Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government and the good people of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission who support a strong Canadian economy, I rise in support of the jobs and economic growth bill.
Budget 2010 and the jobs and economic growth bill outline a positive and ambitious plan to strengthen Canada's economy, and a plan that is working. Indeed the IMF just forecasted Canada's economic growth to be at the head of the pack for the G7 and all countries with advanced economies this year and next year as well. The IMF also singled out Canada for praise, saying:
|| Canada entered the global crisis in good shape, and thus the exit strategy appears less challenging than elsewhere.
This follows an OECD report earlier this month also predicting Canada's economic growth will, by a wide margin, lead all G7 countries this year, so we are off to a good start this year.
Statistics Canada announced that Canada's economy grew by 6.1% in the first quarter of 2010, representing both the strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in a decade and the strongest growth in the G7. What is even better, Canada's economy continues to create jobs. In fact, May represented the eighth month of job gains in the past ten months. In May we saw 24,000 jobs created. This follows a record-breaking 108,000 new jobs created in April. In fact, overall, since July of last year, Canada has created almost 310,000 new jobs.
Clearly our government is on the right track. Our economy is growing and we are creating jobs for Canadians, and it is being noticed around the world. The influential magazine The Economist recently called Canada “an economic star”. The OECD said that Canada's economy “shines”. Standard & Poor's, the world's premier credit rating agency, also said:
|| Of the other G7 countries...Canada is posting the best fiscal results. Canada also best weathered the financial crisis...is now well positioned to continue to outperform...
World leaders are also singling out Canada. U.S. President Barack Obama praised Canada, saying:
|| —in the midst of this enormous economic crisis, I think Canada has shown itself to be a pretty good manager of the financial system in the economy...And I think that’s important for us to take note of...
This reinforces what we said all along. While not immune from the global recession, Canada's economy did enter it, but will exit it in the strongest position.
However, the global recovery remains fragile. We must stay on track to ensure that our economic recovery remains strong. Our top priority remains the economy and implementing Canada's economic action plan to create jobs, lower taxes, foster growth and invest in better infrastructure.
Budget 2010 and the jobs and economic growth bill is one way our government is staying focused on the economy. I am here to speak about some of the budget 2010 measures that are laying the foundation for Canada's future economic prosperity.
Budget 2010 and the jobs and economic growth bill introduce measures that will help businesses access the financing they need to support the recovery, improve the framework of our financial sector and pursue a more forward-looking approach to protecting consumers of financial products and services.
Canada's financial sector has been widely acknowledged as one of the strongest in the world. The World Economic Forum, for example, rated Canada's banking system the soundest in the world. Well capitalized financial institutions and sound regulation have meant that financial institutions in Canada were better able to weather the global financial crisis than those in many other countries, perhaps all other countries. Over the past year, Canada's economic action plan provided measures to support financial institutions and the financial system in the midst of extraordinary circumstances. In particular, the global economic crisis made it difficult for Canadian banks and other lenders to obtain funds from international markets at reasonable costs.
To soften the impact of this crisis, Canada's economic action plan included measures to provide up to $200 billion to support lending to Canadian households and businesses. This helped to keep credit flowing to Canadian consumers and businesses throughout the crisis and helped Canada's financial sector improve its global competitive advantage.
Nevertheless, ensuring that businesses of all sizes have adequate access to financing to acquire vehicles and equipment is increasingly important as the economic recovery matures.
Our government is not content to rest on our laurels. We are continuing to find ways to improve the financial sector framework.
As outlined in the jobs and economic growth bill, Canada is home to a strong and vibrant credit union industry that provides financial services to millions of Canadian consumers and small businesses. To promote the continued growth and competitiveness of the sector and enhance financial stability, the jobs and economic growth act, Bill , will enable credit unions to incorporate and continue their operations as federal entities. Allowing credit unions to grow and be competitive on a national scale will broaden choices for consumers by helping credit unions to attract new members and improve services to existing members across provincial borders.
Why would we want to delay such a positive part of the jobs and economic growth act? We need to pass Bill . Indeed, let us read what the Case for Progress Committee, a coalition of several credit unions such as B.C. credit unions FirstWest and Vancity, had to say about this measure.
It said that the federal government’s plans to introduce legislation that would make it easier for credit unions to operate nationally was applauded and supported by committee, a group composed of credit unions across Canada. It said that the legislation would give Canadian credit unions more choices in their growth options by allowing them to operate outside their traditional provincial boundaries, and would also strengthen the credit union system. It said we were marking a ”historic milestone” today, that this new legislation would benefit all Canadians by increasing their choices in selecting a financial institution. It would strengthen the stability and competitiveness of the entire financial services industry in Canada.
From my home province of B.C., Tracy Redies, president and CEO of Coast Capital Savings, praised these measures, saying that credit unions are:
||—a very, very vibrant part of the financial services industry in Canada and I think the pending legislation will enable it to continue to grow and prosper and...that's good for Canada.
I agree with her.
If we go to the other side of the country, we can listen to Jamie Baillie, president and CEO of Credit Union Atlantic, who said, “this measure will promote the continued growth and competitiveness of the sector and enhance financial stability...This provides a framework for a more competitive banking system in Canada and will enable further growth of the credit union alternative”.
Clearly, this measure is supported from coast to coast and deserves to be passed by the House.
However, this is not all the government is doing to support consumers and to promote the efficient functioning of the financial system. The Canadian payments system is a vital support to the economy, linking Canadians, merchants and financial institutions together and facilitating payment transactions through, for example, credit and debit card networks and clearing and settlement systems.
In November 2009 our government released for public comment a proposed code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry in Canada, which responds to issues raised by stakeholders in the debit and credit card markets. The code, which was developed in consultation with market participants, aims to promote fair business practices and ensure that merchants and consumers clearly understand the costs and benefits associated with credit and debit cards.
In April the government released the final code for voluntary adoption by the industry within a few weeks. To support adoption of the code, the jobs and economic growth act would provide the with the authority to regulate the market conduct of the credit and debit card networks and their participants if necessary.
We have heard very positive responses since we announced it and participants have already agreed to sign on to the code. For instance, the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, or CFIG, commented:
|| The Code of Conduct is a very positive step and we are very pleased to note that many of the concerns CFIG has raised on behalf of independent retail grocers, such as negative option billing practices, have been heard and responded to, by the government.
|| CFIG also welcomed the decision by the Minister to bring in legislation that will give the government the ability to regulate the market if the voluntary Code of Conduct does not work...the Code...provides retailers with choice and ensures that our members can continue to compete as important members of the food industry and the communities they serve across the country.
The Canadian Federation of Business, the CFIB, was also very supportive. Its president, Catherine Swift, said:
||[The] Code constitutes an important step and is timely as we enter the summer season that is so vital to so many businesses, especially coming out of a recession. We are particularly pleased that government is being proactive in helping to lay the groundwork in advance of major expected campaigns on the part of Visa and MasterCard in the debit card industry. These developments will create a better future for merchants and help ensure a fair and transparent credit and debit card market instead of just letting large industry players call all the shots.
This part was confirmed at the finance committee hearings from the Retail Council of Canada when it said:
||[We] commend the minister and the Government of Canada for establishing a card payment regulatory framework, and for equipping the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada with the tools it needs to monitor and enforce compliance with the code of conduct changes, changes that are both contained in Bill C-9.
As the Retail Council of Canada correctly pointed out, many of these important changes to help our small businesses will only take effect with the passage of the jobs and economic growth act, Bill .
That is not all we are doing to safeguard our financial sector in the jobs and economic growth act. A few other measures we are taking include: amending the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act in order to enhance the government's ability to protect Canada's financial system from money laundering and terrorist financing activities; amendments to protect depositors in the event of an institution failure; extending the due date for filing annual GST returns from three months to six months after year-end for certain financial institutions; and much more.
While not as high profile, these measures are nonetheless important to the efficient functioning of our financial sector.
The global economic recession clearly demonstrated the importance of a strong, well-regulated financial sector. Around the world, Canadians were bombarded with news of bank failures and bailouts. In Canada, we did not have any bank failures or bailouts, showcasing the strength of our financial sector to the world.
As a result of our strong financial system, Canada is doing better than our G7 partners. We entered this recession later and are exiting it in a stronger position than our international peers.
For the average Canadian this means stronger economic growth and more jobs for Canadians. It means that for the first time in a generation, Canada's unemployment rate is nearly 1.5% lower than the United States. It means that when Canadians go to their local bank branch, they do not have to worry that their bank will close its doors to them.
Clearly the continued strength of our financial system is important for our government and Canadians. While our financial system is strong, we will not rest on our laurels, as I have said, but we will continue to move forward and find ways to further improve our financial system.
Budget 2010 and the jobs and economic growth act would do just that. The actions and measures in this legislation are important and contribute to a well-functioning financial system that meets the needs of Canadians and supports our future economic prosperity.
We must pass Bill , the jobs and economic growth act, to help build our financial sector for the future and, in turn, create the jobs and economic growth that Canadians need and deserve.
Mr. Speaker, once again, I am pleased to speak to the budget bill today.
Since my last intervention on the budget bill in which I only spoke on the first group of amendments, I would like to make a few comments on the second group of amendments that were defeated yesterday in the House that I did not get a chance to comment on.
I, for one, find it completely unacceptable that this bill seeks to give the government unilateral authority to sell off part or all of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to any national, foreign, private or public entity. “Anything goes, no restrictions, let us give it all away and get rid of all traces of government”. That seems to be the philosophy of the government.
The bill would remove parliamentary oversight from any prospective sales of AECL. We have Parliament for a reason: to oversee the government. Canadians elected a minority Parliament for the specific purpose that they do not want the government to be unaccountable on issues like this.
If it makes sense to sell off AECL, let us have it in a separate piece of legislation, not the budget bill, and have the proper committee study the issue. One never knows; one might be surprised. Stakeholders and other individuals who are knowledgeable on this issue may actually provide the government with some positive suggestions.
AECL is currently a government-controlled entity for a precise reason, which is for Canada to maintain its ability to control its domestic atomic energy. As it stands now, Canadians decide what type of atomic research will be done, especially in the area of nuclear medicine.
Canadians determine what to do with discoveries vital to our national interest and the government wants to give up that control to the highest bidder, but in a trend we are seeing all too often, since the government cannot seem to stop spending money we do not have, it is desperately grasping at straws trying to sell everything and anything.
Again, the parts of this bill that relate to AECL would basically give carte blanche to the government to throw away this vital resource. By removing parliamentary oversight, the bill does not guarantee that existing reactors will be refurbished once sold and it does not guarantee that existing or potential new jobs will remain in Canada.
Ten thousand Canadian jobs are currently linked to AECL directly or indirectly. The fate of AECL should not be decided by the government behind closed doors. It is the same trend that is continuously re-occurring with the government, where it is trying to sneak in a divisive piece of legislation through the back door with no public input, no parliamentary oversight, and all decisions being made under a shroud of secrecy to advance, of course, the Conservatives' secret or hidden agenda.
During a debate, we share ideas, and I understand that some issues are complex and can be emotional. But this government is making a habit out of constantly introducing divisive bills.
Because of its inflexible right-wing ideology, it does not want to bring forward its ideas in separate pieces of legislation.
Another divisive item in this bill that should be handled in separate legislation is the formal legalization of the entities known as remailers who handle letters bound for foreign destinations. Several courts have ruled against the practice of remailing, so a change is definitely required.
During finance committee hearings on this bill, we heard compelling arguments for and against private remailers from all three sides, being labour, private business and Canada Post. My issue with this part of the bill is again that it should be in a separate piece of legislation so that the appropriate committee can study the issue. One never knows what good suggestions may come about as a result.
The way this issue is being presented is meant to divide Canadians. In this case, the government is pitting rural Canadians against urban Canadians. During committee hearings, we heard that Canada Post is losing revenues to international companies because international mail that is normally sorted in Canada is now starting to be printed and mailed from international sites.
Canada Post has stated that the revenues lost from remailers are an insignificant portion of their overall business, but what we hear from the government is that 42 rural post offices and 55,000 rural roadside mailboxes have been shut down since 2006 due to these lost revenues. There is a conflict in testimony.
The government has and will continue to cut rural postal services based on its justification that revenues from remailers have been lost. If Canada Post has stated that these lost revenues are insignificant, I would like to know why they would necessitate the closure of rural postal service sites. The only place to get to the bottom of these conflicting assessments is for the proper committee to study the merits of this proposed change.
Sneaking legislation through the back door only serves to make rural Canadians assume that their services have been cut in lieu of urban services. This is just another example of the government trying to ram through legislation without public input, parliamentary oversight, and all decisions being again made under a shroud of secrecy to advance the Conservatives' hidden agenda.
To really know what is going on though we need to look at the numbers. This is after all the budget bill and the thing about numbers is they do not lie. The budget will cost Canadians over $238 billion this year alone and add over $25 billion to our national debt. That is providing this can add. It is $238 billion and counting. That is a lot of money and Canadians have a right to know how it is being spent.
Based on the government's performance over the past few years I have no confidence that this will be money well spent.
Here are some examples of where money should not have been spent. First, although the government announced a freeze on departmental spending in this year's estimates, the 's own department, the Privy Council Office, obtained a $13 million boost in spending for support and advice to the PMO. That 22% increase was in advance of the freeze. The Privy Council Office already saw its budget increase by $31 million in 2005-06 and 2008-09.
Public opinion research spending has gone up by $5 million. The increase in the size of the cabinet has cost taxpayers over $4 million. Spending on advertisements for the economic action plan skyrocketed, surpassing $100 million. An increase in communication consulting services in the 's office has cost nearly $2 million. Excessive spending on ten percenters reached well over $10 million.
These six examples show that the Conservatives spend money for themselves and not for the benefit of the community or of Canadians. These costs add up to over $130 million.
The government has become so undisciplined and wasteful that it has become reaching into the pockets of Canadian taxpayers to fund its own agrandissement and propaganda. Is this accountability? Is this prudence? Is this good governance? I think not.
Instead of spending $10 million to send junk mail across the country perhaps that money could have been used for research in multiple sclerosis and its potential causes, as my Liberal colleagues asked the government to do in an open letter on May 6, 2010.
Instead of spending $4 million to compensate Conservative members with useless Cabinet appointments, it could invest this money in increasing Internet access in rural or northern communities.
Instead of spending $5 million on public polling to help the Conservative government's political operations, perhaps the could have saved that money by simply letting Canadians interact with him instead of making them ask him scripted questions.
Instead of spending an extra $31 million so that the Privy Council Office can devote more time and energy to protecting the Prime Minister's image, perhaps that money could have been spent developing green technology that would make Canada's economy cleaner and more competitive today.
Instead of spending almost $2 million on communication support services to help the Prime Minister's Office spin facts to suit its purposes, perhaps that money could have been spent to keep a rural post office open.
Instead of spending over $100 million to post billboards and screen commercials to help the government take credit for economic stimulus spending, which after all is our money, your money, Mr. Speaker, and Canadians' money, perhaps that money could have been used to get more shovels in the ground and more people back to work as it was intended.
Given the amount of waste the government has been guilty of to date, it comes as no surprise that the budget will add approximately over $100 billion to our national debt over the next five years.
We have gone down this road before and Canadians know it is a painful one. Between 1984 and 1993 the Conservative government spent Canada into near bankruptcy. We were being compared to third world nations.
As they say, history has a way of repeating itself and here we are again, with a Conservative government that has put us in a situation that has caused Canadians to lose their jobs, lose their services, and today has caused household debt to rise.
Just recently, it was reported by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada that after four years of the Prime Minister's Conservative government Canadian household debt has skyrocketed to a record $1.41 trillion. That is $41,740 per person. That is $41,740 for you, Mr. Speaker, $41,740 for me. It is two and a half times greater than in 1989.
The government has managed to squander our finances and squeeze Canadians to the point that the former Mulroney government looks prudent by comparison.
The economy is the cornerstone of any country, and that is why, when the Liberal Party of Canada came back into power in 1993, it worked to make the Canadian economy strong and dynamic once it was back on track thanks to years of good management. As well, the Liberal Party made many difficult decisions that allowed it to balance the budget and create surpluses. We cannot forget that the coffers were empty after Brian Mulroney's Conservatives left.
Thanks to consecutive budget surpluses, the Liberal government was able to reduce taxes, finance our social programs such as health care, education, research and development, and pay down the national debt.
In addition, as I mentioned in my earlier speech, during second reading we cannot forget that just before being defeated, Paul Martin's Liberal government had reached an agreement with the provinces to give them child care services similar to the Quebec system, that it had negotiated the Kelowna accord with Canada's first nations, that it had reached an agreement to extend the implementation of the Kyoto protocol beyond 2012, and that it had convinced the UN to adopt the Canadian concept of “responsibility to protect” during international crises.
Those are some of the great things that the current Conservative government has done away with.
Since 2008, 410,000 Canadian jobs have disappeared and few of those jobs have been recovered. Most of the jobs that have been created are temporary, low skilled, low pay, part-time jobs. This is not a foundation on which we can build a prosperous country. In the meantime, the government is bragging about needing fiscal restraint, but it is on record as being the highest spending government in Canadian history.
In fact, since 2006, it took the Conservative government only one year to spend the largest surplus ever accumulated in the history of Canada.
It has created an enormous deficit on top of having the dubious distinction of the being the biggest spending government in the history of Canada year after year.
According to this budget's projections, the Conservatives plan to spend close to $250 billion in 2014-15. That is $20 billion more than what they intend to spend this year. How they plan on paying down the deficit in this budget cycle is beyond me. That is why I find it hypocritical that the government constantly claims that we cannot afford to make investments now in areas that would position Canada to emerge from this recession ready to compete on the world stage.
Investing now in green technologies, our labour force, our companies and our students will pay off down the road and keep Canada strong.
The Conservative government has ignored making investments of this nature and has instead spent and spent because a photo op means more to the government than sound policies. It seems that members on the other side of the aisle are constantly spending Canadians' money and posing with ceremonial cheques but no one is seeing tangible results that will strengthen our economy.
Since there is no national child care system, no agreement with first nations, no money for research, no money for innovation, no money for the environment and no money for education, what happened to that money and what did they spend it on? In hospitals, sick people are still waiting. Seniors are still waiting for their pensions to increase and universities are still waiting for help from the Conservative government.
Meanwhile, veterans are not being helped with post-traumatic stress disorder. Immigrants are not being helped in order to integrate into our society and succeed in their new lives.
There is no plan in this budget to deal with the strain on our health care system. There is no plan to deal with the challenges of having an aging population. Pensions are not being protected.
These are the most vital topics in Canada right now and the government has proposed nothing to deal with these major issues.
In order to promote saving, we in the Liberal Party are asking the 's government to consider our three proposals for reforming pensions: establish a supplementary Canada pension plan to help Canadians save more; give employees with stranded pensions following corporate bankruptcies the option of growing their pensions through the assets of the Canada pension plan; and protect vulnerable Canadians on long-term disability by giving them status as preferred creditors in cases of bankruptcy.
In order to allow Canadians to invest more in a national pension system they can count on, the Conservative government should work with the provinces, retired people, unions and the private sector to establish and implement a supplementary Canada pension plan.
To give Canadians an easy way to save even more for their retirement, a supplementary Canada pension plan seems like an easy solution and should be considered a reform of the income security system, and of old age security and the guaranteed income supplement in particular. This reform would guarantee the pension capital and would ensure that retired people are not left out when companies go bankrupt or in certain economic situations, thus protecting them from future recessions.
The government must encourage citizens to save because we know that one-third of Canadians have no retirement savings other than the Quebec pension plan or the Canada pension plan, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. As for the other two-thirds, they do not have enough savings to maintain their standard of living.
The Canada pension plan covers 93% of workers, but that alone is not enough because more than half of Canadian families do not contribute to an employer-sponsored pension plan. Almost $500 billion in RRSP room remains unused and, according to Statistics Canada, the $32.4 billion in contributions to RRSPs in 2006 represented only 7% of the maximum eligible contribution. The premiers of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan threatened to create their own plan if the federal government did not establish a supplementary Canada pension plan.
Once again, the Liberals are asking the government to work with the provinces, seniors, unions and the private sector to establish a supplementary Canada pension plan, which would be one possible solution to the low rate of retirement savings.
Based on the points I have outlined, it is clear that this budget neglects many areas of importance to Canadians. The sheer number of key issues ignored by the Conservatives in this budget is shocking, considering the size of the bill.
What is even worse is that, while the Conservative government unfairly raises Canadians' taxes, it is also spending hard-earned money on frivolous projects and reducing services that Canadians expect to receive to get by in daily life.
This government is a disgrace. It is irresponsible and unpardonable. For these reasons I must vote against this budget.
Mr. Speaker, the jobs and economic growth act, which implements many key measures from budget 2010, is a key component of Canada's economic action plan. As members likely know, Canada's economic action plan represents our Conservative government's aggressive response to the global economic storm. It is a plan that is helping to protect and boost our economy.
More importantly, it is a plan that is working. Last week, for instance, Statistics Canada announced that Canada's economy grew 6.1% in the first quarter of 2010. This not only represented the strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in a decade but also the strongest first-quarter economic growth among all G7 countries. Benoit Durocher, an economist with Desjardins, said:
|| It’s one more indication of the vitality of the Canadian economic recovery....The measures to stimulate the economy are bearing fruit.
Even better, both the IMF and the OECD predict that Canada will lead the G7 in growth through this year and next year. Additionally, Statistics Canada also reported last week that 24,700 net new jobs were created in May, which was the fifth straight month of job gains. This also represents the eighth month of job gains in the past 10 months. Overall, since July of last year, Canada has created almost 310,000 net new jobs.
Canada's economic growth and continued job creation is proof that Canada's economic action plan is indeed working. With numbers like these, it is not surprising that Canada's economy has been singled out for praise and envy way beyond our own borders. In fact, in a speech in Calgary, former U.S. President Bill Clinton recently said:
|| I want to compliment Canada; you didn't get burned as bad as everybody else did because you had a more disciplined environment....You have a pretty successful private economy here....
Jim Cramer, a popular financial commentator in the United States on CNBC, recently called Canada “perhaps the world's most stable financial system”. The influential magazine The Economist recently called Canada “an economic star”, further noting that:
||....Americans may cast envious glances across their northern border. Despite its umbilical links with America, Canada’s economy suffered only a mild recession and is now well into a solid recovery...[Canada's] economy is set to perform better than that of any other rich country this year.
What is more, the OECD itself also recently singled out our economy for praise, exclaiming:
||....Canada looks good—it shines, actually....Canada could even be considered a safe haven.
While it is encouraging to see Canada's economy on the right track, a testament to our government's strong economic leadership, the larger global recovery remains fragile. That is why the economy must remain paramount for Parliament, and that is why we need to fully implement Canada's economic action plan.
We must stay on the right track for Canadian families by following Canada's economic action plan both to ensure a strong recovery, and equally important, to support the coordinated global efforts that are under way. We have to stay the course. We must pass the jobs and economic growth act.
The jobs and economic growth act will build on Canada's economic advantage with its measured and ambitious proposed initiatives to, for example, eliminate tariffs on all manufacturing inputs and machinery and equipment; to eliminate the need for tax reporting, under section 116 of the Income Tax Act, for many investments by narrowing the definition of taxable Canadian property; to implement important changes to strengthen federally regulated private pension plans; to implement the one-time transfer protection payments to provinces; and to enforce the code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry through regulatory power, if necessary. Further, it would enable credit unions to incorporate federally, not just provincially; would stimulate the mining industry by extending the mineral exploration tax credit; would implement an enhanced stamping regime for tobacco products to deter contraband; and would ensure fairness for Canadian taxpayers by closing tax loopholes. There is much more.
During my time today, I would like to highlight three of the aforementioned initiatives. Specifically, I am going to speak to the proposed implementation of the one-time transfer protection payment to provinces, the proposed power to enforce a code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry through regulatory power if necessary, and the proposal to enable credit unions to incorporate federally.
First, the jobs and economic growth act includes important support for provinces and territories across our country, support that underlines our strong and ongoing commitment to them. This support also demonstrates our commitment to not repeat the mistakes of the past, when transfer payments to the provinces and territories were dramatically cut in the 1990s under the previous government. As the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently pointed out:
|| Canadians can't afford to relive the nineties...when federal...budget deficits were shifted on to their property tax bills, or paid for with cuts to local services.
That is why we have made a commitment to the provinces and territories that they can count on our support and our ongoing support. Total transfers to provinces and territories will increase by $2.4 billion in this fiscal year, bringing total federal support to $54.4 billion, the highest level in our history.
Equalization payments to provinces for 2010-11 will total $14.4 billion. In fact, the Canada health transfer will grow to $25.4 billion, and the Canada social transfer for 2010-11 will reach $11.2 billion.
Our government has restored fiscal balance through long-term and fair transfer support to provinces and territories with total transfers increasing by over 30% since we formed government. This unprecedented and growing federal transfer support will help to provide the services and programs for our hospitals and our schools that Canadians rely on.
In addition to that significant federal support, budget 2010 also confirmed that our government will provide one-time payments to protect those provinces that may have faced a decline in the total transfers in 2010-11. This will ensure that all provinces receive at least as much support through major transfers this year as they did last year. This is in recognition of the short-term economic challenges facing provinces as we emerge from this global recession.
Accordingly, the jobs and economic growth act authorizes over $500 million in 2010-11 transfer-protection payments to affected provinces. Specifically, they are to Nova Scotia, at $250 million; to New Brunswick, at $80 million; to Newfoundland and Labrador, at $8.4 million; to Prince Edward Island, at $3.3 million; to Manitoba, at $175 million; and to Saskatchewan, at $7.3 million.
I note that these vital transfer payments cannot be made until the jobs and economic growth act receives royal assent. The over $500 million in transfer-protection payments, our ongoing government support, and our commitment to maintain support for provinces and territories has been well received throughout this country.
Listen to the Canadian Medical Association, which has welcomed our ongoing commitment, noting that:
|| Canada's doctors are pleased to see that the federal government isn't planning to balance the budget on the backs of Canadian patients. As we saw with the cuts to health care in the 1990s, the supposed cure ended up being much worse than the disease.
Listen to the presidents of 13 leading Canadian universities, including the University of Ottawa's president, Allan Rock, who wrote in an open letter to major Canadian newspapers right across the country:
|| The maintenance of federal transfers to provinces in Budget 2010 is...critically important.
Listen to the provincial governments themselves, like the NDP finance minister of Manitoba, who announced that she was pleased to see the commitment to maintain transfers, remarking:
|| [T]hey are going to keep the level of payments to the province at the level they committed to....[T]hat was good news for us.
A second aspect in the jobs and economic growth act that I want to highlight are the provisions that would allow the government to enforce a code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry, with the authority to regulate the market conduct of the credit and debit card networks, if required.
Recently, concerns about the practices of card issuers garnered considerable attention and concern in numerous respects, including everything from business practices to marketplace structure. That is why in November 2009, we released for public consultation a proposed code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry in Canada.
The initial proposed code was based on ongoing discussions with small businesses, retail merchants, and consumer associations across our country. During the 60-day comment period, all Canadians were invited to submit their views on how best to monitor compliance with the proposed code.
This past May, after carefully reviewing the tremendous feedback resulting from our public consultations, our government announced a finalized code of conduct. Under the code, small businesses and other merchants will be provided with clear information regarding fees and rates. They will be given advance notice of any new fees and increases. They will be able to cancel contracts, without penalty, should fees rise or should new fees be introduced. They will be given new tools to promote competition, and in particular, they will have the freedom to accept credit payments from a particular network without the obligation to accept debit payments, and vice versa.
I note that the reaction to the code of conduct has been overwhelmingly positive. The Retail Council of Canada heralded it as “a solid victory for merchants across the country and a major step toward addressing imbalances in the Canadian payments system”.
The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors applauded it as an important win for both merchants and customers. It said:
|| [T]he Government of Canada deserve[s] a great deal of credit for taking critical steps towards developing a Canadian payments system that is competitive, fair and provides clarity for both merchants and customers.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business added:
|| The Code...will help increase transparency and restore fairness to small businesses and consumers in their credit and debit card transactions....A finalized Code constitutes an important step and is timely as we enter the summer season that is so vital to so many businesses, especially coming out of a recession....These developments will create a better future for merchants and help ensure a fair and transparent credit and debit card market instead of just letting large industry players call all the shots.
A Vancouver Sun editorial also cheered and said:
|| [W]e were pleased to see the code of conduct for credit and debit cards....[It] is an important step toward allowing merchants to have some control over costs and to maintaining a relatively low-cost cashless purchasing alternative that benefits consumers and retailers alike while still allowing for competition between providers....This should be an important change in the retail landscape...
The jobs and economic growth act will help ensure the success of the code of conduct for credit and debit card industries through legislative provisions for monitoring compliance and regulating the industry, if necessary. Specifically, it will enact the payment card networks act, which will give the government the power to regulate the market conduct of the credit and debit card networks and their participants, if and when necessary. It will also expand the mandate of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to supervise payment card network operators. It will include monitoring their compliance with the code of conduct and any regulations introduced under the new payment card networks act.
For this reason, it is vital that the jobs and economic growth act be passed as soon as possible.
A final and third aspect of the jobs and economic growth act I would like to spotlight is a proposal to enable credit unions to incorporate federally. Canada has a fine tradition of community-based credit unions, and many Canadians have decided to use credit unions for the majority of their financial needs.
That is why our Conservative government is proposing to create a federal legislative framework for credit unions to promote the continued growth and competitiveness of the sector to enhance its financial stability. Allowing credit unions to grow and be competitive on a national scale will broaden choices for consumers and approved services for existing members.
For that reason, the jobs and economic growth act will provide existing credit unions and those desiring to establish new credit unions the option of conducting the business of a credit union and serving their members and communities under a federal charter.
I note that organizations such as Credit Union Central of Canada have long called for this legislation.
A recent report by Moody's Investors Service emphasized the importance of this provision, as it will “lead to credit unions having a stronger national presence”.
Tracy Redies, chief executive of B.C.'s Coast Capital Savings, one of Canada's largest credit unions, has even called it historic legislation that “will lead to enhanced competition. It will provide potentially a true national alternative to the big five Canadian banks”.
In my speech today, while I have spotlighted but a few select key items in the jobs and economic growth act, it is very clear that through this legislation our Conservative government is continuing to show the economic leadership that Canadians expect and deserve.
As the jobs and economic growth act implements key measures of Canada's economic action plan, which are vital to secure a sustained economic recovery, it would be entirely irresponsible not to complete the plan's implementation. We must finish the important work that we started in 2009-10. To do otherwise would only serve to endanger our fragile recovery.
Given that, I ask all members in the House to give this key legislation the support it deserves.