The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Mr. Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to follow my colleague from Welland on this debate. He quite eloquently spoke to the flaws of this bill. I would like to also thank him for his work on the agriculture file and on behalf of farmers.
Just prior to the start of this debate, my colleague from Malpeque and I were discussing how what we are witnessing is a transformation of our country. We were discussing the state of our country, and this omnibus bill, which lumps in all these measures that are chipping away at what many Canadians believe in, is just an example of this. I would go so far as to say that although we speak the same language, we are dividing ourselves into two new solitudes. One is represented by the government side, which represents a minority of citizens in our country, and the other side is represented by this side here, which represents the majority of citizens, citizens who really do not want to see major changes to our social net or to our system.
What are we seeing? We are seeing a government saying that it is all about job creation. At the same time, we are seeing a tremendous loss of public service well-paying jobs. I would like to remind people in the House that especially in our small rural communities, well-paying jobs are the main economic driver. These are the folks who drive the economy. They are the ones who go to restaurants and buy the local cars. They are the ones who keep our communities alive. What we are seeing here is that a lot of these jobs are being cut, and, as I will explain later, it is for no real reason.
Just before I move on, I would like to talk about what I call “union bashing”. We have well-paying jobs in this country, both in the private and public sectors, because we have a labour movement that has worked hard to ensure a high standard. I was talking with some representatives of the Canadian Police Association the other day when they were in town. They told me the reason they have well-paying jobs as police officers is that police officers, with the exception of the RCMP, have unions or associations, and the reason the RCMP has a livable wage is that the bar has been set by people who are represented by unions. At the same time we see Bill C-377, the accountability of unions act, loading a whole bunch of red tape on police associations and other trade unions in the country, which is totally unacceptable.
What are the budgetary consequences of this 2012 budget?
First, there will be at least 19,200 jobs lost in the public service. Second, there will be a total of between 50,000 and 72,000 jobs lost in the economy, including 1,119 jobs lost at the Department of National Defence, 162 fewer trade officers in Canada, 840 layoffs at Health Canada, 650 layoffs at the CBC, at least 4,800 layoffs in the NCR, 252 layoffs in client service at Veterans Affairs Canada, 100 food inspectors laid off, and I could go on.
What are we seeing, then? We are seeing that for no reason, the public service, consisting of civil servants who are professionals and do their jobs, is being reduced for what I would submit are ideological reasons. Why are they ideological? I am not sure if people are aware of this, but by the year 2014, the current government, since 2006, will have given the corporate sector over $220 billion of corporate tax cuts. That is $220 billion. Let us juxtapose that with raising the age of qualification for pensions to 67 and the hardships that will cause to a lot of seniors on marginal income. Let us juxtapose that with other cuts to the public sector and to the environment.
I would like to also say that choices are made by government. It appears the choice has been to make these drastic cuts to not only the public sector but to our way of life. There is a choice in spending billions of dollars on F-35s or even $30 million to somehow glorify the War of 1812, which nobody really cares about. We can tell that to pensioners who are trying to make ends meet and see what they have to say about it.
We talk about economic recovery. We talk about the fact that Canada supposedly has led the world economic recovery, whereas research that has been done has shown that two countries have been stronger than Canada in recovering from the economic downturn. One is Sweden, the other Australia.
Let us talk about Sweden, a country where there are no strikes, where everything is done by collective agreement and where the law mandates that labour is represented on corporate boards so that there is a working relationship between government, corporations and labour. Let us talk about a country where there is free tuition, free care for seniors, free child care, over 400 days of paid parental leave per child and full benefits for part-time workers.
If my colleagues in the House are not sure of these statistics, I urge them to see the film Poor No More, narrated by Mary Walsh. In the film she takes us to Sweden and compares what is happening here. I know that the argument will be that we want to raise taxes; well, Sweden is a country that has high taxes and provides services, and it is a country where people are working and there is virtually no unemployment.
In a March 29 article entitled “A budget that screws the planet for short-term profits”, Marc Lee, of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, stated:
|| This is a colonial vision of the economy as a quarry for foreign interests. Instead of ensuring development of resources in a manner consistent with real long-term needs like energy security, the [federal government] is open to any foreign investor who wants our resources, and Canadians will politely have to clean up the mess afterwards. While there will be some Canadian jobs in all of this, most of them will be of short duration in the construction phase, but the budget also increases the capacity to bring in temporary foreign workers.
Let us talk about the short-duration jobs.
We here are against the northern pipeline that will send raw bitumen through our territory and to the waters off the coast of British Columbia to Asia. One of the reasons we are against the pipeline is that the jobs that will be created are short term. We are shipping jobs outside of the country. It is interesting to have a government that says we need to create jobs and that at the same time, through its policies, will be shipping jobs outside of the country.
Mr. Lee goes on to say in his article:
|| Our penchant for planetary destruction just cannot happen fast enough. Under the mantra “one project, one review” environmental considerations will get lumped in with everything else, meaning that review processes for destructive mining and oil and gas projects will be fast-tracked.
Therefore, instead of having a review that looks at and ensures proper oversight of these projects, we will get this fast-tracking.
I am going to say a few words about the environment as well. At least a third of Bill C-38 is devoted to environmental deregulation. The government is doing everything it said it would do, and more.
Ms. Wai Young (Vancouver South, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to rise in the House today to speak in support of Canada's economic action plan 2012. I am pleased to be sharing my time today with my hon. colleague, the member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, who I know is a hard-working and effective representative for his constituents.
A year ago today, during a time of immense global economic challenge, Canadians from coast to coast to coast were asked to make a choice about who would lead them on a path toward jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. On May 2, 2011, they made that choice. They chose our Prime Minister and this government to lead and chart Canada's path.
Canada's economic action plan 2012 is a forward looking, dynamic and exciting plan to increase Canada's competitiveness in a swiftly changing global economy to create jobs for today and those as yet unimagined, to open doors to stable growth and long-term prosperity, all of this while keeping taxes low and returning Canada to balanced budgets over the medium term.
Budget 2012 takes significant steps to encourage entrepreneurship, innovation and world-class research. Budget 2012 improves conditions for business investments and investments in training. Budget 2012 provides for needed infrastructure and vital social programs and services and is there for Canadians.
I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the residents of Vancouver South, to congratulate our Prime Minister and our Minister of Finance on the careful and considerate measures in the budget. I am excited by what this budget means for Canada. My neighbours, friends and colleagues are also excited about what this budget provides for our province, our communities and our families.
British Columbia is a province of immense potential. We have abundant natural and energy resources. We are culturally diverse and blessed with the potential of an educated and innovative workforce. Through our ports, roads, rail lines and airports, we are the gateway to the Asia Pacific. B.C. is in many ways vital to Canada's future, and Canada's economic action plan makes that future even brighter.
For British Columbians, the budget would increase access to support for business innovation by creating the western innovation program, or WINN, a new program that would provide financial support to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises in western Canada. This is exciting news for entrepreneurs and the many new and inventive projects on which they are working. This new program will spur innovation and create jobs for the future.
The people of British Columbia are also excited to note the government's commitment to responsible resource development in the budget. The government is taking steps to modernize the regulatory system for project reviews. By streamlining the review process for major economic projects, projects can proceed in a timely fashion, while still protecting the environment. The realization of one project one review is welcome.
The government, through this budget, has renewed its commitment to the major projects management office initiative by proposing $54 million over two years to continue to support effective project approvals. Through this initiative, the approvals process for major natural resource projects will become more effective, as the average review will occur within two years instead of the archaic and project killing process currently in place taking 4, 7 or 14 years.
However, the budget is not just about moving projects; it is about effectiveness and balance. This means ensuring that the voices of people who may be affected by potential projects are heard and that the environment is protected. That is why our government is also taking important steps to ensure that the rights and interests of aboriginal peoples are respected and that they benefit from the economic development opportunities. Budget 2012 proposes $13.6 million over two years to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to support consultations with the aboriginal peoples related to projects assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
Furthermore, our government has committed to responsible energy development and to that end will invest $35.7 million over two years to further strengthen Canada's tanker safety regime and ensure that pipelines in Canada are carefully monitored, environmental consequences are understood and emergency response is improved.
Budget 2012 also proposes $13.5 million over two years to the National Energy Board to increase the number of inspections of oil and gas pipelines, from approximately 100 to 150 inspections per year, and double from 3 to 6 the number of annual comprehensive audits to identify issues before incidents even occur.
Members of the House should know that the natural resource sector is of vital significance to British Columbians. It is therefore crucial that we move projects forward in a timely, responsible manner. Undue delays cost money, time, lost opportunity and, most important, jobs. However, what is most important is that the projects can anticipate a consistent approvals process which is conducted in a timely manner, that the rights of our aboriginal ancestors are understood and respected and that our environment is protected and safety regimes strengthened.
Budget 2012 accomplishes all of this as it strives to update Canada's regulatory systems and processes, while balancing Canada's economic and environmental needs.
Canadians and British Columbians are also excited to see our government take direct action to create jobs. That is why, since 2006, the government has placed a strong emphasis on access to skills training, support for post-secondary education, building a fast and flexible economic immigration system and developing untapped potential in the labour market.
Budget 2012 builds on this foundational work with an enhanced labour market focus and a number of targeted investments that will help respond to current labour market needs and challenges and meets longer-term labour market needs as well. The government will introduce measures to streamline processes and increase funding to better integrate and enable access for certain under-represented groups in the labour force, including immigrants, persons with special needs, youth, aboriginal peoples and older Canadians.
As an example, for young Canadians our government has committed to enhancing the youth employment strategy by investing $50 million over two years to assist more young people to gain the skills and work experience that they need. In addition to enhanced skills, this funding will also help to connect these young people with jobs in areas with skills shortages.
In addition to measures for under-represented groups, our government has also made a commitment to create an advisory council to increase the participation of women on corporate boards. With leaders from the private and public sectors, this council will link organizations to a network of skilled and experienced women and empower them to step into leadership roles and participate at the highest levels of all Canadian sectors.
Furthermore, we are taking important action to create jobs by extending the hiring credit for small business for an additional year. Almost 650,000 Canadian businesses are eligible for this credit. In my province, this is important, as small and medium-sized enterprises in B.C. are thriving and account for over 38% of the total value of goods exported from B.C., a value of $29.3 billion in 2010.
I have consulted with small business owners in my constituency and they are unanimous in their support for this action. They know the difference it will make for their businesses and for those whom they will be able to hire. They know that for every job that is created, there is a positive ripple effect for businesses, families and for our communities.
It is clear that budget 2012 is excellent news for Canadians and British Columbians. As I have already outlined, the comprehensive measures it contains will grow our economy, create jobs and prosperity, but budget 2012 also provides a stable framework for federal and provincial programs.
Canadians and British Columbians have come to depend on provincially administered services like education and health care. During the last election, our Prime Minister committed to protecting these important programs by not cutting and, in fact, increasing federal transfer payments to the provinces. Unlike the former government, our government is balancing the need for economic growth with strong programs.
For British Columbia, major transfer will total over $5.6 billion in 2012-13. This long-term, stable and increased support helps ensure that British Columbia has the resources required to provide essential public services and contributes to shared national objectives, including health care, post-secondary education and other key components of Canada's social programs. The federal government will contribute over $4 billion through the Canada health transfer, an increase of more than $1.2 billion since 2005-06, and almost $1.6 billion through the Canada social transfer, an increase of $393 million since 2005-06.
British Columbia will also benefit from continued direct targeted support in 2012-13, including $67 million for labour market training and $33 million for the wait times reduction fund. This is all significant support for British Columbians and the people of Vancouver South. I understand their enthusiasm and echo their appreciation of the commitment from our federal government to our province—
Mr. Mark Strahl (Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vancouver South for splitting her time with me. It is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak in favour of our government's economic action plan. Allow me to start by quoting just one of the many positive assessments of our recent budget.
David Frum of the National Post wrote that under this Prime Minister, “...Canada can fairly claim to be the best-governed country among advanced democracies in the world” and that the recent “federal budget locks up Canada’s lead”. He explained that the world's major economies share a common economic problem. How do we nurture a fragile economic recovery while returning to a balanced budget?
In the United Kingdom we see the danger of moving too quickly: the economic recovery falters. In the United States we see the danger of moving too slowly: dangerous debt levels and the loss of the country's AAA credit rating. Canada has the pace just right. We are on track to balance the budget in the medium term. The Canadian economy continues to grow. In fact, Canada's economy has expanded in nine out of the last ten quarters. Since July 2009, the Canadian economy has created nearly 700,000 net new jobs, the strongest job growth record in the G7.
Contrary to the assertions by the members opposite, these employment gains have been in high quality jobs, with 90% in full-time positions, and over three-quarters in high-wage industries and in the private sector. For the first time in more than three decades Canada's unemployment rate is well below that of the United States.
Among major industrialized countries Canada has an enviable economic record. The world has taken notice. The World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world for the fourth consecutive year. Forbes magazine ranked Canada number one in the world for business to grow and create jobs. Our economy outperforms our major trading partners. Canada is well ahead of other G7 countries in returning to balanced budgets. The International Monetary Fund projects that by 2016, Canada's total debt-to-GDP ratio will remain at about one-third of the G7 average and more than 20 percentage points below that of Germany, the G7 country with the next lowest ratio.
This afternoon I will speak to three reasons why I believe MPs should support our economic action plan.
First, the economic action plan continues our focus on creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
Second, our action plan will ensure Canada's social programs are sustainable in the long term so that they will be there for future generations when we need them.
Third, we will return Canada to balanced budgets by achieving fair, balanced and moderate savings.
Our action plan proposes a number of measures to create jobs and opportunities for Canadians. I will focus on one measure, our responsible resource development initiative. Here are some important facts. In 2010, natural resource sectors employed over 760,000 workers. In the next 10 years, new investments of more than $500 billion are planned across Canada. The problem is that those who wish to invest in our country have been facing an increasingly complicated and cumbersome set of rules that add costs, delay projects and kill jobs.
In my home province of British Columbia, in the government's 2010 Speech from the Throne, it was noted that some $3 billion in provincially approved projects were “stranded in the mire of federal process and delay.” The B.C. Minister of Finance, Kevin Falcon said, “We have many projects on the table today that are in the billions of dollars that could have important ramifications for jobs and employment and revenues.”
There are numerous examples of economic opportunities missed and jobs lost due to needless bureaucratic duplication and red tape. I will provide one such example. There is a proposal to develop a 396 megawatt offshore wind energy project in Haida Gwaii in British Columbia. The proponent estimates that the project would have a capital investment of $1.6 billion and would create up to 200 construction jobs. The federal decision to approve the process came 16 months after the provincial decision.
Our action plan 2012 proposes to remove these impediments that are unnecessarily delaying responsible resource development and costing Canadians jobs.
The Conservative government would focus on four major areas to streamline the review process for major economic projects. We would make the review process for major projects more predictable and timely, we would reduce duplication and regulatory burden, we would strengthen environmental protection, which is very important to note, and in British Columbia, as across the rest of the country, it is very important that we would enhance our consultation with first nations people.
As has already been established, Canada's financial situation, compared to other advanced democracies in the world, is enviable. Our government is not content to rest on our laurels and ignore the challenges that will face Canada in the coming decades. Our action plan is proposing necessary changes to our retirement system to ensure that it will be there for all Canadians.
Here is the challenge that we will be facing in the not too distant future. In the 1970s, there were seven workers for every one person over the age of 65 collecting old age security. Today, there are four workers for every senior collecting OAS, and in 20 years the number will be only two. In addition, in 1970 life expectancy was age 69 for men and 76 for women. Today it is 79 for men and 83 for women. At the same time, Canada's birth rate is falling. Given these demographic changes and realities, the cost of the old age security system will grow from $38 billion in 2011 to $108 billion in 2030. This program is funded out of general revenue every year and this increase is simply unsustainable.
Our action plan 2012 would put the OAS program on a sustainable path by proposing legislation to raise the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS benefits gradually. The phase-in period would begin in April 2023 and it would not be fully implemented until January 2029. Let me be very clear. These proposals would not impact those currently collecting benefits or those nearing retirement. An 11-year notification period followed by a six-year phase-in period would ensure that individuals have significant advance notification to plan their retirement and make necessary adjustments.
At least 34 other countries are increasing the age of eligibility for their programs. They all realize that they need to ensure the sustainability of those programs for future generations. Our actions would ensure that OAS remains strong and is there for future generations when they need it and is available for all seniors today who are currently receiving the benefits.
Finally, our action plan 2012 would keep Canada on track to a balanced budget over the medium term. We would not raise taxes. Doing so kills jobs. We would not cut transfers to individuals, nor would we cut transfers to other levels of government for health care, education and social services, as was done by previous governments. Our government would return to balanced budgets while continuing sustainable increases in transfers for health, education and social programs. Federal transfers to my home province of British Columbia would total over $5.6 billion in 2012-13. This represents a 23% increase, over $1 billion more, than the province received from the former Liberal government.
Canada is a very blessed country. Due to the leadership of our Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, our country has avoided the worst of the global economic storm and is on a sound financial footing. The measures I have discussed today—responsible resource development, long-term sustainability of our social programs and modest cost savings to return to a balanced budget—are part of our action plan that will create jobs, economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians.
I would ask all hon. members to join with our government and support economic action plan 2012.
Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address Bill C-38 on behalf of my constituents in Mount Royal.
While my constituents might understandably assume that the bill relates to the budget, in fact this 400-plus-page omnibus bill actually has very little to do with the budget. Many of the proposals therein have particularly deleterious consequences for the environment. Accordingly, I will be splitting my time with our environment critic, the hon. member for Etobicoke North.
A related problem is that while this budget implementation bill is supposed to flow from the budget speech, which itself is not only a financial statement but a statement of values and a reflection of priorities, this budget, in its reflection of priorities, does not note or even utter the words “social justice”. It does not note or even speak of “fairness” or “equality”. It does not note or even reference the Charter whose 30th anniversary we celebrate this year, nor does it reference or note anywhere the word “humanitarian”.
While the budget speech did outline certain measures that we see legislated in Bill C-38, this budget implementation omnibus bill goes above and beyond anything we have seen and beyond any of the enabling authority of the budget itself.
In its 400-plus pages, there are amendments to more than 60 statutes. It covers everything from fisheries to nuclear safety, from territorial borrowing limits to air transport. It is an enormous hodgepodge, bundling together legislation not unlike Bill C-10 that does not allow for the necessary differentiated parliamentary discussion and debate, let alone the necessary oversight of the legislation. It imbues the executive with arbitrary authority to the exclusion of Parliament, thereby serving as a standing abuse to the canons of good governance, transparency and accountability. Indeed, this alone should be cause for its defeat.
As Andrew Coyne has put it, and I quote, “The scale and scope is on a level not previously seen, or tolerated”. He notes that this bill makes “a mockery of the confidence convention” and that there is no “common thread” or “overarching principle” between the legislative items therein, let alone its standing contempt for Parliament in matters of process and procedure.
Moreover, and again on the crucial issues of parliamentary process and procedure, which are principled concerns, while the bundling together of disparate pieces of omnibus legislation as a confidence bill is problematic enough on its own, this bill is slated to go to the finance committee in its entirety. Accordingly, the review of the environmental regulations therein, which overhaul, weaken and undermine the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and environmental protection as a whole, will thus not be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, where it belongs. The provisions that abolish the First Nations Statistical Institute and make changes to the First Nations Land Management Act will not be the subject of examination and study by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, where it belongs. I can go on with numerous examples in this regard.
If circumventing proper and thorough parliamentary review in committee was not enough, the government, as we saw earlier, has invoked time allocation to limit the amount of time and discussion on this bill.
I am not suggesting that invoking time allocation, as the government has done again and again, or the use of an omnibus vehicle, as has occurred with Bill C-10, are against the legislative rules. What I am suggesting, as have many commentators, is that its use here and now on this particular omnibus bill is unnecessary, prejudicial, suprisingly undemocratic, in effect, unparliamentary and otherwise unsubstantiated and unwarranted.
Surely if Parliament had to debate something like going to war, it would be easy to see why we might time-allocate to ensure we get to the most pressing debate first, or if there were court decisions that affected many statutes, we might easily welcome an omnibus bill that would make the same change to many statues. What is so disconcerting with Bill C-38 is that the government need not be in a rush. There is no coherent or compelling theme to the omnibus proposals contained in the bill.
The opposition is not opposed to some of what is in Bill C-38. For example, the proposed changes to the custom and tariff rules sound reasonable. What we are opposed to is the take it or leave it, one size fits all omnibus approach to legislating that does not allow the necessary differentiated and deliberative oversight or review, or review by the particular and appropriate parliamentary committees. The government and the opposition can co-operate if the government would simply respect the opposition and be responsive in debate.
Again, I will remind my colleague that the government assumes that its legislation in every instance is perfect and, in so doing, believes there are no amendments that need even be tendered let alone adopted. This occurred in the case of Bill C-10 when, in response to amendments I introduced at the time, the government summarily rejected them because they came from the opposition, it seemed. It reintroduced the amendments on its own, a matter that could have been avoided, as the Speaker then noted in terms of the procedural complications that then ensued. Moreover, while I will be voting against this bill in large part because of the way it was introduced and how it is being pushed through Parliament, in terms of matters of process and its abuse, I will use my remaining time to outline some of my objections to the substance of the bill. Regrettably, time is limited and I therefore cannot address every flaw of this legislation.
First, Bill C-38 marginalizes low-income seniors by increasing the qualifying age for OAS from 65 to 67. While the government claims this change is necessary, and it did so just now in debate, for the sustainability of OAS, this contradicts Canada's chief actuarial officer and the PBO, who agree that the change is unsound and unnecessary as the current situation and system is sufficiently sustainable.
Second, the government proposes to close the files of federal skilled workers who applied prior to 2008, without any chance on their part to review or appeal this decision. It is not surprising that some have announced plans to take the government to court over this as a matter of fundamental fairness and due process. Indeed, all who apply to Canada should have their applications judged on their merits, not an arbitrary deadline set by the minister and applied in a retroactive fashion.
Third, cuts are being made to various food inspection agencies. These agencies keep Canadians safe and secure while ensuring the food chain is not contaminated. The government has yet to explain how these cuts would not prejudice the health and safety of Canadians or how food safety would be maintained in the absence of complete and adequate funding.
Fourth, the true nature of public service cuts in this bill still remains unknown. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that in addition to the 19,200 positions being eliminated in budget 2012, there will be a further 6,300 jobs cut as a result of the government's previous strategic reviews that have yet to be implemented, and a further 9,000 cuts as a result of the government's budget operating freeze. That would create a total of 34,500 federal public service job cuts associated with this budget cycle alone. As well, the Parliamentary Budget Officer agrees that the government's figure of 19,200 public service jobs being cut does not represent the full number. He said, “...additional job losses will be required. ...we're actually talking about cuts on top of cuts”.
I raise this in particular to note that we are being asked to rubber-stamp the government's agenda without the necessary information, in a manner that precludes the necessary oversight and review and when it is clear that there are inconsistencies with what the government is saying and what independent experts assert. Parliamentarians must be afforded the facts and figures upon which they are being forced to pronounce, as was the case in Bill C-10. We did not receive it then and we are not receiving it now. This, in effect, amounts to a kind of standing contempt of Parliament.
Fifth, and my colleague from Etobicoke North will speak further to this in a moment, this bill rewrites Canada's laws on environmental assessment and repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, weakening our environmental regulations but with consequences far beyond this.
In an email just this morning, a constituent wrote this. Considering that when environmental damage is caused, it has a domino effect on our food and water and thus affects Canadians' health and livelihood, these issues are actually also human rights issues. We have the right to safe clean water, safe accessible food and the myriad of other essential benefits we get from a properly functioning ecosystem.
Sixth, we have the elimination of a series of libraries and archives throughout different departments as part of the latest budget cuts, including the Canadian Council of Archives, which may close as soon as this Friday. This would affect historians, researchers, the media, Parliament and the public who deserve to have information preserved in addition to access to this information.
While I do not have time to elaborate on what this bill includes, I will close with a note about what is not in this bill. This bill does not address that which must be addressed. First and foremost is job creation, not just loss of jobs. Nor does it address the issues that matter most to my constituents in terms of social justice, access to justice and the promotion and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.
Accordingly, and with this I close, whether it is marginalizing low-income seniors by increasing the qualifying age for OAS or cutting funds to regional development programs that create jobs or not announcing any new funding for affordable housing when the existing program funds are set to expire soon, this budget is simply wrong-headed, misguided, prejudicial and disconnected from the needs of Canadians and from my constituents.
In short, Bill C-38 marks a sad chapter in Canadian parliamentary history.
Ms. Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, this is a profoundly sad time for Canada. The government is gutting 50 years of environmental oversight and threatening the health and safety of Canadians, our communities, our economy and our livelihoods.
We need to be very clear that when the government came to power it inherited a legacy of balanced budgets but soon plunged us into deficit before the recession ever hit. It is absolutely negligent and shameful that the government would gut environmental safeguards to fast track development rather than promote sustainable development, development that meets the needs of today without compromising those of the future.
The government did not campaign in the last election on gutting environmental protection. Canadians should, therefore, rise up, have their voices heard and stop the Prime Minister's destruction of laws that protect the environment and the health and safety of Canadians. In fact, Maurice Strong, a prominent Canadian who spearheaded the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, just this week urged people who are concerned about the future of the environment to do an end run around the federal government. He urged grassroots groups to mobilize and make full use of social media, saying that there was still some time to bring the pressure of people power.
Instead of understanding the gravity of the situation and standing up for the environment, the Conservative government returns to tired talking points and trying to score political points by attacking the former Liberal leader, saying that the Liberals took no action on climate change, when it knows that is absolutely false. The Liberals implemented project green, which would have taken us 80% of the way to meeting our Kyoto targets. The Conservatives killed project green, reduced our greenhouse gas emissions target by an astonishing 90%, walked away from Kyoto, having just repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and continue to ignore the fact that failing to take action on climate change will cost Canadians $21 billion to $43 billion annually by 2050.
Maurice Strong says that the government may be totally negative when it comes to being a constructive force in mitigating climate change. For example, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment continues to rail against Kyoto. Is she aware, however, that her own minister has, for the second time, said that Kyoto was a good idea in its time? He first said it to The Huffington Post and has now said it to the BBC.
Norway's former prime minister, former chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development and former director general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, recently said that Canada was moving backward on the issue of climate change and warned Canada not to be naive on the issue. She recently told delegates in Canada that despite the weaknesses of the Kyoto protocol, the world could not afford to push it aside without an alternative, as emissions are continually rising. When questioned about the link between human activity and climate change, she said, “Politicians and others that question the science, that’s not the right thing to do. We have to base ourselves on evidence”.
While the Conservative government claims a balanced approach to protecting the environment and promoting economic growth, when has the parliamentary secretary or the minister actually ever stood up for the environment? Was it through cuts to Environment Canada, cuts to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency or cuts to ozone monitoring? The list of cuts goes on and on.
Canadians should not be fooled by mere snippets of environmental protection but should in fact pay attention to the government's reducing budgets at Environment Canada and other investments on environmental protection and research by hundreds of millions of dollars while maintaining several tax incentives for the oil and gas sector that the Minister of Finance's department recommended eliminating in a secret memo.
After we vote against this kitchen sink budget, a budget that devotes 150 pages of a 400-page budget to environmental gutting, the Conservative government will stand up and say that the opposition voted against some good things for the environment. However, the government gives us absolutely no choice, as we simply cannot vote for the wholesale destruction of environmental legislation and 50 years of safeguards.
If the parliamentary secretary, the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Natural Resources really believe that Bill C-38, the kitchen sink bill, is good for the environment, they should have the courage to hive off the sections on environmental protection and send them to the relevant committees for clause by clause study under public scrutiny, and end their affront to democracy.
I have a list of cuts to Environment Canada and just some of the changes on the environment to be found in Bill C-38. There are cuts of 200 positions at Environment Canada. Last summer the government announced cuts of 700 positions and a 43% cut to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. There are cuts to research and monitoring initiatives, air pollution, industrial emissions, water quality, waste water and partnerships for a greener economy, cuts of $3.8 million for emergency disaster response, and consolidating the unit that responds to oil spill emergencies in central Canada, namely Gatineau and Montreal, far from where emergencies, including those involving diluted bitumen, might occur on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and along the proposed route of the northern gateway pipeline project.
The government has repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. It has repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which allows the federal government to avoid environmental reviews of many potentially harmful projects and to do less comprehensive reviews where they still occur.
Canada's environment commissioner says that the changes are among the most significant policy development in 30 or 40 years and that there will be a significant narrowing of public participation.
While the Minister of Natural Resources complains:
||...our inefficient, duplicative and unpredictable regulatory system is an impediment. It is complex, slow-moving and wasteful. It subjects major projects to unpredictable and potentially endless delays.
Premier Jean Charest says:
|| In Quebec, we've very well mastered the ability of doing joint assessments. ... I have learned, through my experiences, that trying to short circuit to reduce the process will only make it longer, and it is better to have a rigorous, solid process. It gives a better outcome, and for those who are promoting projects, it will give them more predictability than if not.
There are more changes: the weakening of several environmental laws, including species at risk and water; the near-elimination of fish habitat in the Fisheries Act, putting species from coast to coast to coast at increased risk of habitat flaws and population decline; the authority of the federal cabinet to approve new pipeline projects above the National Energy Board; and the elimination of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the independent think tank with a direct mandate from Parliament. The minister has never said what will replace it. The head of NRT does not know either, as what it does is unique. As well, we see the silencing of government critics through changes to the Canada Revenue Agency and the attempts to seize control of the university research agenda.
The government should be able to stand on its own merits. It should be able to withstand criticism. Instead of making its arguments, it is just looking to eliminate dissent.
For decades, Canadians have depended on the federal government to safeguard our families and nature from pollution, toxic contamination and other environmental problems through a safety net of environmental laws. This bill shreds this environmental safety net to fast-track development at the expense of all Canadians.
Instead, the government could have implemented my Motions Nos. 322, 323 and 325, which focused on Canada's commitment to sustainable development, recognizing that it was not a choice between saving the economy and the environment and, therefore, working with the provinces, territories and stakeholders to develop a green economy strategy and a national sustainable energy strategy to build the jobs of the future for our communities and for Canada.
When we compromise the air, water, soil and a variety of life, we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present.
Ms. Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Burlington.
I am proud to rise today in support of our Conservative government's 2011 budget plan. This plan is a cornerstone of our continuing unwavering commitment to provide Canadians with a stable economic road map within a thoughtful, comprehensive economic action plan.
The budget showcases a long-term prosperity vision for Canada through reasonable, pragmatic measures designed to maintain our enviable economic record and demonstrate our faith in the vibrant Canadian spirit, forged out of hard work, faith, common enterprise, ingenuity and compassion.
What is our focus? What is our agenda? Our focus, our agenda, is a stable stewardship of our economy to maintain and increase our prospects for success in the short term, in the medium term and in the long term. It is to foster a future Canada that works efficiently for us now and for our children and grandchildren, a Canada that is welcoming and productive and allows all Canadians the opportunity to live full and rewarding lives, a Canada that is prosperous enough that we can continue to support those of us in need and those around the world who need a hand up.
All of these noble ambitions require a foundational economic and financial strength for which our economic action plan sets a solid framework.
We cannot foretell all that is ahead of us. We cannot foretell, most assuredly, the actions and consequences of the decisions of other countries with whom we are interdependent in a global economic balance, but we can do our part and more within our sovereign borders to ensure that we are in a position to weather the storms that may come. We can ensure that we are flexible enough to deal with contingencies in an intelligent and caring manner and solid enough to plan ahead, so that a prosperous future does not have to include taking Draconian overnight steps because we have no choice but to raise taxes and overburden Canadian families and businesses.
It supports a future built on bold ambition that has at its core the certain belief that Canadians are capable of all things: of worthy endeavour in the arts and in business, of global competitiveness, of innovation that will amaze us and save lives, of all the stuff that dreams are made of.
We will improve Canada's labour market through employment programs and skills training for young Canadians, older workers, Canadians with disabilities and first nations; building a fast and flexible economic immigration system that responds to labour market demands; improving the employment insurance program; and better integrating high-quality researchers in the labour market. We will boost economic growth and job creation through supporting and fostering innovation, investment, education and skills.
How will we do this? Among the many initiatives outlined in the budget, I would like to highlight a few.
We will invest over $1 billion to support science and technology and we will provide $500 million to encourage innovative start-up companies.
Our government will ensure responsible resource development by streamlining the review process, something provincial and territorial governments and industry have been requesting for a long time. This streamlining will ensure reasonable timelines and clarity around the process requirements without compromising, and in fact strengthening, environmental oversight and while meeting strong federal standards.
We will expand free trade, which our Prime Minister and cabinet have been hard at work promoting.
The hiring credit for small business will be extended, something that will particularly help many in my riding.
The budget will provide $150 million over two years for the new community infrastructure improvement fund, $5.2 billion over 11 years to renew the Canadian Coast Guard, a vital resource in our coastal communities, and $275 million over three years to support first nations education and schools.
Specific programs will be aimed at attracting skilled immigrants to match our country's economic needs.
Our government will change our old age security delivery to ensure that younger workers today will also have this social program available when they are older, and we will phase in a proactive enrolment regime for both OAS and GIS, which will be warmly welcomed by the elderly and their caregivers.
We are also promoting more active lifestyles for all ages and enhancing the victims fund to continue our quest to better acknowledge the voices of victims in our federal justice and corrections system.
To my mind, the great news from this 2011 budget is that we will achieve all of these improvements without raising taxes and without slashing transfers to health, education or support for seniors.
In fact, we Conservatives have cut taxes over 140 times since forming government. From cutting tax rates and increasing tax credits to making our tax reporting system more reasonable and supporting families with both able-bodied and disabled members, we have provided savings for a typical Canadian family of over $3,100 per year.
Due in part to our government's low-tax approach, a stark contrast to the NDP and Liberals' higher-tax programs and philosophies, and the amazing fact, verified by the International Monetary Fund, that our net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7, Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in the world—let me repeat that: number one in the world—for businesses to grow and create jobs.
Canadians do not need the federal government to hold their hands every step of the way, as we are a nation forged on resiliency and a desire for freedom, but Canadians do need us to clear a path. If that path can be well defined and well lit, all the better, but the fact that such a pathway exists is all that some Canadians need to move forward.
We need to show ourselves as partners of Canadian enterprise and achievement, not as an extra burden. Everyone must contribute, of course, but confidence to achieve and to have the ability to help others whose time has not yet come often requires the incentive that a prudent, caring government can provide.
This is such a budget. This is such a time. This is Canada's century. We are being noticed as never before around the world. We are being recognized as never before as leaders out of the despair and confusion of runaway debt. We are the true north, strong and free, and I am proud to be a part of it, proud of who we are and who we intend to be.
Mr. Mike Wallace (Burlington, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the budget bill. I want to thank the member for Delta—Richmond East for sharing her time with me today.
We are dealing with a budget implementation bill. As members know, the budget is normally broken into two bills: one in the spring and one in the fall. We did not get a chance to talk about the budget in general because the NDP filibustered when we first introduced it, which took up all of the time.
I will talk about a few other things that are in the bill and put on the record how I feel about them. I will start with the jobs, balanced budget and future prosperity aspects of the bill. The budget, the bill, the plan is about this.
People ask me all the time what the major issue is that I hear about in Burlington. The major issue in my riding is that we need to get back to balanced books at the federal level. Our government has to get rid of the deficit spending that we did during the recession. That is what we are doing with the budget. That is why we need to proceed with what we are doing. The budget brings us back to what we promised.
I know it is hard for the opposition members to believe that we can actually promise to do something and then deliver it in our budget and policies. It is very difficult for them to understand that. During the election we committed to bringing back balanced books by 2015, and this budget puts us on the road to do that.
The Minister of Finance has been clear in the House that the budget will get us back and end the deficit spending we have had to do to overcome the worldwide recession. We are coming out better than any other country in the world. Those members know it, the public knows it and the people in Burlington know it. They are telling me that we need to get back to balanced books, and that is what we are doing. It is an election commitment.
Part of that commitment, and I make no apologies for it, is that we need to reduce some of the federal government spending, and that is about a $5.5 billion reduction. That sounds like a lot of money, but let us look at the whole picture.
If people follow along and are able to figure it out, the government spends $260 billion. We spend about $40 billion to $45 billion on interest charges on debt, which will still be there. That is why we have to get back to balanced books: so that we can start paying down debt in the way we were doing before the recession. We need to get that under control.
We transfer a whole bunch of money to the provinces for health care and social services, which are all important things. It is also an important support for the provinces. We did make changes to the equalization payments, as was mentioned earlier. We are committed to providing the provinces the money that we committed to provide. This is not like what happened in the past when we had deficits. What did the government of the day do? It cut its spending and assistance to its provincial partners. In this budget and in the campaign, we refused to do that. We said we would do it on our own.
That leaves us about $80 billion of federal spending over which we have control. Therefore, we are looking at about $5.2 billion and a few percentage points. If we cannot find a few percentage points to reduce the cost of government out of $80 billion, we are doing something wrong. Yes, it means that the public service has to come to the table with it.
We are also looking at programs and at what we are doing right. When we do a program evaluation, we look at what its mandate is and whether it has fulfilled that mandate. Is it over, or do we need to continue to fund it?
The ministers did not get together one night and decide on this. They had the departments come to them with suggestions of what was feasible, what could be done and what was reasonable. That is what we are implementing through the budget.
There are some great things in the budget, and members can ask me questions about what is in the implementation bill. I am happy to answer, but there are a few things for my riding of Burlington that I would like to highlight.
For example, we are spending $1.1 billion in research and development, including improvements to the IRAP program, basically doubling the money. This is a jobs budget.
We have heard the opposition ask us how we will create jobs. We will create jobs through innovation and research—not jobs necessarily for today, but jobs that will be there tomorrow if we commercialize research and development, if we take a leadership role on the industrial level and deliver not just to Canadians but around the world. Our country, like many others, is a trading country. That is why we need free trade agreements. That is why we are working so hard on them.
I am the co-chair of the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group. I have some relationship with Japan. Japan's government is coming to the realization that it needs partners, that it cannot do it all on its own and that it actually needs free trade agreements. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, we started discussions with Japan. We are moving forward. We already know as a country and as a government that we need to be traders in the global marketplace or we will get left behind. We deal with that in the budget.
Today, in this part of the implementation of the budget, there is discussion about what will do on the environmental side. I want people to read the legislation. It talks about substitution. It does not talk about elimination. If there is an environmental assessment at the federal level and another one at the provincial level, we can substitute one for the other, but they have to be at least equal. For those who do not know, most federal EAs have more restrictions and layers than provincial ones. Therefore, if the province takes it over, it has to meet the environmental assessment standards at the federal level. At the end of the day, the federal minister will make the final decision on it. All it is doing is reducing the layers of assessments.
When I was a municipal councillor, environmental assessments could be bumped up to the province. It delayed many projects, including one in my own ward. There were minor changes being made to save the bank of a creek that was running behind the homes of people. One person did not like how the environmental assessment worked out and how the problem was to be fixed, so it was bumped up to the provincial level. It took months and months to get that resolved. The bank deteriorated but was finally fixed.
The environmental assessment changes that we are making do not eliminate the requirements of assessment. However, why have two processes when there can be one? Why are people concerned about the timing? I would be surprised, and that is a pleasant word, if anyone could find new information after two years of study on a project. It is taking two years for environmental assessments to be completed. It is not like we are eliminating them. Just because an EA takes two years does not mean it will be approved. There is no automatic approval. It does not say that anywhere. It is a substitution, so instead of having the province do it and having it bumped up to the federal government to do it, we would be using the same criteria to do it once and get all the facts on the table. There is nothing wrong with those implementing the environmental assessment to look at the people who will have input into it and ensure they have professional experience and knowledge to add value.
There was a question from the previous speaker about the role of the aboriginal community. The aboriginal community is noted in our plan. We will be proactive in communicating with those individuals who will be directly affected, including the aboriginal communities.
On a personal note, there are some other changes in the budget implementation bill. As someone who has been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, nothing to be too worried about, there are some changes in the bill that will affect those who test their blood sugar every day.
As someone who thought he was very healthy and had no issues, I would urge everyone to ensure they see their doctor on a regular basis. Issues like type 2 diabetes, if we do not get them early, will be a big burden on the health care system, not today but in the future.
I thank the government for the changes in the budget.
Ms. Hélène LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, journalists at Le Devoir
are calling this bill a “mammoth”. I would go even further and say that it is a horse, it is an airplane, it is a brick. We can call it all sorts of things.
It is illegal for companies or individuals to use computer viruses—so-called Trojan horses—to install software on computers when users want nothing to do with it. This is exactly what the Conservative government has decided to do. It has transformed its budget implementation bill into a Trojan horse and opened up the Canadian telecommunications market to foreign companies while Canadians are worrying about their old age security and their shattered retirement dreams.
Quite frankly, the government has buried enough legislation in Bill C-38 to block a whole server.
Why has the industry minister decided to bury his amendments to the Telecommunications Act in the budget implementation bill rather than sending them to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology?
In March, the government announced rules for an auction that would have a significant impact on this country's digital future and its economy. We had a unique opportunity to promote competition in the wireless telecommunications market and ensure that all Canadians, including those living in remote regions, can participate in the digital economy of the 21st century. The government missed the mark.
Auctions for the radio frequencies used by our old analog televisions will allow the telecommunications companies that buy them to set up next generation wireless networks.
The promise made to the people of LaSalle—Émard and every other Canadian was that they will soon have access to much faster wireless networks. Far too many Canadians who live in remote regions still do not have access to high-speed Internet. For them, we had the opportunity to increase access to broadband Internet and to fully include them in the digital economy. The government had the opportunity to bridge the ever-growing digital gap that is currently dividing Canada in two: on the one hand, urban Canada, which is connected to high-speed wireless networks, and on the other hand, the regions, which are connected, but at speeds that are much slower than those available elsewhere in our country.
The promise was that we could correct the imbalance between urban and rural areas and promote competition in the industry in order to lower costs for consumers. The Government of Canada failed to keep that promise.
The proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Act contained in Bill C-38 will allow foreign telecommunications companies to operate in Canada if they have less than a 10% share of the Canadian market. These foreign companies will not be able to increase their share of the Canadian market through acquisitions, that is by purchasing rival companies, something that Canadian companies can do.
We therefore find ourselves in a situation where telecommunications companies in Canada will compete under rules that do not apply equally to everyone. Canadian companies will have one set of rules; foreign companies will have another. Here in Canada, we are used to arguing about hockey or soccer games, where everyone plays by the same rules. However, that is not the approach used by this government. We already knew that.
Many Canadian telecommunications companies have concerns about these developments. Ironically, the company that stood to gain the most from these changes immediately responded that it would boycott the auction.
The government was not transparent with Canadians, who have the same questions we do.
Will the government stand by its decision to open only part of the Canadian market to foreign companies? Are these changes simply the first step in a process that goes much further?
Does the government plan to continue to gradually lift restrictions on foreign companies' participation in the Canadian telecommunications market?
Will this government try to take advantage of the fact that it has created a two-tiered market with different rules for different players in order to completely open the Canadian telecommunications market to foreign competition?
The reality is that we have no way of knowing. Canadian are still waiting for the Minister of Industry to reveal his strategy for the digital economy. An initiative was launched two years ago, almost to the day. Then it was radio silence. The government's approach is hard to follow. It is behaving like a CEO without a business plan. It decides to hire staff without knowing what positions need to be filled. It launches a new product without knowing if it has any clients or if people are even interested in the product.
It is as though the government decided to sell off its most beautiful beachfront property without telling shareholders whether it wants contractors to build condos, houses, apartments, hotels or businesses. CEOs who do not have a business plan do not get very far, as we know.
The fact that the industry minister has decided to push through his amendments to the Telecommunications Act by including them in a budget implementation bill, where they will be all be debated together over a very short period of time and along with a heap of other bills, only adds to the sense that the government is just making things up as it goes along.
Resorting to a catch-all omnibus bill gives the impression that the government is like a tired chess player who is improvising with every move. It is playing a game without having a plan. We feel that the government introduces legislation first and asks questions later.
These amendments to the Telecommunications Act should have gone to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology for in-depth study by parliamentarians from the opposition parties. This is a fundamental breach of democracy.
Is the industry minister afraid that the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology might discover that the changes to the act will not really promote competition in the Canadian wireless market?
Is the government afraid of hearing experts and even some of its own partners say that the proposed changes will not bridge the ever-widening gap between rural Canada and connected Canada?
Is the government afraid of hearing from wireless network operators that are dissatisfied with the auction rules that have been announced?
The lifting of foreign ownership requirements and the piecemeal approach to regulation the government is offering are not going to solve the problem of the digital economy. What Canada needs is a plan, a digital strategy. Canadians have already been waiting too long. We need a comprehensive approach to ensure competitive prices in the telecommunications industry, an approach that takes into account the needs of telecommunications operators, consumers and urban and rural Canadians. Rather than choosing dialogue and involving opposition parties in the legislation process, the government has chosen to ride the Trojan horse to hide changes to the Telecommunications Act from the scrutiny of Parliament and the industry committee. That is undemocratic and unacceptable.
Once again, I urge the industry minister to send the amendments to the Telecommunications Act for study by the appropriate committee and the opposition parties. We have a unique opportunity to bridge the digital divide and build next generation wireless networks to ensure the sustainability of Canada's digital economy, so that no one is left behind.
Let us not squander this important opportunity. Let us work together.
Ms. Mylène Freeman (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to oppose both the form and the substance of Bill C-38.
This bill is a jumble of dangerous legislation rolled up into an omnibus bill. In the time allotted to me, it will be impossible to identify the multitude of problems this bill contains, but I will nonetheless try to address as many of them as possible, because these legislative changes will hit my constituents in d'Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel hard.
Among other things, this bill raises the eligibility age for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits; repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act; weakens the environmental assessment system and the measures to protect fish habitats, to expedite approval of large projects; changes the definition of interested parties, to narrow the scope of public participation in the environmental decision-making process; eliminates the Auditor General’s oversight of a number of agencies; repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Work Act, which will allow employers to circumvent the wage rates set by unions for construction workers hired on projects funded by the federal government; amends the Employment Equity Act so it does not apply to federal contracts, which is a direct attack on women, aboriginal people, persons with a disability and visible minorities; and amends the Seeds Act so that private businesses can then be allowed to perform food inspections.
This bill does a lot of other things, but these aspects in particular are really going to hurt my constituents in Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.
I want to talk in greater detail about the fact that Bill C-38 repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Work Act. That act has protected construction workers who work on federal projects since 1930. It guarantees them reasonable hours and a decent wage. But the government is now attacking these workers and their fair and equitable wages. Without that protection, we will be going back to the standards that were in effect in the 1930s.
As well, the Employment Equity Act will no longer apply to federal contracts. The role of that law is to protect the rights of women, minorities, aboriginal people and persons with a disability. Even with that legislation, those groups continued to suffer discrimination. And now, the government wants to take away what little protection there is.
I very much hope for the day when we live in a world where that act is no longer needed, but that is absolutely not the case. In 2002, in fact, it was recommended that this House strengthen the act, not narrow its reach.
These changes to the rules governing government subcontractors can be based in nothing other than the Conservative ideology that wants to demolish Canadians’ rights by allowing discrimination and unfair wages.
The federal government should be an exemplary employer. How can Canadians trust a government that attacks the rights of workers and its subcontractors when it comes time to protect them from the abuses of faceless megacorporations?
The current government loses on all fronts when it attacks its own employees and does nothing to protect others from brutal layoffs by companies chasing huge profits overseas.
This omnibus bill is not only dangerous for our institutions and for workers, but it also attacks the health and safety of all Canadians. Environmental deregulation and cuts to food safety are similar in their impact and, accordingly, the entire food production chain will be affected.
With environmental deregulation, we will no longer be able to protect our air, our water and our soil. Opening the door to privatizing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will open the door to having seed inspections done by a subcontractor. That means less control and less information for the government, which could always deny knowing anything if things go wrong. This could also apply to food inspection. The government keeps offloading its responsibilities.
Ultimately, this deregulation and whittling away of checks and balances could have an effect on the health of Canadians. What is more, the government is weakening transparency and responsibility within government in the area of health.
This bill is bad for the Canadians in my riding. From Oka to Montpellier, Canadians want environmental regulations that protect them. From Mirabel to Ripon, farmers want to be able to count on the government to have regulations and inspections that are solid, fair and meaningful. From Morin Heights to Thurso, Canadians are fed up with this government, which has shamed us by withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol and is now waging a full-blown war on all the sectors of government that are responsible for providing a healthy environment for all Quebeckers and Canadians.
And just when we thought that the government could not stoop any lower, in the same bill it is attacking pensions by raising the retirement age from 65 to 67. As elected representatives, we cannot reduce the deficit by stealing Canadians' pensions. The OAS and the GIS are crucial to our public system because they help to fight poverty. The Conservatives are stealing two years of Canadians' pensions for reasons that do not make sense. There is no old age security funding crisis in Canada.
The government's most recent actuarial report indicates that the OAS and the GIS accounted for 2.37% of GDP last year, in 2011. This percentage will rise modestly to 3.16% in 2030, but will then fall below the current level to 2.35% of GDP in 2060. Clearly, there is no problem with long-term viability, and yet the Conservatives are trying to fool us by saying that these changes are intended to ensure the long-term viability of the program. However, these programs are efficient and economically sound, and the government's statements are unfounded.
In closing, the Conservatives are claiming that this budget focuses on job creation. In reality, however, a third of this bill is dedicated to scrapping regulations that protect the environment. Moreover, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has indicated that the legislation will result in the loss of 43,000 Canadian jobs. And on top of all that, we are going to have to vote on a bill without having an opportunity to engage in a proper debate on it.
I would like to draw the House's attention to what Hélène Buzzetti wrote in Le Devoir on April 27:
|| Yesterday the Conservative government introduced a mammoth budget implementation bill.... Everything will be examined as quickly as possible by a committee that specializes in finance.
|| Each of these issues could have been dealt with in a separate bill and analyzed by the appropriate parliamentary committee. Instead, the government lumped them all together in one document that will be studied all at once...
A mammoth bill, that is what the media is calling it. I would remind the Conservatives that the mammoth is an extinct species. I hope the members across the floor realize that this omnibus bill should suffer the same fate and die when it comes time to vote.
Mr. Randy Hoback (Prince Albert, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Fredericton.
It is my honour to be here today to speak to the budget and budget implementation. It is something that is actually very easy to speak to, because it makes so much sense and it actually sets Canada up for a future that will be very strong.
We will not raise taxes. We will not be balancing our books on the backs of the provinces. We actually have a game plan that will create a Canada that we will love into the future, a Canada that will be prosperous into the future and a Canada that we all can be proud of.
We will have low taxes, growth and proper prudent fiscal management, which will, as I said, bring about strong economic growth. I see a bright future not just for us sitting here today, but for our kids, our grandkids and our great-grandkids. It will be a great time to be a Canadian, and we should all be proud of it. We should compliment the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of State for Finance on how great a job they have done on the budget.
In the past two years, our government has already cut Canada's temporary planned deficit from the recession in half, a deficit that all members of Parliament agreed was necessary to stimulate the economy through investment in infrastructure. Since then, our economy has created some 700,000 net new jobs, placing Canada in one of the strongest fiscal positions in the G7.
Thanks to the government's strong fiscal management, Canada's budgetary balance will not be reached through the type of harsh fiscal and economic shocks now being implemented in parts of Europe, but through a building of Canada's successes by implementing moderate restraint in government spending. The majority of savings in spending will come from eliminating waste in internal government operations. We will make government leaner and more efficient. By doing this, we will be able to stay on track to balance Canada's budget by 2015.
The economic action plan 2012 will also not cut transfers to the provinces or senior levels of government. We will not balance our books on the backs of seniors and we will not balance our books on the backs of the municipalities or the provinces. We will balance the books through a combination of growth and finding efficiencies within the federal government that are there right now and that we can find with the departments. Unlike the Liberal government, which balanced its books on the backs of seniors and the provinces and created incredibly long wait-lists for medical attention and doctors' treatments, we will actually be increasing the transfers for health care and education. This budget is doing something that the Liberals never could do: it is taking responsibility for its own spending and ensuring that the use of taxpayer money is done in a proper fashion.
My province, Saskatchewan, will receive close to $1.3 billion in transfers in 2012-13. This long-term, growing support helps ensure that Saskatchewan will have the resources required to provide essential public services and contributes to the shared national objectives, including health care, post-secondary education and other key components of Canada's social programs.
Saskatchewan will also benefit from continued direct targeted support in 2012-13. It includes $14 million for labour market training as part of a commitment of $500 million a year in new funding to the provinces and territories, which began in 2008-09, and $8 million for the wait times reduction funds, part of the 10-year plan to strengthen health care across Canada.
We are working to strengthen the financial strength of workers, businesses and families to help create good jobs and long-term prosperity from coast to coast to coast. To help do this, for instance, we will extend by one year the hiring credit for small businesses, a measure we already know works to encourage employers to hire more workers. Furthermore, we will increase our funding for skills training for students, older workers and those Canadians with disabilities.
In Saskatchewan, our unemployment has been staying around that 4% to 5% range. It is actually a province that is doing very well. It is a province that came from an NDP background where we were shipping our kids to Alberta and everywhere else across Canada to get jobs. All of a sudden, we changed to a government that actually knew how to embrace the economy and let business do what business does, which is create jobs. This budget also does that.
When we look at the results in Saskatchewan, with a 4% to 5% unemployment rate, there is growth. We are looking for trades, skills and people. It is such an amazing success story. That is something we want to see continue right across Canada. We can never let the NDP get a foothold here in Ottawa because it would do what it did in Saskatchewan and it would actually break the country.
Another part of our plans for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity includes investing in innovation and world-class research. In response to the Jenkins report, economic action plan 2012 includes substantial funding to help create value-added jobs through innovation. We will better support the National Research Council and the industrial research and development internship program. We are also committed to additional funding to support advanced research at universities and other research institutions. We are making Canada the best place to invest.
We need to ensure that Canada is the place in which businesses want to invest in the long term. In the next 10 years, more than 500 economic projects representing $500 billion in new investments are planned across our country. In Saskatchewan, natural resources, from potash to oil, gold, coal, diamonds and uranium, offer huge potential and create even more jobs and growth.
To reach our country's full economic potential, we will implement reasonable, responsible development and smart regulations for major economic projects, respecting provincial jurisdictions and maintaining the highest standards of environmental protection. We will also streamline the review process for such projects according to the following principles: one project, one review, completed in a clearly defined time period, which will ensure that Canada has the infrastructure we need to move our exports to new markets.
That is very important for the province of Saskatchewan, because we have so many resources that are in the process of being developed. These guys go out, stake their claim, develop a mine and prove that it is financially viable, and then they sit there and wait, and it is not one year, not two years, not three years, not four years: they are waiting five or six years in order to get the environmental process completed, an environmental process that is stacked upon province and federal.
If we look at the situation now, these projects will get completed in two years, or three years at the most. They will have some bankability and know that when they invest big dollars, millions and millions of dollars, it will have a huge impact in ensuring the project is viable and can become a mine. However, what is very important, and something that we have stressed throughout, is that we will not shortchange or short-cheat the environment. We are ensuring that all the environmental requirements are met and we are working with the provinces to ensure those environmental standards are up to a standard that Canadians expect and deserve. We are not taking any shortcuts. Again, we are just getting rid of duplication, waste and bureaucracy.
One thing this government has done very well over the last few years is on international trade, and I congratulate the Minister of International Trade for the work he has done on this file. We will have a low corporate tax rate of around 15%. We have a market already through NAFTA that has roughly 300 million consumers, and then, with the Canadian-European trade agreement that we are working on, we will have another 500 million consumers.
Canada will be the only country in the world that will have market access to not only of the U.S., Mexico and other trading partners that we have agreements with already, but we will have market access to the European Union once the Canadian-European trade agreement is done. I cannot tell members how huge this is will be for Canada. It will create so many jobs it is unreal. We will have access to 500 million more consumers. We will have access for companies that would have low tax rates to locate here in Canada. They will know that just by locating here, they will have 800 million consumers they can trade with, and that is not counting the other trade agreements we have with Chile and Peru and the possibility of the Trans-Pacific partnership that we are working on and hopefully will be involved with in the future. Canada gets it. The Minister of International Tradegets it. We are an exporting country.
I come from a province of agriculture producers. We make our money from trading. We need to ensure we have market access. Our minister understands that and is doing everything he can to ensure that we have it. That is one of the things that will make this country a bright country in the future.
There are so many things we can talk about in the budget and how it will impact families, pensioners and long-term prosperity. However, I cannot stress enough that when we combine low tax rates, we create jobs.
When companies have a low tax rate, they create jobs. I know the NDP thinks that companies are these huge multinationals, but there are companies like Ted Matheson Men’s Wear in Prince Albert. When his tax rate is a little lower, he can hire another employee to work in his store. It is the manufacturers that we see out in St. Brieux, like Bourgault Industries, which is not a small manufacturer by any means, but when they have low tax rates, they are reinvesting in that small town of St. Brieux and in the areas of Melfort, Tisdale and Humboldt. That is what happens when we have low tax rates. It is better to leave that money with the companies and have them invest it in their communities than to send it to Ottawa and have it wasted somewhere else.
I think that if businesses are wondering where they should set up a business to manufacture and grow, it is right here in Canada. This budget helps implement and put in place the solid rooting for proper businesses to grow in the future throughout the world.
It is an amazing budget and one that I am proud to support. I cannot imagine how somebody could not support this budget. If they do not support this budget, then they do not have Canada's long-term interests at heart.
Hon. Keith Ashfield (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to address some vital and sensible changes proposed by the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.
I would like to first acknowledge and thank my colleague, the Minister of Finance, for putting together a visionary, thoughtful and thorough budget.
I am proud to be part of a government that is taking much-needed steps to help Canadians address the challenges of today's global economy. Our government recognizes that Canada is lucky to be the steward of a vast and abundant array of natural resources. We want to ensure they can contribute to our economic growth and job creation in a sustainable and responsible way now and for future generations.
One of Canada's traditional resources is our fishery. As part of our government's commitment to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, we have introduced changes to the Fisheries Act that would put a focus on protecting Canadian fisheries. These proposed changes to the Fisheries Act would shift the Department of Fisheries and Oceans from managing all impacts on all fish and all habitat to focusing on protecting Canada's fisheries and the habitat that supports it.
The current Fisheries Act's provisions are indiscriminate. They require that all projects and all waters, regardless of the fish species present or their contribution to fisheries, be considered in the same way.
Under the current rules, an irrigation canal on a farmer's field is valued the same way as the Great Lakes. We frankly do not think that makes a lot of sense.
The role and responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is indeed to protect this marvellous historic important resource, our fishery. We believe that Canadians want their government to make good, common-sense changes to the system so we can minimize or eliminate restrictions on routine activities on non-protected waterways and, at the same time, maintain appropriate, reasonable and responsible protection for Canada's fisheries.
In short, our government believes that fish protection policies should focus on Canada's fisheries, not on farmers' fields and flood plains.
Contrary to what some opposition members have been saying, the habitat that supports Canada's fisheries includes areas where these fish live, grow and reproduce along with the fish they eat.
We are in good company in our belief that Canada's fish protection policies should focus on fisheries instead of non-productive areas like drainage ditches or irrigation channels.
Berry Vrbanovic, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, has said that the changes “...will allow governments to spend less time processing paperwork for small, low-risk public works...”.
This is good common sense, and a very conservative approach to boot.
He went on to say that:
|| These reforms will make it easier for governments to set clear, sensible priorities for protecting fish habitats. Currently the Fisheries Act applies the same protections to rivers and streams as municipal drains and farmers' irrigation canals. That doesn't make sense.
We agree with him and the countless other municipal leaders who have been calling for these types of reforms for many years.
Opposition parties should spend more time listening to Canadians about the countless tales of the current rules protecting ditches, man-made reservoirs and flood plains while they should be protecting rivers, lakes and oceans that are home to our fisheries.
Unlike the opposition, we are listening to Canadians. This government will ensure that decisions regarding Canada's vital waterways are made by Canadians in the interest of Canadians.
These proposed amendments would allow us to manage a range of threats, including the killing of fish, the permanent alteration and destruction of fish habitat, and aquatic invasive species.
To manage the threats to the fisheries, we would be able to identify ecologically significant areas for fisheries and ensure higher levels of protection for these areas. We would be able to enforce conditions through the Fisheries Act authorizations. Currently, DFO can set conditions but, believe it or not, cannot enforce them.
These changes would allow us to crack down on those who break the rules and they would align penalties under the Fisheries Act with those in the Environmental Enforcement Act, resulting in much stiffer penalties.
Now that we have set the direction, we will consult with interested groups, conservationists with expertise in protecting waterways, fishermen who benefit from the resource, aboriginals, provinces and territories and municipalities.
These consultations would inform us as we develop the regulatory and policy framework that would support and better define the changes. We will continue to build partnerships with those committed to preserving and protecting fisheries, with the hope that they can play an even larger role in the future.
In fact, we want to enhance partnerships with provinces and territories, industry and conservation groups. Where provinces and territories have laws or regulations for fisheries protection that are at least equivalent to our own, we would now recognize the provincial laws to avoid an unnecessarily duplicative process. We would now be able to incorporate best practices fisheries protection standards established by provinces or industry. The amendments would enable the government to allow other regulators to issue authorizations under the Fisheries Act, such as a province or a federal agency.
We would also be able to enter into agreements with third parties, such as conservation groups or professional organizations, to carry out and further the protection of our fisheries and the habitat that supports it. We want to work better and smarter with our partners and we want the rules to work more sensibly and practically for Canadians.
We would clarify situations where development poses the highest risk to fish and fish habitat and those areas of limited risk. We would establish a new framework, in conjunction with stakeholders, to make it easier for people to comply with the Fisheries Act while working in or near water. This would include identifying classes of low-risk work, such as installing a cottage dock, and classes of water where project reviews would not be required. For medium-risk projects, standards would be established allowing Canadians much-needed clarity while they carry out those projects.
Federal pollution protection laws would continue to protect Canada's waterways as they have in the past. We do not believe it is sensible or practical to treat all bodies of water the same way, and our government is making long-overdue changes to our rules to focus DFO on what is important to Canadians. It makes good common sense that the government should be able to minimize or eliminate restrictions on commonplace activities that pose little or no threat and, at the same time, maintain appropriate, reasonable and responsible protection for Canada's fisheries.
Other Canadians also believe that the Fisheries Act is in need of an update. Ducks Unlimited, for example, has noted that:
||...the [Conservative] government announced that it commits to the responsible protection and conservation of Canada’s fisheries. Ducks Unlimited...supports this direction and understands that laws and regulations must be updated at interval to ensure that they address evolving social, economic and environmental systems, as well as support efficient process to achieve desired outcomes.
It went on to say:
|| DUC supports the federal government in updating the federal fisheries legislation and taking a targeted approach that would support the conservation and sustainable use of our fisheries resources. Also, the proposed changes will make it easier for the fisheries legislation and regulations to be enforced.
Let us take a look at what these changes can mean for Canadians. For anglers, the proposed changes would provide specific protection for recreational fisheries and support their ongoing productivity. For conservation groups, the proposed changes would enable the identification and protection of ecologically significant areas. Under the new rules, we would also be able to enter into agreements with these and other groups to undertake enhanced fisheries protection. This could include innovative approaches to protect habitat, support for aquatic invasive species outreach and development of standards for fish protection or other matters.
These proposed changes also include enhanced compliance and enforcement tools such as enforceable conditions, duty for proponents to notify in the event of serious harm to fisheries and penalties aligned with the Environmental Enforcement Act.
In conclusion, our recreational, commercial and aboriginal fisheries are important to Canadians. We want our rules that protect this resource to be sensible, clear and practical, and we want to ensure that they focus on the priorities of Canadians.
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to Bill C-38. We New Democrats oppose the bill for content and process. I will get into both of those themes during my deliberations this afternoon.
I would like to carry on with a little discussion with regard to the Great Lakes. People in Windsor live along the Detroit River. There has been a lack of action by the government on the Great Lakes despite the U.S. Obama administration addressing some of the issues. The Americans recently made a $500 million investment into the Great Lakes, and in the budget prior to this one, put $800 million into it. In fact, because so little was put into our Great Lakes system, the fake lake in Muskoka got more per capita contribution than any of the Great Lakes did.
That is important, because we are deficient not only in terms of environmental practices but also in services. We do not have some recovery services for men and women in distress on the Great Lakes. Our Coast Guards do a very good job of responding when they can, but at the Ambassador Bridge, for example, there is no recovery immediately available there when work is being done, and something needs to be done about that in case somebody falls off, a worker in particular. We had another death recently when a worker fell off into the Detroit River.
I want to move toward some of the content of the cuts that are taking place with regard to the budget. I will start with the OAS and the GIS, and in particular the raising of the age from 65 to 67.
Just so the public is aware, individuals have to apply for the GIS, the guaranteed income supplement. It is not automatically provided, so if people do not know this—and we deal with this situation all the time—they would not automatically receive that additional supplement. I would encourage the viewing audience out there to look at their pensions and, if they are past the age of 65, to inquire of their members of Parliament as to whether they are eligible for the GIS. It is a very important supplement that does not always get moved through to them.
Similar to that is the disability tax credit. If people do not actually apply for it, they will not get it. Both the GIS and the disability tax credit could be retroactive. It is important to know that, and people should contact their local members of Parliament.
A number of years ago I had the opportunity to go across this country on what was called the seniors charter of rights. It was a motion that was put forth to this House for a number of years, and it built up enough support over that time that it was eventually carried by another member, the member for Hamilton Mountain. The motion was then passed, but sadly, this has not been brought to fruition.
Many of the elements of the seniors charter of rights called for increasing the government's contributions to the pensions. It noted that we had to look at this issue because many seniors were in poverty. It called for housing as an adequate strategy to deal with poverty and issues like that, and for more inclusion in society by making sure that seniors were not left out of government policy. It even looked at a seniors minister as a potential solution to making sure seniors' voices would be heard as the demographics of the aged increased. As well, there were provisions related to pharmaceutical and other costs that we identified.
We heard quite clearly across Canada that seniors were very concerned about all of these issues, and never would I have imagined at that time that the government would be looking at increasing its date for acquisition of benefits.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer and other experts have noted that we are not in a crisis with regard to that issue. With proper prudent fiscal management, we will be fine.
Second, we are opposed to a corporate tax cut. Right now, a corporate tax cut basically goes to the corporation. There is no guarantee it will actually be spent in Canada. In fact, some corporations are taxed on worldwide profits, so Canada does not actually benefit from some of the taxation on those corporations that takes place in other countries.
We still have continuation of subsidies to the oil patch. That is unacceptable and should be stricken right away. As well, the OAS and the GIS supplements, in the vast majority of cases and unless individuals leave the country with the money, are generally spent in the country, providing a multiplier effect much higher than the corporate tax cut.
I know it has been argued many times that the corporate tax cut is a job creation strategy; it is not. It could be used as one of several tools to try to spur investment, but the reality is that it has not. It is actually counter to what has been happening in the manufacturing sector. Over the years that the Conservatives have been reducing corporate taxes since coming to power in February 2006, we have lost around 365,000 manufacturing jobs. That is shocking.
It is shocking because it also speaks to the Conservative trade policy, which has failed this nation significantly and continues to do so. I especially want to note the auto industry. What we have seen, counter to that, is higher corporate taxes in U.S. states, as well as higher federal taxes, and the United States has been growing its manufacturing jobs. The Obama administration has a job strategy to win back jobs, including jobs from Canada, and we have done nothing on that.
The auto industry was again ignored in this budget. The automobile is the number one value-added item traded throughout the world. Sadly, the government is looking at some trade agreements that actually threaten the auto industry. I would note, on the Canada-European trade agreement, that right now the EU has a $20 to $1 trade surplus with us, so they are dumping autos into Canada.
South Korea has a potential trade agreement. South Korea sells literally hundreds of thousands of vehicles in Canada, and we barely sell any at all—maybe 50, I am told—in South Korea. They have tariff and non-tariff barriers. We also have the potential of a Japan agreement, where again we cannot enter their market.
Japan, Korea and Germany have state-supported auto industries. They are actually involved in crafting policy, providing resources and making sure the jobs are going to stay local. Some of these countries actually have shares in the companies.
The government originally ran away from the auto bailout, the auto loans that were needed. Thank goodness for the public pressure to reverse that decision. Now we have success, but it is still very fragile. The auto industry is very fragile right now.
I would point out the government's lack of interest in the auto industry and the fact that the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council has not met in years. Only the executive has met. There have been very few meetings, and they have not been very robust. It is very unfortunate, because that model brings in the suppliers, the auto workers, the companies, the tool and die mold makers and the dealerships. They crafted a plan that provided a benchmark system to cherry-pick the top items we could actually work on to create a robust auto strategy.
The government's response to the Bush administration's $25 billion auto and energy act was basically a $250 million fund over five years, which is virtually an empty tank right now. That is a big problem.
I do want to talk a little bit about process, as much of that legislation did not come to the chamber. One of those pieces of legislation is a shiprider program. A shiprider program is going to allow United States officers to participate and actually arrest and detain Canadian citizens. That is actually not going to go to committee. A similar bill went to the Senate. It was very extreme. It did not distinguish the new teams. We do not have the details on it. It is sad.
Right now 1,100 jobs at CBSA are being affected through the cuts that are taking place. It is $143 million cut from our Canada Border Services Agency. We are now going to be doing more work with less resources. It involves the investigators, who take drug smuggling, child pornography, human smuggling and all those things very seriously.
The government is actually cutting 25% of the dog teams; 19 dog teams are being eliminated. They cost $100,000 for the investment in training for the human and the animal. Those are going to be sunsetted. That is unfortunate, because they are very specific and get the things that got past the original set of border officers.
It is very important that those positions remain. By allowing this to happen, we are certainly going to see more guns on the streets and more drugs on the streets, and organized crime will benefit. It is terribly unfortunate, because the evidence is there.
The government is cutting a number of the investigators who work with U.S. and other officials to break these cases open. They are undercover, in many respects. They are going to be affected as well.
As I conclude here, it is rather unfortunate that this is taking place, because t is not acceptable for Canadians.