The House resumed from October 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Ms. Chris Charlton (Hamilton Mountain, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-13 which the Conservatives have dubbed the “Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act”.
That would be an appropriate title if we had actually been experiencing growth in employment and the economy, but it is impossible to keep something that we never had in the first place. Let us look at the facts.
Canada has a weak job market. The current job market is still weaker than it was before the crisis in October 2008.
There is a continuing recession in the job market, with unemployment far above what it was before the last recession and job creation well below what is needed just to keep employment steady.
Economic growth is stagnant. Economists across the board have slashed their projections for Canada's economic growth. The Conservative budget is based on growth projections which no longer appear viable.
There is ongoing uncertainty regarding Canadians' retirement savings.
Household debt is skyrocketing. Canadian household debt levels have hit all time record levels of 150%.
There is the failure of our primary export markets. The International Monetary Fund projects that Canada's balance of payments deficit as a percentage of GDP is on its way to becoming one of the worst among advanced economies. It is worse than that of the United States and soon to be worse than that of Italy and Spain. The IMF predicts that our current account deficit will reach almost 4% of GDP by 2012.
As well, there is a lack of adequate private investment in Canada.
Urgent action is required on Canadians' top priorities, namely health care, jobs, pensions and helping seniors in need.
Earlier this week the Conservatives voted in favour of the NDP's economic action plan. It is time for them to live up to that commitment by doing more than talking the talk. They need to walk the talk. They need to follow through on their vote by coming forward with a plan for real and decisive action.
As I have been afforded only 10 minutes to participate in today's debate, I will only be able to highlight a few of the areas that are of critical concern to voters in my riding of Hamilton Mountain.
Members who listened to their constituents in last May's election and since cannot ignore the fact that health care continues to be a primary concern for Canadians. They are absolutely right to be concerned.
Five million Canadians do not have a regular family doctor. Of those Canadians who do not have a doctor, 73% are dependent on hospital emergency rooms or walk-in clinics for the front-line medical care their families rely on.
Canada ranks 26th of 30 industrial countries in terms of doctors per capita. In 2008, the Canadian Medical Association found that Canada would need an additional 26,000 doctors to meet the OECD average doctor-to-population ratio.
If no action is taken on training, there will also be a shortage of 60,000 registered nurses just 10 years down the road. In spite of this huge shortage of health professionals, the Conservatives do not plan to hire any new doctors or nurses. Rather, they will only move health professionals from urban to rural areas.
How does that help a city like Hamilton? We are experiencing a profound shortage of health care professionals. Instead of addressing that crisis, the Conservatives are adding insult to injury. They are luring doctors and nurses away from urban centres by offering loan forgiveness only to those who are willing to abandon cities and work in rural areas. That is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Canadians deserve better.
That is not a partisan observation; the Canadian Medical Association agrees. It warned:
|| If we do not act soon, an aging medical profession combined with an aging population will create a “perfect storm” with respect to our supply of physicians.
It is not only the health care system that is being put at risk by the Conservative government's inaction, Canada's economy is also being battered. The Conservatives simply shrug their shoulders and tell Canadians to take solace in the fact that we are better off than countries like Greece.
That is an insult. It is an insult to the hard-working Canadians who lost their jobs in the last recession through no fault of their own.
It is time to act decisively on job creation so that the middle-class citizens who built our country can finally get back on their feet.
Let me underscore the urgency for such action. The official unemployment figure is close to 1.4 million Canadians. If we include those who are discouraged or underemployed, that number would be closer to two million.
Unemployment is up to 7.3% and the proportion of part-time workers and involuntary part-time workers has risen rapidly. Full-time, permanent, family supporting jobs remain very difficult to find in many areas across the country. The real unemployment rate, counting labour force dropouts and involuntary part-time workers, was 11.1% in July, up from 9.4% in July 2008.
The government's claim to have created 600,000 net new jobs is also a sad distortion of the truth. We have seen the addition of barely 200,000 new jobs since the pre-recessionary employment high point in May 2008. However, the labour force has grown by 450,000 since then. So, those new jobs fall 250,000 short of the number needed just to hold employment steady.
Perhaps the most staggering figure of all is that today's lower employment rate represents lost wages alone of more than $20 million, and that is to say nothing of the economic stimulus and tax revenues that go with them.
In light of these realities, the lack of action on job creation is not just disappointing, it is completely unacceptable.
The Conservatives often liken government to a business. However, there are few businesses that would overlook the opportunities facing the government: plenty of available skilled labour; a desperate need for infrastructure across the country; infrastructure that would pay handsome returns; and capital available at almost record low rates. A good businessperson, in such circumstances, would be investing like crazy. But not the government. It does not know a good deal when it sees one.
Despite Canada's shaky economic recovery, the Conservatives want to cut off all stimulus and cut tens of billions out of our economy. Radical spending cuts, even before the private sector is prepared to start investing again, hurt Canadian families and communities.
It is not just New Democrats who are pointing out the folly of this approach. The government's own finance department recognizes that infrastructure investment has more than five times the economic impact of corporate income tax cuts. It published this fact in the appendix of budget 2009.
The Toronto Board of Trade emphasized that a strong infrastructure foundation is a top priority in ensuring economic competitiveness now and into the future.
Glen Hodgson from the Conference Board of Canada also agrees. He told the finance committee this week that now is not the time for government spending cuts. Instead, he emphasized that the government must be willing to be flexible in its approach. He also emphasized, repeatedly, that tax expenditures, including the Prime Minister's ineffective and costly corporate tax cuts, ought to be included in any review of government spending.
Even the Governor of the Bank of Canada is on record saying that the government can help with strategic investments.
But perhaps Sherry Cooper, the Chief Economist of BMO Nesbitt Burns, said it best. She wrote on Monday:
|| The misplaced belief that the road to economic prosperity is paved by near-term fiscal tightening, as espoused by our own Prime Minister and British Prime Minister David Cameron last week, shows we have learned nothing from Herbert Hoover’s response to the Great Depression.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
I cannot sit idly by and let the government continue on with its do nothing approach while people in my community are suffering the consequences. I am proud to fight for the hard-working families and seniors in Hamilton Mountain, and I will not stop until that job is done.
Mr. Paul Calandra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, CPC):
Madam Speaker, it was a very difficult speech to try to sit through because there were so many things that were actually wrong in that speech.
This is a member of a party that talks about targeting tax cuts, but when we bring them in, its members actually vote against them. They talk about infrastructure, but when we brought infrastructure in, they did not actually like it, so they voted against it. Sometimes they are difficult. They do not want to see deficits, but they want us to spend more money. They are all over the place.
They have absolutely no plan, no understanding of how we can get Canadians back to work. They are upset with the fact that some 600,000 Canadians are working who were not working before. They are upset with the fact that this government has one of the best economic records in the entire world, but what they want to do is continue to talk down the successes of the Canadian economy, the successes of this government.
The reality is that what they are, in essence, is a bunch of ideological lightweights when it comes to the economy who have absolutely no plan, no understanding of what it is that puts Canadians back to work.
I wonder if the hon. member would just simply admit that they absolutely have no plan, no ideas, no understanding how the economy works, and just simply pass this budget because it is the right thing to do for Canadians. It is the right thing to do for the Canadian economy and we cannot delay it any longer.
Mr. Mike Wallace (Burlington, CPC):
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure today to share my time with the member for Winnipeg South Centre and to talk about Bill C-13, keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act.
For those who are new in the House, how this actually works is, every year we put a budget forward in the spring. There is a motion on the budget and it passes through the House as a budget in principle. For it to become law and be implemented, which is partly what we are debating today, there have to be implementation bills. That is what Bill C-13 is. However, the budget is so big that, since I have been here, for five years, it is split into two pieces. One we already passed in the spring. The first phase of the implementation bill has actually gone through the House. There is a ways and means motion that goes with that. For people who do not know what that is, it gives the authority to tax, or change the tax system, and that bill needs to happen.
There is a process. We are in the last part of the process that deals with the budget that we presented. It was turned down by both the NDP and the Liberal Party, as they were in the opposition benches before the election in May. We were progressing. We were doing things for Canadians. The opposition decided that it was time for an election. We had an election and the public, the voters of this country, decided it was time to get some things done. That is why we got elected as a majority government, so we could move our budget processes through, the things we are doing for Canadians and the things we are doing for communities. That is why we are here today talking about the second portion of that budget bill.
The implementation bill is actually broken into five parts. There is a section to promote job creation and economic growth, support for communities, help for families, investment in education and training, and respect for taxpayers. I am going to highlight a few things in each piece that is in the bill.
It is a big bill, as my colleague from the Liberal side said because there are important issues that we are dealing with to make sure that we have the economic growth and the job growth, and stability that the country is asking for. That is what Canadians elected us to do, and we are implementing it as of today.
To give some examples of what is in the promote job creation and economic growth piece, we will hear quite a bit today and have heard over the past number of days about the hiring credit we are giving to small businesses, $1,000 to encourage them to hire new employees. This will create jobs and ensure that we have economic growth in every community across the country.
We are doing other things. I know, as a member of the finance committee for the last five years, that the accelerated capital cost allowance was a big item for our manufacturers. They wanted to see that tool that they could use to invest in their companies and in machinery, so they can grow and supply new customers in order to have the economic growth. In this implementation bill, which we are discussing today, it has the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for manufacturer investment increased and added to.
There are a couple of things that I wanted to talk about under job creation and economic growth, but there is another area I want to talk about. As a member of city council for 13 years for the City of Burlington, in the region of Halton, rarely did we ever get any support, either from the province or the federal government. In the implementation bill we are making the $2 billion gas tax fund a permanent fund for municipalities to rely on for their future infrastructure planning. When opposition members vote against that, they are voting against assistance to municipalities. That is what is actually happening.
We have the volunteer firefighters tax credit for volunteer firefighters. In Burlington we have a composite firefighting force, which means we have both professional, or permanent, firefighters and we have a volunteer base. We have a mix, so it is important for us. I heard from my fire chief. I went through an exercise with the firefighting team last Friday, actually. They put me through some training paces and we heard directly from the chief that they are having difficulty attracting and maintaining volunteers, because we all have busy lives. It is an important, key job, particularly in the rural area of Burlington. This tax credit will help them recruit and maintain volunteer firefighters. That is some of the support for our communities that is in the bill.
We are helping families in a number of ways. There is a new tax credit for family caregivers who give assistance at home to family members who are infirm.
There is one point I would like to make and it is very important to me. I used to be an employee of Easter Seals. My wife is an employee of Easter Seals. We help raise money and awareness for disabled kids across the province of Ontario.
Members may not know, but there was a limit of $10,000 of eligible expenses that caregivers could claim through their medical expense tax credit. Through Bill C-13, which we support and which the voters sent us back here to complete, would remove that $10,000 limit so families could use the tax credit for all the expenses they incurred for helping those who need that medical expense, whether a child, a mother, a father, a brother or whoever.
I want to remind members opposite that when they vote against the bill, they will vote against that change.
We are also adding a tax credit for children studying the arts. To be frank, my two daughters have been very active in sports, but not the arts. However, as a city councillor, and now as a member of Parliament, I am proud that we have just opened a new performing arts centre in the city of Burlington, which I have worked on since 1999.
I see the value in having children, families and grandparents involved in the arts. This children's tax credit would ensure there would be a level playing field for not only families with children who are active in athletics, but also in the arts. The arts are very important to us. That is why we encourage young people to be involved through this tax credit.
We are investing in education and training. We have a number of improvements to the financial assistance we are providing students. We are making it easier to allocate registered education savings plans to siblings without incurring any penalties. However, a key part to this, which does not affect my riding as much as others, is that we would forgive the loans for doctors and nurses who serve in rural and remote areas.
That is very important to me. I grew up in a little town called Port Elgin on Lake Huron, a rural of Ontario. It is a very lovely area, but it is very difficult to find a doctor. An individual would have to travel for hospital and medical services, as they would do in many parts of the country.
The forgiving of loans would assist communities to attract young medical professionals to their areas to provide the services to those individuals who need them.
In terms of the five items, the final thing I would like to speak to is the respect for taxpayer dollars. The key piece in this one is that we are ending the direct subsidy for political parties. Frankly, it affects the Conservative Party. The way it worked was the more votes we got, the more money we got from the taxpayer. It was a direct subsidy from the taxpayer, whether they voted for us or not.
We are removing that. It would be up to parties to talk to their supporters and get their direct support financially, instead of being like some parties in the House that almost exclusively rely on the taxpayer subsidy to fund their elections and their operations. We do not think that is fair and we do not think it is a good use of taxpayer money.
Our government's top priority remains completing the economic recovery. Canadians gave the Conservative government a strong mandate to stay focused on what matters, and that is creating jobs and economic growth. I will leave it at that, and I am happy to answer any questions anyone may have.
Ms. Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre, CPC):
Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak on behalf of the hard-working families in Winnipeg South Centre. I am privileged to represent such a diverse, active and engaged community. Winnipeg South Centre elected a Conservative because the voters felt, as I did, that Canadians needed strong, stable leadership in a challenging economic climate. Voters in Winnipeg South Centre know that promises to raise taxes and increase spending will not create real sustainable jobs.
Many governments across the western world are struggling under mountainous debt. Meanwhile Canada is being recognized as a financial leader and a model for the world. That is why our plan, the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act, is focused on what matters to Canadians: creating jobs and promoting economic growth.
Our government's top priority is to complete the economic recovery. Canadians gave our Conservative government a strong mandate to continue to focus on what is important: job creation and economic growth.
Since July 2009, almost 600,000 net new jobs have been created in Canada. In addition, we are the only G7 nation to have more than recovered all of the production and jobs lost during the economic slowdown.
There are a number of key elements in our plan which I know will have a positive impact for Winnipeggers, Manitobans and all Canadians.
We recognize the vital role that small businesses play in the economy and job creation. That is why we are committed to helping them grow and succeed. The next phase of Canada's economic action plan includes a number of measures to further enable small businesses and entrepreneurs to grow and create jobs.
One example is the hiring credit for small business. This new credit would help up to 525,000 employers defray the cost of additional hires. Winnipeg South Centre has hundreds of small businesses, some in people's homes, some of the best restaurants in Canada and all of them would benefit from this credit when they hire new employees.
A number of students whom our government helped with employment under the Canada summer jobs program gained vital experience and made a difference to their community at the same time. I know these young citizens will be encouraged to hear about our government's support for the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, providing over $20 million for start-up financing and volunteer business mentors to enable young Canadians to launch more than 1,000 new businesses. With our help, young people are expected to generate more than 6,700 new Canadian jobs.
For that reason, the Prime Minister's government is staying the course with its plan to keep taxes low in order to create jobs and foster economic growth.
Helping to train the next generation of entrepreneurs is critical to our prosperity, but so is training the next generation of researchers, scientists and innovators. That is why our government is doubling the in-study income exemption for students, benefiting over 100,000 students.
According to the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, and I quote: “there is good news in the current federal budget for Canadian students...”.
Making it easier for families to pay for their children's post-secondary education is just one of the many reasons my constituents are being well served with the budget. Every aspect of education matters to my constituents in Winnipeg South Centre. The government is helping families afford programs that will enrich their children's cultural and artistic education. Our new children's arts tax credit does just that. Modelled on our popular children's fitness tax credit, the children's arts tax credit supports eligible fees for children's artistic, cultural, recreational and developmental activities.
More and more families are feeling the double pressures of caring for growing children and aging parents at the same time. A key part of our plan is the new family caregiver tax credit. This measure supports caregivers who help infirm dependent relatives, including spouses, common-law partners and minor children. This all builds on top of the action our government has already taken to support families since 2006.
We have cut taxes over 120 times since forming government. We cut the lowest personal income tax rate. We cut the marriage penalty for one-income families. We have added the universal child care benefit. We have added the child tax credit. We added the landmark tax-free savings account and we added the registered disability savings plan to help children who live with disabilities.
In addition to this tax relief, families are benefiting from other new targeted measures like the first-time homebuyers' tax credit, the expanded home buyers' plan and the public transit tax credit. Families in Winnipeg South Centre are benefiting today from the strong actions our government is taking and has taken to provide tax relief and grow our economy.
Our community and country are benefiting from some broader measures as well. We provided $20 million for youth crime prevention to promote programs that help youth resist and exit gangs. We are enhancing the guaranteed income supplement so that eligible low-income seniors will receive additional annual benefits. We have extended the eco-energy retrofit homes program to help families lower their heating bills and electricity bills by making their homes more energy efficient. Our low-tax plan for jobs and growth is working.
This week Forbes, the influential business magazine, has ranked Canada as the best country in the world to do business. The IMF is forecasting Canada will have the strongest overall economic growth in the G7 over the next two years. Canada has the lowest total government net debt to GDP ratio in the entire G7, by far.
The last thing the Canadian economy needs right now is the massive tax hike proposed by the NDP. A tax increase would result in job cuts, paralyze our recovery and shrink the purchasing power of Canadian families. The next phase of Canada's economic action plan will preserve Canada's advantage in the global economy.
Tremendous economic instability in Europe and slowing growth in the U.S. make a challenging economic environment.
We are not immune to the volatility of the global economy, which is caused primarily by a lack of confidence in governments' efforts to reduce their deficits.
This crisis is an important opportunity for Canada to show leadership and promote solid, sustainable and balanced medium-term growth, as well as improve market confidence and foster global economic recovery.
Canadians can be confident we will follow our prudent and pragmatic plan to lower their taxes and grow our economy together.
Together, we are stronger.
Mr. Matthew Kellway (Beaches—East York, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise you that I will be splitting my time today with my colleague from Winnipeg Centre as part of what seems to be the all-party Winnipeg caucus here in the House today.
On this side of the House, we often refer to the Conservative government as being out of touch. That language is often dismissed by the government as rhetorical flourish, but if there was ever evidence of this point it is this bill, Bill C-13, and more broadly the approach of the government to the economy of this country.
Since the Canadian economy came crashing down around us in 2008, very many Canadians have been affected profoundly and in material ways. While in technical terms a recovery of sorts followed, and for some it was in material terms, what never dissipated was a sense of economic insecurity and worry.
In my riding of Beaches—East York, from the neighbourhoods where poverty and unemployment are deep and persistent, through East York and down to the beach, people from all walks of life and living in all sorts of circumstances are worried.
Those who have lived in the hope that they will someday enjoy some material comfort and security see those prospects becoming more remote. Those who have experienced material comfort and security wonder whether it will last. Those who have accumulated some savings wonder whether it will survive for its intended purpose, whether that be retirement or the kids' education.
The worry, of course, is not unfounded. In 2008 we were plunged into the worst recession in over 70 years. The recovery has been tentative and much slower than has historically been the case, with the persistent threat of a second significant economic contraction. Of course we are bombarded daily with news and images of economic catastrophes occurring or threatening to occur all around us, including with our biggest trading partners, the United States and Europe.
It was in this context of well-founded and widespread economic concern that I opened the paper the other day to read that our Minister of Finance had said he is prepared to let these circumstances persist until such time as the technocrats looking in the rear-view mirror tell him that we are, or more properly were, in economic trouble.
Now, what is it that we do not know here? We know that Canada is a small and very open economy, and therefore we are far from immune to global economic turmoil. We know that the largest economies in the world today, Europe and the United States, are in fact experiencing considerable turmoil.
We know also that they are our largest trading partners. With respect to the United States in particular, we know that there is a high correlation between its economic growth and our own. This is particularly the case in my own province of Ontario. For example, had the U.S. recovery from 2008 been a typical recovery, their GDP would be 2.5% higher, and Canadian exports would be 6.5% greater.
With European and U.S. economies struggling and our dollar remaining persistently high, it appears that we will be stuck with a massive current account deficit for some considerable time. Unemployment levels remain stubbornly high, particularly for youth, and are forecast to go higher.
We also know that things could get worse--much worse, in fact. In the quaint phraseology of the Governor of the Bank of Canada, “The risks...are skewed to the downside”.
According to a September 30 forecast from TD Economics:
|| In our view, there is a 40% recession risk in the United States over the next year.
This leads to the obvious conclusion that our own risk of a slip back into a recession remains heightened. Thankfully, not all economists are as technocratic and as out of touch as the government. In response to the minister's pledge to wait and see what happened, and note the past tense, BMO capital markets economist Douglas Porter said:
|| I think the risks of a downturn in North America are serious enough that the government should definitely have a Plan B.
That plan B is, of course, what we on this side of the House have been arguing for: government investment in infrastructure.
Mr. Porter went on to say:
|| Infrastructure spending is one of the most effective short-term stimulus measures a government can use, but it takes time to get it going and that’s why we should be studying a Plan B right now.
We know that economists can be just as adapt at fighting among themselves as we are in this chamber but there does seem to be near unanimous agreement with the value of infrastructure spending in economic circumstances such as those that we are experiencing today.
As was pointed out at the time of the debate over the budget, even the annex to the government's document entitled, “Canada’s Economic Action Plan Year 2: Built to keep our economy growing”, a seventh report to Canadians, confirms the potency of stimulus spending on infrastructure, particularly in comparison to other measures.
It is not as though we are lacking infrastructure in need of repair. Our cities are experiencing an infrastructure deficit in the order of $123 billion. In addition, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has estimated new infrastructure requirements totalling $115 billion.
While economists, very gently and generously, urge the development of a plan B, it seems fair and responsible for us to call out first for a plan A, because Bill C-13 does not add up to a plan. What Bill C-13 amounts to is paralysis, not planning. Were it the case that the government was frozen with a plan in place, that would be one thing, but what is frozen in place here is policy confusion.
The central policy piece of the government's response to our economic circumstances is the cut to corporate tax rates. As a stimulus measure, that is, as a measure that is responsive to the economic circumstances of Canadians, we know that this measure does not work.
First, it does not create jobs. A study of almost 200 large Canadian corporations that benefited from corporate tax cuts starting in 2000, showed that by 2009 profits had increased by 50%. Their corporate tax remittances had decreased by 20%, or $12 billion a year, while creating jobs at a rate slower than the national average.
Second, corporate tax cuts do not stimulate investment. Capital spending in Canada has been declining as a share of GDP since the early 1980s despite corporate tax cuts that have reduced the combined federal-provincial tax rate from 50% to just less than 30% last year.
Third, the U.S. treasury loves our corporate tax rates. American corporations repatriating their profits to the United States are obligated to pay 35% corporate tax minus a credit for taxes already paid in Canada. The amount of tax revenue flowing to the U.S. treasury, which is the amount of tax revenue foregone by Canadian jurisdictions owing to our lower corporate tax rate, is estimated to be between $4 billion and $6 billion per year.
Finally, as a policy prescription for our current circumstances, corporate tax cuts miss the mark by a wide margin. In spite of the economic misery and insecurity faced by so many Canadians, corporate profits have continued to increase year over year. Corporations are now sitting on half a trillion dollars of cash, the world is awash with goods, keeping inflation numbers in check, and it is in this context of over-supply that the government is prescribing, of all things, expanding supply. It makes no sense.
The prescription for what ails us is very different. We need to boost demand. While corporate profits increased by 15% in the second quarter of this year, the real disposable income of Canada was shrinking. Real wage growth fell year over year by 1.3% in July. That includes a 2.3% decline in Ontario. Meanwhile, households are finally strapped, carrying record loads of debt.
This is why, in part, our party champions creating jobs through government investment in infrastructure, more profitable pensions for seniors, increasing EI benefit eligibility and free collective bargaining, all measures that are responsive to the needs of the Canadian economy and economic growth.
When we cast our eyes forward, it is clear that this country not only faces some economic challenges, but also some incredible opportunities. Seizing those opportunities for the benefit of Canadians to ensure health and prosperity for Canadians is the responsibility of our government. On this account, the government, like its predecessor, has failed miserably. For years, it has insisted on locking Canada into disadvantageous and disproportionate trading relationships.
Finally, I want to pick up on the words of the Governor of the Bank of Canada. He stated:
||...Canada is like a ship. We can be tossed by the waves or pulled by the current, but we are still able to chart our course in even the stormiest of seas.
I do not see a course set here by the government. To the contrary, the government has left Canadians bobbing in stormy economic seas.
Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Beaches—East York for not only sharing his time with me but for the thoughtful presentation he just gave on Bill C-13.
Some members of the House today are newly elected members and so I will begin by prefacing my remarks by saying that there is nothing normal about what they are seeing unfold today. I do not want them to think that the House of Commons debates have been, or should be, curtailed and shut down by use of time allocation motions and closure in the way they may have seen as newly elected members in this 41st Parliament. In fact, closure, in and of itself, is an affront to democracy.
We are seeing a worrisome motif that the government is using, misusing and abusing closure to a point where it is detrimental to the institution of Parliament itself and the fundamental, most basic tenets of democracy.
I am not overstating things when I say that democracy is undermined by the use of closure in such a cavalier manner. Time allocation has always been in the standing orders but it was meant to be used judiciously, only after a matter of debate had been dealt with in a fulsome way and when all members who wished to speak to a bill had the opportunity. When there is deliberate obstruction of parliamentary procedure, that is when a government of the day may contemplate the use of the closure.
However, what we have seen in the 41st Parliament are huge, complicated omnibus bills being given a day or two of consideration by this chamber and then, bam, the heavy hammer comes down and we have the iron fist of time allocation and closure. Nobody should ever accept this as the norm. I hope the Canadian people are taking note because it is worthy to note.
I have been elected six times to this chamber. I was an opposition member during the times when the Liberal government was in majority and we criticized it vigorously for what we thought was an overuse of time allocation and closure. Frankly, the Liberals were pikers at the game because at least when it was introduced by our colleagues, the Liberals, it was after days and days and weeks and weeks of debate on a certain bill. Yes, there were people who would have liked to have spoken again on a bill, but at least every member of the chamber had ample opportunity on behalf of their constituents to wade into a debate.
It is getting to be a matter of privilege, and I would like to see that researched. It gets to be a matter of parliamentary privilege when members are systematically denied the right to stand in this chamber and voice the concerns of the people who sent them here to represent them.
I am being allowed 10 minutes to debate a bill of this magnitude and substance. Frankly, Bill C-13 is perhaps the most important bill of Parliament in that it is the introduction of the manifestation of the whole financial cycle of estimates, to budgets to budget implementation, et cetera. No bill put forward by a government within the parliamentary cycle is more critical than the budget implementation act and we are being denied the right to give it a thorough vetting in the House.
Having said that, and with such limited time, I will limit my remarks to broad-brushed impressions of what the bill seeks to do.
I saw a bumper sticker when I was in Washington, D.C. last year that kind of says it all. It said, “At least the war on the middle class is going well”. That sums up the attitude that we are seeing in the government's introduction of its budgetary process and the frustration that has manifested itself and is playing out on Wall Street as we speak.
The Americans were quicker to go into this blind faith that the corporate world had their best interests at heart. They were first to go into it, but they seem to be the first to come out of it as well. Americans are sick of rewarding the very architects of the economic malaise they find themselves in, whereas we are plowing ahead with that exact same mindset by rewarding corporate Canada, which has failed us with its wretched excess, greed and failure to provide the leadership in its own corporate sector. We are going to reward that sector. The biggest ticket item in this fiscal year's spending priority is in fact another $6 billion tax cut for corporations.
I come from the province of Manitoba. The small business tax in Manitoba was 11% when the New Democrats took power in 1999. That small business tax has been systematically reduced to zero. The NDP has just been re-elected to its fourth majority government in that province partly because the targeted tax cuts which the NDP government put in place were in an area that would in fact generate jobs and stimulate the economy. That is giving a break to small entrepreneurs who will in fact reinvest in their businesses and create jobs. No such empirical evidence exists about the much larger tax giveaway that is contemplated by the government in this fiscal year of $6 billion more in corporate tax cuts.
My colleague from Beaches—East York said that the Department of Finance itself recognizes that infrastructure investment has five times the economic impact of corporate income tax cuts. This fact is published in the appendix to budget 2009. We know full well where the bang for the buck is and yet the government seems to feel some obedient subservience to the very architects of the economic malaise we are experiencing. It rewards bad behaviour with even more handouts, the biggest corporate giveaway, by the way, since the review of the drug patent law in the mid-1990s when drug patents were extended from 17 years to 20 years. That was a corporate handout to Pfizer and others by the Liberal government of the day.
The Conservatives are plowing ahead by borrowing $6 billion because they do not have it. We are in a deficit situation so they do not have the $6 billion to give to corporate Canada, but they are going to give it anyway.
As my colleague from Beaches—East York pointed out, that profit is not even domestic. In fact, very often these corporations are actually foreign corporations. They take that money and expatriate it back to the United States where they came from and the United States taxes them at a reasonable rate of 35% on their foreign earnings abroad.
The government of the day is not thinking of the big picture. We have a shrinking middle class. Wages are shrinking from year to year when adjusted for inflation. When I began my remarks I said that at least the war on the middle class is going well, but have the Conservatives thought through what it will do to the economy when they injure the consuming middle class, when they fail to promote and expand the consuming middle class? If it is a low wage, low cost economy they are striving for, let me remind them that we cannot shrink our way to prosperity. No country has ever shrunk its way to prosperity. Countries grow their way to prosperity. Even Henry Ford understood that workers with money in their pockets are going to buy one of the products they create. Somehow we seem to have lost that mindset.
The Conservatives' war on labour and the left is another example of what they intend to do. When Ronald Reagan was in power, he managed to reduce the unionized workforce in the United States from 33% to 12%. It is now at 5%. The war on labour and the left is just beginning with the Conservatives' majority government. This bill is the first indication of the type of financial planning they intend to do. It is deficient. It is faulty. It is old-school thinking. It is so last century that it does not serve the needs of the working people I represent.
Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, It is a pleasure to speak to this important bill.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the exciting new member for Okanagan—Coquihalla. It is not that I could not speak for 20 minutes. In fact, as the previous speaker said, I could speak at length about all the wonderful measures contained in this document, but I want to share that opportunity with an exciting new member of Parliament.
The previous speaker, a member of the NDP who is not short on colourful metaphors when describing things, indicated if we had just listened to the NDP the budget would look quite different. I would argue that I have been listening to the NDP. That is why I knew I had to win my election in Peterborough. Heaven forbid the New Democrats would ever have any say on the economics of this country, because where they would take it certainly would not be the leading position within the G7. It would not be a position which the IMF says is enviable. It would not be, as Forbes magazine declared just this week, the best place in the world to invest.
That is our Canada. That is the Canada our Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, with the support of this caucus, have worked hard to create. I would also note that the Minister of State for Finance has also played a very big role in that.
This bill is important. We heard the previous member talk a little about business. He talked about corporations. How he speaks about corporations in this country disturbs me. Corporations, investments, and obviously the jobs they create are critically important to communities. Those job creators are constantly being slammed and talked about as if they were entities that should be attacked by the state. That seems to be the NDP's mantra.
A few moments ago my colleague from Burlington indicated in his question that many corporations in Canada, some of them quite small, are benefiting from the tax measures we have put in place in our budgets. I would be remiss if I did not mention a specific example.
This budget extends the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturers. That allows manufacturers to upgrade their equipment sooner and to do it in a more economical fashion, but it is only a tax deferral. However, it makes the business case better for investing right here in Canada. On top of that, we have also reduced the overall corporate tax rates.
When those two things are put together, it helps companies in my riding like McCloskey International, a very significant equipment manufacturer that is growing. I would invite any member to visit that plant to see the kind of growth it has experienced since 2006, to see the kind of growth that plant has experienced since we came forward with Advantage Canada, our blueprint economic plan for Canada. We brought that forward in 2007. We made it clear. We made a promise to Canada's employers and to Canadians as to how we would govern the finances of this country.
That company, McCloskey International in Peterborough, has grown by leaps and bounds. When I have talked to its owner, Paschal McCloskey, he has told me that in no small measure the amount of growth we have seen in Canada is due to the actions our government has taken to reduce his costs of manufacturing and doing business in Canada.
We have made investments in partnership with him through programs like the eastern Ontario development program and through the new Southern Ontario development agency, FedDev Ontario. We have made targeted investments in education. The Canadian universities association was very supportive of the budget. The colleges were very supportive of the budget. Students recognized that the budget made fundamental investments.
There are many items in the budget that are so important. This implementation bill is the actual meat of the budget being put into action.
When we follow through on these commitments, companies like McCloskey International can continue to grow. What it told me was that because of the measures we put in place, it could manufacture equipment cheaper and more efficiently on the east side of Peterborough than it could in Ireland, or at one of their other European facilities. That has allowed the company to expand its workforce dramatically. It has more than doubled in the last three years. A lot of middle-class families now have an income.
I would invite the hon. member from Winnipeg to come back and ask me a question about the middle-class families in my riding that have a job directly attributable to the government's economic leadership. It is fundamental and important.
We talk about promoting jobs and economic growth by providing a temporary hiring credit for small business to encourage additional hiring. The NDP has indicated that it would like to see this, but it will vote against it. It just does not make any sense. As a former owner and operator of a small business that had a couple of dozen employees, this is the type of incentive that encourages people to hire. It reduces the overall cost of employment. It is not just the wages paid, it is the employment taxes on top of that which also have to be taken into account. This kind of incentive is very important for small business.
I would also note that the member from Winnipeg also indicated that he would like to see lower taxes on businesses. I remember, and I am sure some of my colleagues who have been here since 2006 remember it well, that the member voted against small business tax reductions every time we introduced them. When we raised the cap for capital gains that small businesses could in fact be exempt from, the member voted against it. When we reduced the tax rate from 12% to 11%, the member voted against it. When we moved the limits from $300,000 to $400,000 when the tax rates would change over, which were big moves for small business, the NDP consistently voted against it.
The NDP also voted against all the infrastructure investments and the things on which small businesses thrive, such as good roads, good infrastructure for things like the Internet. I note the Speaker has been a strong advocate for eastern Ontario. The government has made a fundamental investment into broadband Internet in our region. This is an infrastructure investment that will help us encourage more investment, on top of the tax measures that we have put in place, even on top of things like the volunteer firefighters tax credit. This encourages the building of small communities.
We are following a plan that encourages economic growth and job creation, and it is balanced. When we are reducing taxes, building infrastructure, helping people who live in the communities to undertake their volunteer positions, or just to live in those communities, we are coming forward with a balanced economic plan. That is why that balanced economic plan is leading the G7. That is why we are going to stay the course. Only by staying the course, continuing to keep taxes low, eliminating debt and making the investments for the future that need to be made, will Canada continue to lead all nations. That is our goal. We have said it many times.
I remember just a couple of weeks ago, the British prime minister spoke in the House and said that the 21st century may very well belong to Canada. It is because of the leadership of this government, of this caucus, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.
I will close with just a couple of quotes, which I think are important. Here is what the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters had to say:
|| The extension of the two year write-off for investments in manufacturing and processing technologies announced in...[Budget 2011] is critical to sustaining Canada's economic recovery.
The member said that our party was attacking unions. This is what the Canadian Labour Congress had to say:
||—the CLC has pushed hard for an increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement...paid to 1.6 million low income seniors. [The Finance] Minister has made a modest improvement to the GIS in this budget. This is a win for every senior living in poverty...
The NDP voted against it.
I also point out that the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, a huge organization that does so much promoting an outdoor lifestyle, and is based in Peterborough, said, among other things, that it applauded the inclusion of items in budget 2011 that would benefit the outdoor community across Canada. I cannot understand why the NDP would vote against that.
Mr. Dan Albas (Okanagan—Coquihalla, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-13, keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act.
As this is my first time as a member of Parliament to have the opportunity to speak in support of a bill, I would like to say what an honour it is to be here on behalf of the citizens in my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla.
While it is easy to cite statistics and quote numbers in support of the bill, Canada's economic performance and job creation record are without equal under the leadership of this government. However, it is more important to share with members of the House how the policies and direction contained in the bill would create jobs and support our Canadian economy.
Before I begin, I feel the need to share something that is important. Day in and day out in the House we consistently hear the opposition attack the very notion that any form of tax relief or tax incentive for a business is somehow a bad thing. Yet it is the same business community that provides the jobs that keep our citizens employed and our economy strong.
Perhaps I am too new, but I believe that members opposite care about jobs and keeping citizens employed in their ridings that they represent. However, it is not talk or increases in taxation that create jobs. It is economic policy and investment that will help create employment. That is why I will be supporting the bill.
I would like to speak to a very specific example of one of the many important job creation aspects contained in Bill C-13 and how that would create jobs in my riding of Okanagan--Coquihalla.
Bill C-13 proposes to extend the accelerated capital cost allowance for investments in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment for two years.
The community of Okanagan Falls in my riding was particularly hard hit by the collapse of the U.S. lumber industry. The economic fall-out resulted in the community's largest employer Weyerhaeuser lumber mill to shut down. I am certain that other members in the House know first-hand what kind of economic devastation that can create in a small community such as a loss of jobs, the decrease to the total tax base and the increase of incidents of domestic violence. These are some of the unfortunate byproducts of unemployment.
To add insult to injury, the mountain beetle epidemic also threatened much of the local timber supply around Okanagan Falls and many forest-dependent communities in British Columbia.
This past June I was back in Okanagan Falls to attend the opening of Canada's, and in fact North America's, first large scale, state-of-the-art cross-laminated timber manufacturing production facility. This new plant created many vitally needed well-paying jobs in Okanagan Falls.
However, we have to recognize that this plant represents a multi-million dollar investment. The machinery and equipment alone are highly specialized and critical to the operation and success of this plant. The big master is the world's largest planer. It is one of the keys to the success of cross-laminated construction. Unfortunately, it is also incredibly expensive.
That is why it is critically important to extend the accelerated capital cost allowance for investments in manufacturing machinery and equipment, exactly as Bill C-13 proposes. In fact, it is precisely these tax incentives and relief policies that ensure that big businesses invest in big equipment like the big master. The big master, that mammoth-sized planer, creates jobs. The opposition sees big business as nothing more than a source to increase taxes, but increasing taxes means more money flows to Ottawa instead of investing in jobs and equipment like the big master.
This is a really important success story and I hope all members, especially the opposition, will listen carefully as I continue.
The new jobs and machinery at this cross-laminated timber manufacturing plant will create highly specialized cross-lam panels that are used in commercial and industrial applications as a replacement for concrete. Compared to concrete the cross-lam panels are six to seven times lighter and, as a result, are much more easier and economical to transport. They also require considerably less energy to produce and generate less waste, so it is also a more environmentally friendly product.
Here is what is really exciting. Cross-laminated timber can actually use surplus pine beetle killed timber as a fibre source. This is potentially the first commercially viable application for beetle wood in a structural application. What is more, cross-laminated construction can create in the very near future an entire wood sourced building that has vastly superior earthquake resistance than anything currently on the market. Think about the job potential of state-of-the-art, economically constructed earthquake resistant structures for a province like British Columbia that is strategically located to the Asia-Pacific gateway. The potential is huge.
All that stands in the way is another multi-million dollar investment in equipment and machinery from business. That is why the proposal in this bill to extend the accelerated capital cost allowance for investments in manufacturing and processing machinery equipment is so critically important. It creates jobs and has the potential to create a whole new industry, an innovative value-added sector that could be a boon to many forest-dependent communities.
Bill C-13 also proposes to extend the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors by one year to support Canada's mining sector.
Recently the premier of British Columbia announced that more provincial resources would be allocated to help the opening of eight new mines.
Let us also recognize that big business is the same big business that the opposition likes to try to tax out of existence. These are the very companies that are needed to invest literally hundreds of millions of dollars in machinery and equipment which in turn create not just jobs but high-paying jobs, even jobs for working people. We all know the term “working people” includes the exclusive worker who the opposition members consistently place ahead of all others.
Before we can have mines that lead to jobs we need mineral exploration. The mineral exploration tax credit helps create mines which help create these jobs.
In my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla is the Highland Valley copper mine. It provides hundreds of well-paying jobs.
Recently big business announced its intention to invest $475 million to upgrade Highland Valley's mill to extend its output and its ore recovery. This announcement also allowed for a five year new tentative agreement between big business and the workers who are members of the United Steelworkers Union.
Instead of sending more money to Ottawa, as the opposition is calling for, big business is investing money directly into my riding where it continues to create more well-paying jobs. I raise this because it is important for the members of the opposition to realize that we cannot tax business out of existence. Business has to have the funds to reinvest and create jobs.
I have briefly touched on just two points in Bill C-13 to illustrate how this bill can and will help to create jobs in my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla, as well as continue to help keep our economy strong.
There are over 20 other measures contained in Bill C-13 that will also create jobs and support the local economy in my region. The temporary hiring credit for small business, the permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund, the family caregiver tax, and the new children's arts tax credit are a few examples.
I also believe Bill C-13 will support jobs and the economy as well as provide a balance that will help families and seniors improve their quality of life. I thank the members opposite for listening to my comments and the reasons that I will be supporting Bill C-13, which will support the economy in my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla.
Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, a lovely riding.
I will change course a bit. The last two members spoke at length about what this budget does for big business and corporations in Canada. Certainly we in the Liberal Party understand fully that one of the greatest things a Canadian can have is a job. It is important that our corporations are strong and our small business owners do well. Those initiatives are important but we cannot do that in isolation. We have seen what happens with trickle-down investments. Very rarely do those in need in this country reap any type of benefit.
In 2007, 9.2% of the population was living in poverty. Now almost 10% of the population is living close to the poverty line. Therefore, I will focus my comments today on those who do not have a voice, those I have not heard mentioned throughout this debate and those not mentioned in the chamber.
Before I begin my comments on poverty, I want to speak specifically about some of the closures of Service Canada and EI processing centres that are taking place across the country. There are 600 people processing EI applications now who will be sent home over the next number of months. Conservatives talk about investing in rural communities. This action by the government will take jobs out of rural Canada and consolidate them into fewer positions. However, those positions that will be maintained will be moved into centres that have very low unemployment rates.
I point specifically to three cases where the government centralized jobs. In Gander, Corner Brook and Happy Valley-Goose Bay where the unemployment rate is 17%, the jobs are being moved to St. John's where the unemployment rate is under 6%. In Edmundston, Campbellton and Bathurst where the unemployment rate fluctuates anywhere from 11% to 15%, the jobs are being moved to Moncton where the unemployment rate is under 7%. Finally, in Sydney where the unemployment rate is over 16%, a number of jobs are being moved to Halifax where the unemployment rate is under 6%. It makes no sense at all.
When questioned in the House on this, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development came back with the line that they were temporary jobs created with the economic action plan. That is absolute hogwash. That is misinformation provided on the part of the minister. There are 70 employees at the call centre in Glace Bay, which has been operating for well over 25 years, where 50 are permanent and 20 are term. Those term employees were all employed prior to the economic action plan.
The part that makes no sense at all is that the government is trimming these jobs when we know we are on the cusp of another economic downturn. We have seen the increase in the unemployment rates, which we know will continue to grow. What will then happen is as more people are unemployed, they will file for benefits. When they contact the employment insurance office there will be fewer bodies to handle the calls which will create more of a backlog. That is unacceptable.
In 2006, 80% of calls were handled within the three minute work standard for responding to telephone inquiries at EI call centres. As we speak, that percentage has gone from 80% to 32%. Calls are being dropped. People are phoning to ask where their EI cheques are and wondering when the next bit of money will be coming in to buy groceries, diapers or whatever it might be to help keep that household running. They are having to call back 10, 15 or 20 times before they get an agent.
These are the most vulnerable in our society. These are people who have the toughest time working from paycheque to paycheque and there is no mention of that in this budget. That is unacceptable.
The budget is 642 pages long and the word “poverty” comes up twice. The government sees poverty as a spending issue. Most Canadians see it as an investment issue. Certainly the people on this side of the House see it as an investment issue and the government has missed the target completely with the initiatives taken in this budget.
There are a couple of glossy things in the budget. Conservatives throw a couple of nuggets in it. It is like a bouquet of thorns with a couple of roses thrown in for good measure. Where I have concern is in the totality of the budget, that it does not do enough for Canadians who are up against it and will continue to be as we go forward.
I want to bring to the attention of every member in the House a study which has just been done on poverty. Senator Art Eggleton did an exceptional study entitled “In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness” on initiatives that could be pursued by the government in order to address poverty.
The Standing Committee on Human Resources and Skills Development embarked on a three-year study on poverty. Former NDPer Tony Martin did a lot of work on it. My great friend from Dartmouth Coal Harbour, Mike Savage, put a lot time on it. It was an excellent report that went forward to the government which pretty much dismissed it. The government is motivated by dollars and cents.
That is why I want to bring to the attention of members, especially those on the other side of the chamber, to the National Council of Welfare report which is a branch of the government. The study it just completed is entitled “The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty”. I am sure it will be distributed to all members, but I encourage them to take a look at it. It is a great study and talks about an investment model going forward to deal with some of the aspects of poverty.
Some of the anecdotal comments in the report highlight a couple of very obvious things. They make a great deal of sense. It talks about housing and investing in housing. If people do not have a place to live, or continue to find themselves in unacceptable housing conditions, if they are worried about whether they and their children are going to have a roof over their heads, that drifts into their physical health, their mental health and emotional well-being, but certainly their physical health as well. If people are sick and do not have a safe place to live, how are they able to focus on getting healthy again? Housing relates to costs on the health care system.
The study indicates that 20% of the cost of our health care system is attributed to socio-economic factors. If child care spaces are not available, how does a single mom take a job if she does not know what she is going to do with her children? If we have citizens who are engaged in the economy, if a single mother is able to go to school, or able to take a job, that is what we as legislators want to do. We want to ensure that those opportunities are there and the assets are in place so people can become contributing citizens within this great country.
The government has missed an opportunity in this budget. What scares me is that with the justice bills, things are going to get tougher on those who need help the most.
Mr. Scott Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Cape Breton—Canso for generously sharing his time with me. I want to just add to his speech.
One element of his speech that I found should be brought up in the House once again is the measure by which jobs are to be put into efficiency mode. In other words, they are being shifted around and moved to places when in fact it is a cloak and dagger way to eliminate positions within the most vulnerable communities. In my riding in Newfoundland and Labrador, I have 195 communities and in one of those larger communities, Gander, it is losing 30 positions or more. They are moving to an area of lower unemployment and the excuses that come out boggle the mind.
The advent of technology has put us in a place where people can do their job in certain areas and they do not have to be centred around a particular building or group of people. It is a remote way of connecting. I heard one of the other members from the government talking about the wonderful broadband Internet strategy. As I mentioned, I have 195 communities in my riding and 65 of them do not have access to broadband Internet. It is like a community that has no access to even get in there. It is not good for business, it is not good for all these credits that the Conservatives are promising, as my colleague points out, these boutique tax credits. It means very little if they set up in a place that does not have access to broadband Internet and certainly some of the basic resources.
I want to move on to some of the measures that are contained within this budget and some of the stuff we find is a promising gesture. However, the promising gesture does not come to fruition. It does not come to its logical conclusion to allow those in poverty to be brought out of poverty and I can think of many examples such as the tax credits regarding the family, the volunteer firefighters and others. Because these tax credits are non-refundable, the lowest end of the poverty scale does not benefit from them. That is unfortunate because, in a big way, that is what these tax credits are for. That is probably the largest part of the population that would benefit the most from this. It is rather disingenuous when they play with these numbers and they do not explore the stories that exist behind them.
When the Conservatives reduced the GST by two points several years ago, I remember how they bragged about saving money for so many impoverished people. However, the story we do not hear is that the real beneficiary of a two-point cut in the GST was a person buying a home valued over $300,000 or buying a car that is valued over $20,000 or $25,000. The person who goes day to day scraping by, trying to get enough money to pay an electricity bill was not the biggest beneficiary of a 2% cut to the GST. Look what that did to the treasury itself.
So in the estimation of the government, it might be tax cutting that benefits the most vulnerable but it is not. If the government wants to brag about the tax cutting measures that it has for protecting elements of society like the upper class, the upper middle class or businesses, then it should say so.
My biggest problem with the particular government is not so much the thrust of its policy as it is the salesmanship behind it. In regard to something that was announced several months ago but now has been re-announced, but that is a whole other issue, the government will say that it will offer this brand new tax credit for small business that is taxed itself. The other issue is that, come January, there will be that increase or, so as not to offend the treasury, a modest increase in the EI premiums. It is a typical example of “I will give you this and while you aren't looking I'll take from here”. It shows up in the copyright legislation that we are about to debate but I will leave that for another day.
It is unfortunate because we are now in the middle of time allotment because the Conservatives have cut down on the debate in this House.
Let us face it, we are paid fairly well to be in the House, yet we cannot have this conversation. We cannot have this discussion among ourselves from all different regions of this country to find out what these measures will mean.
The median income in my riding is among the lowest in the country. It is not the lowest, but it is pretty close. Therefore, the message from people in my particular area would be that they do not benefit from this particular tax credit. Would it not be advantageous to have a refundable tax credit, so that someone who is on a lower income would get the benefit by way of a refund?
It would not be income tested. It would not be not based on an individual's particular income. This cuts across a wide array of these boutique tax credits, as my hon. colleague from Cape Breton points out, and quite rightly.
I do find that some of the matters that are not being discussed here are of great importance. Now that we have a majority government in place for the next four or five years, it is an opportunity for us to have a good, long discussion that is broad in scope on pension security.
Pension security will be one of those issues that will come back to haunt us several years down the road, and somebody will look back at us and say that at this particular moment, we did not really discuss what was most important. That is unfortunate.
I am not wholeheartedly against corporate tax cuts. I do believe, in many instances, that they do exactly what the government says. I do not think they are altruistic. I am not one of those people who blindly believes that any corporate tax credit will go directly toward creating new jobs. Corporations have shareholders; they want their returns, and they want a nice return. A lot of their shareholders include many of our seniors and the like, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, let us not expect a corporate tax credit to dig us out of levels of poverty at a time when we cannot really afford it.
I look at corporate tax credits and then I look at millions of dollars put into the F-35 jets. I am not one to turn down more resources for the Canadian military, but what about search and rescue? Where does that line up? It is a priority issue that we debate in the House, and unfortunately, every time we try to debate it, the debate gets shortened.
There are some good, concrete measures within the budget and within other pieces of legislation. There, I admit it.
Some are way too modest to make a difference. The CLC credited the government by saying it was a modest increase in the guaranteed income supplement for our most vulnerable seniors. Of course it is a modest one. It could have been doubled. Numbers from many think tanks and many corners of this country say that if we had doubled that amount of money, from a $300 million to a $700 million investment, it could have brought many more people above that poverty line.
Let us bear in mind that a lot of people in my area depend on the government for their sole source of income: a combination of CPP, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. These are people who have larger homes, and that is the only income they have. Winter is coming, and, as we all know, oil is not particularly cheap these days, and has not been for the past five to 10 years.
I would look at this debate as a way of saying yes to this and more of that. Instead of a vote of no, it is a question of saying that the government can do a lot better. The people demand of not only the government but of us as individual MPs that we reflect the opinions of our ridings that it can be done better.
Mr. Rob Clarke:
I do apologize, Mr. Speaker.
The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance and this Conservative government have cemented the strongest job growth in the G7. Since July 2009 we have created nearly 600,000 new net jobs. This is a result that our government can hang its hat on.
The International Monetary Fund projects that Canada will continue to be one of the strongest nations in the G7 over the next two years. While we appreciate that claim, it does not mean that Canada is protected from the global economic turbulence it is now facing. That is why our government is moving forward with, and implementing, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.
One of my favourite features of Bill C-13, and one which would help my constituents tremendously, is the forgiving of loans for new doctors and nurses in rural and remote areas. This excellent program will help make access to quality health care in my riding and across Canada easier. It will create jobs in the riding and also support numerous communities in my riding.
Another example of our government helping communities and the excellent volunteers within them is the introduction of the volunteer firefighters tax credit. I know from my own experience serving in the RCMP what it was like to be in the line of duty and see volunteer firefighters at motor vehicle accidents. These are the individuals who put their lives on the line every day just for a simple thanks.
These individuals not only serve in the line of duty but do so as a volunteers. These volunteer firefighters are hard-working taxpaying Canadians. This tax credit would help ease the burden in these difficult economic times. Nearly 85,000 volunteer firefighters provide their services to protect the lives and property of Canadians living in communities across Canada. I greatly respect the work that they do.
As a result of our Conservative government, families are now able to enrol their children in artistic, cultural, recreational and sporting activities. This is great, and with a young family myself, I know the value and results that this brings. Youth stay active and their minds are challenged. It keeps them working hard for their future endeavours so they can contribute to the Canadian economy in years to come.
We are also investing in education by helping apprentices in the skilled trades or workers in regulated professions by making their occupational or professional examination fees eligible for the tuition tax credit.
These are excellent policies that will improve the lives and livelihoods of all Canadians.
Bill C-13 also has excellent measures for supporting Canada's forestry industry, something that is very important for my constituents.
By extending the powers of Export Development Canada to provide financing support to Canadian forestry companies, we have created new jobs and growth. In fact, a new mill is opening in Big River in northern Saskatchewan, and it will provide over 100 new jobs in the reforestation and transportation fields and also in the sawmill process. By extending the enhanced work sharing program to assist forestry employers, we have protected those forestry jobs that were at risk.
Another excellent initiative that helps my riding is the mineral exploration tax credit.
The Canadian mining industry is very important to my riding in northern Saskatchewan. There are numerous mines, and they employ thousands of people. In fact, 300,000 Canadians are employed in the mining industry today. This industry promotes economic stability and growth in the many rural towns and first nations and Métis communities in my riding.
I am very proud to be a part of the Conservative government. We are leading the way on the world stage on how to manage the economy effectively through this dangerous recession.
It is no wonder Canada is the envy of the world.
Our Conservative government set out on a mission to provide stability and growth in these troubled economic times while keeping taxes low, and we have accomplished that.
I would like to quote from Warren Jestin, the chief economist at Scotiabank, who pointed out in the Daily Commercial News and Construction Record on September 27 that “Canada is the best place to be and almost everything I look at screams that out to me.”
We cut taxes over 120 times since 2006. This has resulted in the overall tax burden being at the lowest level in nearly 50 years. We reduced the GST, as it was pointed out, from 7% to 5%. We provided seniors with pension income splitting. We introduced a child fitness tax credit. We cut the personal tax rate to 15%, the lowest it has ever been, and we introduced a children's arts and tax credit. This has resulted in a total savings of over $3,000 for the average Canadian family. That is $3,000 back in their pockets. These are results that all Canadians can be proud of.
The number one issue for this government is getting people back to work, which will help the communities and the country grow.
Today's bill announces measures that would encourage hiring and provide additional financial support to Canadian workers and families during the recovery, including a temporary hiring credit for small businesses of up to $1,000 against small employer increases in their 2011 EI premiums over those paid in 2010.
Today's bill also proposes $4.5 million annually to expand the wage earners' protection program to cover employees who lose their jobs when their employer's attempt at restructuring takes longer than six months, is unsuccessful and ends in bankruptcy or receivership.
In conclusion, Canadians gave our Conservative government the mandate to continue to lead the way on the world stage. I am here to tell members that we will continue to lead the way and Bill C-13 is the way forward for this country.
Mrs. Joy Smith (Kildonan—St. Paul, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today in support of the budget implementation bill, Bill C-13. The bill has been debated for a very long time. It was initially tabled in the House on March 22, and today we are dealing with the implementation of the second phase of that bill.
What has happened since we started this discussion? Not only was it debated in the House, not only did it go to committee for a thorough examination and not only did it come back to the House, but we had an election. During that election, I think every member went door to door and talked about the budget. What happened in the end? The Conservatives have a majority government. Why? It is because Canadians said that this government would take care of the economy in this country.
Why were Canadians worried about that? They were worried because there was a disaster in Haiti, a disaster in Japan and a disaster in Iceland where two volcanoes erupted and caused a lot of problems with air quality and things like that. During those disasters, Canada generously participated to help communities and it kept a close eye on what was happening on our economic home front.
The Prime Minister has taken an amazing leadership role. Canada is known as the country with the most economic stability in the world at this point in time. It is not just this side of the House saying that. Many well-known companies, organizations and third parties have said that. Canada has the strongest job growth record in the G7.
What has happened because of this good planning? Six hundred thousand new jobs have been created and Canada's people are working. That is incredible.
The International Monetary Fund is forecasting that Canada will have the strongest overall economic growth in the G7 over the next two years. That is why we need to pass the second phase of this budget implementation bill and allow the economy to grow. Many wonderful things are happening and Canada is in a stable situation. Why? It is because our Prime Minister and the caucus have put together an economic plan that is good for Canada, Canadians, families and seniors.
Canada has the lowest total government net debt to GDP ratio in the G7, which is something to be proud of. We will get the deficit under control. There is a plan to do that.
The World Economic Forum ranks Canada's financial system as the soundest in the world for the fourth consecutive year. That is amazing in this global downturn. Moody's is renewing Canada's triple A credit rating due to our economic resilience. There is very high government financial strength. The world is saying that it is looking to Canada as a leader. As the prime minister of England said, “this is Canada's year”. This is Canada's year because of the leadership.