House of Commons Hansard #158 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was measures.


Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

December 9th, 2014 / 10:10 a.m.


Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

North Vancouver B.C.


Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to present Bill C-43 at third reading. This important bill implements key initiatives from economic action plan 2014.

This year's budget has further illustrated the responsible leadership of our government. It is a budget that builds on our strengths and continues to implement the government's plan for jobs and growth. Our efforts to support jobs and growth are underpinned by our plan to return to balanced budgets in 2015. This commitment to fiscal responsibility has helped to ensure that Canada maintains its hard-earned international economic fiscal advantage, which will help foster a growing, healthy economy that creates stable, well-paying jobs for all Canadians.

Indeed, our government's plan to return to balanced budgets is not an end in itself, but a means to increase Canada's economic potential, improve employment opportunities for Canadians, and raise our standard of living. It is for this reason that we made returning to balanced budgets the cornerstone of our economic action plan. To that end, economic action plan 2014 continues to focus on creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity: long-lasting prosperity, the kind that our children can rely on and that future generations can appreciate.

However, I must remind members that the global economic situation remains fragile and that difficulties beyond our borders may affect Canada.

Thus, it is truly important for our Conservative government to implement its economic action plan, which will create jobs and stimulate economic growth.

Bill C-43 does not deviate from these objectives. It supports jobs and growth, helps families, strengthens communities and continues to improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system.

I would like to highlight today some of the key budget measures in Bill C-43 and thereby demonstrate how this government is demonstrating strong and responsible leadership with this major legislative measure.

First, let me touch on some ways our government is making our tax system simpler and fairer. This includes closing tax loopholes and strengthening tax enforcement to ensure all Canadians pay their fair share. Since 2006, our government has taken significant steps to establish our country as a global clean energy leader, including through regulatory actions, investments in technology and innovation, and broad-based incentives. The government has also supported these sectors through the tax system by expanding eligibility for the accelerated CCA for clean energy generation equipment.

In 2013, we encouraged businesses to invest in new clean energy technologies by expanding the types of organic waste that can be used in qualifying biogas production equipment and the range of qualifying equipment that can be used to treat gases from waste. Today's legislation would build on that success by expanding eligibility for the accelerated capital cost allowance, CCA, for clean energy generation equipment to include water current energy equipment and a broader range of equipment used to gasify eligible waste.

However, that is not all. Today's legislation also focuses on connecting Canadians with available jobs by helping them to acquire the skills that will get them hired and will help get them better-paying jobs.

In Canada, apprentices in skilled trades do most of their learning during on-the-job paid employment and are required to participate in technical training for short periods ranging from six to eight weeks each year. Apprentices can face significant costs to complete these periods of technical training required by their program, including educational fees, tools and equipment, and forgone wages.

That is why, in order to help connect Canadians with available jobs, we created the Canada apprentice loan. This initiative will help apprentices in Red Seal trades by providing them with access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year to complete their training.

More specifically, Bill C-43 amends the Income Tax Act to extend the existing tax credit for interest paid on student loans—a non-refundable tax credit for interest on loans paid under the Canada student loans program and similar provincial programs—to interest paid on a Canada apprentice loan.

By helping Canadians get the skills they need to find a new job or a better job, we are investing directly and effectively in this country's greatest asset—our people, who are supporting the economy in general.

Another way we are proposing to improve our system of taxation is by updating the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act. Earlier this year, the government released for public comment draft legislative proposals relating to technical changes to the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, and related regulations.

Following this public consultation, Bill C-43 includes amendments to relieve the goods and services tax or harmonized sales tax on services of refining precious metals supplied to a non-resident person who is not registered for GST/HST purposes and to implement real property technical amendments that provide for the consistent treatment of different types of housing and ensure that the special valuation rule for subsidized housing works properly with the GST/HST place-of-supply rules and in the context of a GST/HST rate change.

We will continue to build on our government's stellar track record of improving the fairness and integrity of Canada's tax system, and as is evident from some of these measures, Bill C-43 does exactly that.

There is so much more to this bill than simply tax measures. This bill implements many positive budget measures that I would like to address now, and at the same time I would like to highlight some of the misinformation that the opposition would have Canadians believe.

Bill C-43 proposes to establish the governance structure for a new world-class science and technology research facility that would serve as a hub for Canadian and international Arctic research. The Canadian High Arctic Research Station, also known as CHARS, will not only strengthen Canada's position as a world leader in cutting-edge research in the Arctic but will also support the local economy in the region by creating jobs.

The opposition consistently accuses our government of a lack of consultation and an aversion to science. This research station will provide a very clear example of our government's commitment to exercising stewardship over Canada's Arctic lands and bringing together industry, academia, aboriginal governments, and international stakeholders to co-operatively leverage their expertise, experience, and resources.

It is also important to note that our government engaged widely on all phases of this project, and there is overwhelming support behind it. I could not be more proud of the action our government is taking in this bill, which will cement Canada as a global leader on Arctic issues and scientific research.

If the opposition had its way, it would also attempt to convince the public that our government is taking social assistance away from those who genuinely need it. This could not be further from the truth. Let me clear: that is categorically false.

Bill C-43 would simply give the option to the provinces and territories to establish minimum periods of residence to qualify for social assistance. The specifics of this option would be up to the provinces and territories. Subsequently the provinces and territories would be accountable to taxpayers, who believe that refugees, specifically bogus asylum claimants, should not have access to better health care than Canadians.

By making these changes, our government would ensure that our immigration system would be protected from those who are seeking to take advantage of taxpayer-funded health care, welfare, and other social benefits. We have had numerous examples of these over the last number of years.

Let me spell it out for the opposition one more time. Our government is committed to helping all newcomers, including genuine refugees, integrate into Canadian society and fully contribute to our community and our economy. Those in genuine need will continue to receive Canada's protection more quickly.

Another key measure of this bill supports job creation and grows Canada's economy. I am talking about our government's small business job credit. This measure would lower EI payroll taxes by 15% and save small businesses over $550 million over two years. This is real money we would be giving back to small businesses, to job creators. It is money they would use to help defray the costs of hiring new workers and to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities, thus supporting growth and job creation.

These are small businesses all across the country, some in my own riding of North Vancouver, all of which have frequently told us that the number one job killer is higher payroll taxes. We listened to the voice of small business, the business experts who actually understand what this measure will do for job creation.

Dan Kelly, the President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, called the small business job credit “a big, big deal for small business. It's good news for people looking for jobs....”

Of course, we can expect the opposition members to continue attacking job creators with massive tax hikes, such as a $20 billion carbon tax, and foolishly ignoring what small business is saying about this measure. They will argue that their ideas of an expanded CPP and a 45-day workyear that would cost Canadian taxpayers $4 billion and thousands of jobs alone are the best options for job creation. If we ask any small business if they would prefer increased payroll taxes, the divide is clear.

We will not apologize for listening to small business concerns. On the other hand, our government will continue to lower payroll taxes for 90% of businesses and support some of Canada's most important job creators. Over 780,000 small businesses will benefit from this program.

This legislation will also help consumers. For instance, our government has a strong record of supporting consumers in the telecommunications industry. Since the last wireless spectrum auction in 2008, prices for wireless services have decreased by nearly 20% and jobs in the wireless industry have increased by 25%.

The legislation before us today builds on this record by prohibiting wireless service providers from charging their customers for paper billing, thereby fulfilling a commitment we made in the 2013 Speech from the Throne to put an end to this pay-to-pay practice.

Furthermore, the bill includes changes to simplify the certification process for telecommunications equipment used by consumers and businesses.

Finally, I want to touch on a set of measures that I believe are critical in strengthening Canada's financial sector.

Credit unions play an important role in our communities and in our economy. Across our country, credit unions and caisse populaires work hard to serve their members in the best way possible. Measures in Bill C-43 support a vibrant and robust credit union system here in Canada.

Specifically, our government is moving forward to clarify federal regulation of provincial credit unions and support those that want to become federally regulated. Some of these initiatives include access by provincial credit union centrals to federal intervention tools, such as lending by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation; ceasing supervision of provincial credit union centrals by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions; and making changes to the federal credit union framework to promote continued growth and competitiveness of credit unions that want to offer services on a national scale by streamlining the federal amalgamation process from multiple steps into just one.

We understand there is some interest, so as we build on these measures, we will continue to consult with provinces and industry to ensure the federal regime for credit unions is as clear and simple as possible.

Twenty minutes allows me to touch on only a very small portion of the positive measures included in Bill C-43. Some of the other measures contained in the bill include doubling the children's fitness tax credit to $1,000 and making it refundable. This is a way to put money back into the pockets of Canadian families, allowing families to save on putting their children into sports or after-school activities.

The bill also proposes to strengthen Canada's intellectual property regime to improve conditions for business investment and access into international markets while reducing costs and red tape. It also introduces new reporting standards to meet Canada's 2013 G8 commitment to increase transparency for entities operating in the extractive sector. It would create new indices in the national DNA data bank that would contain DNA profiles for missing persons, allowing families of victims to have better tools available to get closure.

Let me remind members that since the global recession, Canada has created nearly 1.2 million net new jobs. This is one of the strongest job creation records in the G7. Both the International Monetary Fund and the OECD still expect Canada to be among the strongest growing economies in the G7 over this year and next. The Canadian middle class is now among the richest in the developed world, ahead of our neighbours to the south for the first time ever. Just recently, we saw the International Labour Organization say in its global wage report that pay gains here in Canada are the second best in the G20. This is great news for Canadians.

These results do not happen by sitting idly and hoping for budgets to balance themselves, nor do they happen without a steadfast commitment to a proven plan for job creation and high growth. In this respect, Bill C-43 delivers a comprehensive and forward-looking agenda that will continue putting Canadians to work and building a strong economic future.

I urge all members of the House to pass this good bill.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

10:30 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance for his speech. I also want to congratulate him because I think that is one of the few speeches we will hear from the Conservative benches that is mainly on the content of Bill C-43.

We noted both at second reading and at report stage of this bill that most of the members prefer to talk about anything but the content.

I very much enjoy sitting on the Standing Committee on Finance with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance because we have some interesting debates there. We also have a chance to talk about the various aspects of the bill, and we supported certain aspects because we considered them to be good measures. Nonetheless, if we look at the bill as a whole, there are still a number of aspects that are extremely problematic.

One of the most controversial aspects of Bill C-43 is the premium holiday that is being given to small business through the employment insurance fund, a holiday that comes with no guarantee of creating jobs.

The only testimony we heard about this came from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who talked about the creation of 800 jobs. The only organization that denounces these numbers and claims that this measure will create more jobs is the one that will benefit from this measure. What is more, the government included this measure in the bill without any impact analysis by the Department of Finance.

How can the parliamentary secretary justify the fact that the government does not properly analyze the impact of these measures?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

10:30 a.m.


Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague also sits on the finance committee and knows as well as I do that we heard from countless witnesses. We debated the bill at committee, and in fact several different committees had an opportunity to discuss this bill and debate it at length. We have debated it in the House of Commons and are doing so again today.

The member referred specifically to the small business job credit. Our government is very proud of this. It would give back to small businesses the money they were paying into the EI fund. It would give them an opportunity to reinvest those funds, to create more jobs for Canadians, to reinvest in their businesses, to reinvest in equipment to make their businesses more productive and more efficient. It is a great opportunity for small businesses, which happen to be some of the biggest job creators in this country. This credit would give them more opportunities to create new jobs and to enhance their businesses as well.

I just wish that the NDP would get onboard and support this good measure, which is being supported by many groups. It is expected that thousands of jobs will be created as a result of this small business job credit.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

10:35 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, whether it is from the Prime Minister's Office or the Conservatives generally, spin is out there. The Conservative spin is that we are going to have a balanced budget in 2015-16, which happens to be an election year.

I wonder if the member would acknowledge that when the Conservatives took power they were handed a multi-billion dollar surplus from Paul Martin. Prior to the recession the Conservatives turned that budget surplus into a billion dollar plus deficit and now, going into an election year, they are talking about balanced budgets.

Could the member explain to me why a Conservative government has really not been able to balance budgets in any sort of a consistent fashion? As they pointed out, they even turned a surplus into a deficit prior to the recession.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

10:35 a.m.


Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting question coming from a member of a party whose leader thinks that budgets balance themselves. It is also interesting coming from a member of a party that balanced its budgets on the backs of the provinces and the territories by cutting health care spending, cutting education spending, and cutting spending on individuals and transfers. The Liberal Party raided the EI fund of $60 billion when it was in power. That party balanced its budgets by raiding funds and cutting transfers. That is not what we are doing.

We have increased transfers to the provinces and territories by over 50% since coming to power. In the first two years we were in government we paid down the national debt by over $39 billion. We did all of that while lowering taxes for Canadian families. Average Canadian families now have over $4,000 extra in their pockets at the end of each year because of the tax relief we have given them. We are proud of that.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

10:35 a.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to laugh at the last question of the hon. member. I understand that he has not been here that long, but he was here in 2008.

I would like to give a little history lesson before I ask my question.

In 2008-09 Canada suffered through a horrendous recession. Some would call it a depression. Canada is the only country in the G8 that has moved out of a deficit situation. We were able to do that and manage the economy to the degree where today we are looking at a surplus position in our budget rather than a deficit.

Could the parliamentary secretary tell us what difference that is going to make and what the government can do for families in general? Could he elaborate on that and tell the House why it is so important?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

10:35 a.m.


Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. When the world entered a global economic recession, the greatest recession since the Great Depression, our Conservative government was ready to take action. That is what it did through the economic action plan.

We invested in our economy and created thousands of jobs. We created brand new infrastructure that will benefit Canadians for generations to come. As a result of that, Canada today is a model for the rest of the world.

I have travelled to other places in the world and am frequently asked how Canada did it. How did we manage to come through this great recession in such good shape, relatively unscathed in comparison with our neighbours and trading partners? It is because we took firm action as soon as the recession started.

Since forming government, we have had the strongest economic growth of any country in the G7. We have created almost 1.2 million net new jobs since the recession. The G20 growth strategy initiative paves the way for 2% GDP growth, or $2 trillion, over 5 years. The IMF and OECD both project that Canada will have among the strongest growth rates in the G7 in the years ahead.

As a result of that, we have been able to help Canadian families by increasing child care benefits and putting more money back into the pockets of Canadian families.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

10:40 a.m.


Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are currently at third reading stage of a budget that we will have only one day to debate. I find that very unfortunate.

Once again, we will be unable to look at the impact the measures contained in this omnibus bill will have because too many of those measures have nothing to do with the actual budget. We have learned from that in the past.

What does the parliamentary secretary think about introducing measures in a budget that have nothing to do with the actual budget and that the provinces did not ask for? I am thinking in particular about how the government wants to take social assistance away from some types of refugees.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

10:40 a.m.


Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I remind my colleague that legitimate refugees would be looked after in the same manner they have always been. Canada is an extremely generous and thoughtful country, and it will continue to be generous and thoughtful.

However, we do not want people taking advantage of Canada's generosity. That is why, for bogus claimants, people who are coming here simply to take advantage of our system, provinces and territories would have the option of not giving them services as they see fit.

I would like to remind the member opposite of the good things in Bill C-43 that he should be supporting, like the government prohibiting fees for receipt of paper bills, eliminating pay-to-pay billing; supporting charities, and allowing them to use modern electronic tools to eliminate red tape; creating the DNA-based missing persons index; strengthening Canada's intellectual property regime by cutting red tape and creating efficiencies for small businesses; amendments that would increase the capabilities of social security tribunals in the face of an increasing workload; and establishing a new federal research organization that would strengthen Canada's leadership in the Arctic.

I do not have time to mention all of the great things in this particular bill, but I encourage the member opposite to vote for it and for Canadian families.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

10:40 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-43 at third reading. This is the second budget implementation bill.

I am pleased to rise given that I will be one of the few members of the House who will have the opportunity to speak to this bill at third reading because, as my colleague from Louis-Hébert mentioned, the government has limited debate to just one day. We have just one day to debate a massive budget bill that is 460 pages long and contains 401 clauses. It amends dozens of laws by creating, amending or eliminating legislation. We had very little time to examine this bill in committee given the scope of the measures it proposes. The process was seriously flawed in this case. Not only was the bill much too long to examine in two weeks—that is how long we had to examine it in committee—but there was also not enough time for the committees to which we referred certain sections to do their job properly. I would like to remind hon. members that the only authority these committees had was to hear from witnesses and make recommendations to the finance committee, which did not hear from those witnesses. This process is completely inadequate. Anyone who believes in parliamentary democracy cannot claim that this process is adequate for good governance.

As we have seen with all of the government's previous budget bills, as a result of mismanagement we end up with all kinds of flaws, errors, omissions and mistakes in these bills that must then be fixed in subsequent budget bills. That is not an effective way to govern.

Some elements in this bill show that the government refuses to abide by the principles of good governance.

One of these elements—which is something I just asked the parliamentary secretary about—is probably one of the most costly measures in the bill. This measure gives business that pay less than $15,000 in EI premiums a tax credit, without any conditions, to supposedly create jobs. That money is taken from the EI fund, which, as we know, is projecting a surplus in the coming years. That surplus would already be spent. This measure is estimated to cost more than a half-million dollars—around $550 million.

We would expect to see some guarantee of job creation if the government is forgoing $550 million in revenue from the EI fund. However, that is not the case. The only independent analysis we have had is from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who estimated that this measure would create 800 jobs. Just 800 jobs. The only organization that appeared before the committee and contradicted the Parliamentary Budget Officer's figures was the organization whose members will benefit the most from this measure. It was the organization that promoted this measure and it was this organization's study on which the government based its decision.

When a measure costs more than half a billion dollars, one would expect the Department of Finance to conduct an independent analysis to estimate how a break from paying premiums would affect job creation. However, the Minister of Finance himself came to committee and told us that the Department of Finance had not conducted any studies, and that the only analysis that he relied on had actually been conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. The organization does a good job representing its members and determining what government benefits and measures will help them. That is what it does. That is why the government should rely on an independent analysis before adopting this type of measure. The government should not be sub-contracting the finance department's work—which is essentially what happened—and entrusting it to an outside organization that will first and foremost make sure that its members will benefit. This is one of the measures that clearly demonstrates that this government is completely off track when it comes to good governance. I must say that I have rarely seen another government use such a misguided and erratic approach to the economy.

There is no doubt that we are in pre-election mode, because most of the measures in the bill do nothing to stimulate economic growth and job creation, except for the measures we intend to support. In a 460-page bill, we are bound to find some measures we agree with, measures that support economic growth and job creation. However, many of these measures do not do that. Those measures should be studied separately in their own bill, but the government will hear nothing of it.

Even when it comes to measures that actually are related to taxation and the economy, the government has clearly shown that none of the measures, including the tax credit I just talked about, were analyzed by the Department of Finance. They were not analyzed by the Department of Finance or by independent parties, whose analysis the government ignored.

The government is so proud of its move to double the child fitness tax credit. The goal might be laudable, but the measure will be extremely expensive. According to estimates, this will result in more than twice as much lost revenue, and that the money will be given to parents of children who participate in physical activities.

Once again, the goal is laudable, but is the tax credit the right way to achieve that goal? Was an impact assessment done? In committee, one tax expert told us that the tax credit would not achieve—or would go only a short way toward achieving—the government's goal, which is to increase children's physical activity, and that this is not the right approach to take.

The questions that the Conservative members asked at the Standing Committee on Finance had more to do with anecdotes. They said that some of their constituents benefited from the credit and were happy about it. Fiscal analysis of how effective a tax credit is has to be done independently by the government and must be based on fiscal analysis of the numbers, not anecdotes. Governing on the basis of anecdotes is a bad idea. That is an irresponsible way to do it.

Another aspect that justifies our position at third reading of Bill C-43 is the government's lack of prior consultation on a number of measures. As I said, there are 401 clauses. The fourth part of the bill is on measures that have nothing to do with tax measures. This is one of the largest parts of the bill and it deals with a variety of topics that often have nothing to do with the budget or the economy in general. We might expect the government to at least do its homework and consult industry stakeholders, whose opinion should count to ensure that these measures are effective.

What is more, the division on changes to the Aeronautics Act seeks to centralize the powers of the department and the minister with regard to the expansion of and changes to airports. This could increase the risk of eliminating local consultation in cases of controversial proposals because these provisions give the minister discretionary power. We can see this in the case of the Toronto Island airport expansion.

Was the Canadian Airports Council consulted on this measure? No. Was the Canadian Federal Pilots Association consulted on this measure? No. How can the government propose measures like these without doing its homework? Is this the only proposed measure in Bill C-43 where the Conservatives failed in their responsibilities to Canadians? No. I could go on, in part 4 alone.

For example, the bill changes the rules that apply to co-operative credit societies without understanding the full repercussions. Again, was the Credit Union Central of Canada, the agency that represents credit unions, consulted? Was the Fédération des caisses Desjardins consulted? No. How can the government introduce such measures, which will have significant impacts on various industries?

How can the Conservatives claim they are doing due diligence in this process when they have not even bothered to ensure that there are no flaws in these measures or that they will have no adverse effects?

We do agree with some measures, but they have been watered down. They do not fully honour the Conservatives' commitments, including ending pay-to-pay practices, which is when consumers have to pay a fee to receive a paper copy of their bill. This legislation proposes eliminating these fees in the telecommunications sector. That is great.

We on this side of the House have been calling for an end to these pay-to-pay fees for years now. We have come back to this point again and again. I therefore want to ask the government why it chose to stop there, when it promised to eliminate those fees in the banking industry too. The government did not follow through on its commitment. The banking industry must have better lobbyists than the telecom industry. We know that this government does not necessarily have the best relationship with the telecom industry. That is the only reason I can think of to explain this decision. Once again, this is another half measure for consumers, when the government should be going all the way in meeting consumers' demands.

None of the measures the government has proposed, not only in Bill C-43, but also in all of its economic policies, have any real direction. The government has no policy framework to give its efforts some direction so that they do not end up wasted or focused on vote-chasing, as is quite clear in Bill C-43 and as I am sure we will see in the pre-budget consultation report. This is a real piecemeal approach.

This government does not have a proper industrial policy. However, in part 4 of the bill, the government has included measures that water down the Investment Canada Act and make it easier for foreign interests to acquire companies. There were not really any consultations about this measure. The Investment Canada Act needs much more transparency and much more specific guidelines, so that foreign investors have little or no chance of seeing arbitrary or unjustified decisions. The government must be much more predictable for these investors, which is very important if we want to attract foreign interests.

There is no comprehensive health policy or strategy. The government could show leadership. Naturally, we recognize that health is a provincial jurisdiction. However, that does not prevent the government from working with the provinces, taking a leadership role and ensuring that we have a pan-Canadian health policy that the provinces and territories support. However, the government is making unilateral changes, and our fear is that this bill is specifically trying to politicize the Public Health Agency of Canada.

There is no credible policy on the part of the government to ensure retirement security. However, there are amendments that create other investment vehicles without improving income security. Furthermore, the government does not have a coherent energy policy. Despite that, changes are being made to the law on marine transport. Changes are being made to tax rules with respect to the right to organize and the environment in order to allow the oil and gas sector and extractive companies to apply the same rules in Canada as in developing countries. They are actually being allowed to comply with laws that are much less rigorous than what we have here.

Although we could play a role in developing and implementing coherent policies in the countries with which we do business, the government is going in the opposite direction. It is extremely frustrating to come back to the House for third reading with very little time to debate this bill, as was the case in committee.

That was definitely the case at the Standing Committee on Finance. However, other committees, although they had no real power, tried their best to invite witnesses who could speak to those far-reaching bills that should have been split into multiple bills.

This is extremely frustrating because it clearly shows that this country is moving in the wrong direction. The majority of the government members will give their speeches, at least those who will have the opportunity, and will sing the praises of their economic policies.

When the parliamentary secretary answered a question about this government's performance, in 2008 in particular, when the recession hit, he said that the government was a leader in terms of what governments were doing around the world to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis.

However, that is not what the Conservatives did. During the 2008 election, they denied that there was an economic crisis on the horizon. I remember quite well that the Prime Minister played down the looming economic crisis, but we saw how bad it was. On national television, he simply said that it was a good time to buy stocks and invest in the stock market. How completely irresponsible.

We have called on this government to invest specifically in infrastructure, in the sectors where private enterprise could no longer or would no longer invest because of the current economic situation, in order to make up for the gap left by the private sector, which should be investing and ensuring a thriving economy. The government had to play its role, in large part thanks to the opposition. Boasting about taking the lead on this and acting alone is completely irresponsible. That interpretation is a complete misrepresentation of what we are dealing with.

We are not out of the woods yet. We need concrete measures from this government that are not just intended to win votes, but rather are focused on what they claim is their slogan: job creation and growth. That is not what we see in this bill.

That is why we have no choice but to oppose it. Before doing that, I would like to move the following motion:

I move, seconded by the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“this House decline to give third reading to Bill C-43, A Second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, because it:

(a) amends dozens of unrelated Acts without adequate parliamentary debate and oversight;

(b) does not take measures to create jobs and address slow economic growth;

(c) seeks to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants, even though there is no financial need and there has been no request from the provinces for such a measure;

(d) makes amendments to patent legislation that could lead to costly legal action against the government;

(e) introduces a tax credit whose effects have not been analyzed by the government and that will significantly diminish the employment insurance fund; and

(f) breaks the government's promises to protect small businesses from merchant fees and to ban banks from charging pay-to-pay fees.”.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

11 a.m.


Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and my colleague, and I would like to point out that we are talking about a worrisome number of subjects that have nothing to do with the budgetary process.

It is also extremely worrisome to hear the parliamentary secretary talking about DNA databases in a debate about a budget implementation bill, regardless of what we think about that issue. It is rather worrisome. Every time we have had to deal with this process since we were elected in 2011, the government has always done the same thing.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Finance, my colleague understands just how important it is for the various witnesses who appear to submit their briefs and talk about their needs.

Does my colleague agree that this type of catch-all bill is insulting to people who take the budgetary process seriously?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

11:05 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Chambly—Borduas for his question, which is very relevant despite the fact that it is a bit repetitive. We ask this same question every time we discuss a budget implementation bill.

The creation of a DNA data bank is important. We support it in principle. However, it has an impact on other things, such as privacy. It is therefore important to properly consider the proposal.

The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security did its work on this file. However, it would be a good idea for other sections to also conduct an in-depth analysis of this issue.

When I have the opportunity to do so at other stages of the process, I often ask members questions, particularly Conservative members who give speeches about aspects of this bill. I find it interesting that the Conservative members never answer my questions because they do not really know what impact the measures will have. I am thinking, for example, of the measure that changes the electoral process in the Northwest Territories.

Although this is an important issue, it should be examined independently, not included in an omnibus bill like this one, where it will be extremely difficult to properly analyze the consequences.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

11:05 a.m.


Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. His speech was not just good, it was excellent. Not often do we hear an economic speech in this House that is so on the ball, so well written and so well structured, and I sincerely thank him for that.

He underscored this government's incompetence when it comes to proposing tax measures. He focused on the fact that there was no impact analysis of the tax measures, which I find very worrisome.

Aside from the absolutely horrible and ineffective EI measures, what measures does my colleague think are completely amateurish and appear to have been introduced simply because the Conservatives thought it was a good idea?

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11:05 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Louis-Hébert.

I appreciate getting questions from members. However, I find it ironic that the Conservatives remain seated and would not dare challenge what I said in my speech. I am sure they do not agree with me on everything, but they would rather remain seated. I imagine they will feed us the same old lines, hoping to convince Canadians that their process and their budget bill are credible. However, that is not the case.

Their incompetence is evident in all of the measures they have brought in. For example, I mentioned the tax credit, which they call a job creation tax credit, but which is nothing but an EI premium holiday. These measures have not been properly analyzed by the Department of Finance, although it is their job to do so.

The minister himself confirmed that the department had not done an analysis, but he did not seem bothered by that. Government officials also confirmed this.

If the Conservatives managed a private company the way they are managing government money—and taxpayers are trusting them to manage it properly—the private company would not last long. The Conservatives do not appear to follow the principles of good governance or the basic principles of administration, although this is something one would expect, especially from a G7 country.

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11:05 a.m.


Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for that great speech. He brought up some very good points.

I was banging my head against the desk about the fact that the government did not actually look into the numbers with respect to the EI holiday. It simply relied on the group that was lobbying it to make the change to provide all the statistics. It is just mind-boggling that the government would do that.

I wanted to bring up the issue of pay to pay, which is near and dear to many of my constituents, people who are on fixed incomes and who are being charged $2, $3, and $4 just to get their paper bills. It is great to see the government finally moving on this. Of course, the NDP, especially with the work of the member for Davenport, has been trying to convince the government to make this change for almost three years now. However, why would the government slip in an exemption for the banks? It makes absolutely no sense that the government would say that it is going to cut this practice out but is going to let the banks do it.

I just want to ask my colleague if maybe he has some ideas about why the government might have done that.

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11:10 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, it is very hard to explain. I do not have the answer.

I do not think we got an explanation from the government as to why it actually decided to basically play favourites, picking the winners and losers of such policies. It does not make sense to me.

If the government is opposed to the concept of pay to pay for the telecommunications industry, it should be opposed to it for all industries, including the banking sector. The government has refused to go in that direction. I cannot answer my colleague properly simply because the government has not really explained why. It has not explained why to the committee. It has not explained why in the media. It has not explained why to us, as the official opposition. It is really disappointing, because this is an important measure for his constituents, for my constituents, and for all Canadians.

It is a measure that falls short. There are many other measures we asked the government to include in the budget bill that are not here.

Incidentally, and ironically, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business brought forward the issue of how credit card fees are actually killing many small businesses. What is there in this bill that addresses this important situation? Nothing. The government is still going down the road of having a voluntary approach to this, which is not working for businesses. They are paying the price.

I would like to answer my colleague, but I cannot, because the government has never, ever explained why such a policy is falling short of what it should be. I am still waiting for an answer. Hopefully we will have it on this short day of debating this bill at third reading.

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11:10 a.m.


Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to once again congratulate my colleague for his speech.

I would also like to comment on the fact that the government is not really taking any measures to help the regions. Once again, we have an omnibus bill that is detrimental to small business. That means it will be detrimental to the regions.

In that regard, I would like my colleague to explain why, instead of helping the regions, the government is proposing a $500 million exemption, which could nevertheless have helped all regions, agriculture, SMEs and all Canadians from coast to coast to coast, especially those in remote areas.

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11:10 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Compton—Stanstead for his question.

It is an important question, but we must nevertheless be careful. The promised tax credit or premium holiday will be paid for out of the employment insurance fund. As the parliamentary secretary mentioned, this fund was raided by the government—because that is what actually happened—to finance its corporate tax reduction measures beginning in 2000. The amount of $57 billion disappeared, but the theft of this money was approved and confirmed by the Conservative government when it eliminated the employment insurance fund.

It is expected that higher contributions and reduced access to benefits will result in a surplus in the new employment insurance fund. This reduced access to EI particularly affects regions where there is a great deal of seasonal work, such as eastern Quebec and also the region that I represent.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

11:10 a.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I rise to speak to the government's budget implementation act at third reading, I regret that we are debating, yet again, another massive omnibus piece of legislation.

This legislation contains many specific flaws, but I would like to start by addressing its conceptual failure. It covers too many subjects which are non-budgetary in nature and therefore not suitable for inclusion in a budget implementation act.

This legislation is frankly a smokescreen designed to ram through a multitude of changes without allowing for careful scrutiny and rigorous analysis. It is 460 pages long, with 400 separate clauses amending countless different laws. Bill C-43 represents a continued abuse of power, disrespect for Parliament, and plain bad judgment on the part of the government.

I would like to review a few of the specific laws in this legislation.

First, there is the small-business job credit. The Minister of Finance conceded, in his appearance before the finance committee, that his department did absolutely no economic analysis of this measure before allocating more than half a billion tax dollars to it.

At the Standing Committee on Finance, we heard from experts who say that this tax credit has a serious design flaw. It creates a perverse incentive for employers to lay off workers or reduce their hours of work in order to qualify for the tax savings.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer told us that this so-called job credit would create only 800 jobs over two years, at a cost of about $700,000 per job. Obviously, it is outrageously expensive and ineffective as a job creation measure. We know that there are better ways to manage half a billion dollars in tax dollars and at the same time better ways to create jobs. There are other measures or potentially better-designed investments that could do more to bolster the economy and create jobs cost-effectively.

We offered a focused alternative. The Liberal plan would create a two-year EI premium holiday for businesses that create new jobs, that actually hire and add to their payrolls. This would be a true incentive for employers to do more hiring. Our proposal would fix the design flaw in the government's tax credit. It was endorsed by Canadian employer organizations, such as the CFIB, Restaurants Canada, and the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.

Second, I would like to address the government's latest attack on refugee claimants. Having been overruled by the courts on their previous attempt to deny claimants proper medical care, the Conservatives now wish to make it easier for provincial governments to deny them social assistance. It is a harsh and punitive policy that certainly should not be buried in an omnibus budget bill.

Third, there is the restructuring of the Public Health Agency of Canada. The government would demote the position of chief public health officer, a move that would carry potential risks for the health of Canadians. At the finance committee, we heard from experts about how the Public Health Agency was created in the aftermath of Canada's SARS crisis. They told us that the chief public health officer was deliberately, at that time, made a deputy head so as to have the necessary power and autonomy to work with the provinces and effect change. The omnibus bill would undo much of that good work.

This omnibus bill also attempts to clean up the mess and correct some of the errors contained in previous Conservative omnibus bills. For example, in the last omnibus budget bill, Bill C-31, the Conservatives forgot to include a tax credit for interest on Canada apprentice loans. In the same bill, they forgot to include foreign money-service businesses as foreign entities in measures under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.

The Conservatives also forgot to introduce a refund for duties paid on destroyed tobacco products when they hiked these duties in Bill C-31. As well, they forgot to subject pooled registered pension plans to the same GST rules as registered pension plans in previous legislation.

There is a litany of forgetting, and it is an unfortunate result of not just a lack of competence and attention to the detail, the nitty-gritty of government or economic management, but also the design flaw of the overall approach of putting all these changes in a budget omnibus bill and denying the appropriate committees of Parliament to both review and vote on measures pertaining to their area of public policy and expertise.

In this litany of forgetting things, the government may actually be forgetting about the needs of Canadians. However, I do not think Canadians will forget about the failings of the current government come the next election.

Principle among those failings is a lack of consultation, which is clearly evident in this omnibus bill. The government did not consult with aviation groups when changing the rules around aerodromes. It did not listen to Canada's only international cable-laying company when excluding cable laying from the definition of international shipping. It did not listen to the provincial governments when pressing ahead with measures aimed at denying social assistance to refugees.

The Canadian people have made it clear that they need economic growth and employment, and they need growth and jobs to be an absolute priority for the government. Unfortunately, the government is out of touch with Canadians' needs and aspirations, and it is certainly doing nothing to create growth and prosperity.

For example, consider the government's new income-splitting scheme, which will cost $2.4 billion this year. It benefits only 14% of Canadians, the most privileged of Canadians. The measure completely overlooks single parents and parents who happen to both make similar incomes.

The late Jim Flaherty had doubts about it, and he expressed them clearly. These are the words of the late Jim Flaherty:

I think income-splitting needs a long, hard analytical see who it affects and to what degree, because I’m not sure that overall, it benefits our society.

If the Conservatives followed his advice and took a long, hard look at income splitting, they would see that it does nothing to really create growth and prosperity, and does nothing to help a lot of the Canadian families that need the help the most. It also puts the government more deeply in deficit this year. The government would already project a surplus, or be close to a surplus this year, if it were not for this income-splitting scheme, which actually puts us back into a deficit situation.

While the Conservatives are borrowing to benefit a small and relatively well-off segment of the population through income splitting, they are neglecting a vulnerable group that has served Canadians with true patriotism and valour; that being our veterans.

In addition to closing Veterans Affairs offices, the government lapsed $1.1 billion that was earmarked to invest on behalf of veterans. Instead of following Parliament's direction and using those funds to take care of our veterans, the government clawed that money back for the federal treasury.

Meanwhile, the government skimped on much-needed mental health services for our veterans. In his recent report, the Auditor General found that 80% of veterans had to wait nearly eight months to find out if they were even eligible for long-term mental health services, and the other 20% had to wait even longer than that.

This is callous treatment by a government that likes to lionize the military, but will not treat individual veterans or their families with care and respect. The Conservative government is even trying to argue in the courts now that it does not have a sacred obligation to those who served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

A Liberal government would have a very different agenda than the current government, economically and socially. We believe that members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans should have nothing less than the best of care and support from a grateful nation and government. Our goals would be fair treatment for all members of society and the strengthening of Canada's middle class through an agenda of jobs and growth.

We would grow the economy in a way that would benefit all Canadians, investing significantly in infrastructure, innovation and trade. We would partner with the provinces and Canadian municipalities. We would work with progressive investors, including, potentially Canada's pension funds, to invest significantly and massively in infrastructure. We would follow some of the lead of countries like the U.K. and Australia. This year, Australia is investing $13 billion of federal money into infrastructure. It is leveraging with the state governments and with pension funds to create $60 billion of new investments in infrastructure.

We have the capacity, through a forward-thinking and innovative infrastructure agenda, to create jobs and growth in the short term during this time of secular stagnation and slow growth and soft employment. We can create jobs and growth in the short term, but we can also render our economy more competitive in the long term by addressing Canada's crumbling infrastructure needs.

The reality is that we probably have the best opportunity in our lifetime to actually invest in infrastructure. We have bond yields at historic lows, real interest rates actually negative, a crumbling infrastructure and soft employment market, and a slow growth economy. Put those factors together and there is little wonder why people like David Dodge, or the OECD or the IMF are saying that countries like Canada ought to be investing significantly in infrastructure.

This is no time for the government to do what it did in the last budget; that is, cut planned infrastructure spending by 89% in order to achieve a notional surplus on the eve of an election.

Infrastructure spending needs to be significant, it needs to be consistent, it needs to be long term in nature, not just around electoral scheduling.

We would invest, as a government, in getting better labour market information to provide a clear understanding of the skills mismatch to the situation of jobs without people and people without jobs, address labour shortages and, at the same time, give opportunities to young Canadians who need work.

There are 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians today than before the downturn. One of the things we need in Canada is better labour market data. We need to invest in organizations like Statistics Canada. We need to ensure that young Canadians and their families know more about what the jobs of today look like and what the jobs in the future will look like. We need to get better data and we need to make that data available in a user-friendly format for young Canadians, starting in junior high school, such that they can start thinking long term, not just what they want to do but what those jobs actually pay so they can get a job that will provide them with the means to have a place of their own. There has never been a time, in recent history, when we have seen more young Canadians living at home, on the sofa in the basement, because they simply cannot get work to financially sustain themselves.

One of the drivers of high levels of personal debt for Canadian families right now is the direct financial subsidization of adult children who cannot get a job or cannot get jobs that will actually financially sustain them. Canadian families today are seeing record levels of personal debt—$1.65 for every $1.00 of annual income—as parents and grandparents directly financially support young people who have skills, who have good educations, but whose skills do not match current labour market needs. We need to close that gap and part of it is simply providing good information to young Canadians as they are planning their career and their lives, and informing them as to the types of jobs, professional trades, that can provide them with the capacity to support themselves into the future.

We need to work with the provinces to restore the honour and respect paid to professional trades. We have seen a diminution in the respect for professional trades over the last 30 years. We need to reverse that because we know there is a shortage of skilled trades and an opportunity for young people, if they are given the correct information, to choose paths in skilled trades, I think we will see more young people doing that.

We also need to invest more in training and apprenticeships. We need to track unpaid internships, for instance. We have asked the government to mandate Statistics Canada to track unpaid internships. We have been told that there is more use of unpaid interns today than ever before. It is kind of a supply and demand issue.

There are a lot of young Canadians who are desperate for work, desperate for the experience they need to start off their careers, who simply cannot find work. The issue with unpaid internships is that it can deepen inequality of opportunity significantly because only children from privileged families can afford to work for no pay. In other words, it is more likely a child from a privileged family will actually get a good start and get some work experience.

This has tremendous long-term impacts on equality of opportunity. We have learned from a recent report of the IMF that in fact inequality of opportunity is not just a social issue; it impedes economic growth. That is why issues like unpaid internships and income inequality are important and why we should, at the very least, not make the situation worse with a tax change that has the capacity to deepen inequality, like income splitting.

We also need to recognize that over the last 30 years the nature of work and training has changed, not just in Canada but throughout the industrialized world. The old days where one could get a degree, or a diploma, or trade and be set for life and never have to go back to school, university or college, are over, in the same way that working for 30 years, retiring with a gold watch and defined benefit pension plan is largely behind us.

We need to update and modernize our Canada student loans program as part of a suite of support for not just young people as they graduate from high school to get their education, but as they move forward through multiple decades of their careers and lives. There is nothing really there for people in their 30s who have young families, who find that their skills do not match the current job market. It is very difficult for them to finance the education and training they need to get a job to support their families at that time. It would be good for productivity and competitiveness, and jobs and growth, if we worked with people throughout their careers and life cycles to help them get the skills they needed during that entire period.

We also believe it is important that we go back to evidence-based decision making, as opposed to the Conservatives' decision-based evidence making, when we are crafting public policy. What we may think, based on an ideological perspective, is the right thing to do, when exposed to the bright light of fact and information, we may be surprised. It is important that we get the best possible information and data, whether scientific or statistical.

We live in an age of big data. Smart companies and smart governments are investing massively in knowing more about their customers and the demographic trends and how to prepare for them. There is only one organization I can think of globally that has deliberately chosen over the last 10 years to both reduce the quality and quantity of data it collects, and that is the Conservative government. It is an ideological perspective that is wrong headed.

Instead of dividing Canadians with ideologies, a Liberal government would unite Canadians with ideas, based on fact, creativity, imagination and innovation, to create the jobs and growth that Canadians need.

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11:30 a.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech.

I would like to come back to something he said, which I have a hard time believing. He said that the Conservatives' EI premium holiday was announced without any consultation. I have a hard time believing that the government would have announced such a costly measure—we are talking $550 million here—without any consultation or a study conducted by the Department of Finance itself.

Is that really what I heard? Did the Department of Finance propose a $550-million tax measure without basing it on an internally conducted impact assessment? Did I understand that correctly?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

11:35 a.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the question.

Unfortunately, that is the case. It is true that the government did not conduct an analysis; there are no facts or figures. The government decided to spend more than $500 million on a program that will not create jobs. That is nonsense and bad policy. It may be good policy for the Conservatives before an election, that much is true, but it does not reflect the principles of good governance.

When the government is considering implementing a policy, it needs to do research to understand the potential results. That is not what the Conservatives did, and this is not the first time. The Conservatives always do the same thing.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

11:35 a.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too, like my colleague across the way, had difficulty believing some of the things I heard. I say that because, along with the member, I serve on the finance committee and shared the same testimony that he shared.

I could probably mention a number of things, but I want to talk about his reference to the Chief Public Health Officer and his understanding of what he heard, which was much different from what the rest of us heard. The Chief Public Health Officer actually said that he was quite in favour of the changes and thought that the changes would have a positive effect on his job and his ability to do the job.

I am wondering if the hon. member could maybe let the House know what he heard. I think he was in committee at the time, and I would ask that he make a comment on that as well.