House of Commons Hansard #355 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pilots.


Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. minister will know that I was very pleased and excited when the no-barriers bill came forward, but I remain disappointed that despite over 200 amendments being submitted, and over 75 being passed, those amendments came primarily from government members of the committee. We would still have no unified complaints bureau. We would have no unified standards bureau. We would not have a backstop. By that I mean that the bill, as constructed, would give cabinet permission to appoint a minister to be in charge of the act, but it would not say that this must happen. Of course, the government cannot compel the Governor in Council to do anything in a bill, but it could say that if there was no appointment, there would be a de facto appointment to another minister so that there would never be a gap. Therefore, I am concerned that the bill does not begin to meet our early expectations. I do not doubt the minister's good intentions, but I am very disappointed.

I know that we do not usually do this in this place, but I wonder if we could perhaps consider encouraging the Senate to identify, from the government side, what amendments the minister could live with when it comes back to this place.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Minister of Accessibility, Lib.

Carla Qualtrough

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question and her passion on issues related to people with disabilities.

We built the system contained in Bill C-81 on the existing system. This system was not drawn up on a whiteboard. We have existing regulators. We are trying to be efficient. We have expertise within government organizations. We have complicated regulatory frameworks within the CRTC and the CTA. We have a Canadian Human Rights Commission that is very well respected and that does very good work. Building on those existing entities, we had to fill in the gaps. We knew that there were areas within federal jurisdiction that were not covered, so we would create the position of the accessibility commissioner.

We would enshrine in this law, and we would have agreements between these organizations, that there would be no wrong door. Wherever people went to state their concern or file a complaint, they would be pointed in the right direction. Canadians can be assured of this.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order. 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 Drummond, Agriculture and Agri-Food; the hon. member for Vancouver East, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; and the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill, Public Safety.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to rise today on a subject that is incredibly important to Canadians and that is certainly important to me as a member of Parliament and as the son of someone who was disabled in a car accident in 1996.

As we look across our country, we know that there is a broad set of regulations that govern accessibility, that govern improving the lives of persons who are living with disabilities. When Canadians heard that the Liberal government was going to introduce a bill within six months of taking power in 2015, they were excited, because this was not just any bill; this bill was the accessibility bill.

Here we are, three years later, and we are debating the bill. It was actually introduced about two and a half years after the government took office. Liberals say that they consulted and are not going to apologize for that consultation. I agree, in some sense, that it is actually better to do things right and do them slowly rather than rush and do them wrong.

However, the reality is that it has been two and a half to three years at this point. They consulted, we were told, across the country with stakeholders. After that entire process, when the bill was finally brought forward, there were still 260 amendments moved at committee. Those amendments were not just concocted in some partisan backroom office where they come up with amendments to slow things down. They were actually brought forward by stakeholders who had apparently been consulted the entire time.

When those amendments were actually brought forward, it was not the New Democratic amendments that were adopted by the committee. It was not the Green Party amendments that were adopted by the committee, when the member who does not sit on the committee showed up and was able to actually contribute, which I thought was very meaningful to the process. It was not the amendments brought forward by the Conservative Party that were adopted, even though many of these were the same amendments.

The amendments that were adopted, almost 100% of them, were brought forward by the Liberal members. When I heard the minister talk about co-operation, I remembered that there was a similar pitch in the speech when debate on the subject was launched. That co-operation never came. In fact, we had the opportunity to speak over the phone. I think we had a couple of quick chats in the hallways of Parliament, but we were not actually given the opportunity to contribute. When it came down to it, it was about partisanship. It was not about helping Canadians when it came to the committee.

These amendments were not partisan amendments. They were things like putting a timeline on when to report back or putting a timeline on when we were going to achieve measurables so that Canadians could understand how this accessibility bill would actually help them. Some of the amendments put specific regulations or specific timelines for reporting back on specific regulations. These regulations were designed to help Canadians, perhaps with hearing impairments, visual impairments, other physical impairments or perhaps cognitive impairments of some kind.

There was no co-operation from the Liberal government on this bill. As a result, this bill is not perfect. I would venture to say that it is not great. It is a first step towards recognizing that we need to do better for persons with disabilities.

I have to say that the one piece of co-operation this minister actually managed to achieve was co-operation among the Green Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Conservative Party of Canada, and that should be recognized, because that is a job well done.

We know that when this receives royal assent, nothing will change from day one, except that there will be a huge price tag and 250 new employees for the Government of Canada. We know that new office space will be found. We know that the office space, hopefully, will be either 100% accessible or as accessible as possible. We also know that within two years, there will be a single regulation adopted by Canadians. All of this will be for a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

When I talk to stakeholders across the country, they tell me that if we are going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on them, and they want us to do that because they need it, they want to see something for that money. They would like to see a more accessible environment in the sectors that matter, whether in airlines, government services offices, Service Canada or even these Parliament buildings. They want to see the effect of those dollar spent. It is incredible that the accountability of this bill became the thing that actually stopped co-operation.

When we asked the minister or the minister's designated staff members whether it was at an information panel in the Wellington building or at committee, we were stonewalled. We asked questions like whether they recommended that the minister put timetables on this legislation. They responded that this was confidential between the minister and his staff. I do not understand what is being we hidden, because I think we all have the same goals at hand. Those goals are to help Canadians living with disabilities.

We do a lot for people around the world who are going through very difficult times. What I want to see, and what Canadians would like to see, is for the Government of Canada to take care of those who are most vulnerable in our society, those people living with disabilities. Unfortunately, the minister and the Liberal Party did not listen. They did not even listen to their own legislation. They did not listen to their own throne speech, in which they said that each member of the House would be respected and that partisanship games would not be played in committee. However, we have seen that happen time and again.

When groups and stakeholders from across the country came forward and asked us to do something about the exemptions, not to leave these massive holes in the legislation, the real result was no change. The result was “No, we're not going to listen”. The result was “We'll come up with regulations later on”. The result is that nothing is going to change upon royal assent.

As we move forward on this subject, consultation certainly needs to continue. The minister is actually correct about that. Consultation cannot stop. The barriers that we see in places throughout our society will continue to be there. They will be forever changing, but that does not mean that we do not create a starting point, a line from which we can measure going forward. Unfortunately, this accessibility bill as it stands is literally just the paper. It does not make any of those changes or create those lines or measurements so we can measure against them going forward.

We tried at committee to amend the bill. When I say “we”, I think I speak for the entire opposition. This was such important legislation, affecting so many people, that we needed to ensure we got it right. When we asked for a timeline to come back so we could really monitor and measure what was happening, the answer was no. The result of that is that not even future governments will be held to account on the legislation. There is, unfortunately, a hole the government could drive a bus through that would leave it by the wayside.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte will have 11 minutes and 15 seconds when the House next considers this matter. I thank him for his willingness to allow me to go on with other matters.

It being 4:02 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, November 8, I now invite the hon. Minister of Finance to make a statement.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario


Bill Morneau LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table a notice of ways to amend the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Act regulations and explanatory notes.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario


Bill Morneau LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, three years ago, Canadians made a choice. They chose to turn their backs on the failed austerity policies of the past, policies that produced stubborn unemployment and the worst decade of growth since the Great Depression. Instead, they embraced a more confident, optimistic and ambitious approach, one that would invest in Canadians again and in the things that mattered most to them, good, well-paying jobs, more help for hard-working families and an economy that would offer every Canadian a real and fair chance at success.

In the years since, we have delivered real progress to the middle class and for people working hard to join the middle class.

We started by asking the wealthiest to pay a little more so that we could lower taxes for the middle class. We introduced the Canada child benefit to help families with the high cost of raising kids. These two measures alone have made a tremendous difference in the lives of Canadian families.

Next year, middle-class families of four will get about $2,000 more each year to invest in the things their families need, whether it is nutritious food or new winter boots for growing kids. The Canada child benefit means that, today, about 300,000 Canadian children no longer live below the poverty line.

To ensure that more Canadians have a safe and affordable home, we introduced the first ever national housing strategy. These investments will remove more than half a million households from housing need and help cut chronic homelessness in half.

To help Canadians have more confidence in their future, we strengthened the Canada pension plan. Younger Canadians can now be certain that more retirement income will be there for them when it is their turn to retire.

For our seniors, we have increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up, thereby improving the financial security of close to 900,000 seniors. We have also reversed the Conservatives' move to raise the eligibility age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.

All of these policies were specific promises we made. They are now promises kept.

We made these investments because they were the right thing to do for Canadians, for new jobs, better wages and a stronger economy.

As we are seeing, when we invest in Canadians, when we give them the tools they need to succeed, Canadians combine it with their own hard work and deliver some of the best economic results we have seen in a generation.

Today, Canada's economy is strong and growing. At 3%, Canada had the strongest economic growth of all the Group of Seven countries last year, and will remain among the fastest growing economies this year and next.

Our plan is working because Canadians are working. Our definition of a strong economy is one that provides real results for people. That means jobs, good, well-paying, middle-class jobs, jobs that one can raise a family and build a future on.

In the last three years, hard-working Canadians have created more than 550,000 new full-time jobs, pushing the unemployment rate to the lowest level we have seen in the past 40 years.

Canadians are also earning more. For the average Canadian worker, wages are growing faster than inflation. If current trends continue, this year will be the strongest year of wage growth in close to a decade. These are positive results all around. They prove that when we invest in Canadians, Canadians grow the economy for everyone.

We know that there is more work to be done. As the Prime Minister would say, we can always do better. However, Canadians should be happy with and proud of the work they have done to create jobs and kickstart the economy.

Every responsible manager knows that a good plan must have enough room to respond to inevitable changes in circumstances. Canada has had to deal with a new administration in the United States. This situation posed some interesting challenges, if I can put it that way. One of the most important things we have accomplished since the previous fall's economic statement is the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

This was important for the millions of Canadians whose jobs relied on North American trade and also important for Canadian businesses who told us time and again that the most meaningful thing we could do to ensure stability and confidence in Canada's economy would be to successfully renegotiate NAFTA. That is exactly what we did. We have preserved access to our most important market and have provided certainty for the millions of Canadians whose jobs depend on it.

I want to take a moment here to thank Canadians, from all walks of life and all political persuasions, who put differences aside to stand up for our country. To business and labour leaders, members on all sides of the House, mayors from some of Canada's biggest cities and smallest towns, local entrepreneurs and artists from all across our great country, on behalf of the Prime Minister and my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, we thank them. We were able to stand our ground because we stood on their shoulders.

However, just because we share a trade agreement with the United States does not mean we will always agree with its approach. The current administration has moved forward with an aggressive package of tax cuts for large corporations. That is its rights as a sovereign nation. However, some on the right have lobbied us to match those measures. If we were to do that, it would add tens of billions of dollars in new debt. It would do more to worsen income inequality than to improve it. It would make the services that millions of Canadians depend on less affordable.

Lets us be blunt. Managing a federal budget calls for some tough choices—

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order, order. I remind hon. colleagues that we are going to have equal time for speakers from each party, and we are going to want to hear them all. People may hear things we do not like from other sides. It is normal and entirely appropriate that we not agree in here all the time, but it does not mean we should not be able to behave like adults and listen.

The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands has intervened many, many times already during the last few minutes. I would ask him to remember the rule against interruption. I am sure if he is not able to sit quietly here, he could sit quietly somewhere else.

The hon. Minister of Finance.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.


Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that when the members opposite push for an aggressive elimination of the deficit, what they really mean is aggressive cuts in services, cuts that would make life harder for people and for families. That is not what we want for Canada, and it is not what Canadians want for themselves.

We choose a different path: one that is a targeted, measured and fiscally responsible; one that encourages businesses to invest in growth, and create more good, well-paying jobs for middle-class Canadians; one that makes it clear to businesses that if they have a choice to invest on either side of the border, Canada is the smart and sensible choice. This path ensures that our federal debt-to-GDP ratio continues on a steady downward track.

It is worth remembering that we already have the best balance sheet among our key allies, and that our government has made an absolute commitment to maintaining that competitive advantage in a volatile world.

I will tell you why it is important to get the fundamentals right. As much as we are taking positive actions today to help grow the economy and invest in middle-class jobs, the reality is that there are challenges all around us.

The challenges range from the uncertainty about the global economy to concerns about lingering trade disputes to the challenges facing the oil and gas sector in Alberta, which is contending today with very low crude oil prices. The market prices are so low compared with international benchmarks. That is why we are matching our words with actions, to ensure that we can achieve greater market access for our resources in the right way.

Let there be no mistake. We could have ignored the concerns of business leaders, decided not to make the investments and the changes that are part of the fall economic statement, and we would have had a lower deficit as a result. To have done so would have been neither a rational response nor a responsible one.

We are choosing, once again, to trust Canadians—the people who put their trust in us. We know that if we give Canadian businesses more opportunities to succeed and grow, they will do just that. One of the greatest opportunities for Canada's economy is connected to the global shift toward clean growth.

In 2016, our government worked with provinces and territories, in consultation with indigenous peoples, to reach Canada's first ever national clean growth and climate action plan. It is a comprehensive plan that invests in public transit, phases out coal power, invests in clean energy, prices pollution and supports energy efficiency across Canada.

Conservative politicians here in the House and in some provincial capitals want to bury their heads in the sand and ignore what is happening to the climate and to the economy. They want to make pollution free again and let our kids and grandkids deal with the consequences. We are not going to let that happen. Pollution was free, so we had too much of it. This is the root of the problem, and we are going to fix it.

After three years of strong action, Canada is now poised to lead and succeed in the global clean growth economy, an opportunity that is estimated to be worth $26 trillion in the next dozen years. To help get us there, we are announcing our intention to create an advisory council on climate action that would give our government expert advice on how we can further reduce pollution and encourage economic growth in two crucial areas: the transportation sector and the building sector.

We intend to name two Canadian clean growth leaders, Steven Guilbeault and Tamara Vrooman, to help lead that work.

It is not enough to simply clean up the economy. We need to make a cleaner economy more affordable to middle-class Canadians. That is why our government will not keep any of the revenues from pricing pollution. We will return every single penny to provinces and territories where we collect it, and 80% of Canadian families will be better off as a result.

Our government is confident that if we give Canadian businesses more opportunities to succeed and grow they will meet and exceed all expectations.

To encourage businesses to invest in their own growth and create more good, well-paying jobs, our government proposes to allow businesses to immediately write-off for tax purposes the full cost of machinery and equipment used in the manufacturing and processing of goods.

We will also allow specified clean energy equipment to be eligible for an immediate write-off of the full cost. This will help achieve climate goals and boost Canada's global competitiveness.

In response to requests from the business community, we are also introducing a new accelerated investment incentive, an accelerated capital cost allowance for businesses of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy. This incentive will encourage more businesses to invest in assets that will drive business growth over the long term, setting the stage for more good middle-class jobs across our country.

Our government is also setting an ambitious agenda to make Canada the most globally connected economy in the world. We are already well on our way. With the successful conclusion of the new NAFTA, as well as the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, we now have comprehensive free trade agreements with countries representing two-thirds of the world's GDP.

Canada is now the only G7 country to have free trade agreements with all other G7 countries.

We want to give Canadian businesses more opportunities to grow, succeed and create good, well-paying jobs. That is why we are launching an export diversification strategy, to directly support Canadian businesses to grow their overseas sales by 50% by 2025.

Here at home we are going to work with our provincial and territorial partners to remove barriers to internal trade within Canada. Specifically, we will work to find ways to ensure that businesses can transport goods more easily, to harmonize food regulations and inspections, to align regulations in the construction sector and to facilitate greater trade in alcohol.

We will also take steps to modernize regulations so that it is easier for Canadian businesses to grow, and we will do that in ways that continue to protect Canadians' health and safety as well as that of the environment.

We intend to move forward with additional investments that will help Canadian innovators add value, succeed and grow.

Because our economy is doing well, we also have the fiscal room to continue to follow through on the commitments we made to Canadians.

We know that the best solutions for Canada's big challenges come from Canadians themselves. When charities, non-profit and social enterprises have access to capital and investment, they can innovate and go further than government can do alone. That is exactly what we are doing today by launching a new social finance fund.

We have also been working with local residents to reform the Nutrition North Canada program so that this program ensures better access to affordable, nutritious traditional food and is transparent, effective and accountable to northerners and other Canadians.

A key part of Canada's digital and creative advantage is our francophone culture. The protection and promotion of that culture unlocks enormous economic opportunity, not just in Canada but around the world. That is why we are helping to create a new francophone digital platform, in partnership with TV5MONDE public broadcasters.

To protect the vital role that independent news media play in our democracy and in our communities, we will be introducing measures to help support journalism in Canada.

To help sustain Canada's wild fish stocks and the communities that rely on them, we will invest in efforts to rebuild fish stocks. We will also introduce two new funds: a British Columbia salmon restoration and innovation fund and a Quebec fisheries fund to support the fish and seafood sectors in those two provinces.

What these and the other measures in the fall economic statement all have in common is this. They are all part of our government's plan to follow through on the commitments we made to Canadians to strengthen and grow the middle class and to offer real help to people working hard to join it; to grow the economy and invest in the middle class; and to give Canadians the help they need to succeed, by making smart investments to grow our economy for the long term, while we bring the books back toward balance.

That is what Canadians expect of us. That is what we promised, and that is exactly what we are doing.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister has demonstrated that he can do two things at one time. He can give a speech while adding almost a million dollars to our national debt, in the same half-hour. I congratulate the minister, and we know that Canadians will get the bill for that new debt.

Our government has told us, under the leadership of this Prime Minister, that budgets balance themselves. He predicted that this self-balancing budget would manifest in the year 2019, barely a month from today.

Today, the finance minister has presented a fiscal update, in which the deficit is three times the size the Liberal Party promised in the last election and in which the deficit will not only be in place next year, when it was promised to be gone, it will actually be bigger than it is right now. In fact, this economic update reports that the deficits for the next five years will all be larger than the Liberals projected just six months ago in the 2018 budget.

None of us on this side is surprised that the finance minister and the Prime Minister failed to take responsibility for these promise-shattering deficits. Like most Canadians, we have come to accept that these Liberals never take responsibility for anything, but what is startling about this particular statement is that they just go on doing more and more damage to the fiscal situation of this country, without any concern or hesitation.

What we learned in this document that we did not already know is that not only do the Liberals break their promise, not only will they fail to balance the budget next year as they said, but they now admit that under their plan the budget will never be balanced. There is no time period into the future when they are even committing to returning to a situation where the debt stops growing. That is effectively the election platform they are running on today, that there will be deficits forever and that there could never be an occasion where the government would live within its means.

These two gentlemen of great privilege have inherited enormous fortune: balanced budgets from the previous government; booming U.S. and world economies; a roaring housing sector in Vancouver and Toronto, which has poured more revenue into government coffers; record low interest rates, which make debt more affordable temporarily. All of these factors are out of the government's control but have, through the goddess Fortuna, rained money on the current government, $20 billion of additional revenue, I am pleased to report to the House.

The Prime Minister took that $20 billion and did the responsible thing. He put it against our national debt. He saved it up for a rainy day. He reinforced our foundation against forthcoming storms. I am kidding. He blew every single penny of it, and it was not enough. On top of that windfall, he had to spend $20 billion more.

We are told to take comfort in the debt-to-GDP ratio. All ratios have numerators and denominators. With the Prime Minister lecturing us all about the need to teach us all in the House, as his pupils, he should actually know that. The reality is that the only way for that debt-to-GDP ratio to decline is if inflation and GDP are constantly going up. I just pointed to the factors that the government admits have led to the windfall of revenue before us. That can only continue as long as the world factors, which are out of the government's control, continue on at this pace.

In other words, if a crisis of any kind, another international financial recession, a massive problem with international security, a natural disaster or any other such kind of difficulty, led to the compression of the denominator, then we would face a crisis in the nation's finances. In that crisis, the Liberal government, if it were to keep its promise, something that none of us believe it would ever consider doing, would then be in a position where it would have to raise taxes or cut spending at a time when the economy needs the opposite. Therefore, the Liberals are putting our future in a reckless state of danger by spending our tomorrow on their today.

The second consequence of these growing deficits is this. When governments spend more than they have, they compete for scarce goods and services, which drives up inflation, making the cost of living more and more expensive. We have seen inflation reach nearly 3%, the upper end of the Bank of Canada's range of acceptable levels of consumer price index increases. That is in part, I believe, because the current government is overspending, increasing demand with unnecessary government spending, pouring money into the purchase of the same goods and services that Canadians have to compete for.

Furthermore, when governments borrow, they have to sell bonds. When those bondholders purchase the bond, they get interest in return for it. Why would they lend money to a Canadian homeowner for 2.5% when a rapidly borrowing government will give them 2.75% or 3%? The answer is they would not. That is the reality of the credit markets. When governments borrow, they compete with Canadian consumers and homeowners and drive up the cost of interest on those same people. In other words, while Canadians face record household debt, the government's insatiable appetite for debt is actually making that problem worse, not just in the future but here in the present.

Speaking of the future, we all know that debt today means higher taxes tomorrow. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has indicated that the cost of borrowing for the Government of Canada will rise by two-thirds, to almost $40 billion, over the next four to five years. That is almost as much as we transfer to the provinces to fund our entire health care transfer. In today's update, the government admits that the cost of borrowing is going up. For the first half-year, the increase in the borrowing cost has been 14.3%. That is the combined result of growing deficits and higher interest rates. In other words, at this pace, there will be a massive wealth transfer from working-class Canadians, who will pay higher taxes so that wealthy bondholders and bankers can collect more interest. Even socialist economists recognize that interest on national debt represents a wealth transfer from the working class to the wealthy, because those who own bonds are those who can afford to buy them. One cannot lend money if one does not have money. Therefore, those with money benefit when governments go out and borrow. Instead of the government favouring the have-nots, it once again favours the have-yachts, something we have come to expect from it for a very long time.

We were told that this economic update was going to respond to the attempt by the U.S. President to take our money, business and jobs. So far, the Prime Minister has been prepared to help the President in all of those objectives. His carbon tax, his decision to block pipelines and his massive regulatory state that prevents businesses from functioning here in Canada have driven money out of our country. Canadian investment in the U.S. is up two-thirds and U.S. investment in Canada is down by half, and when money leaves, jobs leave.

A senior at the Business Council of Canada says that the result of this imbalance could lead to half a million jobs lost in this country. What is the government's response to that? Liberals tell us they are going to be bringing forward something called the centre for regulatory innovation. I think that for most people who have dealt with the red tape the government has put forward, the last thing they want to see is more regulatory innovation because so far, that regulatory innovation has meant blocking the northern gateway pipeline. They came up with innovative ways to make it impossible for Trans Canada to build the energy east pipeline. Of course, their most innovative stroke of genius has been to drive Kinder Morgan out of this country by giving them $4 billion of Canadian tax money in order to buy a 65-year-old pipeline that we already had, money that the Texas oil company is now using to build pipelines in the United States of America.

When the Prime Minister took office, three of the world's most respected pipeline companies were ready to put shovels in the ground. Kinder Morgan was going to build Trans Mountain. Enbridge was going to build northern gateway and Trans Canada was going to build energy east. They had the financial commitments, the applications in and they were ready to go and all three of those companies have now left. What does the government offer? A centre for regulatory innovation.

However, that is not all. I should give the Liberals credit for another very exciting announcement they have made in regard to regulation. They are going to make the building code available to all Canadians for free and just in time for Christmas. That is if Canada Post is not on strike and unable to deliver the building code to those Canadians who are anxiously waiting to receive it.

That is the plan that the Liberals have to unwind the massive regulatory obstacles that have driven our oil, our money, our businesses and our jobs right into the arms of Donald Trump and nothing in this announcement today will reverse that direction. In fact, the government has backed down on NAFTA, giving President Trump everything he asked for and getting nothing in return that we did not already have.

We on this side of the House will stand up for the common sense of the common people, the people who understand that budgets do not balance themselves because those people, unlike our leader, have actually had to balance a household budget. A future Conservative government would recognize that we cannot spend what we do not have and we cannot borrow our way out of debt.

I conclude today by challenging the government. I know how painful it is for the Liberals to hear the truth, the painful truth from which they have for so long tried to turn away their eyes. Unfortunately, they have to face up to the fact that they shattered their promise to balance the budget next year, they have built up massive new debt not only for future generations, but for present-day Canadians, the cost of government is driving up the cost of living and that is leading to a serious crunch on the backs of everyday Canadians, Canadians who know what it is like to live within their means.

This is why a Conservative government will make sure that the budget will be balanced in the medium term, to deal with the massive deficits accumulated by the Liberal government and previous governments.

The Conservatives recognize that Canadians work hard for their money and they they must balance their own budgets. As a government, we will help them and will not make things harder for them, like the current government is doing.

As the official opposition, we are calling on the government to meet Canadians' demands, tell them how the budget will be balanced, create a plan to do so, and lower taxes so that Canadians can keep the money they earned.

We will put forward a government in the future that will stand with those who know how to balance a budget, because they do so in their own households and they expect the very same of the Government of Canada. Under a Conservative government, they will get no less.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start out by saying how very disappointed I am in the mini budget that the Minister of Finance just presented.

I would like to start by saying I am startled at how rapidly the government has fallen completely out of touch with the needs of Canadians. The verdicts are already coming in. Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, who is respected by all Canadians, says that “We're deficit-financing the corporate sector”. That is just one of the reactions to this mini budget.

There is nothing in the mini budget that addresses the profoundly unequal tax system that we have in place. Real corporate tax rates are estimated to be less than 10%. Nothing addresses that. Nothing addresses the web giants and the fact that they are simply allowed to do business in Canada and get off scot-free. There is nothing that addresses some of the priorities that Jagmeet Singh, I, and the member for Sherbrooke presented just a few days ago to the finance minister.

If the Liberals are saying that they want to see Jagmeet Singh in the House of Commons, all they have to do is call a by-election. That is what the people of Burnaby South are asking for.

There is nothing in this mini budget that deals with pharmacare and the Canadians who are struggling with the lack of pharmacare and the businesses that are having to pay billions of dollars a year to finance pharmacare. There is nothing in this mini budget that deals with the profound housing crisis we are seeing in our country. I will give a few examples later on, but the reality is that housing is in crisis. There is a shortage of affordable housing in this country, but this mini budget does nothing to address it. There is nothing that addresses the profound inequalities facing indigenous children, who are often going to schools that are financed up to $10,000 less per pupil, per year than schools for other Canadian children. Nothing in the budget addresses that.

However, there are gifts. There is a billion dollars' worth of gifts to Bay Street. Unbelievably, given the times we live in and the record levels of family debt Canadians are experiencing—the worst family debt crisis in the industrialized world—it is incredible that in the mini budget papers just circulated, there are big tax incentives to buy things like plush corporate jets and limousines. I confirmed this with the ministry of finance officials. Unbelievably, if one buys a corporate jet, one would get a more accelerated tax write-off. If one buys a plush limousine, according to the Liberal government, one would get an accelerated write-off. The question I have for the finance minister that I hope he will answer over the next few days is why is he acting like Santa Claus to Bay Street and like Scrooge to everyone else in this country?

For regular Canadians, they see nothing in this mini budget, and I am talking about people like Jim who is right outside the House of Commons. Any Liberal member can go down the street and see him. Every day he is on the bridge between the Château Laurier and the East Block. He begs for money, because there is no pharmacare in this country. His medication costs him about $500 a month. He cannot work and so he has to beg, because he does not want to burden his children, and there is no pharmacare for him. There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses the challenges Jim faces.

There is nothing in this mini budget that in any way addresses the challenges that Heather in my riding faces. Heather has a child, a daughter, and lives with both her daughter and her mother in a one-bedroom apartment while rents keep going up. She works for minimum wage and does not know how much longer she can keep the apartment. If she loses her apartment, she does not know where she and her family will go. There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses that housing crisis in this country.

There is nothing in this mini budget that helps John, a senior who is homeless now, because with the rising rents, his pension just did not keep up. For a time he lived with a friend, and when that did not work out, he ended up on the street. There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses the challenges he is facing. He is not facing a challenge with lack of access to corporate jets and limousines. He is facing the challenges that many people in Canada are facing, and this out-of-touch government has done nothing to respond to his needs and concerns.

There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses the concerns of Paul, a local businessperson. He wants to compete but has two problems. He is paying for a medical plan, a drug plan, for his employees, because he wants to treat them well. He hopes for universal pharmacare in this country, because it would make a difference to his bottom line. He also says that it is very difficult to get workers now because of the lack of affordable housing. He says that if he wants to have workers, they need to have access to housing. However, nothing in this mini budget responds to his needs.

As well, nothing in this mini budget responds to the needs of Rajinder and Rah, who are among the many Canadian families experiencing the record level of family debt, the worst in our history and worst in the industrialized world, caused by Liberal policies.

Nothing in this mini budget addresses any of the needs of the people I have just mentioned. Therefore, we say in this corner of the House that it is time to put the private jets and the limousines aside and time for a government that prioritizes, in its budgets and in the House of Commons, the people of this country.

That is our priority, but the government seems to have totally different priorities.

Réjeanne is a person with a disability who sometimes experiences homelessness. Last year, she told me she needs a government that meets her needs. She is on medication and has housing issues, but nothing in this mini-budget addresses those needs.

Then, there is Ronda. Her two children go to school in an indigenous community so she has to live with the fact that her two children receive far fewer services than other students. The government spends about $10,000 less on them on average. She would like her children to have a better future than she did, but she has a hard time with the federal government's failure to provide adequate funding for schools. Nothing in the speech we just heard suggests that the government intends to meet those needs.

All of these people seem to have been forgotten. In contrast, people on Bay Street can now buy cheaper planes because taxpayers will be subsidizing that. They can even buy limousines because apparently the Liberal government again wants to use taxpayers' money to subsidize limousine purchases.

The priority should have been to create a fair tax system, since our system is deeply flawed. While about $20 billion is invested every year in offshore tax havens, the government just added another $5 billion in tax loopholes for next year. We in the NDP believe that investments should stay at home.

After having to fight the Conservatives for two years and the Liberals for three years, the Parliamentary Budget Officer finally got the information he needed from the Canada Revenue Agency to begin a study next spring. The Parliamentary Budget Officer's first study shows the discrepancy between the amount of corporate taxes that should be collected and how much is actually coming in.

A fair tax system is a priority for us, because that would allow us to invest in people and balance the budget.

Large corporations, which, since the Second World War, have been paying about 50% of all taxes in Canada, will now pay only 20% of the federal government's revenues, based on the speech we just heard. This shows how important it is to have a fair tax system. This economic statement does absolutely nothing to change that.

What should this mini budget have contained? We would have applauded the finance minister if he had stood up and announced a universal single-payer pharmacare plan for all Canadians and that he was going to make sure that all businesses would benefit as a result, because that would help the competitiveness of Canadian businesses. Our businesses are now paying $6 billion for pharmacare.

Tommy Douglas fought in the House of Commons for medicare. Medicare was not just good for every Canadian, but also for Canadian businesses. The average advantage per employee, per year is $3,000 for a Canadian business compared with an American business. Each employee that a Canadian business hires because of our universal medicare system has a $3,000 advantage. American companies have to pay into those plans; Canadian companies do not.

Imagine if the finance minister had stood and announced universal single-payer pharmacare. We all would have applauded, as the business community would have also.

This mini budget should have contained an announcement that the government would now take seriously the affordable housing crisis we face in this country. If the finance minister had stood up and said the government was going to put money into affordable housing instead of $5 billion into a variety of tax incentives that can go, unbelievably, for plush corporate jets and limousines, as if those were a priority, we would have applauded. We would have applauded if he had stood up and said the government was going to put $3 billion to building affordable housing, as was done after the Second World War. Within 30 months, 300,000 housing units were built across this country because governments at that time understood the importance of having a roof over every single Canadian's head. The finance minister should have stood up and announced an emergency housing plan right across this country to make sure that all Canadians have a roof over their head as soon as possible. He should have said that was what the government was going to do. He should have said that was the government's priority. If he had said that, we all would have applauded, but he did not.

He could have demonstrated an interest in green energy. We know that it will take a lot more than an advisory panel on climate change to shift Canada toward green energy and the new economy.

Even if Jagmeet Singh influenced the minister with regard to one of these criteria, he should have announced a real plan to implement green energy and ensure a transition toward green energy in Canada. Not only would that have been good for Canadians and for combatting climate change, but it also would have stimulated the economy. The countries that are investing in green energy are the countries that are currently benefiting from it, and Canada is doing virtually nothing.

The finance minister also could have announced that the government would put an end to the inequalities that exist in indigenous communities with regard to funding for education and ensured that every indigenous child in Canada receives the best possible education, the same education and the same funding for education as every other Canadian. He could have announced that, but he did not.

The basic income pilot project in Ontario was cancelled by a Conservative government that seems to want to attack all the programs that really help people. The finance minister could have announced that the government would fund the last year of the study on basic income so that we would know the results of the study. He could have done that, but he did not. That is the problem.

In his speech, the minister spoke about private planes and limousines and he addressed the need for major corporations to have greater access to these items. However, he forgot about ordinary Canadians, and yet they are the ones who should always be our priority.

I mentioned earlier Tommy Douglas, who fought lobbyists. Lobbyists were always saying not to put in place medicare because they really wanted that money for themselves. However, Tommy Douglas stuck with it. He pushed and pushed, and today we are all proud of his accomplishments. This was why Canadians, just a few short years ago when they had the chance to vote on the greatest Canadian of all, chose Tommy Douglas as the greatest Canadian. He always kept in mind people. He always kept in mind the needs of real people.

Jagmeet Singh is like that. He grew up in an environment where he had to push to succeed. He lived with racism and he had to take over when his father fell sick. He had to ensure his family was taken care of. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He had to work hard for what he accomplished.

That is the story with most Canadians. They push forward. However, most Canadians also occasionally need a government that reflects their interests. They need a government that realizes we need things like universal single-payer pharmacare; that when there is a housing crisis, the federal government responds, it does not give more corporate tax breaks; that when there is huge inequality, as we see with indigenous communities and education systems, the federal government actually steps forward and addresses it. That is what Canadians expect.

We need a plan to bring Canadians out of the worst family debt crisis and the worst housing crisis in our nation's history. We need a government that is actually going to respond to the kinds of needs that are being expressed right across the length and breadth of our vast land, and being expressed very effectively and coherently. However, seemingly, all of those concerns are not listened to by the government.

At the beginning of my speech, I said that it was startling how rapidly the government had fallen out of touch. There is no better evidence of that than this mini budget today, which deals with the kinds of incentives at which most Canadians will be shaking their heads. If we ask Canadians, and I will be asking my constituents, my bosses, when I go back to New Westminster—Burnaby in the next day or so, if they think the priority should be more corporate jets and more limousines for Bay Street, I do not think too many of them will tell me that they should be the priority. However, if I ask them if they think universal single-payer pharmacare, addressing the housing crisis and addressing inequality in indigenous children's education should be priorities, I know they will tell me that they should be.

The government has lost its way. It does not seem to understand what the priorities of people are, and I find that saddening. However, I also think it is a clear message to all of us as Canadians. Since the government has lost its way, has become stale and really is out of touch, it is time for a new government. Next year, in October, Canadians will be able to make that choice and elect Jagmeet Singh as Prime Minister of Canada.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, today's statement is somewhere between an economic statement and the Speech from the Throne. It is heavy on the blah-blah-blah, and light on anything tangible. We were treated to many lovely images, fine words and slogans, but that is about it. It is like an easter egg: it is nice on the outside, but completely hollow on the inside.

People say that the federal government is out of touch and the Minister of Finance just gave us an excellent example of that. It is out of touch with Quebec, out of touch with Quebeckers, disconnected from the real world and unaware of the real needs. The statement is full of rhetoric and utterly meaningless. The needs and challenges remain. The truth is that Ottawa is completely disconnected.

An economic statement is supposed to do three things. First, it should provide an update on the actual state of our finances in terms of problems and solutions.

Second, it should complete the budget, fill the gaps and correct the omissions. There was no shortage of those. The government being out of touch is certainly nothing new.

Third, it should allow for adjustments when the situation has changed and requires realignment.

An economic statement is those three things. It is not complicated, but in this case the government is zero for three.

First, the economic statement does not tell the real story. A few weeks ago, $2 billion in expenditures magically appeared in the public accounts because the government wrote off a loan to Chrysler in Ontario. It will soon be GM's turn, to the tune of another $2 billion. Then, the loan to the Muskrat Falls dam of almost $10 billion will magically appear there as well, since everyone knows that Newfoundland will never be able to repay that debt.

We never see or vote on loans and guarantees, we just pay for them. That does not give us the real story. These three loans alone represent a charge to taxpayers of close to $15 billion. Quebeckers will pay their share but get nothing in return. The government is keeping quiet about this and is therefore not proposing any solutions to the problem. There was not one word about this in the economic statement. There was nothing about going looking for the money where it really is by cutting subsidies for fossil fuels.

It is high time the government honoured the promise made ten years ago to close the tax haven loophole, which has, in fact, become a sinkhole that is swallowing public funds.

The Conservatives are outraged by the deficit. Oddly enough, when they are told that eliminating tax havens and oil subsidies would cut the deficit in half, they no longer protest quite so loudly. Neither does the government.

Today's statement has no substance.

Second, the economic statement should have filled the gaps in the latest budget. Quebec just had an election. Poll after poll invariably concluded that health and education are the priorities, but neither is mentioned in the budget. Transfers have been capped at 3% since last year. However, in Quebec, health care costs and system costs continue to rise. Ottawa is simply reducing its share.

Our nurses, our patients and our health network end up paying the price. Wait lists are growing. When people opt for private care because the public system does not meet their needs, Ottawa threatens to make more cuts, which just makes things worse. Everyone knows this is not sustainable.

Everything I just mentioned about health care could be said about education. Teachers are also exhausted. This sector has the same problems, except education transfers have been capped at 3% for nearly 15 years. Health and education are where Quebeckers have a real need. These are the priorities, but this statement made no mention of either. The government seems to be too highfalutin to see the needs and understand the priorities.

Third, an economic statement is meant to allow the government to adapt throughout the year to changing situations. Once again, we all have reason to be disappointed.

I would now like to say a few words about the recent tax cuts made by Donald Trump. I am not bringing that up because it is important. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that it would not have any impact. I am bringing it up because the Conservatives would have us believe otherwise. Let us be frank. Our corporate tax rates are already competitive.

Here is something no one ever talks about. In the United States, employers pay for medicare. In 2017, that accounted for a mere $14,900 U.S. per employee. The lack of social safety net in the U.S. is costing them a fortune, so no, we do not have any problems in that regard.

In any case, a race to the bottom approach is not the way to remain globally competitive. We need to develop the sectors in which we are strong. In Quebec that is the clean energy sector. If Ottawa would support our electrification of transportation efforts, we would have clean cars, but the government preferred to spend our money on a pipeline.

The government indicated in the economic statement that it is going to implement a tax credit with regard to the production of clean energy. I am not against that. It could be worthwhile for paper mills and biomass enterprises. However, we need to be aware of one thing. In a number of provinces, private companies produce electricity. If they start generating clean energy, then Ottawa would give them a tax writeoff, and Quebec would have to pay for part of that.

Quebec has Hydro-Québec. Since it is a government-owned corporation, it will not be entitled to the tax credit. If that is all Ottawa does, it will be subsidizing the “bad guys” so they are not quite as bad, and Quebec, a world leader in green energy, is back at square one, without a penny, for doing the right thing. What a great deal. Let's face it, that is an odd way to promote the green economy.

Our high-tech sectors could use some support, but Canada invests very little in business-led research and development. The innovation fund will not help our high-tech companies. Instead, that federal money will just make up for the lack of innovation elsewhere.

As for agriculture, the government signed a new trade agreement that creates another breach in supply management. We were expecting a firm commitment in terms of compensation, as the Prime Minister had promised, but once again, nothing.

Then there is Davie. Davie did not get anything from the naval strategy, and only a few crumbs after that. Whenever we asked the government when Davie would get a fair share of the contracts, we kept being told, “not now, later”. It should be now. That is what an economic statement should look like, but no, once again, Davie suffers. Soon the Liberals will be tyring to woo workers before the election, but for now, they get nothing. They are just as predictable as the Conservatives.

There was nothing about how e-commerce is disrupting the economy, either. Nothing for businesses that are competing with Amazon, which does not have to charge sales tax on purchases under $40. How are our people supposed to compete against a giant with an unfair advantage? Our small businesses are going to take a beating, and Ottawa is not doing anything about it. Obviously, people are asleep at the switch.

Internet giants are another example. They are hurting our media, our artists and our culture, and they are competing unfairly. I applaud the government's initiative to support our media. Well, actually, it announced plans to support our media, but not until the next budget. Press freedom and information quality are essential in a democracy, so I welcome this initiative, but I am not getting too excited. As long as the government refuses to do something about Internet giants and their unfair competitive advantage over our media, it will not solve the problem. If it does not solve the problem, it is part of the problem. Ultimately, every one of us and democracy as a whole will pay the price. The government needs to take meaningful action to support our media.

To sum up, the Bloc Québécois is disappointed. If we were to grade the economic update on looks alone, I would give it a B, but the true yardstick is the measures themselves and whether they will meet people's real needs in terms of health, education, tax fairness, agriculture and support for strong economic sectors. On that score, this economic update is vacuous. The only real measure coming on line right away is accelerated depreciation. Something that minor could have been addressed with a planted question. All the rest is fluff.

We give the government's economic statement an F for failure.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to respond to the hon. Minister of Finance's presentation.

I will note that I have never seen a display as rude as the heckling of the Minister of Finance during his speech in this place. I wish that did not happen in this place, because it brings disrepute on us all. I disagreed with much of what the Minister of Finance said, but we owe respect to the officers of this place and to our executive in a government. We are here as members of Parliament to hold the Liberals to account, not to ridicule them as if we were in a school yard.

I apologize for taking a moment to act like a schoolmarm, but I just could not help myself.

To the matter in front of us, I want to say how disappointed I am that in an opportunity to respond to the intergovernmental panel on climate change report that we must hold global average temperatures to 1.5°, that the document apparently did not cross the Minister of Finance's desk. This is not an issue that can be pigeonholed, where the cabinet can afford to say that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change or the Minister of Natural Resources can worry about whether our children will have a livable planet, because that is just one of those other issues that is less important than its finances.

For every member in this place, particularly to the Prime Minister and his cabinet, no issue comes close to discussing whether this planet will be habitable for human beings in the lifetime of our children. It is a rather important issue and it is completely ignored in this document.

Let us look at what was discussed. We have to be serious about ensuring we change our plan so Canada is not be held up as it was recently in the scientific study and earlier referenced in this place. If every country on earth followed Canada's plans for climate, we would not hold to 1.5° and we would be in the worst category there is. We would be in with China and Russia, taking this planet to 5.1°, which is a level of danger that can only be described as an existential threat to the survival of humanity on this planet. That means it is important.

Let me put it very clearly. Climate change is not an environmental issue. Climate change is a security threat that eclipses all of the terrorists one could find on the planet. It is a security threat that should awaken in every responsible member in the House a determination to rise up and meet that challenge.

I am convinced Canadians from coast to coast want to be given the tools. They want to know what they can do. We should ask the Rotary clubs, the Lions clubs, the church groups, every volunteer organization in our country what they would like to do. If they want to start installing solar panels, we could help them. If they want to plant trees everywhere, we could help them with that. If they want young people to know what they can do so they to make a difference and to protect their future, we could be there for them. We need leadership.

We have to look at the advice we have had from serious studies of how we get to a place where we have security for our future, a planet that will not only sustain life but will allow us to thrive. We have had the benefit of a very hospitable planet ever since human beings first emerged as homo sapiens and left our monkey cousins behind. We have had the benefit of a very beneficial climate. We are at risk of losing it for good.

What would we do if we wanted to put ourselves on that good path? We know that because work has been done. The advice of the deep decarbonization project, which I will refer to quickly, is to first get all fossil fuels out of electricity, decarbonize our electricity grid, improve our east-west electricity grid so there is good connectivity for British Columbia to sell to Alberta, for Quebec to sell to all of the Maritimes and so on. The east-west grid needs work.

Then we want to get all the fossil fuels out of it and ensure we are able to go off fossil electricity entirely. That does not mean Alberta's plan of going off coal and going to fracked natural gas. That does not do it. It is about the same amount of greenhouse gas. Therefore, we do all of that and then we we get rid of the internal combustion engine and go to electric vehicles. Then we ensure that every single building in the country is retrofitted to the highest energy efficiency standards, which will employ, according to the trade unions I have talked to about this, four million Canadians. That means jobs for more workers than we actually have needing jobs.

We take this apart and compare it to this document. What do we have on the priorities for removing barriers to trade within Canada? We have nothing on the barriers to selling electricity.

These are the four high profile areas identified by the government in a time of climate crisis. These are the four areas where there will be an opportunity to improve internal conduct of trade. It is going to improve the transporting of goods in the trucking industry. It is going to harmonize food regulations. It is going to align regulations in the construction sector. It is going to facilitate greater trade in alcohol between the provinces and territories across Canada.

I am not against any of those things. However, where is the east-west electricity grid anywhere in this discussion? Where is there any awareness of what needs to be done, how it could stimulate our economy, how it would create jobs and how it would protect our future?

As I look—

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order, please. I want to remind the hon. members that someone is speaking and normally we try to listen when someone speaks. It is parliamentary procedure. It is nice to hear everyone getting along and talking, but it is starting to get a little loud and I am having a hard time hearing the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the courtesy very much, so my friends in this place can hear me.

The east-west electricity grid is a very important part of putting together what we need to do to address the climate crisis. When I talk to groups in my riding, I say this to them them. If they had a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces on a table in front of them, but they had lost the lid of the box, it would be very hard to solve the puzzle. However, if they paint the top of the box, it looks like this: get carbon fuels out of electricity; move our vehicle fleet to electric vehicles; do fuel switching for everything else, tractors, fishing boats, forest equipment using biodiesel; ensure all our buildings are as energy efficient as possible; and stop exploring and developing any more fossil fuels than the level we have now and use it domestically instead of trying to put it in pipelines to ship it to places that are not interested.

Instead, there is a pipeline reference in this document. Page 93 tells us what we already know, that we have spent $4.5 billion on a 65-year-old pipeline, and it refers to the idea that we may expand and build an additional one, but it does not indicate the price tag. If anyone wants to know the price tag for expanding the now owned by the Government of Canada Kinder Morgan pipeline, it is an additional $10 billion to $13 billion on top of the $4.5 billion we already have spent for an existing pipeline. It is actually referred to in the following sentence:

Should construction of the Expansion Project be permitted to recommence prior to a sale of the Trans Mountain entities, the Government will record construction and other associated expenditures as adding to the book value of the asset.

However, the opportunity cost of spending $10 billion to $13 billion on an expansion of that pipeline is extraordinary. Not only in this document, but in any document of the Government of Canada or document of the prior owner, Kinder Morgan, will we find a cost benefit analysis of what it really costs just in economics to build a pipeline to ship bitumen offshore.

The reason the Alberta Federation of Labour and Unifor, the biggest union representing oil sands workers, intervened at the National Energy Board to oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline was because it cost jobs and it did not diversify markets either. If anyone wants to track the real-life examples of where the dilbit goes that reaches the port in Burnaby now, it mostly goes to California. It is not diversified markets; it is just moving our oil, solid bitumen, not even crude, to the same places it can go over land.

If we are serious about this, if we want to be serious about a climate crisis, which is real, and we want to respond to the needs of Canadian society, this is not the document to produce.

We do have other critical issues in the country and while the climate crisis is an existential threat, I really do agree with the New Democratic Party's response, which is this would have been a good time to start getting pharmacare going, to give us that commitment, maybe in the spring budget, but we need pharmacare in the country.

I also know Jim. The hon. member mentioned him earlier. He is a veteran and he sits outside by the bridge next to the Chateau Laurier. He cannot afford his medications without people giving him money. We are the only country with universal health care that does not provide universal pharmacare. While we are at it, why are we not implementing Vanessa's Law, which was passed in the 41st Parliament, to take big pharma to task and make it publish its drug results? There is a lot we need to do in our country and this document does not say that we are committed to doing those things.

There many nice words in the document, I am not saying there are not. I welcome any document that says it is time we take the charitable sector seriously. However, there is nothing about when we will pull up our socks and live up to our commitments to make poverty history by increasing our overseas development assistance to 0.7% of our GNP. That commitment was made years ago, and we are falling backward compared to where we were under former prime minister Brian Mulroney. That was the highest it ever was with respect to our charitable sector, 0.45%, in 1992.

To wrap up, the late Jim MacNeill, a great Canadian who wrote the Brundtland report, said that the single most important environmental document prepared by any government was its budget.

This fall mini-budget fails entirely to respond to the single largest threat to our children's future. Let us hope that before we go to COP24 in Poland, we will see the government step up and say that it wants to be the climate leader it promised Canadians it would be.

The House resumed from November 19 consideration of the motion.

Organ and Tissue DonationPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, November 8, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 189 under private members' business in the name of the hon. member for Thérèse-De Blainville.

The question is on the motion. Shall I dispense?

Organ and Tissue DonationPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Organ and Tissue DonationPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

[Chair read text of motion to House]

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

Vote #942

Organ and Tissue DonationPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion carried.

It being 5:35 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from October 15 consideration of the motion.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak here today in favour of Motion No. 177 supporting flight training schools across Canada. The member for Kelowna—Lake Country represents a neighbouring riding to mine, and I respect his history as a pilot in our Armed Forces. My father also served in the air force, so I kind of share that tradition.

Motion No. 177 would instruct the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities:

to undertake a study of flight training schools in Canada and be mandated to: (i) identify the challenges that flight schools are facing in providing trained pilots to industry, (ii) determine whether the infrastructure available to flight schools meets the needs of the schools and the communities where they are located; and that the Committee present its final report no later than seven months after the adoption of this motion.

To begin with, I, like many of the people here, have several flight schools in my riding. I have standard flight schools in Penticton and Grand Forks where people can get a flight licence.

For over 40 years, Selkirk College, in Castlegar, had an aviation program teaching flight skills, but unfortunately, that program closed in 2014. The reasons for this closure are diverse, but I am sure that if this motion passes and the transport committee takes on this important subject, it would do well to hear from Selkirk College to get some insight into the challenges the program faced and why it was forced to close.

I would like to spend much of my time today talking about a unique flight training school in my riding, a very successful school, called HNZ Topflight. HNZ is one of the premier helicopter flight training schools in the world. I will start with some of its history, because it is an interesting history.

The story of HNZ Topflight began just after the Second World War, in 1947, when three RCAF veterans joined forces to form a small company called Okanagan Air Services, based in Penticton. The company consisted of pilots Carl Agar and Barney Bent and mechanic Alf Stringer. They bought a Bell 47 helicopter and offered crop-dusting services to farmers and orchardists in southern British Columbia.

I did not know this before researching this speech, but I thought it very interesting that helicopter flight was very new at the time. Igor Sikorsky had, in fact, only invented the first truly functioning helicopter in 1941. Another company, Bell, brought the first commercially available helicopter, the Bell 47, to market in 1946, and Okanagan Air Services was one of its first customers.

After a year or two of working exclusively as a crop-dusting operation, Okanagan Air Services expanded to work in topographical surveys, timber cruising and mineral exploration. It serviced the Palisade Lake dam project in 1949, and then in the early 1950s, the company really spread its wings, or rotors, I guess, and helped build the massive Kemano hydroelectric project. For that, the company bought a couple of huge Sikorsky helicopters, from Igor Sikorsky himself, to add to its growing fleet of Bell 47s.

Realizing that helicopters were really the future of aviation for many transportation, industrial and military applications, the company's owners changed its name to Okanagan Helicopters. By 1955, they had 90 employees. By 1958, they owned 54 helicopters. It was the largest helicopter operator in the world, and the company continued to grow, expanding around the world.

In 1987, Okanagan Helicopters was bought by Craig Dobbin, of St. John's, Newfoundland, who combined its operations with a couple of other helicopter companies to form Canadian Helicopters.

Just as an aside, I want to mention that I had the opportunity to meet Craig Dobbin once. I was driving a Memorial University jeep down to Cape St. Mary's, almost a four-wheel-drive road, and up drove this brown Cadillac. I had broken down and Craig helped me out by driving me to the lighthouse where I was living, so I had that little interaction with him.

Recently, a reunion of the company in Osoyoos, British Columbia, attracted 250 people from around the world.

In 1951, Carl Agar and Barney Bent began training pilots in Penticton through a subsidiary company that eventually became known as the Canadian Helicopters School of Advanced Flight Training. As a kid growing up on the West Bench of Penticton, just above the airport, I remember those early flight training operations, watching those Bell helicopters, basically a glass bubble attached to an open frame of metal girders, land and take off from the grasslands just south of our house.

The flight school has been operating continuously in Penticton for more than 60 years. The diverse terrain and variable winds of the Okanagan Valley and surrounding mountain areas provide flying challenges that are ideal for the study of the mechanics of mountain winds and advanced flying techniques.

Among the company's many innovations was Agar's “bump jump” process for high-altitude takeoffs. Someone who has flown a helicopter in the mountains would know this technique involves tipping the helicopter over the side of a cliff and waiting until the air is heavy enough for the rotor blades to operate. It is quite a feeling. It also invented the Monsoon Bucket for use in forest fire suppression.

The company was rebranded as HNZ Topflight after Canadian Helicopters bought HNZ, a New Zealand company. Flight training at HNZ not only includes advanced mountain flying, but also emergency auto-rotation training and night training with and without night-vision goggles.

Over the years, HNZ Topflight has trained thousands of pilots. The school is known for providing training to government, military and special forces, law enforcement, commercial and private groups from all over the world and the instructors are rightfully proud of the school's heritage. Over 300 students pass through the school each year, and their activities generate a big boost to the local economy in the South Okanagan. The company generates over $8 million per year in direct revenue but the spinoffs are considerable, including more than 3,000 hotel nights per year.

HNZ Topflight is a good community citizen. One of the most popular charity auction items in town is the scenic flights it offers, often combined with a gourmet picnic on an alpine mountaintop catered by one of the local restaurants.

Much of HNZ Topflight's training takes place in the spectacular mountains southwest of Penticton, much of which is in provincial protected areas, primarily in the Snowy Protected Area, but also through the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area. HNZ must obtain permits to operate in these areas to ensure its activities do not negatively impact local wildlife populations. These permitting processes are thorough and the company is in the process right now of spending $300,000 on a study to back up an application for a 10-year operating permit in these areas.

The company has concerns that a proposal to convert the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area to a national park would impact its operations. Parks Canada has assured it verbally that previous provincial permits would be honoured and future permitting processes would be similar, but until those promises are on paper that concern will linger.

I would like to mention now that there are a few downsides to having a successful flight training school in one's backyard. One of the obvious ones, and this goes for many flight training schools across the country, is the noise coming from the repetitive takeoffs and landings that take place around the airport day after day. Penticton airport is relatively small, though it does have scheduled flights through Air Canada and WestJet. There are over 10,000 aircraft movements every year from the airport and many of these involve takeoffs and landings by flight schools. These repeated flights are of concern to many citizens who live in the area around the airport. I can attest that having a helicopter over a house in the middle of the night does cause some concern, wondering in a groggy state whether the special forces are landing in the backyard or whether it has just rained in the night and the local cherry orchards need a blow-dry.

These are serious issues in some small communities with large flight schools and must be addressed through proper planning processes involving governments at all levels, including Transport Canada.

The NDP has proposed an amendment to this motion asking the committee to also study the effects of noise pollution on community members and I would obviously support that amendment.

It is clear from this debate that Canada needs more pilots in all sectors. If this motion can help us to reduce that problem, I am happy to support it.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

November 21st, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, or perhaps I should say House traffic control, thank you for granting me a clearance to speak to Motion No. 177, the challenges facing flight schools, from my colleague both in the House and in the sky, the member for Kelowna—Lake Country.

The aviation industry as a whole is an important one, and the biggest challenges facing flight schools stem from wider problems in the industry, namely a shortage of qualified pilots. As many of us here know, this is not a problem unique to aviation. The worker shortage across my region is significantly affecting all sectors. Restaurants are having trouble staying open, not for a lack of clients, but for a lack of kitchen staff. The 24-hour Tim Hortons are not. Even garages have significant ad campaigns on local radio stations to hire mechanics, and the story is repeated in just about every industry across the region.

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the aviation industry will be short some 620,000 pilots over the next 18 years. We are in a period of feast, and there will no doubt be challenges that come along that affect this prediction over the course of that time, but the need will still be significant.

When I started flying in 2005, the industry was in a state of famine. My first flying school, which closed not long after I earned my licence, had an abundance of flight instructors, each paid by the flight instruction hour, on contract, rather than on a salary. Many, if not most, had second jobs to get by, as well as significant five-figure loans. If someone got a job offer off the instructor circuit, it was a huge victory worth celebrating.

Times were tough in aviation, and while I dreamed of being a career pilot like my grandfather, Jack Ross Graham, before me, who flew from the early 1930s until his death by pulmonary embolism in 1959, a direct consequence of his time in flight, there was no way I was giving up a good career as a news editor in the free software world for the high-risk gamble of following that passion.

The industry since that time has faced a complete reversal. Around the world, aviation is on an upswing, and rather than going overseas looking for students to keep idle fleets of training aircraft occupied, schools are struggling to find instructors to meet the demand of largely overseas students coming on their own.

That leads to another point. I cannot think of very many industries where it is the novices, rather than the seasoned veterans, who teach the beginners. For the majority of new commercial pilots, their first job is either as a bush pilot or as what is called a class 4 flight instructor. Veteran career instructors exist, but are extremely rare and are largely a dying breed.

For most new pilots, flight instruction is a job held for the minimum amount of time possible, until what they call “a real job” becomes available. Today, these instructors often serve as little as four months' time, meaning new pilots, if they are lucky enough to find an instructor, risk changing instructors several times through their training, which can slow down the process.

There are some instructors who for various reasons choose to remain instructors, and I am privileged to have one of this type as my own instructor, but that has not always been the case for me. When I started as a student at a flying school called Aviation International at Guelph Airpark, then the busiest uncontrolled airport in the country, I had someone I felt to be an exceptional instructor in Rob Moss, then both a civilian and a military instructor. Over the course of my training, Rob got an interesting job flying in northern Ontario. Then I was bounced through Andrew Gottschlich, Scott Peters, Marcia Pluim and Alex Ruiz before finally getting my licence in the summer of 2007. I had to check my logbook to make sure I did not miss anyone. While each of them was both a good pilot and a good instructor, there is no doubt that the constant change in instructors slowed down my training. That was one of the pitfalls of not training full-time.

Another of these pitfalls was that during this time when I filed my flight training receipts with my taxes as a tuition expense in view of training toward a new career, Canada Revenue Agency rejected these significant deductions because I had not yet achieved a commercial licence and therefore it did not count, though I was told by many in the industry that if I made a federal case out of it I could get that fixed.

It is little roadblocks like this that tend to cascade into larger problems for those trying to get into the industry. Some of these affect the schools themselves, which have onerous and difficult processes to be recognized as schools by provincial education departments, complicating matters further.

It is certainly a particular personal pleasure for me to talk about aviation here in the House. One day, early on in my flying career, I was learning the basics of how to land a plane. Every landing, though successful, was sloppy. Off the centre line, a bit of a bounce, a bit more of a bounce, a little long on our short runway, maybe an incorrect radio call or two, and I was getting frustrated. I was very focused, doing exactly what I had been taught in ground school and shown by the aforementioned Rob. Then, a few circuits in, Rob and I got into a long and interesting conversation about politics. At the time, it was the dying months of the Martin administration, and there was a good deal for us to talk about. We kept talking about federal politics until I had pulled off runway 32 at the far end and started taxiing back for the next circuit. It was only at that point that we realized that I had made my first perfect landing. Politics, it seems, was the solution. Indeed, we never missed opportunities to talk about politics while I was learning to fly. Now, fast forward 13 and a half years and a couple of hundred flying hours in a dozen different aircraft, and it is a complete reversal to at last be able to speak about aviation on the floor of the House.

I have, on a few occasions, travelled to events in my riding by plane rather than by car. I have landed at all five registered land aerodromes in the riding, including La Macaza/Mont-Tremblant International Airport, where I rent a Cessna 172M.

There are another five registered heliports, five registered seaplane bases, numerous unregistered runways and the occasional temporary airfield plowed into a frozen lake, several of which I have also landed at, and helipads, as well as float plane docks on many of the approximately 10,000 lakes that decorate Laurentides—Labelle. A search last year of Transport Canada's airplane registration database found about 300 aircraft that are registered to postal codes in my riding.

Aviation is, then, an important part of the Laurentians. I am a member of the Association des aviateurs de la région du Mont-Tremblant, Association des pilotes de brousse du Québec, and the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association.

The first puts up an event we call Jeunes en Vol every year at the Wheelair field in Mont-Tremblant, itself the site of Canada's first commercial airline. There have also been such events in Sainte-Anne-du-Lac and La Minerve over the past couple of years. At five of these, I have participated as a volunteer pilot, offering rides to three kids at a time aged eight to 17 in what we call “aerial baptism”. All the organizations I mentioned put on this type of event all across Canada.

At its core, it is a way for the aviation industry to tackle the problem of self-renewal. In offering 200 kids at a time the opportunity to experience flight in a small plane, for the first time in almost all cases, we are inviting interest in pursuing a career in the industry. I have taken a total of approximately 50 kids up so far in this manner, as well as my own four-year-old daughter Ozara, who now insists, depending on the day, that she will either be a member of Parliament, a pilot, or most recently, a flight attendant.

Almost every time I take a new person up in the air, I see their eyes light up. Only once has one of the kids also lit up a plastic bag, but we do try to avoid that. The interest is there. People want to fly. The challenges of learning to fly are numerous. It is expensive. A new pilot will typically incur $75,000 or more in debt before obtaining their commercial licence, and while prices have climbed steadily over the 13 years that I have been flying, schools are reticent to further raise prices. Of course, this leads to the vicious circle of instructors being few and far between.

Aviation medical examiners are rarer than they need to be, and if people do complete the courses, there are not enough flight test examiners to meet current demand. Now, I am lucky to have an extraordinarily competent instructor in Caroline Farly, the owner of Aéro Loisirs at La Macaza. For her, finding and retaining additional instructors for the three Cessna 172s used for land training at her school, and many others like hers, is a huge challenge.

A newly commercial-rated pilot with 200 hours, the minimum necessary to get a commercial license, can easily pick up a job for mines in Central Africa, for example, or obscure routes across the Far East, making decent money, and it does not take a whole lot of hours to pick up a flying job back at home.

Sticking around to be a class 4 instructor, the class that an instructor remains until they have successfully trained at least three students, at which point they become a class 3 instructor, is hardly a lucrative way to live. Generally on contract and paid by the instruction hour rather than by the duty hour, they are severely constrained by weather and aircraft availability, among numerous other factors, and there is no way to clear their $75,000 in debt in anything resembling a rational timeline.

While schools themselves face challenges with things like noise complaints from neighbours who get annoyed by the constant buzz of planes climbing out and circling over their houses and then landing, the biggest challenges are in incentivizing commercial pilots to pass on their skills.

There is, for example, zero incentive for an experienced pilot to pass their thousands, or tens of thousands, of hours of knowledge back to the next generation. It is left to the new pilots to train the newer pilots. More than that, there is little incentive for those new pilots to even take on that challenge, because their immediate concern is getting themselves out of the mountain of debt they incurred to become a pilot in the first place, a debt that many succumb to before even finishing their license, resulting in high drop-out rates, further stressing the system.

There are obvious places to look for solutions. Only about 7% of Canada's pilots are women, and indigenous communities are severely under-represented, yet are generally more reliant on aviation than most of the rest of society—though many reserves do not even have an airstrip. Ensuring that reserves have a landing strip, a plane, and a flight and mechanical instructor could kill several birds with one stone, but not before we address the financial challenges of getting into the business, for which solutions have been proposed, such as granting student loan forgiveness for instructors who serve a certain amount of time and/or in a remote location.

There are myriad other ideas, and this study would help us identify and evaluate them. The problem, of course, is wider than just pilots, and also speaks to the related problem of the death of the apprenticeship economy. Aviation mechanics, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and pretty much anyone hiring in the aviation industry has stiff competition for competent, trained workers, and so a deeper study of these challenges and how we can address them is not only warranted, but urgent.