House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was certainly.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Sarnia—Lambton (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 53% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes, of course. We have lowered the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%, and that put money back in the pockets of every Canadian.

The other thing I think we need to keep in mind is the fact that the GST credit, which was set when the GST was 7%, has not been decreased, although the GST has. The money going back to those low and middle-income Canadians has remained at the level that it was. It has not been decreased.

Business of Supply May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I did have some comments in the original text of my speech that were going to refer to some of the Liberal proposals, but thanks to the member opposite, with all of his points of order, I ran out of time to do that. It may be at a future time that we can discuss some of the issues the member would like to discuss.

I do want to remind people that we have been working for nine years, reducing taxes for Canadian families. I have said that before; the tax burden is at the lowest level it has been in 50 years.

Canadians know that this is the government that is putting money back in their pockets. I do not believe I said anywhere in my speech that we were opposed to this motion. I cannot recall that I did, although everyone is implying that I did. As far as I am concerned, we are not opposed to it.

The government is certainly going to consider this proposal in future budgets, and we will go from there.

Business of Supply May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, certainly I do not think I said anywhere in my speech that the designation of feminine hygiene products was something that did not need to be looked at. I am quite sure that the member was listening, but I am not sure what he was hearing.

Members need to know that we have spent nine years reducing taxes for Canadian families. As a result, the tax burden for families is at the lowest level that it has been in 50 years. A typical family is saving up to $6,600 a year in taxes. These things all go toward helping those people afford what they need to afford, and families certainly have reaped the benefit, of up to $6,600 a year, as I said.

We have been opposed every step of the way on these reductions, but we will continue with them. We do know that this government will put more money back in the pockets of Canadians.

Business of Supply May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear for this House. Our government is always looking to examine further tax decreases and exemptions. That includes looking at things such as has been brought forward here today. On top of presenting Canadians with a balanced budget, this government can always be counted on to further reduce Canadians' tax burden. All consumers benefit if the general sales tax rate is kept as low as possible, by maintaining the comprehensive base for the tax and targeting tax relief more broadly than through specific product exemptions.

The GST applies to a very broad base, with only a limited and narrow set of exemptions. This includes prescription drugs, certain medical devices, basic groceries, residential rents, and health care services. Specific tax relief from the GST is provided for low and modest-income Canadians through the GST credit rather than excluding more items from the tax base. The GST credit provides up-front support to low and modest-income families and individuals to offset their sales tax burden, thereby ensuring that sales tax burdens are sensitive to differences in income and family type. In spite of the reduction in the rate of the GST to 5%, the GST credit has been maintained at existing levels. By putting more money in the pockets of Canadians, we are helping them to make ends meet and spend more on what matters to them.

I do find it a bit rich to think that the NDP is even advocating for any tax relief. It is the very same NDP that has voted against every tax decrease that we have introduced. Our government will continue with our low-tax plan for jobs, growth, and security. I hope that the opposition members will finally support our low-tax plan. They did not support the reduction to the GST, but now is their chance to support our low-tax plan for all Canadians. With their new-found zeal for tax relief for Canadians, I would hope that the New Democrats will take every opportunity to support the real tax relief we have been putting forward since we took government.

Business of Supply May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, many of the people who use feminine hygiene products are those who have young families. I would also like to talk about some of the means that we have introduced to help young families who, again, need to avail themselves of the feminine hygiene products.

We also introduced the children's fitness tax credit and the children's art tax credit to help families with children. We put more money in the pockets of families with children by introducing the universal child care benefit, UCCB. All of these things are making it easier and more palatable for women to be able to afford the feminine hygiene products.

We have also introduced the registered disability savings plan, a tax assisted savings plan that helps individuals with severe disabilities. This helps them and their families save for long-term financial security. Again, this is a group that is affected and uses feminine hygiene products.

We enhanced support for caregivers of infirm dependent family members by introducing the family caregiver tax credit and by removing the $10,000 limit on eligible expenses that caregivers can claim under the medical expense tax credit in respect of a dependent relative. Again, this puts more money back into the pockets of those who need to purchase feminine hygiene products.

We have provided additional support to adoptive parents by enhancing and increasing the adoption expense tax credit to better recognize the costs of adopting a child.

We have enhanced support for workers by introducing the Canada employment credit, which recognizes employees' work expenses for things such as safety gear, uniforms and supplies. Again, this is a group that uses feminine hygiene products.

We further provided support to students and their families, which we heard about from the opposition side, by exempting scholarship income from taxation, introducing the textbook tax credit, making registered education savings plans more responsive to changing needs, and lowering the program duration requirements for the tuition, education and textbook tax credits applying to foreign university programs.

We have assisted first-time homebuyers, who are often in the younger age groups of our residents, by introducing the first-time homebuyers tax credit, and increasing the registered retirement savings plan withdrawal limit under the homebuyers plan.

For Canadian seniors and pensioners who helped build this country, we have provided about $3 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief by increasing the age credit amount by $2,000. We have doubled the pension income credit amount to $2,000, and have raised the age limit for maturing savings in registered pension plans and registered retirement savings plans from 69 to 71. We have also introduced pension income splitting. This benefits over 2.2 million Canadians. The opposition may ask what this has to do with feminine hygiene products, and I would like to state that regardless of age, there are feminine hygiene products that are used by women in every age group in this country.

Building on this tremendous record of tax relief, the Prime Minister announced in October 2014 further tax relief and benefit increases for all families with children. This includes enhancing the UCCB, increasing the maximum dollar amounts claimable under the child care expense deduction, and introducing the family tax cut. The enhanced UCCB will provide an increased benefit of $160 per month for children under the age of six, and a new benefit of $60 per month for children ages six through seventeen, effective January 1, 2015.

The family tax cut allows a higher income spouse or common-law partner to effectively transfer up to $50,000 of taxable income to a spouse or common-law partner up to a maximum benefit of $2,000. Again, this is putting more money back into the hands of those who need it. We have also doubled the amount of expenses that may be claimed under the children's fitness tax credit to $1,000 starting in 2014, and have made the credit refundable starting in 2015.

Most recently, economic action plan 2015 took our government's record of tax relief one step further. It announced an increase in the TFSA annual contribution limit to $10,000, effective for the 2015 and subsequent taxation years. This represents tax savings of about $1.1 billion over the 2015-16 to 2019-20 period. I could spend my entire time today listing off all the ways that we are helping to lower taxes, create tax fairness, and letting Canadians keep more of their own money.

The opposition likes to talk about tax fairness in today's motion, as though this is something they have any experience in achieving. They also like to forget that they voted against every single tax cut that this government has brought forward.

Our government, on the contrary, actually understands that tax fairness means lower taxes for all Canadians in all income levels, and not only do we understand it, we are making it a reality. These tax reductions have helped build a solid foundation for future economic growth, more jobs, and higher living standards for Canadians. This is good for the overall economy and the right thing to do, which is why tax relief has been a commitment by this government since 2006. This commitment starts right at the most fundamental level, the family.

Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from our government's low-tax plan. In fact, more than one million low-income Canadians have been removed from the tax rolls altogether. Measures introduced by our government since 2006 will provide tax relief and benefits of up to about $6,600 for a typical two-earner Canadian family of four in 2015. That is a lot more money left in the pockets of Canadians as a result of our actions to spend as they see fit; all of that, may I add, is while balancing the budget.

One of the most significant ways to ensure the prosperity of Canadians is to keep Canada's books in order and bring the budget to balance. We promised Canadians that we would balance the budget, and we delivered on that promise. However, we did not do it by raising taxes or cutting transfers for education and health care. We focused on controlling operating expenses for federal departments and identifying efficiencies that focused on making government operations leaner. A balanced budget will preserve Canada's low-tax plan and allow for further tax reduction, fostering growth and the creation of jobs for the benefit of all Canadians.

Canadians across the country, including in my riding of Sarnia—Lambton, understand the importance of living within their means and expect government to do the same. This new balanced budget legislation will prevent future governments from running deficits, except in extraordinary circumstances.

Business of Supply May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as far as the intervention goes, we will continue. Part of the motion does refer to the GST and certainly a specific product, but I am pointing out many of the things our government is doing.

The TFSA is a popular means of saving for Canadians at all income levels. Individuals with annual incomes of less than $80,000 accounted for more than 80% of all TFSA holders and about 75% of TFSA assets as of the end of 2013. About half of TFSA holders had annual incomes of less than $42,000. Those who had less than—

Business of Supply May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak to this opposition day motion. I commend my colleague across the way for bringing this motion forward.

I do want to be very clear. Make no mistake that our government has had a long-term commitment to keeping taxes low and making life more affordable for all Canadians. By reducing taxes year after year and enhancing direct benefits to Canadians, the government has given families and individuals greater flexibility to make the choices that are right for them.

The reality is that Canadian families and individuals will receive $37 billion in tax relief and increased benefits in 2015-16 as a result of the actions our government has taken since 2006.

Unlike the high-tax, high-spend plans of the opposition, our Conservative government believes in low taxes, tax fairness, and leaving more money where it belongs, which is in the pockets of hard-working Canadians.

The opposition would have people believe that our government is not interested in cutting taxes. That is hardly the case, which is why I will use my time today to show what our government is doing to help all Canadians, including women.

Our government is delivering broad-based tax relief to all Canadians, including those whose income is too low to pay income tax on nearly everything they buy. We also believe in the importance of balancing the budget. That is why we are balancing the budget while taking prudent action to lower taxes, create jobs and economic growth, and provide security to Canadians.

Indeed, since 2006, we have cut taxes over 180 times, reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years. Due to measures our government has introduced, small business taxes will be almost 50% lower, which will allow businesses to create jobs and economic growth. Our new family measures, alongside others introduced by the government since 2006, will provide tax relief and benefits of up to about $6,600 for an average Canadian family of four. We have cut taxes over and over again.

It was our Conservative government that lowered the GST twice, from 7% to 6% and then to 5%, providing tax relief to all Canadian families. We did not just lower it on one product; we lowered it for its entire base, so that it benefits all Canadians, even those who do not earn enough to pay personal income tax. However, the New Democrats voted against both of those GST reductions. In fact, they were proud of it. The current NDP finance critic said that cuts to the GST “take us in the wrong direction. I am very proud that our caucus stood opposed to that direction.”

If the members opposite were serious about lower taxes and tax relief for all Canadians, they would have supported our government when it lowered the GST rate. We did not just lower it on one product; we lowered it for its entire base so that it benefits all Canadians, even those who do not earn enough to pay personal income tax. While doing so, we maintained the GST credit level, which translates into about $1.2 billion in GST credit benefits annually for low-income and modest-income Canadians.

Again, for all individuals, we have implemented increases to the basic personal amount, the amount of income that an individual can earn without paying federal personal income tax. As a result of these increases and adjustments for inflation, the basic personal amount one can earn before paying taxes is now $11,327.

We have also reduced the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% from 16%, and increased the amount of income that individuals can earn before facing higher tax rates by increasing the upper limit of the two lowest personal income tax brackets.

We have introduced an enhanced working income tax benefit, allowing lower income Canadians to keep more of their hard-earned incomes and helping them build toward a more prosperous life. We have increased the amount of income that families can earn before the national child benefit supplement is fully phased out and before the Canada child tax base benefit begins to be phased out. This means that more families will be eligible to receive the Canada child tax benefit.

It does not stop there. We also introduced the tax-free savings account, TFSA, a flexible, registered, general purpose savings vehicle, which allows Canadians to earn tax-free investment income to more easily meet their lifetime savings needs. As of the end of 2013, nearly 11 million Canadians had opened a TFSA.

Mental Health Week May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak in support of Mental Health Week and to urge parliamentarians to continue our efforts of raising awareness toward fighting the stigma attached to mental illness.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, each year one in five Canadians experiences a personal mental health issue, with an estimated cost to our national economy of over $150 million. Mental health issues can indirectly impact all of us at some time through a loved-one, friend, or colleague.

During Mental Health Week, Canadians must seek to confront the stigma still associated with the discussion of personal mental health matters, so that we can help those who truly need it. We must break this cycle and help Canadians understand that help is out there, that even the darkest clouds can have silver linings.

I ask MPs to share resources from CMHA with their constituents by visiting mentalhealthweek.ca and spreading the message across social media.

VIA Rail Canada Act April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss Bill C-640, an act respecting VIA Rail Canada and making consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act. The government remains committed to ensuring economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians. Given this focus, the government cannot support Bill C-640, because it would have a negative impact on Canada's economic competitiveness and risk its reputation as a reliable trading partner.

To illustrate the potentially negative implications of this bill, I would like to first highlight the important role that freight rail plays in Canada. For more than 130 years, railways have linked communities, supported trade and expanded the Canadian economy. The historic role of railways in our country's growth since Confederation is well known.

The importance of freight railways has only increased today. Canada's freight railway sector, which comprises more than 60 short lines and two class 1 railways, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, operates nearly 46,000 kilometres of track. Canadian businesses, producers and manufacturers rely on this expansive rail network every day to move a whole wide variety of goods to thousands of domestic and global destinations.

It is also worth noting that a substantial portion of rail movements contribute to our domestic and international trade. Clearly, the success of Canadian businesses is contingent on efficient, effective and reliable freight rail services. Grain farmers work hard to supply global markets with a world-class product. Lumber, pulp and paper, and other forest products from Canadian mills have a global reputation for being second to none in terms of quality. Demand for these products is increasing around the world. Global buyers in emerging economies are seeking high quality iron ore, coal and other commodities extracted from mines located across Canada.

Canada's manufacturing industries, including the automotive sector, continue to demonstrate strength and resilience in increasingly competitive global markets and integrated supply chains. However, success in all industrial sectors requires reliable and efficient freight rail service. Shippers would face broken sales contracts, declining market share and irreparable harm to their reputation as reliable global suppliers if they could not get their goods to market reliably and efficiently.

The government has taken important steps to ensure the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of the rail-based supply chain. In 2010, the government initiated the rail freight service review. In 2013, the government passed the Fair Rail Freight Service Act, which aimed to support commercial solutions by providing shippers with the right to request a service level agreement, and a process to establish one if commercial negotiations fail.

Less than a year ago, the government passed the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act. which included additional measures designed to support the entire grain transportation system and achieve the goal of moving grain more efficiently and quickly. For example, the act required railways to move minimum amounts of grain; extended interswitching limits for shippers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba; and clarified operational terms in service level agreements. In combination, these efforts have contributed to a strong, dynamic freight rail network in Canada that is recognized around the world for its ability to move diverse commodities over vast distances.

A cornerstone of the development of Canada's transportation system is a policy approach that supports competition in market forces. Specifically, the national transportation policy outlined in the Canada Transportation Act indicates that the objectives of a competitive, economic and efficient transportation system are most likely to be achieved when competition and market forces are the prime agents in providing transportation services. Furthermore, it states that regulation and strategic public intervention should not unduly favour any particular mode of transportation.

What would happen to this critical rail transportation system if Bill C-640 were to be passed? Provisions in the bill would undermine the government's recent efforts to strengthen Canada's rail-based supply chain and would also run counter to foundational policy principles by undermining commercial solutions and unduly favouring one type of rail transportation over another.

Specifically, Bill C-640 proposes amending the Canada Transportation Act to give VIA general scheduling and operational preference over freight rail in the event of conflict. Let me be clear on what this proposal intends to do. Essentially, this amendment would give unfettered primacy to passenger rail operations at the expense of freight rail efficiency.

Currently, VIA and freight railways negotiate commercial agreements for track access that allow parties to work together to find an operational arrangement that works for everyone involved. This approach recognizes that the best solutions are those negotiated by the parties themselves.

If commercial negotiations are unsuccessful, the Canada Transportation Act provides VIA and other public passenger service providers with recourse to the Canadian Transportation Agency to secure access to track, equipment, or other facilities. This dispute resolution mechanism balances the interests of communities, consumers, and public passenger service providers with those of freight rail carriers.

I want to emphasize today that passenger rail service in many parts of Canada needs to be enhanced to meet community needs. My constituency of Sarnia—Lambton is a good example of this. Due to lack of ridership, passenger rail service provided by VIA Rail has been cut back in my community over the past few years, causing issues for students, the elderly, and others who utilize this travel option. I have worked hard to advocate on the need for these services for my constituents to decision-makers at VIA Rail and in cabinet.

I also want to give credit and recognition to a local group of individuals who have worked tirelessly to improve passenger rail service for local residents. Rail Advocacy in Lambton, or RAIL, as it is more commonly known, has accomplished numerous achievements in its advocacy efforts through a broad, community-driven consultation process and through working in a co-operative fashion with VIA Rail Canada. This group has presented various solutions that may work well for my community, and as mentioned, it has had success with its efforts thus far, as a recent meeting with VIA Rail Canada ended with a promise by VIA officials to visit Sarnia-Lambton and to seek to enhance the passenger rail options for my riding.

I support RAIL in its efforts and will continue to do so, because it is seeking proactive solutions, but not at the expense of one mode of service over another. It understands that any viable solution to the transit issues facing the region will require a holistic, integrated approach, likely requiring the attention of the three levels of government involved: federal, provincial and municipal.

Its solutions do not place freight above passenger rail. Rather, they include both aspects of the rail industry in the discussion, as both sides' co-operation is indeed required for a positive solution to be reached with regard to passenger rail enhancement across the region. These are solutions that do not require the hardships Bill C-640 would create. By this I mean that Bill C-640 proposes amendments that would be in stark opposition to long-established commercial principles, such as ensuring modal neutrality and balancing the interests of the parties involved.

Ultimately, the changes proposed in Bill C-640 would greatly impact a railway's ability to operate its network, leading to inefficiencies and reduced reliability. This would have a corresponding negative impact on shippers' ability to get their goods to market, thereby risking their global reputations as reliable suppliers, reputations they work hard every day to achieve and sustain. It would also move away from a proactive solution that needs to involve both freight and passenger rail entities.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that Canada's economy cannot risk the reckless approach proposed in Bill C-640. Canadian shippers work hard to grow their businesses and realize global economic opportunities. Bill C-640 would ultimately undermine this hard work, risk shippers' global reputations as reliable suppliers, and harm the overall competitiveness of the Canadian economy. For that reason, the government cannot support Bill C-640.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we know that there are protocols in place for those who respond when spills do take place. Those protocols have been put in place with conversations and the co-operation and collaboration among a great many people. It is not just the federal government that is responsible. The provincial governments, municipal governments and local safety response people all take part in setting up what those protocols should be. If there are issues with the way the protocols were handled and how they performed, those people who are the experts in the field will examine them.

I know for a fact that these protocols are extremely important. In my role as a municipal politician for many years in the riding of Sarnia—Lambton, I was heavily involved with putting protocols in place with the collaboration between all of the levels of government. I know for a fact as a local politician that it is extremely important to have that voice at the table.

This will happen if there are issues that were not followed and if the protocols need to be changed. I am quite confident that the experts will recommend that it happens and that it will happen.