House of Commons Hansard #280 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I moved a motion for concurrence in “The Trudeau Report”. We debated that motion as well as an amendment we made to the report. We were hoping we could vote on it, but the government filibustered, which was rather interesting to watch.

There have been consultations, and I hope you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: That notwithstanding any Standing Orders or usual practices of the House, the report of the Ethics Commissioner entitled “The Trudeau Report”, tabled on Monday, January 29, 2018, be not now concurred in, but that pursuant to section 28(13) of the conflict of interest code for members of the House of Commons, it be referred back to the commissioner with instructions that he amend the same to include recommendations to close the loopholes in the code as well as the Conflict of Interest Act that allowed the Prime Minister to withhold from the public the nature of the unacceptable gifts he received from the Aga Khan, because the public registry includes only acceptable gifts within the meaning of section 14 of the code and section 11 of the Conflict of Interest Act.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

There appears there is no unanimous consent. I heard a lot of noes, so it would seem that way. Order.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-75PrivilegeOral Questions

April 17th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege concerning the premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments.

The Minister of Justice introduced the bill on Holy Thursday, before the Easter long weekend, on March 29, 2018, at 12:11 p.m. At 12:19 p.m., eight minutes after the minister introduced the bill, CBC posted an article entitled “Liberals propose major criminal justice changes to unclog Canada's courts”.

The article goes into detail about Bill C-75 to make a prima facie case that CBC had prior knowledge of the contents of Bill C-75 before it was introduced.

For example, the article states that “The Liberal government tabled a major bill today to reform Canada's criminal justice system”, saying it contained measures designed to close gaps in the system and speed up court proceedings, including putting an end to preliminary inquiries except for the most serious crimes that carry a life sentence. It said, “The changes also include an end to peremptory challenges in jury selection” and that another proposed reform of the bill will “impose a reverse onus on bail applications by people who have a history of [domestic] abuse, which would require them to justify their release following a charge.”

Bill C-75 is an omnibus bill containing 302 pages. While I appreciate the quality of journalism at the CBC, I do not think anyone can believe that someone could read 302 pages, analyze what was read, write an article, and then post the article on the Internet with various links in just eight minutes. If such extraordinary human capabilities exist at CBC or if unknown technology exists to make this happen, then the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs would like to hear about it.

All I am asking of you, Mr. Speaker, is to find a prima facie case on the question of privilege to allow a motion to be moved instructing the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to look into this matter.

On March 21, 1978, at page 3,975 of Debates, Mr. Speaker Jerome quoted a British procedure committee report of 1967, which states in part:

...the Speaker should ask himself, when he has to decide whether to grant precedence over other public business to a motion which a Member who has complained of some act or conduct as constituting a breach of privilege desires to move, should be, not--do I consider that, assuming that the facts are as stated, the act or conduct constitutes a breach of privilege, but could it reasonably be held to be a breach of privilege, or to put it shortly, has the Member an arguable point? If the Speaker feels any doubt on the question, he should, in my view, leave it to the House.

Now, whether it be superhuman capabilities or advanced unknown technology available only to the media, it is unacceptable for members of Parliament to be left behind playing catch-up while the public debate on a government bill takes place outside the House, minutes after its introduction, between a well-briefed media and a well-briefed Minister of Justice.

It has become an established practice in this House that when a bill is on notice for introduction, the House has the first right to the contents of that legislation.

On April 14, 2016, the former opposition leader and current Leader of the Opposition raised a question concerning the premature disclosure of Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying).

The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that specific and detailed information contained in Bill C-14 was reported in a newspaper article and elsewhere in the media before the bill had been introduced in the House. The member stressed the need for members to access information in order to fulfill their parliamentary responsibilities, as well as the respect required for the essential role of the House in legislative matters.

On April 19, 2016, the Speaker agreed with the Leader of the Opposition and found that there was indeed a prima facia case of privilege regarding Bill C-14. He said:

As honourable members know, one of my most important responsibilities as Speaker is to safeguard the rights and privileges of members, individually and collectively. Central to the matter before us today is the fact that, due to its pre-eminent role in the legislative process, the House cannot allow precise legislative information to be distributed to others before it has been made accessible to all members. Previous Speakers have regularly upheld not only this fundamental right, but also expectation, of the House.

The Speaker's concluding remarks on April 19, 2016, were as follows:

In this instance, the chair must conclude that the House's right of first access to legislative information was not respected. The chair appreciates the chief government whip's assertion that no one in the government was authorized to publicly release the specific details of the bill before its introduction. Still, it did happen, and these kinds of incidents cause grave concern among hon. members. I believe it is a good reason why extra care should be taken to ensure that matters that ought properly to be brought to the House first do not in any way get out in the public domain prematurely.

On October 4, 2010, on page 4,711 of the House of Commons Debates, Speaker Milliken said:

It is indisputable that it is a well-established practice and accepted convention that this House has the right of first access to the text of bills that it will consider.

There was a similar case March 19, 2001, regarding the Department of Justice briefing the media on a bill before members of Parliament. This was referenced by the Leader of the Opposition in his submission on the Bill C-14 case, in which he quoted Speaker Milliken as saying, at page 1,840 of the House of Commons Debates:

In preparing legislation, the government may wish to hold extensive consultations and such consultations may be held entirely at the government's discretion. However, with respect to material to be placed before parliament, the House must take precedence. Once a bill has been placed on notice, whether it has been presented in a different form to a different session of parliament has no bearing and the bill is considered a new matter. The convention of the confidentiality of bills on notice is necessary, not only so that members themselves may be well informed, but also because of the pre-eminent rule which the House plays and must play in the legislative affairs of the nation.

The Speaker found another case of contempt on October 15, 2001, after the Department of Justice briefed the media on the contents of a bill prior to the legislation being introduced in the House. The leak of Bill C-75 is another example of the government's disregard for Parliament and its role in the legislative process. It is important that we in the opposition call out the government for these abuses of Parliament and place before the Chair any breaches of the privileges of the House of Commons.

Speaker Milliken said:

To deny to members information concerning business that is about to come before the House, while at the same time providing such information to media that will likely be questioning members about that business, is a situation that the Chair cannot condone.

You, Mr. Speaker, said, on March 20 of this year:

...respecting members’ needs for timely and accurate information remains essential. There is no question that the work of members of Parliament is made more difficult without expeditious access to legislative information. Given this reality, there is a rightful expectation that those responsible for the information should do their utmost to ensure members’ access to it. Not respecting this expectation does a disservice to all. It is particularly disconcerting when the government gives priority to the media over the members of Parliament.

Given the facts presented and the clear precedents on this matter, I believe, Mr. Speaker, you should have no trouble in finding a prima facie question of privilege. In that event, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-75PrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, we take the matter seriously. I will look into it and get back and report to the House at a later time.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-75PrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé is rising on this question of privilege.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-75PrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is correct.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Niagara Falls for his point of order today on the breach of privilege. This is of grave concern to our party and obviously to the official opposition, but all members in this House should be very concerned. This is not the first time that this has happened. This seems to be a trend coming from the Liberal government, a complete disregard and disrespect for this House.

As much as I have respect for the CBC, I do have concerns with the fact that eight minutes after the bill was tabled in this House, it had an article published, so there seems to be a problem here. This is an omnibus budget bill, over 300 and some odd pages, so everybody in this House should be very concerned about this trend.

I look forward to coming back to you, Mr. Speaker, with more information.

I look forward to your ruling on the question of privilege raised by my colleague from Niagara Falls.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-75PrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I thank the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé for her intervention.

I look forward to her further intervention.

Access to the Galleries—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on February 28, 2018, by the member for Mégantic—L’Érable concerning access to the galleries on budget day.

I would like to thank the member for Mégantic—L'Érable for having raised this matter as well as the members for Chilliwack—Hope, Berthier—Maskinongé, and Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères for their remarks.

In raising the matter, the member for Mégantic—L’Érable put forward the information that on budget day, the Minister of Finance had booked all seats in the galleries, including those reserved for opposition members, therefore leaving the manager of his constituency office unable to secure either an access card from a finance department official or access to a gallery. Then, despite many seats in all galleries ultimately being unfilled on that day, he explained that his guest was again denied access by Parliamentary Protective Service, as she was without a pass from the Department of Finance. Stating that access to the galleries is the responsibility of the Speaker, and not the Department of Finance, he believed that this constituted interference by the executive branch in the administrative responsibilities of the House.

The Sergeant-at-Arms' office provided me with details on the procedures for gallery access on budget day as well as the sequence of events in this particular case, for which I thank them. As members are aware, there is a long-standing tradition that the Minister of Finance is allocated extra seats on budget day in the south gallery and the diplomatic gallery by way of a request submitted to the Sergeant-at-Arms' office. This year, this request was submitted and extra seats were allocated, as per the usual practice. As for the north gallery, a portion of it can also be provided to the government on budget day. That being said, seats remain available for overflow from other galleries, and extra seating can be requested by opposition parties. On budget day, only a portion of the north gallery was reserved by the Department of Finance.

Thus, as the galleries were evidently not reserved entirely for guests of the Minister of Finance, the situation as described by the member for Mégantic—L'Érable was unfortunate, particularly when there was ample seating available. It is also troubling to the Chair that the information that his guest received from various Parliamentary Protective Service employees was inaccurate.

As Speaker, I have been assured that, on the morning of February 27th, the budget day, representatives from Parliamentary Protective Service and the Sergeant-at-Arms' Office met to discuss the events of the day, including the seating plan, as per usual practice. While the appropriate information was made available to all concerned, it appears that it was not transmitted properly by Parliamentary Protective Service to the guest of the Member for Mégantic—L'Érable. The member's frustration is understandable as this miscommunication led to his guest being repeatedly refused access until he took it upon himself to escort her to the galleries.

As Speaker, I have responsibility for administrative matters, including the galleries, and I am committed to ensuring that guests from all sides of this House be allowed to attend our proceedings. I will continue to work with the Sergeant-at-Arms' office and the Parliamentary Protective Service so that communications between the various services are improved and solutions are put forward to prevent these kinds of incidents in the future.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Information Presented by Government—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 21, 2018, by the the hon. House leader for the official opposition concerning answers provided to the House during oral questions by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

I would like to thank the Opposition House Leader for having raised this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and the member for Durham for their comments.

In raising the matter, the House leader for the official opposition contended that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness provided contradictory answers to the House on February 26th and 27th in response to a simple question about who was responsible for an invitation sent to Mr. Jaspal Atwal for an event during the Prime Minister's recent visit to India. She argued that despite the members' right to obtain accurate and non-conflicting information when asking questions of the government, the government refuses to clarify the matter.

On March 27, the member for Durham added a second allegation, that of conflicting answers as to the confidentiality of information provided by the Prime Minister's national security adviser in a briefing to journalists about the same matter.

The parliamentary secretary argued that the question of privilege was not anything more than a matter of debate given that it concerns a dispute as to accuracy of answers to oral questions and that members must be taken at their word.

To summarize this issue, the Chair is being asked to decide whether answers provided by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness are, in fact, contradictory and, ultimately, provide a conclusive finding of fact in the matter.

This presupposes an authority that I, as Speaker, do not have. As members are only too aware, the role of the Speaker as it relates to the accuracy of statements is very restricted, as I can determine neither their veracity nor their consistency with prior statements. The House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states, at page 529:

There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions.

Furthermore, as I had cause to say on May 18, 2017, at page 11397 of Debates:

As members will know, the exchange of information in this place is constantly subject to varying and, yes, contradictory, views and perceptions. This, of course, heightens the risk that, inadvertently, a member making a statement may be mistaken, or, in turn, that a member listening may misunderstand what another has stated.

Speaker Jerome alluded to a similar situation, stating on June 4, 1975, on page 6431 of Debates:

...a dispute as to facts, a dispute as to opinions and a dispute as to conclusions to be drawn from an allegation of fact is a matter of debate and not a question of privilege.

For the Chair to accept an accusation that the House was deliberately misled, it must be able to ascertain with a high degree of certainty that the statement was in fact misleading, that the member knew when making the statement that it was incorrect, and that the member intended to mislead the House by making the statement.

While the Chair understands that the significant complexity and the considerable media coverage of the issue may be conducive to different interpretations, the Chair is not convinced that the House has been deliberately misled. Accordingly, I cannot conclude that there is a prima facie question of privilege in this matter.

I would like to thank hon. members for their attention.

Debate, the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni, who has been waiting patiently.

The House resumed from April 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-74, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a huge honour to rise today to speak to the budget implementation act and certainly to represent the NDP as the critic for veterans affairs and for small business and tourism.

I will talk about the economic vision presented by this budget and how it would do nothing to address the huge gap between Canada's wealthiest and the rest of Canadians, specifically the people back home in my riding on Vancouver Island.

In terms of lifting up the middle class and those working to join the middle class, something the Liberal government talks about all the time, the budget implementation bill offers no real plan to reduce inequality or to build an economy that would benefit all Canadians. This bill would create an uneven playing field, where only the few at the top could benefit at the expense of everyone else.

The people in my riding are not able to recover from the boom-and-bust economy of the past, because the federal government prefers to take money when times are good and ignores needs when times are tough. To know what the Liberals got wrong and are ignoring in this bill, we can look at the facts.

Today two Canadian billionaire businessmen own as much wealth as 11 million Canadians altogether. More than four million Canadians are living with food insecurity, including 1.15 million children. That is unacceptable.

A June 2017 report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer showed that for every $100 of available income, Canadians have $171 in household debt.

In Port Alberni, where I live, more than one-third of children live in poverty. Parksville-Qualicum has the highest median age of all ridings across Canada, and I often hear from seniors who forego buying medicine because they need to pay rent or buy food.

On the west coast, we need to protect our water from plastic, garbage, and marine debris, something that is not even included in the oceans protection plan. It is not mentioned once.

Everywhere in my riding small business owners are being inundated by red tape, soaring merchant fees, and the new confusing tax measures implemented on income sprinkling.

This budget implementation bill contains zero measures to truly address tax evasion. The Liberal government is not taking any action to eliminate the tax loopholes associated with stock options for wealthy CEOs. They cost taxpayers a billion dollars a year, and 92% of the benefit goes to the 1%. That is not helping the middle class. In terms of tax havens, the Conference Board of Canada has said that they are costing taxpayers up to $47 billion.

This bill is 556 pages long and amends 44 pieces of legislation, even though the Liberals promised to abolish the use of undemocratic omnibus bills. This is unacceptable.

We want to present solutions to the government. We have been presenting speakers on many solutions.

Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with my great colleague from Trois-Rivières, our transport critic. He is also going to present some great ideas and concerns about this budget.

I am going to speak as the critic for small business. One thing we are grateful for is that the government finally reduced the small business tax from 11% to 9%, something the late Jack Layton put forward and that New Democrats have been fighting for. Unfortunately, the Liberals only did this when they were in quicksand when they failed to roll out their small business tax proposals last summer and tried to do it in a very short period of time.

We have been raising concerns about merchant fees. I am going to quote this Globe and Mail article, from March 24, 2017, which states:

Worldwide, the EU, Australia, Switzerland and Israel, among others, have all moved to cap interchange rates. In Canada, the average interchange rate is currently 1.5 per cent, with some card fees running as high as 2.25 per cent. By contrast, in the U.K., the interchange rate is capped at 0.3 per cent, in France at 0.28 per cent, and in Australia at 0.5 per cent. So Canadian merchants pay five times what merchants pay in Europe and three times what merchants pay in Australia, for exactly the same services.

This affects businesses in Courtenay, Cumberland, Parksville, Qualicum, Tofino, and right across this country. This is unacceptable. In fact, it costs Canadian consumers over $5 billion, and merchants as well. We know that Visa and Mastercard, which together account for 92% of the credit card market, have a monopoly in this sector.

There was a bill, Bill C-236, an act to amend the Payment Card Networks Act, put forward by my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles in the fall of 2016. It has been moved 19 times. We have a lot of questions. Who is the government protecting? We know who it is protecting: its friends on Bay Street. Otherwise, it would have brought that bill for debate here to the floor of the House of Commons, where it belongs. It would have done the right thing and represented the people it promised it was going to represent. In fact, the member had support from the Quebec Convenience Stores Association and the Retail Council of Canada. They are waiting. It has been almost two years of waiting for the debate to even begin. Why is the finance minister not bringing forward a proposal to support people in small business?

That is just one of the things we would like to see happen. We would like to see the government come forward with another proposal. My colleague brought forward a bill to make sure that business people are not charged more money when they sell their business to one of their family members. We need to make it easier for intergenerational transfers of businesses, not harder. Right now, those who sell their business to someone at arm's length pay a greater capital gain. That is not acceptable. We are standing up for people in small business because we understand how important small businesses are in building our economy. They are the job creators in our communities.

As the critic for veterans affairs, I would like to turn my attention to our veterans. Our veterans, as well as their dependants and survivors, should be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness. That is all we ask, and we think it makes sense. The uniqueness of their profession, the obligations, sacrifices, demands, and experiences of such a profession also impact their family members. It affects all of them. Any decision regarding the care, treatment, re-establishment in civil life, or benefits of the person to be provided should be made in a timely manner. We are not seeing that. It is unacceptable. We see long wait times. Currently, the government has a huge transition gap. Last fall, we heard there were 29,000 veterans disability benefit applications waiting in the queue, and approximately 9,000 applications were well beyond the service standard.

The government has now committed $42.8 million over two years to address the backlog in processing the increased number of claims, but it has not told us what it would cost to get it to zero. It has to get to zero. That is what veterans deserve. We have a lot of questions.

It is our understanding that the department asked for double that amount. That did not happen. The government made a promise in its last budget that it would make sure there were case workers at a ratio of 25:1. It was not mentioned this year, so maybe that platform has been abandoned. On the education benefit, the government promised $80 million. When we look at the budget, now it is $133.9 million over six years. That is $22 million. How did the Liberals come up with a plan that now they are going to follow through with 27.5% of the promise they made to veterans? That is totally unacceptable.

On the pension for life, clearly the Liberals are not delivering on their promise. When two veterans fought in the same war, how can one get less than the other? That is totally unacceptable, and Canadians do not accept it.

In my riding, we put forward great proposals, and they have not been supported by the government. One example is a deep sea port in Port Alberni, where BC Ferries wants to do shipbuilding and infrastructure upgrades, but we have not seen the investment in the port. This could be a great opportunity for a place that has the highest unemployment rate in southwestern British Columbia.

The opportunities are endless, and the government is failing to deliver. There are 1.2 million Canadians living with disabilities, and the government has not enacted a plan to get those people back to work with a return to work strategy that could be brought forward. When it comes to veterans, 30% of case workers in the United States are former veterans. Right now, we are not even close. We do not even have a target and we do not have a plan to get them in place.

In terms of the economy where I live in coastal B.C., ocean protection is of utmost priority, not just for a clean working environment, which we rely on, but also for our salmon. The government promised coastal restoration funds, $75 million over five years, but when we talk to the groups that are protecting our salmon, investing in salmon protection and enhancement and restoration, they are not getting the money. In fact, our hatcheries have not seen an increase in 28 years.

I could bring forward many concerns and proposals, things that are missing in this budget, but I will wait for the questions. I will try to share them through the questions. I will also continue to bring forward our concerns and solutions.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, we have been a government that has provided many solutions. By working with Canadians, we have seen tangible results.

The member talked about the importance of small businesses, something which our current Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Prime Minister, and the caucus as a whole have recognized. When we gave the tax break to Canada's middle class, it literally put hundreds of millions of dollars back into the pockets of Canadians. Those Canadians then had an increase in disposable income. That means there are more people eating out, more home renovations being done, more opportunities that lead to businesses being able to expand. Then we look at the current budget, where we have a decrease in the small business tax. Again, this is supporting small businesses. That has been a general theme since day one of this government, recognizing that by doing that, we are supporting Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it.

Would my colleague not agree that we need to continue to work with Canadians and businesses as a whole in order to move the economy forward?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is really bold of the government members to think they are champions for small business, when the rhetoric from the Prime Minister before the small business tax cut was to call them tax cheats. In fact, the government has invested $1 billion in so-called chasing tax evaders, but the government is really focused on small business people. That is what we are hearing right across the board.

When it comes to small business people, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism said at the Standing Committee on International Trade that the tax break was a great sound bite but it did not make sense.

The only reason the Liberals honoured the commitment was they were in quicksand for their terrible rollout of a small business tax proposal without consulting Canadians and doing it over the summer months.

New Democrats understand that putting money in the hands of small business people builds communities and invests in communities. The multiplier effect makes sense. That is why I am also bringing forward the concerns around merchant fees. It is about putting money in the pockets of small business people, not those on Bay Street, not like the Liberals have been doing. Clearly, the Liberals' priority is Bay Street, protecting CEO stock option loopholes, and tax evaders. It is not small business, unless it is convenient for them.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my friend from Courtenay—Alberni on his great speech. We are both Vancouver Islanders. I really appreciate the passion he brings to this place on behalf of his constituents in the beautiful riding he represents.

I was really interested in the part of his speech that dealt with credit card merchant fees, because it appears to me that this is a solution to a long-standing problem for small business that would cost nothing to the government. Visa and MasterCard make huge profits. We can look at the margins that small businesses operate under, at how close they are cutting it to breaking even.

From my colleague's experience of owning a small business, from being on a local chamber of commerce, can he expand a bit on how a rate decrease would actually benefit small businesses in their ability to reinvest in their operations and maybe even hire new employees or give their employees pay raises?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right that every dollar counts for small business people. In fact, a study just came out which said that 50% of Canadians are within $200 a month of not paying their bills. It clearly shows that people are struggling. In fact, many Canadians are having to go out and start small businesses because we have lost good, middle-class jobs from the consecutive failed policies of Conservative and Liberal governments.

I think it is just about fairness, too. It is not just about putting money in their pockets. In Australia and Europe how is it that governments have capped merchant fees in some cases at five times lower than what Canada is doing? We know why. It is because the government is protecting its friends on Bay Street and in the big banks.

Small business people need to know they are a priority. Every dollar counts. The member is absolutely right. Small business people are the job creators. They are the ones who hire people. That money would go a long way. As a former small business person, former executive director of a very successful chamber of commerce, I know all too well that this is very important. Every dollar counts when running a business. Fairness is very important, and small business people have not been treated fairly in this country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am thrilled to have a chance to speak.

First of all, I want to thank my colleague from Courtenay—Alberni for splitting his time to give me the opportunity to speak to this important bill.

With so little time to speak, it is a bit hard for me to cover both the form and the substance of this bill. I am going to focus on the substance, but first I will take a minute at least to talk about the form. This bill continues the unbroken tradition, maintained by successive Conservative and Liberal governments, of saying one thing and doing another. The Liberals pledged to ban omnibus bills, yet that is exactly what we have before us today. This bill is 566 pages long and amends or repeals 44 acts. Worse still, the task of studying this massive document in its entirety will be assigned to a single committee, whose members will not only need to have all of the necessary skills, but will need to have them within a specified period. That will make it hard for the committee to hear from experts in finance, environment, and all other sectors affected by the bill. It seems to me that it would be easy to cover more ground and get more done if the work of studying this bill were split up, as it should be. Now I will stop talking about the form of the bill, because the substance is far more important.

Since I only have about nine minutes to do this analysis, I chose to look at things from the point of view of an ordinary Canadian, of a person from my riding who is looking at and analyzing the proposed budget. I would like to draw a quick parallel with tax time, which we are all experiencing right now. We have likely all had the experience of filling out our tax return and noticing that we are getting a tax refund, that we have overpaid, and that the federal or provincial government has to pay us back. Every time this happens, we cannot help but smile, even though there is really no reason to.

This tax refund is our own money, money we overpaid, that is coming back to us. However, since we did not expect it, it makes us happy. When people from my riding look at and analyze the proposed budget, they do pretty much the same thing. They search through the budget looking for the benefits they will derive from their investment in the government. What does this budget do for me? How will the taxes that I paid the Government of Quebec or the Government of Canada come back to me in the form of services or improvements to my quality of life?

The Liberals are constantly repeating that Canada's economy is doing well. I am not objecting to that. However, every time I meet with my constituents, they tell me that it is odd for the government to say that the economy is doing better than ever because they are not seeing any difference in their personal finances and are still having trouble making ends meet.

The following analysis is based upon the fact that this budget ignores the concerns of the people of Trois-Rivières. I want to talk about pyrrhotite victims. The Liberal government boasts that it is paying $30 million, or $10 million a year over three years, to help pyrrhotite victims. Ten million dollars a year would help lift about ten families out of poverty, but there are hundreds of them. Furthermore, these are the ones who are eligible for compensation, in accordance with the 0.23% baseline established in the first ruling. A large number of building owners in Trois-Rivières and Mauricie are struggling because pyrrhotite the level in the concrete is less than 0.23%. These buildings are in the grey zone, between the 0.23% baseline and the 0% federal standard. As the Canada Building Code standards are being revised this year, there is no money in this budget set aside for a scientific study on quality standards for concrete aggregates. That is completely absurd.

What about the Lake Saint-Pierre victims in Yamachiche, which is not far from where I live? Waves over 10 metres high did some major damage there, destroying the exteriors of people's primary and secondary residences. Those victims have been waiting a whole year for the Minister of Transport to send some kind of signal about possible compensation for the damage, but there is nothing about that in the budget, nothing at all.

What about the high-frequency train? To be polite, I will call it consensus, but I suspect there is actually unanimity. People have been waiting years for a high-frequency Quebec City-Windsor train that goes through Trois-Rivières, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. The people of Trois-Rivières have been waiting 25 years for the train to come back. All the stars are aligned except for one, and I am not talking about some easily dealt with bit player. I am talking about the Liberal government, which has not seen fit to come up with the cash that would make this project a reality despite the fact that all the stakeholders agree on where it should go, what technology should be used, and how important it is. I have a feeling the government is putting the long-awaited announcement off for a year so it can get more mileage out of it during an election year.

With the current upturn in the economy, the gap between the wealthy, the richest of our society, and the poor is growing rather than shrinking. While this is happening, we are still debating the relevance of having a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Can I just say that $15 an hour is not exactly rolling in it? People who earn $15 an hour can barely keep their heads above water. Why, then, in a budget that is supposed to give clear direction and share the wealth that we have managed to collectively create in this country, why is it impossible to adequately support people who are struggling the most? We were not even talking about $15 an hour in one fell swoop. We were talking about eventually reaching $15 an hour over the course of a mandate, but no, the government refused. That is unacceptable.

We could also talk about employment insurance. The Liberal government did make some changes to employment insurance to make itself look good. There are actually some initiatives that are promising. The waiting period is being decreased by one week. No one will oppose that. Whether it is for sickness benefits or compassionate care benefits, no one will oppose it. The big problem is that, at this time, the Liberal government has not budged one iota on measures to make employment insurance accessible. Thus, all the fine measures proposed by the government cannot be accessed if a worker does not qualify for employment insurance when needed. Currently, less than four workers in 10 who have paid into the plan qualify for EI when they need it.

We could also talk about pensions. When we talk about pensions for our seniors, especially in Trois-Rivières, we know that once again we are not talking about the wealthiest people in society. What enhancements has the government made? Not many. What has been done to protect the Canada pension plan? It takes an NDP member to get things done. Thank goodness, we are here.

We could talk about pay equity. The women in our ridings, like almost all of my colleagues in the House, welcomed gender parity in cabinet when the member for Papineau was elected Prime Minister, but workers want parity too. When will they have equal pay? It seems they may be waiting a long time. There are so many more examples.

The Liberal budget mainly seeks to fulfill the aspirations and desires of party friends and the biggest financial players, and it overlooks the middle class. The Liberals never forget to talk about the middle class in their speeches, but they are not walking the talk in their budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the member talked a lot about income equality. We would have to go back many years to find a government that has been more progressive in dealing with this issue.

I talked about the tax break for Canada's middle class in a previous question. This tax break would put hundreds of millions of dollars in the pockets of Canadians. At the same time, we also increased taxes on Canada's 1%.

We also brought in a budget that saw literally millions of dollars put into the Canada child benefit program and the guaranteed income supplement, lifting tens of thousands of children and seniors out of poverty. We have seen strong social policy, such as our housing strategy, and billions of dollars put into infrastructure.

One would think that with progressive budgets like this the NDP would support them. Why does the NDP continue to vote against these types of initiatives to ensure there will be less income inequality?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comment. Once again, we can recognize the Liberal strategy of starting off with a subject, in this case equity, and then going off on a major tangent to boast about the virtues of the Liberal government before trying to come up with a question.

I would like to come back to the crux of the matter: tax fairness. The parliamentary secretary talked about tax fairness at the beginning of his remarks and about going back many years, so he probably knows that Quebec resolved the issue of tax fairness and pay equity many years ago.

Why then does the government not learn from Quebec's success and introduce practical measures in the budget to implement pay equity within a certain time frame rather than just talking about it?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

4 p.m.

GPQ (ex-Bloc)

Luc Thériault GPQ (ex-Bloc) Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Trois-Rivières raised the issue of tax fairness and rightly so.

When my colleague from Joliette arrived here the first thing he did was raise the issue of tax unfairness as it relates to tax havens. Everyone is familiar with the idiom, the elephant in the room. I wonder how my colleague from Trois-Rivières would describe the fact that none of the needs that he listed are reflected in the budget at all.

There are people, companies, and corporations that are not paying their fair share of taxes. They are benefiting from the government's largesse since the Minister of Finance is encouraging tax havens. I would like my colleague's take on this bias and the ease with which the Minister of Finance promotes tax avoidance.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. I will not describe the budget because there are no words for it.

The Liberals lack imagination when it comes to combatting tax evasion and tax havens, but without digging too deep into their budget we might have expected them to keep their promise to close the tax loophole on CEO stock options. The public purse loses $800 million a year because of this measure that the Liberals promised to get rid of during the campaign.

We are not asking the Liberals to agree to an opposition proposal, no matter how sensible it might be. We are simply asking them to keep their own promises. It is 2018 and we have yet to hear a peep about this.

Motion for TravelCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I suspect that if you were to canvass the House you would find unanimous support for the following, as there has been consultation that has taken place among the parties and independent members. It is all related to travel for standing committees.

I move:

That, in relation to its study on needs and issues specific to indigenous veterans, seven members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs be authorized to travel to Victoria, British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta; Beauval, Saskatchewan; Hamilton, Six Nations Indian Reserve No. 40, and Toronto, Ontario; and Halifax, Millbrook First Nation, Truro, and Indian Brook First Nation, Nova Scotia, in the spring of 2018 and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

That, in relation to its study on advancements of technology and research in the agriculture industry that can support Canadian exports, seven members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food be authorized to travel to Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec; Guelph, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and Vancouver, British Columbia, in the spring of 2018, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

That, in relation to its study on priorities of Canadian stakeholders having an interest in bilateral and trilateral trade in North America, seven members of the Standing Committee on International Trade be authorized to travel to Washington, D.C., United States of America, in the spring of 2018, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

That, in relation to its study on migration challenges and opportunities for Canada in the 21st century, seven members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration be authorized to travel to Kampala, Bundibugyo, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees refugee and settlement camps, Uganda; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Nairobi and the UNHCR refugee and settlement camps, Kenya, in the spring of 2018, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

That, in relation to its study on Canada's engagement in Asia, seven members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development be authorized to travel to Tokyo, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; and Manila, Philippines, in the spring of 2018, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

That, in relation to its statutory review of the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act, seven members of the Standing Committee on Finance be authorized to travel to Toronto, Ontario; London, United Kingdom; and Washington, D.C., and New York, New York, United States of America, in the spring of 2018, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

That, in relation to its study on the current state of Department of Fisheries and Oceans' small craft harbours, seven members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans be authorized to travel to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador; Magdalen Islands, Quebec; Charlottetown and Summerside, Prince Edward Island; Miramichi, New Brunswick; and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, in the spring of 2018, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

That, in relation to its statutory review of the Copyright Act, seven members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology be authorized to travel to Halifax, Nova Scotia; Montréal, Quebec; Toronto, Ontario; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Vancouver, British Columbia, in the spring of 2018, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

That, in relation to its study on Canada's involvement in NATO, seven members of the Standing Committee on National Defence be authorized to travel to Petawawa, Ontario, in the spring of 2018, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

That, in relation to its study on indigenous people in the correctional system, seven members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security be authorized to travel to Québec and Donnacona, Quebec; Saskatoon, Duck Lake, and Maple Creek, Saskatchewan; and Medicine Hat, Mâskwâcîs, and Edmonton, Alberta, in the spring of 2018, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

That, in relation to its study on the Canadian Transportation and Logistics Strategy, seven members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities be authorized to travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle, Washington, United States of America, in the Spring of 2018, and that the necessary staff accompany the Committee.

Motion for TravelCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Motion for TravelCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motion for TravelCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?