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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was million.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for St. John's South—Mount Pearl (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply February 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question because it gives me an opportunity to restate something. It is about priorities. I have said that I spent 15 years during the 1990s and early 2000s trying to battle the debt and deficit of this country because they were driving business and economic uncertainty into our future.

I would say the following. Of course the Liberals support lower taxation. We do support lower taxation. At this point in time, our priorities are to ensure that we address the debt and deficit of our country, which have been driven up by the Conservatives, as well as to address some of the other concerns we have. There are 75% of Canadians without a private pension plan. There is a horrible situation with regard to affordable housing, as there is not enough of it in our country. Family care provisions are very much required to ensure that we take care of our loved ones when they are ill.

There are many priorities to ensure that the families in our country are able to take care of each other. That is what is important right now: to address the debt and deficit and to take care of one another.

Business of Supply February 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I will use the words of my hon. colleague, “middle of the pack”.

Ireland has a corporate tax rate of 13% and cannot attract businesses to the country. It is having a very difficult time. We know that Ireland is in difficulty right now, we know that for a fact. It has a much lower tax rate than any of the other countries I used in comparison, but it is still unable to attract business because businesses are attracted to countries not only for their tax rates but also for their skills, manpower and other favourable environments, all of which we must have.

I could turn the question back to my hon. colleague. On things like SR&ED, if we want to drive innovation in our country, we really need to address some of the issues with regard to the scientific research and experimental development grants. I am going to talk about productivity when talking about having to drive innovation. We have a widening productivity gap, which lowering tax rates is not necessarily going to address; it is a more fulsome issue. If she had read Red Wilson's report on competitiveness, she would have seen that he talked about our needing to take a more holistic approach to drive productivity.

What we need to do now is to press the pause button on these tax cuts and look at other ways to generate a better environment for businesses, which could be through SR&ED or an accelerated capital cost allowance. These are some other ways we could help businesses in our country. We also have to remember that small business actually drives the numbers of job creators in this country, not necessarily large business.

Business of Supply February 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak in favour of the Liberals' opposition day motion today.

I have a background in business and a lot of the discussion today would have had an impact on my business, and I will tell hon. members how.

First, I owned several businesses before coming into politics. I was in the resource industry and in the biotechnology industry. These were small businesses that did not meet the caps to pay the corporate tax rate. The corporate tax rate in Canada is quite competitive, when we look at global affairs.

As important, I spent 10 to 11 years on the board of directors of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. I rose to become chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in 2003-04 and represented 190,000 businesses. The debate and discussion during the 1990s really focused on the debt that this country was in.

Before I continue, Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

As I was saying, during the 1990s into the 2000s, the big concern of business was the fact that this country faced serious deficit and debt issues. At the time, the business community fought very aggressively and hard to ensure that this country understood the ramifications and impacts of having a country carrying that much deficit and debt, and the limitations that doing so created for us to either reinvest in our country economically or socially.

It was during those 10 to 11 years on the board of directors of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce that we fought so aggressively to ensure that we got the country out of deficit and started to pay down our debt. That was our number one priority and our number one focus.

In 2000, we were able to turn our focus, because the Liberal government at the time had done such a fine job of addressing that concern and of realizing, before the International Monetary Fund came into our country, which was threatened in the 1990s, that it had to solely focus on getting down that deficit and debt. We were much better off as a country then. We could put investments where we could not put investments before.

In 2000, we started to focus on bringing down the corporate tax rate. I do not think there is a person who does not recognize that having a competitive tax regime for business is very important. We all agreed with that. From 2000 to 2004, when the Liberals were still in power, they escalated the lowering of that corporate tax rate. It is so important today.

Six years before I was on the board of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, I sat on the St. John's Board of Trade and I rose to become president of the board. In my discussions today, I look at what we are doing in this country through the lens of business. I understand and have a business background so everything I say today is understanding the role that business plays, the role that small business plays and the role that corporate Canada plays. They play a significant role in creating the jobs. They are the job creators, absolutely.

I started to talk about the Liberal Party track record. It is truly an economic track record. As I said, in the 1990s the Liberals swapped Conservative deficits for surpluses. It was a lot of hard work. We had to ask the people of our country to work very hard to do that and it was not easy. We retired the deficit and we began paying down the national debt, saving taxpayers millions upon millions of interest payments that could be spent on pressing priorities for Canadians.

The Liberal government at the time also had a $3 billion contingency fund. A contingency fund is a buffer for when we get into a little bit a trouble and need extra money, such as when there is a flood or a fire in our country or we are in an economic downturn in a certain area. It was a rainy day fund and a very good thing to have.

When we were able to get the debt and deficit under control, we actually started to cut taxes, as I said. We went from 28% in 2000 to 21% four years later. Now fast forward through the Conservative government, and things are very different. We do not have surpluses; we are back in the same battle we had before with a $56 billion deficit. It is shameful.

There was a deficit then, but not the record $56 billion deficit we have today and not billions of dollars in deficit even before the economic downturn. Let me repeat that for those who do not understand we were there too. The Conservatives are apt to say that all of that money went toward turning around the economy, that it was important to reinvest in the economy. However, they had spent the coffers dry, the cupboards bare, before we were in a serious situation, before the economic downturn. Did the government have a $3 billion contingency fund to even help bridge that? No, it did not.

Here we are, faced with a difficult situation. Yes, we want a vibrant business community because it creates the jobs. I fully support and agree with that. At the time we were in good stead in 2006 just after the Liberal government, the Conservatives started to overspend. How much did they increase the size of government by in those few years? It was 40%. Can anyone imagine?

Federal program spending under Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin during his final year in power of 2005-2006 was $175 billion. By 2009-2010 under the Conservatives, it skyrocketed to $245 billion. It is unbelievable that they think they have a strong economic record.

Let me review that record. They overspent. They did not have a contingency fund. They spent us dry before we had an economic downturn. It is unbelievable. Now they have the dubious distinction of setting a record for Canada's largest ever deficit of $56 billion. It would not be a record I would want to hold.

Here it is, the deficit that the finance minister and Prime Minister said we would never have. They even knew at that point they were in serious trouble. Now they are asking Canadians to stay the course with them, that in five years' time they will retire that deficit. However, both the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who is completely non-partisan and completely answerable to this House, has said he is sorry but that they will not meet that budget target and we will not be deficit free in five years' time. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has been right every single time.

Let us also look at what the International Monetary Fund has said, because it has also estimated the deficit to be over $5 billion in five years' time. That does not quite square with what the Conservatives are telling Canadians. They are saying that in 2015-2016 we are going in surplus.

Whether you believe the PBO or the IMF, the point is that two out of three financial analysts are saying that the government will still be in deficit five years from now, and the Conservatives are saying, “Trust us, we will not be”. Well, “trust us, we will not be” is the same thing that the Prime Minister said about the deficit to begin with.

We also know from the Parliamentary Budget Officer there is going to be a structural deficit, which the Conservatives have put us in. That means we are continuing to spend more than we actually take in, even after the recession. We are now racking up debt at an astounding rate. That means we are going to be passing on that debt to our children.

In less than two years, the Conservatives have wiped out all of the hard work of Canadians to pay down the national debt by $105 billion. Since coming to power in 2006, the Conservatives have added $76.5 billion to the national debt.

I only have limited time, but my point is that in the good times it is absolutely important to bring down tax levels. I completely support that. Canada's tax rate is actually not bad in comparison with the other G7 countries. The following are 2009 figures, when we were at 19% and France was 34.43%; Italy at 27.5%; Japan at 30%; the United Kingdom at 28%; and the United States at 35%.

What I am saying is let us just place a hold on lowering tax rates for the most wealthy businesses in our country. These are businesses that make over $500,000 a year. They make up a very small number, 5% of the 2.2 million companies in our country. That money should be reinvested in things that will work to drive Canada's productivity.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador has only been in Confederation for 60-some years. However, the province dates over 500 years and we have had trading relations around the world.

More recently, we have had a lot more trading relationships with South America and Central America. One can look at some of the relationships we have had with Brazil around the oil and gas industry. There are a lot of Newfoundland and Labrador companies spending time in Brazil. I have named a couple of companies that are already doing business in Panama, reaching out to take advantage of some of the work that is being done on the Panama Canal. We have relationships, for example, with Chile in regard to aquaculture and the imports and exports of that trade.

From my home province's perspective, we have long since known the benefit of trade. We have long since reached out to the world. We have long since recognized that exports drive the development of our economy, businesses and employment in our community. We are certainly supportive of continuing to do that.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's concern with this agreement. As I said in my speech, there are a number of side agreements such as the Canada-Panama agreement on labour co-operation as well as the Canada-Panama environment agreement. I am sure my colleague is familiar with this as she sits on the committee.

I assume there was an opportunity to call witnesses before committee. The bill has now come from committee and we are debating it in the House.

Like my hon. colleague earlier this morning, I also indicated that we would ensure that the side agreements on labour and the environment worked properly and effectively. The House will hold the government accountable for those agreements. The fundamental principles and rights at work will be upheld. The declaration will be upheld. Issues around the environment will be considered as well.

It is important that free trade occur in our world and that we can have access to other markets. It is important that Canada reach out and ensure that the fundamental principles around labour organization and the environment that we hold dear are also held dear in other locations.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in support of Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

Canada and Panama signed this agreement on May 14, 2010, and the bill has made quick progress through all stages to get to the third reading, since it was only introduced on September 23 of last year.

The international trade committee concluded its study on the bill in late December before the House recessed. After careful consultation with stakeholders, the committee concluded that the agreements were satisfactory, and now Bill C-46 has come back to the House.

Freer, more open trade with our neighbours benefits everyone. Through trade agreements, we strengthen our economy, increase wealth, protect labour and human rights and help ensure environmental protection.

Our country relies on trade. In fact, 80% of our economy depends on trading with our neighbours. That is why I support any initiative that improves market access for our Canadian businesses. Canada is a trading nation. Our trade roots date back to the 1600s. Indeed, our country is founded on trade.

This is why Liberals are concerned that for the first time in 30 years, Canada now has a trade deficit. Export amounts to 45% of our gross domestic product, so we definitely need to have a good trade relationship. We need successful trade policies that build and sustain relationships with our existing partners, while also securing opportunities for other nations.

However, it seems our country takes one step forward and two steps back. Consider the United Arab Emirates, for example. We are all familiar with the diplomatic negotiations with the United Arab Emirates over airline landing rights. The U.A.E. is an important trading partner for us, with $2 billion every year in trade. This dispute was about six extra flights every week. However, because it was so poorly handled, we were told to leave Camp Mirage, a military base in Dubai that has been our forward operating base for our mission in Afghanistan. It will cost taxpayers at least $300 million just to close it and who knows how much to set up a new base somewhere else. That is how important trade relationships are.

In emerging markets, for example like China and India, we have delayed or missed opportunities. In the coming years, China and India will generate some 900 million new consumers and spend some $4 trillion on new infrastructure. Yet in 2006 and 2007 our exports to China barely kept pace with the growth of the Chinese economy. In the same period, the U.S. increased its trade by some 60%. We are not only falling behind the Americans. Thailand, the Philippines, Germany, and Australia are all getting a bigger piece of the Chinese import market than we are.

As I stated earlier, the Liberals are very supportive of fair open trade and Bill C-46 does make progress in that direction. However, we are falling behind in securing the biggest emerging markets in the world. If we are to compete tomorrow, we must open up opportunities not only in Panama, but in China, Russia, India, Brazil, and other emerging markets.

Even though Panama is a relatively small economy, there is much potential. In 2009 Canada exported around $90 million in goods to a small country of just under 3.5 million people. The country is relatively stable. It has made important strides in recent years with its development of democratic institutions. Through the global economic downturn, Panama's GDP still managed to grow at 10.7% in 2008, making it one of the hottest economies in the Americas. It is forecast to grow 5.6% for 2010.

Most of our exports to Panama include machinery, vehicles, electronic equipment and pharmaceutical equipment. Our service industries provide financial services and engineering, as well as information technology support. The Canada-Panama free trade agreement would include open market access for goods, cross-border trade and services, telecommunications, investment, financial services and government procurement.

At the moment, Panamanian tariffs on agricultural products are around 13.4%, but in some cases they can reach as high as 260%. Removing these tariffs would generate many opportunities for the Canadian agricultural sector.

Atlantic Canada also stands to benefit very much from this free trade agreement. It accounts for 10.9% of Canadian exports to Panama.

In late January, early February of this year, 12 Atlantic Canadian companies participated in a trade mission to Panama, building on past trade missions to that country. From Newfoundland and Labrador, four companies participated in the trade mission: Blue Oceans Satellite Systems of St. John's, Cartwright Drilling of Goose Bay, Labrador, Compusult Limited of Mount Pearl and Marine Industrial Lighting Systems of Mount Pearl.

Compusult is a global leader in geospatial interoperability. Its scientific applications support environmental data gathering and management. Marine Industrial Lighting Systems was formed in 1999 and one of its Panamanian projects includes explosion proof submersible floodlights for the Panama Canal.

Panama will be expanding its strategic canal route which connects the Atlantic and the Pacific. This project is valued at over $5 billion and will provide Canadian companies significant opportunities in a wide spectrum of goods and services. The expansion of the canal will allow for increased container traffic, some of which will access ports in Atlantic Canada.

As with Canada's other free trade agreements, Chile, Costa Rica, NAFTA and Jordan, there are side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.

The Canada-Panama agreement on labour co-operation recognizes the obligations of both countries under the International Labour Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. It requires that each country ensure its domestic laws, regulations and practices protect fundamental labour principles and rights at work.

The Canada-Panama environment agreement would allow any person who resides in either country to request an investigation of alleged violations of that country's environmental laws.

This free trade agreement contains sufficient protections for labour and the environment, ensuring that they are not compromised for the sake of trade.

As for the future, Canada needs to focus on emerging markets, Panama and the Americas, as well as India, China, Russia and Brazil. We must do so with haste and ensure more available markets for Canada's goods and services.

I hope my colleagues in the House will join me in supporting Bill C-46 so Canadian business and the people of Canada and Panama can benefit from freer, more open trade.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I applaud the many members who have spoken on this issue. I think a good debate adds to the availability of trade for our country.

I would like to ask my colleague from the NDP for her viewpoint on this particular fact: About 45% of our gross domestic product comes from exports. That staggering number only goes to show how important these trade agreements with other countries are, and how important it is to reach out. It was the very foundation of trade that helped develop our country.

I would like to ask my colleague why she would be opposed to having an improved trade environment between countries that would allow, for example, Canada to have some impact upon the labour situations in other countries and allow Canadian companies to expand and grow and continue to contribute to the gross domestic product of our country?

Pensions February 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, yes, the Liberals did a great job of ensuring that the CPP was solvent.

It is significant for Canadians who do not have enough money to make ends meet and families that are struggling to understand why the Conservative government will do nothing to help them.

The new minister of seniors has several pensions. I can assure members that most Canadians do not.

How can the Prime Minister be against an enhanced CPP? It is cost-effective, efficient, secure, and it is Canadian. Which one of these things does he oppose?

Pensions February 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Canadians need real help and solutions for the growing pension problem. The Conservative plan will not help those struggling today or give assurances to the 75% of Canadians who do not have a private pension plan. It would only help the profits of the banks and the insurance companies.

The Prime Minister once said of the CPP that there is “no real reason for government to run it at all”. Is this why he will not help Canadian families by expanding the CPP?

Public Service of Canada February 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the government is on the wrong track. Conservatives have said that allowing some 11,000 public servants to retire each year without replacing them is their deficit plan.

However, the PBO survey of 10 departments, which account for half of all operating expenses, says the Conservatives are way off. In fact, those departments expect to reduce employment by approximately 1,000 full-time staff.

Again, we cannot count on a government that simply cannot count. Why is the government not telling Canadians the truth? Where is the plan and what is the impact of those cuts?