House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was csis.


A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pursue a question I asked on October 3. It seems that so much has happened in this place since that day. My question was following on the Prime Minister's announcement that CF-18 bombers were going to be launched in an effort to fight ISIS. I asked the question, to which I had a response from the Minister of National Defence. I wish to take up some of the themes I raised on that day.

First, it has to be said that any discussion of ISIS has to be framed around the reality that we have never seen a terrorist organization as ruthless, sadistic, and brutal as ISIS, but that by itself, and I think we can all agree on that in this place, does not justify military action unless we are certain of a few fundamental prerequisites. Now that I have more time than I have had in the House before this moment, I would like to outline what these would be.

The first prerequisite is that whatever we do is legal under international law. Despite references in the speeches put forward by government ministers to a UN resolution on the matter of ISIS as a terrorist organization, there has been no UN declaration to justify military action by Canada in Iraq, nor is there any such declaration that would justify military action by the U.S. in Iraq, and so on.

We need to observe the rule of law globally. We cannot allow international action and the rule of international law to descend to a level of collective vigilantism: get the posse together, and we will all ride off. This is a serious, complicated, and difficult situation. We will only make matters worse if we ignore international law.

This is the second of my prerequisites. In confronting the threat of ISIS, we should ensure that whatever we do does not make matters worse. We have had some good advice from many very knowledgeable people that we, in fact, will be making matters worse. Such advice has come from the former ambassador to the United Nations and former deputy minister of National Defence, Bob Fowler, who himself knows quite a lot about terrorism, having been kidnapped himself. Bob Fowler said very clearly in The Globe and Mail that the current attempt, which he described as a “flaccid attempt”, “will undoubtedly make matters worse”. We should not engage in anything that would make matters worse. Things are quite bad enough.

Let us look at what we have done historically in the region. History matters here a lot. There was George Bush's illegal war in Iraq, which has created much of the instability that led to ISIS.

We have seen western forces make matters worse. In Libya, unfortunately, tragically, Canada's good intentions in going into Libya, using the cloak of responsibility to protect to start launching bombing campaigns, morphed from protecting the Libyan civilian population from Muammar Gaddafi to taking sides and deciding that we needed to side with the rebels and recognize them as the legitimate government of Libya, even though we knew that those rebel forces included al Qaeda.

I warned at that time in this place that there were warehouses full of weapons belonging to Gaddafi and the Libyan army and that if we allowed rebel forces, including al Qaeda, to take Tripoli and topple Gaddafi, without a peace plan in place, without the rule of law, those weapons would end up in worse hands. In a statement just the other day by Brigadier-General Alawki, of the Syrian Free Army, he said that is exactly what happened. The weapons that were in the Tripoli warehouses have ended up in the hands of ISIS. We made matters worse. We must not do so again.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

Selkirk—Interlake Manitoba


James Bezan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I was not surprised but I was taken aback by the comments from my colleague from the Green Party. We have to remember that we passed a motion here, which was endorsed by the House of Commons, to take more military action because of the grave concerns and security issues that surround the ISIL situation in Iraq.

The member talked about making matters worse.

Canada's coalition partners are some of our closest allies, the United States, Britain, France, Australia; plus regional partners, such as Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They are all involved in this conflict because they do not want to see things get worse.

If we do not intervene, people will continue to be slaughtered and the genocide will continue. I do not think anyone in good conscience wants to sit back and watch innocent ethnic or religious minorities beheaded, raped, sold into slavery, beaten with hoses or beaten with cables in any way shape or form.

This is a brutal regime, as the member has already said. ISIL is one of the most brutal terrorist organizations, and it is a genocidal group of terrorists.

The member may not want to make matters worse, but what she is proposing is to sacrifice all of those innocent men, women and children who are in the hands of ISIL terrorists. We on this side of the House will not allow that to continue unabated. We want to make sure that we can scale down this crisis, and I think that the coalition partners are having an impact on doing that now.

We cannot let these extremists, we cannot let these terrorists and we cannot let these murderers continue their rampage throughout Iraq and Syria or bring that type of brutality here to Canada. We cannot let them spread it within the region, but they are promoting and aspiring to spread their ideology around the area, and around the globe for that matter.

We have all seen the videos. They are horrific. I have trouble watching them, and tend not to. However, we know that sexual violence against women and prepubescent girls is a common practice of the ISIL terrorists. We know that if people will not convert to the terrorists' idea of Islam, and it is sometimes the elderly laying in hospital, they will behead them right in their hospital beds.

We do not have to do anything more than just remind ourselves of what happened last month here in Canada. We are not immune. What happened down at the war memorial, here in the Hall of Honour and in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu is something that we have to keep in mind. Those individuals were inspired by this terrorist ideology.

I want to remind members that we are working closely with Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish peshmerga to ensure that we can bring peace and security, both from the standpoint of supporting them with aerial attacks so that they can win the war on the ground, and also in providing control and command to aid and assist in how they move forward from a ground force capability. We have a squadron of six CF-18 Hornets, two CP-140 Auroras as well as our Polaris aircraft for refuelling over there. I can tell members that it is welcomed by our coalition partners, welcomed by the Iraqi security forces and welcomed by the people who we are helping liberate.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did not suggest that we do nothing. I just said that whatever we did should not make matters worse.

I referenced Brigadier General Hussam Alawak from the Free Syrian Army earlier. What he exactly said in a report from Murray Brewster from the Canadian Press was this:

If Canada wants to continue in a useless thing, then it’s up to them....

Aerial bombardment of ISIS, as we all know, is not going to stop it. If ISIS terrorists did not want to draw the west into aerial bombardment, why did they post their brutal beheadings on YouTube? I think we are falling into a trap, and I have said that before.

What could we do instead?

We could be doing everything to stop the flow of arms to ISIS terrorists. We could be stopping the millions of dollars a day they get from selling black market oil. We could even be willing to go into the region in a multilateral force providing round-the-clock security for aid workers. We could provide much more assistance to the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon that are breaking those countries.

We must do something. Let us just not make it worse.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we need to remind the member that we are not in Syria; our forces are working in Iraq. That is what the motion from the House of Commons enabled us to do and that is what we are doing. That is the region that we are responsible for and that is where we are going to continue to work.

Regarding the member's comments about the free Syrian army, she has to remember that we also heard from experts in the media in the last couple of days and we have to be careful about which partners we want to enable. We are operating at the request of the government of Iraq with a large international coalition composed of our global and regional partners and allies.

I want to thank the brave men and women who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces who are there doing the hard work. They are always on the ready to go and do whatever we ask of them in the most difficult circumstances. As we enter Veterans Week, let us not forget their sacrifice and the risks they willingly take to defend us and the people of Iraq.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

November 5th, 2014 / 7:55 p.m.


Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I represent Thunder Bay—Superior North and more than 85,000 northern Ontarians who have seen high rates of unemployment thanks to NAFTA, the recession of 2008 and the collapse of the forestry industry. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have consistently limited access to EI and residents who are struggling to make ends meet are forced to pay the price.

Sadly, the Conservative attack on EI is nothing new. The Conservatives are simply taking a page from the playbook of the Liberal government that came before them. In 2000, the Liberals were the first to limit access to EI. They established a huge surplus for the government's benefit to pad the government's pockets with workers' money and the money of small businesses. Later, the Supreme Court ruled the Liberals had illegally turned the EI fund into a tax grab.

I had hoped that the Conservatives might be serious about ending the Liberals' excessive premiums for employers and workers, but in 2010, the Conservatives showed their real colours and followed in the footsteps of the Liberals.

The government of the current Prime Minister made it increasingly difficult for EI claimants to access benefits, all while hiking costs to workers and employers. The EI rate was increased 9% between 2008 and 2013. The Conservatives, after three successive years of EI premium hikes, have now elevated rates well above what the program actually costs, with no regard for the consequences the average Canadian will face.

When the Minister of Finance first announced a slight rollback in EI premiums for small-business owners in September, I was somewhat hopeful. As a small-business owner myself, I am keenly aware of how important small businesses are to our economic growth. Under the Conservatives, big businesses get plenty of subsidies. Meanwhile, small and medium-sized businesses are responsible for the lion's share of job creation and economic activity in Canada.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer found just this month that the Conservative approach to the EI will cost Canadian workers an incredible 9,200 jobs, almost 10,000 jobs, through mismanagement. What's more, their small business credit would cost $0.5 million and would only generate 800 jobs over the next three years.

However, the government claimed the credit would create 25 times as many jobs as that. Once again, as is frequently true, the Conservative claims are at odds with the facts. Even conservative economists are slamming the government's bad plan. Jack Mintz, from the University of Calgary, says that EI premiums should be lowered across the board, which would make sense given the years of unnecessary hikes.

The extra EI money could have been used to extend benefits to those who need them. Instead, the Conservatives are slashing benefits. The surplus could have aided an additional 130,000 workers over the next three years, or they could have used it to boost the economy, health care or education, including job training. Keeping unemployed workers from slipping into poverty makes good economic sense. Each dollar dispensed to EI benefits sparks $1.60 in economic growth.

It is incredible to me and to logical Canadians that the Conservatives keep reiterating their blarney about jobs, economic prosperity and long-term solutions, when all they ever seem to do is pad their own government pockets with taxpayers' money.

When and how will the Conservatives end their legacy of carelessness and damaging employment insurance policies?

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.


Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to see that the entire Green Party caucus is here tonight for this late show. I think that is a first.

Let me remind the hon. member that our government has a proven track record of success when it comes to supporting our small businesses. On this side we recognize that small businesses create good jobs and serve engines of economic growth and prosperity.

Let me remind the member that small businesses employ about half of the working men and women in Canada's private sector. They account for a third of our country's GDP. On top of that, small businesses drive our prosperity and give back to the community.

We know that small business owners should be spending time growing their businesses and creating jobs. They should not be burdened with red tape and high taxes. We cut their red tape. We implemented the one-for-one rule. For every new regulation imposed by government, a regulation must be removed. By the end of 2013, that rule had reduced the administrative burden by over $20 million.

We also cut their taxes. We cut the small business tax rate to 11% and increased the amount of income eligible for this preferential rate. Together these changes are providing small businesses with an estimated $2.2 billion in tax relief in 2014 alone.

Under our government, the amount of income tax paid by a small business with $500,000 of taxable income has declined by over 34%, a tax savings of $28,600 that can be reinvested in the business to fuel growth and create jobs.

Let me be clear, our actions on EI are saving money for employees and employers. Last year, we froze EI premiums for three years, which is expected to save employers and employees $660 million in 2014 alone. We instituted the seven year break-even rate, starting in 2017, to ensure that any surplus in the EI account will be used for EI expenses.

Under this government, Canada is open for business. In 2013, Canada leapt from sixth to second place in Bloomberg's ranking of the most attractive destination for business. When was the last time that happened? According to KPMG, total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G7, 46% lower than those in the United States.

However, we will not be satisfied with this success. We live in uncertain economic times and cannot be complacent. That is why our government introduced the new small business job credit. This new credit will effectively lower small business employment insurance premiums from the current rate of $1.88 to $1.60 for $100 of insurable earnings for 2015 and 2016.

Any firm that pays employer EI premiums equal to or less than $15,000 in those years would be eligible for the rebate. That means 90% of employers making EI contributions in Canada, about 780,000 in total, would directly benefit from this credit.

In addition, this credit will require no new paperwork. The Canada Revenue Agency will automatically calculate it on their business return. Overall, our small business job credit will reduce the EI premium rate by nearly 15%. We expect it to save small businesses over $0.5 billion over the next two years. It is precisely why our government has introduced the small business job credit as the latest in our government's effective action to support small business efforts to create jobs and grow the economy.

We refuse to attack job creators with massive tax hikes in the form of increased payroll taxes or increased regulatory burdens.

Let me remind the member opposite that this measure has been applauded by groups that actually understand small business. Take the Canadian Federation of Independent Business which stated, “It's a big, big deal for small business. It's good news for people looking for jobs”.

Indeed, I can go on. I certainly hope the member opposite will recognize the good things that this government has done for small business and to support them as well.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.


Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, how are we supposed to believe anything the Conservatives say when it comes to EI, really? After years of bad policies, the government has forced workers and small business owners to pay for Conservative economic mismanagement, killing jobs left and centre, and especially right.

The Conservative government is inefficient, pure and simple. It hiked El premiums for three consecutive years, then it froze premiums, and now it is trying to roll back its mistakes, but every job it creates will cost taxpayers $687,000. That is two-thirds of a million dollars per job.

Canada needs a strong EI system to protect workers and generate economic growth. It certainly does not need this job-killing tax on workers and small businesses.

El should be helping those who need it, not boosting the government's own revenues. Will the Conservatives admit to their past poor El approach and commit to some reforms that actually support Canadian workers and our economy?

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.


Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what planet my hon. colleague is on, but on this planet he should realize that we have among the best job creation record in the G7. Our government believes that small business owners are taxed enough. Furthermore, we believe that our record on low taxes and support for small business speaks for itself. That is why we have delivered tax reductions totalling more than $60 billion to job-creating businesses from 2008 to 2014.

Among these tax relief measures are the reduction of the federal general corporate tax rate to 15% in 2012 from 22% in 2007, and an extension of the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment through 2015. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, we cut the small business tax rate to 11%. These actions have positioned Canada as an increasingly attractive place to invest and grow a business.

If the member wants to talk about jobs, it is our government that has seen almost 1.2 million net new jobs created since the recession in 2009. Over 80% of those jobs are full-time high-paying jobs.

Canada has a healthy and competitive business environment. That is why businesses from around the world are coming to Canada to set up their headquarters. In turn, it helps the economy grow, encourages the creation of new jobs and raises our standard of living.

Small BusinessAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.


Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, it has now been over a year since the Competition Tribunal found that the credit card fees that Canadian businesses have to pay are excessive and unfair and that more coercive regulation is needed.

When I recently asked the minister what he intended to do to remedy this situation, he spoke about a voluntary code of conduct, since he is in favour of voluntary measures. Unfortunately, that is not enough.

We cannot let companies make their own rules. Clearly, the government needs to legislate in the public interest in order to lower prices for consumers and help our struggling SMEs.

The government's announcement once again shows that it is not prepared to introduce concrete measures to reduce these fees, which incidentally cost Canadian consumers and SMEs over $5 billion a year.

A 10% reduction is far too little to result in lower prices for consumers. In fact, the minister announced a 10% reduction. That is not enough to have an effect on the goods we buy. Consumers will not benefit, and I think it is important to say that. The reduction announced earlier this week is not a step in the right direction.

While the government is patting itself on the back for this 10% reduction, in the last two years alone, Visa and MasterCard have boosted credit card transaction fees by about 25%. Canada will also continue to have the highest interchange fees in the world, and that is no small matter. The government is not proposing any measures to address that.

The NDP agrees with the Competition Tribunal, which found that Visa and MasterCard engage in anti-competitive practices by charging excessive fees. The tribunal asked the government to take action. However, it chose instead to ask the credit card companies, which are already very greedy, to make voluntary changes. That is shameful and makes no sense. It is futile and will yield no results.

If you need further proof, you only have to look at the official statement issued by Visa. This very important statement stated the following:

If Visa or our clients are disadvantaged as a result of entering into this undertaking [these voluntary measures], Visa reserves the right at any time to terminate or amend it.

This is a concrete example of the limits of a voluntary measure. We can be happy that Visa and MasterCard are moving forward and seem prepared to make some concessions, be accommodating and truly give consumers and small businesses more breathing room. However, at any time, for whatever reason, they can decide to terminate this arrangement.

We will end up right back where we started, debating this topic and wondering what should be done. We need legislation, which is what we are calling for today.

The Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec, or AMDEQ, had a very interesting response. This association of convenience and grocery store owners is somewhat satisfied with the federal government's decision to bring MasterCard and Visa credit card user fees to an average rate of 1.5%, but much remains to be done to bring our rates in line with those in Australia and Europe, which are around 0.5%.

AMDEQ has some concerns about the fact that this agreement is voluntary. It now wants an oversight mechanism to be put in place and an annual audit to be conducted so as to ensure that the two major credit card companies abide by the agreement announced today.

It is also important to point out that AMDEQ would have liked to see a much more substantial drop in the rate, and it is calling on the Minister of Finance to form a special parliamentary committee to ensure that all parties involved in this issue can have a say.

I think that is indeed worthwhile. It can be discussed in committee.

What does my colleague opposite think of that proposal?

Small BusinessAdjournment Proceedings

8:10 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.


Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is rich hearing the member opposite talk about reducing costs for small businesses. Shamefully, the NDP has opposed all our efforts to protect Canadian consumers and small businesses. The code of conduct, for example, has been welcomed by consumers and industry groups, especially small businesses. However, shamefully again, the NDP voted against the code and against supporting small businesses and consumers.

On this side of the House, we have listened to the concerns of small businesses and we have acted. I urge the member opposite to listen to what small business is saying.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said:

—the code has served merchants extremely well...(it) has done an excellent job in ensuring some fair ground rules and maintaining Canada's low-cost debit system...

It went on to say:

—the Code played a big role in saving low-cost debit in Canada and it gave merchants some degree of power in dealing with the payments industry.

That is not all. We have also taken action to expand no-cost banking options for more than seven million Canadians, including seniors and students, and to improve low-cost accounts. We have banned unsolicited credit card checks, limited anti-consumer business practices and ensured that prepaid cards never expire. We have also introduced rules requiring clear disclosure of terms in credit card contracts and applications.

While we are putting more money in the pockets of Canadians, the NDP wants to take it away with hidden carbon taxes and sky high business tax hikes. Unlike the NDP, which only talks about protecting consumers, it is our Conservative government that is acting on its commitments. Most recent, we welcomed the commitments from Visa and MasterCard, which represent a meaningful, long-term reduction in costs for merchants that should ultimately result in lower prices for consumers.

Do not just take my word for it, though. Again, I urge the member opposite to listen to small businesses.

The CFIB applauds the end of the credit card arms race. Dan Kelly, president of CFIB, said:

Canada’s1 small business community is hailing new commitments that could bring an end to ever-increasing credit card fees...Today’s announcement should be a win for consumers too.

How about the Retail Council of Canada? This is what Diane Brisebois, chief executive officer of the Retail Council of Canada, said, “this is an important first step towards ending the escalation of credit card fees”.

If the member is still not convinced, this is what Garth Whyte, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada, said, “This voluntary move to lower rates is a positive step for restaurateurs”.

Why is the NDP opposed to an approach that would see a reduction in Visa and MasterCard fees by approximately 10%? It is because the NDP's only solution is to regulate and tax everything.

On this side of the House, we are looking to cut regulation and red tape. This industry agreement is the best way to protect merchants and consumers.

On this side of the House, we are standing up for consumers and saving Canadians money. Our government believes Canadian consumers deserve accessible and effective financial services that meet the needs of consumers and operate in the public interest. We will continue to ensure their interests are well served.

Small BusinessAdjournment Proceedings

8:10 p.m.


Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is completely false. Everyone knows that the NDP is the only party that believes consumers should get what they are entitled to. Banks rake in over $60 billion every year, and their profit margins can be 700% or even 800%. That is disgusting. We need legislation. It is our job as legislators to make that happen, but the government is not doing it. People know what is going on. They know that when they go to an ATM or use their credit card, credit card companies are taking a huge cut at their expense.

There is a simple solution: the code of conduct for the Canadian credit and debit card industry must be mandatory and not voluntary. We do not want to have to rehash this entire file once again a few years down the road, when Visa and MasterCard have completely abandoned their voluntary measures. The Small Business Matters Coalition, which is concerned with this file and to which the Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec belongs, is disappointed that the Minister of Finance did not take the time to conduct an in-depth study of the real costs of credit card rates. That is what we need to do. That is what we must do. We must make a more informed decision, one based on facts and figures. That is what matters.

Small BusinessAdjournment Proceedings

8:15 p.m.


Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, throughout our time in office, since 2006, our government has been focused on helping Canadian consumers identify and take advantage of the best possible financial products and services for their individual needs.

As we announced in the economic action plan 2013, we are working to develop a comprehensive financial consumer code to better protect consumers of financial products and ensure they have the necessary tools to make responsible financial decisions. Such measures empower and protect Canadian consumers. They increase their financial literacy by providing them with the right information at the right time, so they can make financial decisions that best suit their needs.

As I have shown tonight, do not take my word for it, take the word of associations that know small businesses best. While we are trying to keep more money in the pockets of Canadians, the NDP wants to take it away with hidden carbon taxes and sky-high business tax hikes.

Small BusinessAdjournment Proceedings

8:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:17 p.m.)