Mr. Speaker, it is truly a great honour to start debate on today's legislation, the jobs and growth act, 2012, to implement key provisions of economic action plan 2012.
I am proud to be part of a Conservative government that is absolutely focused on the economy, focused on jobs and squarely focused on securing a better future for our children and our grandchildren. That is exactly what Canadians elected our government to do, as it is exactly what matters to them, especially when we are faced with a global economy that has been exceedingly volatile in recent months.
Economic action plan 2012 and the jobs and growth act, 2012, which implements it, is comprehensive and ambitious because it responds to the magnitude of the challenges that we face. In a fast-changing global economy that remains uncertain and where we face increasing competition from emerging economies such as China and India, delay is not an option in the face of needed economic reform. When promoting Canada around the world, our strong, stable government is consistently praised for its ability to enact needed economic reform and stay focused on the economy.
To completely comprehend the vital importance of our government's economic strength, look no further than the U.S. or Europe, places where narrow-minded political gridlock and instability have too often threatened or delayed vital economic and fiscal reforms. Now is not the time for political gridlock and instability. We must remain focused on the economy.
We are very proud of the steps we are taking in economic action plan 2012, and as we have said, we have absolutely nothing to hide. That is why we want an open, public and timely study.
As always, we have provided a technical briefing directly to officials for all MPs and senators, and I would like to applaud the members for , and for staying to the end of the very thorough briefing, which lasted until 1:30 in the morning.
As always, we will provide detailed background notes to all MPs and senators, which are now also available online for all Canadians. As always, there will be detailed committee studies in the House and Senate. Additionally, I am proposing that along with the finance committee in the House, the government side will recommend even further study.
As with previous budget legislation under our government and as we did last spring with the special subcommittee on the first budget implementation act, we will be asking the following 10 committees to look at portions of the bill: health; transport, infrastructure and communities; aboriginal affairs and northern development; agriculture and agri-food; environment and sustainable development; fisheries and oceans; justice and human rights; public safety and national security; human resources, skills and social development and the status of persons with disabilities; and citizenship and immigration.
I will be moving a motion at finance committee to invite those other committees to provide feedback through subject matter studies should the House endorse the legislation at second reading. I really hope the opposition members will give their support at second reading if they genuinely want these committees to study the legislation, instead of just playing political games.
Returning to the debate on the jobs and growth act, Canadians watching at home will witness some very clear differences between our Conservative government and the opposition, and especially the NDP, when it comes to the priorities of Canadians and the direction of the Canadian economy.
From the opposition members, we will hear a lot of talk about process and procedure, or what some would call “inside baseball”, that appeals to a small number of Canadians, mostly located in Ottawa. They talk about process to dictate the exact length of the debate, procedure for the formatted legislation, process for a timeline for a committee study, and on and on.
This talk will be short on facts, big on exaggeration and heavy on partisan spin. In other words, it is really meaningless to the everyday lives of the vast majority of Canadians, especially those Canadians worried about the economy, worried about how global economic uncertainty will impact Canada and how their government is planning to respond.
Instead of debating the issues around the economy, the opposition members would rather debate about debate. While it is disappointing, it is just as well. On the rare occasion when the opposition, especially the NDP, finally gets around to talking about the economy, it is either to badmouth Canadian business or to complain that Canadians are not paying enough taxes.
Canadians should recognize that our Conservative government and the NDP, Liberals, Bloc and the Green Party have fundamentally different views about taxes and the economy. The NDP and its allies believe in bigger governments and higher taxes. That is why those members oppose the over 140 tax cuts we have introduced since coming to power. They opposed reducing the GST. They opposed reducing personal income taxes. They opposed lowering small business taxes. They opposed creating the tax-free savings account. The list goes on and on.
This speaks to a basic and fundamental difference between us. The NDP sees no issue with taking more of the hard-earned money of Canadian families to fund government initiatives, while our Conservative government believes that after a long hard week of work for that construction worker or dental hygienist or police officer, their paycheque is actually their paycheque and it belongs in their pockets, not in the mail to Ottawa to fund the latest NDP big government scheme.
We on this side of the House believe that Canadians pay too much tax. The latest high-tax NDP scheme, its $21 billion carbon tax, is the latest in a string of examples that would dramatically reduce the take-home pay of Canadian families.
Canadians are concerned about the NDP carbon tax proposal. In the words of respected Saskatoon StarPhoenix columnist Les MacPherson from this past March:
|| [The NDP leader] favours a carbon tax to put a price on so-called greenhouse gas emissions. It would amount to something like a second GST applied on fuel for transportation and heating. In terms of the costs imposed on consumers, it is not far different from [the Liberal] Green Shift plan, widely mocked as the Green Shaft and resoundingly rejected by voters in the 2008 election.
He goes on:
|| If Canadians four years later now are yearning for higher taxes on gasoline and heating bills, [the NDP leader] could have a winner here.
Or listen to a recent Calgary Herald editorial, which said:
|| A carbon tax is, quite simply, placing a price on carbon.... Call it what you will—a rose, a daisy, a levy, or a penalty—most reasonable people would call it a tax.... In other words, it’s a tax, and by any other name, the cost will be passed on to consumers.
I could go on and on with these concerns but I will not, because Canadians trust our Conservative government not to tolerate a carbon tax and they know we will vigorously oppose anyone who would try to force a tax scheme such as that onto Canadians.
They also know that our Conservative government will implement low-tax pro-growth initiatives such as economic action plan 2012 to help the economy grow in their communities and help attract jobs, just like the measures contained in today's legislation.
The jobs and growth act, 2012, implements key initiatives of the economic action plan 2012 to help the Canadian economy grow, encourage job creation and ensure Canada's long-term prosperity. This will keep the Canadian economy on the right track and guarantee its strong position.
According to the World Economic Forum, Canada has the soundest banking sector in the world. Forbes magazine says that Canada is the best place in the world in which to do business. The OECD and the IMF predict that our economy will be among the leaders in the industrialized world over the next few years. Our debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7 by far.
In Canada, approximately 820,000 jobs have been created since July 2009, which is the best job growth record in the entire G7. Furthermore, the three major credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch and Standard and Poor's, have reaffirmed our top credit rating.
However, we cannot rest on our laurels. There are many global challenges and uncertainties still facing our economy, especially from Europe. The international recovery is not complete and challenges remain. The global economy remains fragile, and any potential setback would have an impact on Canada. That is why we continue to focus on supporting the economy with our economic action plan 2012, which gives priority to growth.
The jobs and growth act, 2012 strengthens the economy and creates jobs by extending for one more year the hiring credit for small businesses that create jobs.
Over 530,000 employers benefited from this measure last year. The jobs and growth act, 2012 promotes interprovincial trade, improves the legislative framework governing Canada’s financial institutions, facilitates cross-border travel, removes red tape, reduces fees for Canada’s grain farmers and supports Canada’s commercial aviation sector.
The jobs and growth act, 2012 supports families and communities by improving registered disability savings plans, helping Canadians save for retirement by implementing the tax framework for pooled registered pension plans, improving the administration of the Canada pension plan and strengthening the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The jobs and growth act, 2012 promotes clean energy and enhances neutrality of the tax system by expanding tax relief for investment in clean energy generation equipment and phasing out tax preferences for the mining and oil and gas sectors.
The jobs and growth act, 2012 respects taxpayers’ dollars by taking landmark action to ensure the pension plans for federal public sector employees are sustainable, financially responsible and broadly consistent with the pension products offered in the private sector, and by eliminating tax loopholes and duplication.
Without a doubt, the initiatives I highlighted here, as well as others included in the jobs and growth act, 2012, are positive steps to help Canadians and grow our economy.
In my time remaining, I would like to highlight one of these initiatives and remind Canadians exactly what the NDP and the opposition will be voting against.
This particular measure is aimed at supporting the true engine of job creation in Canada, which is our small businesses. From the local corner store, to the dry cleaner or furniture repair shop, we all know and rely upon local small business for their friendly service.
Our Conservative government firmly believes in the importance of small business. That is why, since forming government in 2006, we have taken important steps to support them: steps that the NDP, with its high-tax, big-government agenda, voted against.
For instance, in recent years we reduced the small business tax to 11%, and increased, for the first time since 1988, the lifetime capital gains exemption to $750,000, to allow capital gains and qualified small business shares to be realized tax free.
However, like all Canadian businesses, small businesses across the country have felt, and continue to feel, the trickle-down effect of the global economic turbulence.
In recognition of these challenges, economic action plan 2012 announced a temporary hiring credit for small business of up to $1,000 per employer. This credit proved wildly successful, providing important relief to small businesses by helping defray the costs of hiring new workers and allowing them to thrive while providing employment in their communities.
Amid continuing global economic uncertainty, and with the urging of small businesses across Canada, our Conservative government moved to extend the temporary hiring credit for small business in economic action plan 2012. Specifically, a credit of up to $1,000 against a small employer's increase in its 2012 EI premiums over those paid in 2011 would be provided. It is estimated that the hiring credit for small business would be available to approximately 536,000 employers whose total EI premiums were at or below $10,000 in 2011, reducing small business 2012 payroll costs by about $205 million.
As I mentioned earlier, this credit has been extremely popular with small businesses across Canada.
As the NDP is looking to vote against this credit, let me share a small sample of that feedback, to help my opposition colleagues fully understand just exactly what they are opposing.
The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce welcomed the credit's extension, noting:
|| Yellowknife has a lot of small businesses and one of the most expensive features for any small business owner is labour, and if you could cut down on that cost then you've given them a chance that they can grow their business. We're well in favour of that.
Or listen to the Canadian Convenience Stores Association, which heralded the credit this way. “It helps to provide our owners with resources to keep their businesses more often and for longer hours. Convenience stores provide a unique opportunity for many new Canadians and entrepreneurs to realize their dreams of owning a business, and this credit increases opportunities for them to start employment in the convenience store industry.”
Finally, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business praised the credit as “making it easier for small business to continue to support Canada's economic recovery by creating jobs”.
While I know the NDP does not support low taxes, I must confess my disappointment at the NDP's reaction to the inclusion of this very item in the jobs and growth act, 2012. Just last week, shortly after the introduction of the bill and its provision to extend the job-creating hiring credit for small business, the NDP finance critic blasted this tax relief for small business and our government's record of supporting small business. The NDP finance critic said: “It is yet again an across-the-board cut for small business”.
As I mentioned, the hiring credit will benefit approximately 536,000 small businesses, which is why I am frankly shocked that the NDP would bemoan it, along with tax relief for small business and the Canadians they employ.
Much like the NDP plan to impose a job-killing $21 billion carbon tax scheme on small businesses, this is part and parcel of the NDP's high-tax agenda that would impose higher, crippling taxes on Canadian business and our economy.
That is the fundamental difference between our Conservative government and the NDP and their opposition allies. They have a particular view of how to manage the economy. They want to impose high taxes. They want to close our borders to trade. They want to inflate government bureaucracies. That is fundamentally and absolutely contrary to the principles of this Conservative government. I am proud to be part of a government that feels those are not values that Canadians want to see.
That is why the NDP opposes today's legislation. That is why the NDP opposes economic action plan 2012, despite whatever reasons they may use as a smokescreen to suggest otherwise.
Canadians can rest assured that our Conservative government will move ahead with today's legislation, economic action plan 2012 and our low-tax, pro-growth, job-creating agenda.
I would implore opposition members to listen to what is in the second budget implementation act, because it does exactly what I have just mentioned. It does create jobs. It does help Canadians to prosper. It does make us a better country, and it really does affect every single thing that we do to help Canadians do better.
If the NDP and the Liberal Party, along with the independents and the Green Party member, continue to say they intend to vote against this, I would ask Canadians to start asking their members of Parliament from the opposition benches why in fact they are doing so. I do not understand it. I cannot believe it. I am sure Canadians are just as shocked as I am. I would invite Canadians to write to their members of Parliament to voice their opinions.
Mr. Speaker, in life, as in politics, everything revolves around whether we have credibility. I will read page 282 of the budget, because that is what my colleague was referring to. So we, along with all the Canadians who are watching, will know whether page 282 of the budget mentions the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
In life, as in politics, everything revolves around whether we have credibility. The member just told us that on page 282 of the budget we would find a reference to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. I will now read page 282 of the budget. Under “Transport Portfolio”, it states:
|| Organizations in the Transport portfolio identified a combination of productivity-enhancing and transformative measures that change the way programs and services are delivered and support the Government's agenda of refocusing government and reducing red tape.
I ask members to retain that term because, in the Conservatives' mouths, reducing red tape is synonymous with reducing public protection. Walkerton, XL Foods and listeriosis is reducing public protection. That is a theme we will be talking a lot about this afternoon. I will continue.
|| Non-core activities will be reduced while maintaining capacity related to core mandates in order to protect the safety of Canadians and support economic growth.
|| For example, VIA Rail Canada Inc. will pursue productivity improvements such as augmenting the performance of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems....
Navigable Waters Protection Act? Not so far.
||...on-board trains to reduce maintenance costs, reduce energy consumption, and increase passenger comfort. It will also implement automation projects such as electronic ticketing and invoicing systems.
Navigable waters? I have not heard it.
“Planned Savings--Transport Portfolio. Canadian Air Transport Security Authority--”
This is kind of interesting because this is where it starts cutting, like it cut the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, where it cut things that directly protect Canadians' health and safety. Here we have cuts ongoing of $59.7 million. We have Marine Atlantic, the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc. cut. The Champlain Bridge is about to fall down but it is going to cut. It goes on to mention Transport Canada and VIA Rail Canada and there is a note at the bottom of the page that states:
|| The Government is committed to balance air travel security expenses with Air Travellers Security Charge revenues over time. Totals may not add due to rounding.
Members may have noticed that there was no reference whatsoever in there to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. What is up?
What is up is this. On the website of the Department of Transport, under the heading Navigable Waters Protection Act, there is a summary of what that centennial legislation does. It is groundbreaking. It is a model for the world of how to protect the environment. Canada has literally millions of lakes and tens of thousands of rivers. It is constitutionally the purview, the responsibility and the obligation of the federal government, specifically in the Constitution Act, 1867, to care for navigable and floatable waters.
I have the wording straight from the website. By the way, the website was changed last night after my colleague, the member , raised it yesterday afternoon. This is pure Orwellian. The Conservatives make things disappear when it does not agree with the version they have decided to concoct and invent. It states:
|| The NWPA minimizes the interference of navigation on navigable waters throughout Canada. It ensures a balance between the public right to navigate and the need to build works such as bridges, dams or docks in navigable waters.
|| With this goal in mind, the NWPA:
||prohibits the throwing or depositing of any material into navigable waters.
That stops people from polluting waters in Canada. It sounds like environmental protection to me, but obviously the member has never quite gotten around to reading the act. It is there. It is one of the statutes of Canada. It is alphanumeric. It works with the alphabet, N-22.
What is “Substantial Interference”? The application reads:
|| This approval process is usually longer, requiring you to complete additional steps – including advertising the proposed project to the public and undertaking an environmental assessment in accordance with the requirements under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).
That is another act that the Conservatives are destroying with their budget. There is no mention, but in the budget implementation act, as they did in the spring with Bill , they are destroying it again. They are removing environmental assessments in Canada. We will go from thousands of environmental assessments every year in Canada to a couple of dozen. That is because it is a preordained result. They started making the mistake in energy projects. They were no longer referring to the environmental assessment process. They were talking about the approval process. It was a slip of the tongue but it was really revealing.
The Supreme Court of Canada in the Oldman River dam case, a decision by Mr. Justice Lamer on behalf of the court, made it abundantly clear that there was no possibility of building a project like that unless the environment was respected. That was a landmark case in Canada and it was based on the Navigable Waters Protection Act. It is so incredibly mind-numbing to hear the say that the Navigable Waters Protection Act has never had anything to do with the environment, it has to do with navigation. It is unbelievable. It has protected water courses throughout our history, it is a model for the world, it is being destroyed and it was never in the budget.
I listened to some of the economic theories of the government. This week, in The Hill Times, a reputable publication if there is one, the expert economist David Crane published an interesting paper entitled, “Resources are important but they're not enough”. It is worth going through the words of Mr. Crane. He stated:
|| The strongest economy is one that is well-diversified, both in its sources of economic growth and in its markets. Ignoring the need for a vibrant advanced manufacturing industry and high-value knowledge-based services, as well as a resource sector that upgrades it[s] output in Canada, is a recipe for disaster.
He goes on to look, chapter and verse, through all of the things that the member who just spoke bragged about as being the Conservatives' economic theory and dismantles it. He shows that, what we have been saying for years now, Canada is losing the balanced economy that we had painstakingly built up since the Second World War, we are losing an economy that had a strong and vibrant resource sector, a primary sector that includes agriculture and the fishery, but it also had a diverse and strong manufacturing sector and, of course, a service sector.
Since the Conservatives came to power, we have lost hundreds of thousands of good paying manufacturing jobs, jobs that came with enough of a salary for a family to live on and, more often than not, came with a pension. Those jobs are being replaced by part-time precarious work in the service sector and, more important, no pension. In addition to the environmental debt that we are leaving in the backpacks of future generations, the one I just described, allowing companies to use our air, soil and water as an unlimited free dumping ground, we are also leaving a social debt because when those people retire without enough to live on, who will pick up the tab? It will be the next generation. If we allow the Conservatives to continue, we will become the first generation in Canadian history to leave less to the next generation than what we ourselves received. We will not let that happen.
The last time the Conservatives took to shoving one of their omnibus bills down the throats of Canadians, it was Bill last spring.
This bill is the continuation of what the Conservatives started last spring. Once they started and we realized that dozens of different laws were going to be negatively affected, along with the rights of Canadians and future generations, members on this side of the House tried to make use of the tools at our disposal as parliamentarians. We were facing an unprecedented situation in the history of Canada's Parliament.
Having a majority is not unprecedented. In fact, majority governments were the norm until just recently. What is new is having a government that is so arrogant and so unwilling to listen to the public that it thinks it is an emperor.
It did not need anyone. It no longer needed to talk with anyone. We are here to voice the concerns of our constituents. We are here to be heard.
In response to a question, the hon. member for asked us earlier if we were aware of the global recession. I would remind the member that it was her who, in the middle of that global crisis in the fall of 2008, denied its existence and refused to take action. Talk about arrogance.
Their complete lack of priorities means that instead of trimming the fat from government as needed, they are hacking and slashing away with a rusty machete. They have never defined their priorities, quite simply because they are just happy to be in power. They like to be in power, but they do not like to govern. What is the difference? One is the mere fact of occupying the most seats in the House, while the other requires competence in public administration in the interest of Canadians, and not in the interest of their Conservative cronies.
They do not have any priorities. Their most recent 450-page budget bill affects 64 other bills, including 20 that were not even mentioned in last spring's budget. As we just demonstrated, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, like 19 other acts, is not even mentioned in the budget.
As I said earlier, it is a question of credibility for the government. Let us look at some of the facts. Let us look at some examples of its public administration and measure them against what should be considered public priorities.
What could be more important than protecting the health and, indeed, the lives of Canadians? If we look at the whole pyramid of public administration, it ultimately exists to provide one thing: a service to the public. What service could be more important than public protection?
What is in the budget bill is a $46.6 million cut to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. That is in here, word for word. The Conservatives talk about things that are not in here, but I am talking about things that are in here, and this is at page 261. It is in there.
Is there a carbon tax in there?
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: One of the brilliant members of the peanut gallery has just asked a question that I am pleased to respond to. His question was, is there a carbon tax in there? That is interesting, because where we will find a cap and trade system proposed is in the 2008 platform of the Conservative Party.
An hon. member: Say it isn't so.
An hon. member: That can't be.
But it's not in that bill.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: What is interesting is that in 2008, the Conservative went to the mother of all parliaments and told the parliamentarians there that it was his plan to have a cap and trade system. He even put a price on carbon. He put a $65-a-tonne price on carbon, in front of the parliament.
Far be it from us to think for a second that in the mother of all parliaments he was telling the mother of all fibs, so let us take him at his word.
In 2008, it was actually a bit less. However, if we take the figure for 2008 at $65 a tonne, do members know what that equates to in Canada? About $45 billion.
If we were in the same business as the brilliant and talented member who just spoke from the netherworld of the backbenches of the Conservatives, we would be able to argue that it was a carbon tax of $45 billion. However, that would not be quite true, because it was a cap and trade system and the only way of dealing with greenhouse gases.
The member for quoted a newspaper writer who talked about so-called greenhouse gas emissions. That is quite something, because it betrays a fundamental belief of the troglodytes that somehow greenhouse gases are something that one believes in. They do not really exist. There is no such thing really, as far as the Conservatives are concerned, as global warming. It is just something that is being made up to scare people, or in the unforgettable words of the Conservative when he was describing the Kyoto protocol, he said it was something invented “to suck money out of wealth-producing nations”. There was no such thing as global warming, so no action was needed.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Thomas Mulcair: We can hear them, Mr. Speaker. They are saying “Hear, hear”. There we go. They are excited. I would like to know how much greenhouse gas emissions come from suntan salons, for example. Maybe we could reduce those as well.
The Conservatives' tactics include 450 pages, 64 separate acts, with 20 that were never in the budget, no study, no accountability, no consultation with the Canadians affected and no respect for Canadians, who deserve better.
The basic job of every person elected to the House is to make sure that public money is being well spent, to make sure legislation is rational and well thought out. That is our job. We have given ourselves institutions to help ourselves do that.
For example, under the Parliament of Canada Act we now have a Parliamentary Budget Officer who has the legal right to receive all financial information so he can inform our debates in the public interest. The Conservatives boast about the fact that they brought that position in via their responsibility act. They have never obeyed it any more than they have obeyed the fixed dates for elections. This is the art of being a Conservative: A conservative stands on a soapbox, announces what he or she is going to do, and then does the exact opposite.
The Conservatives are denying what is written in Canadian law. They are going against the will of Parliament. They are frustrating the ability of the Parliamentary Budget Officer to do the job he was asked to do, indeed mandated to do by law in the public interest, simply because he has stood up to them time and again. He refuses to be another one of their marionettes parroting lines written for him by the Prime Minister's Office. Of course, for that he must be punished as far as they are concerned.
The Conservatives are using omnibus legislation to sneak past Canadians hundreds of changes to these different acts, and we will not let them do it.
The latest incarnation of this mammoth bill includes budget cuts, including to various organizations, commissions and boards that were put in place to ensure greater responsibility and accountability. This strong tendency, which began in the spring, only persists. They are putting more and more powers into the hands of various ministers and departments.
For example, the Conservatives are eliminating the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission, which helped protect workers from hazardous materials in the workplace. That is not something the Conservatives talked about in the budget. It is going to have an effect on workers' lives. We will stand up and fight this every step of the way.
They are repealing the Grain Appeal Tribunal. This is interesting because that tribunal actually helped producers by giving them a right of appeal when they had been given a grade for their wheat and they did not agree with it.
It is the same government that said that it was going to scrap the wheat board. There was never any logical reason for it.
We did scrap the wheat board.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: One of the ministers from Winnipeg just said that they did scrap the wheat board, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately for him, he is going off his talking points, because the talking point is not that they scrapped it but that they made it better. He just told us that they did scrap it. Whoopsie. More reading for the suntan salon.
The Conservatives dissolved the Canada EI Financing Board, leaving the employment insurance account $9 billion in deficit.
The cabinet takes even more power to rule on environmental assessments and pipelines even while firing the scientists who give them expert advice.
Of course, it is the government that decided during the summer that it was the new church of Conservative scientists. Let us remember what the Conservatives said during the summer: they told us that from now on they had decided they were going to believe in science. How did they prove that? They fired most of the scientists in the government, because they were not needed any more as the Conservatives were now the scientists. The ones the government did not fire were muzzled.
The government is getting rid of things like the Experimental Lakes Area, which is the only place on planet Earth where whole lake ecosystems can be studied. The government is scrapping it.
What do we get from the Conservatives?
The government has an imitator at the other end of the House. He is constantly imitating the newscaster who is given documents to read and does not even know what is in them. He stands up and tells us time and time again that there is really no problem with the Experimental Lakes Area. He says that as long as someone is willing to buy it, it can continue.
Let us imagine. How can we have government scientists doing science in an area that belongs to all Canadians if it is sold to private interests? That is the road the government wants to take us down.
Our very own Ron Burgundy stands up time and time again and reads whatever is put in front of him by the Prime Minister's Office. He does not even know what is written on the piece of paper and does not realize how absurd it is. He is the same person who now believes that Canada is in a situation to actually reduce greenhouse gases and meet its undertakings under international agreements. Nothing could be further from the truth. The government will not be able to meet any of those obligations, because it does not even have a plan to meet them.
As I mentioned earlier, with regard to public safety, there is a pyramid of public administration that exists to protect the public.
When cuts have to be made, the very last things that should be affected are direct services to the public. What are we seeing instead? What did I point out earlier? The Conservatives are making $47 million in cuts to food safety, over $100 million in cuts to air safety and cuts to maritime search and rescue centres. We are talking about services that literally save lives, and the Conservatives are making cuts to them. The Conservatives should ask the people of Quebec City and Kitsilano what they think about this.
The Conservatives are making cuts to the Coast Guard and border security. These are things we are extremely concerned about.
Earlier today, we had the opportunity to listen to the hon. member for describe exactly what is happening at the border in his riding. This is what it means to have no priorities. This is what it means to have no understanding of public administration.
Earlier, I listened to the fantasies and fabrications of the hon. member for . She painted an imagined picture of what she believes is our approach to public administration.
When we look at the official opposition's experience and the F-35 debacle—a file for which the Conservatives never bothered to assess Canada's needs, never held a competitive bidding process and never determined who the lowest compliant bidder was, and on which they have spent $700 million to date when this aircraft does not even meet Canada's needs—we realize which side of the House the competent MPs are on. It is certainly not the Conservative side. The Conservatives are a bunch of incompetents. Their negligence is disgraceful. We will replace them in 2015.
This week, as 1.3 million pounds of contaminated, tainted meat was being dumped in an Alberta landfill, who was the minister? It was the same minister who four years ago told lame jokes about death by a thousand cold cuts as 23 Canadians died because he had not done his job of putting in place a competent food inspection system.
When the opposition unanimously called for his resignation, who stood up and defended him? The .
This is no longer a question of the incompetent ; it is a question of the who is endangering public safety by allowing him to stay in place.
The has absolved himself of any responsibility by saying that he did not carry out the inspections. This is the same gang that every day keeps harping about the queen, everything royal and the monarchy. If they have such nostalgia for the queen, they should think about other parliamentary institutions, the British institutions, where the underpinning of the British parliamentary system is ministerial accountability. It is the minister who is responsible, not the inspectors. It is the minister who did not do his job and who did not ensure that the inspectors were protecting the public. He should be booted out; he is ultimately responsible.
The minister knew about the safety violations at XL Foods. He knew the company was withholding testing data. He knew the Americans had deemed the plant unsafe. In fact, we would never have known about any of this if it had not been for the Americans doing their job of inspecting the meat at the border. Good thing we have the American inspectors as whistleblowers. It took him two more weeks to sound the alarm after the Americans already knew.
Budget cuts of $46.6 million and 300 positions cut is in the budget. Unlike the fantasy about the Navigable Waters Protection Act, that is in the budget: 300 positions cut at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, public protection endangered, Canadian lives endangered.
He dares to point at others. He points at the inspectors and says that it is their fault. Here is where the fault lies. Instead of enforcing legislation in the public interest, instead of doing as the Americans do, going in and enforce, the Conservatives have a self-reporting system. Maybe that is where they got their marks in university. They gave themselves their own marks. They reported their own results to their teachers. Maybe that is what it is. It is the only way to explain it. We do not ask people we are supposed to be enforcing and inspecting to tell us whether they are actually doing it. With public money, we send in inspectors, check them, enforce and regulate in the public interest.
The result is a hit for our farmers and our producers. It is a hit for public confidence in our food system. Everyone loses because the Conservatives are not doing their jobs.
In spite of 50 years of economic growth in our country, the Prime Minister would have us believe that the institutions, the services and the programs we have relied on for generations have suddenly become too expensive and that we can no longer afford them. There is a link between the fact that he is constantly reducing the government's fiscal capacity and the fact that he is now imposing service cuts. In essence, our economic growth is constant, and our institutions reflect what is best about ourselves. These institutions are now at risk because of the negligence, the incompetence of the Conservatives.
Just for fun, let us take a look at this statistic: the small number of chartered banks recorded profits of $33 billion this year. It is a virtual monopoly, an oligopoly. There is no need to be self-congratulatory and proudly remark that they are extraordinary. There are only a few banks in Canada. They have a monopoly and can charge whatever interest rate they want. It is nonsense to say that they are private market wizards. Thirty-three billion dollars in profit equates to $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Canada. Every year, the chartered banks make $1,000 in profit for every Canadian man, woman and child. That does not make sense.
There are institutions that define who we are as a nation.
We are so proud that the NDP, under Tommy Douglas, was responsible for bringing free, universal, public, portable and accessible medical care to our country. We do not think any Canadian family should ever have to choose between having a sick child seen by a doctor and being able to put groceries on the table. I honestly believe there are more things we have in common as individuals than the partisanship on the other side would have us believe. I honestly believe the vast majority of the people who sit across from me in the government benches agree that it is a good thing we do not have an American-style system, that it is a good thing, as Canadians, we take care of each other.
At the beginning I said that is why it was so important to look at the gulf that separated the words of the Conservatives and their actions. In June 2011, shortly after we formed the official opposition, these were a couple of last questions that Jack Layton asked. He asked two very specific questions of the .
First he asked, “Are you going to cut health care?” The answer was categorical. It is in Hansard and is easy to check, “We will not be reducing transfers to health care”. In December of the same year, barely a few months later, during a meeting with his provincial counterparts, the , over lunch, and it was not even an agenda item, sometime between his coffee and his apple pie, looked over the table and said that he would be removing $36 billion from the projected and budgeted health care transfers from the feds to the provinces. There was no negotiation, no debate, no discussion, straight diktat from the federal government to the provinces. That is the way of the Conservatives. That is not our way.
The other question that Jack Layton asked the in June had to do with pensions. This is what I would call in French, une demi-vérité ou plutôt un demi-mensonge, because it is an art that Conservatives master. It is around, for example, the F-35s. The will often go to his microphone and say that not one penny has been spent on F-35 acquisitions—
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for your ruling in this regard and remind you that this complaint is coming from the person who, earlier, referred us to page 282 of the budget, saying that it had to do with the Navigable Waters Protection Act when such is not the case.
The changes in the budget change the rules of the game for teachers and engineers. What we are trying to say about employment insurance is that, from now on, people will have to look for jobs located up to an hour away from where they live, otherwise they will lose their benefits. This is an unbelievable threat to industries that depend on seasonal workers.
For example, what are people in Atlantic Canada who work in the fishery supposed to do if the minister is saying that, from now on, they have to move? Someone cannot train to be a fisher in five hours, five days or even five months. It takes several seasons to train someone to work on a boat. The government is already draining these communities of their lifeblood because of our artificially high dollar. All our export industries are suffering terribly. This is being felt in Atlantic Canada in particular.
Governing also means understanding the country, the regional differences and the different regional needs. Rather than making allowances for that, the Conservatives are applying the same remedy everywhere. They are attacking regions that are sorely in need of a helping hand. Instead of that help, these regions are getting hit hard. That is what the Conservatives are doing.
What is more, the Conservatives are creating an economy where salaries will be much lower. There is less pressure with regard to all working conditions because of a series of measures that are being implemented. It is not by chance that, for the first time in Canada's history, the middle class has seen a clear drop in income, and this occurred in tandem with the signing of NAFTA.
Over the past 25 years, the middle class has seen its real net income drop. This is the first time this has happened. In other words, the richest 20% of Canadians are experiencing a rise in income while the other 80% of Canadians—it has been measured and proven—are experiencing a drop in income. These are the results of the neo-conservative policies of the current government and its Liberal predecessors, who aggressively pursued the same goals for 25 years.
This is putting downward pressure on incomes and on employment conditions. As though that were not enough, these agreements are creating a race to the bottom: temporary foreign workers who used to come and work in a few sectors, such as produce farms, will now be in several employment categories. The government trumpets the fact that we can pay them a lot less than Canadians. People are working hard in mines and many other sectors and what is the result? One simply has to go visit the steelworkers in Prince George, British Columbia, to see what kind of pressure they are under. It is hard work. They work hard their entire lives. They fought hard for fair wages only to be told that the Conservatives are going to force them to work two years longer before they can retire. Then, as though these workers did not have enough pressure on them, the Conservatives want to bring in workers from other countries and pay them lower wages, and this adds even more downward pressure. That is the Canada the Conservatives dream of, where workers are subjected to working conditions from the early 1900s. That is their vision.
The NDP wants to build a fair Canada. We hear appalling speeches, like the one we heard earlier, suggesting that our dream is heresy. A country as rich as Canada is capable of paying for decent working conditions, and that is part of what an NDP government will bring.
That is the path that the Conservatives are paving for us.
Do not forget that Bill , the Conservatives' budget bill in the spring, repealed the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. That is their vision.
They are not attacking one particular group or sector. Their goal is to drive down wages for all Canadians, a total lack of an economic plan. The government is not just failing workers but businesses that create jobs too. Canada faces a perfect storm of economic challenges. We have 500,000 lost manufacturing jobs, a $50 billion trade deficit, household debt at an all-time high, the worst American downturn since the Great Depression, and we are still in the middle of a eurozone crisis.
When we talk to Conservatives about the interest that we have in using our experience, our expertise and our capability to help in Europe, we get the usual talking points of “You want us to write a big cheque to Europe”. What imbecility. As if the idea of using our experience and our expertise to help avoid a crisis that will invariably negatively affect us is something wrong.
Yet those are the talking points that come out of the PMO because they make stuff up. That is all they have. They have nothing else. They make up pages in the budget and they make up plans for the NDP that have never existed, other than the ones that were the same ones they had. They make stuff up all day long because they cannot defend what they are actually doing. That is what we are talking about now, what is actually in here, what they are actually doing and the negative effect it is having on Canadian workers across the country.
What an irony Bill is. The jobs and growth act does not contain a plan to generate either. Budget 2012 kills more jobs than it creates. It contains no strategy for the 1.4 million out-of-work Canadians. The so-called centrepiece of the economic plan is the small business tax credit, which members can applaud because the NDP supports a tax credit. It was part of our 2011 platform. This one does not go far enough. It is worth a maximum of $1,000 and it lasts just one year. At best, it may be enough to help companies hire one full-time employee. It will not even make a dent in our lagging job numbers.
The truth is that the government continues its failed policy of lavish corporate tax cuts, even as companies ship jobs overseas. For example, one company demanded a 50% pay cut and shut its doors after receiving $5 million from the Conservatives. It was called Electro-Motive Diesel in London. I got to visit the workers on the picket line in the middle of the winter. It was an extraordinary experience because just a few months earlier a beaming had been out there with a $5 million cheque, because this was evidence of the success of his plan for jobs in Canada.
As soon as that election campaign was over, there was a little meeting. The bosses sat down and said, “We have a deal for you. You accept a 50% pay cut or we move your jobs south of the border”. The company closed, the jobs have been moved, it kept the $5 million and there are no longer any jobs in Canada. That is the Conservative plan.
Thirty years ago a young worker could work his or her way up a company ladder. Now workers have many different jobs in a lifetime. The incentive to invest in workers is being lost. A large workforce is no longer a sign of pride. A couple of generations ago, someone who was running a big company would be very proud and take great pride in stating the numbers in his workforce. Now the great pride is saying how many of those jobs were shipped to another country. That is the change. We have to get back to a feeling in Canada that it is a social responsibility to be proud to be creating good-paying jobs.
Why do we keep doing what the Conservatives do, investing in companies like Electro-Motive Diesel that do not invest in our workforce? This is the type of short-sightedness that we see all over Bill .
For example, under the changes to the scientific research and experimental development tax credit, the program would be cut. The $500 million a year that it costs would be eliminated, but it would also reduce government support for business research and development at a time when businesses need to increase innovation to compete.
To put it another way, if we cannot get the Conservatives to do the right thing because it is the right thing, let us try to get them to do the right thing because it is actually good for the economy. The only way to increase wealth in our society is to increase knowledge, and this is the dumbing down of Canadian business. That is the Conservative legacy. It is going to hit manufacturing particularly hard at a time when they need a little oxygen to keep going.
We need tailored incentives that better serve businesses and our economy as a whole. There are a couple of good examples that can be looked at in Canada where long-term vision and incentive by the government has produced a great result.
For example, take a look at the TV and film industry in Toronto. There used to be a time when it was only New York and Hollywood. Now, Toronto is in there competing with them every step of the way, but it required a partnership between government, business and labour. Those tax incentives were there for decades and they worked their way through the system and are producing the great result of bringing in billions of dollars a year and lots of high-quality jobs. However, it required government involvement every step of the way. The Conservatives simply do not believe in that.
We should be building the next success story now. Instead, we are getting less for workers, less for Canadians and less for our economy. That is what the Conservatives are about, less for everyone.
In the business environment there should be the creation of a climate for growth. We have to ensure predictability. However, look at the catastrophe this week with the sale of a gas company. The government cannot even give the criteria on which the decision was based and it released its decision at 11:57 p.m. on a Friday.
The Conservatives cannot explain the decision. They have to hide it. Then when they come back into the House, they go back to their talking points and keep referring to the statute, but the decision uses criteria that are not in the statute. How is a foreign company looking to invest in Canada supposed to make an intelligent decision? We saw the effect on the stock market immediately on Monday. Stocks were getting pummelled. People do not know. This is a government that boasts about being close to business, but its actual decisions are hurting business.
This lack of predictability is something that we would change. We would clarify the rules for foreign investment. We would welcome investments and trade as long as it was reciprocal, responsible and fair.
What concerns us the most is that since 2009, there has been a strong trend towards eviscerating anything that has to do with environmental protection in Canada. In 2009, the government even did away with one of the first steps, which was the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
I remember that the Minister of Foreign Affairs called it the greatest job killer. We were confused. At the time, we told ourselves that it was not possible to pit the environment against the economy, since the past 50 years have shown us that they go hand in hand, because both of these things must progress together.
I remember being speechless in parliamentary committee, when I saw the Liberal Party vote with the Conservatives for the first time to start dismantling the Navigable Waters Protection Act. That was in 2009. That continued in 2010 and 2011, based on what we are seeing here. They are getting rid of the protections that are so important for everyone.
But the businesses themselves are the ones that want some predictability in all of this. They do not want to end up being told that they did not fulfill their obligations.
Instead of enforcing federal environmental protection legislation, such as the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and so on, what are they doing? They are gutting these laws and changing them completely.
This is interesting, because we know that there are procedures, processes and ways of doing things, particularly in the oil sands, where the federal government no longer enforces these laws. The lack of enforcement will cause more degradation of ecosystems.
This government claims to be a law and order government. Normally, when a company violates the law, we force it to change its practices. But the Conservatives instead change the law to bring it in line with those practices.
I will give a concrete example having to do with the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which we were talking about earlier. In Canada, 37 rivers are considered to be heritage rivers. Of these 37 rivers, 27 will no longer be protected.
Now, 27 of Canada's 37 designated heritage rivers will no longer be protected. They include the Bloodvein River, in Manitoba and Ontario; the Cowichan River, British Columbia; the Clearwater River, Saskatchewan and Alberta; the Main River, Newfoundland and Labrador; the Margaree River, in Nova Scotia; the South Nahanni River, Northwest Territories; the Tatshenshini River, Yukon; the Mattawa River, Ontario; and the Upper Restigouche River, New Brunswick.
Mr. Speaker, I actually enjoy responding to the peanut gallery when they heckle. The question was, “Is it navigable?” Duh, yes. It is a definition in the law. No amount of rebranding will take away from the fact that the Navigable Waters Protection Act was meant to ensure sustainable development for future generations.
I mentioned the decision of Judge Lamer in the Oldman River case in my opening remarks. Let me read one section:
|| The Minister of Transport, in his capacity of decision maker under the Navigable Waters Protection Act must thus consider the environmental impact of the dam on such areas of federal jurisdiction as navigable waters, fisheries, Indians and Indian lands.
After that, the Conservatives stood up and said that law had nothing to do with the environment. Shame. It is Orwellian. The Conservatives made their website disappear after a question was asked by my colleague from yesterday. There were 29 references to the environment, and the Conservatives made them disappear. They want to make the environment disappear.
We are going to stand up and protect the environment, for now and for future generations. We are going to continue to fight the Conservatives' omnibus budget bills.
There are two different aspects that are being discussed today. When we look at the contents of what they are proposing, we get the results we are looking at here. We are hurting people. We are taking away programs. We are taking away protections that have been given in Canada for generations.
Before we even look at those, there is an aspect that all Canadians have to consider in what we are going through today, which is the continuation of what the Conservatives started in the spring. This type of omnibus budget bill is affecting dozens and dozens of different laws. We have fallen into the American trap of avoiding our parliamentary debate. Our system is different from the American budget system, where they tack on and tack on.
We remember the , and it was not something we have said, admitting that he never watches Canadian television and he never watches the Canadian news. He gets all his news from the Fox network. I guess it is not surprising that he thinks the American system applies here and he has simply given instructions to his House leader and his other officers to start following the American system of using a budget bill as sort of a catch-all, where they can throw in all the stuff they want to change. That is what we have here, again.
That is an undermining of our parliamentary democracy. Those are our institutions. The Conservatives are not only taking away things like medicare, free universal public medical care, and putting it in danger, the cuts I referred to earlier, the $36 billion that they announced without discussion or debate will lead inexorably to a two-tier system. That is just a fancy way of saying that poor people are going to have trouble seeing a doctor and rich people will have access because they will be able to pay for it.
That is not the Canadian system. That is not the Canadian way. We will stand up and fight that.
Yes, at every step, we will stand up because for the first time in a very long time we are beginning to have hope. In the next campaign, there will be two opposing visions for our country. There is the Conservative vision, which slashes the social safety net and takes out $10 billion every year. That is the figure they tried to hide. The cat was out of the bag yesterday.
I heard the member for say earlier that they held lengthy budget briefings. Let us talk about those briefings. I was the finance critic for the official opposition for five budgets before I became the leader of the official opposition. Never before had I seen what I saw last spring. We often see the same people from year to year. They are usually in their offices. There is very little reason for them to be here, except for the few times they attend parliamentary committee hearings.
Officials are there to provide us with information. When I saw not only the budget cuts, but also the two-year increase in the retirement age, I went to see them to ask for a single figure that could be readily obtained. I asked them what adding two years of work would mean and how much money the government would be taking out of seniors' pockets.
This is what they told me, and I quote:
“I can't give you that information.”
I know a half-truth when I hear it. So I answered:
Are you telling me you can't give me that information because you don't have it, or are you telling me you have that information but you can't give it to me?
And the response, which was worthy of George Orwell, was:
“I can't give you that information.”
That is the Conservatives.
Yesterday the Auditor General confirmed the overall number. The was asked that question at a press conference right in front of the House of Commons a few months ago. On our side, we had estimated that it was somewhere between $10 billion and $12 billion. We were not far off. They estimated it at $10 billion. The minister refused to give the number. He replied with his usual smile, as though he were saying “I do not give a damn”, that he had heard approximate numbers. Imagine that, a Minister of Finance who says such things. I can say one thing to my colleagues and to any seniors watching us at home: they can be sure that the two-year increase in the retirement age will be cancelled by an NDP government; we will put the retirement age back to 65.
We will stand up, unlike the members opposite who, day after day, have to parrot the lines written by the 's Office. They sometimes have one minute a day in their poor little parliamentary lives to finally talk about their ridings and about real issues, and what do they do? They act like parrots. They are puppets, marionettes. They stand up and say exactly what the Prime Minister's Office tells them to say.
We can be reasonable. We can stand up and keep the real objectives in mind. We tell Canadians that when it comes to pensions, the integrity of our Parliament and our free, public health care system, we are proud to stand up for them. We will stand up for the environment, because we in the NDP know that we deserve better than what the Conservatives have been offering us for the past six years.
Since the Conservatives came to power, they have found many opportunities to invent titles for bills that say exactly the opposite of the bill's contents. Last week, I had the opportunity to say that if, by chance, they actually used the most recent incarnation of the mammoth budget bill to do what they promised to do in the election campaign, which was create jobs, we would vote in favour of the bill.
In the comments I made yesterday, I clearly explained that we could have a good discussion about some of the elements in this bill if we could split it. It could be done by splitting the bill and having different committees study it.
We believe that some things can and must be done. I gave an example earlier when I spoke about tax credits for creating jobs. That is how we could go about it.
We will not let the Conservatives fool us. We have become too accustomed to their empty promises. We are telling them outright that if they split the bill and divide it into coherent parts that can be easily studied, they will find that our party is willing to co-operate.
We shall see what they end up doing. We will test the Conservatives' ability to be true to their word. In the case of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, we saw that they said one thing and what was in the documents was altogether different.
Here are some of the elements that could be split off from the bill.
Here are some of the elements of Bill that could be split off from the bill and studied separately and properly in a parliamentary committee. It has already been shown it is possible because we did it last week.
By the way, I open a little parenthesis to say that there are 450,000 public servants in Canada who are very happy that the NDP actually read what the Liberals were putting in, because such is the Liberal incompetence that they were about to give one-two-three agreement to the enactment of a law that would have taken MPs' and senators' pensions and dealt with them on the same footing as the pensions of 450,000 civil servants.
The NDP stood up, demanded a change, and was able to get it done right.
It was so pathetic to see the House leader for the Liberals standing in the hallway, stuttering away, saying, “It was a spelling mistake. It was a typographical error.” That is one of his classics. Four hundred and fifty-thousand people are a typographical error for the Liberals.
Here are some of the elements that could be split off from the bill.
The gutting of the Canada Environmental Assessment Act should be before the environment committee. The gutting of the Navigable Waters Protection Act should be before the environment and transportation committee. The elimination of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission should, of course, go to the health committee. Cutting the SR and ED tax credits should be before the industry committee. Changes to the Fisheries Act should go to fisheries and oceans committee. Changes to the Indian Act should go to aboriginal affairs and northern development committee. Changes to the new Bridge to Strengthen Trade Act should go before the transportation committee. Eliminating the grain act tribunal should go before the agriculture committee, and pension reforms should go before the human resources, skills and social development committee.
Therefore, I would like to seek unanimous consent, and I am sure it is going to be given, to move the following motion.
That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, that Bill be amended by removing the following clauses:
(a) clauses 9, 27, 28 and 62 to 64 related to the scientific research and experimental development tax credit;
(b) clauses 173 to 178 related to the Fisheries Act;
(c) clauses 179 to 184 related to the proposed bridge to strengthen trade act;
(d) clauses 206 to 209 related to the Indian Act;
(e) clauses 210 to 218 related to the Judges Act;
(f) clauses 264 to 268 related to the Customs Act;
(g) clauses 269 to 298 related to the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act;
(i) clauses 316 to 350 related to the Navigable Waters Protection Act;
(j) clauses 351 to 410 related to the Canada Grains Act;
(k) clauses 425 to 432 related to the Canada Environmental Assessment Act; and
(l) clauses 464 to 514 related to pension reforms
That the clauses mentioned in section (a) of this motion do compose Bill C-47; that Bill C-47 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
That the clauses mentioned in section (b) of this motion do compose Bill C-48; that Bill C-48 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
That the clauses mentioned in section (c) of this motion do compose Bill C-49; that Bill C-49 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
That the clauses mentioned in section (d) of this motion do compose Bill C-50; that Bill C-50 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
That the clauses mentioned in section (e) of this motion do compose Bill C-51; that Bill C-51 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
That the clauses mentioned in section (f) of this motion do compose Bill C-52; that Bill C-52 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.