The House resumed from June 11 consideration of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Mr. Royal Galipeau (Ottawa—Orléans, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me.
It is a great pleasure for me to discuss Bill C-38 this evening.
The United States and especially Europe are in grave trouble. Canada's economy has emerged from the global recession much better than other industrialized countries, especially those in Europe.
Because this government has done its homework since its first victory in 2006, the 2012 election was the first in Canadian history that a government won following a recession. I had voted against holding that unnecessary election.
Those on the other side who had voted for the dissolution of the 40th Parliament remind me of turkeys who vote for an early Christmas. Through this election, voters gave us a clear mandate to keep up the good work with the economy and balance the books as quickly as possible. Canadians want jobs to be created and that is what they expect from us.
Locally, Ottawa roughly had 542,200 people employed at the beginning of the month of May 2012. Between April and May 2012, Ottawa witnessed a drop in unemployed by 9,000, which led to a decrease in unemployment by a tenth of a percent. Since October 2010, the unemployment rate has dropped by an eighth of a percent.
In accordance with the information presented in the 2012 economic action plan, this government has established that it would be near a balanced budget in 2014 and that a balanced would be obtained in 2015.
It is crucial that we return to a balanced budget. It is only under these circumstances that our government can continue to make important investments.
In Ottawa, there is no lack of projects waiting to happen. The cities of Ottawa and Gatineau are calling for a new interprovincial bridge at Kettle Island. The National Capital Commission is currently holding public consultations on this matter. In fact, it held a public hearing yesterday at the Shenkman Arts Centre next door to my constituency office.
On the topic of transportation networks, another project will remain at the centre of discussion for the city over the next few years. July 13, 2011, the City of Ottawa adopted a motion presented by councillor Stephen Blais, to extend the route of the light rail transit towards the east as quickly as possible.
The 2008 transportation master plan does not call for extending the light rail line from Blair station to Trim Road before 2031.
By bringing this motion forward before the master plan is reviewed, the city council is ensuring that the feasibility study for the Orleans LRT extension can be completed as soon as possible so that residents from the east end can have access to light rail sooner. For that, Councillor Blais and his partners, Councillor Rainer Bloess, Councillor Bob Monette and Councillor Tim Tierney deserve kudos.
And Ottawa–Orléans is the North American leader in respect to the use of public transit.
If we want major infrastructure projects like these to become reality, both in Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada, we need to balance the budget. It is always easier to make investments with a healthy financial position than with a deficit.
In 2012, federal support for the provinces and territories reached a record high and will continue to rise.
In 2012-13, Ontario will receive record support through major federal transfers, most of which is earmarked for health and will provide this province with $19.2 billion.
This investment represents a 77% increase in transfers relative to those made by the previous government. Even if the government, under the mandate of its Canadian electorate, tightens its belt, its methodology differs from the previous government, now a third party in the House of Commons.
They had slashed the transfers to the provinces. They had slashed the funds reserved for health and education. They had forced the provinces to lay off nurses and teachers.
In addition to drastically cutting funding to the public sector, the previous government balanced the budget on the backs of the provinces, while this government continues to increase its share of federal transfers, therefore towards health care, and proposes a 2% decrease in budget spending in the public service. The previous government had cut tens of thousands of jobs from the public service in one fell swoop.
Our approach is incremental. This means that, despite what doomsayers predicted, job losses have been far less significant than certain predictions would have had us believe, the worst of which predicted that 60,000 public servants would be shown the door.
We are now talking about cutting 4,800 jobs in total in the national capital region in the next three years, and that is after increasing the number of public servants by 13,000 over the past five years.
Despite everything, this decision was not made lightly. We have one of the most competent public services in the world.
However, when we look elsewhere, things do not look so bad here. We are far from the situation in Greece, where 15,000 public-sector employees were cut, and an additional 30,000 people were temporarily laid off.
We are far from the situation in Italy, which almost went bankrupt before an interim government resolved to take the measures deemed necessary. Since then, Italy has increased its sales, housing and property taxes. These are things we are not doing.
Since 2006, the Canadian government has kept its word regarding taxation. Canadian taxpayers today are paying less tax than at any point in the last 30 years.
The budget we are now debating today strongly supports world-class innovation and research. This government believes in innovation. On March 27, I was pleased to announce that nearly $1 million would be allocated for an IT professional mentoring program to encourage primary and secondary school students in Ottawa to take an interest in science and innovation.
I see this measure as a great opportunity for the National Research Council of Canada, located at the doorstep of Ottawa–Orléans.
The good and wise people of Ottawa—Orléans know of my unfailing support for scientific research and development. In this budget the Minister of Finance has taken action on the Jenkins report and is investing $1.1 billion in direct support for R and D and $500 million in venture capital.
Small and medium-sized enterprises are at the core of the Canadian economy and that of Ottawa–Orléans.
Constituents, who on three occasions have given me the honour to serve them in the House, can count on dynamic small businesses. The Orléans Chamber of Commerce alone counts on the support of over 200 members.
Before the budget was drafted, businessmen and businesswomen in Orléans took part in a brainstorming session that I chaired, along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, my friend from Ottawa West—Nepean.
The owners of two SMEs in Ottawa–Orléans, Access Print Imaging and Sure Print & Graphics, shared their ideas, as did Joanne Lefebvre, chair of the Regroupement des gens d’affaires de la capitale nationale, and Jo-Anne Bazinet, chair of the Orléans Business Club.
I am sure that they will be pleased, as will other dynamic members of the Orléans business community, with the important measures we have put forward in Bill C-38. Our government recognizes the vital role that small businesses play in the economy and job creation.
The 2012 economic action plan provides several key measures to support them in their growth.
The hiring credit for small business, a credit of up to $1,000, has been extended. This measure will benefit up to 536,000 employers.
Everyone knows red tape hinders efficiency. It was a point raised at the round table I chaired along with the member for Ottawa West–Nepean.
The government has committed to cutting red tape. It has established the one-for-one rule and pledged to create a red tape reduction plan--
Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the chance to participate in the debate on Bill C-38. The theme of my remarks is “How have the mighty fallen”.
Those of us with some sense of history and memory can recall the spirit that brought Reform into this House. It was the spirit of parliamentary accountability. It was the spirit of free votes. It was the spirit of constructive dissent. It was the spirit of recall. It was the spirit of bringing the executive to heel. It was the spirit of letting Parliament be free and letting Parliament be sovereign and letting Parliament be powerful.
How have the mighty fallen on that side of the House, from those basic premises of a Reform Party led by the likes of Preston Manning, who stood in this place not in the front row but among the members, because he did not want to be seen as any different or better than any of the other members.
I say to my colleagues that they should look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves “Where was the Reform Party spirit in this legislation, an omnibus bill that, like a Mac truck, drives through parliamentary sovereignty, drives through the power and ability of Parliament to control the public purse, ignores any scrutiny by committee and denies the rights of members to dissent?”
The poor member over there from Kootenay—Columbia had four hours of freedom, four hours of conscience, four hours of power, where he told his constituents that if he had his way he would split the bill. We can only imagine the woodshed to which that member was taken. We can only imagine the number of young enthusiasts in the Prime Minister's Office who tied him up to a chair and made him watch the speeches by the Prime Minister over and over again. They would not have taken the masking tape off his mouth until he had promised that he would never express independence or dissent again.
On this side, we say “Shame on the Conservative Party.” Shame on a party that has lost its way, that has lost its principles, that has tied up its members and denied them the right of conscience and the right to speak. That is the great irony of ironies.
Who would have believed that it would be the spiritual successors of the Reform Party that would in fact be denying Parliament, tying it up in knots, insisting on our voting on 70 different pieces of legislation, totally gutting all of the environmental legislation, passing a brand new environmental assessment act in just one clause.
It was the greatest conservative, who is also a great liberal, Edmund Burke, who reminded us that society is a contract not only of the living but also between those who have died, those who are living and those who are yet to be born.
When we look at the importance of the environment to a genuine conservative movement, a movement that wants to conserve, contrast that with those who want a pipeline in every backyard without any kind of environmental hearing, who have a Minister of Natural Resources who takes off after individuals who appear before an environmental inquiry, where we have legislation that takes away the protection of the fish habitat from the basics of our legislation, and that also, as has already been said by my distinguished colleague from Cape Breton, deprives the poorest of seniors in the future of access to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.
That is what has happened to the Conservatives. They are not real Conservatives because they do not want to conserve the thing that matters most to us: our environment, the thing that we have to pass on to the next generation. That is what they are changing.
This government is prepared to deny Parliament all the rights we have had for years: the ability to study a bill, the ability to change it and the ability to amend it. Above all, in this Parliament, every MP should have the right to his or her own conscience, the right to make decisions and the right to act independently.
I can say that that is what the Liberal Party of Canada is committed to.
If we are serious about democracy, then we have to be serious about the environment.
By way of contrast, regarding the comments made over the past several weeks by the leader of the official opposition with respect to the question of the environment, with respect to the so-called Dutch disease, and with respect to the issue of how we need to go forward, I want to make this very clear: The Liberal Party is committed to sustainability. We are committed to the principle of sustainability over time. We are also committed to the principle of development. Nothing is gained for Canada when we pit one region of the country against another. Nothing is gained for Canada when we say that those provinces that are rich in resources are somehow responsible for the difficulties and challenges facing those provinces with less.
I have been in this House for a while and I can recall and know the impact these divisions can have on this federation of ours. It will do nothing for us as a country if we say, even as a momentary proposition, that the success of one region of the country or one province is somehow being purchased at the expense of others. That is never going to be a way to build a country. A country cannot be built on resentment. A country cannot be built by way of saying that those who are successful must somehow be torn down. We do not agree with that. We do not share that perspective.
That is why I believe that at this moment in Canadian history, there has never been a time when the message of the Liberal Party has been more important for all the people of the country. I am very proud to say that this message has to come through loud and clear. Yes, we want development, and we want it to be sustainable.
I can say to those people who are being laid off at the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy to come to us. We want to talk to people about these issues. When I talk to the leaders of the business community in Alberta, they want a clearer price for carbon. They want to have a clear indication of what it is going to cost them to build and to rebuild. They know that perfectly well.
This is an issue where we need to bring people together, where we need to reason together.
This is an issue we need to unite the public on. There has been enough division. We do not want any more division. We do not want a world where the Leader of the Opposition sees the Prime Minister when he looks in the mirror and where the Prime Minister sees the leader of the official opposition when he looks in the mirror.
Are the members of the official opposition free to express themselves? I doubt it. Are they free to have an opinion that differs from their leader's? I doubt it.
In contrast, I can say that my MPs are free to make their own decisions. They are free to choose how they will vote. They are free to speak. I can assure everyone that all our caucus meetings are a great expression of the principle of democracy, a profound, open and, I must say, liberal democracy.
Therefore, when we see Bill C-38, it is impossible in 10 minutes to go through all of its aspects and all of its different parts. It is grotesque in the way it attempts literally to drive a truck through basic principles and institutions that have been critical to the good governance of the country. Whether it is the round table, the Inspector General for CSIS, or whatever the institution may be, a genuine conservative does not drive a truck through these institutions. One protects and preserves and improves them.
One does not cut down, one does not destroy and one does not divide simply for the sake of division. One does not polarize simply for the sake of polarization.
This country needs to come together in an important way.
I want to express my appreciation to the Speaker tonight and my dear colleagues who are speaking so well on this issue and have provided leadership. We will be voting not just once, not just twice, not just three times, but 160 times against this terrible piece of legislation.
Mr. Terence Young:
Madam Speaker, if we ask the NDP and the Liberals what they cherish most about being Canadian, inevitably we would hear about our social programs: the Canada pension plan, OAS, our health care system, employment insurance and GIS. They fall all over each other taking credit for these programs. “We are the party of health care,” say the Liberals. The NDP say, “No, we are the party that created health care,” in talking about the former premier of Saskatchewan, Tommy Douglas, “We gave Canadians the health care system”.
Of course, it was Canadians who decided that they wanted to have a publicly funded health care system. No party gave them anything. Canadians work hard and pay taxes to support that system.
What we never hear about from members on the other side is that Tommy Douglas needed a partner in the federal government to finance public health care, someone who looked out for ordinary people. That partner was a small-town lawyer from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. They do not talk about that because it does not support their version of history, their myth that only the NDP care about people.
Members know who that leader was, and he was a Conservative prime minister. It was John Diefenbaker, the same man who cared about the rights of minorities so much that he introduced the first bill in Canada's history, the Canadian Bill of Rights, to protect equal rights for all Canadians, 22 years before our Constitution was adopted.
Being a Conservative, John Diefenbaker supported health care reform for publicly funded health care, but would never have allowed government spending to grow to a point where debt and deficit put that very system in jeopardy. That is what this budget is about. The only way to maintain the programs that Canadians cherish, our health care system, the Canada pension plan and the others, is to be absolutely certain they are fully funded. That means economic growth is no option for Canada.
My constituents in Oakville understand that. Economic growth is essential. It is critical to our future if we want to keep those benefits, if we want to maintain our health care system, if we want to hold on to our employment insurance program.
The opposition parties are opposing this budget, they say, because of the process. They are willing to play procedural games to attempt to force the government to back down on its major election commitments. What they are not telling Canadians is that when we vote in Parliament tonight for some 24 hours, they all do not have to be here. They can work in shifts and go for a good night's sleep, while the government members have to be either here or in the lobby with little or no sleep. That is our Conservative commitment.
What they do not realize is that this government will never back down on our election commitments to focus on building our economy and creating new jobs, the jobs of the future for this country. With all our natural resources, that must mean development of the resources, more trade and more innovation.
Canada is on the cusp of tremendous economic growth. This is Canada's time. We are leading the G7 in economic growth. We are leading the world in banking stability. The world needs what Canada has, and not just aerospace excellence, BlackBerrys, or telecommunications expertise; they need our nickel, gold, diamonds, uranium and rare earth metals.
This bill would provide for superior and predictable environmental reviews so that investors worldwide would know that Canada is the best place to invest. When they put $100 million on the table to open mines in parts of Canada, those mines would not be held in limbo while environmentalists from other countries did their utmost to hold things up for years and years on end. Those environmentalists, by the way, usually already have a job or a pension.
Trade is Canada's manifest destiny. That is where the wealth of the future will come from to pay for our social programs. There are over $500 billion in new projects coming to Canada by 2020, but there is a big if in that projection, and that is if the conditions for investment in Canada remain positive, if the budget bill is implemented, if it applies as well to our cherished social programs. They will only exist in 2020 if Canada's economy grows.
Yet, members of the no development party have voted against every single trade deal we have negotiated because their union bosses told them to. The NDP's debt of gratitude to the big unions is so powerful its members are voting against any measure that we introduce to bring in new investment, and that includes measures to improve productivity. The NDP are stuck in the old rhetoric from the 1960s, the old labour paradigms of us versus them, dividing Canadians east against west, union member versus private sector. They are the party of the past.
Our Conservative government is moving forward. Moving forward includes not just a balanced budget and new trade, but innovation. Once implemented, the budget will invest over $1 billion in innovation for our country, and there is no better way to increase our productivity that is essential to pay for the social programs the NDP claims to value.
Canada has been a source of innovation for over a hundred years. There is a list as long as my arm of Canadian innovations and inventions that have revolutionized the way we conduct business, communicate, heal the sick and create economic growth. The easiest example I can point to is the one that most parliamentarians carry around, the BlackBerry. I can remember when it first hit the market and the fanfare for its revolutionary design in conducting day-to-day business.
There are many other examples such as the telephone, the Canadarm, the zipper, the pacemaker, and I have to mention two inventions that some Canadians value the most, the snow blower and the snowplow.
Canadians have proven time and time again that innovation can literally save lives and improve the way we live, while creating more jobs. Our government understands this and is taking action to plant over $1 billion of seed money into our scientific fields and help our innovators also deliver world-class research.
We are committing $500 million for venture capital. We are supporting innovation in science and technology by providing $37 million annually to Canada's granting councils. We are injecting $60 million to Genome Canada, $10 million to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, $500 million to the Canada Foundation for Innovation and to the chagrin of the opposition, there are even more measures in the budget that would make Canada a pinnacle of innovation.
We are increasing our direct support for business innovation. That includes $110 million per year to the Industrial Research Assistance Program, administered by the National Research Council. The funding will also help expand the services offered by the NRC, like the industrial technology advisors.
There are $95 million dollars over three years and $40 million per year ongoing, which will make the Canadian innovation commercialization program permanent and a pillar of support for innovation businesses.
Finally, $14 million has been allocated to support the Industrial Research Development internship program, which would place hundreds more of our brilliant Ph.D. students into practical research internships with Canadian businesses.
What does all this demonstrate? It demonstrates that under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada is proving we can achieve economic growth, while balancing our budget without raising taxes.
That is the dream of every country in Europe, most of whom—
Ms. Nycole Turmel (Hull—Aylmer, NDP):
Madam Speaker, any MP who says that unions do not help Canada progress, have not created good working conditions, have not protected workers' health and safety, have not helped improve the status of women and have not helped the Canadian economy is wrong and is saying things without really understanding the reality in this country.
I think it is unfortunate that I have to make my presentation in the shadow of a closure motion, which does not really give me enough time to explain to the members opposite what is really going on and how we can collaborate on a budget that would help Canada and Canadians.
In a democracy like ours, MPs have the right and the duty to do the work they were elected to do.
If the Conservatives really believed that the measures in their bill were justified, they would give us a chance to debate the bill and attempt to improve it, but that is not the case. By now, we all know that the Conservatives prefer to keep people in the dark. They are allergic to transparency.
Bill C-38 is a mammoth bill that is over 400 pages long and amends some 70 laws. The environment, the economy, labour rights, old age security, the Auditor General's authority, health care transfers to the provinces and more will all be affected by Bill C-38.
This government is asking us to sign a blank cheque and to vote blindly. That is unacceptable.
I have already heard the Conservatives explain that the gag orders were justified because time is of the essence when it comes to the economy. We could say that, right now, they are the ones who are hurting Canada's economic future.
The Conservatives are also basically saying that the situation is so urgent that we must abandon our right to conduct an in-depth assessment of all the effects that Bill C-38 will have.
They even used the same argument to justify the three special back-to-work bills they made us vote on in the past 12 months. They are telling us the same thing over and over again—that this is an urgent matter and that we need to hurry up. But that is not what Canadians want. They want their democratic institutions to operate as usual and they want a real debate to be held in the House.
Everyone knows the reality: for the first time in Canadian history, the middle class is losing ground. Over the past 25 years, the income of the richest 20% of our society has increased. This trend had continued since the founding of our country, but for the other 80%, which includes the middle class, living conditions and salaries have declined.
This is the first time in Canadian history that this has happened, and we simply cannot ignore this phenomenon.
What are the Conservatives doing to address this? Nothing. Or instead, I should say, they are making the situation worse by attacking workers' rights, old age security, public health care and the services that Canadians need.
This is one of the fundamental differences between the Conservatives and the NDP. The Conservatives want growth at all cost, regardless of the consequences—growth at the expense of the environment, growth at the expense of workers and families, and growth at the expense of future generations. That is what the Conservatives are proposing in Bill C-38.
We in the NDP are in favour of economic growth, yes, but this growth must be achieved in a reasonable manner. We say yes to economic development, but it must be sustainable development that will benefit future generations. We say yes to economic development that everyone can benefit from, and not just the wealthiest Canadians. We say yes to development that creates high-quality jobs rather than unstable, low-paying jobs.
That is what we want, and Bill C-38 proposes the exact opposite.
In terms of jobs, for several months now, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has been asking for details about the cuts the government plans to make, but it refuses to give him those details despite the fact that its own Accountability Act requires it to do so.
Will the Conservatives tell Canadians how many jobs will be eliminated in the public service and what effect this will have on the programs that benefit all Canadians?
The Conservatives are preparing to rise for the holidays and leave thousands of people in the dark about their future. Thousands of mothers and fathers will not know if they will keep their jobs. In my riding of Hull—Aylmer, the tension is palpable. Every day I hear from people who are wondering about the economic impact of the cuts. People are really afraid of losing their jobs. My constituents and all Canadians have a right to know what awaits them.
As I was saying earlier, Bill C-38 is a bill that is taking us in the wrong direction and that will weaken the rights of all Canadian workers. The reform of employment insurance, the repeal of the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act and the amendment of the Employment Equity Act are a few examples.
Bill C-38 also raises other questions. The cuts announced in the latest budget will result in the loss of over 300 jobs at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, whose mission includes ensuring the safety of our food. The Conservatives are acting as though the listeriosis crisis never happened. They are also forgetting what happened in Walkerton. It is as though those incidents never occurred.
In the words of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, more and more, Canadians are eating at their own risk. Instead of addressing the shortcomings of our food safety system, the Conservatives are making them worse. Today, Canadians are asking themselves serious questions about this government's priorities, and I can understand why.
Another good example is old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. By increasing the age of eligibility from 65 to 67, the Conservatives are trying to balance their budget at the expense of seniors. The Parliamentary Budget Officer and many other experts have said on more than one occasion that our system is sustainable. There is no reason for this government to attack a program that has been helping to keep millions of seniors out of poverty for the past 50 years.
Old age security currently makes up half the income of 1.2 million people in Canada, mostly women. The government tries to justify its decision by saying that Canadians are living longer now. That may be, but many workers are physically unable to work after 65. In fact, 25% of retirees say they left their jobs for health reasons. For them and for others, the increased eligibility age is a one-way ticket to poverty. It will also create a burden for the health care system and youth employment.
The most reprehensible thing in all this is that in the last election campaign, the Prime Minister misled the public about his intention to cut pensions. He was not transparent. Hiding the truth from Canadians has become a habit for this government. It has to stop. Canadians are entitled to the truth.
We are opposed not only to the content of this bill but also to the undemocratic way in which the Conservatives have chosen to get it passed. This government is abusing its majority power to pass a regressive bill that will set us back years.
This could have been an acceptable budget for Canadians, a budget that promoted a stable economy and created jobs, but it turned out to be the complete opposite. Bill C-38 goes against the values of justice and progress promoted by the NDP and supported by Canadians.
Canadians deserve better. They have the right to a better bill and they have the right to know what is going on and what the future holds for them. Canadians must know what the Conservatives are imposing in Bill C-38. That is why we are opposed to it.