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39th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 035

CONTENTS

Tuesday, December 11, 2007





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 142 
l
NUMBER 035 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
39th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the first report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182. It is entitled “The Families Remember”.
    The stories here speak for themselves. They are a compelling testimony to the profound sense of loss and grief that families did experience, and continue to experience. The bombing of Air India flight 182 was a terrible tragedy, the worst act of terror in Canadian history, and a reminder that we are not immune from terrorism.
    The Government of Canada launched the inquiry in order to provide answers to still unresolved questions that remain. We hope there will be a measure of closure for those who continue to grieve for the loss of their loved ones on that awful day in June of 1985.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to subsection 19(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a copy of the directives to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regarding the health of Canadians.

Elimination of Racial and Religious Profiling Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, seconded by the member for Vancouver East, a private member's bill entitled “An Act to eliminate racial and religious profiling”.
    The bill seeks to ban racial and religious profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and officials. I and my NDP colleagues have been very moved and often angered by the experiences of racial and religious profiling shared with us by constituents and other Canadians.
    The impact of this practice has been serious and costly to those who have been its victims, and to our society. Such actions by law enforcement officers and agencies are based solely on false stereotypes. It is not good public policy nor is it good law enforcement practice, plain and simple.
    This is an updated version of a bill introduced by the member for Vancouver East in the last Parliament. It defines racial and religious profiling as an action undertaken for reasons of safety, security or public protection that relies on stereotypes about race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion or place of origin, rather than on reasonable suspicion to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or different treatment.
    The bill would require the RCMP, customs, immigration, airport screening officers, and CSIS agents to eliminate racial and religious profiling. Those agencies would report to Parliament on their progress. They would also required to have a working analysis of how racism functions in their law enforcement context. Victims of racial or religious profiling would have access to the Federal Court to seek relief or remedy.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, also seconded by the member for Vancouver East, a private member's bill entitled “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression)”.
    The bill would add gender identity and gender expression as distinguishing characteristics protected under hate propaganda section 318 of the Criminal Code.
    The bill would also add gender identity and expression as aggravating factors to be considered at the time of sentencing of an offender under section 718.2 of the Criminal Code.
    Transgender and transsexual people are regularly victims of abuse and harassment, and physical violence. The bill would ensure that transphobic violence against transgender and transsexual people is clearly identified as a hate crime by addressing the lack of explicit protection for transsexual and transgender people under the current hate provisions of the Criminal Code.
    It would also allow judges to take into account whether crimes committed were motivated by hatred of transgender or transsexual people when they are determining the sentence of an offender.
    Including gender identity and expression in the hate provisions and the sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code would send a strong signal that violence targeting people for their gender identity or expression will not be tolerated in Canada.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

Ingrid Betancourt

    Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of this House to adopt the following motion:
    That the House of Commons call on Manuel Marulanda, Leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, to show compassion and immediately release Ingrid Betancourt in light of her critical state of health and the extreme despair in which she finds herself; and that the House declare its solidarity with all of the hostages detained in Columbia and its support for a humanitarian solution that will allow them to be released as soon as possible.
    Does the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher have the unanimous consent of the House to move this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The House has heard the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

     (Motion agreed to)

[English]

Committees of the House

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development 

    Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development presented on Monday, December 3, 2007, be concurred in.
    I am pleased to stand in the House to speak to the motion for concurrence on the report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development entitled “No Higher Priority: Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education in Canada”. This report was originally developed in February 2007 and the government subsequently responded on June 12, 2007.
    Given a number of factors that have arisen over the last couple of months, it is timely that we are talking about post-secondary education once again in the House. We have had a number of opportunities to do so over the last several months.
    The reason it is so important right now is because the House prorogued, and subsequently we had the throne speech and the economic statement. Certainly, some of the recommendations that were in the report were not addressed in either the throne speech or the economic statement. It would seem important that we are once again talking about post-secondary education.
    I want to touch on a couple of the recommendations that were in the report. I will not go over every recommendation, but one of them dealt with student funding. It said that the committee recommends that the 2% annual cap on spending increases for the department for post-secondary education be eliminated immediately.
     Of course, the 2% cap was imposed under the Liberal watch and has stayed in place every since. Over 10 years, the 2% has been in place. Certainly, from the reports of the Auditor General and others, it has become apparent that the population growth of first nations, Métis and Inuit people far exceeds the 2% cap that is in place.
    The government's response, although lengthy, really did not have a lot of substance. Part of that response was that the government also believes that the responsibility for financing post-secondary education should be shared by learners and their families according to their financial circumstances.
    The important part in that line is “according to their financial circumstances”, and certainly on reserve, many first nations face pretty desperate circumstances in their lives in terms of their income.
    On a recent campaign 2000 report, it once against emphasized that first nations in this country are the poorest of the poor. That would be first nations, Métis and Inuit. The numbers say that one in four first nations children grows up in poverty and as I said before in the House, we do not have poor children unless we have poor families.
    Further on in the report under committee proposals, the committee made a number of proposals for the government. One of them was to ensure outstanding funding and accreditation issues affecting aboriginal controlled institutions would be raised in any intergovernmental meetings on aboriginal post-secondary education, or on post-secondary education more generally, and urged provincial and territorial governments to address them.
    In the response to that recommendation, it says:
    The primary responsibility for most aspects of the issue, however, resides clearly with the provinces. To the extent there is a federal concern in a particular area, it needs to be addressed by federal and provincial governments working together.
    We certainly would agree that much of post-secondary accreditation does fall under provincial jurisdiction, but it is incumbent upon the federal government to take full responsibility for first nations, Inuit and Métis across this country in terms of their access to post-secondary education, so one would look for leadership from the federal government when talking about post-secondary education.
    There were numerous witnesses who appeared before the committee. They spoke about the lengthy number of reports that were done over the years. I want to go back to one report that was cited. It was the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. In volume 3, “Gathering Strength”, it talked about post-secondary education. In chapter 5 at page 561 it states:
    As the skills requirements of a post-industrial, globalized economy rise, the marginalization, poverty and relative disadvantage of Aboriginal people are in danger of increasing unless success in education can be radically improved.
    Equipping successive generations with the skills to participate in a global economy is a major goal of Aboriginal people and their educators, but it is only part of the story.
    Aboriginal people are determined to sustain their cultures and identities, and they see education as a major means of preparing their children to perceive the world through Aboriginal eyes and live in it as Aboriginal human beings.
    Aboriginal education therefore must be rooted in Aboriginal cultures and community realities. It must reinforce Aboriginal identity, instill traditional values, and affirm the validity of Aboriginal knowledge and ways of learning.

  (1010)  

    On page 565, the report states:
    Our recommendations include establishing an Aboriginal Peoples' International University, an electronic information clearinghouse, a statistical clearinghouse, and a documentation centre. We also recommend the formation of a Canada-wide board or association to set standards and accredit Aboriginal post-secondary programs.
    In 1996 the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples held extensive hearings across this country. It heard from organizations and people on the ground and came up with some concrete recommendations. On the tenth anniversary of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, we found that the overall response from both the Liberals and the Conservatives had been pretty dim in terms of moving forward.
    There is some self-interest here for the rest of Canada. There is certainly the question of fairness and justice in this country and ensuring that first nations, Métis and Inuit have access to post-secondary education, but there is an economic perspective for the rest of Canada as well. Even if arguments fail on the point of fairness and justice, surely economic self-interest would come into play.
    A recent study was done by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards. I am going to quote from the press release:
    Canada stands to lose billions over the next decade in lost productivity and labour growth because almost one in two aboriginal youths don't graduate from high school....
    The study, by Ottawa's Centre for the Study of Living, projects Canada's GDP would grow by an additional $71 billion by 2017 if aboriginals had the same graduation rate as the rest of the population.
     Using figures from the 2001 census, the study said only 52 per cent of Canada's aboriginals earned their high school diploma compared to 70 per cent of non-aboriginals.
     If the Canadian economy could better harness the potential of aboriginal youths, aboriginal communities and the nation's economy as a whole would benefit....
    Further, it states:
    “Not only would it significantly contribute to increasing the personal well-being of aboriginal Canadians, but it would also contribute somewhat to alleviating two of the most pressing challenges facing the Canadian economy: slower labour force growth and lacklustre labour productivity growth”.
    That is the economic self-interest of Canada.
     It has been well documented in Canada that we are facing some critical labour shortages in any number of areas and in any number of provinces in this country. Here is an opportunity to truly invest in education, right from kindergarten through to a post-secondary system. When I am talking about post-secondary, I am not talking simply about university. I am also talking about apprenticeships and vocational and technical programs, because we are seeing shortages in all these areas.
    This press release goes on to talk about the fact that only “8.9 per cent of aboriginals held a university degree in 2001 compared to almost 22 per cent of non-aboriginal Canadians”, but they also face tremendous poverty.
    States the release:
    National Chief Fontaine, with the Assembly of First Nations, said it's clear aboriginals are an “untapped resource”. They are the fastest growing segment of the population and the majority of aboriginals are under 25, he said.
    But they also face tremendous poverty--unsafe drinking water, inadequate housing, illnesses and suicide...Until aboriginals can expect the same standard of life...they will have difficulty making a strong contribution to the Canadian economy.
    “It doesn't make sense...to keep people poor, poorly educated, poorly trained and unable to access jobs...This is a significant labour pool but it has to be developed.
    Further on in the press release, Andrew Sharpe, executive director of the centre and co-author of the study, said:
--the economic argument for boosting aboriginal graduation rates is strong but all levels of government have [an] equally strong moral incentive as well.
    So there is the economic argument about why we need to invest in education.
    Again, the department's own records show that the Conservative government inherited what the Liberals failed to invest in, so this problem has not erupted in just the last two years. This has been a longstanding problem from coast to coast to coast in terms of investment in aboriginal education.

  (1015)  

    In the department's own records, both K to 12 and post-secondary are talked about. They cannot be pulled apart if we cannot get children to graduate from grade 12 so that they are eligible for post-secondary. We need investment at both ends of the spectrum.
    In its own documents, the department talks about this fact:
    The funding shortfall, which is met by the department through internal reallocation of resources from “discretionary” programs, was $86.3 million and is forecast to be $100 million in 2005-06.
    Here the department is talking about the fact that there simply has not been enough money going into instructional and support services, despite the growing population.
    In light of these kinds of numbers, the department has also looked at the fact that over the last six years any real capital and facilities management expenditures have actually declined. “This is because the CFM program is often perceived as discretionary,” says the department, “and its resources are used to make up funding shortfalls in other more essential programs such as Elementary/Secondary Education and Child and Family Services”.
    Thus, schools are being underfunded because bands are forced into the position where they have to reallocate funds. They simply do not have enough to meet some of their other pressing needs.
    The department goes on to talk about the fact that the “per capita expenditure on capital has declined from $1,660 to $1,225, or a 35% decrease in current dollars”. The money simply is not going as far as it used to. Further on, there is a mention of the estimated five year incremental capital requirements. Overall there is a $1.6 billion shortfall and that is just on projects currently on the books.
    In addition, bands continue to face an outdated band school funding formula. The Assembly of First Nations representatives from Quebec and Labrador were on the Hill yesterday. They were here to raise awareness around first nations education.
    They talked specifically about the band school funding formula. They say that “the formula ignores a number of costs”, as follows: zero dollars for the integration of technology in schools; zero dollars for school libraries; zero dollars for vocational training in secondary schools; zero dollars for extracurricular sports and recreation activities; zero dollars for implementing provincial education reforms; and zero dollars for providing students with a diversified and stimulating curriculum, such as sports, arts and international programs.
    The band operating funding formula is due to expire in March 2008. We are hearing from bands from coast to coast that they are simply not being included in a meaningful way in the discussions around what is needed in their communities.
    As well, the Assembly of First Nations in Quebec and Labrador has done a comparative study on the kind of funding that is received by provinces and territories. There are huge discrepancies. I will not go over every difference in provincial averages, but the average funding per student across the country is $13,588 for a provincial student. For an aboriginal student, the provincial average is only $7,946.
    We can see the huge difference in those numbers, which means that what we are continuing to say to first nations across this country is that they are second class citizens and they do not deserve to have education at the same rate as every other Canadian student who goes to a provincially funded school.
    When we are talking about post-secondary, there are a couple of points that I would like to make. One is that the Canadian Council on Learning has made some recommendations. Again, we have had report after report. This is another report that talks about it and is called “Post-Secondary Education in Canada: Strategies for Success”.
    Although this is larger than the first nations report, a number of the recommendations apply equally to first nations. There are three key recommendations. The report talks about: “The development of a national framework with the participation of [post-secondary education] partners across Canada; the development and implementation of a national data strategy; the development of a series of benchmarks that measure Canadian progress through the efforts of the sector”.
    In the report, the council talks about the fact that “Canada does not have the structure, practices and mechanisms to maximize the [post-secondary education] sector's social and economic contribution”.
    We know that a significant percentage of the jobs that are going to be created or are currently being created across Canada require post-secondary education. We have an untapped resource with aboriginal peoples who could fill those jobs, but we simply are not investing and we do not have a national strategy. Instead what we often hear is passing the buck. The federal government simply will rely on provincial governments to step in and fulfill what is a responsibility of the federal government for first nations, Métis and Inuit.

  (1020)  

    I want to come back to the First Nations Technical Institute, FNTI. This is a first nations institute that has a good track record. It has had over 2,000 graduates, with almost 400 aboriginal students per year, and it has established its credibility in terms of educating students to actually step into that job market.
    However, its federal funding in 2004 was cut by 50%, “leading to double-digit layoffs, wage freezes and restructuring of the institute”. Again in October of this year it was advised that its current budget, and we are part-way through a fiscal year, was slashed by an additional 65%. Here is a first nations post-secondary institute that has a track record in terms of graduating students with some success, yet its money is being cut.
    The conciliator's final report, dated March 1, 2006, “The Nunavut Project”--and again, it was talking about K to 12, but this report also touched on post-secondary--talked about the Nunavut Sivuniksavut, which is also called NS, and the track record and the difficulties that this institution has in obtaining funding.
    In Justice Berger's report, he states:
    Perhaps the most striking figure is the completion rate: over the past 10 years, between 80 and 85 percent of NS students have graduated, a remarkable figure when the nature of [the]program and its distance from home--geographically and culturally--is considered.
    NS is a nonprofit organization and a registered charity, with strong oversight. My sense is that few pennies are wasted, except those that must go to fundraising: since only NTI has committed to long-term funding of NS, the program must go cap-in-hand to other organizations and donors to ensure ongoing support. This is a strain on the minimal administrative resources available.
    He goes on to say that despite the fact there is a demand there is very limited capacity to actually expand this program, simply because NS just does not have the funding in place. Like many organizations, it goes go from year to year, or perhaps in three-year terms, for funding. What organizations like NS need is long term and sustained core funding that allows them to focus on education rather than fundraising. It is very difficult to talk about a post-secondary institution that ends up spending a significant part of its very limited resources fundraising just to keep its doors open when it has such a great success rate.
    The committee had the opportunity to go to the school, hear from the students and see their accomplishments. I would be surprised if each and every committee member was not touched upon seeing the energy and enthusiasm of the staff and students for this opportunity.
     These students come here with great personal difficulty. They travel far from home. Some have children and bring their children with them. They are separated from their families and communities, yet they come here because they recognize how important education is for Nunavut in terms of stepping into the 21st century in a way that means they are meaningful participants in their economy and their communities.
    It is another really good example of where the federal government could demonstrate leadership and could step in to provide some long term, sustained funding for this very important organization.
     We cannot take education apart and have it as a stand-alone. Yesterday we heard from Chief Picard, who talked about the fact that the approach is often a patchwork. People take one part of a program and work at resolving some of the difficulties and challenges, but they do not look at it in the context of the whole.
    When we are talking about post-secondary education, what we also know is that it is very difficult for these students and for their families to have these students go far away, because they simply do not have the money and the resources to return home when they need connection with their family. If they do return home, they are often dealing with overcrowded conditions and very difficult study conditions.
     If we are serious about tackling poverty with regard to first nations, Métis and Inuit, we simply must invest in post-secondary education in order to provide those economic opportunities. Many people in this House will say that a job is the way out of poverty, but to get a job people need an education in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are available.

  (1025)  

    I would urge members in this House to support the recommendations in the standing committee's report on post-secondary education. I would certainly urge the Conservatives to take some of that surplus and invest it in a meaningful way in first nations communities.

  (1030)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to draw to everyone's attention what exactly is going on here. The concurrence motion that the NDP has brought forward is a delaying tactic in dealing with Bill C-28, the budget implementation act. This is a very sad state. The NDP must stand for the new delaying party.
    The New Democrats are trying to take away so many good things that are coming forward here right at Christmastime. I guess they must be grinches because they do not want to go forward with decreasing the GST by an additional percentage point to 5% effective January 1, 2008. They do not want to increase the basic personal tax exemption to $9,600, which is retroactive to January 1, 2007, with a further increase to $10,100 in 2009. They definitely do not want to pass on these great savings to taxpayers and Canadians across the country. They do not want to reduce the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% effective January 1, 2007. They do not want to introduce the working income tax benefit. They do not want to eliminate the income tax on elementary and secondary school scholarships.
    I do not know what is wrong with the member in bringing this motion forward. There are so many good things here in the economic statement and the implementation act that we should be getting back to the business of bringing forward these great savings to Canadians and ensuring that we as government get out of their pockets so they have more money to spend, especially in light of the Christmas season.
    Mr. Speaker, if we want to talk about the grinch, we actually should talk about the Conservative government.
    The government had a $14 billion surplus. We know that independent reports talk about the desperate living conditions and poverty in first nations and Inuit communities from coat to coast to coast.
    If he wants to talk about grinches, I would argue that a government that is willing to accept third world living conditions in this country, willing to turn its back on first nations, Métis and Inuit people across this country and not willing to invest some of that $14 billion surplus in meaningful action, is beyond words.
    I am surprised the member would not acknowledge the fact that there was such limited attention in the economic statement around reinvestment in first nations communities.
    Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the back and forth with the Conservatives and our caucus member with great interest. The Conservatives talk about who they are helping and how they will give their 1% GST cut to their voters and yet there was nothing in that budget to deal with the issues of first nations people.
    What we need to talk about in this House is the fact that, in terms of special education and health dollars, Canada maintains an institutional apartheid where the Government of Canada sets a standard for first nations people that is deliberately and consistently second class. It puts into law that the students are expected to meet provincial standards and yet the federal government refuses to pay money anywhere close to provincial standards.
    I would like to ask my hon. colleague about the issue of special education funding. Having worked as I did with the Algonquin Tribal Council in Abitibi—Témiscamingue, we fought year after year to get basic, fair funding for students with special needs. We found from the government of the day complete disinterest. We find the government of this day simply smirks at these issues. The Conservatives think it is a joke.

[Translation]

    My colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue is very familiar with the situation of the Algonquins in his riding. The same thing is going on across Canada, including in the Cree region.

[English]

    Why does my colleague think the government has such a smug disinterest in the actual conditions of our first nations people who need education dollars, perhaps more than any other region in this country?
    Mr. Speaker, the question by the member for Timmins—James Bay highlights just one of a number of factors that we are consistently seeing. The special needs education budgets do not meet the needs of the communities and often people need to move money around in an attempt to meet the deficit in the communities when it comes to spending on special education.
    We had department officials at the aboriginal affairs committee a week or two ago. One of the questions we raised with them was what happens when a school burns down. Attawapiskat, for example, is on a contaminated site. We asked them how priorities were established in terms of funding those schools.
    We found that schools, which may have been on the list for years, are bumped down again when a crisis emerges. Therefore, there is no reinjection of money to deal with the fact that many of these students are actually being farmed out throughout their community because their schools have either burned down or are contaminated.
    There just is not the kind of priority or understanding around what it means to students in those communities to not have schools that at least meet provincial standards.
    Whether it is special education, schools that are contaminated or burned down, housing or water, we are continuing to see a litany of problems in these communities that the government is failing to address.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two questions. The first one deals with the funding formula, which the member mentioned, for first nations advanced education formula which expires in March 2008. Apparently, there is no clear direction yet and first nations people have not been included in meaningful discussions. I do not understand that and I would like the member to comment on it.
    Second, the member also mentioned that there was no serious national strategy for post-secondary education for first nations. How can we have a national strategy for first nations when we do not even have one for post-secondary education in general? How is it that our students in post-secondary education pay horrendous tuition fees? Why do we not have something that brings those fees down or eliminates them so we can come into the 21st century, like other countries have done, which then increases our economy and invests in the future?
    Mr. Speaker, the band operating funding formula is the formula that funds on reserve schools. This formula was developed in 1988. I want to quote from the AFNQL:
...has always ignored significant costs, in addition to not having been revised to take account of new developments in education. The formula has not even been indexed to the cost of living since 1996....
    It goes on to talk about the fact that in 2003-04 the per student cost in Canada had increased by an average of 24%, which is in excess of the rate of inflation.
    The band operating funding formula is an important part of how on reserve schools can manage to deliver an education that would at least have a comparable standard to the rest of the provinces.
    We are in December and the bands across the country are still not clear on what they will be operating with come April 1, 2008, and they need to start making commitments into the next fiscal year.
    In terms of a post-secondary education strategy, my colleague is absolutely correct. We do not have a broad national strategy around post-secondary education. We know that people do move from coast to coast and we need to be able to, with some comfort, feel that there are standards and strategy across the country to deal with post-secondary education.
    We do not have it at the national level to deal with post-secondary education as a whole and we certainly do not have a national post-secondary strategy for first nations, Métis and Inuit.
    As I pointed out, this is a lost economic opportunity for Canada that would assist us in dealing with the labour shortage that is before us and would help us in terms of dealing with the aging baby boomers.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's effort to bring this issue to the floor of the House today. I do not think there is anything as important right now, as we look across the country and determine who it is that is in most need and in want of an opportunity to participate in society, look after themselves and their families and provide a good living.
    The member knows I have travelled this country over the last two years looking at the issue of poverty. Predominantly, the face of poverty in this country, as well as being female and disabled, is aboriginal. It is a national disgrace.
    We have seen governments, and not just the present one but also the previous government, run surpluses at a time when our first nations communities were sliding further and further into poverty and great depression.
    Given that the face of poverty is so obvious across the land in almost every aboriginal community, how long has this been going on, why is it that the previous Liberal government did not do anything about it and what is it that the present government could do?

  (1040)  

    Mr. Speaker, I think this is a national shame. We have had successive Liberal and Conservative governments that have simply ignored the poverty in this country and have refused to develop a national strategy in conjunction with first nations, Métis and Inuit so there would be full participation in developing a strategy that would have some meaningful results.
    Mr. Speaker, I stand today to speak to this motion but I am quite surprised that the motion to concur in this report actually came forward in light of the fact that the aboriginal affairs committee, on which I sit with the hon. colleague from the New Democratic Party, actually brought forward this debate in the previous session. This report has already been brought forward to this chamber and was approved by the chamber.
    I see this action as redundant. I do not understand why the New Democratic Party is doing this. In fact, we are working on Bill C-28 right now, which would bring so many benefits to Canadians.
    However, to speak to her motion, our government has done a number of things for first nations people, aboriginal people all across the country. We have actually looked at it from two approaches. Not only is more investment needed, but systemic reform, and that is an area that the previous Liberal government did not take on. We have actually done a number of things in terms of education, specifically in British Columbia with the British Columbia first nations education jurisdiction agreement that brings that systemic reform that is so needed in the area of first nations education.
    I would love to continue this debate, because it is such an important debate, but our government has a lot of important issues to bring forward. We only had a few minutes' notice on this debate and we would prefer to continue it at another time and I assure this House that we can continue this debate on another day.
    We have much other business, as we have so often mentioned this morning, that we need to take care of and therefore I move:
    That the debate be now adjourned.
    The motion is in order, obviously, and I might add that it is non-debatable.
    The House has heard the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen.
    The Deputy Speaker: Call in the members.

  (1120)  

[Translation]

     (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 25)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Albrecht
Alghabra
Allen
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Arthur
Asselin
Bachand
Bagnell
Bains
Barnes
Batters
Bélanger
Bell (North Vancouver)
Bellavance
Bennett
Benoit
Bernier
Bezan
Blais
Blaney
Bonin
Bonsant
Boshcoff
Boucher
Bourgeois
Breitkreuz
Brison
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Calkins
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Cannis
Cardin
Carrie
Carrier
Casson
Chong
Clement
Coderre
Comuzzi
Cotler
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Cuzner
D'Amours
Davidson
Day
Del Mastro
Demers
Deschamps
Devolin
Dhaliwal
Dosanjh
Doyle
Dryden
Dykstra
Easter
Emerson
Epp
Eyking
Faille
Fast
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Flaherty
Fletcher
Folco
Freeman
Gagnon
Galipeau
Gallant
Gaudet
Godfrey
Goldring
Goodale
Goodyear
Gourde
Gravel
Grewal
Guay
Guergis
Guimond
Hanger
Harper
Harris
Harvey
Hawn
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Holland
Hubbard
Ignatieff
Jaffer
Jean
Kadis
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Karygiannis
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Keeper
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Komarnicki
Kotto
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Laforest
Laframboise
Lake
Lauzon
Lavallée
LeBlanc
Lee
Lemay
Lemieux
Lessard
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
Lussier
MacAulay
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Malhi
Malo
Maloney
Manning
Mark
Marleau
Matthews
Mayes
McGuire
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McTeague
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Mills
Minna
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Murphy (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe)
Murphy (Charlottetown)
Nadeau
Neville
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
Obhrai
Oda
Ouellet
Pacetti
Pallister
Paquette
Paradis
Perron
Petit
Picard
Plamondon
Poilievre
Prentice
Preston
Proulx
Rajotte
Ratansi
Redman
Regan
Reid
Richardson
Ritz
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rota
Roy
Russell
Savage
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schellenberger
Shipley
Silva
Simard
Simms
Skelton
Smith
Solberg
Sorenson
St-Cyr
St. Amand
St. Denis
Stanton
Steckle
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Szabo
Telegdi
Temelkovski
Thi Lac
Thibault (West Nova)
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Tonks
Trost
Tweed
Valley
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Verner
Vincent
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Williams
Wrzesnewskyj
Yelich
Zed

Total: -- 225

NAYS

Members

Angus
Atamanenko
Bell (Vancouver Island North)
Bevington
Black
Charlton
Chow
Christopherson
Comartin
Crowder
Davies
Dewar
Godin
Julian
Layton
Marston
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
Mathyssen
McDonough
Mulcair
Nash
Priddy
Siksay
Stoffer
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Wasylycia-Leis

Total: -- 28

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

  (1125)  

[English]

    The House will now resume with the remaining business under routine proceedings.

Petitions

Student Loans  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table two petitions.
    The first is signed by over 100 folks from the Lower Mainland of B.C., including people from my constituency of Burnaby—Douglas, students at Simon Fraser University and members of the congregation of St. John's United Church in Vancouver.
    They call on the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development to change the student loan system to create a needs based grant system, reduce the student loan interest rate, create a student loan ombudsperson, improve interest relief provisions, establish standards of practice for student loan collection agencies, reduce the ban on bankruptcy protection for student loans and consider the recommendations of the Coalition for Student Loan Fairness and other student groups.

Automated Teller Machine Fees  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by many residents of Burnaby. They point out that Canada's banks are making record profits in the billions of dollars, while at the same time Canadians are being charged for using automated teller machines when they deposit, withdraw or transfer their own money.
    They call on Parliament to amend the Bank Act to eliminate fees associated with the use of automated teller machines.

Violent Crime  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions I would like to table today in the House.
    The first petition asks Parliament to implement a three-pronged strategy of intervention, prevention and accountability to fight violence in our communities.
    Parliament must intervene by funding community and social programs that will prevent children from pursuing a life of violence on the streets. Parliament must prevent violence by working with provincial and municipal partners for stricter gun control policies. Finally, Parliament must hold accountable offenders who use firearms and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

Manufacturing Sector  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from people across the province of Ontario who call on Parliament to develop and implement a plan of action to protect Canadian manufacturing jobs in consultation with stakeholders in labour and business communities.
    Manufacturing jobs are important to Canada's national economy and Canada is losing thousands of manufacturing jobs every year.

Transit Operators  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by hundreds of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The petitioners include folks who are family members or neighbours of bus drivers and transit workers and also bus operators and transit workers themselves.
    Given the number of assaults that we are seeing on bus drivers and transit operators across the country, it is an epidemic, the petitioners are asking the House of Commons to support the legislative initiative that comes from me extending to bus operators and transit operators the same protections under the Criminal Code that are afforded to police officers who are assaulted while performing their duties. This would establish stiffer penalties for their assailants.
    Bus drivers, transit operators, their family members and neighbours are calling on government and the House of Commons to take action to protect bus drivers and transit operators.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

  (1130)  

[English]

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to finally be able to present Bill C-28 today at third reading.
    As we conclude what has already been, and even more so this morning, an exhaustive debate on this piece of legislation, I would like to thank most hon. colleagues in this House for supporting the motion to get us back to a serious debate on the implementation of Bill C-28. It is important that we get this done as soon as possible.
    The bill before the House today proposes to implement the tax measures announced in this fall's economic statement, along with the outstanding budget 2007 measures not yet legislated.
    Before continuing, I would first like to comment on the remarkable state of the Canadian economy. While cognizant of certain sector specific challenges, our economy has performed incredibly well over the first half of 2007, bolstering revenue growth and the overall fiscal position of the government. More important, it has yielded impressive employment growth. According to Statistics Canada's recently released November employment numbers, Canada created 42,600 new jobs last month alone. Contrary to declarations otherwise, these were chiefly good quality, well paying jobs.
    As TD Securities economist Jacqui Douglas noted on the November job data:
    The bulk of the employment growth came from full-time, as opposed to part-time...and even more importantly, the private paid sector actually added a significant number of jobs.
    Furthermore, year to date, an astounding 388,000 jobs have been created in Canada.
    Plainly speaking, our economic and fiscal positions are solid and ready to withstand challenges on the horizon. In the words of National Bank of Canada economist Stéfane Marion, with “the employment to population ratio at a new all-time high and job creation more evenly split between regions, the Canadian domestic economy remains in great shape to absorb the incoming slowdown in the United States”.
    That strong position has allowed our Conservative government to proactively tackle two important priorities for Canadians: lowering taxes and reducing debt. Indeed, our planned debt reduction is $10 billion for 2007-08 and $3 billion in each year after that. This will bring a total debt reduction since 2005-06 to over $37 billion. That is lowering the federal debt burden that we are passing on to future generations by nearly an astounding $1,600 for every Canadian.
    What is more, we have followed through on our promise to provide a tax back guarantee to ensure that interest savings resulting from debt reduction will be returned to Canadians through lower personal income taxes. As a result of the additional debt payment, the total value of personal income tax relief provided under the tax back guarantee will rise to $2.5 billion in 2012-13.
    Canada's strong fiscal position has also allowed us to reduce Canada's overall tax burden for individuals and businesses by $190 billion over this and the next five fiscal years, and in doing so, bringing taxes for Canadians to their lowest level in 50 years, a remarkable achievement by this Conservative government.
    I would now like to outline the initiatives in the bill associated with the fall's economic statement and follow by outlining key measures in Bill C-28 related to budget 2007.

  (1135)  

    The recent economic statement introduced broad based tax cuts that delighted most Canadians. John Williamson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation was overwhelmed. He remarked the economic statement “exceeded our expectations…these are measures that are going to benefit every single tax payer in the country”.
    Even typically reserved economists gushed with praise. For example, Patricia Croft, an economist with investment firm Philips, Hager & North, was moved to say the following:
    It’s absolutely stunning the scope of the tax cuts that were put into place…there’s something for everyone in there…it’s…Christmas, Hanukah and News Years all rolled into one. Basically anything that had a pulse today got a tax cut.
    What elicited such a positive, glowing response? I will start with the one percentage point GST reduction. Not only has this fulfilled our campaign promise to lower the GST to 5%, but it will save Canadian taxpayers approximately $12 billion next year alone. This is a significant tax reduction that directly affects Canadians whenever they purchase items subject to the GST.
    Here are some examples of the savings that Canadians can expect. A couple that purchases a new $300,000 home will save almost $4,000 in GST. A family that does $10,000 of home renovations will save $200 in GST. A family that spends $30,000 on a new mini-van will save $600 in GST. No wonder so many diverse organizations have embraced this announcement.
    Retail BC, for instance, remarked:
    The GST cut is welcome news to consumers as well as Canadian retailers who are working to make their prices more competitive with the US.
    Tourism Victoria's CEO, Lorne Whyte, liked the GST cut. He said it would “be good for the domestic market for tourism in Canada”.
    Even former Liberal deputy prime minister, Sheila Copps, heralded our GST cut, noting:
    Most Canadians don't like the GST and want governments to reduce it. Political parties who ignore the consensus do so at their peril. It would be suicidal for any opposition party to bring down the government on the GST.
    To ensure continued assistance for low to modest income Canadians, the GST credit will be maintained at its current level. This translates into more than $1 billion in benefits annually for these individuals.
    The economic statement also announced additional tax relief for individuals and families by increasing the amount Canadians could earn before they start to pay income tax, up to $9,600. What is more, this measure is retroactive to January 1. Also, a further increase to $10,100 is slated for January 1, 2009. These measures alone will provide $2.5 billion in tax relief over this and the next year.
    Furthermore, the economic statement proposes to reduce the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%, retroactive again to January 1, that is this tax year. As a result of the personal income tax cut and the GST reductions announced in the economic statement, a family that earns between $15,000 and $30,000 will save $180 on average in 2008. The average savings for a family that earns between $80,000 and $100,000 will be $600. It is always good news when money is put back into the pockets of taxpayers where it belongs.
    Additionally, the economic statement brought forward measures to help Canadian business prosper. First, Bill C-28 proposes to reduce the general corporate income tax rate to 15% by 2012. This will start with a 1% per cent reduction in 2008, beyond the already scheduled reductions previously introduced. In addition, the bill proposes to reduce the small business income tax to 11% in 2008, one year earlier than previously scheduled.

  (1140)  

    With these tax reductions, we have put business taxes on a five year downward track to help stimulate economic growth, create even more jobs and provide business predictability for future planning. These are proactive and strong measures to allow prosperity to grow in Canada. These are the right measures for Canada at the right time.
    Indeed, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce lauded them as “exactly in line with what we had proposed on behalf of our members at the Canadian Chamber”.
    The Canadian Federation of Independent Business lauded them as well, saying, “really encouraging because it sends a strong signal to business”.
    Royal Bank of Canada chief economist Craig Wright declared “positive for growth prospects which should be positive going forward for the Canadian economy ”.
    Finn Poschmann of C.D. Howe Institute simply noted them as “terrific to see”.
    With these reductions, we will have established the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G-7 by 2011 and the lowest corporate income tax rate among the major industrialized economies by 2012, another remarkable achievement by this Conservative government.
    As I alluded to at the outset, Bill C-28 proposes to implement the numerous outstanding tax measures from budget 2007 not included in the first budget bill passed in Parliament in late spring.
     While time precludes me from addressing every one of these measures, I will note Bill C-28 includes, among others, provisions to: eliminate income tax on elementary and secondary school scholarships; increase the lifetime capital gains exemption to $750,000 for small business owners, farmers and fishers; increase the meal expenses tax deductible for long-haul truck drivers; extend the mineral exploration tax credit; reduce the paperwork burden of small business by easing tax remittance and filing requirements; encourage businesses to create new child care spaces through an investment tax credit; waive income tax payable by non-resident athletes at the upcoming Vancouver 2012 games; and introduce the working income tax benefit and the registered disability savings plan.
    It is those last two items that I will further highlight for Canadians. These are two progressive, compassionate initiatives that clearly illustrate how the Conservative government is assisting the most vulnerable Canadians while also prudently managing the economy.
    To begin, let us discuss the new working income tax benefit. This initiative has been heralded by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy as a “welcome addition to Canadian social policy…fill(ing) a long-recognized gap in Canada’s income security system”.
    The United Way of Greater Toronto report has celebrated it as well as a “positive changes that will help to improve the situations of low-income families”.
    Why such accolades? It is because of the important contribution this initiative will make to help low income Canadians over the so-called welfare wall. The welfare wall refers to the fact that for too many low income Canadians, taking a job can mean being financially penalized.
     For example, a typical single parent who takes a low income job can lose a large portion of each dollar earned to taxes and reduce income support. In addition, individuals who receive social assistance benefits could also lose in-kind benefits such as subsidized housing and prescription drugs.
    The working income tax benefit will provide assistance up to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families. This will reward and strengthen incentives to work for an estimated 1.2 million low income Canadians and give them a leg up to get over that welfare wall.
    To continue, let us discuss the registered disability savings plan. Our Conservative government recognizes an important consideration for parents and grandparents of a child with a severe disability is how to best ensure that child's financial security when they are no longer able to provide support.

  (1145)  

    In 2006 the Minister of Finance appointed the expert panel to examine this issue and provide recommendations. The proposed measures in Bill C-28 act on the panel's recommendations by introducing a new registered disability savings plan. Based generally on the existing registered education savings plan design, the plan would help parents and others save toward the long term financial security of persons with severe disabilities.
    I hope all members understand the significance of such efforts to assist disabled Canadians. I hope all members would put aside the typical partisan posturing to at least indicate support for this measure.
    While to some members this might seem to be just another government program, it is much more. To those who truly understand the impact that this will have, this measure is of profound importance.
    To quote a Vancouver Province editorial from earlier this year, “the great good it will do is beyond calculation in mere dollars and cents”.
     Indeed, Al Etmanski of the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network reflected in a radio interview that this measures announcement “actually bringing tears to my eyes...I think it was very emotional for us, not just personally, but I think we understood what this meant to people and families”.
    Bill C-28 is a large and broad piece of legislation covering an assortment of issues and addressing numerous challenges, but its overarching theme is the promotion of a better, more prosperous Canada, an even better Canada to live in and to leave to our children and our grandchildren. However, to do so, we cannot afford to sit back and rest on our laurels.
    To quote the English poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Nothing wilts faster than laurels that have been rested upon”.
     It is time to press ahead and build on our achievements. Bill C-28 does just that. That is why I call on the House to quickly pass this proposed legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, it is always good news when we hear that 388,000 jobs have been created, but I am sure the member is aware of the concerns raised by a number of members, day in and day out in the House, particularly the NDP and the Bloc, about the manufacturing sector and the tremendous job loss there.
    First, what sectors were involved in the job creation? Second, when can the workers and companies in the manufacturing sector expect to receive from the government a strategy, a plan around protecting their jobs and enhancing that sector to create job growth?
    Mr. Speaker, I think the government has been very frank with its dealings with all industries. We do not want to pick winners and losers. We are putting in tax measures and tax reductions that provide opportunities for all industries from coast to coast to coast.
    In fact, we are recognizing the north. Finally, we are realizing the disadvantaged region in the north that has not had a chance to catch up. We are the first government in history that has recognized the potential in that region and that is why through our Indian and northern affairs minister and his parliamentary secretary we are doing so much to promote that region.
    I find it interesting that my hon. colleague from the NDP would ask this question because it was his party, I believe, that propped up the former Liberal government in its last budget. I would like to quote something that the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters said about the Liberal Party's last budget that was supported by the NDP, “This is a clear example of opportunity lost”.
     That happened in the Liberal budget, and did I mention that it was supported by the NDP? I think I did. It went on to say, “No action in this budget will preserve Canada's industrial base. Manufacturers feel their pleas are not being taken seriously”.
    It is amazing to me that the hon. member would stand in the House and question the Conservative government on what we have done for industries when the Liberal-NDP budget of years gone by did nothing and was recognized by the industries to have done nothing to help them. Perhaps if they had stepped forward at that time those industries would be in a better position to be able to compete.
    The accelerated capital cost allowance that the current finance minister put in place is $1.3 billion to help industries.

  (1150)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, like his colleagues on that side of the House so often do, the hon. member was just singing the praises of the Conservative government's vision, which aims primarily to put more money in the pockets of those who already have it. People who have money should not be criticized. They already have money and, of course, the factors that some people would like to improve in terms of tax measures and consumption incentives directly benefit those people.
    A very important segment of our society is our seniors. As we know, those who receive only old age security and the guaranteed income supplement are living below what is called the “low income” bracket, a euphemism for “poverty”.
    When will some very practical, concrete steps be taken to give these people an income, these people who have nothing else, in order to lift them above the poverty line? When will we see some recognition of the fact that seniors have unfortunately been swindled over the years, because they knew nothing about the guaranteed income supplement or any real retroactivity, although when certain people were on this side of the House, they were in favour of these measures? These are two very simple questions. When is someone really going to help our seniors and allow them to live in dignity?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have heard the hon. member stand in this House and ask questions to support her constituents, so I understand her passion for this issue.
    The minister has risen in this House many times in question period and talked about the support that this government has put forward for seniors and low income individuals. There were many comments in my speech about the working income tax benefit for those who are actually able to go back to work and the savings plan for disabled individuals who are unable to work. This would be a first to put this in place. We provided income splitting for seniors, in specific answer to the hon. member's question.
    The tax benefits that are put forward in Bill C-28 need to get through this House as quickly as possible because Canadians are expecting them. Canadians have been promised tax savings retroactive to the full tax year 2007.
    To hear the kind of comments that we are hearing from the members of the NDP who are blatantly trying to slow this legislation when many of us are wanting to get home to our families for Christmas, we all know the positions in this House that each party is going to take.
    We spent hours debating this. We understand the benefits to Canadians. My suggestion to my hon. colleagues is to get on with the job that their constituents expect them to do; that is, to help them. This budget and economic statement implementation bill would do just that.

  (1155)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the economic statement does not include anything to help the manufacturing sector, despite unanimous recommendations issued over a year ago by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Two of those recommendations were particularly interesting. The first was accelerated capital cost allowance, which would make it possible for businesses to improve their productivity. The second was the refundable research and development tax credit to enable businesses to get the funds they need immediately.
    The government told us that these measures would cost too much. But these are not tax expenditures for the government because they are actually deferred taxes. Businesses that benefit from accelerated capital cost allowance on investments pay less tax when they amortize the equipment, but once the amortization is done, they will pay more taxes, taxes that would otherwise have been paid sooner. The same applies to refundable research and development tax credits. If businesses try to claim the credit now, when they are not making a profit, that is indeed an expenditure for the government. At any rate, the tax expenditure would be engendered when the business makes a profit and claims these credits.
    In this case, the two measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois and supported unanimously by members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology would cost the government very little. They would give struggling businesses the resources they need to get through the manufacturing and forestry crises.
    Instead, the government decided to put all of its resources into cutting taxes, a move that will only benefit companies that are doing well.
    My question for the parliamentary secretary is as follows: Can he tell the House that he understands that these two specific measures are simply deferred taxes and that nobody is asking for special handouts for the manufacturing industry?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the way and I have shared these discussions at the finance committee. I am absolutely interested to hear the recommendations of those witnesses that come and present before the committee. We of course take those recommendations to heart.
    It is interesting to hear some of the varied comments and some comments from one of the Quebec industries said we need to have a 70¢ dollar in order to be able to compete. I think we all know that there should be no business plan that is prefaced on a 70¢ dollar.
    However, I need to remind the hon. member that with the accelerated capital cost provision that we have provided to these industries there is investment in many industries that is creating more jobs when we look at the job numbers. I referred to the number of new jobs in my speech earlier.
    Certainly, those jobs are changing, as everyone's life and every industry does. Things change. These jobs that we have created by helping industries compete internationally are high paying jobs. They are not low value jobs. These are high value jobs. Therefore, by implementing this legislation, we are looking at Canada becoming the lowest overall tax region in the G-7.

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the third reading debate of Bill C-28, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled by the Conservative government in March 2007 and also to implement certain provisions of the economic statement, or mini budget, tabled in October of this year.
    The Conservative government has been in office now for close to two years and, apart from bringing in ideas and initiatives that were started under the Liberal government and complaining about the Liberal government in the 13 years that preceded it, it has not really brought in much in terms of a vision or a sense of direction for this great country of Canada. In fact, to coin the Conservatives' own phrase, they are just not getting the job done, and t his bill is a good example of that. It is deficient in a number of respects and I will attempt to highlight some of the concerns in a moment.
    I would like first to comment on a couple of the positive elements of Bill C-28, the budget and the mini budget, and that is that the Conservatives, with this legislation, will bring back the personal income tax cuts that our government introduced in 2005, which reduces the basic rate from 15.5% to 15%. While the Conservative members opposite denied that they had actually increased personal income taxes in their budgets, they now recognize that they did increase personal income taxes and now, with Bill C-28, they will be reducing personal income taxes for Canadians.
    If a federal government is going to reduce taxes for Canadians, which is laudable from time to time, getting the balance right in terms of reducing taxes and investing in our future is the careful balance that governments need to achieve. I do not think the government, frankly, is achieving that, but if it is going to reduce taxes, cutting personal income taxes is the way to proceed and not reducing the GST.
    Economic advisors throughout the country have spoken of the poor economic policy that is associated with reducing consumption taxes like the GST. Of course, the Conservative Party ran on a promise to reduce the GST from 7% to 5%. It reduced it from 7% to 6% and now Bill C-28 further reduces it from 6% to 5%.
    The cost of implementing that initiative for each percentage point is approximately $5.5 billion each and every year moving forward. Therefore, the combined reduction in the GST from 7% to 5% is $11 billion annually, in perpetuity, taken away from the fiscal capacity of the federal government. That would be fine if there were no needs facing Canadians that need investment, program focus and funding.
     Let me start first with infrastructure. Our national infrastructure is in an enormous deficit and we need to start dealing with that. In fact, some competent bodies have estimated that our national infrastructure deficit is in the order of about $120 billion. Those are the investments needed to upgrade our sewer systems, water systems, bridges, roads, ports and airports, infrastructure that is critical to the safety of Canadians and to Canada's competitive positioning as a nation. The longer we wait, the more costly it becomes.
    I, for one, think that, instead of reducing the GST from 6% to 5%, we could leverage that $5.5 billion with the provinces and municipalities and start to deal with our infrastructure deficit. That would be a far wiser decision than the one before us today in Bill C-28.

  (1205)  

    However, the reality is, and we all know it, Bill C-28 is a confidence bill. If it does not pass we will be into a federal election and, frankly, I do not think Canadians are ready for a federal election and therefore we may have to let the bill proceed.
    Although the budget implementation act reflects the budget and the mini budget, the problem is that it lacks a vision or a sense of direction for Canada.
    I mentioned infrastructure. What about the Kelowna accord? I do not see that financed in the budget implementation act. The needs of our aboriginal peoples in Canada are enormous. Our former prime minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, met with aboriginal leaders and other stakeholders during our last mandate and agreed to invest in schools, in hospitals and in the basic infrastructure that is sorely behind the times for our aboriginal peoples. What has the government done? I do not see the $5 billion over a number of years to deal with our aboriginal people reflected in the budget.
    I do not see the child care agreements, which were negotiated by our Liberal government, in the budget. Those agreements would have created real child care spaces in Canada so that working families could take advantage of them and work and nurture their children in an affordable and sensible way. I do not see that reflected in the budget.
    I do not see anything in the budget implementation act that really deals with Canada's need to be a global competitor, to invest in research and development and to be innovative. The world is a rapidly changing place. Countries like Brazil, India, and China are expanding at an enormous pace and, hopefully, they will do that in a sustainable way. Jobs that used to be in Canada, in the United States or in Europe are now in places like Bangalore in India, in Shanghai in China or in places in Brazil.
    Because labour costs are much lower in those jurisdictions, jobs are migrating. The trend is called offshoring or outsourcing and it is a trend that we cannot fight. It is a reality and we have to deal with it. The way to deal with that as a nation, in my judgment, is to start developing our workforce, which is highly trained but we can do better. We can create an even more educated and highly trained workforce and we can start pursuing the value-added opportunities that exist. Commodity type businesses will not operate so much here in Canada. They will be operating in countries like India and China.
    I do not see much in the last two budgets that deals with making Canada innovative and research oriented and in terms of building a highly trained and educated workforce. I do not see much of that in Bill C-28 and that is a serious omission.
    Members of my caucus met with some individuals at the University of Toronto not too long ago who are running the MaRS project. This is an organization that is an intermediary between the research that goes on in universities and the companies that actually commercialize this research and make it an economic development activity in Canada. It is a tremendous project.
    We also met with some professors from the University of Toronto who had come up from the United States because of the research environment that had been created in Canada by our previous Liberal government when it invested in research chairs, in the Canada Foundation for Innovation, in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and in the overheads that were needed to conduct this federal research.
    We created the brain gain, not the brain drain that happened before us, and that took a lot of work. After we had dealt with the fiscal problems of this country, we started to reinvest significantly in research and development. Those professors spoke about the very positive research environment in Canada that attracted them to this country.

  (1210)  

    Sadly, however, under the Conservative government, investments in these initiatives have slowed down. It is creating an environment where the research environment in Canada is not as strong as it was. We are at risk of losing these scientists back to the United States and to Europe and, in fact, losing some of our own scientists who came back to Canada because of the very positive research environment that we had created.
    If this were to happen, it would be a sad day for Canada, after going through all the work that was initiated and launched under the Liberal mandate. Our future is dependent on our ability to innovate, to be research oriented and to be at the leading edge of technologies in the future, which is where the future lies.
    Although Canada's economy is still driven, to a large extent, by our natural resource economy, it has shifted significantly. Part of that is into areas like biotechnology, telecommunications, information technologies and the service sector. We need to recognize the importance of our natural resource economy. In fact, there is a lot of high technology embedded right in our natural resource economy. We also need to take advantage of these new and emerging economies and possibilities. The only way to do that is to invest in research, innovation and a highly trained workforce but I do not see much of that reflected in this particular budget.
    As I said, we need to deal with infrastructure and build more public transit. The city in which I live and represent in a riding in the city of Toronto, we can see the effects of urban sprawl, of too many cars and of not having enough public transit. The air quality is suffering. We need to have more investments into public transit. We need to deal with urban sprawl and create the population densities that support more investments in public transit. I do not see much of that in this budget.
    There are also some issues that are not really the focus of much attention by the government. A lot of market fraud is being perpetrated in our economy by people who are taking advantage of unsophisticated investors and/or who are taking advantage of our lax rules and regulatory environment with respect to the investment in securities in Canada.
    Our government launched the integrated market enforcement teams that were meant to comprise a balance of law enforcement officers and lawyers to prosecute people who perpetrated stock frauds and who took advantage of investors in very sophisticated schemes. The reality is that these integrated market enforcement teams did not get off the ground. They are not doing much. The present government should be putting more resources into that initiative. Again, I do not see anything in Bill C-28 that would implement that measure.
    We have many seniors in Canada who are investing through pension plans or directly. We see the effects of the stock market going up one day and down the next. I think that is as a result of many stockbrokers churning accounts, selling one day and buying the next. We have no real, independent body that can research, act and review on these particular matters. In my judgment, we need to do more to protect small investors.
    The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security wrote a report.

[Translation]

    In May 2007, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security produced the report “Counterfeit Goods in Canada—A Threat to Public Safety”.

[English]

    This report was followed a few weeks later by a report by the Standing Committee on Industry, which also had a number of recommendations to deal with the plague of counterfeit goods and piracy in Canada. Canada has become notorious--I was going to say famous, but notorious is a much more appropriate word--in the world for piracy and counterfeit goods.
    Legislation was enacted last year to deal with the pirating of motion pictures. That is when individuals go into movie theatres with a video camera to record movies and then mass produce and distribute them. Notwithstanding that law, I am sure there is still some of that going on.
    The public safety committee focused on those counterfeit goods that are creating safety and health issues for Canadians. We have read in the papers about the toothpaste that came from overseas. Regrettably I have to name China. China is a big player in counterfeit goods. I have to say that. There are tubes of toothpaste that do not contain toothpaste at all; it is sawdust or something, but certainly it is not toothpaste.
    There are pharmaceutical products coming in from China and I suspect other countries where the pills or tablets are filled with something other than what the tablet or pill is supposed to contain. People are relying on these pills or tablets to cure some disease or infection, but the pills or tablets are actually filled with food colouring and other compounds.
    There are some electrical products coming into our country with a forged Canadian Standards Association stamp which indicates that the product meets the CSA standard, but the products are substandard. In fact, they are a safety risk to Canadians. It used to be that people could only buy them at flea markets but the reality now is that these products are penetrating other retail establishments, dollar stores, et cetera. Extension cords and various other electrical products can be a huge safety hazard. They can short out, cause fires and cause ignition. Because these products can be imported from China at very little cost, the profit margins are huge and the sanctions are low. Organized crime is engaged very aggressively with counterfeit goods and pirated goods.
     The government needs to respond aggressively to the reports from the Standing Committee on Industry and the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and enact the laws to toughen up the sanctions. Also, we have to give the Canada Border Services Agency the mission and mandate to search, seize, and within the laws of Canada, destroy counterfeit goods and pirated goods.
    We saw a reference in the throne speech to intellectual property rights, but apart from that there has been nothing that I can see in the budget or the mini-budget and nothing that I can see in Bill C-28 to deal with these growing problems in Canada.
    I see nothing in Bill C-28 that would reflect the government's recognition that it made a mistake on its decision to tax income trusts. I do not see anything in Bill C-28 that retracts from that position. It is fine to have a tough position. It is fine to say we are taking that position and sticking with it, but if it is the wrong position, that is not the right way to proceed.
    We know that income trusts had to be dealt with. Certainly, I believe they had to be dealt with, because they were not meant as a tax avoidance scheme for the industrial sector. They were designed for a specific purpose, for energy companies, property development companies. However, it is the way in which the Conservatives went about dealing with income trusts after they promised they would not tax income trusts. People invested based on those undertakings, and they got hammered to the tune of $25 billion in lost market capitalization. I do not see anything in Bill C-28 that addresses that.

  (1215)  

    I do not see anything in Bill C-28 that deals with the wrong-footed decision of the government to deal with the interest deductibility of corporations. I do not have time to get into that now. We know that we need to deal with those who would deduct interest in Canada and have tax free income offshore, but we did not need the unintended consequences that that brought to us.
    I think it is a flawed bill, but regrettably, it would mean a general election if it was defeated, so I rest my case.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my good friend's comments on the bill. I heard him make some comments with regard to the public safety committee of which he and I are members. I would like to take this opportunity to commend him and members of his side for their tremendous cooperation. The committee functions well because of the kind of true parliamentary attitude that we have on the committee.
    Getting back to some of his comments with regard to his party's time in office, 13 years, and the short time that the current government has been in office, I would like to ask him a couple of questions.
    Would he as an accountant not agree that by reducing the national debt in just a few short years on every Canadian's head by almost $1,600 is a good financial thing to do?
    Is it not a good financial move to have one's country have the lowest corporate taxes in the G-7 so that money can flow into this country's investment community to create the kind of industries that we know we need, and create the kind of knowledge based economy to which he has referred?
     Would he not say that it is an excellent idea that we reduce personal income taxes to the lowest in about 50 years?
     Would he not say that it is very good financial management that we have the highest employment in this country in 32 years?
    Are those not some of the positives that we have seen both in this budget and the last budget that have put Canada in one of the best financial positions in which it has ever been? Is two years not a really short time in order to have achieved all that?
    Mr. Speaker, I will agree with my colleague from Northumberland—Quinte West that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security is a model for how committees should work in a non-partisan way. The member opposite has fought very hard for a number of issues upon which we all agree, such as counterfeit goods, anti-terrorism legislation, et cetera. I thank him for that.
    I would agree with him on certain aspects of what he said. I am not sure I would agree that in two years the government has laid some very new ground.
    On the debt reduction, it was our Liberal government that started to pay down the national debt. When we came into office in 1993 we were faced with a $42 billion annual deficit. In three short years that was eliminated and we started to pay down the debt. In fact, at the end of our mandate I think our government had paid down something in the order of $55 billion in debt which saves the federal treasury, then and now, $3 billion per year in perpetuity. I am glad that the Conservative government has continued that trend and is paying down more debt.
    On corporate tax reductions, I agree with him that having a low corporate tax rate is good. It attracts investment to Canada and by doing that, it creates jobs in this country.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to get the member's idea on some points.
    In British Columbia we are told that we have a real prosperous economy and everything is going well and yet when we look around, we see what is happening. We see that we have the highest child poverty rate in Canada. We have seniors care which is in disarray. We have problems with our health care system. Certainly there is no affordable child care on a large scale.
    If we look nationally, we have a budget where there are surpluses, but we do not have a national affordable housing program. Students are suffering, trying to get by so they do not have horrendous debts after finishing university. The health care system needs some help. We do not have a pharmacare system, which could help seniors. The infrastructure in our rural communities is crumbling. At the same time we are talking about corporate tax cuts, a surplus of over $14 billion and cuts to the GST.
    I would like his comments on some of the points that I raised in regard to the big picture in Canada.

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, I lived in British Columbia for 12 years and a part of me is still there. The problems, challenges and opportunities in British Columbia are replicated across the country.
     I could not agree more that investments in infrastructure are needed. Reducing the GST is a misallocation, in my judgment, of federal government resources when we need these investments in infrastructure.
    Our leader recently came out with our 50-30 plan to reduce child poverty. This House voted unanimously to reduce child poverty a number of years ago and we have not made much progress. Our party is committed to dealing with child poverty when we form the government the next time.
    On affordable housing, the former Liberal government established agreements with most of the provinces. In my province of Ontario we had the Canada-Ontario affordable housing agreement, which consisted of two parts. One was investment in new stock. For people in my riding, it is not so much a need for new housing stock; it is to have affordable housing so they are not spending 40% to 50% of their income on housing. We need a combination, and that is what our program did. It created new housing stock, but it also created some subsidies for housing.
    I agree with the member for British Columbia Southern Interior that there are many challenges. I do not agree with him though on the question of corporate income tax cuts because I think corporate income tax cuts, in the overall scheme of things, do not impact the fiscal situation of the government that severely. There is an opportunity there to attract investment, and if we attract investment we are going to create jobs and that will be good for all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the comments by the member opposite, given that he belongs to the Liberal Party, and some of his response to my colleague from British Columbia around the question of child poverty and poverty in general.
    There is a general state of unease among people in almost every community around the question of losing their jobs, as most people now are saying they are not more than a paycheque or two away from falling into some pretty difficult circumstances. When they look over their shoulders to see what might be there, they recognize that the EI system has been changed dramatically. At one time, over 75% of people used to qualify, and now, depending on what community it is, it is down to anywhere from 25% to 50% of people who qualify. There is not much there in terms of other supports that a family would need if one of the wage earners were to lose his or her job.
    I was wondering if the member was there when the Liberal government got rid of the Canada assistance plan and then subsequently reduced the transfer to the provinces for social programs by between $7 billion and $8 billion a year.
    He also spoke about the corporate tax breaks as if they were a few dollars here and there that the government was going to lose. The analysis that has been done by economists shows that we are talking about between $6 billion to $12 billion out of the tax revenue that government has to spend on the kinds of infrastructure that are needed.
     Was the member there, and why did the Liberal government--
    I do not enjoy cutting off hon. members, but I do have to allow the hon. member for Etobicoke North to respond.
    Mr. Speaker, the member will probably know, and I do not look as old as I might appear, that the Canada assistance plan and established programs financing were eliminated sometime in the 1980s, and I have not been here that long.

  (1230)  

    No, they were not.
    Yes, they were. What was brought in was the Canada health and social transfer. The reality is that the Canada assistance plan consisted of 50¢ dollars and there was very little accountability or incentive for provinces to spend wisely, and established programs financing had some flaws in it. The government brought in the Canada health and social transfer.
     I was very proud when our government augmented that in its last mandate. The last tranche was $43 billion in enhancements to the Canada health and social transfer. In addition, we brought in some accountability mechanisms with respect to health transfers, so that the provinces would have to report against outcomes and performance.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak once again to Bill C-28 before us today, even though, as already pointed out in this House, we have already discussed it at length and in detail.
    The Bloc Québécois has decided that it will not support the bill for several reasons, particularly because it contains elements with which we do not agree. For example, under the Atlantic accord, revenue from non-renewable natural resources—in essence, oil—will be excluded from the equalization calculation.
    We believe that the equalization program should be based on its original principle, which was to ensure that all provinces would have a similar fiscal capacity. When a province has a tax base, no matter what it may be, it should be taken into account in the equalization calculation.
    In accordance with this particular agreement for the provinces, namely the Atlantic provinces, excluding non-renewable energy sources, oil, from the calculation gives the advantage to these provinces to the detriment of those with another resource.
    For example, if Quebec were to exclude energy from renewable sources, such as hydroelectricity, it would immediately receive very significant equalization payments. However, this could not be justified as it would not respect the principle.
    I would like to point out the irony of this to the House. When it comes to equalization, only the Bloc Québécois—a sovereignist party, as everyone knows—is defending the principle behind this program, which is to consider the provinces' fiscal capacity, taking into account all the resources at their disposal in the equalization calculation. This is one reason we are not in favour of this bill.
    A number of measures come from the mini-budget, the economic statement introduced this fall. The Bloc Québécois came out against this economic statement, particularly because of what it did not contain. In fact, across Quebec and even in Ontario, the manufacturing and forestry industries are exerting a great deal of pressure and raising the alarm. These industries are asking the government to act immediately.
    The government can be as arrogant as it likes, but this is not just a Bloc Québécois request that it can ignore. Not only the industries in Quebec, but Premier Jean Charest are calling for action. Last weekend, Premier Charest again called on the federal government to act and said that it can no longer sit on its hands and do nothing. Even the leader of the official opposition in Quebec City, the Prime Minister's buddy, Mario Dumont, asked what the Prime Minister was waiting for to act.
    The government always answers that we will have to wait for the next budget, but we want action now. The government could take strong action even before the end of the session, before Christmas, to help workers in difficulty.
    It is a bit pathetic when the Minister of Finance of the optimist party of Canada tells us that everything is just fine. I personally invite the Minister of Finance of the optimist party to come back down to earth and meet the people who are losing their jobs. I have met some people who worked hard all their lives in factories that have now closed. Many of these people live in single-industry cities where the shop—the factory, sawmill or paper plant—is the main employer.
    When workers say that nothing is being done to help them and to protect their jobs, what are they told? They are told that the economy is doing well, that everything is just fine, that the unemployment rate is low and that revenues are up. What planet is the optimist party of Canada's Minister of Finance on? It makes no sense to say such things.
    In the Standing Committee on Finance, it was even suggested that people who lose their employment in communities in Quebec should just move to Alberta.

  (1235)  

    Is that any way to treat people who have worked their entire life to build their community? Tell them it is no big deal if they lose their employment since they can move to Alberta where there are jobs?
    Sometimes I get the impression that the government wishes people were cattle because it would be easier to move them around. That is not how things work. Recognizing Quebec as a nation does not mean telling people to go to Alberta if they are unemployed. The government has to recognize that people want to live in Quebec.
    The government talks a lot about land occupancy. Having people working in towns and communities is part of land occupancy. It is far more important to keep our jobs in our towns and regions for land occupancy than it is to buy icebreakers without debate or discussion for protecting the Arctic.
    The government is being rather inconsistent. And yet there are simple, very effective, inexpensive solutions available to the government. Among others, 22 recommendations were unanimously adopted by the Standing committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Even members of the government supported the recommendations. In the recent economic statement, out of 22 measures, only half a measure was implemented.
    I would like to speak about two of these measures. The first is accelerated capital cost allowance to invest in equipment that helps businesses increase productivity. This measure is the one being referred to when we hear about the government announcing half of a measure, because the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology recommended that it be implemented for at least five years, if not permanently. But the government implemented it for two years. Obviously, that is not very useful, since in many cases, if a company starts investing today, the investment spans more than two years. In fact, these projects often last up to five years. If the measure spans two years, these companies will not really be able to benefit.
    This measure is not very costly; the accelerated capital cost allowance is not a tax giveaway. It makes it possible for businesses to defer taxes over time. So a business would pay lower taxes the year it amortizes more of its equipment. However, once the equipment is completely amortized, it will pay more taxes the year it no longer has a capital cost allowance to deduct from its revenues.
    So this measure allows businesses to delay paying taxes when they are experiencing difficulties. What is smart about this type of measure is that it gives our businesses a break so that they have the cash they need to make investments that will help them increase productivity. They will pay taxes when they earn a profit later on.
    Similarly, the committee proposed a credit for research and development. This credit already exists, but the committee wanted to make it refundable. Now, if a business is losing money and not earning a profit, it cannot deduct this credit from its taxes, since there is no profit. What does it do? It banks it until money starts coming in again.
    In order to help our businesses that need help right now—not five or ten years from now when they are making profits, but now when they are having difficulties—this credit has to be refundable. Companies could claim the tax credit right away. It would be refunded to them even though they are not turning a profit. In any event, these are credits that would be refunded later. Again, this tax is being deferred. We want to give our manufacturing and forestry companies a break to allow them to get back on their feet and increase their productivity. Nonetheless, when they eventually make a profit, then the taxes will be payable. In my opinion, this is not a very expensive solution.

  (1240)  

    Even though this is a deferred tax, there are costs involved. The Bloc Québécois realizes that. For example, there are costs associated with inflation. A dollar is worth more today than it will be two or five years from now, we know that. However, given the current rate of inflation in Canada, these costs pale in comparison to the benefits this measure could bring.
    As far as tax credits for research and development are concerned, under the current system if a company were to declare bankruptcy, these tax credits would never be recovered. Thus, by granting these credits now, the revenue agency would incur more expenses. That is true, but it would be an odd argument for the optimist party of Canada to make, saying that this would cost too much because many businesses would go bankrupt. Indeed, businesses are going to go bankrupt if the government does not take action right now.
    I want to emphasize the fact that we have to act now because the government does not seem to understand the urgency of the situation. For example, part of the problem is related to the rise in the Canadian dollar. The repercussions of that are somewhat delayed. As the manufacturers who appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance told us over and over, what we are seeing now is not the impact of parity with the U.S. dollar. It is the impact of a U.S. dollar worth 80¢ Canadian. What we are seeing today is the result of where the dollar stood a year or two ago.
    We have not yet seen the catastrophic repercussions of parity with the U.S. dollar. We have not yet seen that, but it is coming. That is why we have to act now to mitigate the effects. The optimist party of Canada would have us believe that businesses just have to increase their productivity and everything will be fine, but that is not the answer.
    The value of the Canadian dollar has risen by 40% in a very short time. It shot up from 60¢ to $1. No matter how productive a business is or how creative people are, it is impossible to ask them to boost their productivity to compensate for rising costs in such a short period of time.
    That means we need to put transitional measures in place. The government is using its billions of dollars to provide tax cuts for profitable companies, including its oil company friends. But it cannot find a few dollars, perfectly reasonable amounts, to help manufacturing businesses, particularly those that really need it.
    I would like to review some of the things manufacturing sector representatives told us when they appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance. In general, they asked us to look at the problem by separating businesses into three groups. The first includes businesses that will survive regardless of the manufacturing crisis, and regardless of the dollar's relative strength or weakness because they are strong and are not experiencing any difficulties. The second group, however, includes businesses that are going through such tough times that no matter what might be done to help them, they will not make it. The third group is in between. Businesses in this critical group might survive if they get some help, but they might have to close up shop if nothing is done to help them.
    So, let us look at how the measures proposed by the government in its economic statement will have an impact on these three groups of businesses.
    The first measure consists of a general corporate tax cut. For the first group of businesses, those that are getting by and will not have any difficulties, these tax cuts are a welcome gift. They stand to make even more money and are quite happy, with good reason. So much the better, but they are not the ones that need help. As for the second group of businesses, those that might pull through if they are given a boost, in fact, they will not receive any support. They do not even pay taxes, since they are having financial difficulties. Thus, the government measures would do absolutely nothing for them. Of course, the same is true for the third group of businesses.

  (1245)  

    Let us consider instead the measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois, measures that were unanimously supported by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Let us look at the impact those measures would have on the three groups. Such measures include an accelerated capital cost allowance and refundable tax credits for research and development.
    For the first group, businesses that are doing well and having no problems, there would be no change. Whether tax credits are refundable or not, they would have them the same year and this would not change a thing, since they were already turning a profit. As for an accelerated capital cost allowance, this would allow them to save a little on taxes this year, but they would have to pay it back a little later. Thus, there is no need to give billions of dollars to companies that are already doing well.
    However, these measures can make a difference to the second group, which is in difficulty but has a fighting chance. Our targeted measures will become effective in this case. To get through the crisis, companies essentially need two things: better productivity and ready cash. That is exactly what these measures will give them. They will improve companies' productivity, because they will let companies invest now in research and development and in equipment to become more profitable. They will also give companies ready cash, because they will allow companies to defer paying taxes. Thus, companies will have the money they need now to get through the crisis. This seems far more effective than the government's strategy for these companies, which is to give them no help at all.
    Obviously, in the case of the third group I mentioned—companies that will not make it through the crisis and will have to close—we will be giving them assistance that, unfortunately, will be lost. However, we cannot tailor our policy to companies that will go bankrupt and will not be able to recover, especially since if we do nothing, there will be a great many companies in this group. If we do something, we will be able to help many companies that otherwise would have gone bankrupt or been forced to close. We can bring them into the group that can weather the crisis.
    I therefore wanted to demonstrate that the government did not have a real reason for not providing assistance to the manufacturing sector in the mini-budget or economic statement. It was surprising to see, among other things, the position of the Conservatives who ran in the last byelection in regions where the forestry sector difficulties are being experienced. They promised voters that having an MP in power would solve their problems. We now find ourselves with an economic statement that does absolutely nothing for the manufacturing and forestry sectors in crisis. When citizens, for example from Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, heard their candidate make promises and tell them that he would help companies in order to save their jobs, everyone thought he would help those businesses that needed help. No one thought Alberta oil companies would get the help. That was a bit of false representation that occurred during the byelection.
    It is deplorable, if not pitiful, to see members elected in a byelection on the promise that if they are in power they will move things along stand up and vote for an economic statement that does not contain a single measure for troubled companies in the forestry sector. Even worse, when we tabled a motion asking the government to take immediate action, we saw these same members stand and vote against it and against the campaign promises they made in their riding.
    I hope, and I am confident, that Quebeckers will remember this when the next election is held. They will remember that, in tough times, the Bloc Québécois is always prepared to stand up and defend them. The Conservative members from Quebec always boast about the government that is so good and fine, but when the time comes to show some determination and to vote in this House to have some real influence and to change things, they fail to deliver. Only the Bloc Québécois takes up the challenge.

  (1250)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-28. I know that a Conservative member earlier talked about the fact that there has been sufficient debate and it is incumbent upon the House to pass the bill.
    It is fortunate that New Democrats are in the House talking about some of the very serious issues that are facing Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It is the New Democrats who are talking about the lack of a national child care strategy, the increasing homelessness in the country, poverty, education, and the number of children who are now living in poverty.
    When New Democrats look at Bill C-28, we see a government that is simply taking Canada in the wrong direction. It is not a balanced approach because it is not addressing the prosperity gap.
    The prosperity gap is talking about the fact that there are many Canadian working middle-class families who are simply working more and more hours and are not getting ahead. This was an opportunity to take the surplus which was available to the government and invest it in Canadians.
    The other thing we heard Conservatives talk about is the fact that New Democrats never support tax cuts. The reality is that we are asking for targeted tax cuts, not tax cuts that benefit certain corporate sectors like banks and resource sectors.
    When we talk about banks and resource sectors, the financial sector makes up one-third of Canadian corporate pre-tax profits and the oil and gas and mining sectors make up one-sixth of Canadian corporate pre-tax profits. This accounts for roughly half of corporate income.
    Therefore, when we talk about targeted tax cuts, we mean tax cuts that benefit a growing green jobs economy, research and development, and supporting our manufacturing and forestry sectors. Certainly in the riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan the forestry sector is struggling.
    Previously, the Bloc member spoke about that party's motion supporting the manufacturing and forestry industries. There was an opportunity for all members of the House to come to the plate and vote in favour of a motion that outlined support for manufacturing and forestry. Instead, we saw the Conservatives and the Liberals not supporting that motion.
    In the forestry sector in my riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan we have one pulp and paper mill that has filed for bankruptcy protection. We are seeing some of the sawmills lay off shifts. We are continuing to see raw log exports. Youbou Timberless Society continuous to raise the matter of raw log exports taking jobs from the riding, from Vancouver Island and from the province of British Columbia to somewhere else. Yet, this particular economic statement and this bill did not address that.
    In the minister's own remarks, he acknowledged the fact that manufacturing and forestry were in a crisis in the country but took no action. I wonder where the leadership is when one acknowledges there is a problem but does not do anything about it. It does not magically fix itself overnight.
    The other matter regarding Bill C-28 and the economic statement is the concern raised around fiscal capacity in the coming years. The estimate is that by 2012 or 2013 the annual revenue cost on full implementation will be $6.1 billion, but many progressive economists feel that the actual figure of forgone revenue will likely be around $12 billion.
    When we are taking that much out of the government coffers, one wonders what programs and services will need to be cut. If we reduce the money that the government is taking in, it is very simple math. If the government decreases the money that is coming in, it has to cut somewhere. That has not entered into the debate.
    We hear that personal tax cuts will mean more money in people's pockets, yet when we look at people who are making under $30,000, they will end up with $180 a year more. That will not pay for child care spaces, affordable housing, or tuition fees for post-secondary education.
    If the government is not going to demonstrate some leadership in these very critical areas for the health of our economy, then who will? That is why it has been very important that New Democrats stand in the House and raise these very important issues, so that Canadians know that at least someone in the House is speaking up for middle income and working class families.

  (1255)  

    I want to come back for a moment to a couple of matters. I will start with child care. In September 2007 the Social Planning Council of Cowichan developed a report on child care in the Cowichan region. There has been much debate in the House about how important early learning and child care is and how it contributes to the overall health and well-being of families. It also has a direct economic impact as well. In the report's executive summary, it says:
    Quality early education and child care is crucial to the welfare of the Cowichan region. The successful development of our children has a long term impact on the economic and social stability of our region.
    The Cowichan Region, like many communities in British Columbia, and indeed most of Canada, is under stress to provide adequate, affordable, quality child care for children and their families. This situation is being exacerbated by the current labour shortage and the increasing cost of housing which requires that most families need two incomes to afford a home.
    I believe that roughly 70% of women with children under the age of six work outside the home. Sometimes it is a choice to work outside the home and sometimes it is a necessity. The report goes on to talk about the economic benefits of child care. It says:
    The benefits from quality early learning and child care go beyond the family: there are also social and economic benefits to the community at large. Child care is important for cohesion in rural and remote communities because it draws young families to rural areas and is essential for economic development.
    The lack of available child care is being recognized as a critical issue by the business community in British Columbia, as the following quote from a resolution passed unanimously at the B.C. Chamber of Commerce convention in May 2007 demonstrates.
    I will not read the full text of it, but this is the gist of it. It says:
    Recent cuts from the federal government to the child care industry in B.C. are having a domino affect on the workforce in B.C. due to the lack of commitment and responsibility from the provincial government to compensate for those federal losses. B.C. has chosen not to prioritize child care. The costs of this decision are having an enormous negative impact on the ability of B.C. businesses to attract women, young families and skilled workers in general to the workforce.
    With the current skills shortages, challenges to attract and retain employees are critical to business. The provincial breakdown of business shows that of the 371,000 businesses in B.C., 364,000 have fewer than 50 employees. For small business, it is difficult to attract new workers, or to retain people as larger firms are able to offer higher pay or flexible work hours.
    Many younger families find the challenge of balancing family life with work. These men and women find entry and lower level wages, and the cost of child care are such that it is not in their financial interests to work. This is a limitation to the B.C. economy when a worker that desires to contribute to the GDP is forced to look at other options to working, or working for a small firm with limited access to benefit options.
    When we are talking about child care, it is such an important part of our economy, yet we are not making that kind of investment. The report goes on to talk about local impacts on employers and job seekers. It says:
    The inability to find child care to recognize as: a barrier to attracting employees to the Cowichan Region, a barrier to employment, contributing to work absenteeism, a reason parent-employees will leave the work force or will not take jobs, a barrier to immigrant families, particularly those with multiple children and immigrant workers seeking employment.
    We can see that in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, and I know in other ridings across this country as well, quality, affordable, regulated, not for profit child care is an important aspect of making sure that our economies continue to grow.
    I now wish to address homelessness. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari, on October 22 released a preliminary report. He covers many aspects of what he calls the housing crisis in Canada. I want to focus specifically on homelessness at this particular time. The report says:
    Homelessness is one of the most visible and most severe signs of the lack of respect for the right to adequate housing. It is even more shocking to see the number of homeless people in such a developed and wealthy country as Canada. Unfortunately the Government of Canada could not provide reliable statistics on the number of homeless in the country (something that many other countries are doing).
    The National Homelessness Secretariat has suggested that there might be 150,000 homeless people, but notes that its number is not reliable. Experts and academic institutions have suggested that the actual number of homeless people may be at least double that amount.
    There are 150,000 people in Canada who do not have a place to live.

  (1300)  

    A survey was done in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan a couple of years back on people who lived on the street. Roughly half the people who were surveyed and who lived on the street were women, and a significant number of those women had children.
    We also know from other studies that some people living on the streets have jobs. They simply cannot find adequate affordable housing that is safe. If this is not something that should be debated in the House of Commons, then I do not know what is.
    People talk about the fact that there is a $14 billion surplus. They talk about the throne speech and the economic statement. Bill C-28 does not address the crisis in homelessness and housing in our country.
    Mr. Kothari says in his report:
    The Federal Government needs a comprehensive and properly-funded poverty reduction strategy based on its human rights obligation, and complementary plans should be implemented in the provinces and territories—linked to a comprehensive national housing strategy.
    Once again, we are on the international stage. We are being cited for what should be to all Canadians a shocking statement. A minimum of 150,000 people are homeless and that number is under dispute. It could be significantly higher, and in some parts of our country it is.
    A recent report came out on women and housing in the north. It talks about the risky situations in which many women in the north find themselves, yet there is little relief for them.
    While we are talking about poverty, I want to briefly touch on child and family poverty. Somebody in the House mentioned earlier that Ed Broadbent had worked on a motion in 1989, which called for the elimination of child poverty by the year 2000. An organization called Campaign 2000 recently issued a report card. It said that we wee not tackling the very serious problem of child poverty. Children are not in poverty unless families are in poverty.
    Different groups are overrepresented. One in four aboriginal children is considered poor. That is 25%. Yet Bill C-28 and the economic statement do not adequately address children and families living in poverty.
    UNICEF Canada issued a statement recently that said “too many children are still being left out 18 years after a children rights convention was adopted”. In its press release of November 20, it said:
    Compared with other industrialized countries, our children are suffering from unacceptable rates of poverty, obesity, mental illness and violence that have persisted or increased since Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991.
    The press release goes on to state:
    Aboriginal children are one of the most vulnerable populations in Canada, facing enormous challenges. Overall, the poverty rate for Aboriginal children is close to three times that of other Canadian children. As well, children in some remote Aboriginal communities lack access to adequate housing, clean water and quality education. In addition, Aboriginal children are disproportionately represented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
    That is another shocking statement, yet Canada is turning its back on what is often described as Third World conditions on many reserves across the country. We have an opportunity, again, with the surplus to do something about this. The government has failed to take meaningful action to close the poverty gap.
    UNICEF Canada also talked about aboriginal children being disproportionately represented in the child welfare system. In fact, the Assembly of First Nations and other partners have filed a human rights complaint on the fact that more aboriginal children are in care now than there ever were in the residential school days. There is roughly a 22% gap between what aboriginal children on reserve are entitled to under the child welfare system versus what provinces will pay. There is also no funding in least disruptive measures.

  (1305)  

    Instead of the government seizing an opportunity to support and work with families to ensure children can stay with families, in its wisdom the government is removing the child, which is far more expensive. If it took some of the funds that it provides for children who have been removed from their families and supported them, it could probably save a lot of money in the long run, not to mention support quality of life for them. In this instance, we have found that first nations simply are not included in conversations in a meaningful way in order to address this very serious issue.
    Earlier today we talked about education. Whether it is for first nations, Métis and Inuit or for other Canadians, it is an important aspect of closing a poverty gap. It is also an essential factor in our economic prosperity and efficiency.
    Today the Canadian Council on Learning released its second annual report on post-secondary education. It is dated December 11 and the headline states:
    The Canadian Council on Learning, with support from organizations across the country, says that without the development of a national post-secondary education strategy-such as those adopted by many other nations around the world-Canada's prosperity will be at risk and its competitive edge compromised.
    In the release, the president and CEO of the council says:
    By 2015, it is expected that 70% of all new jobs created in Canada will require some post-secondary education or training....For this reason, and many others, we strongly believe that national action on a PSE strategy is crucial to Canada's ongoing competitiveness in the global marketplace, and to our continued high quality of life.
    A PSE strategy would offer a pragmatic approach that would promote mobility, efficiency, effectiveness and equity across the country, while providing benefits to all levels of our society.
    Further on it states:
    “It is both lamentable and irresponsible that Canada, among all OECD countries, has the weakest data on education and has developed neither a pan-Canadian skills agenda, nor goals and measures for post-secondary education,” Jim Knight, President of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, said on behalf of Canadian colleges across the country.
    Bill C-28 and this economic statement was a chance to take some national leadership on post-secondary education. There has been a lot of conversation around skills shortages in Canada and this was an opportunity to address them.
    In light of other matters that could be taken on around education, the Canadian Federation of Students in October 2007 prepared some background documentation for all parliamentarians. It talked about the importance of education and what was needed to improve our post-secondary education system. The introduction says:
    One of the greatest tragedies in Canadian higher education is that there has never been a joint federal-provincial strategy for improving this critical social program.
    We are starting to see a theme. The earlier report talked about the need for a national strategy. The Canadian Federation of Students has been calling for exactly the same thing. It goes on to say:
    As a direct result, provinces have developed wildly different tuition fee and student financial aid policies that reflect short-term partisan or ideological priorities more than specific regional needs. On the federal side, a lack of coordinated inter-jurisdictional planning has led to circular discussions about designing a better Canada Student Loans Program...
    It goes on to talk about the fact that Canada has been cited under the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights about education.
    There are many matters facing our country, which the economic statement could have addressed. The government could have demonstrated some leadership both on the domestic scene and the international stage. It could have reinvested in our working and middle class families, post-secondary education, housing and child care. This was a missed opportunity.
    It is unfortunate because some of these decisions will play out on our economic productivity and the quality of life for Canadians. It is important that New Democrats are standing in the House to raise these very important issues and concerns so Canadians know that somebody is speaking up for working and middle class families.

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, in continuing with the member's theme on post-secondary education, as the hon. member knows, under the previous Liberal government massive amounts of money were invested in research and development, in university chairs, in a whole variety of institutions, which would encourage research in the country. We went from one of the most underfunded countries in the world to the number one country in the world for publicly funded research.
    That resulted in a very happy circumstance where we went from a brain drain to a brain gain. Universities such as Queens, UBC and various other places were able to attract world-class researchers. With those world-class researchers, opportunities for students became available, both at the graduate level and the undergraduate level. There is a massive amount of money that was poured into the infrastructure of universities and that resulted in many happy collateral benefits to this nation.
    The hon. member is quite right to point out that a number of things could have been done with the massive amounts of money on which the government is sitting. Is she, as I am, concerned about this apparent neglect on the part of the government for those significant institutions and investments that were made under the previous government?
    Mr. Speaker, as we all know, research and development is an essential part of a healthy university and college environment as well as an essential part of developing a leading edge economy. Research and development is an important part, for example, in a green job strategy, which would see us be leaders in Canada and in the world. We need to ensure we put research and development into a new job strategy as we deal with some of the climate change impacts.
    I mentioned earlier about the report by the Canadian Council on Learning that just came out. It talks about the very urgent need for policy-makers at all levels to come together to develop a pan-Canadian skills agenda and to place a priority on filling the skills gap. That would include a research and development agenda. It seems that we are probably at a crossroads in terms of the positioning of our post-secondary institutions in contributing toward a healthy economic strategy for the future.
    Given this recent report, it would behoove the Conservatives to demonstrate some leadership, with the support of all parties in the House, to ensure Canada is well positioned to take its place in the economy in the 21st century.
    Mr. Speaker, we look at this from the point of view not just from in our country, but in a global context. In her latest book, Naomi Klein talks about the Chicago School of Economics, the philosophy of Milton Friedman, the idea of privatization, deregulation, the full load of social programs and that we do not need any kind of government involvement in our lives. It documents the devastation that it has caused in countries like Chile, Russia, Argentina, Iraq and also South Africa.
    We are seeing the pullout of government programs, the surplus, the cuts, no money for affordable housing, no national child care program and the issue of poverty not being addressed. Does the member feel we are somehow slipping into a corporate agenda that we are going to be unable to get out of unless we put some stop to the direction the current government is going?

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior for the good work he has done around agriculture, because when we talk about government regulations and harmonization, agriculture is one area where we are seeing increasing pressure for us to harmonize some of our regulations with other countries that do not protect safety standards for Canadians.
    Recently we have seen any number of recalls on toxic toys. I think it is really important that the Canadian government continue to play a role in ensuring the safety and health of Canadians.
    Recently with the security and prosperity partnership agreement we saw much of the discussion being conducted behind closed doors. There is no real ability to bring it to the floor of the House of Commons so that it has some scrutiny and some transparency around it.
     It is these kinds of things that lead Canadians to be very wary about the direction in which this government is taking the country. We have said it in the past and we continue to talk about the fact that the government is simply taking the country in the wrong direction. I think it is important that we continue to raise these matters in the House of Commons.
    Mr. Speaker, I also want to commend the member for her precise analysis of what is going on and the impact it will have on the lives of communities, families and children across Canada.
    Members will remember that earlier I asked the member for Etobicoke North what happened under the Liberals, who now claim to be the champion of all that is good, communal and socially correct in this country. I believe it was in 1993 that Jean Chrétien came in as prime minister and he and his finance minister introduced a deficit-cutting agenda and did away with the Canada assistance plan.
     The member for Etobicoke North suggested that it was done in the 1980s. I want him to know that it was done after 1993. It was part of the agenda of the Liberal government to fight the deficit on the backs of families, children and struggling men and women across this country.
    Not only did the Liberals do away with the Canada assistance plan, which called on the different levels of government to do specific and particular things with the money that was transferred, but they reduced that transfer by some $7 billion to $8 billion per year. Then they moved forward after that, experiencing a good economy after 1995, to begin the same kind of tax reduction for corporations that we see in the budget which this government has delivered and proposes to deliver in the mini-budget.
    The economists who look at this say that, depending on how we do the math, this is another $6 billion to $12 billion out of government capacity to actually respond to the needs of families and children, our aboriginal communities, post-secondary education institutions, hospitals and health care across this country.
    I wonder if the member herself has thought of, first of all, the Liberal impact of taking billions of dollars out of the social transfer and of the corporate taxes they gave away over their 13 years? Second, this government is giving away more money through corporate tax rates. Has she thought about the impact this will have on some of the people whom I know she feels very strongly about and has actually met with to hear about some of the challenges they are facing?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Sault Ste. Marie for his tireless work on poverty and on trying to keep discussions around poverty on the House agenda.
     We have an equal opportunity here. Under the Liberal watch, we saw the national housing program dismantled. After 1993 we saw a 2% cap for first nations funding imposed. These are not words that we came up with. Miloon Kothari highlighted that fact in his report. The Assembly of First Nations talks about the 2% cap and how it is crippling their communities. The Assembly of First Nations issued a report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives bear some responsibility for the lack of implementation in regard to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
    Of course, we are living with those very impacts of some of those decisions the Liberals made while they were in power. The Conservatives just continue with those kinds of decisions, which will see increasing homelessness, a struggle with post-secondary student debt, and housing and clean water problems on reserve. The list is endless.

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is important for folks who are watching at home to note that the reason why it is going from a New Democrat to another New Democrat to questions from New Democrats is that essentially the Liberals in the House have given a blank cheque to the Prime Minister--
    An hon. member: Filibuster.
    Mr. Peter Julian: I see that some of the Conservative members are awakening from their afternoon slumber. That is healthy because they will actually learn a bit more about the supplementary budget, which they know full well is not at all in keeping with the interests of Canadians.
    Some of the Conservatives are waking up now. That is very good, but it is important to note that in the House it is only the New Democrats who are actually practising the due diligence that is required when we talk about this massive giveaway of $190 billion, mostly to the corporate sector. I will come back to that in a moment.
    It mirrors what happened in committee last Thursday with Bill S-2 which, it turns out, is giving out another half a billion dollars, mostly to the banks. We found out that Conservatives and Liberals on the committee just wanted to run it through. They did not want to call witnesses or actually examine any of the fiscal ramifications of the bill. They just wanted to push it through. We are seeing the same thing here with Bill C-28--
    The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, we are in third reading of Bill C-28, not Bill S-2. The member is talking about a completely unrelated piece of legislation. This is third reading, where the member needs to be very focused. I know it is tough for that particular member to be focused, but we do ask that he debate the bill that is before the House at third reading, and its details.
    The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake does raise a good point. Members, especially at third reading, should try to stay as close as possible to the actual points in the legislation.
    The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
     The theme is the giveaway. The giveaway that happened last Thursday is similar to the giveaway we see in Bill C-28. I know the hon. member does not like to hear that, but the reality is such that he has to understand that shovelling billions of dollars out the door to the corporate sector, which is what is contained in Bill C-28, is entirely inappropriate.
     Why? Because of the current economic situation that most Canadians are living through.
    When the finance minister rose to give the supplementary budget update, he was talking to Canadians, two-thirds of whom have seen a decline in their real income since 1989. Two-thirds of them have seen their real income fall. The middle class, the lower middle class and the poorest of Canadians have seen their real incomes fall, in most cases catastrophically, yet what we have seen over the past 20 years of economic policy is essentially a giveaway to corporate CEOs and corporate lawyers.
    Bill C-28 continues in that theme. We saw it under the former Liberal government and it is continued under the current Conservative government. Is that in Canada's interests? Not at all.
    The fact that most Canadian families have seen their debt load double over that same period, the last 20 years, begs the question: what should have been in the economic update? It is a very simple question.
    What we have is corporate giveaways on a massive scale to the most profitable companies in Canada. That is the priority of this so-called new government. It certainly mirrors the priorities of the old Liberal government. We see the same old same old. We see the same economic approaches.
    What could have happened? We should have seen investments in our industrial sector to protect manufacturing jobs. We have lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs over the past few years. We have had closures of factories in British Columbia, where I come from, and massive job loss in the softwood industry. As a result of the softwood sellout, in the past year we have lost 10,000 jobs in the softwood industry alone. That has devastated and gutted softwood communities from coast to coast.
    Essentially we have seen the gutting of the manufacturing sector and the gutting of the softwood industry. We have seen case after case. I know that Conservative members do not want to hear reality. They prefer to hear from corporate lobbyists, but my goodness, it is about time that Conservatives started to listen to main street rather than Bay Street all the time.
    We saw that under the Liberal government. The Conservatives said they would be different. We see it with the economic update, this Bill C-28 that we are discussing. It is the same old giveaway of Canada's public resources. There is no attempt to put in place an industrial sector. There is no attempt to actually address what Canadians are living through. Instead, the government just said, “Let us give this money away”.
    The Conservatives say they have a surplus, but it is a myth of a surplus. I will point out just one of the key facts that the Conservatives seem to have completely forgotten in this entire debate. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities came forward after years of Liberal cutbacks and has estimated the infrastructure deficit at about $125 billion. What is worse, that deficit increases by nearly $20 billion each and every year.
    What is the transportation and infrastructure deficit? It means that our highways become more dangerous, including the highway overpasses. We saw the collapse in Minnesota because appropriate attention was not given to updating the highway overpasses. Many fear that could happen in Canada.
    We are seeing the lack of an ability to access fresh water. We have seen that in places such as Walkerton and North Battleford, yet there has been no investment by the federal government to actually improve our access to fresh water across the country.
    Let us talk about waste management, with a city such as Victoria continuing to spew raw sewage out into the Juan de Fuca Strait. The Liberals did nothing on it. The Conservatives said they would be different. Instead, it is the same old same old for waste management.
    As well, it is the same for the whole range of public transit. We have seen a substantial underfunding of our public transit facilities across the country, which means that Canadians have fewer options in terms of getting to work. We know that commuting times are increasing at the same time as overtime is increasing. People are working harder and longer weeks, yet they are getting less take-home pay.

  (1325)  

     Bill C-28, the budgetary update, deals with absolutely none of those issues. Instead, the Conservative government has made cutbacks to the justice system, to the environment, to agriculture, to fisheries and oceans, to public security, to Indian affairs, to the health care system, to international trade and industry, and to human resources and skills development.
     It is the same old, same old. We went through it all with the Liberals and now, with Bill C-28, we are seeing the fiscal irresponsibility of the Conservative government. It is cutting the essentials. It cuts back on the basics and then says that it has a surplus so it should give it away to the corporate sector.
    That reminds me of the little boy who took $3 from his mother and went to the store. He was supposed to buy essentials for his family, for his brothers and sisters, bread and milk, and then to bring those essentials home. Instead, he spent three-quarters of the money on candy and then came back and told his mom that he had a surplus, that he had not bought any of the essentials and that he had frittered the money away.
    What we are seeing from the government is that it is frittering the money away on corporate tax cuts on an ongoing basis and not taking care of the essentials, whether we are talking about our basic infrastructure, what our cities and towns need to ensure there is a decent quality of life for citizens, or whether there is an industrial strategy in place that actually provides good, family sustaining jobs. We are not seeing that.
    The government says that people can work at Wal-Mart because that is all it will give them as an industrial strategy. After people are laid off from good, family sustaining jobs, because the Conservatives and Liberals have done nothing about this over the last 20 years, they are taking part time and temporary service jobs that pay much less and do not allow them to sustain their families, which is why, for two-thirds of Canadian families, their incomes have declined.
    If that is not an income crisis, I do not know what is. However, we will not hear a word about that from the Conservatives, like we did not hear a word about it from the Liberals either. There is just a consistent negation of everything that is happening on the main streets of our country, including, as the member for Sault Ste. Marie mentioned, the fact that tonight, 300,000 Canadians will be sleeping in parks and homeless shelters across the country in the middle of winter. If that is not a source of national shame, I do not know what is.
    The Liberals did nothing. They eliminated the housing programs, so they provoked the crisis. All the Conservatives have done is take the NDP money from the NDP budget and told everyone that it had put $1 billion aside. That was NDP money for housing, but it was only a start. We recognize that we are dealing with a housing crisis and that we need more than $1 billion to actually deal with 300,000 Canadians sleeping on the streets of our country tonight, and hundreds of thousands of Canadian families that are just a paycheque or an action away from losing their homes.
    We knew that money was only a start in the investments needed, but for the Conservative government that is all it is willing to give. It is just taking the moneys that were put aside by the NDP and that is it.
    None of the essentials are taken care of. The NDP has been saying that Bill C-28 should contain a national pharmacare program so that families, that are going into debt and seeing their incomes eroded by escalating drug costs, will actually have some supports.
    The NDP is the only party in this House talking about that, in the same way that Tommy Douglas, the greatest Canadian and former NDP leader, put in place a health care program. We are saying that Bill C-28 should have had a national pharmacare program, but it does not.
    It has no industrial strategy and no support for post-secondary students who are facing massive debt loads and lower incomes once they get out of university, and, since most jobs created today, the Wal-Mart jobs, do not come with pensions or any sort of supports, we are talking about a life of what is essentially indebtedness.
    We take these kids, who worked their way through university, and have them start out life with a $30,000 debt load. As Statistics Canada tells us, they start with lower salaries and then, when they get the jobs that they can get with the laissez-faire government, the same as the Liberals who did not seem to give a darn about the middle class or poorer working Canadians, students simply end up, once they have finally paid off their student loans, facing a life where there are no pensions beyond what is contained in the CPP and the GIS.

  (1330)  

    We know the government has done nothing to address the underfunding of the GIS, this rip-off of seniors. Nothing in Bill C-28 deals with the fact that the cost of living has gone up faster than the GIS, which means that seniors are being ripped off by the Conservative government, as they were ripped off by the former Liberal government.
    Nothing in Bill C-28 addresses any of those concerns. It contains nothing about the farm crisis and agricultural incomes, and nothing about the poverty that first nations are living under, the deplorable state on reserves across the country. It contains nothing to deal with the fact that five million Canadians with disabilities are the poorest of the poor Canadians. Half of the homeless are Canadians with disabilities and 40% of those need to stand in long lineups at the food banks for food, which we never see the Liberals and Conservatives actually addressing. The lineups at the food banks are becoming increasingly longer and 40% of the people who need those food banks just to survive until the end of the month are people with disabilities. Nothing in Bill C-28 addresses that either.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask that you bring order to this chamber. When we are debating third reading, we are supposed to be talking about the context of the bill. The time, the place and the discussion at second reading, in committee and at report stage is passed. All the wish list that he is throwing out here, that time has come and gone and now it is time to talk about the specifics and mechanics of the act.

  (1335)  

    I would again ask the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster to try to keep his remarks as closely as possible to the third reading stage of Bill C-28.
     Mr. Speaker, the member for Selkirk—Interlake could not have put it better. He said that we were supposed to be talking about the context of the bill and that is exactly what I am addressing, the context of the bill, the fact that it does not deal with any of the issues that Canadians are most concerned about.
    What does it deal with? It deals with massive corporate tax cuts, which is an interesting priority of the government. One hundred and ninety billion dollars were taken out of the fiscal capacity of the government and half of that goes to corporate tax cuts. Where is that money going? It turns out that most of that money will go to the very profitable industrial sectors, the banks and petroleum industry. They are just shovelling the money off the back of truck and not dealing with health care or any of these other issues that members of the NDP raised.
    Let us look at where the money is going. In 2006, last year, Imperial Oil had profits of over $3 billion and it benefits from the generosity of the Conservative government which now says that it will make the company even more profitable by giving more and more.
    Let us look at what else. Petro-Canada made $1.7 billion. The Conservatives just shovel money at that company as well, not Canadians with disabilities, not aboriginal people and not poor working families but they just shovel it out of the back of the truck.
    An hon. member: Get the bulldozer.
    An hon. member: Where is the front-end loader?
    I am going to ask everybody to come to order. Normally I can hear the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster just fine but today I am having a little bit of trouble.
    Could hon. members maybe hold off until the question and comment period to make their remarks, then we will allow the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster to continue.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see the Conservatives are awake in the House now. Hopefully, they will actually read the bill and exercise their due diligence by voting against it.
    It is important for Canadians to know where these tax gifts are going. I do not think any Conservative member would be opposed to that because they believe in accountability.
    The EnCana Corporation saw $6.4 billion in profit in 2006 and the Conservatives want to give it more. Shell Canada saw $1.7 billion in profit. Suncor Energy saw $2.9 billion in profit. Husky Energy had $2.7 billion in profit. Talisman saw $2 billion in profit. That is the list of Conservative beneficence and generosity. The Conservatives just shovel it out of the back of a truck to the corporate sector.
     Bill C-28 contains nothing for poor Canadians, nothing to deal with the housing crisis or the income crisis, and nothing to deal with the post-secondary education crisis and the crisis on aboriginal reserves. It contains nothing to deal with the crisis among Canadians with disabilities. We simply see no reference to any of that. Why? The Conservative government is so profoundly out of touch that it thinks the greatest priority for Canadians right now is to shovel tens of billions of dollars to the corporate sector.
    The government does not take care of veterans or aboriginal people. It does not take care of poor working families that have been working their fingers to the bone over the last 20 years and average over 200 hours more of work as commuting times increase and as the overall quality of services deteriorates given how irresponsible the Liberals were when they were in government. The Conservatives are not addressing any of that.
    They will say that Bill C-28 has a slight adjustment in the lower levels for income tax payers. However, it is important for Canadians to know that there is one thing that will help them in terms of income tax and that is a net benefit of $15 a month for average families earning less than $30,000 a year. The government is giving tens of billions of dollars to the corporate sector but it is giving families $15 a month.
    I come from British Columbia and I have seen this kind of hocus-pocus with tax cuts under the Gordon Campbell government. It did the same thing. It gave massive gifts to its buddies in the corporate sector while lower income families were given $15 or $20 a month. It turns out that all families earning less than $80,000 a year, which is the vast majority of Canadian families, actually ended up paying more user fees than they received from that small tax break.
    As I mentioned earlier, the massive cuts that the Conservative government is making in all the services I just mentioned from the Library of Parliament documentation, essentially gives poor working families $15 a month to adjust for the user fees or the deterioration of services that they will see right across the spectrum of federal government services.
    That is not what Canadians want. Canadians want an effective federal government. They want an activist federal government that will use money wisely but put it where it counts the most. They do not want a government that fritters away, in this appalling irresponsible way, tens of billions of dollars to the corporate sector.
    The government had a choice. It could have taken a different direction from the failed, corrupt Liberal government but it chose to take exactly the same route, which is why we oppose Bill C-28.

  (1340)  

    Mr. Speaker, I wonder when the NDP is going to become mired in the present and the future instead of mired in the past.
    The member for Burnaby—New Westminster and his colleague, the member for Sault Ste. Marie, keep going on about the Canada assistance plan. While it is true that we replaced the Canada assistance plan in 1993, it was dead in the water in the late 1980s. The reason for that was that the Canada assistance plan was money that was being spent by the provinces. The provinces were reimbursed 50% by the federal government. The provinces were abusing that. If a province is spending 50¢ dollars, that is a very cheap way of doing things.
    Also, established programs financing was collapsed into the Canada health and social transfer. Established programs financing was a very ineffective tool because it was trying to allocate funds to various programs. The government in its wisdom in 1993 or 1995, whenever it was, replaced the Canada assistance plan, which was an archaic and ineffective tool, and the established programs financing with the Canada health and social transfer. Over time, through the Canada health and social transfer, the Liberal government brought in some accountability measures, some performance measures, some outcome measures.
    If the NDP members were actually mired in the present and the future, the issue before us is the Canada health and social transfer and should we have a dedicated portion of that fund to deal with post-secondary education. That is one of the burning issues. I do not hear any of the NDP members talking about that. They are mired in the past with the Canada assistance plan which has been gone for 15 years. For goodness' sake, let us get into the present and the future and talk about where we are taking this country moving forward, not going back into the past.
    When will the NDP be mired in the present and the future and get out of being mired in the past?
    Mr. Speaker, any time a Liberal talks about accountability, it makes me smile. The Liberals were the most unaccountable government imaginable, mired in corruption and entitlement. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have taken on exactly the same shine.
    We have been talking about the present and the future. We have been talking about all the elements that Canadians want to see, support for our health care system and post-secondary education, support for an industrial strategy and a trade strategy that would actually mean family sustaining jobs and not the cut rate jobs at Wal-Mart which is all the Conservatives and Liberals have been offering the country for the last 20 years. We have been talking very clearly in the present and the future.
    I am not going to let the Liberals escape their responsibility for gutting and destroying the national housing program. What that has led to is hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have to sleep in the doorways and parks of our country. It is absolutely appalling.
    For members of the Liberal Party to try to defend in some way that sorry record, it only goes to show that they have not learned their lesson.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for his excellent speech. It was an excellent exposé of what the present government wants to do in terms of tax breaks for corporations at the expense of investments in infrastructure for people and communities.
    I was wondering if the member had spent any time trying to compare the track record of the Liberal government over 13 years. In fact, the previous Liberal government, maybe even in a more aggressive way under the aegis of fighting the deficit which they got through quite quickly because of the aggressive nature of their program, reduced the social transfer to the provinces by some $7 billion to $8 billion. Then the previous Liberal government took advantage of the good economy that came after 1995 and began to deliver huge corporate tax breaks to corporations, banks, insurance companies and oil companies across the country at the expense of the social infrastructure.
    I look at, for example, that vehicle which defines us as Canadians which is health care. I have to look no further than my own backyard to recognize the cuts that were made by the federal government and passed on to the provinces. Then the provinces passed those cuts on to the institutions that the provinces are mandated to deliver to communities and to people. Health care was one of those institutions that got savaged.
    There are waiting lists, long lineups and various diseases beginning to creep in. This is very troubling for people. I would suggest that our health care system is in crisis.
    In comparing what the new Conservative government that has been around for almost two years is proposing to do for the country with what the Liberals did over 13 years, does the member see any difference?

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, it seems to be only NDPers in the House who are asking the intelligent questions about Bill C-28. The member's question is a very valid one.
    We saw gutting of the health care system under the Liberals continued under the Conservatives. There are the recent cutbacks that I just cited in terms of the overall cutbacks to government departments. Rather than making sure the money is being adequately invested and ensuring that our health care program is adequately funded, the Conservatives are taking exactly the same approach as the Liberals.
    The member for Sault Ste. Marie has raised an important question. It is important to note that health care is a major part of the competitive advantage for Canadian companies. Study after study has shown that Canadian companies are far more competitive because they do not have to pay health care benefits as they do in the United States. We have a major competitive advantage.
    Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have ever attempted to match corporate tax rates to that effective competitive advantage that companies get through the health care system. They just keep slashing corporate tax rates down to the bone without taking into consideration that the support for the health care system is a major competitive advantage.
    If the government wants to help the corporate sector, why does it not invest in health care? Why does it not invest in a pharmacare program that would allow corporations to have an even more effective competitive advantage without slashing the federal government's ability to help ordinary Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, today my colleague has been accused of living in the past and dwelling on things that have happened before.
    I would like to get his idea on what he sees for our country in the future. Does he see that we are perhaps at a crossroads where we have the gradual takeover of the citizen's agenda by the corporate sector? If this is the case, how can we grab our country back and get on the right track, which most Canadians expect us to do?
    Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that none of the Conservatives are standing up to defend the budget because they understand full well there is not much to defend in it.
    The member for British Columbia Southern Interior asked what I envisage for the country. Certainly in the next Parliament I envisage the member for Toronto—Danforth as prime minister and a lot more effective, hard-working New Democrats in the House doing their due diligence, which the Conservatives seem to fail to do. They do not do their homework. They do not do their due diligence. The result will be that Canadians will judge them on that basis.
    Canadians expect us to address the issues that they are living through. They want us to make life better for them, to build a better quality of life for most Canadian families. That means helping with escalating drug costs. That means helping their kids get adequate levels of post-secondary education and training. It means making sure that we have a better and cleaner environment. It means making sure that we have an industrial sector in place to actually create family sustaining jobs. It means having a trade strategy that is not based on reverse as the only gear.
    Since the Conservative government came to power, we have had the softwood sellout, Liechtenstein bamboozling the government on negotiations in the trade sector. We have seen it time after time that the government only seems to negotiate going backwards.
    What Canadians expect is a federal government that is actually proud of Canada and is able to stand up for Canadians' interests and most important, for the interests of Canadian families.
    That would include stopping the SPP, the security and prosperity partnership. I know the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior has been a very strong advocate against the secrecy and the anti-democratic nature of the SPP, and how it affects the quality of life of Canadians. An NDP government would put a stop to the SPP immediately.
    I have a lot of optimism for the future. I know Canadians have seen that the Conservatives are just the same as the old Liberals.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to put some thoughts on the record regarding the agenda put forward by the present Conservative government and to say to members of the House and the public that it is not something that we New Democrats would do.
    With respect to the priorities in this country, we believe what is necessary is that we invest whatever money is available to us in community infrastructure, social infrastructure, health infrastructure and education infrastructure. In that way we can position this country to be the best in the world when it comes to economic performance and look after our citizens in the many ways in which Canada has come to be known in the rest of the world.
    What is happening out there and in here are at cross purposes with each other. The government is proposing in its economic statement a cut in the federal corporate income tax rate from 22% to 19.5% in 2008, to 18% in 2010, to 16.5% in 2011, and to just 15% in 2012. That will take anywhere from $6 billion to $12 billion out of the government coffers.
    That money could be used to invest in the programs that we all know we need to support our children, to provide a future for generations to come, to make sure our health care system becomes once again the envy of the world, to make sure that our post-secondary education system is available to everybody so that we will have the kind of workers we will need to compete in the evolving global economy.
    That cut significantly outstrips the promise in budget 2007 p to cut the corporate income tax rate to 18.5% by 2011. The Minister of Finance commented that the corporate tax cuts are the deepest and fastest ever contemplated. When that is stacked up against the kind of corporate tax cut that was given in the 1990s under the previous Liberal government, one has to be amazed at the aggressive nature and zeal the government has to return money to big corporations that already have more than they will ever need.
    Unfortunately, as we look for allies in this place to stop this agenda, we heard the leader of the Liberal Party comment that he supported the corporate tax cut and noted he had called for that very same measure himself. To suggest for a second that there is any opposition in this place, aside from the NDP and at times the Bloc, by the Liberals is to not understand what is going on in this place.
    Over the last couple of months since Parliament returned in October after the prorogation, time after time the Liberals have had the opportunity to stand and say no to this slash and burn and cut agenda, this agenda to diminish the capacity of government. Time after time the Liberals have had the opportunity to actually participate in the building up of the common life of this country but they consistently have sat on their hands and have refused to vote. They will not stand to vote yes or no, in that I think some in that party are conflicted, but in any case they will not vote.
    The economic statement forecast that the annual revenue cost on full implementation in 2012-13 will be $6 billion. That is $6 billion which is not available to government to invest in those things that students out there know are needed if we are going to ensure that post-secondary education is affordable, and that seniors know are needed if we are going to work with them to ensure they can live lives of dignity, to reflect the work they have done throughout their years in the workplace.
    That is $6 billion out of the government's capacity to respond to the crisis in health care. That is $6 billion that will not be available to help our veterans, who have fought in wars on behalf of this country. They have fought for freedom and democracy and have come back to find themselves living in some very desperate circumstances and without the support they need to look after themselves and their families and to live with dignity.

  (1355)  

    Progressive economists conclude that this $6 billion is actually understated and that the actual figure of forgone revenue from this measure is more likely to be in the $12 billion range. That is a lot of money.
    That is a lot of money not available to the government to transfer to the provinces to fix those roads, to invest in public transit, to build bridges and to make sure that our communities are in good shape, to provide clean water, to help the smaller communities that have a very small tax base to deal with some of the new regulations that are coming in with regard to how they deal with waste, waste water and sewage disposal.
    The banks and resource sector benefit most from these cuts, so big oil and big banks are the winners. The financial sector, one-third of Canadian corporate pre-tax profits, and the booming oil, gas and mining sectors, one-sixth of Canadian corporate pre-tax profits, account for the bulk of corporate income. They will benefit nicely from this corporate boondoggle that we are going to see delivered if the Liberals do not develop a bit of spine and backbone, and oppose with us this very devastating and damaging agenda that is coming forward.
    These blanket corporate tax cuts will do nothing to target the sectors we want to stimulate. So not only will they take away from government's ability to invest in the infrastructure that we need if we are going to continue to have Canada number one and number two in the world when it comes to investing in its people, but it is not going to stimulate the economy either in the way that the government suggests it will because this money is going to the wrong sectors.
    We need investment in sectors like manufacturing and green companies where we can help stimulate quality job creation and invest in renewing machinery and equipment, and strengthening research, development and innovation.
    What is happening out there, as we debate this very draconian approach to the finances of the government and the country? As I travel the country and meet with people, I find there is an anxiety growing, an unease among the populace, around their future and what they will be able to count on.
    Mr. Speaker, I will continue my speech after question period.
    The hon. member will have 12 minutes remaining to conclude his remarks.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Volunteerism

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to tell the House about one of the most successful volunteer accomplishments in our country.
     It was the 14th year of the Festival of Trees in the community of Red Deer. The appeal was put out to raise funds for new technological equipment for our local hospital. Our volunteers responded. They raised $1.1 million.
    Our city of Red Deer, with a population of nearly 90,000, raised the same amount as Edmonton and Calgary, and they are 10 times bigger.
    This is not the first time our volunteers have stepped up. The Red Deer College Library, David Thompson Health Unit and Collicott Centre have all raised public awareness and major donations.
    Our volunteers have made the World Junior Hockey Championships and the Scott Tournament of Hearts, to mention just a few events, massive success stories.
    I am extremely proud of our volunteers. The whole community thanks them.

  (1400)  

Violence Against Women

    Mr. Speaker, in December 2005, residents of Halifax were shocked by the murder of teacher Paula Gallant.
    As a result of this violent crime, our community lost a strong, intelligent woman and gifted artist. Her family lost a loving mother, sister and wife.
    Last week, several hundred people reaffirmed their determination to find her killer and see justice done. They used a birthday memorial to launch a website devoted to Paula and the ongoing effort to end violence against women.
    I recently met her sister Lynn, who is determined to make people aware of Paula's life and her unsolved murder. Lynn is an impressive advocate and dedicated sister.
    I am sure the House will join me in commending her and others for their efforts on behalf of Paula and women everywhere who are victims of violence.

[Translation]

Jean-Paul-Raymond Award

    Mr. Speaker, the Fédération de l'UPA of Bas-Saint-Laurent recently received the Jean-Paul-Raymond award for its meat processing centre project. The Jean-Paul-Raymond award is handed out every year at the annual assembly of the Union des producteurs agricoles in recognition of an outstanding union activity or project.
    Federation president Claude Guimond said that this was a wonderful recognition for farmers in all regions of Quebec, and that it showed there was still a place for collective projects.
    The processing centre, which specializes in cut lamb and beef, set up temporarily in La Pocatière and will move next summer to Saint-Gabriel-de-Rimouski, when construction of the centre is complete.
    Congratulations once again to Mr. Guimond and his entire team on this unique initiative, which is a source of pride for everyone in the Bas-Saint-Laurent.

[English]

Canada Pension Plan

    Mr. Speaker, there are over 70,000 seniors living in my hometown of Hamilton. One in four of them lives in poverty, dependent on the government pension programs they paid into all their lives, and assured that the money they invested in public pensions would be there when they needed it.
    They have been betrayed. Payments under the Canada pension plan have always been woefully inadequate.
    Now, the federal government has learned that Statistics Canada underestimated the inflation rate for the past five years, meaning that CPP has not even kept up to the cost of living increases. Seniors' pensions should have gone up much more, but they did not.
    In their recent mini-budget, the Conservatives gave billions of dollars in tax cuts to some of our most profitable banks and oil companies, but withheld the money that seniors are rightfully owed.
     That is right. The Conservatives took money from the pockets of our poorest seniors and handed it over to the wealthiest oil companies.
     Our seniors deserve better. They deserve more respect and they certainly deserve their fair share of the very pensions for which they paid.

Elder Abuse

    Mr. Speaker, while many forms of abusive relationships exist in our society, one of the most reprehensible is elder abuse: physical, mental or, perhaps the most perverse of abuses, financial.
    The elderly, whose wills have been weakened by the advancing onset of age, cannot defend themselves as they surely would have in their younger years and are shamed into silence.
    Lifelong savings carefully planned to provide security and independence from the state, planned small gifts to family members or charities of choice from the remaining assets on demise are heartlessly drained away by those most closest to them, right before their eyes.
    We, as parliamentarians, must recognize the problem of elder abuse and be the architects of its resolve.
    I commend those on the front lines for their efforts: police departments across this country. But they need more resources and better tools.
    Elder abuse is pervasive and shamefully growing. We need to do better to protect our seniors.

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, as most members will recall, the past several years have been difficult times for our grains and oilseeds producers. Simply put, our farmers experienced a massive and nearly unprecedented drop in commodity prices while, at the same time, input costs rose to a record high.
    Unfortunately, that same kind of challenge is now looming on the horizon for Canada's beef and pork sectors. The beef industry is still recovering from the events surrounding the BSE crisis. Now, while still financially diminished, our beef and pork sectors are facing an impending financial crisis which could spell disaster for these cornerstones of the Canadian agricultural economy.
    As agriculture is the second largest employer in Canada and a mainstay in our national economy, I would urge the government to take immediate and decisive action to assist our farmers to move beyond crisis management to preserving their industries for the future. Time is of the essence. Our farmers need action now.

  (1405)  

Algeria

    Mr. Speaker, we have just learned the sad news of two horrific terrorist attacks that took place this morning in Algiers. More than 60 people are believed dead and many injured, including employees of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
    While Algeria is recovering from a long decade of civil war that claimed over 150,000 lives, it is particularly appalling that terrorist elements, probably linked to al-Qaeda, launched these deadly attacks against innocent victims and members of the UN staff who are working for the good of the Algerian people.
    Over the past few years, Algeria has put forth considerable effort in the fight against terrorism and in establishing peace and reconciliation within its borders.
    The Government of Canada strongly condemns these terrorist attacks, which are aimed solely at undermining the foundations of democracy and destabilizing Algeria.

[Translation]

Quebec Farmers' Union

    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois would like to congratulate Christian Lacasse, a dairy farmer from Saint-Vallier de Bellechasse and the new president of the Union des producteurs agricoles. We also congratulate the vice presidents, Pierre Lemieux and Denis Bilodeau. I would also like to acknowledge the tremendous contribution to Quebec's agricultural community made by Laurent Pellerin, president of the UPA for 14 years, and Martine Mercier, the first female vice president.
    Upon his election, the new president of the UPA said, and I quote:
    We will pull together to help our fellow members, those who are having difficulty in the forestry, pork, beef and grain sectors. Government support is needed, providing emergency assistance in order to get through this crisis. If nothing is done, there will be some closures.
    His message fell on deaf ears, since the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food did not announce any assistance for farmers at the UPA convention. He refused to answer their questions. He must listen to them, however, since the Bloc Québécois will continue to defend the interests of Quebec farmers.

[English]

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, Canada plays an important and dynamic role in the global economy. This Conservative government has strengthened our economic foundations, set a long term vision, and Canadians are reaping the benefits: a robust economy and record employment.
    We are working with Canadian businesses to improve investment conditions, boost innovation and increase global trade, but this Conservative government will ensure that the rules are fair and that our national interests are protected.
    That is why the Minister of Industry moved to protect Canada from state owned enterprises that are not transparent when taking over a Canadian business. There are no guarantees that their interests are strictly commercial and they often answer to their home governments.
    We are ensuring the Canadian workers are not left to the mercies of a foreign government. SOEs will be required to prove that their investments are in our national interest.
    The message is clear: This government will protect our Canadian workers and our national interests.
    Canada is open for business, but we are certainly not for sale. We are making sure our economy, like Canada itself, will always be strong and free.

Mount Allison University

    Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise today to salute Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick.
    Mount Allison has been named the top undergraduate university in Maclean's magazine's 17th annual survey.
    This year Mount Allison tied with Acadia University. For 12 of the past 17 years, Mount Allison was ranked number one and second for another five years, a fantastic record of achievement for a world class university.
    Dr. Robert Campbell, Mount Allison's president, said it well:
    The Maclean's university rankings tell the world about Mount Allison's strengths, from our award-winning faculty teaching and small class sizes to our innovative residence system, which includes a sustainable residence, and a myriad of extracurricular activities...the Mount Allison experience gives the students more than a degree and prepares them to become engaged citizens of the world--

[Translation]

    Congratulations to the students, staff and teachers at Mount Allison University.

Manufacturing and Forestry Industries

    Mr. Speaker, on December 7, our Prime Minister went to Rivière-du-Loup and Rimouski, where he met with a number of constituents from the Lower St. Lawrence region, who gave him a warm welcome. For one of the few times in 14 years, economic players in the region were able to share their concerns directly with a federal elected representative who is not stuck on the opposition benches and who has the means to act.
    As usual, the Prime Minister talked about the real challenges, such as the situation in the manufacturing and forestry industries, which have to operate in a demanding economic environment. Our government, which has a strong presence in Quebec, has taken steps to support these industries, the communities where they are located and their workers. Our government will do more for these industries in the new year and in the next budget, because it is in the interests of Quebeckers and Canadians.
    During that time, the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup can continue to listen and ask questions.

  (1410)  

[English]

Seniors

    Mr. Speaker, our senior citizens deserve much better treatment from our government. Seniors work hard. They have paid into their pensions. They deserve security in their retirement, but more and more they find themselves done out of their own money. They do not get their GIS automatically. Some who qualify are missing disability pensions. Some have to go to court to fight for basic CPP. Now a five year miscalculation of the inflation rate means seniors lose again.
    When I publicized this in my riding, the Secretary of State for Seniors issued a release within hours. Will the government fix the problem? No. It blamed the Liberal government for the mistake and said that other western countries also kept money from inflated mistakes.
    We teach our children not to hide behind other's actions when they make a mistake. Why not our government? It can instantly get out a press release, defending not doing the right thing, but cannot act fast enough for seniors. Actions do speak louder than words. Give the seniors their money.

The Aga Khan

    Mr. Speaker, this Thursday, December 13, marks the 71st birthday of His Highness The Aga Khan.
    His Highness is an important spiritual leader to millions of Ismailis around the world. An even wider audience knows him as the head of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world's largest private foundations dedicated to the eradication of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and diseases in the developing world.
    His selfless philanthropy has been recognized worldwide, as has his commitment to pluralism. Canada conferred on him the Companion of the Order of Canada.
    The Aga Khan is establishing the Global Centre for Pluralism, to be headquartered in Ottawa. The centre will engage in research and promote dialogue about ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, with a view to helping foster pluralistic values worldwide.
    I ask all members of the House to join me in wishing best wishes to His Highness The Aga Khan for his continued success in bringing light to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.

[Translation]

Women's Employment Organization

    Mr. Speaker, the organization Partance was established in Drummondville in 1982 to help women deal with the difficulties of integrating into the job market.
    Twenty-five years later, the job market has been transformed, but many obstacles remain for women who wish to realize their professional objectives. Almost 4,000 women have used the services of Partance, which has come to symbolize a beginning, a jumping off point, a door to the future.
    On the occasion of this anniversary, tribute was paid to the winners of the “women of influence” contest: Berthe Tessier of the Association des retraitées et retraités de l'enseignement du Québec, Drummondville region; Francine Ruest Jutras, mayor of Drummondville; Mariette Saint-Laurent, founder of La Rose des vents; Micheline Locas, President and CEO of Association des clubs d'entrepreneurs étudiants; and Paula Provencher, President of AFEAS, central Quebec chapter.
    They bear witness to the place occupied by women in Drummondville. They have paved the way for others. I congratulate all of them.

[English]

Canada Post

    Mr. Speaker, the government has dealt a serious blow to the rural mail delivery in my riding of Cardigan and across Prince Edward Island.
    Canada Post has its officials ordering people to use superboxes in areas on very busy highways, which is very dangerous. An incident already occurred on the Trans-Canada Highway in my riding last week, where someone picking up their mail had an accident while leaving the site.
    Canada Post has installed these superboxes in areas with no concern for the safety of the public and without adequate room for people to safely stop and pick up their mail. This is unacceptable and it must stop.
    My message is simple. Stop this situation where islanders are being placed at risk just to pick up their mail. If the government allows this to continue, this will be the end of rural mail delivery across Canada, which will have a direct effect on seniors in rural areas.

  (1415)  

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to hypocrisy on climate change, the Liberal Party is hands down the winner.
    In recognition of its complete failure over 13 years to fight climate change, we are happy to continue awarding a special Liberal with the hypocrite of the day award during the course of the current United Nations Conference on Climate Change taking place in Indonesia.
    Today's award goes to the Liberal member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore who said, “We'll clean up Kazakhstan, but we won't clean up downtown Toronto”. And who can forget when he infamously called out the Liberal leader on his failed environmental record and said, “We didn't get it done”.
    When it comes to fighting climate change on the world stage, there is only one party that is serious about getting things done and getting all major emitters like China, India and the United States on board. That party, my friends, is the Conservative Party of Canada.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Chalk River Nuclear Facilities

    Mr. Speaker, the government has broken its embargo on the legislation to deal with the mess it has made of the isotopes crisis. Therefore, let me ask the Prime Minister about the legislation.
    Why does the nuclear regulator have no role in assessing whether the Chalk River reactor is safe during the 120 day period? Why does the government believe AECL, which was in flagrant violation of its licence, is competent to decide whether the reactor is safe to operate?
    Mr. Speaker, the government has independent advice indicating there is no safety concern with the reactor.
    On the contrary, what we do know is the continuing actions of the Liberal appointed Nuclear Safety Commission will jeopardize the health and safety and lives of tens of thousands of Canadians.
    We do not have the authority to act as an executive, but we do have the responsibility to demand that Parliament step in and fix this situation before the health of more people is put in jeopardy.
    Mr. Speaker, attacking the regulator, taking him out of the process, is going to make the problem worse.
    In a speech in June 2006 at Chalk River, the Minister of Natural Resources said “we're getting our house in order”. The house is not in order. AECL is a crown corporation. Its board is named by the government. The government should have known it was violating the terms of its licence.
    Why did the minister sit here for 18 months doing nothing?
    Mr. Speaker, both AECL and the CNSC operate independently of the government.
    That said, the actions of the regulator, while within its legislative authority, are clearly, in the eyes of this government, not in the public interest. It is in the public interest to get this reactor back online and get these medical radioisotopes produced. There is no threat to nuclear safety at all. There is a threat to human health.
    The Liberals should stop protecting their appointee and get on with getting these medical isotopes produced.
     Mr. Speaker, since when is the Prime Minister of Canada an expert on nuclear safety?

[Translation]

    The Chalk River nuclear reactor ceased operations on November 18. However, it was only last Friday, after 18 days had passed, that the Minister of Health began to assess the situation.
    Why did they neglect to take action for one month, during which time the health of Canadians was at risk? Why is the health of Canadians still at risk?
    Mr. Speaker, the government consulted experts to obtain their professional advice on a situation of public interest.

  (1420)  

[English]

    Since when does the Liberal Party have a right, from the grave through one of its previous appointees, to block the production of necessary medical products in the country? This is not in the public interest. The longer this goes on, the greater the public health damage. The Liberal Party is standing in the way of fixing this.
    Mr. Speaker, for a year and a half it appears that AECL has been running a nuclear operation outside of its licence.
    The current nuclear isotope crisis could not have come as a surprise to the government. AECL is a crown corporation that reports to the Minister of Natural Resources.
    I am not asking about what the minister has done today. I am not asking about what he did last week. I am asking him this. What steps has he taken over the last 17 months to fix this problem?
    Mr. Speaker, AECL, operating independently of the government, has taken steps necessary to deal with any immediate safety problems. The question is whether the Liberals will continue to block the production of medical radioisotopes in the country.
    It is on their shoulders, and they continue to block what is necessary for the public interest and the health of Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, we ask the questions here.
     The behaviour of the government and AECL over the last 17 months has put us in this medical national crisis. The government solution to the crisis is apparently to lower nuclear standards and hand the matter over to AECL without any oversight.
    Will the minister, or the Prime Minister for that matter, tell Canadians what will happen if there is a nuclear accident? Who will be responsible? Will it be the Prime Minister?
    Mr. Speaker, there will be no nuclear accident. What there will be is a growing crisis in the medical system in Canada and around the world if the Liberal Party continues to support the regulator obstructing this reactor from coming back online.
    This is essential. It is in the public interest. It is necessary for the public health of Canadians. The Liberal Party can cast around all the blame it wants on AECL, that is fine, but it should stop blocking the best interests of the health of Canadians.

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois has introduced a bill to apply the Charter of the French Language to businesses under federal jurisdiction in Quebec. Recognizing Quebec as a nation by extension includes recognizing its language, French, including in the work place. For the Conservatives, that is not so. Today, the Conservative members and chair of the committee on procedure joined forces to prevent this bill from going to a vote.
    By hiding behind false pretenses, are the Conservatives not being hypocritical in refusing to allow the nation of Quebec to promote its language, namely French?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is well aware of the committee process. The committee has not made a decision yet and we are waiting for that decision.
    Mr. Speaker, we already know what the Conservatives have decided. He is talking out of both sides of his mouth.
    Last Friday, in Rivière-du-Loup, the Prime Minister said, “that his government practises a federalism of openness that respects Quebec’s historical, cultural and linguistic distinctiveness and gives it the flexibility and autonomy it needs to maintain its Francophone identity”.
    How does the Prime Minister explain that he is doing precisely the opposite today by preventing the Bloc Québécois bill from going to a vote in this House?
    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, this government respects the linguistic powers of the Government of Quebec in its areas of jurisdiction.
    In the meantime, the federal government applies its policies in its own jurisdictions. For a long time now, the federal government's policy has been to respect the vital role of both official languages while respecting the rights of linguistic minorities.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives say that under the Constitution, the Bloc Québécois' bill is out of order. What they have failed to understand is that this bill does not apply to federal public institutions, but to private companies governed by the Canada Labour Code, which is something else entirely.
    Does the Conservative attitude not prove the party's refusal to acknowledge the primacy of French everywhere in Quebec as well as its stubbornness in refusing to allow Quebec workers, who are governed by the Canada Labour Code, to work in French everywhere in Quebec?
    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is well aware that people in Quebec and across Canada are paying close attention to open federalism. As the Prime Minister said, we will continue to respect the provinces' jurisdiction, we will assume our responsibilities, and we will promote linguistic duality in Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, the federal government can try to hide behind the Constitution, but the Official Languages Act is within its jurisdiction. The government already applies Quebec's minimum wage legislation to Quebec workers who are regulated by federal labour laws.
    Will the government acknowledge that its attitude demonstrates nothing more than a lack of will to act in order to ensure that French is the Quebec nation's common public language, even in workplaces under federal jurisdiction?
    Mr. Speaker, just a few months ago, the former leader of the Parti Québécois urged the sovereignist troops to cease provoking useless confrontations. The federal government will continue to work within its jurisdiction while respecting areas under provincial jurisdiction.

[English]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday Conrad Black was sentenced for crimes of fraud and obstruction of justice. Because Canada's white collar laws are so weak, a lot of people believe that if he had committed these crimes in Canada he would not have been going to jail at all.
    Currently we have no laws dealing with non-compete clauses. Our corporate accounting standards are nowhere near the international standards that they should be. The fact is that investors, many of them seniors, are negatively affected by this and put at risk.
    In order to protect Canada's reputation and Canada's investors, including seniors, I have to ask the Prime Minister, why is he so soft on white collar crime in this country?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to know why the NDP is so soft on violent criminals in this country. We have a full agenda, and that is right, the NDP helped gut Bill C-9, the conditional sentencing act.
    We have a full agenda before Parliament right now and I hope the NDP sees the error of its ways and gets behind all of it.
    Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear, then, that the government has no intention of taking action on what certainly the Americans and many other people believe are serious matters, to protect citizens, investors and seniors.

[Translation]

    Canada is now the real wild west when it comes to financial crime. Naturally, the Conservative government thinks it is acceptable to leave things as they are, but we think it is unacceptable. We have introduced proposals to correct the situation.
    Why does the government refuse to protect pensioners, those whose lives are in its hands? Why does the government refuse to take the necessary action? Why does it refuse to adopt a serious policy on this issue?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, if I caught the first part of that question, does the hon. member now want us to emulate the American justice system? That is what I think he said.
     I should point out for the hon. member that when we came forward with a bill to eliminate house arrest for people who commit fraud, it was the NDP that helped gut that bill and get that provision out of there. Let those members get behind us if this is what they believe and give us some support.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the UN climate chief, Yvo de Boer, portrayed Canada as a climate hypocrite by rejecting Kyoto commitments but demanding “developing countries...take binding reduction targets”. Meanwhile, China points to Canada as one of the single biggest obstacles to progress.
    The government claims its actions are based on science, but the head of the IPCC has labelled it “a government of skeptics”. Our top Canadian climate scientist believes the minister's policies were devised on a Ouija board. Why is the government refusing to sign on to reduction targets the science demands?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, the fact is that after 13 years of Liberal inaction emissions climbed 33%. That is what embarrassed Canada.
    We now have strong leadership with a target of a 20% reduction by 2020. That is 150 megatonnes. That is the toughest target in Canadian history.
    Mr. Speaker, Canada and its Minister of the Environment have become the object of ridicule, singled out as the greatest obstacle to progress in Bali. No one believes the government is negotiating with clean hands. This domestic plan has been rejected by every single independent observer. It will allow Canada's emissions to rise for decades. Nobody believes the government at home. Nobody believes it at Bali.
    Why does the minister not just come home and finish up his Christmas shopping? Does the Prime Minister not have anyone, anyone at all, to send abroad to represent the will of Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, that is from the member who did not get it done. I have a great quote: the Kyoto protocol is “too bureaucratic”, and its shortcomings must be addressed to eventually draw the United States into a new climate-change deal.
    Do members know who said that? The leader of the Liberal Party.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the whole world is criticizing the Minister of the Environment, his inaction plan for the environment and his hypocritical position during negotiations in Bali.
    And how does the minister respond? By attacking environmentalists. The minister said that, by demanding perfection, environmentalists are in fact proving to be the enemies of good measures.
    Will the parliamentary secretary apologize for having rudely belittled Canada's defenders of the environment?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, one of the delegates with the Canadian delegation to Indonesia is the minister of environment from Quebec. She said that “we believe that mandatory targets must be imposed upon everyone, and that is, yes, countries must participate in the fight against climate change, including the United States and emerging economies like China and India”.
    She is absolutely right. We all need to put our oars in the water and we all need to start fighting against climate change.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I understand that the parliamentary secretary does not speak French, but I thought the parliamentary translation service was working just fine. He did not answer the question.
    We know that this minister has very little respect for Canada's environmental community. In fact, the minister has so little consideration for environmentalists that he did not invite any environmental groups to join his delegation to Bali.
    Will the government admit that it prevented Canadian environmentalists from participating because the minister is desperately trying to avoid an agreement in Bali and does not want Canadians to know?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the opposition Liberals continue to engage in smears against the minister. Yesterday the member for Ajax—Pickering was still doing it with regard to the Ottawa mayor's affair and the minister has made it clear repeatedly that he has no involvement in that.
    I thought it was timely to draw attention to something the Liberals have ignored. It prompted the OPP to issue a news release on that issue about the Minister of the Environment, which states, “At this time, the OPP is not considering further investigation into the matter”. It states that “the OPP has no plan to share its file on this matter with the RCMP”.
    I would like the Liberal Party members who have engaged in that questioning in the past to apologize now for their repeated smears.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Canada is increasingly isolated at the Bali conference. The chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, has called the Conservatives a government of skeptics, whereas Mr. de Boer has said it would be hypocritical to set no binding targets. The environment ministers of Quebec and Ontario are demanding that the Prime Minister show leadership.
    Are we to conclude from the government's attitude in Bali that Canada has decided to give priority to the economy at the expense of the environment?

  (1435)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the reality is that without all the major emitters participating and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, emissions will continue to rise. That is why Canada has taken the leadership role of requiring a mandatory regulatory framework that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 and by 60% to 70% by 2050. That is a historic low. We are on the right track. Mr. Steiner says our approach is the right approach.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, censure is not coming solely from other countries. The National Assembly of Quebec, in marking the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto protocol, unanimously renewed its commitment to reduce Quebec's greenhouse gas emissions by 6% with respect to 1990 levels by 2012 and reaffirmed that it disagrees with the position of the Government of Canada.
    If the government is really serious about wanting to respect Quebec as a nation, why does it not adopt the territorial approach and transfer funding to Quebec City, which wants to make the Kyoto protocol a success, not a failure?
    This government has set a mandatory target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020. If the Government of Quebec wants stricter targets, that is its right. Under our plan, that is its right.
    But I do not understand why the Bloc Québécois is taking the position that China and other countries, which are the world's largest emitters, should not have targets. Emissions would double with such a policy.

Securities

    Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, the finance ministers will meet here in Ottawa. On this occasion, the federal Minister of Finance wants to explore, yet again, his idea of having a centralized securities commission. That idea does not respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces and has been decried by the National Assembly, l'Autorité des marchés financiers and the Montreal Stock Exchange.
    Instead of trying to impose his hare-brained ideas, would the Minister of Finance not be better off taking firm and immediate action to help the manufacturing sector, which is in a crisis?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question.
    As stated in the Speech from the Throne, we respect the jurisdictions of Canada's governments.

[English]

    I also congratulate the Montreal Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange for enhancing the capital markets in Canada by the agreement they reached earlier this week.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, when the New York Stock Exchange merged with Euronext, each institution kept its regulatory framework. The merger did not result in the creation of a single regulatory body. According to the World Bank and the OECD, the current system is working quite well and studies show that a centralized system would be more expensive.
    In light of these facts, will the Minister of Finance admit that his true objective is to centralize all financial activities in Toronto in order to benefit his friends on Bay Street?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that suggestion is absolute nonsense. What we have been talking about, as recommended by the Crawford committee, is a common securities regulator in Canada, not a federal regulator and not an Ontario oriented or Toronto oriented regulator.
     I say for the member opposite, look at the challenges that we have in enforcement in Canada with respect to securities, the frauds perpetrated on seniors and the frauds perpetrated on investors. I ask him seriously whether he thinks we can have enforcement that is effective without the presence of the national government.

Electoral Reform

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to read for members a quote from the Ontario legislature:
    We believe that every voter in Canada and every voter in Ontario should have an equally weighted vote when they vote for their MPP or their MP.
    Who said that? It was Conservative Norm Sterling, whose entire caucus voted unanimously in urging the government to ensure fairness for Ontario.
     Why does the Minister for Democratic Reform want to pass a law that even his provincial cousins cannot support? Does he think that Norm Sterling is a small man of Confederation too?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am not going to comment on Mr. Sterling's hype. People can draw their own conclusions on that.
    The reality is that the statement by Mr. Sterling makes clear their unhappiness that Mr. McGuinty is practising one set of politics in his own province, where he has wiped out rep by pop in the legislature, and then is asking for something else entirely different on the national stage.
    The real question for the hon. member is this: what is the position of the Liberal Party? Is it the position of Ontario Liberals that they should have more seats in Ontario or is it the position of Quebec Liberals that they should have less seats and not have more seats in Ontario? I want to know what the real position of the Liberal Party is on this.
    Mr. Speaker, we want what is right for Ontario.
     Yesterday the Ontario provincial legislature passed a unanimous motion calling on the government to amend Bill C-22. The Premiers of Quebec and Manitoba both agree that this bill is unfair. Editorials from papers such as The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and Montreal's Gazette agree that this legislation must be fixed.
    What will it take for the minister to admit that he made a mistake, fix this legislation and ensure fairness for all Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, the Premier of Quebec does not want the existing law changed. He wants it to stay the way it is. The Premier of Ontario wants it changed but he does not think we are going far enough. He wants us to go further and completely eliminate the guarantee that currently exists for Quebec.
    I would like to know, since she is quoting people on opposite ends of the spectrum, which side she comes down on, or does she believe that our middle, moderate path, which will help Ontario to get more seats and Alberta and B.C. to get better representation by population, is the best approach? I have not heard any approach from the Liberal Party other than to criticize anybody trying to correct the inequities that exist.

Wireless Industry

    Mr. Speaker, we know that Brian Mulroney lobbied the former industry minister and that he arranged a meeting between the minister and Pierre Karl Péladeau.
    The Lobbyist Registration Act states that individuals who, for payment, arrange a meeting with a public office holder and any other person in respect to government policy are required to register.
    Did the Prime Minister know that Brian Mulroney was never registered as a lobbyist while he was lobbying the government?
    Mr. Speaker, yet again I would point out, for the benefit of my hon. friend, that the alleged facts to which he refers are not germane to the spectrum decision that was made. The spectrum decision was made by myself, as the Minister of Industry, following a process that I have outlined in considerable detail in the House and publicly.
    It is the right decision. I would encourage my friend to support more choice for consumers, better service and the prospect of lower prices. That is what he should be supporting in the House.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister is sounding a little bit like Alexander Haig.
    On Thursday, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister, “Has the Prime Minister ever discussed the wireless spectrum with Brian Mulroney?” The Prime Minister refused to answer.
    Why did it take two hours for the PMO to answer a simple question? Either the Prime Minister spoke to Mr. Mulroney about wireless or not.
    During those two hours, did the Prime Minister's Office speak with Brian Mulroney or his representatives just to get their stories straight?
    Mr. Speaker, absolutely not. All of these are complete fishing questions where the opposition has no facts of any kind.
    The fact is that Mr. Mulroney has not lobbied me nor has he tried to influence my opinion on a government decision either on this matter or on any other matter since we took office.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, Canada recognizes the need to take a complete approach to address climate change and air pollution.
    The world is moving to address climate change and the environment and Canada intends to lead the effort at home and abroad.
    Today, a software program for businesses, which assesses the viability of clean energy options, was announced. A lot of pollution is happening over here on this side of the House.
    Could the Minister of Natural Resources tell the House how our government is ensuring that Canada is at the leading edge of clean technologies to reduce emissions and adapt to environmental change?
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

  (1445)  

    Order, please. I would remind hon. members that it is Tuesday, not Wednesday. Perhaps we can calm down a little and get into the Christmas spirit a bit.
    The hon. Minister of Natural Resources has the floor and we will have some order, please.
    Mr. Speaker, we were very pleased today to announce a new software program developed by Natural Resources Canada called RETScreen. This software tool will allow businesses, homeowners, industries and institutions to assess energy projects on their economic viability and on how much greenhouse gases they will reduce. This project is being used around the world. It is available in 20 languages and is becoming the industry standard.
    This is one more example of Canadians leading the world in technology development to reduce greenhouse gases and we should all be proud of those people who are doing it.

[Translation]

Securities

    Mr. Speaker, the Toronto and Montreal stock exchanges recently decided to merge. Credible people such as Henri-Paul Rousseau are seriously questioning the viability of establishing the commodities and derivatives market in Montreal.
    The Prime Minister can take concrete action to ensure that Montreal remains a metropolis in Quebec while keeping its financial role in Canada. Can he guarantee that the carbon exchange will be established in Montreal?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the arrangements between the Montreal Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange are matters that they negotiated themselves.
     I understand, from speaking to the principals, that the idea has been that the derivatives exchange would remain in Montreal. It has been very successful in Montreal, as the equities exchange has been very successful in Toronto. The merger works well for Canada.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, can the Prime Minister understand that the merger of the two stock exchanges is not simply a private business deal? There may be an impact on Montreal's position as an economic capital, and Montreal has already been through enough with a number of separatist governments in the past 30 years.
    The question is simple. Will the Conservative government support the establishment of a carbon exchange in Montreal, yes or no?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, those are matters that the principals involved in the two exchanges will discuss.
    I would think that the hon. member would be pleased to see the success and the strength of the Montreal Exchange in the derivatives market. It is a success story in capital markets in Canada. He should celebrate it instead of putting it down.

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, I was recently in Napanee, Ontario, a small town in a rural area, where I asked child care providers how things had changed with the taxable allowance now available to their parents. When I asked them how many more spaces there were, they said “none”. When I asked them how many spaces there were with better facilities, they said “none”. When I asked them how many spaces had better access to those who need help the most, they said “none”.
    I asked them again, “You say it's much worse than before so you say 'none' when you really mean 'not many'?” “No”, they said, “none”. Zero.
    Who is telling the truth, the minister or the people of Napanee?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend for his story but I recall reading the newspaper not long ago where the former deputy leader of the Liberal Party was talking about that member's child care plan. Do members know how many spaces she said that his child care plan created? She said “none”.
    Mr. Speaker, is the minister saying that the child care providers of Napanee are not telling the truth?
    Mr. Speaker, here is the truth. The truth is that this government is investing three times as much in child care as the previous government did.
    The truth is that we are offering choice to parents, something that is extraordinarily popular with parents.
    The truth is that the leader of the Liberal Party says that he would take away the universal child care benefit, which would be extraordinarily damaging to parents. That is the truth.

  (1450)  

Correctional Service Canada

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians expect our country's prisons to provide care and to rehabilitate inmates.
    If a person is in prison and has a heart attack, we assume and expect that individual will receive the same kind of medical attention that is granted every citizen in this country.
    Why then are inmates with mental health issues shackled and segregated instead of receiving medical attention?
    Would the minister responsible for Correctional Service Canada commit to this House that he will implement and fund a mental health strategy for Canada's prisons?
    Mr. Speaker, very soon people will be seeing recommendations of a committee that has been looking at various ways to address issues in the corrections system. We also receive good advice from the investigator at Correctional Service Canada.
    I am pleased that in this last budget we were able to commit an extra $240 million over the next two years, which is above and beyond what we are already spending, to ensure these types of issues are addressed.
    Mr. Speaker, I do commend the minister. There is money but I have heard from people at Correctional Services that it is probably not enough. I would point out that the money is so inmates can be reintegrated into society.
    What is truly lacking is the kind of assessment and treatment within the prison system so that young women, young offenders, like Ashley Smith, do not end up taking their own life after spending five years, the bulk of which was in segregation by themselves, not even integrated into the rest of the community.
    I implore the minister to look at the big picture and look at ways to reform the Canadian prison system so we do not have more Ashley Smiths.
    Mr. Speaker, the situation related to Ashley Smith is one of extreme heartbreak and tragedy in terms of what unfolded there. I am sure the member is aware that there are a number of ongoing investigations and some charges have been brought, which is why we must let that process unfold.
    Virtually from the moment that happened I insisted that the entire process of protocols and what happens in situations like that be reviewed, updated and monitored. We are very concerned about that and any similar type of situation that could happen.

[Translation]

Manufacturing Industry

    Mr. Speaker, Shermag, a furniture manufacturer, has announced the closure of four plants, including two in Quebec, with the loss of 320 jobs. Meanwhile, the government has a surplus of over $11.6 billion, but is doing nothing to help manufacturers, who are going through a serious crisis. Yet the Bloc Québécois has suggested real assistance measures tailored to the needs of the furniture industry.
    Will the government take action now instead of constantly saying that it will act when it brings down its next budget? These workers need help now.
    Mr. Speaker, we disagree. Unlike the Bloc members, I have every hope that the manufacturing sector in Quebec will recover. As was mentioned yesterday, many of these sectors are growing.
    What is more, Canadian Business magazine has said that five of the ten best places in Canada to set up a business are in Quebec: Sherbrooke ranks in first place; Saguenay, third; Laval, fifth; Trois-Rivières, sixth; and Longueuil, tenth.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about Shawinigan. While hundreds of workers at the Belgo plant are losing their jobs and trying to stay hopeful, the government has not announced any income support program for older workers. These 270 older workers need to know now, not when the next budget is brought down, what to expect after this plant closes for good.
    What is this government waiting for to put in place a real income support program for older workers? How many plants will have to close and how many people will have to lose their jobs before the Conservatives do something?

  (1455)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, every time a plant closes down it is very difficult for the workers involved. Service Canada immediately meets with the plant, with the union and certainly with the workers and lays out the options in terms of benefits, training and new job opportunities.
    I think the most important way to support workers is to give them the skills they need to take advantage of the extraordinarily hot job market. In fact, Quebec is just behind Alberta in the creation of new jobs this year, which is at 2.9%. That is extraordinarily good news. It is the highest employment rate it has had in its history. We want to help workers transition into work.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Shermag announced that it was closing four plants, including two in my riding in New Brunswick. The Conservative government has done nothing since the manufacturing and forestry crisis began. The communities, the companies, the workers and their families need ACOA to put in place an economic fund immediately so that they can face their future.
    Is the minister prepared to put this survival fund in place? How many more families will have to suffer before the Conservative government really does something? How many more families will have to suffer?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is always difficult when a plant closes and those kinds of decisions affect people's lives. The government understands that and we are sympathetic to that.
    There has been a softening of demand and the restructuring of some industries. However, the Canadian economy continues to create jobs at an unprecedented rate with 388,000 jobs created this year to date.
    The place in Canada where job creation is the highest is in New Brunswick at a 4.2% increase year over year. The employment rate in New Brunswick right now is the highest it has been in recent times.

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, recently the member for Winnipeg Centre outrageously claimed that this government spent $1 million on an “ideological crusade”.
    Perhaps the Minister of Agriculture could enlighten the member for Winnipeg Centre, who described himself as being stunned. Did this government spend $1.2 million on a democratic exercise to give voice to thousands of western Canadian farmers?
    The member for Crowfoot certainly did not shock anybody with that stunned statement, Mr. Speaker.
    As the hon. member knows, we held a plebiscite on barley to find out what western farmers wanted. Sixty-two per cent want to have choice in marketing barley. I know that number is even higher today.
    It might come as a shock to the member for Winnipeg Centre, but we spent money to inform farmers in the Wheat Board area. The government ads included only information on voter eligibility, toll-free numbers, websites and, of course, the results.
    The NDP never appreciates democracy, but this government is always ready to support farmers' rights and freedoms.
    I would be happy to table those ad materials, Mr. Speaker. I have them right here.

Homelessness

    Mr. Speaker, since 1998 the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee has been declaring homelessness a national disaster and 400 agencies from across the country agree.
    The Liberal solution was to cut the funding for housing and the Conservatives have chosen huge corporate tax cuts instead of reinvesting in housing.
    In Edmonton alone, 41 homeless people died last year. A homeless person died this past weekend in Montreal. This is a totally unnecessary disaster.
    When will the government establish a national housing strategy? When will it take these deaths seriously?
    Mr. Speaker, the strategy of the government is to take steps that make a difference in the lives of people, which is why, when we came to office, one of the first things we did was to invest heavily in affordable housing. There is $1.4 billion in the housing trust today.
    This government is investing more in affordable housing than any government in history. We have also put in place the homelessness partnering strategy. We believe that a roof over a person's head is the place to start to give people a hand. There is $270 million for that.
    We understand how important it is to make sure that people who are living in poverty get a--
    The hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie.
    Let us be clear, Mr. Speaker, that that money came from the NDP budget, when we forced the Liberals to cancel their corporate tax cuts.
    St. Michael's Hospital says that homeless people die at a rate 10 times higher than people living in homes.
    Meanwhile, all of the programs, federal homelessness, federal housing rehab and affordable housing are set to expire in a few months. The minister should visit the streets, talk to homeless people and get a dose of reality, because winter is here. Where is the plan?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, I hate to break it to the member, but the NDP has never been in power so there was no budget from the NDP.
    I need to tell the member that the New Democrats have no monopoly on concern when it comes to looking after the homeless. Last week I was meeting in Vancouver with groups who work on the streets to help people get a roof over their heads, give them the helping hand that they need so they can ultimately get out of the situation they are in.
    We are concerned about this. We are pouring resources in. It is more than just rhetoric with this party. We are getting the job done.

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, beef and hog producers across the country are facing financial devastation and the government fails to respond.
    Farmers who responded to the government's call to modernize, to increase production, to increase exports, are the best of the best. Third, fourth and fifth generation farmers are not only losing their businesses, they are losing their homes and their heritage, yet they are left desolate by a government sitting on a huge surplus.
    Will the minister not act immediately beyond regular safety nets and put immediate cash into the farm community?
    Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. We are in constant contact working with the farm groups, with the livestock sector, with the pork sector, with the processors and with the provinces. They all know we are working hard on the file and we will have answers for them very shortly.

[Translation]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, the recent discovery of 3,000 marijuana plants in a commercial space above a day care reminds us of the burgeoning problem of grow ops in communities and their consequences for the health and safety of those living nearby, in this case very vulnerable infants and pre-school children.
    Could my hon. colleague, the Minister of Justice, explain to the House how Bill C-26, which imposes mandatory prison terms for serious crimes related to drugs, will solve this problem?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I do not comment on specific cases.
    Bill C-26 aims to ensure that drug producers and dealers who threaten public safety and public health will face tougher sentences. In particular, the bill says that if the production of a drug constitutes a potential security, health or safety hazard to children who are in the immediate area where the offence is committed, the penalty increases. We want to send out a very clear message to drug dealers and those who produce drugs that if they threaten public safety, and in particular, if they threaten our children, they will face serious jail time.

Privilege

Alleged Abuse of Parliamentary Resources--Speaker's Ruling  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    Order, please. I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on November 22, 2007 by the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River concerning the alleged misuse of the services of the Library of Parliament.
    I understand that the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River and the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North have resolved this issue to their mutual satisfaction. I thank both hon. members for their cooperation, and the Chair considers the matter closed.

  (1505)  

Points of Order

Royal Recommendation--Bill C-474  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, on Friday, December 7, the Acting Speaker invited comments on whether Bill C-474 requires a royal recommendation.
    Without commenting on the merits of the bill, I submit that the bill's provisions to establish a new and independent commissioner of the environment and sustainable development who would be a new agent of Parliament would require new government spending and therefore, would require a royal recommendation.
    Clause 13 of Bill C-474 would require the governor in council to appoint a new commissioner of the environment and sustainable development. The clause sets out the powers, duties and term of office of the new commissioner. This would be an organizational change which would require increased spending. There are numerous precedents to this effect.
    The requirement for a royal recommendation for a new agent of Parliament is made clear in the Speaker's ruling of November 9, 1978, and I quote, “...if this bill is to impose a new duty on the officers of the Crown...these objectives...will necessitate expenditures of a nature which would require the financial initiative of the Crown”.
    The requirement for a royal recommendation for organizational changes, such as establishing a new department or a commissioner, is referred to in the Speaker's ruling of July 11, 1988, and again I quote:
...to establish a separate Department of Government and a commissioner of Multiculturalism...undoubtedly would cause a significant charge upon the Federal Treasury in order for the new Department to function on a daily basis.
    The Speaker's ruling of September 19, 2006 on Bill C-293 concluded that the creation of an advisory committee requires a royal recommendation since this clearly would require the expenditure of public funds in a manner and for a purpose not currently authorized. I quote from that ruling:
--the establishment of the advisory committee for international development cooperation provided for in clause 6 clearly would require the expenditure of public funds...
     I believe this principle should apply to Bill C-474 since the creation of an independent commissioner of the environment and sustainable development would clearly require new spending to remunerate the commissioner and to provide administrative support to the commissioner. Although the bill does not specify these requirements, the Speaker has ruled that a royal recommendation would, nevertheless, be needed.
    The Speaker's ruling of February 8, 2005 states:
    Where it is clear that the legislative objective of a bill cannot be accomplished without the dedication of public funds to that objective, the bill must be seen as the equivalent of a bill effecting an appropriation.
    I would suggest this was the reason that a royal recommendation was required for the 1995 amendments to the Auditor General Act that established the office of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development within the Auditor General's office.
    The office of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development has over 40 staff and reported spending $2.8 million in 2006-07 for sustainable development monitoring activities and environmental petitions. It must follow that the establishment of an independent commissioner of the environment and sustainable development would require an office of professionals to support the commissioner in carrying out his or her duties, as set out in clause 13.
    Since Bill C-474 would represent a change to the conditions and qualifications that were attached to the original legislation that established the office of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, a new royal recommendation would be required for Bill C-474.
    Page 183 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms reads:
--an amendment infringes the financial initiative of the Crown not only if it increases the amount but also if it extends the objects and purposes, or relaxes the conditions and qualifications expressed in the communication by which the Crown has demanded or recommended a charge.
    It is clear that by removing the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development from within the office of the auditor general and making the commissioner report directly to Parliament, Bill C-474 is proposing a change to the conditions and qualifications that were attached to the original legislation. Therefore, I submit that Bill C-474 requires a royal recommendation.
    Mr. Speaker, I suspect the sponsor of this bill will want the opportunity to comment on the point that has just been raised by the deputy House leader for the government. I wonder if you would reserve an opportunity for him to speak to this matter as soon as possible.
    That is exactly what I was going to say. I want to thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for his very ably prepared submission on this matter. I know he is always prudent and careful in organizing his arguments, and obviously has spent some considerable time in his preparations for this one today. I thank him for his efforts. Of course, we will look forward to hearing further on this in due course before the Chair makes a ruling.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

  (1510)  

[English]

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007

    Mr. Speaker, as I was saying before I was interrupted by question period, this agenda item, this mini-budget, this statement by the government takes Canada in the wrong direction.
    It is not a balanced approach to the way that we should be doing business in this place on behalf of Canadians and communities across this country. We had in front of us what we believe in the NDP caucus an unprecedented opportunity to invest in people and their communities.
    The government has failed to do that. In failing to do that, the real disappointment is that the only caucus in this place to stand up and say so and vote consistently against that agenda item has been the New Democratic caucus. We have had the support of the Bloc from time to time.
    Certainly, it has been telling that the Liberal caucus has not found it within its wish to actually stand up and vote against this budget. The Liberals have sat on their hands on at least three occasions that I can remember when they had an opportunity to say to the government that it was going in the wrong direction, that this is not the right agenda, that this is an unbalanced approach, and that it will hurt communities and people.
    This budget will hurt working families across this country. This may sound strange coming from a New Democrat, but this was an opportunity for targeted tax relief for those who needed it most. The government has failed to do that.
    The government failed to recognize even in the industrial realm which sectors of our industry needed help the most. The budget gives relief to big banks, to the oil industry and to insurance companies. The budget did nothing and it will do nothing as it rolls out for the manufacturing sector. Communities such as Hamilton, St. Catharines, Winnipeg and Sault Ste. Marie and others, that are being damaged by the downsizing in the manufacturing sector, will continue to feel that pain.
    There will be no help coming from the federal government because there is nothing in this mini-budget. There was nothing in the previous budget and nothing in the Conservative's agenda to give communities any hope that the government will come to the table and be a partner, and participate in some kind of a restructuring and realigning of their fortunes.
    It is for these reasons and the many others that my colleagues have laid out in front of this place and will continue to lay out over the next number of days, that we in the New Democratic Party caucus will be voting against this mini-budget.
    Travelling the country over the last couple of years, I have met with community groups and leaders, and people struggling to make ends meet. I have met with the poor, with advocates on behalf of the poor, and with the poverty communities across Canada.
    There is a reality out there that conditions are getting worse by the day. This is supported by all kinds of analysis and studies done by the National Council on Welfare, the Canadian Council on Social Development, NAPO and KAIROS. These are all well meaning groups. They are hard-working and committed groups in this country that have been working for years to try to deal with poverty, this unnecessary reality, in this wealthy country.
    These groups say to us that corporations do not need tax cuts and tax breaks. What we need to be doing is investing in those institutions that will support Canadians and that will help Canadians and their children to make ends meet. Canadians need help looking after their health needs, getting their children into education, so that they can do better for themselves.
    Canadians need affordable, clean and safe housing. Canadians need to be provided with the drugs that they need when they are sick. They also need the child care that is so necessary, both for the children's growth and development, as well as for those families where the parents want to get out and participate in the workforce without it costing them an arm and a leg. The government is not going there and it is not doing all these things.
    The other really disturbing, unfolding reality that I discovered over the last couple of years, and perhaps it is because of the way our economy is evolving in Canada, is the low wage jobs that are being created, as opposed to the well paid jobs that were previously in the manufacturing sector.

  (1515)  

    We have more and more people working harder, working longer hours, and working full time all year living in poverty. We have a large group of people who actually have decent jobs who are feeling very insecure in those jobs. They do not know from one week to the next whether they will have their job next month or the month after.
    They are a paycheque or two away from actually experiencing some pretty difficult circumstances themselves. Where a month, or six months, or years ago they could work hard, make investments, get an education, look ahead to bettering themselves and creating a better situation for their children, they are now beginning to look over their shoulder. They are not looking ahead any more. They are wondering what if they lose their job, what if a paycheque does not come in, what happens to them, and what is there for them?
    The most obvious example of the damage that has been done, not necessarily by the current government but by the previous Liberal government was when it changed the rules that governed how we delivered the employment insurance program. In fact, many will not qualify and will end up in some pretty meagre, desperate welfare situation.
    The social safety net that all of us over a number of years wove, because it was the Canadian thing to do for each other, for our neighbours, for our family members, for our friends, and for all of those people who call Canada home, has now disappeared.
    As these people look over their shoulder they are beginning to see, as we have seen and have been trying to point out to this place and I have been trying to point out in my travels and through my focus on eradicating poverty and reducing poverty, that the social safety net is not there any more.
    We have had an opportunity for the last 10 years at least in this country to make serious investments in those areas such as child care, housing, post-secondary education, and the health care system which is falling apart as we speak. We had an opportunity in all of those things that go to making sure that absolutely everyone has those fundamental necessary supports we have to have if we are going to be healthy, if we are going to look after our children, and if we are going to participate in the economy. Unfortunately, they are not there any more.
    If we believe the economists who have done the analysis of this mini-budget and the budget of the government, we are going to be relieving the government of a capacity that is anywhere from $6 billion to $12 billion a year. After this budget goes through, this money will no longer available to government to invest.
    If we pile that on top of the corporate tax breaks the Liberals gave to their friends and benefactors over the 13 years they were in power, that is a substantial amount of money. That could have done a lot of good. That could have created the kind of Canada that we can only imagine, that the world in many places thinks that we are, but in fact the reality is different.
    We still have time. We have a couple of days here. We are hoping that the Conservatives will listen. We know that the Liberals have given up. They have virtually, if not physically, mentally gone home for the holidays. But we are here and we are going to be here, and we are going to get up on our feet, every last one of us. We are going to speak to this bill and we are going to put on the table those very real concerns.
    We are going to speak about those concerns based on our experiences, out of the work we are doing, out of the travel across the province, out of going back to our community every weekend and talking to those men and women, talking to those families, talking to those institutions, and talking to community leaders who are telling us a very different story than the Conservatives are wanting to roll out in front of us as they have when they presented this budget.
    They are no longer getting up in the House either because they want to get home for the Christmas holidays as well. They do not want to do the--
    Order. I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but his time has expired.
    Questions or comments, the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his work on poverty issues over many years in the province of Ontario and across Canada.
    He will agree with me that there has been report after report on poverty in Canada. All those reports call us to action, but they also stress the importance of a national housing program to eradicate poverty.
    There have been many reports in the last few months about the need for affordable housing, for social housing, for programs to deal with homelessness, such as the preliminary report from the UN special rapporteur Miloon Kothari and the report put together by northern agencies on homelessness and women in northern Canada. Report after report have stressed the need for affordable housing and still we do not have a national housing program in Canada.
    We used to have a housing agency that did excellent work. It was very creative and was known around the world. Canada Mortgage and Housing was known for its housing development work. Sadly, it has been gutted by Liberal and Conservative governments over the past decades. It does not do that kind of work any more. We need to get back to that again.
    In question period today, the member for Sault Ste. Marie asked questions of the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development on the need for a national housing program. The minister said that the government was doing something. It is doing something with the money the NDP fought for in the last Parliament and in the last Liberal budget.
    Could he talk a bit more about the importance of a national housing program to Canadians and as an anti-poverty measure in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague does an excellent job as the NDP critic for housing. He knows this file inside and out.
    He is right. I have travelled the country over the last couple of years. I have met with community groups, people who advocate on behalf of people who live in poverty and people themselves who live in poverty. They have said that we need a national housing program. With the money we are siphoning off and turning over to the corporate sector, we could begin a national housing strategy right now. We need it because everybody needs an affordable, safe place to call home.
     Homelessness has become a national disgrace and disaster. Agencies that have been working for a number of years to come to terms with this reality in their neighbourhoods are running out of money. People committed to this kind of work are always digging deeper, but they are running out of energy. They need the government to partner with them and to provide them with support and resources.
    I phoned the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee yesterday to get some statistics for my question for the minister and it has closed down. It is no longer in business. That agency, the most important agency in the country, was the voice for those who had no voice. It shut down because it had no resources.
    We obviously need money for housing. We need a national housing strategy and a national homelessness strategy as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I also congratulate my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie for his advocacy work on social issues in our country. He is a role model for many of us in my caucus and should be a role model for many other members of Parliament.
    Canada is living off the social investment made in the seventies and the early eighties. Much of that social infrastructure is crumbling and is in great need of investment. There is a social structure deficit, and I find that very distressing.
     I have noticed in certain sectors in my own community, and certainly in the downtown east side of Vancouver, that emergency services personnel are being left to deal with the people in most need in our society, the very poor and the mentally ill. It is a shame that the Conservative government and our country have left the care of the most vulnerable to emergency services personnel, whether they be paramedics or police officers. Would the member for Sault Ste. Marie comment on that? All of the issues he raised around housing, about investing in the homeless, relate to this.
    What a shame for Canada to be left now with emergency services personnel being the last resort to deal with the people in our society, people who the government and many Canadians have forgotten.

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. A lot of the homeless end up in jails because communities have no other options it seems.
    There are places in the country where people would not expect to see homelessness. The most prosperous and economically active of our communities, like Calgary and Victoria, now experience homelessness like no other city in the country.
    Because Calgary does not get the money from the province and the federal government to deal with the issue, out of desperation it is passing laws to make it illegal to be homeless. People cannot sleep in the parks, or under bridges or hang out in the malls. What do they do?
    Where are they supposed to go?
    Exactly, and that is why they end up in the preserve of our emergency services.
    Mr. Speaker, while I agree with my colleague on his criticism of the tax cuts contained in the current mini-budget, which we will vote on, I also want to raise this point. Between 1984 and 2006, with the current government and the two previous governments, Canada voluntarily gave up over $250 billion in revenue through tax cuts.
    The incredible challenge, the disaster, the crisis of poverty that we face in the country did not happen overnight. It has been building for 20 years. Could the hon. member describe how the previous Liberal government laid the foundation for this disaster?
    Mr. Speaker, people have studied and worked on this challenge for a number of years to figure out how a country so wealthy as ours could all of a sudden have such poverty, with people sleeping on our streets. If we talked to them, they will tell us it started in a very serious way when the previous Liberal government got rid of the Canada assistance plan.
    That was the vehicle the federal government used to ensure there was enough money flowing to the provinces and the municipalities to deal with these issues. It was the vehicle that used to ensure there was accountability, that the money being transferred for programs was actually being spent on those programs.
    When the Canada assistance plan was dropped, it was the tool box the federal government gave to the provinces—
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I know members of the NDP are trying to filibuster and are running out of things to say, but they have to stay on topic.
    We are talking about Bill C-28, at third reading. Every comment made has to be about the substance of the bill. They cannot go on one tangent or another about what they do with money. They have to talk about the issues of Bill C-28. I would ask that you bring them to order.
    I thank the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake. There is one minute left to the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie and I am sure he will get back to the point.
    Mr. Speaker, the member has been getting up all day accusing the New Democrats of filibustering. We call it doing our work. We call it showing up. We come here with our lunch pail every day and we put in a full 12 hours.
    The Liberals and the Conservatives are in a big hurry to get home for the Christmas holidays. We say we have work to be done. I speak in this place every day on behalf of people who have no voice here. Their perspective on this business may be different than the Conservatives. They may see the essence of the bill differently, so we speak to that.
    As I was saying, the Canada assistance plan started there. Then the Liberals tried to convince the provinces that this was a good idea. What they were trying to do was reduce the amount of transfers by some $7 billion or $8 billion. The tool box they gave the provinces to reduce that transfer by the $7 billion or $8 billion was the Canada assistance plan.
    If we put the reductions together with the elimination of the Canada assistance plan, we see the beginning of what we now experience in our communities across—

  (1530)  

    As much as I hate to interrupt the hon. member, the hon. member for Hamilton East--Stoney Creek now has the floor, in resuming debate.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-28 one more time and I do so because of the significance of the implications for my riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. Clearly Hamilton East—Stoney Creek and the entire community of Hamilton have a lot vested in the budget document, more because of what it does not do than what it does do.
    Before I comment directly on Bill C-28, I will like to take a few moments in response to—
    Hon. Jim Flaherty: What have you got against people with families? What have you got against people with disabilities?
    Mr. Wayne Marston: I will not respond to that. It is beneath contempt.
    I will take a few moments to comment on the remarks that came from the Conservative member for Macleod this morning. He spoke to the positives he saw in Bill C-28. I understand his perspective. It is the government perspective and the benefits as he sees them. He advised the House, as we heard again in question period, of 388,000 jobs, mostly full time he said, created in the country this year.
    To me that begged the question. In which sectors was there this exciting job growth and could the people in the companies of the manufacturing sector expect a plan from the government to protect the existing jobs and to help create new ones in one of the core sectors of Canada's economy? To the present time, I have not been informed as to where these jobs have been created and in which sectors. I look forward to hearing that news at some point.
    However, during the remarks by the member for Macleod, he offered the words to the effect that the Conservative government had taken a decision not to favour one sector over another to provide tax relief to address growth in all of Canada.
    I nearly jumped out of my chair at those words. The manufacturing sector in Canada, particularly in my community, is in crisis. We are being told that they are not being favoured. We never asked to be favoured. We have asked for a plan for a strategy from the government to address the needs of this core sector of our economy to assist them and their companies.
    In this modern age we often hear the words “a holistic approach to issues and problems”. Quite often that refers to health, but I suggest this is what is needed relative to dealing with our manufacturing crisis today.
    The Conservative government simply has to get with the times. If it believes it can deal with our economy solely by tax cuts and then let the chips fall, Reaganomics, or the economics of trickle down, has been discredited and has been branded a failure worldwide. The government must step back from this simplistic approach to economics, step back from the tax cuts for the rich corporations, hoping something trickles down to the ordinary hard-working Canadian.
    The government must move to a place where it begins to operate with that holistic view of running the country, an approach which ensures everyone benefits together, not the rich first and something else for the rest at another time, but to where everyone together benefits from the great wealth of the country.
    Twenty per cent of my community live in abject poverty. They want to work but do not have a job and cannot even begin to find one. They know the bill does not one thing for them. The question is this. Who are these favoured companies and favoured corporations referred to by the member for Macleod. Without reading a single word of this statement, without a single economics course, because they have been well trained by previous Liberal governments, Canadians can tell us that it is the banks and big oil and gas companies that will reap the benefits immediately from Bill C-28, just like they did for years under the Liberals.
    The member for Macleod also talked about the NDP mended Liberal budget of 2005. I did say mended, not amended. That is because we mended it by taking $4 billion plus from the corporate tax cuts and forced the Liberals to put these saved dollars, saved fiscal capacity, into transit, and I see this in Hamilton today with new ecobuses on the street, into education and into housing, the same housing we heard the Conservatives taking credit for just earlier today in the House.
    Now the Liberals, who are finally seeing the dollars put together in the budget for their corporate friends, are going to sit on their hands. They are not going to stop this.

  (1535)  

    The needs today are pressing and will worsen in the future. What is missed by so many here, or they are at least hiding from it, is the lost fiscal capacity of the country. What I found interesting was seeing the government members spend so much time this spring taking credit for the dollars flowing from that NDP modified budget. Again, we heard that repeated in the House earlier today.
    With Bill C-28, as with the previous Liberal government, the Conservatives are continuing their corporate welfare program, with large corporate tax breaks very similar to the ones proposed in 2005 by the Liberals. It is estimated that these corporate tax breaks will reduce tax income for our country by $14 billion a year.
    This obvious concern should arise for the Liberals. As I said, what about the lost fiscal capacity of the federal government in years to come? We know and members will have heard repeatedly throughout this debate that Canadian cities are facing a huge infrastructure problem.
    I want to reiterate that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities demonstrated in its recent report that there is an infrastructure deficit of $123 billion. I have not heard one word in the House to refute that report. Nobody is saying that it is inaccurate. Nobody is saying that it is not true. In fact, it is almost like it does not exist. I cannot understand how the Conservatives can ignore it. How can the Liberals let them? This is beyond belief.
    I am going to take a moment to offer a suggestion to the government. I have already spoken about the common sense of Canadians and how a number of them in my riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek have been quick to point out to me their surprise when they see that the Conservative government, with its surpluses, is not prepared to invest in my community's needs and community needs across the country.
     The government is not prepared, in the words of my constituents, to use common sense to prepare for our future and to repair some of the infrastructure from our past. The people of my riding understand the need to pay down debt, but they cannot begin to understand why such huge payments are being budgeted when there is already so much need in the country.
     There is the need to address the infrastructure problem. There is a need for affordable housing. We heard the member for Sault Ste. Marie talk of the tragedy of homelessness across the country. We have heard that 42 people died last year as a result of homelessness. There is also a need for a national drug program.
     However, the embarrassing level of poverty in the country is the one piece that should be the catalyst for anybody and any government to act. I have offered that small piece of advice to the government.
    Another small piece that I would offer is the need to deal immediately with the $500 per year mistake. Senior are owed that. I think it would be incumbent upon the government to act on that immediately and pay seniors what they are owed.
    If there is any reason to redirect the wealth of the country into new programs aimed at eliminating poverty for thousands of men, women and children, I would have to say that this is the reason I stand in the House repeatedly on Bill C-28. In many cases, I am repeating many of the words I have said before, but they have to be repeated over and over again until the shame of poverty in Canada is eliminated.
    I had breakfast today with the High Commissioner of India. Many Canadians have a view of India as a desperately poor country, but that country has a strategy such that it is setting about the elimination of poverty in India by the year 2020. Whether it succeeds or not, the very fact that India has that concerted effort is an example that this country must follow.
    We had the grand vision of eliminating child poverty by the year 2000. We need another grand vision for Canada. We need leadership from the government and we need it to address poverty now.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
     I am glad the member mentioned the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and its work on the infrastructure deficit in Canada. In its report, “Danger Ahead: The Coming Collapse of Canada’s Municipal Infrastructure”, the FCM talks about the fact that there is an infrastructure deficit in Canada of $123 billion.
     The FCM breaks that down into separate categories. It says: water and waste water systems need $31 billion; transportation needs $21.7 billion; transit needs $22.8 billion; solid waste management needs $7.7 billion; and community, recreational, cultural and social infrastructure needs $40.2 billion
    All of those are services and facilities that none of us are going to be able to build unless we cooperate, unless we do them collectively. Saving $100 a year on our income tax is not going to help us build a waste treatment plant in our community. It is not going to guarantee clean drinking water in our community unless we work together and pool our resources to make sure those kinds of facilities are built.
    I know that member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek has a particular interest in sport and recreation in Canada. The recreation deficit is particularly troubling given that a lot of the recreation facilities in Canada that are part of our cultural life and keep us healthy, and which have a lot of community-building activities happen in them, are aging now. Many of them were built as centennial projects and are wearing out. They have had important maintenance deferred over the years and they are crumbling as we speak. This is an important aspect of the infrastructure deficit.
    I wonder if the member could talk to us about the importance of including infrastructure funding in this budget and why it is not there to do these important things as pointed out by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, prior to answering the direct question, I would like to speak about my community for a moment. Hamilton itself has an infrastructure deficit of $4 billion. We have a very old sewer system that is in significant trouble and is causing us huge problems each and every year.
    However, let us take a look at the deficit in sport, whether it is in the physical structures, where we could invest in and build those facilities to encourage youth to come back and take part in day to day activities, the kinds of structures that help our athletes when they are planning their goals. We have the Beijing Olympics before us and the Winter Olympics are coming up. There is so much investment needed for the actual athletes themselves in their preparation.
     As for those programs that we draw from and in which we develop those athletes to give them that opportunity to represent Canada on the world stage, all of that has gone by the way. The fiscal capacity has been reduced to the point where, if we are not investing in our sports facilities and our sports individuals at this time, the crisis that is going to happen will push this even further down the list. It is a tragedy to see the loss of that fiscal capacity.
    Mr. Speaker, I compliment the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. He started his speech by saying that there was, and I wrote it down, a deficit in sport in Hamilton. I thought immediately that he was going to refer to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I would like him to comment on that, because he did not even mention them and I think that was a deficit in the Hamilton sports scene.
    Mr. Speaker, I would be glad to comment on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. When we are talking about the realm of investment, it is not investment from this federal government, sad to say. The owner, Mr. Young, has made a significant investment in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and we look forward to the Grey Cup coming our way soon.
    Mr. Speaker, I am delighted that the member ended his statement by saying we need a new vision for Canada related to fighting poverty, because that is exactly what the leader of the Liberal Party announced a few weeks ago.
     His is the only comprehensive platform in Canadian history, by a government or an opposition, that is so detailed and goes to such lengths, with the targets of reducing poverty by 30% in Canada in the next five years and for Canadian children in poverty by 50% in the next five years. He would make the tax credit for children refundable. There is the expansion of another benefit for children. He would make provisions for the working poor so they can get off social assistance and back to work without being overly penalized.
    There also are provisions for seniors so that qualified seniors who want to get back in the workforce are not penalized too much and do not lose too much from the pensions they are now receiving. Also, there are provisions to increase the income for very poor seniors.
    All of this will lead to these specific targets. As we know, the Conservative government is not too keen on targets, certainly those related to climate change. Again, the targets are that 30% of Canada's poor will no longer be poor in five years, nor will 50% of the children who are now poor.
    As the member said, this is something that is very much needed in Canada. It is an anti-poverty strategy. This has very exciting potential for the future should we form the next government.

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, that lights a spark, because that member with that plan had a plan for Kyoto too and that did not work out so well for our country. That was the government across the way, which for 13 years practically destroyed the Canada health and social transfer system.
     The Liberal government destroyed EI. It was changed from unemployment insurance that people could count on, whereby 85% of the workers who were laid off and lost their jobs could count on something to help them. Now we are at a point where that is at 40% nationally. In Hamilton, we are running at 22%. That is a disgraceful record.
     I anticipate the same failure the Liberals had with Kyoto.
    Mr. Speaker, obviously Bill C-28 is an important bill because of what it does not do.
     It does not address the crisis in homelessness and poverty.
     It also does not address the crisis in our employment insurance program. As the member quite rightly pointed out, it was gutted by the previous Liberal government to the point where in my own city of Toronto I know that almost 80% of unemployed workers do not get employment insurance. That is where we are today. It used to be that about 80% of unemployed workers got EI.
    Could the hon. member comment on the failure of both the current and the previous government to address the crisis of poverty but also on the contribution that the devastating changes to the employment insurance system have made to that crisis?
    Mr. Speaker, the question goes to the heart, I think, of one of the significant reasons for poverty in Canada. When a person has had the good fortune, the luck--because it is not due to the rules any more--to actually make it onto employment insurance, the number of weeks have been cut back. The end result is that those people who are unable to move on at some point wind up on welfare. They end up on social service assistance programs.
    One of the reasons it is not spoken about that often is that the change was part of the offloading. The Liberal plan was to offload responsibilities for certain services. This was done to move the burden from the income tax base and put the load on the property tax base. As a result, we see the municipalities bearing the burden.
    However, those people who are on social assistance do not count toward the unemployment figures because they are not looking for work. In the scheme of things, if we were to really look at the unemployment numbers of our country, we would see that they are at least three times higher because of those who are not measured.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-28 and to express my opposition to it.
    It is a fundamentally wrong direction for Canada. It is explicable that the Conservatives, who tend to take us in the wrong direction, could present an economic statement of this manner to the people of Canada and therefore bring in this bill, but it is impossible for me to understand how the opposition could de facto support this direction, which is absolutely the wrong one for Canada. I want to elaborate on my concerns about this statement and why I believe it is the wrong direction.
    As I said earlier, one of my major concerns is around the tax cuts and what they mean in terms of eroding the resources that we need collectively to build this country. If we want to not only maintain our standard of living, maintain our industrial sector, maintain a level of civil society, but also to improve all of those things, and improve the environment and improve our social climate, and deal with the major issues facing us today, and improve our economic standing in the world, then gutting our fiscal capacity to act is not the way to do it. I want to address the very serious issue of tax cuts.
    This statement continues not only the present government's but also the previous Liberal government's mistaken path of huge corporate tax cuts and other tax cuts. It takes us down the wrong path for Canada. Over the next five years the revenue that pays for the things Canadians say they want, the programs and services, and all of the things we tell each other we want, will drop by $60 billion based just on this economic statement.
    I remember when there was a huge debate because the previous government failed to bring in a national child care program that was going to cost us $2 billion. What a terrible shame that with all of these resources we have failed to invest in our children.
    There are cuts to the GST, to personal income taxes and to corporate income taxes. The latter, which by 2012 will drop to 15% from 21% today, is really an outrageous corporate giveaway. This notion of having to attract investment, cut taxes lower and lower and do away with more and more for the people of our country is nothing but a race to the bottom. It really is quite unworthy of a developed country such as Canada.
    As I said earlier in the House, this latest economic statement really is the continuation of a 20 year race to the bottom in terms of trying to cut our way to prosperity which clearly has not worked. It diminishes our country.
    There has been a conscious plan by the current Conservative government and previous Liberal governments over the last 20 years. They were supposed to have been looking out for the interests of our country and yet they have cut $250 billion out of the fiscal capacity of this country, out of the revenue we need to act on behalf of Canadians and in fact build our country.
    I ask Canadians to think about the difference this revenue would have made in our country and the kinds of things Canadians say they want. Canadians are repeatedly frustrated that their politicians are not acting on the things that we have forgone because of these tax cuts. I want to list some of them.
    One of them is a national child care program to invest in our children, a program that invests the money where it counts most, in the very early years of our children's lives.

  (1550)  

    Another is a national pharmacare program. Yes, we have a medicare program thanks to Tommy Douglas and the NDP, but no one's health should be jeopardized because they lack the funds to pay for the pharmaceutical drugs they need.
    Yet another is a home care program. Whether it be disability, illness, age, whatever the cause, people are best cared for in their own home. They should have the care they need to be able to stay in their home. It is more economical for society. It is better for the person to be able to stay in familiar surroundings. It is the best kind of care we can deliver for people who want and need to stay in their home. We have failed in this area.
    Another is social housing. I have spoken many times in this House about people in my riding of Parkdale—High Park who have fallen through the cracks because of the high cost of housing in the city of Toronto. There are many people who work below the poverty level. People who work for less than $10 an hour simply cannot afford the level of private rental housing that is available in the city of Toronto.
    I am very proud that in our community as a result of a community initiative a very small housing facility just opened last weekend, thanks to the help of the United Church. We are so far from being able to address the needs of Canadians when it comes to affordable housing. It is quite shocking. In my city over 75,000 families are on the waiting list for affordable housing. These families are not going away. Their lives are not improving. They are not getting off the list. The list just keeps getting longer and longer. Even those families who are not on the list for affordable housing are often paying a greater and greater amount of their income for their housing needs. Many working and middle class families are getting dangerously deep in debt. They are very concerned about what any change in interest rates could mean for their finances. There is a huge stress on families today because of the lack of affordable housing.
    Add to that the challenge of tuition fees for young people who start out in life with tens of thousands of dollars in debt heaped on their backs. What a way for young people to start out , to look at building their career. It is a time when they want to take chances, to travel, to try new things, to learn new things. Instead they are saddled with phenomenal debt because of the lack of investment in post-secondary education by a government that would prefer to give it away to very profitable corporations.
    I must speak to the staggering infrastructure deficit in our country. It is huge. It is getting bigger, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. We are falling further and further behind each and every year because of the lack of investment by the Conservative government and previous Liberal governments to maintain, improve and grow our infrastructure. Whether we are talking about water and sewage, roadways, transit, social and community infrastructure, the lack of investment means that our cities are in very poor shape.
    We have seen bridges fall down in Quebec. We have seen drains break in the middle of winter in downtown Toronto, which have to be repaired on a case by case basis, at a huge extra cost. We see gridlock on the streets of our major cities. Someone has to explain to me how this is good for business. How does this gridlock in our crumbling infrastructure make Canada a more competitive country? How is that good for business? It is not.

  (1555)  

    Whether it is the board of trade or other business organizations, right across the country everyone knows it is bad for business. It is a drag on our competitiveness as well as being a terrible drag and a terrible burden for people who live in our communities who are trying to go about their daily lives.
    The lack of transit infrastructure means that people spend hours stuck in traffic. People are moving further and further afield from the centre of our major cities which means they have longer commutes. They get stuck in rush hour traffic. It is a vicious cycle which the current government is doing nothing to help, and the Liberals when they had the chance with many surplus budgets did nothing to help. We have to address the issue of infrastructure in our cities.
    It is tragic that we have had the opportunity because of surplus budgets to make these investments but have not done so. I see a lot of back patting by the Conservative government and by previous governments about how deficits and debt have been reduced. What I see is that the debt and deficits have been pushed off the plate of the government and on to the back of individuals.
    I see people with more and more personal debt. I see people in my community going to payday lenders and rolling over debts week after week. They are spiralling further into debt. I see that anxiety about how to make ends meet being shuffled off to the individual. It is the least efficient way to deal with collective needs.
    I cannot go out and buy my own piece of subway or road. I guess I could buy my own personal swimming pool, but I would rather invest in our community facilities, our community swimming pools, our community child care centres and schools. These are the things that we build together. When we put our tax dollars together we can build so much more than if we each take our own little piece and try to scratch and scramble and invest it ourselves.
    We see so many people who believe the advertising of the investment companies and they put their money into mutual funds. People throw their lot in with the market and then find that when they need the money it is not there for them, that the money is lost because it has been gambled away. What we really need are secure retirement incomes. There is no better system than the Canada pension plan, where we all pool our money together so that everyone's money is secure and it is there for seniors when they need it.
    If we want to take some of the $250 billion that the government has forgone through tax cuts, why not invest more of that money and make life better for seniors? Why not give more of that back to seniors?
    By the way, the billion dollars that the federal government has shortchanged seniors by miscalculating the cost of living could be given back to seniors too. That is another billion dollars that seniors would be very glad to have.
    The argument for cutting taxes is that it will make companies more competitive. I think it is important that we do well in the economy and that businesses be competitive and do well in the world, but I would argue that even on the basic grounds of making Canada more competitive, I do not think this tax cut agenda is doing it.
    In 1999, the year before the previous prime minister, the member for LaSalle--Émard, introduced his huge tax cuts, Canada was fifth in the world in competitiveness and--

  (1600)  

    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Parkdale—High Park for her intervention in this debate this afternoon. It has been a very important one.
    We have seen a trend over the last decade or more in the governments that we have had. We have seen Liberals and Conservatives pursuing the same kinds of policies, the same mistaken approaches to managing our economy and to managing and addressing the needs of Canadians.
    We have seen both Liberal and Conservative governments fail to estimate correctly the size of the surplus. It announces surprise record surpluses and then directs that money directly toward the debt, without considering the needs of Canadians and without considering what else might be necessary in our communities, what families might need and what seniors might need.
    We have seen both the Liberals and Conservatives adopt a flawed approach to program and economic planning in Canada. We have seen many other occasions where the Conservatives only seem to be improving on the bad Liberal record of 13 years when they were in government, where promises made about important new social programs were not kept or flawed approaches were adopted.
    I think the best example would be the Liberals' failure for 13 years to address child care. They promised it continuously but never put something into action until the very last minutes of their government.
    We have seen those kinds of approaches for many years. I wonder if the member could comment on why the current government seems to be adopting so many of the same directions as the previous failed Liberal approach on these important issues.

  (1605)  

    Mr. Speaker, it really does beg the question of why government after government, whether Liberal or Conservative, takes the exact same economic approach to the running of our country.
    What is that approach? That approach is to cut back on the role of government. How does it do that? It does that by starving our budgets. We should all pay down our debts but it is a question of degree. Do we aggressively pay down our mortgage if our roof is falling in? No. We need to have balance. However, neither of the previous parties in government have had balance. What they have done, step by step, almost by stealth, is starve our governments of funds and then argue that they did not have the funds to invest in the significant social, cultural, environmental, economic infrastructures that this country so badly needs.
    I was saying earlier that before the tax cut era Canada was fifth in the level of competitiveness. After seven years of tax cuts, guess what? We are in 16th place. Even by their own measure of economic success, they are failing. Who are we losing to? We are losing to countries like the Nordic countries that in fact have a higher tax regime. Why? It is because they are more successful societies. They are investing in their people, in their economies and in their infrastructures, and, guess what, it pays off.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague whether she thinks the Conservative government is being somewhat shortsighted by only using the budget surpluses to pay down the debt. We all know that the manufacturing and forestry sectors have suffered greatly because of the overheating of the oil industry. The government is suggesting that we use the budget surpluses to pay down the debt and give gifts to the big oil companies. We should remember that if a company did not generate a profit in the last year, a 1% tax cut across the board will hardly help.
    I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the Conservative government's shortsighted policies.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons we have such a crisis in the manufacturing sector is because of the high dollar. Why do we have a high dollar? One of the major causes is the fact that we are increasingly a commodities dollar, a petro-dollar.
    What happens when we give across the board tax cuts, as we are debating in Bill C-28, is that we reward the oil and gas sector and the large banks and insurance companies, which are already making multi-billion dollar profits, and we further threaten the manufacturing sector, which is the most value added, most beneficial sector of our economy in terms of the spin-off jobs and the overall value.
    The handling of the manufacturing crisis and the boom in the commodity sector is just exacerbating this situation. It is jeopardizing our manufacturing sector. I do not know whether it is from a bias toward the polluting industries, the oil and gas sector, or a lack of experience with the manufacturing sector, but we could do permanent damage to our valuable manufacturing sector and, frankly, we will see the impact of the current high dollar, not tomorrow, not next month but in two or three years to come. We have not seen the worst of this yet.

  (1610)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was glad the member for Parkdale--High Park talked about the way seniors were being shortchanged because of the error that was made in calculating the indexing of guaranteed income supplement pensions.
    The member noted that there was a huge surplus available right now to go into some of our social programs and that the government has chosen not to correct that error that was made and ensure that the seniors who lost that $1 billion in income would receive it. The previous Liberal government also refused to correct that error.
    I wonder if the member would talk a little more about why those governments are refusing to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society, seniors who have the lowest income of all of our elders. Why would the government not use some of that money to address that shortfall in their income and to supplement their income so they can have a reasonable life in their so-called golden years?
    Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of seniors in my riding of Parkdale--High Park and I hear from them quite often about the issues they are facing: concerns about high drug costs, housing costs, people who want to stay in their homes and the lack of home care.
    They have a lot of issues and they are concerned about their incomes. They worry all the time whether they will be able to stretch their income to meet their needs. Costs are going up way faster than their income.
    When I tell seniors that, due to a miscalculation by the present government and previous governments, seniors are owed a billion dollars that they should rightfully have in their pension income, they are absolutely shocked. They know that if the shoe were on the other foot and they somehow miscalculated their taxes and owed the federal government $50 or $100, they would be afraid that the government would come down on them like a tonne of bricks. To be sure, the government would ensure that money was collected.
    Seniors are baffled, as I am, and I am also quite angry that the government would allow that money to be denied to the seniors of our country. A billion dollars is a huge amount of money. Surely, out of the $250 billion that the country has forgone in taxes over the last 20 years, we would think that it could find 1/250th for the seniors of our country.
    Mr. Speaker, I was interested to hear the member for Parkdale--High Park talk about high interest rates and their impact.
    In my community of Hamilton, and in Hamilton East particularly, I have been talking to people regarding the impact on companies. I had the owner of one company say that by December he would be finished, which would mean 276 jobs lost and that was unless the dollar dropped by 15%.
    I presume the same impact is happening in Toronto.
    Yes, Mr. Speaker. We have lost over 125,000 manufacturing jobs in Toronto. It is a disgrace and we are still waiting for the government to do something about it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this debate gives us a golden opportunity to remind Canadians of the disastrous effects the Conservative government's policies are having on the economy.
    Bill C-28 is barely getting any reaction from the Liberal Party of Canada, but that is nothing new. I must admit that as a new member in this House, it is a wonder to me to see how—and my colleague from Toronto just talked about this—some people who are close to the Liberal Party of Canada have managed to pass themselves off as being concerned about poverty and food banks. In fact, the Conservative government is currently granting tax reductions and giving big gifts to the oil companies and the banks. But Liberal members are doing nothing.
    If the current government manages to force the passage of Bill C-28 before Christmas by virtue of its seat count, then we will miss out on quite the show. The leader of the Liberal Party of Canada has publicly said that he wants to make sure Canadians understand that, after the holidays, the fun will be over, that he will prove the skeptics wrong, that we will have to hold him back or he might hurt the Conservative Party. What we have seen instead this fall is a Liberal Party of Canada that is keeping the Conservatives in power.
    I would like to say a few words about what that means. Before becoming a minister in Quebec for a number of years, I was part of the opposition for nine years. I know what it is like to be in the opposition. The job of the opposition is to do two things: make the government accountable, in other words, be the public's conscience and ask the right questions, but at the same, hope that our policies will one day lead us to power. In other words, it is our job to be a government in waiting.
    In the NDP, we have clear policies and we are absolutely ready to be in power. Just look at the depth of talent on the NDP benches in this House. We are a political party with a great number of people who have extensive experience in public administration. It is absolutely extraordinary to see the Liberal members sitting on their hands when they could be defeating the Conservative government if they voted just once with us. But they will not. Why? I guess they must be happy enough with the Conservatives' policies or they would be helping us defeat them.
    Day after day, they criticize Conservative policies during question period, and at the end of the day, when the time comes to vote against the Conservatives, the Liberal Party drops the ball. It does not have the political courage to stand up and vote. Last night, we witnessed an unprecedented spectacle in this House during the vote on Bill C-28, which is now before us. This is the Conservatives' Christmas bill, their $14 billion gift to oil companies and banks. Some Liberal members showed up to vote against it because the infamous Atlantic accord was part of this bill.
    How many of them showed up? Ten or so. Not even enough to form a party in Parliament. The so-called official opposition can no longer call itself a recognized party in Parliament because the members of the official opposition no longer even show up to vote. They are afraid they might defeat the government on what might be considered a matter of confidence.
    People who made the mistake of voting for the Liberal Party of Canada are really questioning that decision. The members of the NDP are telling people to take a good look at our policies and who we are. When I look at my colleagues who were once ministers in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario or, in my case, Quebec, people with a great deal of experience in education, industry, their churches and their communities, I realize that the NDP possesses the kind of wealth and social vision to do a good job of running a government that would renew Canada's reputation as a peacekeeper, international cooperator and environmental steward.

  (1615)  

    What do we have instead? We have a Conservative government that is embarrassing Canada internationally and that drew us into the quagmire of war in southern Afghanistan. Only the NDP has adopted a clear position against the war in Afghanistan, in favour of the withdrawal of our troops and a comprehensive, stable process for the development and maintenance of lasting peace in Afghanistan.
    The Conservatives are embarrassing Canada on the world stage by not trying to achieve an objective that is supposedly shared by all political parties, that is, committing 0.7% of our gross domestic product to foreign aid. In that regard, they are the worst government in the history of Canada since the 0.7% objective was adopted. We are farther than ever from that objective, which is so crucial if we want to help our fellow human beings around the globe.
    We need look no further than the conference currently under way in Bali, Indonesia, to understand just how much the Conservatives are embarrassing us. We sent our pitiful Minister of the Environment there to embarrass us. It is bad enough to have to watch his buffoonery here every day when he gets up and talks about a file on which he clearly has not done the least bit of work. He reads quotations and spews nonsense of that nature, when what Canadians really want to know is what will be done to fulfill our obligations to future generations.
    Those who have the opportunity should go to McGill University to meet the extraordinary people who work at the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law. These people understand that sustainable development is not just a slogan invented over the past few decades. Sustainable development is a legal obligation we have towards future generations.
    Canada ratified the Kyoto protocol five years ago, even though this protocol is celebrating its 10th anniversary today. Because Canada ratified it five years ago, it is part of Canada's domestic law. The Kyoto protocol is an international obligation, but it is an integral part of our law, which means that it is a legal obligation.
    The Conservative government prides itself on respecting law and order. Yet this law and order government is becoming irresponsible and even an international outlaw because of its disrespectful behaviour toward future generations. It is casting a shadow over a generation of Canadians who have worked hard to earn our country the utmost respect of the international community when it comes to the environment.
    I know that whenever the Kyoto protocol comes up, the Conservatives inevitably point to the seats opposite them and say it is the Liberals' fault, because they did nothing for 13 years. We agree, and we will always agree that the Liberals did nothing. On the contrary, instead of meeting the Kyoto target, which is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 6% compared to 1990 levels, the Liberals saw emissions increase by 33% in the 13 years they were in power. This is shameful, and it is the worst performance in the world.
    Eddie Goldenberg, the former Prime Minister 's chief of staff, was kind enough to remind us, during a recent presentation to the London Chamber of Commerce in Ontario, that when the Liberals signed the Kyoto protocol, it was purely because of public opinion. He said that it was to galvanize public opinion. Eddie Goldenberg is admitting that, as was the case with the Kelowna Accord and all other Liberal measures, their actions were exercises in public relations.
    This is why the NDP now has such support in Quebec and the other provinces. Citizens realize that the Liberal Party of Canada is but an empty shell, a creature of the 1960s designed to keep Quebec in its place and now being superseded by political parties that understand that what is truly important in life is to look after our neighbours and our society, and that we have to look after our planet.
    That is the NDP vision. Unlike the Liberals who have never looked after these interests, unlike the Conservatives who do not wish to do so, and unlike the Bloc who cannot, the NDP is the only political party with representation throughout Canada, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, that speaks to Canadians about real issues.

  (1620)  

    One of the nicest compliments I received in the recent byelection in Outremont was from someone living at Father Dowd Memorial Home. After my presentation, a severely handicapped gentleman beckoned to me and said something that touched me deeply. He said that it was the first time that a federal candidate had come there and spoken about human beings rather than about the Constitution, or disputes, or differences that too often are the subject of debate in Quebec.
    Like those voting in the Outremont byelection, many Quebeckers have realized that the NDP is the only credible party in the House of Commons speaking for peace, the only credible party speaking out against war in Afghanistan, and the only party standing up for the environment. Our leader has a great deal of experience in environmental issues. This very afternoon, he is introducing an important bill that has received support not only from David Suzuki, but also from the Pembina Institute. This bill would put us on the path toward real greenhouse gas reductions so that we can respect the right of future generations to experience the same standard of living, the same quality of life and the same living environment we have experienced. That is what the NDP is all about. We are a political organization that puts people first, unlike the Conservatives.
    This brings me back to Bill C-28, which is before us today. The primary goal of this bill is to use State moneys for their intended purpose, that is, to help people, to help with infrastructure, and to help create programs for people. We want to give that money to people. Who do the Conservatives want to give that money to? They want to give it to big oil companies and banks.
    The outcome of all this is bizarre because the overheated oil industry pushed the value of the loonie up. Such a high Canadian dollar is making it very hard to export products. As a result, people across Canada are losing their jobs. Many people in New Brunswick and Quebec who work for Shermag have recently lost their jobs. This is not because the company is badly managed. In fact, it is an outstanding company that makes quality products. The Conservative government does not seem to understand that. It has destabilized Canada's relatively stable economy made up of primary resource sectors, processing sectors, a manufacturing sector and, of course, an oil sector based mainly in the west. There was wealth, but there was also balance.
    The Conservatives are in the process of killing the manufacturing sector, getting rid of not just workers, which is bad enough. Because of this, many families will have to do without come Christmastime. This is primarily because the Conservatives could not care less about people's lives. They are not interested in helping people. Their only motivation is an economic dogma that has convinced them, even if they are wrong, that the last thing a government should do is get involved in the economy. But by proposing tax cuts, regardless of the size of the business or profits, they are, in fact, getting involved in the economy. Some oil companies in the west would get $40, $50 or even $60 million presents all at once.
    These businesses, in western Canada, will earn even more in the oil sector. This will create a greater imbalance in our economy and will destabilize us even more. It will push the dollar even higher, which will cause an even greater drain on the manufactured goods sector of the economy, the industrial sector, particularly in the east, in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.