House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.


Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario


Bernard Trottier ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to rise to speak to Bill C-43, the budget implementation act, no. 2. This is a budget that we introduced in February. We have been talking about this budget for almost nine months and it is time to get it passed. It is a good idea to get budgets passed in the year they are introduced and then we can think about the next budget in 2015. I know sometimes the opposition would like to extend the debate on this for several more months, but it is time for us to get acting on this, with some very important measures for the fiscal health of the country.

First I want to talk about the benefits of balanced budgets. This is the framework we are working within when we talk about this budget. There are obviously tax measures here, but also spending measures. Combined with the good measures we have taken over the last few years, they brought us us to a point where we are looking at balanced budgets again in 2015. That is very important.

I also want to talk about small businesses because they are so important. Many jobs are created in our country because of small business. Some small businesses become very successful and become larger businesses, but they are engines of growth and for employment. There are some very important measures in the BIA, the budget implementation act, to support small business.

I also want to talk about support for students, and getting young people their first jobs. Youth employment is always a challenge in every country in the world, and Canada has done a better job than most countries when it comes to youth employment, so I want to talk about that.

The last item that has given a real framework within the BIA, no. 2, is the DNA missing persons index. I want to talk about that. We have not spent enough time talking about it in the debate. I noted that some of my colleagues opposite wanted to deviate from the actual content of Bill C-43 and wanted to talk about things that were outside the budget, but I want to focus my comments on the budget.

When it comes to the benefits of balanced budgets, on this side of the House we understand how important it is. We are the only G7 country that has a rock solid AAA credit rating. That is important because it keeps our interest rates low. When we have lower interest rates, it means we pay less in interest costs. It means we have more fiscal capacity to do other things. It frees up taxpayer dollars that are otherwise spent on interest payments. We can spend money on programs instead. The major credit rating agencies, Moody's, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch, all gave us that AAA rating. It is something a lot of other countries, including G7 countries, do not have. We are very proud of that, and it is because we have made sound fiscal decisions in the last few years to give us that AAA credit rating.

The other benefit of that strong credit rating is it gives us an environment where business has confidence to invest and create jobs. It also gives consumers confidence when it comes to buying homes, to buying other real property and making investments that stimulate activity in the economy.

It also strengthens our ability to respond to emergencies. Because we have some fiscal capacity, we can adapt to global shocks.

We can also prepare for an aging population. The reality is we are going to have some challenges in the coming years and because of the wise decisions we have been making since 2006, and especially since we have had a majority government since 2011, we have really wrestled with the issue of balancing the books.

It is also a fairness inequity when it comes to generations. It is a responsibility for us, as parliamentarians and legislators, to not leave our children's generation and our grandchildren with a debt that we accumulate. It is very important that those people who are not old enough to vote today should not be burdened with a debt that our generation creates.

I will just mention a couple of relevant statistics.

In 2014, Canada's net debt to GDP ratio was less than 40%, which is the lowest among G7 countries, by quite far in fact. Germany is the second lowest at only 52.2% and the G7 average is about 87%. That is a measure of our fiscal strength, the fact that our debt compared to the economy's ability to sustain is really an important metric.

Overall since 2010, we have taken many actions on the spending side of things. We have reduced spending since 2010 by over $19 billion a year. Those kinds of things do not happen by accident. Budgets do not balance themselves. This is because of the very strong measures we have taken to control spending in the federal government, and that is what has given us this room and has also given us this balanced budget.

This is unlike the previous Liberal government. The Liberals had a majority government for 13 years and they had all kinds of ability to do things with their budgets, but they chose to drastically reduce transfers to the provinces: the Canada health transfer, the Canada social transfer, all kinds of transfers to the provinces. They also they reduced transfers to individuals.

We are not doing that in our budget. We have not done it in any of our budgets. In fact, we have increased transfers to the provinces to almost $65 billion in 2014-15, which is a 50% increase since 2006.

We are balancing the budget, but unlike the Liberals, we are not doing it on the backs of the provinces. That is a very important thing to state.

The previous debater from the NDP talked about the reductions in the Canada health transfer. That is completely untrue. I will give the example of Ontario, where the Canada health transfer has been increasing by 6% per year, but Ontario has only been increasing its health spending by 2% a year. In other words, it has been using the annual increases in the Canada health transfer, pocketing the 4% difference and using it for other programs.

We have made an adjustment to the funding formula based on input from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which showed that there would be declines in health care spending in all provinces because of better health management within the provinces and because of technology. There are significant administrative costs going down because of technology, but also because the cost of diagnostic equipment is going down. This is resulting in a different way to transfer money to the provinces for health care.

I am going to talk about small business. I know I do not have that much time, but it is a very important topic.

We reduced the small business tax rate some time ago, from 12% to 11%, so all small businesses have benefited from that.

However, the thing that small businesses talk about more than anything is payroll costs. They talk a lot about utility costs in Ontario, but payroll costs are a big challenge for them. We froze EI premiums, and small businesses were very thankful for that. We then took a step further for smaller businesses that pay less than $15,000 a year. We reduced that by a further 15%, and they are very thankful for that. When this was announced, the CFIB said:

This announcement is fantastic news for Canada’s entrepreneurs and their employees, and as such, can only be a positive for the Canadian economy.

It is interesting. When they get that extra cash, what do small businesses want to do? They want to grow their business. Sometimes that means adding hours. Sometimes it means hiring new people. Sometimes it means investing in new technology to increase productivity. It could also mean training employees. Ultimately, it is up to each small business to decide what it wants to do with those benefits.

This is on top of all of the other things we have done to help small business. The lifetime capital gains exemption is a big deal, and we raised that significantly in the last few years. In this budget, we would increase that to $800,000 for a lifetime. This is very important for small businesses who want to transfer their businesses, typically within their own family, but to other individuals as well. This is the exemption they can have, the reward they have for growing their business.

The other things that we are doing, which are detailed in the budget, include cutting red tape for small business. This is one of the things that is really a drag on small business. The number that has been given, and has been verified, is over 800,000 payroll remittances by 50,000 small and medium-sized businesses will be eliminated. It is a real step up for small business when we can remove that red tape.

Overall, we are significantly reducing their taxes.

I would like to talk about support for students, because there are significant measures.

We have launched the Canada job grant, but the important category of students is the apprentices. There are significant measures there. When we look at the apprenticeship incentive grant, the apprenticeship completion grant and the tradesperson tools deduction, there are all kinds of things that really get people into the trades where they can get those jobs.

If we look at other measures that have been extended in this budget, the youth employment strategy would go up from $300 million to $330 million a year. That is very significant.

In the time I have remaining, I would like to talk about the DNA-based missing persons index, because it is such an important measure. This budget implementation act gives the framework for that, with $8.1 million to create a DNA-based missing persons index. This would be a very valuable tool for investigators, for coroners and for law enforcement agencies to find missing people and to investigate crimes. We have created these indices now, through this BIA, which would give the structure for the DNA profiles, ensuring it is used effectively and has the budget behind it, and the rules for how to use that index. It is a very important measure, and I am proud of our government.

It is a terrific budget, it is the right budget for Canada and I hope all members will support it.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to give my colleague credit for a very thoughtful speech. He gave some very specific examples as to why he thought the budget implementation bill was a good one, from his perspective.

There are things that trouble us, and it is not just the process. He will be glad that I will not talk about the omnibus aspect of the bill. It has been well stated and people will understand why we are against it. However, there are a couple of things that trouble us on the revenue side. It came up in question period today. The government has been unable to invest its own appropriations. People should note this because it is very important.

The government goes to Parliament every year to ask for money to appropriate. It has not been able to invest the money that has been appropriated to it. From where I come from, the son of a public servant, that means it has failed to fulfill its mandate. Therefore, I am questioning the validity of the budget, based on the government's performance to invest the moneys that have been appropriated to government. Does he have a comment about that? Does he actually understand and is he concerned about the money?

My colleague from Nova Scotia said it well. We have so many people in desperate need, particularly veterans. By the way, the word “veterans” does not appear in the document, on my read of it anyway. Is he not concerned about that? Where is he in terms of what government's role is to invest the money that is being appropriated? After all, that is what a budget is about. It is about what government wants and needs to do its work.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to talk about the business of supply, because that really was what the question was about. We get appropriations. This goes back centuries. That is the way our system works. The Crown has to ask Parliament to spend money. The Crown then gets that appropriation. Certain things happen. For example, money does not get spent when there is a delay in the approval of a construction project. That means the appropriations get carried over to the next year. However, the Crown has to ask once again through the estimates process to appropriate the funds.

That happens across department to department where for various reasons the money does not get spent. It does not mean the government is not doing its job. There are just certain realities when it comes to project based spending in particular, where a gate is not achieved so the money does not get spent. It does not mean there is no intention to spend it. It just has to do with the timing of that spending.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too thought the member made a thoughtful speech.

Usually, when a government is looking at a surplus, there is an allocation among debt, tax reductions and program spending. It is usually set out as some sort of percentage for each. We certainly heard lately how the government intended to reduce taxes through its income splitting concept. However, we have not heard anything about whether the government intends to pay any of the $160 billion to $170 billion that it has borrowed over the last six to eight years toward debt reduction.

We certainly have not heard about any program spending. To pick up on the hon. member's comments about lapsing, the military has effectively had its budget cut by $3 billion or $4 billion, much of which has been lapsing year over year over year. It has taken lapsing almost to an art form.

Would the hon. member comment on whether the government is prepared to commit to percentages between debt reduction, tax cuts and program spending?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the member is talking about this year's budget or next year's budget, but if he is talking about spending the surplus that would be next year.

We are going through a consultation process. I know the Minister of Finance is consulting with stakeholders across the country. The finance committee is doing those consultations also. I am actually doing some of those consultations with stakeholders in my community and getting their thoughts.

Predicting what next year's budget would look like in terms of a percentage allocation is a bit of a mug's game. However, there will certainly be some mix of debt reduction, debt relief and some new programs.

In this year's budget there is such a long host of new spending programs in all different areas. When we went through the recession of 2008-09, we had to really trim some spending, so the last few budgets have really introduced some new spending in some very important areas. One I will just mention specifically is the infrastructure program. It is very important for Toronto, for Scarborough—Guildwood as well as for Etobicoke—Lakeshore. We are working with communities to make significant investments in infrastructure now.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, before us today is Bill C-43, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014.

This is yet another mammoth bill. It is 450 pages long and contains 400 clauses that affect more than a dozen laws. Clearly, the opposition is not deluded about the future of this bill. As with the bills before it, the debate on this bill is already subject to a time allocation motion. This is the 80th time the government has used this tactic, and in the end this bill will pass very quickly, just as the others did.

When Bill C-38 was introduced, we moved 500 amendments because the 600-page bill contained dozens of laws. I remember quite well that the government did not accept any of those amendments. We know what is going to happen with the bill before us.

To set the stage, I would like to quote from a National Post editorial about a previous omnibus bill.

Not only does this make a mockery of the confidence convention, shielding bills that would otherwise be defeatable [in the House]...We’ve no idea whether MPs supported or opposed any particular bill in the bunch, only that they voted for the legislation that contained them. There is no common thread that runs between them, no overarching principle; they represent...a sort of compulsory buffet.

The government was trying to get us to pass its legislative agenda in one fell swoop, and that is the case again today.

Among the measures included in this bill is the proposal to deny social assistance to refugee claimants, an idea that was brought forward by a backbencher on the other side of the House. The bill also includes hiring credits for small businesses.

I could list all of the laws affected by this bill, but I will stop at those two. We cannot look at this bill without looking at the overall context of the Conservative administration.

Is the economy doing better since the Conservatives came to power? Every week, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance throws some figures at us: 1 million jobs here; 400,000 jobs there; 300,000 unemployed workers here; 200,000 unemployed workers there. People no longer know which figures are true and which have been manipulated.

I looked into whether the economy was doing better in my riding and whether families were better off and people were less poor. On October 17, I participated in the Nuit des sans-abri. I do not know whether my colleagues opposite participate in this event. It involves spending one night with the homeless and talking to them about their lives for 24 hours. I have been doing this for 10 years. I spent the night with them again this year, and I did not notice that there were fewer homeless people. On the contrary, there were more.

However, I did notice that the organizations that work with the homeless suffered budget cuts this year, including an organization that focuses on getting homeless youth into the job market and back to school. This organization lost $400,000 in funding from the skills link program, a federal program that is supposed to support social integration.

Just today, the CBC mentioned a report by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness stating that the $2 billion currently being invested in social and affordable housing in Canada is not enough to meet the needs of the 35,000 people who sleep on the streets every day or the 235,000 who sleep on the streets every year.

According to the think tank, the government needs to invest $1.7 billion more in affordable housing per year to eliminate homelessness in Canada. It would cost each Canadian $0.88 a week to ensure that people are not sleeping in the streets and to make ours a society where a degree of social justice reigns. At the same time, for every $10 invested in social and affordable housing, we save $21 in health care costs because people who end up in the streets eventually end up in hospital with serious health needs. That is a huge cost for society.

When I took part in homelessness awareness night, I did not see fewer homeless people. I saw people who were having a hard time and needed organizations. I also saw organizations that had just had their funding cut. To me, that is just as important an economic indicator as the GDP.

I also want to talk about the number of people who use food banks. In my riding, many people do. Again, is the economy doing well? There are more and more people using food banks. If the economy were doing so well and the mammoth budget implementation bills that keep getting introduced provided something practical for ordinary Canadians, that number would go down.

On the contrary, the number increased by 25% between 2008 and 2013. That means that there are 25% more people in my riding using food banks. Often these people work part time for minimum wage. They are forced to use food banks to feed their children. That is what the economy looks like under the Conservatives, and I would dare say under the Liberals as well.

Currently, every month, 80,000 new people use food banks in Canada. In the measures proposed today and for some time now, I have not seen anything that would improve this economic indicator. Indeed, that is what it is.

I also want to talk about unemployment. Good jobs are rare, and not just since 2009. Since the crisis, we have lost a number of industry jobs, which have been replaced with part-time jobs.

I read the Parliamentary Budget Officer's response regarding employment insurance funding and the recent related measures. I am not sure whether my colleagues across the way read it, but I doubt it, because this document takes a hard look at the employment insurance situation and how the EI-funded hiring credit will cost us jobs. The EI premium freeze cost us jobs, and every job created will cost us $500,000.

I would like to congratulate the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I know that the Conservatives were not very fond of Mr. Page because he pointed out that purchasing the F-35s was foolish. Nor did they like the subsequent report on the sustainability of old age security, which actually is sustainable. They will surely not like this report.

The Prime Minister probably thought it was a good idea to replace the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I believe that he made a good decision when he appointed Mr. Fréchette, who is doing a great job. I encourage all parliamentarians to read this report. It is a fantastic document that shows that the Conservatives are poor public administrators and that they will have to be replaced sooner or later.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:35 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am going to pick up on the point about terrible management. I think it is highlighted by the small business job credit program. This is something the Conservative government has come up with and has flagged it as a strong, healthy policy for small businesses in Canada.

The government was presented with an alternative that would be more effective. It would generate literally tens of thousands of additional jobs and would be far more cost efficient. It is not just the Liberal Party that is saying this. Other stakeholders are saying this. What I am referring to is the EI premium exemption, whereby employers from all across Canada that hired a new employee would be entitled to a tax break on their EI.

Would the member not agree that the government should be more open to other parties' ideas, and where those ideas make sense, should actually act on them?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:35 p.m.


Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the Liberal member giving the Liberal vision for the use of the employment insurance fund.

Unfortunately for him and fortunately for the NDP, we believe that this money belongs to the unemployed. I invite him to read the Parliamentary Budget Officer's response. He even suggested other ways to use the EI surplus, but only to help the unemployed.

With the $3 billion surplus, we could have expanded the program to 130,000 additional workers, which would have increased the percentage of workers with access to employment insurance from 39.5% to 51%. At present, only 39% of workers have access to employment insurance.

We could also have reduced the number of hours required to be eligible for benefits. That would have been a good move. We could have increased workers' benefits. Instead of paying them 55% of their salary, we would have had the means to pay them 68% of their salary. However, the government prefers to pay other bills with this money.

Unemployed workers' money belongs to them.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

October 30th, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.


Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague. He raised some important points about wealth indicators in Canada.

For example, in my riding, Sherbrooke is one of the big cities with the highest quality of life in Canada. Even so, there are food banks that can no longer meet the demand. There are homeless people and single-parent families looking for affordable housing.

That means we also have to consider the social fabric of a big country like ours. We have to come up with economic measures that will enable everyone to participate in Canada's economic growth. However, in this budget, the Conservative government seems to have forgotten about a large segment of the Canadian population.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:40 p.m.


Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the surplus in the employment insurance fund. Premiums were frozen at $1.88 per $100 even though they should be $1.65 per $100. That has a negative impact and will eliminate 2,000 jobs.

The Conservatives froze premiums and are bringing in a credit that will create 200 jobs at a cost of $500,000 each.

Do they realize how little sense that approach makes? Can they see that the people pushing for these measures have no clue and no managerial competence?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:40 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I rose earlier this year to speak to the budget, I began by thanking our friend Jim Flaherty for his work, on behalf of the people of Kitchener—Conestoga whom I remain privileged to represent. He managed one of the toughest portfolios in government through some of the worst challenging times in recent history. Looking back, I am very glad that I took that opportunity to pay tribute to Jim. Canadians are, indeed, indebted to him for his prudent fiscal leadership.

Looking forward, Bill C-43, the second budget implementation bill, would continue to move Canada forward along the road to balance, creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians. I am grateful to our new Minister of Finance, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, for his commitment to Canada's ongoing prosperity.

Contrary to a belief held by the third party in the House, budgets do not simply balance themselves. The previous Liberal government had to slash transfer payments to the provinces—much-needed funds for health care, post-secondary education, and social assistance—in order to balance the books. The current Liberal leader seems to feel the previous Liberal government cut support for health care just for fun, if he really believes that budgets will balance themselves. This government would bring the budget back into balance without taking such draconian measures. I think most Canadians would agree it is a commendable objective.

However, we are accomplishing so much more than just a balanced budget. We are building the foundation for Canada's long-term prosperity. My home of Waterloo region has seen world-class post-secondary facilities like Sir Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo, and Conestoga College all greatly increase their capacity for both teaching and research, all thanks to our federal government.

Our government has fostered entrepreneurship by supporting programs like the University of Waterloo's velocity program, which provides an entrepreneurial education. We invested in the Communitech Hub, a hotbed of high-tech entrepreneurial activity. We made it easier for business to access the expertise of Conestoga College to improve internal processes and designs. Both parties opposite refused to support any of these worthwhile activities.

Our drinking water is safer, our air is cleaner, our communities are more livable, our greenhouse gas emissions have dropped, and our competitive position in the global economy is now improved thanks to federal investments proposed in budgets that were opposed by the Liberals and the NDP. However, I am not here to review our past successes as a country, community, or government. I am here to highlight some of the measures in this bill of which I am particularly proud.

I was born on a farm just outside of Kitchener, Ontario. I have owned a farm most my adult life. Most importantly, though, agriculture remains one of the most important economic engines for Waterloo region. This bill would extend the lifetime capital gains exemption of farm property. That is a very technical amendment. Let me state it plainly. The family farmers of Waterloo region and elsewhere in Canada would find it easier to pass their farms on to the next generation, thanks to this government. On this side of the House, we stand in support of those families who provide the best quality food in the world. I invite the opposition to join us.

When our government created the agricultural flexibility fund to improve our agricultural sector's competitiveness, the Liberals and NDP refused to support our farmers. When we offered support to hog farmers to restructure their debt, the Liberals and NDP refused to support our farmers. When we allowed grain farmers to enjoy market freedom, the Liberals and NDP refused to support our farmers. With this bill, the opposition finally has the opportunity to turn the page, to look Canada's family farmers in the eye and say, “We support you; we want you to be able to keep your farms in your families”. Canada's family farmers would welcome their support, for once, just once.

This bill would also protect consumers. On this side of the House, we think it is wrong for big banks and credit card companies to charge pensioners and single parents for the so-called privilege of receiving a bill, and we are taking action to prevent it. Once again, I invite members opposite to take this opportunity to join us in standing with consumers just this once. Please support our measures to ban pay to pay policies on credit card statements.

Too often I have heard the NDP members accuse us of favouring the big banks. They like to present banks as the enemy of everyday Canadians. This is their opportunity to match their voice to their rhetoric or to demonstrate that their rhetoric is nothing more than empty words without commitment. I believe many of my colleagues in the NDP are very honourable people. I hope they will not let partisanship prevent them from voting on their principles.

Moving on, I am particularly pleased that the bill would enable charitable fundraising to enter the computer age. While we want as few Canadians as possible to depend on charities, we also want charities to thrive. I cannot believe we actually need to do this, but the bill would make it legal for charities to use computers to track their sales in certain fundraising activities. Right now it all needs to be done manually, which just makes no sense.

On this side of the House, we want as much as possible of every dollar donated to charity to be used for its intended goal and as little as possible lost to administrivia. I do not see any reason why members opposite could possibly be against this. Once again, I invite them to join us in support of Canada's charitable sector. This is only the latest action our government has taken to support charities in Canada.

We have already provided an exemption from capital gains when publicly listed securities or ecologically sensitive lands are donated to charities. Again, the Liberals and NDP opposed this. We reduced the administrative burden on charities allowing them to focus on charitable activities. It makes sense to the people I speak to across Waterloo region. The Liberals and NDP, again, are opposed to this as well.

We have encouraged Canadians to begin donating to charities by creating the first-time donor super credit on donations to charity. I must credit my friend, the hon. member for Kitchener—Waterloo, for bringing this common-sense idea to the table, another common-sense idea that the NDP and Liberals opposed.

The bill would also double the amount that parents can claim for the children's fitness tax credit. More importantly, it would make this tax credit refundable, making it a much stronger benefit for low-income Canadian families. As a parent of three children and grandparent to nine beautiful grandchildren, I understand how important it is for children to establish healthy lifestyles. Sedentary children grow up to become sedentary adults. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle in today's children will pay dividends in reduced health costs for years to come. I am especially pleased to see that this credit would now be refundable. We are making life more affordable for low-income Canadians. I hope the opposition will find it in their hearts to stand with us in supporting low-income Canadians.

Our Conservative government remains focused on what matters most to Canadians: jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. We weathered the global recession better than our peers, and even through the recovery, we continued to chart one of the world's best economic performances. In fact, since we took office, we focused on five priorities to ensure Canada's continuing prosperity: a tax advantage, reducing taxes for all Canadians and establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investment in the G7; the fiscal advantage, eliminating our net government debt within a generation; an entrepreneurial advantage, reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape, and increasing competition in the Canadian marketplace; a knowledge advantage, creating the best-educated and most skilled and flexible workforce in the world; and an infrastructure advantage, building the modern infrastructure we need to compete abroad and enjoy liveable communities at home.

Economic action plan 2014 continues this focus on positive initiatives to support job creation and economic growth. It continues to connect Canadians with available jobs. It continues to improve support for families and communities, and it continues our difficult road to balancing our budget. It provides good news to the families of Waterloo region as well as farmers and small businesses.

I ask the members opposite to put aside their partisan interests and look at the bill for what it truly represents, modest steps forward on the priorities of Canadians. I invite them to join me in supporting this important legislation.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:50 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his speech on the budget implementation bill. There are many aspects of his speech that I could engage him with and debate him on, but there was one specific comment he made that caught my ears.

The New Democrats, especially our members for Sudbury and Davenport, have been campaigning for some time to end the practice of charging people for getting a paper bill. That extra charge, which is often a couple of dollars, really penalizes people who have lower incomes, do not have a computer, or who are seniors. It is a practice we have called pay to pay, meaning they have to pay money to pay their bill. We have campaigned long and hard on that. In this budget there was a promise of ending the pay to pay fees, but only for telecom companies. My friend across the way said that it also includes banks. I do not believe that is correct. I would like him to clarify his comments.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:50 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that it does include banks. However, I would have to double-check that.

However, I would like to highlight what I said during the moments I had for my speech.

We have to focus on the real issues that are part of this bill, especially for my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga, which is a rural-urban riding, and the farmers there. Allowing farmers to increase the tax exemption on capital gains is important to us as we try to help farmers maintain their farms within the family context. We know that, if farms are in the family context, some of these farmers produce the best quality food in the world. I am certainly committed to continuing that process.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:55 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that the PMO would be very pleased with the member's speech. There are many aspects of it that I could address, but there are three that really stood out in my mind.

The first was that the government is dealing with the deficit. It is important to recognize that the government is the one that created the deficit, and even created it prior to the recession, so what it is fixing is something it put in place.

The member made reference to the pork industry. If he were to take a tour of the Brandon facility, he would find there are needs that the government is not meeting, which is limiting the amount of production coming out of the Brandon pork assembly line.

The member mentioned wheat. The government is the one that killed the Canadian Wheat Board without even going to the farmers. Even though the law required a plebiscite, it did not allow for that because it knew it would have lost.

Therefore, my question to the member is this. When he reflects on those three points, how does he justify making those types of comments when in reality the Conservatives are part of the problem that was created? They created the deficit, they caused more problems for the pork industry, and they killed the Wheat Board, even though a majority of the farmers said that they wanted to keep—

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:55 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of key points.

As relates to the agriculture sector, in my almost nine years of being an MP, I have never had a period of time when the farmers in my riding have been happier about the policies of this government. In my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga we have Conestoga Meat Packers, which is a hog farmer cooperative. It has never been doing better. As it relates to grain farmers, our grain farmers are happy.

However, when it comes to talking about the deficit and balancing the budget, I do not know how this member can stand and with a straight face talk about balancing the budget when his previous Liberal government balanced it on the backs of the provinces, with $25 billion taken out of health care and education and $52 billion out of the EI fund. Also, I wonder if my colleague can answer where the $40 million is.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

5:55 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand that I have just a couple of minutes before we end debate on the bill this afternoon and that it will be resuming tomorrow morning.

I am happy to begin my remarks this afternoon on the budget implementation act, Bill C-43, on behalf of my constituents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park, an urban riding that borders Lake Ontario in Canada's largest city, Toronto.

When I go door to door and speak with members of my community, I hear people concerned about the lack of decent jobs. We have far too many people who are falling through the cracks and are either underemployed or unemployed. People are falling into the cycle of temporary work or part-time precarious work.

Young families are paying sometimes $2,000 a month for child care and are strapped with massively high housing prices, whether in rent that rises constantly or with mortgages that are unbelievably high because of the dramatic increase in housing prices in our city. I also hear from seniors who are very concerned about rising costs and fixed incomes.

I speak to small businesses, where the owners are working long and hard. They are doing their best to provide goods and services in our community, but they are just getting by, in many cases.

Nevertheless, it is a wonderful community. What we hear from people in Parkdale—High Park is that they need to have government on their side. Sadly, the budget implementation bill fails the needs of the vast majority of my community members in Parkdale—High Park.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

6 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I regret to interrupt the member for Parkdale—High Park. She will have eight minutes remaining when this matter returns before the House.

It being 6 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

CSEC Accountability and Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

moved that Bill C-622, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (transparency and accountability), to enact the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-622, the CSEC accountability and transparency act.

This legislation takes an important step forward in updating the framework for accountability and transparency for Canada's signals intelligence agency, and it tasks the public's representatives—that is, Canadian parliamentarians—with the responsibility to review and report on the intelligence and security activities of our government.

In the wake of the recent deadly attacks on our soldiers and on Parliament itself, all party leaders confirmed their commitment to protect the rights, freedoms, and civil liberties of Canadians, even as security measures are analyzed and strengthened. Indeed, Canadians expect these fundamental aspects of the very democracy being guarded to be respected, and that is the underlying intention of the bill.

I invite members of all parties to support sending it to committee for further examination and signal the authenticity of their commitment to these democratic freedoms.

Canada does have important guardians of privacy rights, both in law and in our provincial and federal privacy and information officers, and we have strong privacy protections in Canada, in general, although these must continue to contend with the fast pace of technological change.

Where they can be weak, though, is in the scrutiny of the activities of intelligence and security agencies like Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, and my bill aims to ensure sufficient privacy protections for CSE operations on the multiple fronts of its mandate, both abroad and at home.

As the federal and provincial privacy commissioners stated in a recent communique:

Canadians both expect and are entitled to equal protection for their privacy and access rights and for their security. We must uphold these fundamental rights that lie at the heart of Canada’s democracy.

I agree. In fact, the effective protection of individual privacy and the effective delivery of national security measures are not a dichotomy or a trade-off. They are complementary, and both are necessary.

The United States Department of Homeland Security is a good example. This department considers safeguarding civil rights and civil liberties to be critical to its work to protect the nation from the many threats it faces. This third-largest department of the U.S. government now explicitly embeds and enforces privacy protections and transparency in all the department's systems, programs, and activities.

Deputy Secretary Mayorkas confirmed in a recent speech that not only is this an integral part of DHS's mission and crucial to maintaining the public's trust, but it has resulted in homeland security becoming a stronger and more effective department. Bill C-622 reflects that very philosophy.

Now here is some information about Communications Security Establishment Canada. CSE is our national cryptology and signals intelligence agency. It functions within a global alliance of partners' signals intelligence agencies in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand, known as the Five Eyes. CSE intercepts and decodes foreign communications signals. It is the lead agency for cybersecurity for the federal government, and it uses its technological capacities and expertise to assist domestic law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

As its three-part mandate suggests, CSE is an important and powerful contributor to Canada's national security, and we want it to become a stronger and more effective department. Much of CSE's work today focuses on Internet and mobile phone communications between foreigners who might pose a threat to Canada.

CSE does not have the mandate to spy on Canadians, except when it is assisting other federal security and law enforcement agencies that have the appropriate permission, such as a warrant. However, its powers were extended in 2001 to allow it to inadvertently collect Canadian communications when it is targeting a foreign entity or conducting cybersecurity operations.

Here is the challenge: The capability of information and communications technologies has skyrocketed over the past 13 years. However, the laws governing CSE have not changed once in that time. That means that whether they are being used or not, CSE now has much greater powers to intrude into the privacy of people's personal lives and communications, unimpeded by the law.

It is time to update the law in this new environment of cloud computing and the Internet of everything.

This bill leaves in place all the important tools that our security agencies have available to them to protect Canadians. CSE has intrusive powers, but they are most often absolutely necessary.

However, Canadians want assurances that their privacy and the confidentiality of their communications will not be violated. Such violations would not even have been technologically possible just a few years ago.

One key concern of Canadians is government's access to their metadata, that is, their communication activities. It includes, for example, records of communications between one's electronic devices and the devices of others. On the surface, intercepting metadata may not seem terribly intrusive, but metadata is effectively the how, when, where, and with whom people communicate electronically.

As Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, notes:

It has been said that the collection of meta-data is far more intrusive than reading someone's diary because not everything gets written down in a diary.

Last January, Canadians learned that CSE collected, tracked, and analyzed the metadata of unsuspecting passengers who logged into the WiFi at an Canadian airport. Because the law is so outdated, this was probably legal, but it was certainly not respectful of privacy rights.

Both CSIS and the RCMP are required to get court approval to enlist CSE's help in wiretapping a phone, but no such approval is needed to collect metadata.

In June of this year, the Supreme Court ruling, R. v. Spencer, was a strong endorsement of Internet privacy, including the privacy of metadata.

A second concern is the defence minister's quasi-judicial power to issue blanket approvals for CSE operations that would likely capture the private communications of Canadians without needing to explain his or her reasoning to anyone. These ill-defined and overly broad ministerial authorizations have been criticized by CSE commissioners for almost a decade.

A further concern is the absence of accountability or reporting regarding information sharing between CSE and other security and intelligence agencies. In a 2014 ruling, Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley found that CSIS and CSE kept the court in the dark about how they were enlisting foreign intelligence agencies to help spy on Canadians. He noted that the information CSE had shared, without legal authorization, put two Canadians at risk while they were travelling abroad. Justice Mosley's findings underscore the need to reinforce CSE's accountability not only to the courts but also to the minister, to Parliament, and to Canadians.

Finally, the grab bag of various kinds of oversight of various Canadian security and intelligence agencies, including CSE, and the absence of parliamentary oversight or review, puts us definitely offside with Canada's main intelligence partners.

How do we support CSE and our other security functions by embedding better democratic accountability, clarity, reporting, and review, an update that would bring us in line with our Five Eyes allies?

First, Bill C-622 would strengthen judicial oversight by replacing ministerial authorization for the interception of Canadians' protected information with authorization by an independent judge of the Federal Court. This is consistent with the process used by the National Security Agency, CSE's American counterpart. In addition, in this bill, metadata would be included in the new definition of protected information.

Second, the bill would strengthen ministerial oversight. It would require the Chief of CSE to inform the minister of sensitive matters likely to have a significant impact on public or international affairs and any national security or policy issues. The chief would also have to inform the minister and the CSE Commissioner of any operational incidents that may have an impact on the privacy of Canadians.

Each fiscal year a detailed report would be provided to the minister and the national security adviser to the Prime Minister on the activities carried out by the agency during the fiscal year, including any requests to share information with other Canadian security agencies.

Third, the office of the CSE Commissioner will be strengthened. The Prime Minister will be required to consult the opposition leaders before choosing a commissioner. The appointment process will therefore be more independent.

The commissioner will have to verify that CSE's activities are within the law and that they are also reasonable and necessary. He will have to submit public reports that are detailed enough that Parliament and Canadians are properly informed about matters of public interest. The only information that may be excluded is confidential information pertaining to international affairs, defence or security.

Fourth, the bill provides for oversight that is accountable to the public for all Canada's security and intelligence agencies. This integrated overview of the functioning of these sometimes siloed agencies would bring new solutions to strengthen security measures and privacy protections alike. The specific mechanism would be a multi-party committee of security-cleared parliamentarians, the intelligence and security committee of Parliament.

The mandate of this committee would be to review the framework for intelligence and national security in Canada, to review the activities of federal departments and agencies in relation to intelligence and national security, and to issue an annual unclassified report that the Prime Minister would submit to Parliament.

Former CSE chief John Adams supports such a review committee, noting that Canadians are more likely to trust an MP saying that Canada's spy agencies are not violating their privacy than they are to trust the heads of the very spy agencies saying the same thing.

I want to thank my Liberal colleague from Malpeque, retired Conservative senator Hugh Segal, and Senator Romeo Dallaire for their hard work in writing legislation to customize a very successful British parliamentary oversight model for our unique Canadian needs.

The scope and magnitude of CSE's surveillance power have increased. Its accountability to the public has therefore increased accordingly. The current system is outdated and flawed. Parliament cannot perform its oversight duties, and the Minister of National Defence has too much latitude when it comes to authorizing CSE to monitor Canadians' communications.

By passing my bill, Parliament will increase CSE's accountability and give Canadians privacy protections that are closer to those that the Americans and the British take for granted.

In essence, Bill C-622 seeks to modernize outdated laws and embed individual privacy rights within the framework of security and intelligence. Its accountability and transparency measures would restore Canadians' freedom to communicate with each other and with the world without the fear of unlawful or unethical access to their private communications.

The bill seeks to ensure that Canadians can have confidence in the work of CSE and can trust that the government's intelligence and security activities are held to account by the Parliament of Canada, whose duty it is is to ensure that Canadian democratic rights and interests are properly protected.

Public trust, the trust that our civil liberties are respected and that our rights and freedoms are embedded, are key ingredients in the strength and effectiveness of the critical work that security and intelligence agencies do to protect the safety and security of Canadians.

I would like to express my gratitude for the help and support of some of Canada's top experts in privacy, security, and intelligence, notably Professor Wesley Wark of the University of Ottawa and Stephen McCammon of the Ontario privacy commissioner's office, and the many others who helped me develop this essential step forward in protecting fundamental Canadian securities and freedoms.

CSEC Accountability and Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for bringing forth this legislation to allow the debate that we are having here today. I want to let her know that we do support this bill at second reading and want to see it studied in committee, but I have some questions.

First, the member knows that I have a motion, Motion No. 61, to set up an all-party committee of this House to examine the entire issue and come before the House with the best model. If her own bill is not accepted by the House, would she support that approach of having an all-party committee of this House look into the whole issue and come up with a model that can be recommended to the House?

Second, if the member wants it to be a democratic committee and have the confidence of the public, as she said, so that MPs can say that their security is protected, why do we not have simply a committee of this House for oversight? Why would we want to included unelected senators?

Third, I recognize the importance of metadata, and her definition of it is actually quite good. However, I do note that part of the mandate of CSEC is that its third mandate provides for CSEC to assist—

CSEC Accountability and Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please.

The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.

CSEC Accountability and Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the NDP national defence critic for those questions.

I am optimistic that I will have support from all sides of this House for this very non-partisan effort to strengthen both our democracy and our security. I am going to move forward with this bill.

The parliamentary committee is a concept that was widely studied by Parliament in 2004-2005 and was embedded in a bill being put forward by the then minister, Anne McLellan, with unanimous support from all parties in the committee that studied it widely, travelling around to our intelligence partners to secure the best ideas for how to move forward. I am optimistic that the members on all sides of the House will support this bill to take it forward to committee and then examine it and bring forward their ideas.

CSEC Accountability and Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my friend from Vancouver Quadra for bringing forth this very important private member's bill. It reflects an important thesis that is coming from the opposition benches, which is the importance of parliamentary oversight, notwithstanding the fact that we have often seen from the government side, particularly from the current Prime Minister and his executive council, a reluctance to treat parliamentarians as grown-ups capable of engaging in this type of oversight.

I would like my friend's comments with respect to why she thinks this piece of legislation would help reinforce the rule of law.

CSEC Accountability and Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I answer, I want to say that I very much appreciate the expression of support for the bill from the NDP spokesperson earlier.

The rule of law has a fundamental underpinning, and that is transparency, accountability, and respect for rights, freedoms, and civil liberties. That is essentially what this bill is about. The lag between the law that governs CSEC and the capabilities of that agency mean that there is a “trust me” approach by that agency because there simply is not a framework that is adequate for its capabilities today. This bill aims to change that.

CSEC Accountability and Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to discuss Bill C-622, introduced by the Liberal member for Vancouver Quadra.

This is a well-intentioned private members' bill, and the member's interest in this area is certainly understandable, given the recent threats to our national security posed by radical terrorist groups, such as ISIL. Unfortunately, rather than bringing forward ideas for new tools to keep Canadians safe, such as those brought forward by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in the protection of Canada from terrorists act, the member has brought forward measures that are needless and duplicative in nature. That is why the government will be opposing the bill.

Our Conservative government's opposition is based on very practical considerations. I would like to spend some time on the notion to create a parliamentary committee to further scrutinize Canada's national security intelligence activities. I emphasize the words “further scrutinize” quite intentionally.

We have debated this issue in the House several times, and our government has been clear and consistent. A robust review of our security agencies already exists. In the case of CSEC, for example, it is already one of the most highly scrutinized federal government departments. Indeed, in 1996, the Commissioner of CSEC was established for two reasons: to review the organization's activities and to hear complaints against it. Further, CSEC is subject to review by the Privacy Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the Auditor General and the Canadian Human Rights commissioner.

In the case of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, its activities are subject to review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, also referred to as SIRC, which has a similar mandate to that of the CSEC commissioner by focusing on the activities of CSIS.

Finally, in the case of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, I would like to remind all members that in 2013, it was our government that strengthened the mandate of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to review the national security activities of the Mounties.

These external review bodies, all of which operate at arm's-length from the government, provide a review function that works extremely well. Notably, they provide a window into the activities of these organizations, activities that often must be undertaken outside of the public eye.

That fact is critical to our discussion today, given the current focus on the threat of terrorism and how national security agencies take action to keep communities safe. Importantly, these review bodies produce annual reports. I know the member talked about her bill and that it would create reports, but there are already annual reports that are submitted to Parliament, summarizing their findings and recommendations, providing assurance of the legality and propriety of operational activities undertaken by these organizations.

I would also note that in the 2013-14 annual report of the CSEC commissioner, Commissioner Plouffe confirmed that all of CSEC activities reviewed complied with the law. He asserted the effectiveness of the review of the intelligence agencies in Canada and that in the interest of transparency, he made public as much as possible about his investigations.

What is more is the fact that SIRC, the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commissioner are well-equipped to carry out their important work. For example, each review body benefits not only from the skilled staff in their employ, but from unfettered access to the information held by the respective agency in review. Further, the Federal Court is another important element of the overall review system.

Now that I have outlined the robust system of review that already exists and works well, I would briefly touch on how Bill C-622 would depart from the current system and why we cannot support this private members' bill.

First and foremost, the proposed committee's reviews of national security related activities would overlap with and be duplicate in nature to the system of review already in place. Additionally, this bill would not establish whether or how the committee would interact with the existing review bodies. In practical terms, the lack of such a mechanism over the committee's reviews could have serious implications, including gaps in accountability and inconsistent or different conclusions. This is clearly not in the best interests of national security, especially now, and it is certainly not in the best interests of Canadians.

Finally, I would note that this would also increase the cost to taxpayers. The government already spends approximately $14.8 million per year to review the activities of and hear complaints against CSEC, CSIS, and the RCMP.

Let me be clear. We believe this is money that is extremely well spent in support of the robust system of review that we have in place. However, the creation of the committee proposed in the bill, another committee, would require new expenditures, and as I have noted, would not provide added benefit to Canadians above what already exists. In fact, it could very well hinder the work of the existing review bodies.

One fact I would also wish to emphasize today is that the existing parliamentary committees are free to study issues related to national security and the related agencies, as needed. In fact, as members in the House and those on the public safety committee recall, just a few weeks ago, the Minister of Public Safety, accompanied by the head of CSIS and the Commissioner of the RCMP, appeared in that committee and spoke candidly about the terrorist threat to Canada.

I realize that my colleagues opposite may say that in light of the recent SIRC report, we must take strong action to enhance the oversight of intelligence agencies. To that, I would say that SIRC plays an important role in ensuring that our national security agencies are held fully and publicly accountable. I would also like to thank it for doing its job and preparing that report.

CSIS is reviewing the recommendations and will implement those that will best keep Canadians safe, while protecting the rights and privacy of Canadians.

In closing, and in light of the recent terrorist attack that happened just steps from this House, I would be remiss if I did not reiterate that the first responsibility of any government is the safety and security of its citizens. We will not overreact. We have said it time and time again. We will not overreact, but at the same time, as legislators we must not under react to the threats that are upon us. We will never turn our backs on the fundamental Canadian values of respect for individual rights and the rule of law. This is imperative.

I can assure the House that at all times our Conservative government will bring forward legislation that ensures Canadians are protected from terrorists who would seek to do us harm, while also ensuring the rights and freedoms of Canadians are protected.

For all of these reasons, our government will not be supporting Bill C-622. We continue to be confident that the review system we have in place serves our government and indeed all Canadians extremely well.