that as inflation goes, municipalities know that the indexed amount will be there to help.

Could the member tell me how important that is to the municipalities in his constituency?

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his excellent question.

He is right. The government's infrastructure program is very helpful to municipalities. As a mayor in my former life, I was able to benefit from the program and passed that on to my municipality.

This program helps municipalities complete infrastructure work within a reasonable time frame. However, the problem is that the numbers announced in the last Conservative government budget were shared with municipalities in 2010. Now it has become a permanent program, but the new money that we would have liked to see added to the program is not there.

Unfortunately, there is no money for 2013. There is just $203 million on top of the $53 billion for 2014. There is only $203 million for 2015. In fact, municipalities will have access to all of the money only after the 2015 election.

The government is being proactive, but the majority of the money will be available for use only after 2015.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House again and to speak in support not only of the budget but also of Bill C-60, which is the budget implementation bill. It lays out the measures the Conservative government will bring forward in the economic action plan for 2013 and onward.

One of the reasons why I am pleased to stand and speak to the budget bill is the amount of work that we did in the riding of Crowfoot. Prior to the budget being given, we had meetings throughout the riding at Strathmore Town Hall and other town halls where constituents came together to say what they believed was important to have in the budget. I am going to talk a little more about how some of those ideas have been moved here and how our Minister of Finance and our government are implementing some of those ideas that come from back home and from many different constituencies across this country.

I believe, first of all, that this is a very positive blueprint, a very positive strategy as to how we believe the Canadian economy must be advanced and built. We would be strengthening the economy in a number of ways through this budget implementation bill.

First of all, we would be helping manufacturers to buy new equipment through tax relief. We would be helping small business create more jobs with the hiring credit. We would be helping our municipalities rebuild roads and bridges with record new support in infrastructure, and there is much more.

This budget builds on the work our Conservative government has been doing since forming government in 2006. We are working to create an economy that will build jobs. It is not that our government is going to create jobs; we are going to create an environment in which small and medium-sized businesses can create jobs and make certain that those families that now have jobs will be able to keep more of their money in their pockets.

Canada has been quite successful. We have over 900,000 net new jobs since the depths of this recession took place. More than 90% of those 900,000 jobs that have been created are full-time jobs, contrary to what many of the opposition members say when they say that these are the wrong kinds of jobs, part-time jobs, just not the right kinds of jobs. Some 80% of the jobs are in the private sector. This is not job creation through continuing to expand the size of government. The majority, 80%, are in the private sector.

Canada has a very good record as far as job creation goes. In fact, we have the best record of the seven most industrialized countries in the world, the G7. The International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development project that Canada's growth will be among the strongest in the G7 for a number of years going forward.

For the fifth straight year, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world. Canada has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7. Canada is one of the few countries that still has the Triple A credit rating. Our combined national debt to gross domestic product ratio remains the lowest in the G7 by far. Why? It is because there is a plan and a strategy. The strategy in the past five years has been working, and the strategy moving forward is building on that and will continue to work, although the opposition feels somewhat concerned because the statistics that are coming out are exactly what Canadians, including my constituents, want to hear.

The opposition members call for more spending—spend, spend, spend—and they have the tax increases to pay for their spending. I am not going to talk much about the $20 billion or $21 billion carbon tax they are discussing, but they have an idea on how government can be expanded, how government can get bigger, and they would love to see that happen.

One of the reasons I am pleased with this budget is that government expansion is not going to happen under this watch. Opposition members would expand government and add to the national debt. What happens to countries that take that route? What happens to countries that choose to go down that road?

Canadians do not have to just sit back and surmise what may happen. We can take a look at what did happen in Europe. Governments burdened their citizens with unmanageable annual budgetary deficits, massive accumulated debt, huge and paralyzing government bureaucracies. What about unemployment in some of those countries? Unemployment in the eurozone tops 12%. In some of the countries, it is much higher than 12%.

Our Conservative government understands that Canadians want us to continue to emphasize the importance of maintaining Canada's strong fiscal position, especially during current difficult global economic times. To be quite frank, that is one of the major reasons we were elected. One of the reasons we were elected to a majority government is they understood this Prime Minister is the Prime Minister Canadians want to see, especially at a time when the global economy is in turmoil. Canadians want that type of leadership. Canadians know that our Prime Minister and Minister of Finance have built a stellar reputation for Canada in the international marketplace. Canadians want a stable government, one that is capable of making decisions, sometimes swiftly, and implementing them.

For many years I have heard from my constituents in all corners of the riding of Crowfoot that I represent about the importance of balancing our books. My constituents want our federal government to operate without having to borrow money to pay for a deficit every year. My constituents are farmers, ranchers and small business operators. The gas and oil sector is major in my riding of Crowfoot, but we also have a tourism industry in Drumheller and the Canadian badlands that is somewhat seasonal.

All of the families in my riding, from smaller towns, villages and cities, are all very careful in how they operate, and they want to balance their budgets around their kitchen table. That is the type of discussion they have. How are we going to be able to pass this farm on to the next generation? How can we operate within a balanced budget?

Our government is on track to balance the budget. One of the things that made me very pleased in the last budget speech was when our Minister of Finance rose and said, “...before I proceed, I need to make one thing very clear. It is simply this. Our government is committed to balancing the budget in 2015.” When he stood and said that, a burden was lifted off my shoulders, because that was the message that my constituents wanted to hear.

On page 12 of the budget there is a chart that says in 2012-13 there is a projected deficit of just over $25 billion; in 2013-14 we will have a deficit of $18.7 billion; in 2014-15 we will have a deficit of over $6 billion; and by 2015 we will be at a surplus of almost $1 billion. In the two years after the budgetary surplus, it is projected to grow by $4 billion and then $5 billion.

How are we projecting? We see the official opposition coming forward with these budgets with nothing costed, nothing planned out and nothing on paper. We have a very concise strategy that has worked in the past, is working now and will continue to work in the future.

From 2006-08, our government paid down approximately $37 billion in debt. When the global recession hit, we made a deliberate decision to run temporary deficits to protect the Canadian economy, and that plan worked.

We have helped create over 900,000 net new jobs, and we are on track to come back to balanced budgets. At the same time, we are doing things. The deficit reduction action plan is recognizing that we want to quickly come to balanced budgets.

We have an ongoing effort to control government spending. We work continuously to eliminate wasteful and inefficient spending. In total, our government implemented measures that will reduce the deficit by over $15 billion per year in 2014, 2015 and beyond.

Economic action plan 2013 announced saving measures that will total $2 billion by 2015-16, such as examining departmental spending to make sure we are operating efficiently, reducing travel costs, modernizing the production and distribution of government publications, and standardizing government information technology to reduce costs. We are closing tax loopholes. We are improving compliance programs to reduce tax evasion.

These are some of the things that this book of 300-plus pages lays out for Canadians to hear and see. Again, it is a pleasure to speak to this budget, and we look forward to all support on this budget.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with fascination once again to the revisionist history that comes from the Conservative benches on what caused the global crisis. The Conservatives would purport that it was social programs in Europe that crushed the world economy when in fact it was the deregulation of the banking sector and irresponsible speculation in Ireland, Iceland and Goldman Sachs in the United States. That is the record. The fact that there was not clear regulation in place was what caused it. I find it disturbing that my colleague was attempting to claim that it was social programs in Europe that destroyed it. I see the continual attack on social programs in this country, which the current government is carrying out.

My hon. colleague talks about the fact that the Conservatives are good fiscal managers. We just had the Auditor General's report in which he said that the current government has no ability to account for $3.1 billion in spending. When Jean Chrétien said he lost $1 million and it was no big deal, the Reform backbenchers went crazy on it. They were jumping up and down in their seats. Now they cannot account for $3.1 billion. There is no trust in this government among the Canadian public.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

May 7th, 2013 / noon

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think do not I see a quorum.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. It would appear that there is quorum in the House.

The hon. member for Crowfoot, with a response.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see everyone rushing in to catch the tail end of this speech. I appreciate that.

I was just going back through my notes again. If I left the hon. member with the impression that I am saying that Europe and the social programs were the cause for this recession, that is not what I said. I said that it was the issues in Europe and certainly in the United States, the housing markets and the banking industry. In fact, I went on and spoke about the sound banking that we have in this country, and that goes back years to other governments as well that laid out certain regulations for our banking industry. I certainly do not want to leave the member with the impression that I in any way said that it was social programs in Europe. I did not say that in my speech.

However, I would like to speak on the other point that this member brought forward. The Auditor General was very clear. He went back 10 years on the books, looked and asked if this $3 billion was from this file or that file. The Auditor General was clear that there was no money missing. It was out of the terrorism file, and going back to the former Liberal government of 2001 when all of a sudden we were thrown into quick responses on the terrorism file. Some things maybe were taken out of other departments. However, the Auditor General said that no money is missing.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, last week the government quietly tabled a report, and it was interesting where it stated that the government reduced the number of employees from 278,092 to 262,902 from March 31 to December 31 of last year. Of the more than 15,000 jobs that were eliminated, 8,000 were full-time indeterminate positions, a reduction of about 3%. The remaining roughly 7,000 positions that were eliminated were for students and casual, or term, employees, the report indicated. The document, an annual report by the Prime Minister on the public service, shows students and casual employees, often women and younger members of the workforce, took the biggest hit.

My question for the member is in regard to providing services to Canadians; that on the one hand, the government puts a high priority on this sort of targeting, and then on the other hand, the Prime Minister feels it is necessary to increase the number of politicians in the House of Commons—

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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please.

The hon. member for Crowfoot.

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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am quite pleased to see that the public service is being reduced in some way. As much as we can do will be done through attrition. That is, it will be done through retirements. Some of the student layoffs and some of those things that the member makes reference to, although I have not seen the report, very well could be in temporary types of jobs as the employees are between college and another initiative.

However, this budget would bring forward a Canadian job grant that would be remarkable for students. It would allow them to retain a skill where governments and businesses help with the funding. Students today are excited about this because the studies that they will be taking will prepare them for the market and for jobs. That is what they want above anything else.

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NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise to speak against the budget before us, both on content and on process.

Here we go again. We have a massive budget bill, over 100 pages, impacting innumerable statutes and bills that need to be debated in this House.

My colleagues seem to find this funny. It is not about being able to read. I can assure them I have learned to read at a fairly fast pace and comprehend. It is about Canadians' rights to have the budget debated in this House for transparency and for discussion. It is about giving duly elected members of Parliament an opportunity to do their jobs as elected officials by providing debate and discussion, and asking questions. That is what is being denied once again in this House.

On content, the budget does very little, if anything, to grow jobs for Canadians. It does even less to protect the jobs that exist for Canadians. It does very little to address the major challenges facing everyday Canadian families as they struggle to make ends meet.

The Conservatives are trying to say that they can just rush through the bill, maybe because they really believe there is not much in the bill and they have a lot to hide. Maybe they are too scared to have Canadians look at the bill and know that there are no job creation measures, that there is nothing to make life more affordable and nothing to strengthen the services families rely on. Once again, the government is trying to avoid public scrutiny of the measures it is trying to ram through this House at breakneck speed.

I also want to take the opportunity today to talk a little about an area that really impacts on immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism.

First, the bill continues a pattern with which the government has made us all too familiar. It just keeps concentrating more and more power in the hands of the ministers so they do not have to come back into this House in a parliamentary democracy to have what they are trying to do examined in any way.

The government has made a complete mess of the temporary foreign worker program. We have seen it over and over again in the media, whether it is HD Mining in B.C.; the backlog of the live-in caregiver program, which the minister himself addressed and is facing major problems and needs major overhaul; or the temporary foreign worker program that is currently under scrutiny because of the outsourcing of jobs at RBC. Despite all of that media attention on it, what actions has the government really taken?

Canadians were doing jobs that workers were brought in to do, but Canadians were then asked, “By the way, before you leave, can you train these new workers?” Once again, Canadians are being denied Canadian jobs.

Over the last two weeks, several individuals have contacted my office to tell the same story. They were brought to Canada as skilled workers, only to lose their jobs once they acquired permanent residency, or were let go just before they qualified to apply for permanent residency, and therefore a new batch of temporary foreign workers could be brought in.

Over the last number of weeks we have heard again and again about staggering abuses. The accelerated labour market opinions, only ever meant for highly skilled workers, were used and abused in a way that once again shocked Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Intra-company transfers were an abuse of the system in a massive way. Where are the investigations for all of these and where are the fixes?

The government, by the way, has had an opportunity—no, several opportunities over several years—to fix the temporary foreign worker program. There was, again, an opportunity with this bill, but rather than actually fixing a program that is wrought with flaws, a program that desperately needs an entire overhaul to function and be administered properly, the Conservatives slap band-aids on the holes, but only once they are exposed.

Faulty LMOs are being doled out. It is not a problem for the government. It simply gives the minister the power to suspend or revoke work permits that have already been handed out, but only if they are caught and there is public oversight. Once again, this is being done at the same time that the government is cutting funding to CIC and, therefore, limiting the kind of oversight that can be done over these files, over the granting of LMOs and the granting of the permits that go along with them.

Rather than addressing the full scope of the problems with this program, the Conservatives' band-aid in this case is another ministerial override when work permits and labour market opinions that have already been approved by them—and this is post-approval, by the way—become political hot potatoes. It is all political expediency and a public relations exercise. This bill's improvements would not get to the heart of the mismanagement of the temporary foreign worker program under the Conservative government.

Next, this bill introduces privilege fees to be set out in regulations for employers that apply for work permits. The minister has announced that this fee would be in addition to the new fees announced in budget 2013 for servicing TFW applications. The intention of the new fee, apparently, is to act as a disincentive for unnecessary use of the program. Of course, given the government's record to date, there is no assurance that these fees would not be passed on to the temporary foreign workers themselves and there is no measure anywhere cited to ensure that they would not be.

The government is now trying to fix problems it created. The last time it tried to fix problems, it allowed employers to pay up to 15% less and, guess what, there was a massive denial of that in the House. Then, outside at a press conference, the minister said that program was gone. The ALMO, which was hastily implemented and then not administered, with very little oversight and abuse, was allowed to happen and has been suspended temporarily—and I would say it was allowed to happen because the ALMOs that were granted went way beyond the parameters that were set out for this particular program.

Once again, I want to say that we in the NDP are not opposed to a temporary foreign worker program that addresses the legitimate needs of skills shortages and acute labour shortages where no Canadians are available to do the work. That is what we stand for and yet, instead of protecting Canadian jobs and addressing the abuses that are happening, the government is once again looking for band-aid solutions.

Forgive my skepticism, but we learned only yesterday that the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development completely disregarded a briefing note that told her of almost 3,000 inappropriate uses of the TFW program almost a year ago. Yet a few weeks ago ministers and parliamentary secretaries all feigned surprise and said they moved quickly as soon as they found out there was a problem. In the world I live in, over a year or year and a half of waiting does not indicate that they took action quickly.

This bill would also deny due process to refugees, and I want to mention that. There are all kinds of fees that the minister would no longer have to come to the House to put into place. New Democrats have major concerns about the lack of transparency of the usage of those fees.