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  • His favourite word is going.

Conservative MP for Huron—Bruce (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply March 5th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I would like to point out to the hon. member that the minister travelled across the country as part of our consultative process in putting together the budget, Canada's economic action plan. Before those members actually read the budget, the NDP said it would vote against the budget and against the over $8 billion that is invested into this.

What is truly unfortunate is her party's record when dealing with people who are on employment insurance. The NDP voted against all the measures in the economic action plan, which means the member is against 400,000 unemployed Canadians receiving five additional weeks of benefits. The NDP has also voted against helping to fund 50,000 unemployed Canadians who normally do not qualify for EI benefits to get the training and skills they need to find a new job and provide for their families in the future. The NDP also voted against helping 100,000 people get additional funding and training to find new jobs and put food on the table for their families.

Business of Supply March 5th, 2009

Madam Speaker, the hon. member and I had a nice discussion yesterday. He told me that his home town is Wesleyville. I have friends from Wesleyville, so that was nice to hear.

To try to answer his question, I would like to point out what a previous member of his party, much before his time and my time in this place, the Hon. Jane Stewart, had to say about the two week waiting period. This is from Hansard:

The two week waiting period is like a deductible in an insurance program. It is there for a purpose.

Further, for people who have lost their jobs and are on employment insurance, we have extended five weeks on the back end in order to help them.

In addition, I would like to point out the great work that the people at Service Canada do to try to expedite all claims and all cases. Service Canada has hired additional staff and has recalled recent retirees to staff its call centres to try and expedite the claims as fast as possible.

Business of Supply March 5th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook.

I welcome this opportunity to speak to the motion by the member for Hamilton Mountain. I can assure the hon. member that we are aware of the gravity of the economic recession and its effects on Canadian workers. As we have already stated in this place, our government is very concerned with helping those who are worried or having trouble making ends meet. We recognize that many workers are worried about keeping their jobs. We understand that hard-working Canadians are worried about being able to make their mortgage payments. We know that many are worried about being able to take care of their families. It is during these difficult times that Canadians need to know that their government is listening to them and that we have an action plan that will help them.

As the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development previously said, through our economic action plan we will help those facing unemployment. We will protect jobs. We will invest in training and skills development.

To help cushion the impact of these difficult economic times, our government is delivering significant improvements to employment insurance that focus on where the need is greatest right now. Our government's priority is to help Canadians participate in the labour market by investing in skills upgrading and injecting a significant economic stimulus into the economy.

We are doing just that through Canada's economic action plan. As part of this plan we are proposing to invest an unprecedented $8.3 billion in the Canada skills and transition strategy. With this strategy we are heavily investing in bolstering EI benefits and investing in skills training.

Before putting our proposals forward in our economic action plan, we consulted widely with Canadians. We listened to their concerns about the EI program and we responded.

Among other things, we are expanding the benefits of the current extended benefits pilot project across Canada. By doing so, claimants across the country in regions not currently receiving additional EI benefits would receive an additional five weeks of extended regular benefits. These additional weeks of benefits would be the same as those that claimants in the pilot project are now receiving and will continue to receive. Until now this pilot project has been available only in regions with the highest unemployment rate.

As well, we are increasing the maximum duration of benefits available under the EI program by five weeks, raising it from 45 to 50 weeks. This means that unemployed Canadians who would otherwise have exhausted their benefits will receive financial support for a longer period of time. This change is estimated to help some 400,000 employment insurance claimants in the first year alone.

This measure will provide financial support for a longer period to unemployed Canadians who would otherwise have exhausted their benefits. This means unemployed workers will have more time to seek employment while still receiving employment insurance.

This is very important and a point I cannot stress enough. Exhaustion of employment insurance benefits is tough on a family. Canadians who are unemployed for extended periods will have more time to find work under our plan.

I would also point out that this proposed measure would be in addition to the automatic adjustments in the EI program that respond quickly to changes in economic conditions. This allows for significant flexibility. Through the variable entrance requirement, the current EI program has this built-in flexibility specifically designed to respond automatically to changes in local labour markets. The number of hours required to access employment insurance ease and the duration of benefits increases as the unemployment rate rises.

To be more specific, eligibility for and duration of employment insurance benefits are based on the number of insured hours worked and on the unemployment rate in the employment insurance economic region in which the individual lives, not in the province or territory.

This ensures that areas facing higher unemployment rates have lower entrance requirements and a longer duration of benefits, and that support flows to regions and communities that are in the most need. It is also important to note that these requirements are adjusted on a monthly basis to reflect the latest regional unemployment rates.

The recent slowdown in the economy has revealed the efficiency of the current EI system in responding to the needs of workers. Since October 2008, 19 regions have seen their entrance requirements decrease and their benefit duration increase.

In the opposition's proposal to eliminate the two week waiting period for employment insurance, I would like to cite what Mr. David Dodge, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, said on December 18 when he appeared on the CTV Newsnet program, Mike Duffy Live. When asked whether eliminating the two week waiting period for employment insurance was an expenditure worth making, Mr. Dodge responded without hesitation. He said:

The answer is no. That would be probably the worst waste of money we could make...because there's a lot of churn in the labour market, just normal churn.

Mr. Dodge also said:

That two weeks is there for a very good reason....The real issue is that some of these people are going to be off work for a rather long period of time.

We agree with the comments made by the former governor of the Bank of Canada. The fact is that during these uncertain times, some people may be off work for longer periods of time. That is where employment insurance help needs to be targeted, and that is where we have targeted it.

I would remind the House that we have not hesitated to test new approaches and to make changes to the employment insurance program when they are proven to be warranted. We are currently continuing three pilot projects to assess the labour market impacts and effectiveness of new approaches that are designed to assist the unemployed.

With the proposals under our economic action plan, there has never been such a concerted effort to reach out and help Canadians. Our plan looks not only at the benefit side of the employment insurance program, but also the training side. We are proposing a number of measures that will help Canadians get the training they need to prepare for the jobs of the future.

We are proposing to increase funding for training delivered through the employment insurance program by $1 billion over the next two years. This can be implemented immediately through the existing labour market development agreements with the provinces and territories.

Our plan also includes proposals to assist older workers. It also helps workers who have been in the same or similar job for a long time and are laid off to make the adjustments necessary to remain active in the workforce. We will work with our partners to ensure that these measures benefit the greatest number of Canadians. In addition to extending benefits and promoting training, we are also proposing to stimulate the economy and assist workers and employers by maintaining employment insurance rates for 2010 at the 2009 levels.

Prior to introducing our economic action plan, we held the most extensive consultation in history. Through these consultations we heard what Canadians want. Through our economic action plan, we are delivering for Canadians in need. In fact, today the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development announced an extension of work sharing agreements by 14 weeks to a maximum of 52 weeks. She also announced greater flexibility in the qualifying criteria in order to increase access for employers and workers.

In summary, the minister has travelled across the country, she has consulted with Canadians, and she has put forward a plan that protects workers and will get them back into the workforce.

Business of Supply March 5th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I would like to clarify for the hon. member for Mississauga South and the hon. member across the way about the employment insurance premiums.

The member does make a good point. The rates have gone down in the past 12 years. We have seen employment increase all those 12 years. The reason freezing employment insurance rates is a stimulus at this point in time is because the unemployment rate is increasing, which is why it is stimulus, because rates would go up. That is why the government has taken action to freeze employment insurance rates. Does the hon. member across the way dispute that fact? Please answer the question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 3rd, 2009

Madam Speaker, that was a very entertaining speech that we just heard from the member for Mississauga South.

We all know that the oracle of Omaha is Warren Buffett. He has been a very successful investor over the years. I heard the hon. member comment during his speech that during the election he anticipated a downturn in the Canadian economy. However, during the month of September we saw an additional 100,000 jobs added to the economy. In October, further during the election period, we saw 9,500 jobs added to the Canadian economy when the analysts, unlike the oracle here, had predicted the loss of 10,000 jobs. The Canadian economy produced 9,500 jobs.

The reason for that is that the Prime Minister took action well in advance. He anticipated the downturn long before, unlike our colleagues on the other side of the House. There was a tremendous stimulus in the form of tax cuts to keep this economy going, one of the last countries of the G8 to maintain a positive economy.

He talked about a vision for Canada. His former leader offered a vision of Canada in October called the carbon tax. One can just imagine if the carbon tax had been brought into this country. It would have been devastation.

If the hon. member was predicting the future like Kreskin, where are the comments that we would foresee this massive economic recession during the election? Would the hon. member comment on that?

The Budget January 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I can tell the member what this government is not going to do. We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of provinces and municipalities, as the previous government did. We are not going to make cuts to health care, as the previous government did.

This government is committed to Canada. We are committed to health care and to our communities from one coast to the other.

That is why I was encouraged to see this government take a bold process and go from coast to coast in a collaborative approach to get feedback from all stakeholders in communities. We have put forth a budget that is truly an economic action plan that all Canadians can be proud of, especially the people of Huron--Bruce.

That is what this government is going to do.

The Budget January 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the hon. member that the Minister of Human Resources has taken an unprecedented approach to this budget with respect to employment insurance. She consulted with numerous groups from coast to coast. She heard recommendations, and they have been implemented in the budget. I am speaking of recommendations such as a five-week extension for EI payments and tremendous benefits to people who have lost their jobs, such as dollars for retraining and dollars for self-employed people who have a child. These are the kinds of actions the government has taken.

Let us also not forget the tremendous opportunity we have for retraining. It is important that people who have lost their jobs, such as colleagues I used to work with at Wescast Industries in Wingham, Ontario, be given the ability to get retrained so that they can get back into the workforce. These people are hardworking people and the backbone of this country.

The Budget January 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today for the first time to participate in the budget 2009 debate. I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton—Leduc.

I will begin by thanking the good constituents in Huron—Bruce for putting their faith in me on October 14 and allowing me to represent them in Ottawa. I would like to thank my family for their hard work and support and I would like to thank all of the dedicated, hard-working volunteers. Without their generosity I would not be here today.

A synchronized, global recession is hitting every economy in the world. Canada, as a great trading nation, is feeling the effects. On January 27, the hon. Minister of Finance delivered Canada's economic action plan. This plan will stimulate the Canadian economy to protect Canadians during the global recession and to invest in our long term growth. Our government built this plan after one of the broadest and deepest consultation processes in Canadian history. We heard Canadians' concerns about their jobs, savings, families, businesses and communities. We listened to their concerns and we took their advice.

This government is taking action. Budget 2009 will benefit Huron—Bruce dramatically. Over the past few years, we have continued to see the economy in southern Ontario deteriorate. For example, the unemployment rate in Ontario has risen in recent months and has been above the national average for unemployment rates for two years. In spite of these realities, southern Ontario benefits from a number of economic advantages, including high education levels, large and prosperous urban centres and a close proximity to the United States marketplace.

However, the weakening U.S. and global economies have resulted in plant closures and slower economic growth that are creating hardships for workers and families in southern Ontario.

On Tuesday, in response to Ontario's economic challenges, the Minister of Finance announced $1 billion for a southern Ontario development agency. This is good news for Huron—Bruce and all the ridings in southern Ontario. This agency will provide programs that support economic and community development, innovation and economic diversification with contributions to communities, businesses and non-profit organizations. It will help workers, communities and businesses in southern Ontario position themselves to take advantage of opportunities as economic growth recovers in Canada and around the world.

In addition to the regional programs, the Canadian skills and transition strategy will help to strengthen the benefits for Canadian workers, enhancing the availability of training and freezing EI rates at the lowest payroll tax in the world. This government has taken action to provide a broad range of financial support to help individuals and their families in difficult times, not only in Huron—Bruce, but across Canada.

These initiatives will support Canadians in the short term as well as help them find long term job prospects with investments in training. Budget 2009 has extended the work-sharing agreement by 14 weeks to a maximum of 52 weeks, so more Canadians can continue working. In addition, for two years we will increase EI entitlement benefits by five extra weeks, increasing the maximum benefit duration to 50 weeks from the previous 45 weeks. To help workers who participate in longer term training, this government is investing $500 million over the next two years to extend EI benefits. This will help an additional 10,000 workers.

We are doing more. This government is also investing $1 billion to enhance the availability of training delivered through EI programs over the next two years. We are also helping individuals who do not qualify for EI training, such as the self-employed or those who have been out of work for an extended period. Over the next two years, this government will invest $500 million in a strategic training and transition fund to support these individuals.

Since being elected in October, Huron—Bruce has experienced plant closures, layoffs and numerous people out of work. These programs will go a long way in Huron—Bruce to help our hard-working constituents retrain and get back into the workforce.

Budget 2009 also announced new measures for the agriculture industry. Farmers in Huron—Bruce continue to strive to develop innovative, high-quality food products for Canada's families and markets abroad. In turn, farmers provide a strong economic foundation for the rural communities in which they live and work.

The Canadian farm sector has not been isolated from the current economic downturn. The government will implement a five year, $500 million agriculture flexibility program, AgriFlex, that will facilitate the implementation of new initiatives both federally and in partnership with the provinces, territories and industry. This program will help the agriculture sector improve its competitiveness and respond to market challenges. In addition, the government will invest $50 million over three years to strengthen slaughterhouse capacity in various regions of the country to support the livestock sector.

Budget 2009 also announced proposed amendments to the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loan Act to help make credit available to new farmers, support intergenerational farm transfers and modify eligibility criteria for agriculture co-operatives. Without a doubt, this government has taken action. This budget ensures that many of the key concerns that Canadians had are addressed.

In addition to the building Canada plan, this government announced an additional $7 billion in infrastructure spending. This investment will create jobs and revitalize our transportation network with repairs to our roads, bridges, highways and rail links across the country. Huron—Bruce is a good example of this investment, with $750,000 allocated for pier rehabilitation to the South Hampton Harbour. We are doing more.

Budget 2009 also includes tax cuts for low and middle income families. The basic personal amount of taxable income will be raised from $9,600 to $10,320 per year. This will allow Canadians to earn more before they have to start paying taxes. This government has also increased the first and second personal income tax brackets to allow earnings to be taxed at a lower rate. This will put more money back in the pockets of Canadians.

We have effectively doubled the tax relief provided by the working income tax benefit to help low income Canadians over the welfare wall and into gainful employment. We have also created a home renovation tax credit that will provide incentives of up to $1,350 for Canadians to undertake new renovation projects or accelerate planned future projects.

This budget also provides numerous investments in social and affordable housing to provide Canadians with quality housing at affordable rates. These investments will help lower income families and individuals access safe, affordable and quality housing, build a stronger future and help to create sustainable communities. We will invest $1 billion to upgrade up to 200,000 social housing units across this country.

Budget 2009 will also invest $400 million for the construction of social housing units for low income seniors and $75 million over two years for the construction of social housing units for persons with disabilities. These investments will provide support for some of the most vulnerable in our society while providing short term stimulus relief to the Canadian economy.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that we are taking action to address the economic crisis for all Canadians. It is only through a strong economy that Canadians can create the quality of life and standard of living to which we all aspire within the context of today's economy.

Budget 2009 demonstrates the government's continued commitment to the economy and this country. This is the responsible federal leadership that Canadians rightfully demand and deserve. This is real action and real results for the Canadian economy.

Address in Reply January 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar for her speech, which so eloquently outlined the challenges Canada is facing during these uncertain economic times.

Could the hon. member point out some of the measures she believes will be beneficial for Canada in helping our economy during these challenging times?