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House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I just happened to be on a website looking at some of the job listings for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. I see they are looking for a receptionist, a customer service specialist, a shipper, a receiver, a dispatch coordinator, a Dartmouth Crossing customer service representative, and a member care coordinator, so there are jobs that are being created in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. In fact, this website says there are about 4,000 jobs.

However, would the member not want to see the opportunity for more small businesses in his constituency to offer more jobs to young people to get experience and to offer jobs to people who are looking to come back into the workforce?

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing that we want more than for people to have an opportunity to work if they are able, and to be able to find family-sustaining jobs.

Of course, the current government has a terrible record in terms of creating jobs. The Conservatives worked with Canada Post to ensure that another 8,000 family-sustaining jobs are going to be lost in this country.

The small, medium-sized, and large businesses in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour do not need this. They are creating jobs, opportunities, and economic development despite the current government. We are working closely with them to ensure that they continue to do that.

However, I can tell the House that people come into my office who are unemployed through no fault of their own, and they have to wait upwards of 40 days to even get an answer from Service Canada about their claims. That is wrong, and the government should be ashamed of treating unemployed workers that way.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Order, please. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, Justice; the hon. member for Québec, Protection of Privacy.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his excellent speech and for his passionate work on the EI issue. He is a great MP for the constituents of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

We are having a very important debate today on the issue of employment insurance.

Our economy has been through many ups and downs over the last number of years. We have seen booms and busts. We have seen rapid technological change. We have seen globalization. We have seen the complete undermining of our manufacturing sector and hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs lost in this country.

Certainly in my province of Ontario, we still see communities that are on very hard times because of the loss of those good manufacturing jobs. When people do manage to find other work, sometimes after many months of looking, it is usually at a much lower rate of pay, and this has meant that many families are struggling to adapt. People have lost homes. They have had to move to other communities. It has broken up families. It has been a very difficult number of years.

In most modern developed countries, there are adjustment programs to help working people and businesses adapt to a changing economy. What do I mean by adjust? Adjustment programs will help with income support. They will help with training. They can help with job search. A whole range of supports can often be available.

While we see the economy shifting and changes taking place, it seems as though much of the risk involved in this change is borne by working people, whereas much of the benefits go to employers, who are doing very well. Companies are sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars in cash that they are not investing in the broader economy. They are doing very well, but we see many Canadian families struggling.

Workers are taking on much of the risk, and employment insurance was designed to help working people adapt so that we would not be in the situation that my grandparents were in during the Great Depression. At that time, if an individual was out of work, they had literally nothing. My mother tells me that when she was a child, her father, who was unemployed, had to go out and hunt for rabbits. Her mom would skin and clean the rabbits, and my mom would go door to door selling these rabbits to try to get money for them to live, because they were practically destitute.

We do not want people in this country to be destitute, because we are a wealthy country. Employment insurance was designed to help our economy and the people in it adapt to change. However, during the 12 years of the majority Liberal governments, what did we see? Unemployment insurance became employment insurance, and the rules changed. Where once more than 80% of unemployed workers received benefits if they were unemployed, suddenly fewer and fewer people were qualifying, and the number went down to around 45%.

That was a period when the economy had been growing during that part of the economic cycle. The economy was putting more money into the EI fund, and there was a big surplus. What should happen is that we would have a surplus during the good times, and when the economy went down, we would use that surplus to pay out benefits to protect working people. That was what it was designed for.

Instead, the Liberals used that surplus, $54 billion worth, to balance the budget.

What did they do when they balanced the budget? They gave corporations a great big fat corporate tax break. That is what they did, and those corporations put that money into their back pockets and said, “Thanks very much.” There was not even a requirement for them to create new jobs.

Then the Conservatives came in and did the same thing. They took another $3 billion out of the fund and put it into general revenues. Then they gave more corporate tax cuts, and companies said, “Thank you very much” and took that money. They are now sitting on over $600 billion of corporate revenues, and today fewer than 40% of working people who are unemployed get access to EI benefits. In Toronto, the number is 17%. That is in our largest city, one of the most expensive cities in this country.

What did the Conservatives want to do today, now that they and their predecessors, the Liberals, have stolen this money from EI and now that they have denied so many people access to EI benefits? They want to give employers, small businesses, another EI tax break. That means employees, workers, would continue paying the same amount, but employers would get a break. That does not help any unemployed workers. It does not give one more unemployed worker any more benefit. It takes more money out of the EI fund.

What do their cousins in the Liberal Party, who have a similar approach to the economy, want to do? They want to expand that and give it to everybody. Employers would not have to prove that they have created a new job. The Liberals would just give everybody, all the businesses, a break on their EI premiums, while the workers would still have to pay the same amount.

Also, their math is wrong in their proposal, which I suppose is not shocking. I suppose we should have expected that from the Liberals.

However, it is not going to help the working people who need to access EI. If they wanted to do what the Conservatives have done, an idea the Conservatives borrowed from us earlier, which is to give a tax credit to small businesses that create jobs, we support that idea. It was our idea. The Conservatives took it.

We supported that idea. We thought it was a good idea. We disagreed when they cancelled that plan, because it was a job creator. Now there is this idea to further plunder the EI fund and give that money back to employers, when it ought to be going to unemployed workers who desperately need that money now.

I can tell members that there are people living in my riding who have to make a decision every month about whether they buy food or keep a roof over their heads. They have to walk miles because they cannot afford the TTC. There are people who are truly struggling, not just in my town but across this country. It is a disgrace that some in this House are trying to pull the wool over people's eyes by saying that they are trying to do something for unemployed workers. The government is overseeing a stagnating economy, and their handmaidens in the Liberal Party are just helping the Conservatives pull the wool over people's eyes.

Canadians do not have a choice between the bad economics of the Conservative Party and the bad math of the Liberal Party, but they can choose a party that will defend working people, a party that has really good, strong, progressive ideas for growing this economy. That is the New Democratic Party.

I want to make it very clear that New Democrats do not support this idea that they are proposing. What we do support is protecting the EI account so that the money in that account cannot be plundered and will be used for the purpose for which it was designed—that is, as an adjustment program to help working people adjust during a period of calamity for them, which is when they lose their jobs.

We do support a hiring tax credit. We do not think it is a panacea, but it would be a positive thing to do. We support restoring higher benefits so that when people do lose jobs, they would receive benefits to protect them during that time of turmoil.

We also have a lot of good ideas about how to create jobs in this country. We call on government to play a leadership role and to set a path that would give business confidence. A strong, stable, New Democratic government at the helm would encourage business to invest and create jobs, but we do not support this plan that we are being offered today.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I always take some exception when the New Democrats take shots at my party. They often refer to corporate income tax. I should let the member know that when I was in the Manitoba legislature, the NDP government took great pride in reducing corporate income tax from 19% to 12%, even when a recession was going on. We do not have to take any lessons from the NDP on taxation policies.

I would ask the member to provide clarification on why Mr. Layton seemed to support what we are proposing today when he was the leader of the New Democratic Party. Why would the hon. member oppose something that Jack Layton would have supported in yesterday's NDP? Why would she vote against this motion, which would potentially generate in excess of 150,000 jobs across our land?

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it could potentially, but who knows? It is all wisps of smoke. Who knows?

Let me just say it is very clear and indisputable that the Liberal Party, when it was in power, took over $50 billion from the EI fund, money that belonged to the working people of Canada. That money went. It was used to balance the books. Then the Liberals gave corporations a massive corporate tax cut. That is indisputable. That is fact. That is history.

The Liberals are embarrassed about that now, and I think they are trying to kind of buffer themselves going into an election next year, so as to not be accused of having abandoned unemployed workers. However, the facts are the facts. If people think they can trust that party when it comes to managing the EI fund, then they might as well trust the Conservatives across the aisle. Both parties are the same in that regard.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to listen to the member for Parkdale—High Park, and I would like her to clarify a few of the positions of the NDP so that they are on record in the House.

I know the member is the former finance critic for her party. Is it still the position of the NDP that people should only have to work 45 days out of a year to be entitled to collect full EI? We certainly know that is the position of the Liberal Party. I would like the member to clarify the NDP position on that.

Could the member explain why she and her party voted three times against the new hiring tax credit brought in by our government in three successive budgets? Can the member explain why she and the members in her party voted against that tax credit three years in a row?

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, 45 days, that sounds like he is talking about their buddies in the Senate. The NDP does not have any members there.

I will, with pleasure, say why we voted against the budget. We supported the reduction of small business taxes, a small business tax credit for hiring. It was our idea. We were glad to see the Conservatives take it. However, that was buried in one of their many omnibus budget bills, their undemocratic omnibus budget bills, that included gutting our environmental protections, attacking first nations' benefits, and laying off scientists. The Conservative, undemocratic, supposed budget bills are transforming the way government is run in Canada, most of it very undemocratically.

We are proud as New Democrats to have voted against those omnibus budget bills, and we will continue to do so.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

The Liberals are not to be outdone today because, with their plan, they are repeating their pillage of employment insurance. They are just going to pillage the fund, as the Conservatives are proposing to do.

Yes, we believe there is a solution. The Conservatives used our proposal of giving businesses a hiring tax credit. It is a viable solution that respects our workers and ensures that the employment insurance fund will serve the purpose for which it was created.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a big difference. Unlike the other political parties, we do not want to plunder the employment insurance fund, but we are in favour of tax credits for SMEs. Manitoba is the only province where SMEs are not taxed thanks to the NDP government. It is truly a political party that supports and knows the value of SMEs in Canada. They create a lot of jobs.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina.

I am very pleased to take part in this debate on employment insurance. First, if I may, I will read the text of the motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Employment Insurance (EI) plan announced by the government on September 11, 2014, and which will begin on January 1, 2015, will not create jobs and growth but will instead provide a financial incentive for employers to lay off workers; and therefore, the House urges the government to re-direct those resources by providing employers an EI premium exemption on newly-created jobs in 2015 and 2016.

I can inform the House that we in the Liberal Party are in favour of this motion. As we know, the government may introduce policy based on facts in the same way it can introduce policy based on populist politics. We might say that the government's response to the situation before us is more a political response.

Let us look at the facts that preceded this announcement from the government. The hiring situation in the country is deplorable. In the last year, Canada's job growth was very weak.

In one year, 81,000 net new jobs were created in the entire country. In the United Kingdom, 775,000 jobs were created while 2.2 million were created in the United States. We can look at this in terms of the growth rate rather than in absolute numbers. These figures represent a growth rate of 2.6% in the United Kingdom,1.5% in the United States and only 0.5% in Canada. During the same year, the private sector in Canada shed 57,000 jobs.

What is the government's response to this disastrous situation? It introduces a measure under which all businesses with a payroll not exceeding $567,000, let us say, will get a maximum $2,200 credit on their premiums, given the maximum exemption is $15,000.

Let me say that again: with a maximum exemption of $15,000, businesses will qualify for a maximum credit of $2,200. This is no job-creation program. A number of economists have said so more than once. I will be quoting them. Specifically, it means that a company paying contributions of around $15,000—$14,700, for example—will qualify for a credit of $2,200. Will that encourage the company to hire people and create jobs? No, because as soon as the company goes over the $15,000 threshold, it no longer qualifies for anything. Absolutely nothing.

As I just said, if the amount of the premiums exceeds $15,000, for example, and the company's premiums add up to $15,150, the companies will not be entitled to any credit. Not a $2,200 credit; no credit. The company will not be motivated to hire anyone, on the contrary. That is the perverse effect of this measure. In fact, the company will have to dismiss or lay off people to get the $2,200 credit. That is not very encouraging for Canada's employment situation.

We have just resumed the session in the House and, like all our colleagues, we were working in our constituency offices.

In my case, I felt like my constituency office became what we call in Quebec a CLD, or local employment centre. My constituents came to see me almost every day, asking me to help them find a job, because the situation is disastrous.

The measure presented today in no way responds to this situation. Furthermore, economists have criticized it so openly that I hope the Conservatives do not attack them because they decided to speak out.

Mike Moffatt, an economist with the Ivey business school at Western University, owns a business of about the same size as the ones we are talking about. In fact, the measure at issue will only prevent small businesses from growing. As soon as a company's payroll exceeds $567,000, it is no longer entitled to any credits. Mike Moffatt said, and I quote:

It is clear that firms under the $15,000 EI threshold have a big incentive to keep wage increases to a minimum. Conversely, firms that are just over the $15,000 EI threshold have an incentive to cut the pay of their staff in order to gain the tax credit.

It goes on. Stephen Gordon, of Université Laval, said that lowering payroll taxes was generally advantageous to everyone and fostered job creation and higher salaries. The Conservatives failed to seize this opportunity when they created another highly targeted tax credit.

The Liberal Party has done its homework and come up with a very clear proposal: providing employers an EI premium exemption for every new job it creates for the following two years. It is a very simple and clear measure. If a business creates a job, it does not have to pay EI premiums for the next two years.

This simple measure will allow businesses to save up to $1,280 for every job created. This will create an estimated 176,000 new jobs. Economists have been evaluating this proposal ever since our leader, the hon. member for Papineau announced it.

Mr. Moffatt said that he hopes the government will take the hon. member for Papineau's suggestion seriously and correct the flaws in its current proposal. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says it likes the Liberals' plan because it has greater potential for creating new jobs.

That is the measure economists are recommending, employers are asking for, and all Canadians need, not just those in the riding of Bourassa that I represent. That is what they are asking for to create new jobs here.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's speech.

He said that the CLDs in Quebec were “centres locaux d'emploi” or local employment centres. I was surprised to hear him say that because, in fact, they are “centres locaux de développement” or local development centres. That is a topic for another day.

How does the hon. member foresee the Liberals' proposal creating jobs according to their calculations? Their calculation seems a bit off.

Can he provide a concrete and local example of how this motion, in its current form, will truly stimulate job creation, more specifically in his riding of Bourassa?

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to thank my hon. colleague for that observation. Indeed, CLD stands for “centre local de développement” or local development centre, and CLE stands for “centre local d'emploi” or local employment centre.

Our position is very clear. For every new job created, the company will be entitled to an EI premium exemption. It is simple. We are not favouring small businesses and we are not favouring businesses that have a payroll of $567,000. We are talking about all businesses. It is of course an incentive for all businesses to say yes; if they need staff, they will create jobs so that they can immediately take advantage of this credit.

Businesses located in the riding of Bourassa, which I am so proud to represent, will welcome this kind of measure so they can apply for these credits and create new jobs for the people of Bourassa.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to pick up on the point of the purpose of this idea. It is to focus attention on creating jobs for all regions of our country. It has been estimated that if this Liberal motion were to pass, get adopted and become a part of government policy, it could potentially generate somewhere between 150,000 to 175,000 new jobs.

I wonder if my colleague would just pick up on the benefits for all regions of Canada of having an all-inclusive program, as the Liberal Party is suggesting here this afternoon.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his excellent comment and his question.

As the member knows, throughout Canada, 53,000 jobs were lost in the private sector alone, as I just said in my speech. With this measure, we are talking about creating between 150,000 and 175,000 new jobs. As we have said, this will happen from coast to coast to coast.

Businesses and economists have agreed that this is what the country and our employers have been asking for. Things will be so much easier for those who come to our offices asking for help to find work. That is why the government should agree to and implement the measure proposed by the member for Papineau, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are many members in the House who may remember me as a city councillor and may also have memories of me being a journalist here in the foyer outside of the House of Commons. What members may not know about me is that I also have run small businesses in the riding I represent. In fact, I ran a small restaurant and I know the fear, danger, trouble and opportunities around meeting a payroll that are part of every business decision.

The reason the party I represent is putting the motion forward in this way is that it is about job creation and helping small businesses create those jobs, but also making sure that there is a guarantee those jobs arrive. What confuses many of us who have run small businesses about the Conservative government's approach is that it creates an artificial threshold. This $15,000 seems to be pulled right out of the air and dropped in front of us as if it is some sort of magic threshold that is good or bad for small business and will or will or not create jobs.

The truth is that the employment dynamics in small businesses are much more fluid than simply that hard calculation of $15,000, which places a cap. When one hits that amount, one is in a position of having to make very tough choices and will or will not hire based on whether that threshold is met or not.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

For two hundred bucks.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

If the member had ever run a small business, he would know exactly what $200 means. To belittle that is to belittle the hard decisions made by small business owners right across this country day in and day out. It is quite often the difference between whether or not they feed their families.

The issue in front of us, and the proposition we have placed in front of the House, is to create it a situation where all jobs are met with this benefit. When new jobs are created in any business—small, medium or large—the benefit would kick in, and not the way the government's proposition stands, which actually is an inducement to cut jobs.

When I heard the official opposition members describe this proposition, they made it sound like this whole program would be voluntary. Let me assure the House that all businesses would qualify, not some, and second to that, they would have to create a job to receive the benefit.

This is where we differ from our colleagues across the aisle. All businesses would qualify and they must create a job in order to get this break in the fee they pay into the employment insurance program. Therefore, small businesses under our proposal would have the opportunity to grow, but it would not preclude medium-sized or large businesses from growing and creating jobs too. That is the difference in the position we have taken.

It puzzles me when I hear New Democrats talk about the program as being bad when it uses funds that workers have created to create more work for more workers. I do not understand philosophically what the problem with this concept is. Yes, one can be an economic literalist and say that every dollar paid into employment insurance should be paid out as a benefit. I understand that philosophy and have heard it espoused today. However, the trouble is that at some point the benefits run out. At some point the ability for the country and economy to generate the funds to pay employment insurance will have a hard limit.

Our proposal simply seeks to grow the pie, and in growing the pie, create the opportunities and possibilities for better and more secure futures for Canadians. I do not think that is fundamentally at odds with the philosophy of the party that sits on this side of the House with us. However, apparently, it is now.

The other issue that I think separates the approaches that we are putting in front of the House is that we believe as a party that it is not simply the market that is going to provide a solution and it is not simply government that is going to provide a solution, but it is a partnership that will provide the opportunities and the solutions.

I have heard official opposition members speak to us and say that when we were in power we took the surpluses and simply balanced our books. We did balance the books and put the government in this country into a surplus, but the investments we made through those budgets while we balanced the books created work. The gas tax was made possible by the balancing of the books and the use of EI surpluses, and that put people to work building and providing public transit in this country. The budgets that were balanced also provided the foundation for the kick-start and rebirth of a housing program. The money was also there for daycare and daycare also created work. It did not just provide care for children.

Therefore, when we talk about these partnerships and when we talk about the opportunity to work with all sectors of the economy and include the government as part of that program, we talk about solving problems, not simply describing them.

That is why I will be supporting our party's motion.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Trinity—Spadina for his rather interesting speech that included a number of proposals.

I would like my colleague to tell us more about the Liberal Party's motion, more specifically how it relates to his riding of Trinity—Spadina, in the Toronto area. I am not clear about how this motion will be managed and how it will be implemented.

How does he think that this motion could create permanent, well-paying jobs? This opposition motion appears to be a band-aid solution that will not fix the problem and that will not create permanent, high-paying jobs in the industries of the future.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the fastest growing and most successful sectors of the economy in the riding that I represent is the high-tech sector. When we look at the opportunities for the high-tech sector to create jobs, it has a choice not just to create them inside Trinity—Spadina, but it has the choice to create them outside the riding and in fact outside the country. In order to create a favourable business climate to create a new job, a high-paying job, in a strong sector, we need to create the economic conditions that induce that decision being made locally.

EI premiums alone are not going to necessarily create that circumstance. No single-purpose bill in the House will ever do that. However, when we look at the structure of that business and at the cost of employment, when there is a way to reduce the cost of employment, it induces the creation of a job. The good news about the motion is that the tax cut does not just roll through because someone wants and hopes to create a job. Only if the job is actually created is the EI benefit reduced. We are not spending money in the hope of creating a job. We are compensating for the actual creation of a job and creating the environment in which to create jobs.

That is why I thought the motion would appeal to your party.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I would advise all members to address their comments not to individual members of the chamber, but to the Chair.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Malpeque.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear the new member to this chamber from Toronto speaking on an employment insurance program that I believe is so important to the country in terms of the economy and certainly important in my region of Atlantic Canada. He mentioned the word “partnership”. That is a key word because I imagine that prior to the member's coming here, he probably thought that if we had a sensible debate on issues in this chamber that is called the House of Commons and good ideas put forth, criticism and debate, that each member in his or her own right could and would stand and vote.

Does the member see this as an opportunity where the government has a program for which it is clearly well known now that it is not going to do what it is intended to do? The Liberal plan put forward by the finance critic for the Liberal Party will in fact. There will only be reductions made in premium costs if a job is created, so it is a sensible proposal that could help the economy and create jobs. Is that not an opportunity for the House of Commons and members in the House to show Canadians that this place can actually work by supporting the motion?

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with what the member just said. Partnership is the solution. While I have heard criticism that EI benefits are not solved by the motion—and I understand the sensitivities that have been raised here—the reality is that job creation and the challenge of creating jobs is addressed by the motion and the support of the motion would create jobs and would create them in an effective and responsible way, and it is that partnership we are driving at and trying to achieve.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to the Liberal motion because it gives me an opportunity to talk about the proposed Liberal motion but, also, to talk about the introduction of the small business tax credit and the fact that I believe so many small businesses are welcoming this and looking forward to it.

I find the Liberal motion, frankly, as another speaker said earlier today, quite cynical. We also heard the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley say earlier in this debate that math is difficult. I believe that is what he said. Also, I am finding a lot of fearmongering and misinformation about this issue.

I think it is fairly simple in that I believe small businesses want lower EI premiums because high premiums are essentially a payroll tax. We have been hearing from these small businesses that reductions are what they are looking for and it will make it easier for them to do business.

My first job was working for my father, who owned a small business for 40 years. At varying times, he had anywhere from about 8 employees to a high of 40 employees over this 40-year period. I happened to be speaking to him about this initiative when it was first announced by the Minister of Finance a couple of weeks ago and I asked him, as a former small business owner and operator, what he would have done with such a tax cut. His answer was, to paraphrase, that it would not change his entire business model in any way but that, as a small businessman, any kind of reduction in tax or red tape makes it that much easier to do his job.

I find the misinformation and fearmongering on the other side of this House is a real stretch, with regard to potentially firing employees because somehow this tax break would lead employers to think it is a way they could reduce the number of employees.

A representative of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business wrote about that, in particular. He said or he wrote, I am not quite sure, but he dismissed this as kind of a ridiculous claim, saying, “Some suggested companies will lay off staff or hold off hiring just to stay under the threshold to receive the credit”. “I've got news for them:”, he writes, “small business owners don't have time to research the eligibility requirements, then carefully manage their payroll to receive a few hundred dollars over two years.”

That is essentially what my father said when he answered my question about his thoughts on the Conservatives' small business job credit.

Let me also mention that Angella MacEwen, senior economist with the Canadian Labour Congress, who is probably not our biggest fan most of the time, points out that money in the pockets of businesses is generally a good thing.

She also said:

These businesses will put the money to good use; find other ways that are better to use it like upgrade equipment or put a sign up...or buy a laptop maybe.

That was my initial thought when I heard of this. When we are stimulating business by reducing taxes, it is the same theory as reducing taxes for families and for individuals. It frees up that much income so that small business owners, the entrepreneurs, can then buy another piece of equipment, modernize their business and their operations a little bit. That is what this would do.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago, on the same weekend, I was able to cut the ribbon on two separate brand new businesses in my riding. One, called Yoga Seven located in Port Credit, opened and held its grand opening. It made me realize that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, not only in Mississauga South but across Canada, and that our government has a responsibility to encourage that entrepreneurial spirit. With initiatives like this, that is exactly what we are doing. The other business was the Express Yourself music academy.

When I attended these two grand openings, I mentioned that our government is friendly to small businesses. It is not just the small business job credit, which is lowering payroll taxes, but there have been a number of other initiatives as well, including freezing EI premiums in general and cutting red tape. In fact, even CRA is getting in on this reduction of red tape and helping businesses in that way.

Overall, we have reduced the tax rate on small businesses from 12% to 11% and the average business has seen a savings of about $28,000 since this Conservative government came to office in 2006. That is a reduction of 34%.

I want to give an example and talk a bit more about red tape. In terms of an example, I want to mention that it is not just small businesses of two and three employees. We are talking, for example, of a business that employs 14 employees. If each earns $40,000, the business would pay just under $15,000 in EI premiums. Being under the threshold of $15,000, the business would be eligible for the small business job credit and a refund of $2,200, which is the difference between employer premiums paid at the legislated rate versus the premiums that would be calculated under the new reduced small business rate.

About that point in particular, I want to mention another chief economist, at the Royal Bank. The reason I am mentioning the names of a few economists, such as with the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, as well as now the Royal Bank, is that we heard earlier from a Liberal member of the House that economists have said this is not going to stimulate business, this is not a good idea, and the Liberal idea is a better one. However, I want to point out that the majority of economists that I have been reading about with regard to this new job credit are saying that this is, far and away, a very positive initiative on the part of this government.

Craig Wright, chief economist at the Royal Bank, said that this may even be enough to push some employers to consider hiring, because it lowers the cost of employment, so it is helping out at the margins. I will say that he did qualify it in that way.

While the impact might be modest, the modest changes would add up. When we look at the overall numbers, which the Minister of Finance talked about, we are talking about savings of $660 million to small businesses in Canada, and that is in one year alone. Therefore, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a good idea.

I am going to wrap up by mentioning red tape one more time. I want to make the point that businesses need not apply. This is not extra paperwork. It will be calculated automatically by Canada Revenue Agency.

For all of these reasons, small business owners in Canada will be very happy to see this job credit, and I am very proud that this government is introducing it.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Order. It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?