House of Commons Hansard #173 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was 2017.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Minister of National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 3:07 p.m., pursuant to order made on Monday, May 8, 2017, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #266

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion lost.

I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded division, Government Orders will be extended by eight minutes, which when added to the 30-minute extension from proceedings on the time allocation motion this morning, makes a total of 38 minutes.

Private Members' BusinessGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The Chair would like to take a moment to provide some information to the House regarding the management of private members' business.

As members know, after the order of precedence is replenished, the Chair reviews the new items so as to alert the House to bills which at first glance appear to infringe on the financial prerogative of the crown. This allows members the opportunity to intervene in a timely fashion to present their views about the need for those bills to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, following the April 10, 2017 replenishment of the order of precedence with 15 new items, I wish to inform the House that there are two bills that give the Chair some concern as to the spending provisions they contemplate. They are Bill C-315, an act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act (Conservation of National Historic Sites Account), standing in the name of the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, and Bill C-343, an act to establish the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Criminal Acts and to amend certain acts, standing in the name of the member for Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix.

Additionally, on an exceptional basis, I would like to raise concerns regarding Bill S-205, an act to amend the Canada Border Services Agency Act (Inspector General of the Canada Border Services Agency) and to make consequential amendments to other acts, and Bill S-229, an act respecting underground infrastructure safety. Both bills have been sent to the House of Commons for consideration. The Chair expects that in due course they will be given first reading in the House, as is usually the case with bills sent to the House by the other place.

As members know, certain constitutional and procedural principles inform the Chair with respect to bills containing spending provisions that would require a royal recommendation, which are also known as “money bills”.

A fundamental requirement for bills of this nature is that they must originate in the House of Commons. Standing Order 80(1) embodies this important principle, stating:

All aids and supplies granted to the Sovereign by the Parliament of Canada are the sole gift of the House of Commons, and all bills for granting such aids and supplies ought to begin with the House, as it is the undoubted right of the House to direct, limit, and appoint in all such bills, the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations and qualifications of such grants, which are not alterable by the Senate.

This stipulation explicitly prohibits “money bills” from originating in the Senate. In the past, if a bill requiring a royal recommendation was passed by the Senate and sent to the House, the Chair has seen fit to interrupt all further consideration of the bill.

The Chair has specific concerns about the unusual manner in which Bill S-205 and Bill S-229 are structured. Essentially, they appear to contain spending provisions that would require a royal recommendation, but they both conclude with coming into force provisions that suggest otherwise.

Receiving such bills from the Senate is exceptional and rare. Indeed it may well be the first time the House is seized with such legislative measures. Parenthetically, Bill C-343, which I referenced earlier, contains a similar provision.

If, following an anticipated first reading of Bill S-205 and Bill S-229, the Chair determines that the bills are contrary to our usual rules and practices regarding money bills, I would be obligated to disallow them to be further considered in the House. Specifically, it would be incumbent on me to order them removed from the Order Paper and any consideration of them ended. This is distinct from the process for bills first introduced in the House that require a royal recommendation, which are allowed to continue to the end of third reading before the Chair interrupts their consideration. Such would be the case for Bill C-315 and Bill C-343, should the Chair conclude that they do indeed require a royal recommendation.

In view of these considerations, I would encourage hon. members who would like to make arguments regarding the concerns about these bills that I have raised today, or any of the other bills now on the order of precedence, to do so at the earliest opportunity.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Animal Farm, which is an allegory for dictatorship, George Orwell said that all of the animals were equal but that some were more equal than others. It is the same thing in the House of Commons. All Canadians and the members who represent them are equal, but some of them are more equal than others.

I therefore find myself relegated to 34th place in the speaking order with only 10 minutes to speak about a mammoth bill that is 308 pages long. This will be the only opportunity the Bloc Québécois has to speak since the government has imposed a gag order. My colleague from the Green Party wanted to speak, but she will not be allowed to do so. All of this is because the rules were designed to serve a two-party system that has not existed for a long time. Under the circumstances, I will not be able to address all the issues.

As always, before the budget was tabled, the Bloc Québécois held consultations to identify Quebec's needs. I met with about 50 groups, including unions, students, municipal officials, environmental groups, community organizations, and people from the business community in both urban and rural areas. We clearly identified Quebec's expectations.

I informed the minister and his parliamentary secretary of these expectations two months ago today. As always, they were very pleased and interested, and as always they did not take any of this into account. Under the Liberals, consultations do not accomplish much. We saw this with electoral reform as well. When we moved from the Conservatives to the Liberals, we traded “shut up” for “keep talking”.

Just look at the health and education transfers. If there is one thing that everyone agreed on during our tour it was that we must preserve our public services. With the aging population, health care costs are rising and Quebec is under pressure. Starting this year, the transfers will no longer track the rising costs. In the end, it is clear that this will no longer balance. We are heading for permanent austerity where our most essential health or education services will be at risk of imploding.

However, the government chose not to listen. Quebec's health network currently costs roughly $90 million a day. Bill C-44 provides $69 million in funding for that network, or less than the cost of one day of operation. We are on our own for the rest of the year. Lucky thing it is not a leap year. Obviously we will not be voting in favour of this bill.

In addition, when it comes to infrastructure, the government pats itself on the back and announces huge amounts. In its “sunny” press releases, life is beautiful and the future is bright. In real life, things are not as much fun.

The federal government owns only 2% of public infrastructure. It is no expert at this. Cities, municipalities, and the government of Quebec are the experts. The only federal infrastructure program that might be effective is a program that transfers the money to the ones who are the experts and know how to manage it. The gas tax model works well that way. However, that is not what the government is doing.

Last year, the government announced more than $13 billion. It wrote lovely press releases and smiley face tweets. Life is beautiful. Earlier this year, however, the cat was let out of the bag. The parliamentary budget officer, the same one the government has muzzled with Bill C-44, informed us that only a third of the money had been spent.

Since Ottawa wants to stick its nose in everywhere and approve the projects one by one, everything has been frozen. Two-thirds of the money has stayed in Ottawa, and things are twice as bad and twice as slow in Quebec as elsewhere. Quebec has received only 12% of the money. What point is there in announcing amounts like that? That is half of what we were entitled to.

I would have expected the budget this year to resolve this situation, but no. With Bill C-44, the government is continuing its ineffective approach, and, even worse, it is adding fuel to the fire with its infrastructure privatization bank. That is another good reason to vote against this bill.

In their platform, the Liberals said that the government was going to offer municipalities its line of credit so they could borrow money at better rates. There is a little catch, however: their financial guarantee is being offered to the bankers. Bill C-44 is nothing but a tool for privatizing infrastructure. It is a goldmine for the Toronto financiers.

If the infrastructure projects show a loss, they are going to be able to draw on the guarantee of $80 billion of public funds. If they make a profit, they are the ones who will pocket it. In every case, whether we are talking about money from taxes paid by taxpayers, money that comes from tolls, or both, the money will land on Bay Street.

Bill C-44 socializes losses and privatizes profits and sends them to Toronto. When the government takes from the poor and gives to the financiers of Bay Street, we are not talking about Robin Hood; we are talking about the sheriff of Nottingham. No, we will not vote for that.

Bill C-44 disappoints me, particularly because there is so much about Quebec that is attractive. We are at the forefront of the green economy. The technological engine of Canada is in Quebec. We embody creativity. We represent the future.

Ottawa is holding us back. As recently as yesterday, this is what the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal had to say: “When it comes to the major strategic and economic issues, who is the voice of Quebec in Ottawa? For the moment, no one”. That was not the Bloc Québécois speaking; it was the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

We will not vote for that. In fact, I wonder how the 40 Liberal members from Quebec, the 40 ghosts, will be able to justify their decision to support it. I doubt that a sunny press release and a smiley face will suffice this time.

Let us talk about the green economy for a moment. What does the budget offer in this regard? The government is cutting the $2 billion announced last year for “decarbonizing” the economy, including $750 million of it this year. What does the carbon tax in Bill C-44 look like? It is just as absent as the 40 Liberal members from Quebec.

When the government does something, it is to prevent Quebec from benefiting from its competitive advantages. An example is Muskrat Falls, which is now competing with us, and is a monumental $10-billion fiasco. It is a joke that is not even remotely funny, in addition to being very expensive.

When I say that Quebec is the technological engine of Canada, I am not exaggerating. Depending on the year, between 40% and 45% of Canada’s technology exports come from Quebec. At the forefront, of course, is the aeronautics industry. With the C Series, Quebec has joined the very select club of airliner manufacturers. This is a large project that is so ambitious that the development costs almost put the company into bankruptcy. When we needed Ottawa, it was missing in action. When it decided to do something, it came up with a pittance, and, even worse, it found a way to put two-thirds of its money into a project for Toronto. When Quebec is good at something, Ottawa tries to develop the same thing somewhere else in Canada, with our money.

In 1995, in the middle of the referendum campaign, Bombardier CEO Laurent Beaudoin wrote to his employees to tell them to vote no to Quebec independence. At the time, he said that Quebec was too small and a world-class company like Bombardier needed Canada’s support to expand. Times have changed considerably. We built the C Series ourselves, with no federal government help. In Ottawa, Quebec simply no longer exists. We therefore got to work and we succeeded, when we had only half a government to count on. Imagine what we could do with a real one.

However, there is not just aerospace. Canada has an economy of American subsidiaries. It is no surprise to see Bill C-44 raise the threshold for foreign investment review to $1 billion, since it wants more subsidiaries. Protecting head offices is not a Canadian priority. There is little innovation done by subsidiaries.

Whereas Canada has one of the least innovative economies in the OECD, Quebec innovates, invents, develops and creates. Our R and D intensity is almost twice that of the rest of Canada. There are lots of start-ups, with 2,500 young technology companies operating on the island of Montréal alone. Video games, information technology—there is plenty of creativity in Quebec. One might call it our modern version of the Mr. Fixit spirit.

There is also the whole field of artificial intelligence. The greatest genius in the Americas in this field is located in Montréal. Since he has trained many young people, a whole ecosystem of innovation is developing in this sector of the future. The big players like Google and Microsoft have realized that things are happening in Quebec, and so have opened offices there.

We are preparing to join the major leagues. We are close to being able to compete with Silicon Valley, so what does Ottawa do? It announces a pan-Canadian strategy to ensure that artificial intelligence develops elsewhere in Canada.

When the Ontario automotive industry was in need of a huge hand up in 2009, Ottawa did not develop a pan-Canadian super-strategy to bring back the industry in Quebec. It sent all the money to Ontario. However, when it comes to Quebec, things are done differently. When we want to develop our industries, Ottawa treats us like crybabies and talks to us about equalization. We do not want charity, we just want development.

The industries of the future are in Quebec, not in oil or in subsidiaries that do not innovate. For us, the future is in Quebec, not in Bill C-44. In fact, I am more convinced than ever that our future quite simply is not in Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I am saddened by the member's speech. As someone whose family heritage originates in the province of Quebec, I believe Canadians, as a whole, love the province of Quebec and treat it as an equal among the different provinces.

The province of Quebec has so much to offer our country. The member made reference to the aerospace industry. Manitoba also has an aerospace industry. I have talked to people in Quebec about health care. The Minister of Health has been able to achieve a health care accord, working with the province of Quebec. Canadians want that. Whether they are in Manitoba, B.C., Quebec, or Atlantic Canada, they want a national health care program.

Does the member recognize the value of a national health care program? I believe everyone across Canada supports that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his intervention, his comment, and his question.

Let me be clear that Quebec loves the rest of Canada. There is no question of animosity; it is just that Canada makes its policies, Quebec makes its own, and they are never in step with each other. As people sometimes say, the gears grind. They do not work. Policies created there are defeated here, and we need a hand up because all the flexibility is here and we do not get the money.

My colleague was talking about health. I recall the Quebec minister of health and social services saying that the Canadian health minister had a predatory approach and the same was true for the accord.

As for the additional transfers for this year, they do not even pay for a single day. At 4 p.m. on January 1, they were exhausted. That is not enough, and we are most disappointed with all that. The government was supposed to reverse the Conservatives’ budget cuts.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech. He rightly pointed out that Quebec has received only 12% of the infrastructure money. However, the level of expectation is high, for the government continues to promise billions and billions of dollars. Today we again heard the $180-billion figure.

I represent a riding where the largest city is the 18th largest in Quebec, and the 19th largest has 10 times fewer inhabitants. These rural municipalities will never see that federal infrastructure money, especially with an infrastructure bank designed to be profitable.

I would like to hear what my colleague thinks of these 1,000 Quebec municipalities that will never see a trace of the federal money.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question and her intervention. We are in agreement; the municipalities will have a hard time seeing any of that money.

The party now in power was critical at the time of the slowness of the previous government’s negotiations with Quebec and the municipalities regarding the transfer of money. It said that it would use the gas tax model, a model that works, to transfer the money that the government must return to Quebec and the municipalities to finance infrastructure.

Once it came to power, that did not happen. The parliamentary budget officer, who will be muzzled under the current bill, says that two-thirds of the funds have not been provided. What is more, the infrastructure bank, which was supposed to help the municipalities, has now been turned into a gift for the government’s friends and the big corporations. This is the worst of scenarios in the worst of all possible worlds.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Joliette. I will try to keep my questions very brief.

I have a question about the Board of Internal Economy. In the bill, for the first time, there is an amendment to make its meetings open to the public.

As my colleague has said, however, we are members who have rights. I am in total agreement with the effort to open the meetings, since we are in the same position as the members of the public.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my Green Party colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands for her question and her intervention.

I am in complete agreement with her. It makes no sense. Ours is essentially a two-party system, even though there are several parties in the House. Consequently third parties are at a disadvantage. This has to change. I hope that the members across the way are listening to us on this subject.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to speak for Yukon and to the budget bill.

When the government came into power, we changed the northern strategy, the Arctic strategy, to put the emphasis on people. We believe that if there are strong, healthy people in the north, we will have strong sovereignty in the north, good resource development, and environmental protection. I was delighted that the budgets of 2016 and 2017 reflected this emphasis on the people.

I will just talk about some of the items in those budgets that made northerners very happy.

First, the large increase in the northern allowance in the 2016 budget helped to cover the high cost of living in the north. Sometimes a jug of milk in the high Arctic can cost three, four, or five times what it does down south, as an example. All sorts of things cost more, so this big increase in the northern allowance was very welcome to help keep talented people in the north and to help people who have lived there for generations afford a good lifestyle, raise their families, and provide good clothing and food for their children.

What helped with that immensely, of course, was the Canada child benefit. There was a big increase, especially for low-income families with children. We can imagine the incredible task of a single mother in the north, with these high costs, trying to raise her children. This non-taxable child benefit has gone a long way and has been a big help in the north.

It is the same for all categories of people. There is the OAS supplement, which helps the poorest of seniors. There is the increase in student grants for low-income students and the doubling of student jobs for the summer. These measures all help people, especially people who need it the most, in the north.

In my riding of Yukon, the two biggest private sectors are mining and tourism. Mining, of course, has been the biggest contributor to our gross domestic product since the great Klondike gold rush, the greatest gold rush in the world. It is very important.

In recent years, mineral exploration has been very important to our economy. We worked hard to encourage the Minister of Natural Resources, who was a very strong advocate, to extend the mineral exploration tax credit for another year. This is a 15% tax credit. A lot of the mining activity in the Yukon at the moment is exploration, and probably a vast majority of it would not occur without this tax credit. This is instrumental and a huge help to the people of the Yukon.

The second-biggest sector is tourism. Sometimes it is the biggest employer, for the number of people in the Yukon. It is a bigger part of our gross domestic product than it is in any other province or territory. When there were cuts in recent years, it hurt us more than anyone else.

We were delighted to hear the recent announcement of $2 million for marketing and television ads for Yukon tourism as well as $1 million for the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association, because a lot of people who come to the north really want the authentic experience of first nations tourism products and services. The Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, in budget 2017, would be given $8.6 million for indigenous tourism activities.

The prime marketing agency for Canada, Destination Canada, got an increase last year, a desperately needed increase after many years of cuts, of $37.5 million to help market Canada around the world. We are delighted that this increase would be made permanent in budget 2017.

We have a curious situation in the Yukon, where we have jobs available without people, and we have people without jobs. The reason is that people need training. There are jobs available, but people are not trained to take some of those jobs. We were very happy to see that budget 2017 included $14.7 million for the three territories for basic adult education. Whenever a person gets out of high school or college and needs more education to get into the trades or the professions, this money is instrumental. We are delighted that it has been carried on.

There would also be $90 million to help indigenous students in post-secondary education and $50 million more for the ASETS program, which is skills development for first nation people across Canada.

Another item that is instrumental in the north and in my riding is housing. I was an early member of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. For years, affordable housing has been one of our highest priorities, so we are very delighted that budget 2017 would have $11.2 billion for a national housing strategy. On top of that, Yukon specifically would get $24 million.

Also important to the workforce, particularly to get women into the workforce, are more child care spaces, and we are very happy with the $7 billion nationally to help create more child care spaces.

Like everywhere else, we have had a number of Canada 150 projects going on this year, which are very exciting. I have also announced a number of seniors projects, which were very well received.

There would be $25.6 million for the territorial health investment fund to help us with the unique challenges of health in the north, and $89.9 million for indigenous languages, which, again, are very important in my riding. There would also be extra money for mental health for indigenous people.

I just made an announcement about indigenous youth and sport and the aboriginal games.

The Yukon government also gets a transfer from the federal government, and this would be the biggest transfer in history, with a $24.9-million increase over last year. There would be an increase of $.8 million in the Canada health transfer and of $.3 million in the Canada social transfer over last year.

We are also delighted to get the new judge we asked for. We have only two federal Supreme Court judges. One is taken up with a major murder case. The other has the routine proceedings every week. A lot of civil cases were backlogged, so we are delighted that this is in the budget.

The increases for Parks Canada are also very important in my riding. Green technology support is very important across the country to help the transition to renewables.

I was in Washington a few weeks ago with the leader speaking at a conference of northern leaders from across North America, Alaska, the three Canadian territories, and Greenland. The two things needed for development were more infrastructure and more affordable energy.

The municipalities and territorial governments were delighted about the large transfers for infrastructure. Unfortunately, I do not have enough time left to go through it all in detail. There is the trade and transportation corridor, $10 billion for the building Canada fund, all sorts of projects for water, waste water, recreation, roads, bridges, and transit. We already have some buses from the transit fund.

There is social infrastructure, green infrastructure, and Internet infrastructure. Northern and rural infrastructure would get $2 billion. I cannot remember a time in history when any government has put that much emphasis on Canada's rural north and come up with a fund of $2 billion for infrastructure. The north is eligible for all these other infrastructure funds. It is on a plus basis, not on a per capita basis, where we get almost nothing. We are delighted that we get a base amount.

There is money for first nations to get infrastructure to protect them from climate change. It is very forward thinking.

The other area I mentioned from the conference is affordable energy for the north. We are delighted that there would be $21.4 million to get northern indigenous communities off diesel, as many of them are on diesel, and $400 million for an Arctic energy fund.

All these items are great for the economy of the north, the environment of the north, and most importantly, the people of the north, because when there are strong, healthy, engaged people who have their culture supported, we are going to have a strong northern part of Canada, which is important for all of us.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, when I look at the 2017-18 budget, I see it as a continuation of our first budget, which delivered so much to Canadians. The first things that come to mind are the increases in the GIS and the Canada child benefit. Many of those programs are from last year, and now we have constituents receiving the benefits this year, as we are speaking today.

Infrastructure is a big one. We believe in building Canada through our infrastructure. What are my colleague's thoughts on just how important it is that we continue to invest in Canada's infrastructure?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, investing in infrastructure is particularly important for the north, but also for all Canadians. I think members can imagine, if they have not had the personal experience, what it is like to be without a job. They go home and tell their kids that they have to move, because they cannot pay the rent, or they have to sell the house. The kids say, “Where are we going to live?” The parents say, “We don't know.” Perhaps the other kids are going on a skating trip or to a swimming pool, and the parents cannot afford to give them the money, or it is Kraft Dinner again tonight. There cannot be much in life that is harder than not having a job to support one's family.

Economists have explained that one of the best government investments to create jobs is through infrastructure, in the north in particular. Where southern Canada has had infrastructure for over a century, such as ports and roads, in the north, a lot of our communities have no access by road. People can imagine the cost of food if it has to go in by boat and air. It is incredibly costly. That is why the trade corridor is so important. Our wealth of resources cannot get out if there are no roads or infrastructure, so it is very important.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, we are debating Bill C-44, and I am very curious. When the Conservatives were in power, they introduced undemocratic omnibus bills that lacked the respect of Parliament. The NDP and the Liberals, when in opposition, strongly criticized the previous government for this. Does the member not find it odd that now that his party is in power, he is supporting this type of thing right here in this chamber?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I am delighted that the member has asked that question, because it gives me a chance to explain what Canadians may have heard but do not understand. We promised that we would stop the abuse of omnibus bills, of putting in a whole bunch of things that had very little or no relation to the budget, such as the dramatic changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, as an example of what was done. Of course, any budget implementation bill, as members can see from the study done by the Library of Parliament, has to refer to a number of other bills, because obviously, the budget refers to different laws, different departments, and different agencies. The budget implementation bill naturally has to refer to those. The abuse we want to avoid, and I am sure the member wants to avoid, because we are onside on this, is using omnibus bills inappropriately to do things that are not related to the budget to get those items through Parliament without the scrutiny that would normally come with a bill that addressed something independently.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to quote the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons who said last Monday:

...it is with regret that I inform my colleagues that under these circumstances, the government will need to use time allocation more often to implement the ambitious agenda we were elected to deliver. This will be done every time with full transparency.

Today we have the first gag order since the government's new transparent approach. The government has a monopoly on the truth, and we all we can do is sit down and shut up. The Liberals' new way of seeing things more or less amounts to that.

My colleague who just finished his speech chairs a very important committee and has watched as his own government has tried to muzzle the opposition and take away its traditional rights, including the right to hold the government to account on behalf of Canadians. Our role as opposition members is to find the little chinks in the Liberals' armour. It is very easy, because there are so many of them.

We are here today to talk about Bill C-44, which is supposed to implement the measures in the Liberal government’s budget. I would like to thank my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, who is working very hard to hold the Liberal government and the Minister of Finance accountable to Parliament. That is his role, and that is what we do every day with every good intention. Most importantly, it is our duty to meet that enormous challenge.

This government has promised a lot of things and, for the most part, has done the opposite. The promise that everyone is going to remember, not just next year or in five or ten years but also in 40 years, is the promise of small deficits. This government got elected by promising to run very small deficits and to return to balanced budgets in 2019. However, instead of very small deficits, what we have are enormous deficits. That is what our children are going to remember: the enormous deficits bequeathed to them by the Liberal Party and the colleagues of the Minister of Finance who approve of this trend of putting our children into debt.

This government promised twice to be transparent. Then it tried, on at least two occasions, to change the procedures for its benefit. In addition, it promised not to introduce mammoth bills or omnibus bills, when the one we are discussing today, Bill C-44, is truly one. Lastly, it promised not to politicize the public service. However, the parliamentary budget officer himself says that the Liberal government is doing the opposite by trying precisely to politicize his office.

Welcome to the era of transparency and sunny ways. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening. What does this government, in its infinite arrogance, take Canadians for?

Bill C-44, which we are debating today, is supposed to implement the budget measures introduced in Parliament on March 22. In fact, it is a mammoth bill that amends some 30 statutes.

If it is passed in its present form, this budget is going to cost taxpayers dearly. The Liberal government will be dipping even deeper into the pockets of Canadians; it is going to eliminate existing measures to control user fees for federal services, as well as tax credits; it is going to tax ride sharing services; and it is going to tax Canadians’ leisure activities even more by putting a new tax on alcohol and tobacco.

Another thing, which is not in the budget but has not been denied, is that they want to sell the airports to pay the enormous interest charges on the government’s credit cards.

What then are the government’s real priorities? At a time when the job situation is deteriorating, full-time jobs are being replaced by part-time jobs. In addition, they want to enact legislation to legalize marijuana.

The government is standing still instead of standing up to the U.S. administration, which is attacking our forestry industry and our farmers. The provinces are clamouring for judicial appointments, but is there anything in Bill C-44 that meets their needs? Quebec has asked for 14 judges. Just recently, it got four. Hurrah! Now they are just 10 short.

Dannick Lessard is a constituent of mine who was a victim of the shortage of judges in Quebec. He recently published an open letter in the papers. He says that he is not only a victim of crime, but also a victim of the justice system and the Jordan decision. Let me quickly review the facts.

In October 2012, Mr. Lessard was shot by a man armed with two 10 mm pistols. He was hit nine times, suffering irreversible physical and psychological injury. In his letter, he wrote, “That act of unspeakable violence turned my life upside down”.

On Friday, April 21, 2017, a stay of proceedings was ordered under the Jordan decision for the trial that was to be held in September 2017 of a man charged with the first degree murder of Pierre-Paul Fortier as well as the attempted murder of Mr. Lessard. This ruling is part of a new trend in the wake of the Jordan decision. He said, “This ruling effectively ends any chance that my case will be heard and that justice will be served.”

He asks the following:

Is it reasonable that my alleged attacker does not have to face justice for such a violent and gratuitous crime? Is it reasonable for me to live the rest of my days with the scars from my attack?

He adds, “As a consequence of the Jordan decision, victims and the public have lost confidence in the Canadian justice system.”

What was in Bill C-44 to provide for the additional judges needed in Quebec to ensure that the Jordan decision is not overused? Absolutely nothing.

There are numerous important issues in this bill. One of them concerns the parliamentary budget officer. Last week, at a news briefing, Mr. Fréchette stated, “Last week, an information session at the Privy Council was requested. I left the meeting feeling furious and sceptical.” Meanwhile, the Liberals are trying to make us believe that they want to give the parliamentary budget officer greater autonomy. What they want is better control over him.

The parliamentary budget officer will have to submit his work plan to the speakers of both chambers, the House of Commons and the Senate. Does allowing the Speaker of the House to approve a parliamentary budget officer’s work plan not amount to politicizing the Speaker’s role? How is this process going to be possible? Will the Speaker of the House have to make political decisions? Bill C-44 is really a backdoor way for the Liberals to take control of the House, in spite of everything they say. I will conclude by saying that implementing this provision runs the risk of reducing the independence and perceived political impartiality of the office of the parliamentary budget officer.

When a budget is implemented, whether in Quebec or British Columbia or the Atlantic provinces, we rightly expect that the budget will contain measures to help our constituents. When it comes to my own riding, Lac-Mégantic, I have unfortunately seen nothing in either the last budget or Bill C 44 concerning the bypass track in Lac-Mégantic.

I have seen nothing on the use of mine tailings. Are we going to allow the cities of Thedford Mines and Asbestos to stay alive and to exploit the immense potential of the tailings? Are we finally going to see concrete measures to give all municipalities high-speed Internet access and wireless communication?

For all these reasons, I am obviously going to urge my colleagues to vote against Bill C-44, which simply exacerbates the Liberals’ strong tendency to bequeath enormous deficits to Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

4 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the member is fairly consistent with his critique of government budgets, both past and current. The Conservative Party consistently talks about their concern over deficits. The member knows very well what I am talking about. Conservative after Conservative will stand up and talk about that.

I would like to remind members across the way that when Stephen Harper inherited government, he inherited a multi-billion-dollar surplus. The member across the way knows that as well as I do. He then turned that multi-billion-dollar surplus into a deficit, even prior to the recession getting under way. Stephen Harper never did achieve a balanced budget. The Conservatives might like to believe otherwise, but we know that he did not.

My question is very simple. Why should this government take advice on deficits when Stephen Harper had an accumulated debt of over $150 billion and was never really able to prove that he had a balanced budget?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, my esteemed colleague is used to parliamentary sparring and theatrics. He is trying to change the subject.

He has referred to deficits. Canada got through the last global crisis in better shape than the other G7 countries. We managed to do that while preserving jobs. What we were focused on, during all those years when we saved the Canadian economy, was getting back to balanced budgets. Mr. Harper left behind a balanced budget. In the Liberals’ minds, it seems, there are no difficult situations and there are no problems. With the Liberals, we can have perpetual deficits. That is what we are criticizing them for.

When will we see a return to balanced budgets, so that our children are able to enjoy life, too, instead of paying the Liberals’ debts?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague. Like him, I will be voting against the bill.

My colleague is right in describing this bill as an omnibus bill because it amends 30 laws. Almost one-third of the bill refers to things that were not even mentioned in the budget.

The infrastructure bank warrants its own legislation and debate in the House, as does the issue of the parliamentary budget officer. In our democracy, the parliamentary budget officer plays a vital role, and his jurisdiction depends on him being neutral and independent.

Does my colleague agree with me that the changes the Liberal government is making to the position of the parliamentary budget officer will reduce our ability, as parliamentarians, to hold the government to account?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague that the government is once again trying to sneakily get out of its obligation to be accountable to Canadians and to members of Parliament, particularly in the case of the parliamentary budget officer.

What the Liberals are doing is quite simple. The parliamentary budget officer will have to submit a work plan. He will no longer be able to accommodate the requests of parliamentarians when a crisis arises or when there are things we want to know, for example, the cost of a war. The parliamentary budget officer will no longer be able to respond to parliamentarians' requests. He will have to follow the work plan that he had to submit to the speakers of both chambers. That means that we are losing half of our independence to the Senate and the other half to the Speaker of the House, who will now play a political role. That is unacceptable.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

May 9th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.

Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Yvonne Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to represent my riding and have a voice for the people of Labrador in the House of Commons.

Every weekend, I travel back to my riding. It is a very large geographic region of 295,000 square kilometres, which is hard to imagine. Getting around my riding on a weekend is no small task. No matter where I go within my riding, people will say that they are seeing the improvements they have not seen for a very long time. Those improvements are not just in their communities, but in their families and the regions of which they are a part. Those changes are helping to build and strengthen the communities in rural and remote northern regions across Canada. My area just happens to be one of those regions.

When I look at budget 2017, the things that really pop out to me are those that directly affect ordinary Canadians who have long waited for programs and investment. I want to talk about a few of those today.

With respect to the national housing strategy, budget 2017 will invest more than $11 billion in a range of initiatives designed to help build, renew, and repair Canada's affordable housing and meet the needs that have been inadequately met and have been unaffordable for many Canadians for a long time. This is being done simply because Canadians have been asking for it.

Why would the members not support this initiative? For years and years, those who have needed affordable and accessible housing, both in our cities and rural areas, on reserve and off, have not been able to get the investments they wanted. Why would anyone want to vote against that today? They have been waiting for a very long time.

In my riding last year, we invested in Inuit-specific housing in the northern region. It was the first time ever in history that any government recognized the real need for Inuit housing across the north. We invested in those communities and ensured that the investment went to the Inuit housing corporations so they could manage their own affairs, as was the case in my riding with the Nunatsiavut government. Those are the kinds of new, innovative ways the government is doing things.

The other thing we did in this budget, which many have been requesting for a long time, is extend employment insurance to allow for a caregiver benefit. Many caregivers will be eligible for up to 15 weeks of employment insurance when they have to temporarily take time off of work to care for critically ill or injured family members. That is so important.

I remember when a lady from my riding came to me when her child was sick. Her child had to go from Labrador to the hospital in St. John's. The lady had to leave her job, which did not offer her medical benefits and no income once she left. She needed to be with her child for that 10 to 12 weeks, but there was no income program for her

. This will allow parents who have sick children and need to leave their jobs, without any medical insurance, or benefits or any other income, to tap into the employment insurance program during that period. That has been critical for many Canadians, and they have asked for this.

The other thing is medical care. Issues about medical care are raised quite often in the House, particularly mental health services.

This year our government negotiated with all the provinces and territories to look at a new health accord that would include, and give priority to, mental health services and elderly care. As a result of that, the government is investing over $800 million in the next five years just to improve mental health services in first nation and Inuit communities. This is a new investment of money in communities that need it the most.

Why members would not support these investments for mental health services going into first nation and Inuit communities that need it so desperately does not make any sense. They are the same people who, every day, stand in the House and say that we should invest more in mental health services for first nations. That is exactly what we are doing, and we are asking for the support of the House to ensure those investments get to the people who need them the most.

I also want to talk about filling employment gaps across the country. The federal government is able to provide for skilled and advanced training, as well as on-the-job work initiatives for many Canadians trying to enter the workforce, trying to find employment. This year we gave a very significant boost in federal support to the provinces and territories by investing $2.7 billion over the next six years to help unemployed and underemployed Canadians access training and employment opportunities so they could get good jobs.

There are major initiatives in my riding, like the Muskrat Falls energy development project, mining operations in Voisey's Bay and the expansion of Voisey's Bay, and the expansion of the Iron Ore Company of Canada in Labrador west. All these companies need skilled individuals to work in their operations. In order for them to get the skills, the Government of Canada is prepared to ensure training dollars are available for them to access, that we will help them find the employment they need, and ensure they get the training and skills they need for those jobs. That is what we should be doing as a government and because of that, I hope people in ridings like mine will take advantage of these opportunities to get the training and skills they need to get long-term, sustainable employment in these resource sectors or any sector in which they might choose to engage.

The other program we announced in this budget is, again, a program that Canadians have requested for a long time. Their voices have been ignored to date because it is a difficult issue, but we have taken it on as a government. This year we propose to invest $6 billion over the next 10 years to improve home, community, and palliative care services for Canadians, as well as more support for informal caregivers. This means more people who want to stay at home can get the care and support they need. It means more families will have more support when it comes to family members who need palliative care or that kind of assistance. This government understands and is listening to people across the country and in ridings like mine in Labrador when we make those kinds of investments.

There are so many things I could talk about today, but I want to highlight a couple.

First, our government invested in infrastructure projects across Canada. One of those projects was in my riding in Labrador, the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway. Last year we partnered with the provincial government to invest over $60 million in the Trans-Labrador Highway, and we will continue with our commitment in that project.

We will also continue with our commitment to other infrastructure projects across Canada, including Labrador, like small craft harbours, women's shelters and centres, cultural centres for people in communities, and clean water for communities that need it. We are a government that is not only consulting with Canadians, but we are listening to them as well.

When we look at the budget before the House of Commons today, it reflects the needs of Canadians in the middle class, lower class, and others across the country. It is meeting the needs of what we need to grow, be healthy, and strong as a country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Madam Speaker, the member talked about $11 billion for affordable housing in the budget. In fact, the budget shows only about $10 million for affordable housing in this current fiscal year, 2017-18. Indeed, almost all of the promised $11 billion is after 2019—in other words, after the next election. The government cannot even really commit to what might happen at that point in the future.

If affordable housing is really such a priority for the government, why is it not investing in affordable housing now while it has the opportunity and the authority to do so?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Madam Speaker, I want to clarify that the investments we are making right now in communities to serve those who need proper housing is being done out of pure need, need that had been neglected for a long time.

Our housing is reaching all sectors of society. We are looking at urban housing initiatives that we know are needed in many of our cities across the country. We are looking at the rural housing needs, especially across the northern region. We are looking at housing needs on reserves. As a result of this, the government is launching a national housing strategy. Over the life of that strategy, $11 billion will be invested in a range of initiatives. Some of it will go into renewing older properties and making them affordable. A lot of it will be going into building new properties to ensure Canadians have adequate and affordable housing no matter where they live in the country.