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House of Commons Hansard #97 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was honduras.

Topics

Business of the HouseOral Questions

June 5th, 2014 / 3:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will start with the concept of the very strange proposition put forward by my friend. He uses this concept of shifts and believes there is some perverse obligation on the part of the government that, if the opposition wishes to filibuster the production of new laws and delay their production, we somehow have an obligation to match them step for step in extending that process. His comparison is with ordinary Canadians. He said that ordinary Canadians should not produce a product at the end of the day at work; they should take two, three, or four days to get the same thing made. That is his idea of getting things done. That is his idea of how ordinary Canadians can work. I think that says something about the culture of the NDP and the hon. member. I will let members guess what culture that is. It is a culture that does say we should take two or three times longer to get something done or to get to our destination than we possibly can.

We on this side are happy to make decisions to get things done for Canadians. In fact, that is exactly what we have been doing. Since I last rose in response to a Thursday question, the House has accomplished a lot, thanks to our government's plan to work a little overtime this spring.

I know the House leader of the official opposition boasts that the New Democrats are happy to work hard, but let us take a look at what his party's deputy leader had to say on CTV last night. The hon. member for Halifax was asked why the NDP agreed to work until midnight. She confessed, “We didn't agree to do it”. She then lamented, “We are going from topic to topic. We are doing votes. We are at committees. They are really intense days. We're sitting until midnight”.

On that part, I could not agree more with the deputy leader of the NDP, believe it or not, but with much more cheer in my voice when I say those words, because we think it is a good thing. These are intense days. We are actually getting things done. We are actually voting on things. We are actually getting things through committee. For once, we are going from topic to topic in the run of the day.

Let me review for the House just how many topics, votes, and committee accomplishments we have addressed since the government asked the House to roll up its sleeves.

Bill C-24, the strengthening Canadian citizenship act, was passed at second reading and has even been reported back from the citizenship committee.

Bill C-10, the tackling contraband tobacco act, was concurred in at report stage and later passed at third reading.

Bill C-31, the economic action plan 2014 act, no. 1, was reported back from the finance committee.

Bill C-27, the veterans hiring act, was passed at second reading.

Bill C-20, the Canada-Honduras economic growth and prosperity act, was concurred in at report stage.

On the private members' business front we saw:

Bill C-555, from the hon. members for West Nova in support of the seal hunt, was passed at second reading.

Bill C-483, from my hon. colleague, the member for Oxford, cracking down on prisoners' escorted temporary absences was passed at third reading.

Bill C-479, from the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, on improving the place of victims in our justice system was passed at third reading last night.

Progress is not limited to Conservative initiatives. The Green Party leader's Bill C-442, respecting a Lyme disease strategy, was reported back from committee yesterday.

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay saw a motion on palliative care pass.

We have also seen countless reports from committees reviewing the government's spending plans, as well as topics of importance to those committees.

This morning we even ratified the appointment of an officer of Parliament.

Finally, I do want to reflect on the accomplishment of Bill C-17, the protecting Canadians from unsafe drugs act (Vanessa's law), which members may recall me discussing in last week's Thursday statement. It finally passed at second reading. However, this did not happen until the NDP relented and changed its tune to allow the bill to go to committee. It was the first time ever that we had an expression from the New Democrats when we gave notice of intention to allocate time in which they said, “We don't need that time; we're actually prepared to allow a bill to advance to the next stage”. I think, by reflecting on the fact that those dozens of other times the NDP did not take that step, we could understand that they did not want to see a bill advance; they did not want to see progress made. That lets Canadians understand quite clearly why it is we need to use scheduling and time allocation as a device to get things done in the face of a group that thinks the objective is to fill up all possible time available with words rather than actual votes and getting things done.

It is clear that our approach is working. We are getting things done in the House of Commons and delivering results for Canadians.

Perhaps I might be overly inspired by the example of Vanessa’s Law, but I do want to draw the attention of the House to Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act.

So far, we have seen three days of debate on second reading of the bill, but “debate” is actually not accurate. What we have witnessed is speech, after speech, after speech—most of them from New Democrats—offering platitudes of support for the idea of getting that bill to a committee where it could be studied. What I want to know is, why will they not just let it happen? Victims of crime want to see meaningful action, not just kind words.

Suffice it to say that I will need to schedule additional time for discussion of this bill. Perhaps the NDP will let it pass after a fourth day of talk.

This afternoon, we will continue with the report stage debate on Bill C-31, our budget implementation bill. When that concludes, we will turn to Bill C-20, to implement our free trade agreement with Honduras, at third reading. If time permits, we will continue the third reading debate on Bill C-3, the Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act.

Tomorrow morning, we will start the report stage debate on Bill C-24, which makes the first modernization of the Citizenship Act in 35 years. After question period, I will call Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act, to see if the NDP is ready to deliver results, not talk.

Monday morning, we will continue the third reading debate on Bill C-20, if more time is needed, and then resume the second reading debate on Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act. After question period, we will get back to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.

Tuesday shall be the eighth allotted day when the NDP will have a chance to talk, and talk, about a topic of their own choosing. At the end of the night, we will have a number of important votes on approving the funds required for government programs and services and pass two bills to that end.

On Wednesday, we will debate our budget bill at third reading, and then we will start the second reading debate on Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which my seatmate, the Minister of Justice, tabled yesterday.

We will continue the debates on Bill C-36 and Bill C-24, if extra time is needed, on Thursday. After those have finished, and on Friday, we will resume the uncompleted debates on Bill C-3, the Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act, at third reading; Bill C-6, the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act, at report stage; Bill C-8, the Combating Counterfeit Products Act, at third reading; Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act, at second reading; Bill C-26, the Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act, at second reading; Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act, at second reading; and Bill C-35, the Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law), at second reading.

To make a long story short, we have accomplished much in the House over the last week, but we still have much left to do, which inspires me to note that, in the week ahead, I have to take my automobile in for maintenance. At that time, when I take it to the dealership, I hope one person will work on it for an hour, get the job done, and then return it to me at a reasonable cost. I do hope I am not told, “But there are still many more employees who have not had a chance to have a shift working on your car as well; so we are going to keep it here another three days and give everybody a turn to work on your car”. I hope the dealership will do as Conservatives do: get the job done and then deliver me the product.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would just mention to the leader on the government side that if nobody showed up for the shift to repair his car, his car would not be repaired.

Very briefly, I want to come to the issue of Standing Order 56.1 and the point of order that was raised, with comments from both sides. I would like to get a sense as to when you will be replying to that particular point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Many people are working many shifts on the ruling. I can assure the House that it will be delivered as soon as it is ready. I understand there is a great deal of interest in it, and of course we will do so as quickly as possible.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, you will recall, of course, that traditionally the Thursday question and the answer to the Thursday question was a rather brief affair and not a debate.

I would appeal to you, sir, to bring us back to that time.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the hon. member for Halifax West bringing this up. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to remind both the opposition and government House leaders that there are other people in the chamber waiting to get on to the business of the day. Although many things might be said to each other, maybe carrying over from House leaders' meetings or other things, and it might feel good to air some of these points, it is traditional to keep the question succinct and on point, which is the upcoming business of the House.

There is only a couple of Thursdays left, and I hope they will both bear that in mind for the upcoming Thursday questions.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Winnipeg North has six minutes left for his speech.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, prior to question period, I was commenting on the issue of the economics of balanced budgets. We recognize that this is something on which the government has fallen short. I want to move forward on it and talk about priorities and what the government needs to focus more on.

In the last number of months, we have seen several issues come to the floor of the House. I thought it might be beneficial to provide some sort of brief comment on them.

One of the issues that has always been important to me is health care. I had the opportunity to pose a question on this issue in the debate on the budget implementation bill. I raised the fact that the health care accord had expired.

One of the things we have found with the Prime Minister is that he has not been very successful in meeting with the provinces or getting them together to look at what is important to the country as a whole. The Prime Minister has really fallen short on recognizing how important health care is to all Canadians. The government's response to that issue has been quite surprising. It has literally done nothing.

I would like to think that the government could have demonstrated a much tougher approach, trying to appease the issues of health care and looking at ways in which we could achieve another health care accord. This is very important to Canadians, and it would have been nice to see it being incorporated into a supplementary budget document and allow for some form of an agreement. I believe the government is selling short the importance of health care to Canadians.

Another issue that comes up when I am in my constituency is crime and safety. I have had the opportunity to raise this issue in the past. The government is very good at taking certain aspects of legislation, bringing them forward and trying to give the impression that it wants to get tough on crime when, in fact, it would be far better off coming up with bold initiatives under the budget that would prevent crimes from being committed in the first place.

I would ultimately argue that when we look at the budget, it is an issue of priorities. If the government wanted to have more of a profound impact on dealing with the issue of crime, it would need to invest in issues that would allow for more youth engagement in our communities in a more positive fashion.

This, again, is one of the deficiencies of this budget and, therefore, the budget implementation bill. The bill does nothing that is really creative or, using my previous example, that allows more youth being positively engaged in the communities we represent. That is important not only to my constituents, but to constituents as a whole.

We have talked a great deal within the Liberal Party. Since the leader of the Liberal Party was elected, one of the priority issues has been the middle class and what the government has done for its betterment.

I cannot help but notice that since the leader of the Liberal Party was elected, the term middle class has been used a great deal more inside the House. Whether it is the Conservatives or the New Democrats, they are talking about the middle class a whole lot more. I acknowledge that it is a positive thing. Prior to becoming the leader of the Liberal Party, far less attention was being given to the middle class.

It is interesting and encouraging to hear more talk about it from the government, but we would really like to see more tangible action that would made a positive difference for our middle class.

The leader of the Liberal Party has talked about this when we go forward. This is an issue on which the Liberal Party will continue to challenge the government, such as how it delivers on economic and social policies for Canada's middle class, which is of great importance.

I have also highlighted another deficiency of the government in regard to the infrastructure. Municipalities and communities across our country are in need of infrastructure dollars, and those infrastructure dollars need to be spent today. The government's focus has been to try to work on spin, saying that it is spending more on infrastructure and that it is a huge commitment. What it does not tell Canadians is that the bulk of that money will not be spent until well after the next federal election. The next real batch of any large amounts of money will not occur until the election year.

At a time when our municipalities and communities are in need, and there is a wonderful opportunity for the government to invest in our infrastructure today, sadly, the government has chosen not to do so. That is at great cost to the many different communities we all represent.

With those few words, I look forward to any questions there might be. I wish we did not need to have a time limit on this bill.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Dan Albas ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the member referenced the middle class several times in his speech today, and to some extent I would hope we would be here for all Canadians, not necessarily just one segment. However, given he made that the focus of his speech, I would like to ask the member his thoughts on the recent Parliamentary Budget Officer's report with regard to $30 billion less taxes predominantly going toward low to middle income Canadians, which helps put money in people's jeans, helps our local economies and supports our country.

I would also like to ask the member for his thoughts on the recent report in The New York Times saying that Canada's middle class is doing very well.

I find it interesting that he is talking about things and raising criticisms when our country has never been stronger on so many of these points.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is a bit of a problem. The Conservatives, whether it is that minister, or the Prime Minister or the people in short pants in the Prime Minister's Office, are very selective in the quotes and the stats they want to look at. Why not reflect on what their constituents might be telling them, which is that they have higher credit card debt, more and more consumer loans, mortgage rates, in terms of the amount of money borrowed, that are not going down. There is more debt out there. More and more youth and young adults are staying at home because they cannot afford to leave their parents' homes. More and more parents are having to cover the cost of our youth and young adults because of their inability to get out on their own.

These issues are more prevalent today than I have ever experienced, and I have been around as a parliamentarian for over 20 years. In the last number of years, we have seen dramatic increases in the reliance on the middle class, more than I have witnessed in the past.

The hon. member may be able to draw the odd stat here or an interesting story over there, but the reality is quite different. All he needs to do is canvass his constituents and he will find that the disposable income they had before just does not seem to be there, that the costs they are incurring today are quite different from what they were before. The amount of debt today is significantly higher than what it was before.

The middle class in Canada is hurting.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, in relation to the question a moment ago from our hon. Conservative colleague, if he were to go knocking on doors or go to the mall this weekend and speak to constituents in his riding, if he were to tell them that everything was fine, that the cost of living was not going up, that they should not worry about the difficulties they thought they had in making ends meet because they really did not having any trouble at all and that they were in the best situation in the world, I wonder how they would react. I would ask him to talk on that.

I would also like him to talk about the fact that infrastructure improvements are important. I had a meeting recently with folks from the St. Margaret's Centre in my riding, who are working to replace the swimming pool there. They are looking for funding for infrastructure in a year in which the government has cut the annual funding for infrastructure from $1.3 billion last year to only $210 million this year, which when spread across the country, is pretty darn thin and does not allow much for things like pools, roads, transit, or other needed infrastructure in our communities.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right on in his assessment. Let me first deal with the issue of infrastructure. If we were to do as my colleague suggested, go into the constituencies and identify within our communities, we would find a very high demand for infrastructure dollars. There is no shortage of ideas and needs to build upon our infrastructure. Some of those could be relatively small community oriented. It could be a pothole in the street. It could also be an economic underpass that is needed to help drive an economy. Investing in infrastructure does not mean it is all lost tax dollars. If we have a healthy infrastructure, it leads to more economic activity in many different ways.

In regard to the other issue, in terms of communicating what is important, I love what the leader of the Liberal Party has been saying about the members of Parliament and the need to start recognizing that they need to go and represent Ottawa inside their constituencies. This is approach the Prime Minister has taken, that MPs represent Ottawa in their constituencies. The leader of the Liberal Party is suggesting that it be the other way around. It is time we started representing our constituents in Ottawa. Therefore, if we adopt that approach, I believe we would be better able to address the real needs of Canadians.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Conservative

Chungsen Leung ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of the budget implementation act. This act would ensure that important provisions in budget 2014 are implemented. This is especially true in the case affecting my riding of Willowdale, which has a lot of small and medium-sized businesses.

Our government has never strayed from our commitment to strengthen our economy for Canadians and the determination to see our plan through without raising taxes. Our government believes the hard-earned money of families and entrepreneurs belongs in the pockets of families and entrepreneurs. Low taxes, positive and targeted measures for economic growth, and for families, and balanced budgets is the right combination and the right path for economic growth.

Our plan has been reviewed by the business community. Recently the Conference Board of Canada performed a study on how Canada performs in our economy to find out which countries around the world are prosperous and which are not. The results are that Canada ranks fifth overall in economic performance among the top 16 countries around the world. This is good news for Canada as we continue to weather the global economic slowdown.

It is also important to note the recent report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. This report has concluded that personal income taxes are $17.1 billion lower today and that Canadian consumers are paying about $13.3 billion less in value-added taxes on their purchases of goods and services. I am proud of our government's record in standing up for Canadian consumers and families through these tax reductions. It is also very encouraging that recently the annual “Update of Economic and Fiscal Projections” confirmed that our Conservative government is on track to balance the budget in 2015 and is expected to have a surplus of $3.7 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year. Our plan is working for Canadians, and I am proud to stand in support of policies that benefit the people I represent.

As the world experienced the economic downturn, our government introduced targeted spending to help protect Canadian jobs and to support the economy. Despite ongoing global economic uncertainty, Canada has the best job-creation record, the lowest net debt ratio, and the strongest business investment growth in the G7. These temporary initiatives have helped create jobs and growth. However, our government understands the importance of balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility for Canada's long-term economic success.

Our government would invest $11 million over two years and $3.5 million per year ongoing to strengthen the labour market opinion process to ensure that Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs. We would also provide $14 million over two years and $4.7 million per year ongoing toward the successful implementation of an expression of interest economic immigration system to support Canada's labour market needs.

Our government believes that families and communities are valuable in our economy. That is why we would encourage competition and lower prices in the telecommunications market by capping wholesale domestic wireless roaming rates to prevent wireless providers from charging other companies who may be their competitors more than they charge their own customers for mobile voice, data, and text services.

We have introduced a search and rescue volunteers tax credit for search and rescue volunteers who perform at least 200 hours of service in a year.

We would increase the maximum amount of the adoption expense tax credit to $15,000 to help make adoption more affordable for Canadian families.

We would exempt acupuncturists' and naturopathic doctors' professional services from the goods and services tax and harmonized sales tax. We would also expand the list of eligible expenses under the medical expense tax credit to include costs associated with service animals that are specially trained to assist individuals with severe diabetes, such as diabetes alert dogs, as well amounts paid for the design of an eligible individualized therapy plan.

It is important to note that since the government first introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, and part of that plan was to address some specific areas in the Canadian economy that were affected by the downturn, Canada has recovered more than all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the recession, the result of the sound economic policy of our government. Since July 2009, employment has increased by over one million. It is more than 600,000 above its pre-recession peak, the strongest job growth among the group of seven countries over the recovery. Almost 90% of all jobs created since July 2009 are full-time positions, close to 85% are in the private sector, and over two-thirds are in high-wage industries. Real gross domestic product is significantly above pre-recession levels, the best performance in the G7.

Balancing Canada's budget is essential to the long-term health and prosperity of our economy. By keeping our fiscal house in order, we can help keep taxes low, social programs affordable, and the economy growing. That is why our Conservative government remains committed to balancing the budget in 2015. We would do this by controlling spending and making government more efficient with taxpayers' dollars. What we would not do is cut provincial transfers for important social programs like health care and education.

Overall, since 2010, our actions have saved taxpayers nearly $19 billion per year. This prudent economic leadership has helped Canada maintain its strong fiscal position, with the best job creation record and debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. Returning to balance will cement Canada's status as an economic powerhouse.

We all know that balanced budgets help keep taxes low, attract investment, and ensure sustainable social programs. Despite demands by the opposition for more government spending, we will continue to make government more efficient.

For Ontario, the federal budget confirmed that provincial transfers would total $19.2 billion in 2014-15. This is a whopping increase of 76% from the previous government. That government radically slashed transfers to Ontario, decimating health care, education, and other important social services that families rely on. Under our Conservative government, federal support has grown to historic levels and will continue to grow in the future.

Investment in Canada's public infrastructure creates jobs, promotes economic growth, and provides a high quality of life for families in every city and community across the country. Our government has made significant investments since 2006 to build roads, bridges, subways, rail, and much more. Furthermore, in 2013, our government announced the new building Canada plan, a $53-billion investment in critical infrastructure funding for the next 10 years. This is the largest and longest federal investment in job-creation infrastructure in Canada's history.

Our government recognizes that Canada's seniors have helped build and make our country great. That is why since 2006, about $2.8 billion in annual tax relief has been provided to seniors and pensioners, including introducing pension income splitting, increasing the age credit amount by $2,000, doubling the pension income credit, increasing the amount of the guaranteed income supplements, increasing the age limit for the RRSP-to-RRIF conversion, and establishing the landmark tax-free savings account.

Our government has been keeping Canada on the right path for economic growth. This includes lowering taxes over 160 times, which will save the average Canadian family nearly $3,400 on their tax bills in 2014. We also cut taxes for job-creating businesses, allowing them to hire more workers and open up new markets for Canadian goods and services, most recently through the historic Canada-European Union trade agreement.

To help Canadians get the skills and training they need to succeed, our plan would also move forward with the Canada job grant to connect people looking for work directly with in-demand jobs. We would also introduce the Canadian apprentice loan to give access to student loans to apprentices for the first time ever.

This bill is great news for my constituents in Willowdale and all the small and medium-sized businesses that sustain our economy. I invite all members of the House to join me in supporting jobs, growth,and long-term economic prosperity.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his speech. He addressed several issues related to the budget.

The one that really caught my attention was tax cuts. This government likes to boast about bringing taxes down. However, inequality has gone up. There are ways to calculate that, such as the Gini coefficient.

Can my colleague explain why the Conservatives' tax measures have increased inequality? What would he do to correct the situation?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, 34 years ago, I was in public accounting. I looked at the Canadian tax act, and it is probably one of the most fair tax acts in the world. It looks at transfer payments between those who earn more versus those who earn less, and through a graduated system and through a system of looking at the capital gains one gets from capital asset appreciation, people are taxed accordingly. There is no inequality in this. It is truly a fair tax system.

By raising the basic minimum where people do not have to pay taxes, we are bringing a lot of people who are on the lower end of the middle class into a position where they can have a good standard of living. This is equally applied across the nation, regardless of which industry people are working in.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the statements in my comments on the budget implementation bill was in regard to the infrastructure issue.

That is the question I would like to pose to the member. Given that we have communities across Canada that are in great need of infrastructure dollars this year, why has the government chosen to close the tap?

Yes, there is still money that is going to be flowing, but it is close to 80% in terms of cuts. Some say it is closer to 90%. This is at a time when we could use that infrastructure, because infrastructure spending could actually add more value to economic activity going forward, not to mention social infrastructure.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is another area where I have some experience. I spent 10 years of my life building subway systems around the world, which is also very important and pertinent to Canadian infrastructure building.

The fact that we have allocated $53 billion in long-term sustainable funding gives the municipalities an idea of how to move forward with their infrastructure spending.

Infrastructure spending has many facets. There is short-term infrastructure spending, which is for basic repairs and maintenance for potholes, bridges, roads, and so on. Then, as we direct how we can grow a community in a sustainable way, we need to look at how we build roads and highways, power plants, and other social infrastructure that sustains a community.

Then there is longer-term infrastructure building that looks at the high-end, very expensive expenditures, such as for high-speed rail and subway systems. To give an example, in 1985-86, when we were building the Vancouver SkyTrain, the average cost per kilometre was $25 million. If we were to build that today, we would be paying $300 million. Therefore, we need to do this in a very slow, gradual, and determined way.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today in the House to address the House on Bill C-31, the budget implementation act for economic action plan 2014. Today I will be focusing my remarks on the new building Canada plan, the largest long-term federal investment in infrastructure in Canadian history.

Our government is taking concrete steps to provide for the future of infrastructure across this country, including in my home province of Ontario, the city of Toronto, and my riding of Don Valley West.

Investing in quality public infrastructure helps build stronger communities. Whether it is in roads, bridges, public transit, or water systems, these investments make life easier, cleaner, and healthier. Targeted, sound infrastructure investment helps position cities across Canada as competitive economic engines where local businesses and industry leaders thrive. This is because it allows for goods to get to market faster, for trade corridors to move smoother, and for workers to get to their jobs more easily. All of this contributes positively to the long-term economic growth and productivity of our country.

For instance, past investments in Ontario have led to projects as diverse as the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre in Toronto and the Woodward water treatment plant in Hamilton. These projects have increased economic activity and have led to job creation in the province while also making Ontario a better place to live.

Since 2006, our government has nearly doubled the average annual federal funding for thousands of provincial, territorial, and municipal infrastructure projects across the country.

In Ontario, this translates to $12.3 billion over the last eight years. To put this in perspective, in the 13 years prior, under the Liberal Party, federal funding for infrastructure in Ontario amounted to just $3.4 billion.

These investments have led to real, tangible infrastructure benefits that provide jobs and help improve transportation, commerce, and business across the province. With our new building Canada plan, we will be continuing our support infrastructure for an even longer period of time.

The plan builds on this government's unprecedented investment in infrastructure and includes over $53 billion in new and existing funding for provincial, territorial, and municipal infrastructure over 10 years. Combined with investments in federal infrastructure and first nations infrastructure, total federal spending for infrastructure will reach $70 billion over the next decade.

Of the $53 billion under the new building Canada plan, $47 billion consists of new funding for provincial, territorial, and municipal infrastructure starting in 2014-15 through three key funds:

First, the community improvement fund will provide $32.2 billion over 10 years. This fund consists of an indexed federal gas tax fund and the incremental GST rebate for municipalities to build roads, public transit, recreational facilities, and other community infrastructure across the country.

Second, the new building Canada fund will provide $14 billion over 10 years to support infrastructure projects of national, regional, and local significance.

Third, a renewed P3 Canada fund will provide $1.25 billion over five years to continue supporting innovative ways to build infrastructure projects faster and provide better value for Canadian taxpayers through public-private partnerships.

Let me speak first on the gas tax fund.

Our government has extended, doubled, indexed, and made permanent the federal gas tax fund. In other words, we took a temporary Liberal program and passed legislation so that it became permanent. We doubled it and then this year we indexed it. That means that the annual allocation will grow over time as the economy grows. In fact, it will grow by $1.8 billion nationally over the next decade. As well, the eligible categories under the federal gas tax fund have been expanded and will now support local priorities like disaster mitigation, culture, tourism, sport, and recreation.

All of this means that Ontario municipalities will receive just over $3.8 billion in flexible and dependable funding between 2014 and 2019 to support building local priorities. This, in turn, will support increased productivity and economic growth for the long term.

The other major component of the plan is the new building Canada fund. It was launched on March 28 by my colleague, the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs, and is comprised of $4 billion for projects of national significance and $10 billion in dedicated funding for provinces and territories. The national infrastructure component does not have specific allocations for each province and territory. Instead, funding will be selected on the basis of project merit guided by federal priorities.

Under the provincial-territorial infrastructure component, each province and territory will receive a base amount, plus a per capita allocation over the 10 years of the program. For Ontario, this represents almost $175 million in dedicated federal funding under this fund alone to address core infrastructure projects.

Keeping in mind that this is a program of partnerships and support, cost-sharing requirements under the new building Canada fund would require that other partners such as provinces, territories, municipalities, or the private sector also contribute to the projects. It is important to note that the federal government owns very little infrastructure compared to provinces, territories, and municipalities that own over 95% of public infrastructure in Canada. As such, it is very important for the federal government to be respectful of their authority. At the same time, keeping in mind that three levels of government and the private sector have a role to play in supporting public infrastructure, our government is committed to being there with our fair share.

Federal infrastructure investments through the new building Canada plan will be focused on projects that contribute to Canada's economic growth and prosperity. We are making the funding available for projects that have a real impact on strengthening our economy, including transit and transportation infrastructure.

The categories under the new plan are generally the same as the original plan, but there has been realignment. For instance, more categories have been added to the gas tax fund, providing even more flexibility for municipalities to use their funding for their specific local infrastructure priorities. The categories under the new building Canada fund are more focused, supporting core economic infrastructure like transportation infrastructure and disaster mitigation. This realignment of categories means that the gas tax fund provides flexibility for community-oriented infrastructure while the new building Canada fund is focused on infrastructure projects that enhance Canada's economic growth and prosperity.

When Torontonians speak of infrastructure, they speak of traffic congestion and public transportation. That is why our government has made it a priority to invest in infrastructure that will help alleviate traffic congestion and modernize public transportation. It is vital to the future of Toronto. These investments will not only help create jobs and growth, but will also attract the businesses and private investment necessary to obtain long-term prosperity.

One of those projects is the completion of the Toronto-York Spadina subway extension. Thanks in part to an investment by our government, this subway will link Toronto and York Region and will provide a host of other benefits to the region. Our government has also committed that if the Scarborough subway expansion project is a priority for the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario, then our government will set aside $660 million under Ontario's funding allocation to support the Bloor-Danforth subway line into Scarborough. This extension will further alleviate traffic congestion and help provide Scarborough with high-quality public transit. This commitment is in addition to the $333 million committed to the Metrolinx Sheppard East light rail transit project.

Our government will also provide funding to deliver 78 Toronto Rocket subway cars for the TTC. These Rocket cars are not only more accessible, more comfortable, safer and more reliable, they also carry more people and will help keep Toronto's subway line world class. Together, these investments deliver over $1 billion in federal funding to directly support the transit priorities of Toronto.

No federal government has ever made as strong a commitment to supporting infrastructure. Since 2006, our government has nearly doubled the average annual funding for provincial, territorial, and municipal infrastructure. Now we have the new building Canada fund, a key component of the building Canada plan, a plan that provides $53 billion of stable, predictable funding over the next decade for public infrastructure across the country.

With the new building Canada plan, we are on track to surpass the successes we have achieved to date. We will continue to support infrastructure that encourages job creation and economic growth and that contributes to the quality of life of all Canadians.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Don Valley West for his speech.

Like him, I am not so much worried as keenly interested in infrastructure development, which is way behind in Canada. He listed plenty of programs and figures in his speech, each more interesting than the last.

However, one question is bothering me: how can I be sure that the funds announced in the budget will actually be spent?

Over the past few years, we have seen a growing trend. Funds are announced but never spent, and then they are put back into general revenue and probably used for something else.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a very good question because as Canadians I think we all wonder, will the money be spent? Will it arrive in my community? Clearly, our government is on track to balance the budget in 2015-16. We have made that commitment. We are going to provide a financial framework where this country will be strong, stable, and able to meet the needs of our communities for years to come.

Clearly, we made commitments in the building Canada plan and infrastructure spending that will meet the needs of the Canadians and ideally, create a more prosperous Canada. With stable economic foundations, as we have planned with our budgeting, we are going to have the funding necessary to meet the needs of communities right across Canada.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member made reference to the fact that in 2015-16, the government's intentions are to balance the budget and then he went on to comment about the infrastructure dollars.

Do the serious cuts in infrastructure spending this fiscal year have anything to do with the government's attempt to have a balanced budget for next year?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have a budget that is coming into line that is going to put our country on a strong foothold financially for decades to come. We want to ensure that future generations are not hamstrung by debt, by deficit spending, by overspending, which I see in my own province. Clearly, in Ontario right now we have spending that is out of control. The government of the day is writing cheques that it cannot afford and things have to be cut.

In our planning, we have laid down a strategy in this budget. It is all right here and I encourage my hon. colleague to read it. It talks to some of the most incredible spending in infrastructure that this country has every seen. It is $53 billion over 10 years, the biggest commitment that we as a government, or any government, has made to this country in the history of Canada.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, may I just say thank you very much for your intervention earlier today while you were in the chair, explaining the process for voting to members. I really did appreciate the wisdom you gave us from the chair.

I want to ask my hon. colleague who gave a very eloquent, very articulate, and very accurate speech on the economic action plan what he thinks about the investments in the job grant and the apprenticeship loans.

I want to ask him this specifically because in my province, particularly in my area of central Alberta, we have almost a 4% job vacancy rate. We have more jobs available than we have people to fill them. This is common in Alberta. It is common in places to the east of us like Saskatchewan.

I came here as a member of Parliament in 2006 straight from being a faculty member at Red Deer College. It completely reorganized the college for training and educating people insofar as the trades. When it comes to deadlines for applications, there are cars lined up around the entire college with people trying to get in to take advantage of these programs.

Can my colleague tell us how important it is that we train the workforce of tomorrow, to have that Red Seal certification so that Canadians from all across Canada can go to those areas where those great paying jobs are available?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I come from an industry where an apprenticeship is a critical element, and finding people with the appropriate skills to do the job is very challenging today.

Our government has made a commitment to youth and to education through the apprenticeship skills development and training program, through which young people would develop skills, whether in the oil field, in the mechanical business, or in construction. Whatever their trade, we would give young people opportunities that we have not had in this country for quite a period of time.

We are going to see some great things with young people. Our young Canadians are highly qualified.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today on Bill C-31. Let me make it very clear right from the beginning that I will be speaking in opposition to this bill for a number of reasons.

One of the most critical reasons is that once again the government is choosing to shut down debate and has moved time allocation on a really critical bill. We have a bill of 350 pages. It addresses over 500 clauses and impacts 60 acts, yet debate is being limited.

It is an example of how budgets have been passed ever since I have been in Parliament. The government introduces a budget bill the size of a phone book in the majority of our municipalities and then wants us to vote on it holus-bolus. It throws in some tempting stuff, but there is also a lot of negative stuff that will force us to vote against it.

I have noticed one key thing that would really impact my community. The groups of people and businesses that grow jobs are the small and medium-sized enterprises across the country. They are the engines of our economy, but in this bill there is no small business job creation tax credit.

It is not there, even though it is a proven way to grow jobs in this country. They grow jobs in our communities. Money is spent in our communities, and we collect taxes that help to feed our health care and education systems and so on.

I also do not see anything significant in this budget that would address the critical area of the huge transaction fees that small businesses are burdened with over and over again, once again eating into their profit margins and their ability to survive, and let us not forget the high cost of interest rates on many credit cards.

We are also talking about a period in our history right now when we actually have more unemployed Canadians. Despite all of the rhetoric from my colleagues across the way, and they can say it as much as they like, it will not change reality. The reality is that we have 300,000 more Canadians unemployed today than we had before the depression. That is just not acceptable.

Today I heard a minister saying that we are doing better than other places in youth unemployment. We are not. We have youth unemployment in the double digits. In B.C., there are areas where the youth unemployment rate is at 15%.

By the way, let me make it clear that we have 300,000 more unemployed people today than in the past. A huge number of people in Canada are underemployed or working two or three jobs at minimum wage in order to make ends meet.

All of this is with a budget that would do nothing to address the huge deficit in manufacturing jobs. I do not see any major stimulus or investment in that area to get that sector moving and get our economy back on the road.

I also heard a minister saying earlier that we are managing to get through a lot of legislation. We have to be careful about how quickly we rush through legislation. I am reminded of Bill C-24. Only one component was the citizenship revocation component. Here is a bill that would fundamentally change what citizenship is, yet when it went to committee stage, not one witness or expert was heard from. We went directly from a very preliminary and time-allocated debate of six and a half hours in the House to then having no witnesses or expert testimony and going straight into clause by clause. That seems to be turning into a bit of a pattern with the Conservative government.

We also have the government rushing to sign agreements. For example, it seems to have lost the concern it had around privacy issues when it was in opposition. Canadians care very deeply about the privacy issue, but once again we are giving away valuable information through the IRS and FATCA. The justification is that because the government may suspect someone could be doing something, it has a right to surveillance without any kind of legal right to do so. The attitude is, “We are the government, and we now have that right”.

We have seen the attacks on the veterans. We have seen the attacks on small and medium-sized businesses. We have seen the attack on the privacy of Canadians. However, we have seen no real measures that would invest in a major way to get the economy going when it comes to manufacturing or addressing high youth unemployment.

Let me get to another disturbing aspect of the bill, the component dealing with the temporary foreign worker program.

Of course we are delighted to hear that the minister will be making some changes. This is the same minister who has been making changes for the last little while. Those changes have not stopped abuse by some employers, nor has it stopped the flood of temporary foreign workers. When we have a high number of temporary foreign workers at the same time that we have high youth unemployment and high labour availability, it really is disturbing.

I had the privilege of listening to the Parliamentary Budget Officer this morning. He said that although there is no overall skills shortage in this country, we do not even have the data. I have known that for a while. What is disturbing is that the Parliamentary Budget Officer said on record that we do not have the data to help us make informed decisions, whether it comes to immigration or granting LMOs, which are labour mobility orders. We do not have the data we need to plan for the future when it comes to skills investment and apprenticeships and growing the skill sets that we need. We do not have the data to guide our young generation on where they should be investing their energy as they look to the future.

Let us take a look at the temporary foreign worker program, which has absolutely ballooned. Now we are to believe a minister that the government will increase penalties for the employer. It is in the bill, but that is cold comfort for the two waitresses in Saskatchewan who were laid off from their jobs while temporary foreign workers were brought in. It is little comfort to the young people in Victoria who had their hours reduced, were not hired, or were let go because temporary foreign workers were brought in.

We are also worried about the vulnerability of temporary foreign workers. Our country has a proud history of having immigration policies that build our nation, but in this bill we have veered away from that. These are not my words. A temporary foreign worker, a young man who was here from Belize, said that it was beginning to feel like slavery.

We have heard of all these horrendous abuses. I have talked to many employers and others who have said that they have reported abuse to the CBSA and to CIC, but the only time four names appeared on a list was when CBC broke a story. It made national news, and on a Sunday afternoon, lo and behold, there were four names, but none of the others. There is absolute evidence that there are other people who have reported abuse, but their names were not there.

Clearly, then, there are many things that need to be addressed.

I will finish by saying that this budget fails to invest in growing jobs for the future, fails our youth, and fails working people, because it does not have anything major within it for them.