Mr. Speaker, among other things, Bill implements the home renovation tax credit. This measure was inspired by the proposals made in both the Bloc Québécois recovery plans, presented last fall and the previous April. This bill also introduces a first time homebuyers' tax credit. This measure was also inspired by the Bloc's last platform. Bill C-51 will also implement Canada's international commitments to the International Monetary Fund, which were signed in 2008. It will also amend the Canada Pension Plan, from which Quebec is excluded. The amendments are based on an agreement with the provinces involved. Quebec is not involved, but if there is an agreement, we respect that.
Bill will implement the findings of a joint expert panel including representatives of Nova Scotia, the federal government and others to resolve a dispute. Once again, Quebec is not involved in that litigation, but if there is an agreement, I do not see why we would not support it.
For all of these reasons, and especially for the home renovation tax credit and the first time homebuyers' tax credit, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill.
Coming back to the home renovation tax credit, in April 2008, when the Bloc Québécois was presenting the initial phase of its economic recovery plan, we proposed introducing a home renovation tax credit with a very specific objective: to encourage people to convert their old oil furnaces to more energy efficient models. At that time, we argued that such a measure would help reduce our dependence on oil. This would have the added and equally important effect of rapidly injecting money into the economy.
This measure has been introduced by the Conservatives and we know that their primary focus was not necessarily on reducing greenhouse gases nor on energy efficient retrofits. Nonetheless, we maintain that this would be a way to stimulate the economy and we are in favour of this measure. We proposed it, we had a debate on it and we made our arguments. Today, our proposal is before us. It has been accepted by the government and we are indeed in favour of it; we would be hard pressed not to be. Even though it is not exactly what we had in mind, many people will benefit from the energy efficient retrofits. What is more, in the past few weeks, since the Bloc Québécois announced it was in favour of this measure, people have realized that we were the ones who proposed this measure and we are the ones who got it. Many people are congratulating us for convincing the government to introduce such a measure in its budget.
Even though this is not only or specifically about energy efficient retrofit measures, several areas are eligible for this tax credit, window products in particular. We know that one way to improve energy efficiency is to replace windows, doors and skylights. In a number of different ridings in Quebec, most MPs have heard many people and many window and door companies say that the tax credit associated with this measure has helped stimulate the home renovation sector.
Many people decided to do it because their heating oil costs were so high. As everyone knows, neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals have ever been particularly eager to clamp down on the oil companies, so big oil raises the prices whenever it feels like it. If people have a chance to reduce their oil heating costs by replacing their windows and get a tax credit to boot, they will do home renovations. That makes this measure a very attractive one.
We know that it will also reduce household energy consumption, which will directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions make a significant contribution to undesirable climate change.
Buying better-quality windows and doors will make up for some of the negative effects of oil heating. When people use good products in renovations, they can reduce their heating oil consumption by between 7% and 12%. Renovations also minimize drafts, cut down on interior condensation and so on. They also reduce noise transference. We hear so much about air pollution, but there is also noise pollution. People living in urban centres and near highways experience significant stress due to noise and they will also benefit from this measure, which can cut down on noise pollution.
We also know that Quebec is a very large part of Canada and has an abundance of fresh water. When you have an abundance of a given resource, including water in the case of Quebec, you tend to take it for granted. In most homes in Quebec, you just have to open the tap and water flows freely in every room where it is needed, in the laundry room or in the washroom. Water is not free, especially hot water. Improving the insulation in a house with new doors and windows and other renovations can often cut the cost of heating water by 15%. These are significant measures and important to most Quebec households.
This tax credit also makes it possible to renovate the plumbing in a home. Shower heads can be changed to save water. It is a renewable resource but there are limits. We must conserve the hot water used for a normal family's household needs.
We are very supportive of such measures because they contribute globally to energy conservation and the reduction of pollution. It is a very interesting measure that has been put forward.
I would also like to talk about the first time homebuyers' tax credit. In its 2008 election platform, the Bloc Québécois proposed putting in place a homebuyers' program. Many Quebec families find it difficult to buy their first house. It is extremely important for the government to help families, including middle-income families, to purchase their first home. Buying a home is often the most important investment of one's life. Families often need a helping hand at the start.
Because there is a similar measure in this bill, we will support it once again.
We had some mixed feelings, because the Conservatives' measure is much less generous than what we proposed. But it is a step in the right direction, and it shows some understanding of the very solid arguments made by the various Bloc Québécois members. We think this is a step in the right direction, and that the government seems to have understood that it is necessary to support first time homebuyers.
This is a major investment for many families, and buying a home is an important step for many households in Quebec and Canada. They are able to build equity. As I said, this is the primary investment for many families, and it is very often the biggest investment a family will make in their lifetime. It is very necessary and important to support families in this step and to help them benefit from capital gains.
In recent years, the capital appreciation of real estate and the increase in home values has made home ownership appealing. Quebec is a little behind Canada in regards to home ownership and the desire of some families to purchase a home. So this is a very appealing measure for Quebec.
It is often very difficult for these families to build capital. The government is proposing an interest-free loan up to $10,000. This makes it much more appealing for new and young families to purchase a first home.
This, in essence, is why the Bloc Québécois supports Bill , and why we will vote in favour of it.
Mr. Speaker, I guess I was expecting comments but I think everybody was pleasantly surprised that my hon. colleague, who shares a seat at the finance committee, has decided to support Bill . I would encourage, under his leadership, all members of the opposition to do as he has suggested because that was another wise decision from that member.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the House today in support of the economic recovery act, a key piece of legislation that would enact essential portions of Canada's economic action plan, along with other important initiatives.
The economic recovery act is part of our Conservative government's comprehensive response to the global economic crisis that has impacted nearly every country in the world since it began a little over a year ago, a downturn whose underlying triggers did not originate in Canada and, as such, cannot be solely resolved in Canada.
I underline for the opposition, seemingly determined to finger out government for the economic ills of the global marketplace, that this was and remains a global recession, one largely originating from the United States. This is not a made in Canada recession.
As a BBC report noted:
||...the world economy crashed. The [American] sub-prime crisis lit a fuse that went from California or Southern Florida via New York to Iceland, Hungary and Japan.
|| The virus spread through the intricate arteries of the world's financial bloodstream.
While conceding this has been a global recession, we all recognize its epicentre is and continues to be our neighbour to the south, our largest trading partner, the United States.
Even as the green shoots of recovery begin their slow ascent in that country and around the world, the enormity of the great recession continues to ravage the American economy. Last week we learned that over a quarter million Americans lost their jobs in September. Unemployment is nearing double digits there. These are stunning numbers. They are sad reminders of the nearly 8 million men and women who have seen their jobs vanish since the start of this great American downturn.
As President Barack Obama noted, the U.S. September job report was:
||...a "sobering reminder" that "progress comes in fits and starts and that we're going to need to grind out this recovery step by step.
He went on to say that it “will not happen overnight”.
Budget implementation act 2 is an important part of this step for Canadians.
As I alluded to earlier, green shoots are appearing in the American economy. In the Canadian economy and those around the word, recovery is on the horizon.
This global recovery has largely been driven by the injection of fiscal stimulus by governments, stimulus unprecedented for both its sheer magnitude and for its coordinated global scale. However, this is a recovery that remains as fragile, as it is tentative. Governments must stay the course. Their focus must not waver from the economy. As the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors noted in a communiqué following their meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, this weekend:
|| In recent months, we have started to see signs of a global economic recovery and continued improvement in financial market conditions. However, there is no room for complacency since the prospects for growth remain fragile and labor market conditions are not yet improving. We will keep in place our support measures until recovery is assured.
We cannot become complacent and we cannot allow a recovery to be jeopardized with some opportunistic political games here at home, political games like those that the Liberal leader has shamefully engaged in over the past few weeks. Maybe the Liberal leader has not noticed that rising unemployment continues to be a challenge around the world. Maybe he has not noticed that all governments around the world made the decision to run deficits to fight the recession and fight unemployment.
Our Conservative government, too, has made the decision to fight the recession and has done so through Canada's economic action plan. While this meant we made the difficult decision to run a multi-year deficit, it was the right decision, right for our economy and right for Canadians, for Canada's economic action plan is working.
Our economic action plan is helping to create and maintain jobs. It is extending benefits to the unemployed. It is helping those who need retraining and helping those individuals and industries undergoing a transformation, such as the auto and forestry sectors and so many others.
While our plan is achieving results, the job is not done. We need to stay on track. We need to provide the stability needed to secure recovery. Stability is not achieved by throwing Canada back into an unnecessary election but by following through on our plan and keeping our focus on the economy. That is exactly what we are doing with the ambitious economic recovery act.
Through the economic recovery act, we are cutting taxes for individuals and businesses by implementing the temporary home renovation tax credit and the first time homebuyers tax credit. We are fighting protectionism by relaxing tariffs on shipping containers. We are strengthening the Canada pension plan by allowing increased flexibility in how Canadians live, work and retire, as unanimously recommended by federal, provincial and territorial governments last May.
We are promoting global growth and cooperation by giving small and low income countries a bigger voice at the IMF, and strengthening our commitment to debt relief. We are ensuring dependability for public broadcasting by increasing the CBC's borrowing authority.
Additionally, to ensure that Canadian taxpayers can better keep track of the spending of their tax dollars, we are improving government transparency and accountability by requiring all federal departments and crown corporations to prepare and publish quarterly financial reports.
The economic recovery act also concludes the crown share saga for the people of Nova Scotia after decades of neglect from previous Liberal governments. As former Nova Scotia premier, John Buchanan, declared, “What happened then with the federal Liberal government under Jean Chrétien, they just refused to talk about the Crown share. They would not talk about it all”.
In contrast, not only have we talked about the crown share with Nova Scotia, our Conservative government worked in conjunction with the province to resolve the issue.
Despite all this, the Liberal leader and his party vowed, essentially sight unseen, to oppose all these measures and vote against the economic recovery act. Why? To be blunt, to end Canada's economic recovery appears to be secondary to his obsession with forcing an election. The Liberal rallying cry is simply corrosive to Canada, “No matter what this Conservative government proposes, no matter who it benefits, it must be stopped, it must be defeated.”
Canadians deserve better than that. Canadians deserve elected representatives willing to work together during this global recession, willing to do what is best for the Canadian economy not merely for the Liberal Party of Canada.
I would ask the Liberal leader to stop playing games, stop the obsession and scheming to force an unnecessary election. Sadly, I have no confidence he will listen for he has not even listened to his own Liberal caucus on that matter.
Liberals, like the member for who, in early September, pleaded with her leader to drop his maddening election obsession, telling the Globe and Mail that this was not the time for an election and that instead Parliament should “try to do the right thing for Canadians overall. We're in a difficult time. We want to focus on employment and getting people back to work and all of that”.
The Liberal leader has ignored the Liberal member for and likely a great deal of his own Liberal caucus to continue with a single-minded obsession to force an election at all costs.
As the Liberal leader continues his quest to force an unnecessary election, he continues to attack our Conservative government's economic management and initiatives such as this economic recovery act. He also continues to gleefully denigrate and talk down our Canadian economy.
This is how he slammed Canada's economy in a speech this past September proudly posted on the Liberal website for the online world to see. He smeared Canada and said that Canada had “the worst performing economy in the G7”. He then lectured by saying that “We've got to make Canada a world leader again, and we've got to do it now”.
Not only are comments like those at the height of self-serving political arrogance, but they are factually wrong and do a disservice to the tireless work and sacrifices of the men and women who have made Canada's economy what it is today.
That is something all Canadians should be proud of, and they should be cheered regardless of partisan affiliation.
I am going to take a moment now to speak not to the present but to the future, and to set the historical record straight, to speak to the readers of this edition of Hansard, the Canadian Parliament's most enduring tradition in a time far removed from today, be it 25, 50 or 100 years from now.
Even though we were in the midst of what has been labelled the great recession of this time, this was an especially proud moment to be a Canadian for one reason. Due to the inherent sense of humility in the Canadian character we downplayed that reason. Canada's economy and financial system during this challenging time was among the strongest and the most envied in the world. From Ireland, to France, to the United States, the Canadian model was the model that all others sought to replicate.
However, do not take my words as proof. Listen to what the world was saying about Canada, our country. Listen to how Ireland's largest daily newspaper, The Irish Times, praised our financial regulatory framework:
||...Canada has attracted more attention recently as a paradigm for creating and regulating a banking system that has been stable, and even profitable, through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression...Canada's reputation for fiscal conservatism may have been boring during the boom times, but being boring has left the country's banking system in a rare position of strength in the financial world.
Listen to the French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, who after a meeting of the world's top finance ministers remarked:
|| I think...we can be inspired by...the Canadian situation. There were some people who said, “I want to be Canadian”.
Listen to what the Institute of International Finance and the world association of banks proclaimed about this country:
|| Canada is in a position today to punch above [its] weight. Why? Because [it has] come through this better than virtually any other financial system in a mature market, so [it] must be doing something right... [Canada] is viewed in many quarters as having incredible financial and of course political leadership, but also is somewhat of an honest broker.
World Bank president Robert Zoellick described our country this way:
|| Canada's experience offers lessons to others, especially its strong financial and regulatory environment that is helping it manage the shocks of the downturn.
He also went on to declare that by global standards, Canada' position was enviable:
|| I think a lot of people would like to change places with Canada.
The President of the United States, Barack Obama, said:
||...in the midst of this enormous economic crisis, I think Canada has shown itself to be a pretty good manager of the financial system in the economy in ways that we haven't always been here in the United States. And I think that's important for us to take note of.
Or finally, the IMF, as reported in the Globe and Mail forecasted that:
|| Canada is on track to lead the world's wealthiest countries out of recession next year, a testament to sound economic policy...reinforc[ing that the] Prime Minister...and the Finance minister['s] policies have helped the Canadian economy weather the financial crisis better than most.
To the future I say with pride that this is how our country was viewed at this moment in time. I would also say that our Conservative government was not merely content to rest on its laurels. That is why we brought forward important legislation in the economic recovery act to help lay the ground work for a stronger economy as we fought off this great recession and built a more prosperous Canada for generations to come for all Canadians.
Speaking to the present, I ask for the support of the House, for members to do the right thing in the interests of what is their country. We share in it across the aisle, and Canadians at home trust us to act in their best interests.
Pass this budget implementation act to help keep Canada strong and keep this beautiful country the envy of the world well into the future.
My apologies, Mr. Speaker.
Bill deals with the Nova Scotia offshore petroleum resources. It would bring certain payments for Nova Scotia's offshore petroleum resources outside the framework of budget bills. This means that in addition to the one time payment the province receives of $174 million, in future years the payment would be automatically sent to the province rather than needing to be passed annually in a budget bill.
Regardless of the details of this change to revenue sharing, the Conservative government does not have the kind of track record on federal-provincial relations that breeds confidence in its ability to treat provinces fairly.
The Conservative government has demonstrated time and again that its promises to Canadians, whether promises not to raise taxes, promises not to tax income trusts, or promises to protect Canada's fisheries, are meaningless.
No province is more aware of the willingness to break promises than Newfoundland and Labrador. Time and time again the government says one thing and does another. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians well know this with the promises on the equalization formula and Goose Bay. Promises made, promises broken.
Another challenge is the Canadian fishery. The government never meant a word of its promise to reform NAFO to better protect our fish stocks.
The amendments to the NAFO convention failed to adequately protect fish stocks off the east coast of Canada and would create substantial new problems which could eventually compromise Canadian sovereignty and allow foreign patrol boats to establish and enforce catch and quota regulations within Canada's 200 mile zone.
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know too well the divisive politics of the Conservatives as we were hit earlier this year with a broken promise regarding the $1.4 billion that was taken away from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador with changes to the equalization formula.
During the government's first two years in office, the did not once convene a meeting of first ministers, preferring instead to leave provincial and territorial leaders outside of the federal government's plans to lead the federation. When he finally did meet with them, he promised to send them a letter of suggestions on how they could stimulate their economies.
This politics of division and heavy-handed federalism is unfair and has been the hallmark of the Conservative government. Canadians are tired of politics of division and isolation. Canada works best when federal and provincial governments work in partnership, in the best interests of all Canadians. That is how the Liberals have governed in the past, by striking agreements with the provinces and territories on things like the universal child care agreement, creating plans to address health care issues, and the Kelowna accord.
On the home renovation tax credit, the Liberal Party has expressed its full support for this tax credit. This credit is part of the budget plan already implemented by Parliament. The Canada Revenue Agency is already working toward the home renovation tax credit.
It would be far more prudent for the government to have included the home renovation tax credit in previously introduced budget implementation legislation along with the rest of its flagship programs. It is disingenuous for the government to tell Canadians that this tax credit is at risk while at the same time running hundreds of ads promoting the use of the program.
In my view, this is the kind of political trickery that the government plays so often to manipulate voters. That the credit is at risk is simply untrue. The Liberal Party is fully in support of the home renovation tax credit and Canadians will not be fooled by attempts to divide them to think otherwise.
With respect to the CBC, this legislation would adjust the borrowing authority that applies to the CBC substantially, permitting the national broadcaster to borrow up to $220 million in order to cash manage through the coming year as it develops a new strategy. Current legislation restricts the amounts that the CBC can borrow, allowing the broadcaster to access loans only up to $25 million.
It was the current government that only a few months ago refused to step in and meet the broadcaster's request for bridge financing to deal with the shortfall in revenues during an economic downturn.
Not only did the Conservative government refuse to provide the CBC with the bridge financing it required to maintain 2008 staffing and service levels across the country this spring but it went so far as to vote against a motion put forward by the Liberal Party recognizing the indispensable cultural role of the CBC in providing national, regional and local programming in Canada.
This challenge to the CBC came at a time when its success and audience share of the market was growing. Every week almost 80% of English Canada uses the CBC. This success comes despite the fact that the CBC is the worst financed public broadcaster in the industrialized world.
The government long argued that funding the CBC was a waste of taxpayers' dollars and used the pretext of tough economic times to launch an assault on this national institution by withholding the bridge financing the CBC needed to ride out the economic storm without job and programming cuts.
In fact, the government went so far as to withhold approval of the annual top-up funding for the broadcaster forcing the CBC to make dramatic job and programming cuts to meet its government forced budget cuts of $63 million.
Had it acted in the spring and made additional financing available to the CBC, the government could have saved jobs and crucial cultural and regional programming that has now been lost. Instead, the government's inaction has forced the CBC to come up with an alternative plan to weather the economic storm.
As a crown corporation, the CBC cannot access loans from the private sector. Because of this and because of the refusal of the government to provide the network with $125 million in a bridge financing request, the CBC had to look elsewhere to find the financial security and flexibility it needs at this time.
Through the bill, the government is allowing one of our most valued cultural institutions to mortgage future stability by selling off assets, monetizing future lease revenues so that the CBC can access the cash it needs during this economic downturn.
The sale of assets means that the CBC will be forgoing future revenues to deal with the short-term economic pain caused by the government's unwillingness to step in and mitigate the fallout of the economic downturn. There is little doubt that members of the government do not value the CBC.
One final point is with regard to the Canada pension plan. The bill makes an accounting change that will reduce the amount older workers are penalized by choosing to work after the age of 65. These changes will be made on a go forward basis and seniors currently collecting their pensions will see no real change in their benefit amounts as a result of these accounting differences.
While ensuring pension policies are actuarially neutral is a responsible step for any government to take, it would be wise for the government to face up to the fiscal realities our seniors are facing in so many parts of our country and look toward providing meaningful support to seniors.
With one in three Canadians retiring with no retirement income savings beyond the core mandatory government programs of CPP, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, governments need to consider making more than cosmetic and accounting changes to ensure Canadian seniors can access benefits they need as they age.
We can do better. We must do better for Canadian seniors and for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I understand the frustration and concern. As we all know, the opposition called their bluff and the Conservatives were forced to come up with a real plan to deal with the recession. That plan, which the government promotes as Canada's economic action plan, would never have existed if the had a majority government. It is important that we remember that.
After forcing these major concessions from the Conservatives, the Liberal Party then agreed that we would act in good faith and support the budget only after amending the motion to provide for regular reports to Canadians on the progress of its implementation. We put them on probation because we wanted to give Canadians the accountability that they deserve and to make sure that the government would actually follow through on its commitments.
It is almost Thanksgiving. The construction season has wound down and there are still virtually no infrastructure projects under way. An entire construction season was wasted at a time when we were supposed to be stimulating the economy. It is hard to create jobs and get the economy moving when only 12% of the announced projects were under way before September. In fact, it is not just infrastructure. Spending is not getting out the door at all. The entire so-called action plan is simply a listing of one failure after another.
For example, take the $12 billion secured credit facility that the promised for the auto sector. None of the money has gone out. Out of the $1 billion green infrastructure fund, only $71 million, or less than 1%, has been allocated. Of the $2 billion municipal infrastructure lending program, only $80.6 million, or less than one-half of one per cent, has been allocated. Of the $400 million set aside for housing for low-income seniors, only two projects totalling $5.35 million have been announced. The government's own report states that only $350 million of the $1 billion community adjustment fund has been “committed”. I could go on and on. The list gets greater and greater.
One can see that the Conservatives are unable to get the stimulus money out the door. They are spending tens of millions of dollars running campaign-style ads on taxpayer dimes.
I do not know how they can justify spending $40 million to tell us about an action plan that is not actually working and which they cannot implement. Let me put this in perspective. They only spent $6.5 million to warn Canadians about the very real danger of the H1N1 virus. To add to the confusion, the spent the summer making announcements, but 14 of those 16 announcements were for regular, non-stimulus infrastructure projects that either will not begin for years or had been planned for years before and were long delayed by the Conservative government.
It gets worse. Not getting money out and wasting taxpayer dollars on meaningless advertising is just the beginning. The money that the government has spent is being directed in a very partisan manner. In Ontario, the Conservatives promised 15% more dollars on average to their own ridings. That amounts to $13.1 million from the infrastructure stimulus fund and the recreation facilities fund combined, compared to the $11.1 million average for Liberal-held ridings.
In the stimulus program for rehabilitation of the community recreation centres, 18 out of the top 20 ridings by number of projects granted in Ontario are held by the Conservatives. Of course, the government tries to claim that this is all a coincidence and that things just happened to work out this way. However, it is very difficult to keep a secret of this nature.
I assume the member opposite would love to hear this quotation from the National Post, which summed it up by saying:
||--the nominated Conservative candidate in the Ontario riding of Markham-Unionville...said on live television that the reason his riding has not received federal funding for a medical testing centre is that the Member of Parliament is a Liberal.
That is not getting the job done for all Canadians. That is buying votes. Canadians expect their government to make informed and prudent decisions and not turn their trust into a Conservative rewards program. Beware of Conservatives bearing gifts because with one hand they giveth and with the other hand they taketh away.
The same who said that he would never raise taxes is quietly implementing a $13 billion payroll tax that kills jobs and acts as a disincentive to employers. Perhaps I am giving him too much credit by taking him at his word. He is the same Prime Minister who pledged that he would never tax income trusts and then did so anyway, hurting seniors and many others who invested their life savings simply because they believed the Prime Minister when he said, “There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept”.
I was elected by the constituents of to fight for their interests in Ottawa. What I have seen is systematic deception and incompetence on the part of the government. Too many of my constituents are losing their jobs. Despite being a prosperous part of the greater Toronto area, the unemployment rate in my riding hovers around 11%, compared with a rate of around 6.5% when the Conservatives came into power.
There are 450,000 more unemployed Canadians today than there were a year ago and according to the Conservatives' own report card, another 200,000 Canadians will join them in the coming year.
That is why the Liberals oppose Bill . That is why the Conservatives have lost our confidence. We can do better. Canada can do better. We look forward to ensuring they are held to account.
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to discuss Canada's economic recovery act. This vital legislation will implement key measures from the economic action plan, our targeted road map to save and protect jobs today, while preparing us for the economy of tomorrow, along with other important economic initiatives.
Since January, we have been putting our plan in place as quickly and effectively as possible. We have done so because our Conservative government understands that Canadians are concerned about their jobs and their future, the very same Canadians I represent in communities all across my beautiful riding of Huron—Bruce.
I want to assure those Canadians that this plan is working. Along with their help, our plan is boosting Canada's recovery by focusing on the economy and promoting economic stability. In so doing, we are helping Canada emerge from the current global recession as a more competitive economy.
Do not take my word for it. Look at the recent IMF world economic outlook, a report card on the global economy. It forecasted Canada to have the highest growth of any G7 country in 2010. The World Economic Forum's 2009-10 Global Competitiveness Report ranked Canada as the 9th most competitive economy in the world, a big jump from 14th under the previous Liberal government in 2005-06.
Under the 2009 Forbes magazine's best countries for business ranking, which looks at business conditions in over 100 economies around the world, Canada has rocketed up four spots to number three.
Listen to how respected BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders raved about Canada. She stated, “Nowhere is immune, but by most key measures, the Canadians are coming out of this crisis in a league of their own”.
Indeed, Canada entered the current global recession on a strong economic fiscal footing. Our Conservative government paid off $37 billion of debt, giving Canada one of the lowest debt to GDP ratios in the G7, while simultaneously cutting taxes and making key strategic investments.
As BMO economist Doug Porter remarked in an interview with CBC Newsworld earlier this year, “Canada did go into this downturn with almost pristine fundamentals. Those pristine fundamentals do suggest that Canada will hold up a little better than other economies and probably will emerge a little stronger than other economies”. We are seeing that evidence today.
Our Conservative government is not, however, merely content to ride on our past achievements. We are building on our strengths to ensure Canada's economy remains in poll position for the recovery throughout Canada's economic action plan.
Canada's economic action plan is targeted, effective and timely. It is a plan that is supporting struggling communities and industries, cutting taxes, building new roads and bridges, helping the unemployed and much more. In total, the plan is providing $61 billion of stimulus to create 220,000 Canadian jobs. On top of these measures, over 160,000 Canadians are benefiting from work-sharing agreements that are allowing companies to continue to provide jobs to their employees.
Canada's economic recovery act is an extension of that plan. Not only will it implement numerous key measures from the plan outlined in budget 2009, but other new initiatives to support ongoing economic stability and growth. I understand the Liberal leader, before even reading the act, decided to oppose and vote against it, as he continues his singular obsession with an election, no matter the cost.
I am proud to say that while the Liberal Party of Canada pushes for an unnecessary election that could threaten Canada's fragile economic recovery, our Conservative government is pushing forward for Canadians in support of economic recovery.
While Liberals seemingly did not bother reading the economic recovery act before rushing out to denounce it, let me highlight the key measures they have decided to blindly oppose.
Through the economic recovery act, we are creating new opportunities for our construction and resource sectors with new tax credits.
To help alleviate some of the fees associated with buying a house, fees that often serve as a disincentive for young people entering the housing market, and to encourage first time home ownership, we have introduced the first-time home buyers' tax credit. This would provide up to $750 in tax relief to help with the purchase costs of a first time homeowner.
If I may add from personal experience, I bought a home a few years ago for the first time. This tax measure would have been a very appreciative measure. I can appreciate that families are looking forward to this new tax credit.
The first-time home buyers' tax credit has worked, as illustrated by the strong existing home sales in Canada largely driven by the entry of first-time home buyers. An entry spurred on by first-time home buyers' tax credit and another key element of Canada's economic action plan, the increase to $25,000 to the amount first time home buyers can draw from their RRSPs. Members do not need to believe me, but this was stated in a Canadian Press article from September:
||...thanks in part to government incentive programs, particularly for new home buyers, the market has bounced back.
|| Earlier this year, Ottawa increased the amount first-time home buyers can withdraw from their RRSPs from $20,000 to $25,000, and implemented a tax credit for first-timers....
Again, this is a program I was fortunate enough to take advantage of several years ago. It was a tremendous opportunity to put toward the purchase of my home and I am very proud to see our government's action enhance this so that other young couples who are looking at purchasing a home can use this system.
While it is important that young families can enter the housing market, it is also important that they and all Canadians can add value to their homes. Another housing measure in the economic recovery act would help do just that, the home renovation tax credit, or HRTC. It is estimated that the credit would provide approximately 4.6 million families with up to $1,350 in tax relief on eligible renovation projects undertaken before February 2010. Without a doubt, the HRTC has been an overwhelming success.
The Globe and Mail hailed it in a glowing editorial declaring that the HRTC:
||...has proven one of the more successful of the government's stimulus measures, helping create demand for services and supplies.
While I travel throughout the riding of and talk to home builders, home building supply firms, the home building supply companies are very busy. The people who work in the inventory section are swamped and very busy. One would never know there is a global recession going on. Contractors are booked. These are the initiatives that we took to ensure our economy is moved forward. This is definitely one of the great measures brought forward.
The HRTC is putting tradespeople to work and giving a boost to those who produce and sell building materials. A report from the Globe and Mail states:
|| “Home Hardware Stores Ltd., Canada's largest independent seller of building materials, is getting a boost from the government's renovation tax credit”, spokesman Rob Wallace said....
|| The company's eastern, central and western warehouses all are reporting higher shipments to more than 1,000 independently owned stores...
|| “We're ecstatic,” said Mr. Wallace. “We're far ahead of where we expected to be.”
Those are results for Canadians. A report from the Sault Star in northern Ontario stated that by most accounts, the HRTC move has worked. It went on to state:
|| “There's no doubt that it has brought a lot of people out of the woodwork to do renovations that they normally wouldn't have done,” said Andrew Walton, sales manager at Northwood Window & Door Centre.
John Patrizio, general manager at Rona Cashway Building Centre said that the building store has been busy with customers planning to take advantage of the 15% tax credit that covers projects that were started after January 27 or will be started before February 1, 2010.
Bob Boissonneault, assistant store manager at Home Depot, said that the tax credit has generated more spending. “A tonne of people have taken advantage of it”.
Clearly, the temporary nature of the credit is providing an incentive for homeowners across Canada to continue to invest in their biggest and best asset during these challenging economic times. One wonders why the Liberals have opposed this measure and this act, and one wonders why they took this position even before taking the time to review the act.
Another key measure that the Liberals are opposing in the economic recovery act is enhanced support targeted for those who need it most. For low income Canadians who receive social assistance, landing a job can cost them dearly in both higher taxes and reduced income support. The working income tax benefit, or, as it is known, WITB, helps to reduce the financial disincentives faced by these individuals.
Originally introduced in budget 2007 by our government, the landmark WITB is a refundable tax credit that helps make work pay by supplementing the earnings of low income workers to help ensure that these workers are financially better off by getting a job. For low income working Canadians with disabilities, facing even larger barriers to workforce participation, the WITB includes a generous disability supplement.
The Caledon Institute of Social Policy has called the WITB “a welcome addition to Canadian social policy”...it “fills a long-recognized gap in Canada's income security system”. Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management said that it was “very helpful to the working poor in our urban centres”.
The economic recovery act would enhance the WITB by $580 million in 2009 and subsequent taxation years. It is expected that more than 1.5 million Canadians would benefit from the enhanced WITB for the 2009 tax year. As a member of the human resources committee, we have heard nothing but favourable comments about the WITB initiative.
That is not all the economic recovery act is about. It also would provide Canadians with more flexibility to improve their quality of life, even during difficult times. Our Conservative government understands Canadians, particularly those nearing retirement who are worried about their pensions. Uncertainty and turmoil in financial markets is a concern for all Canadians, especially older Canadians who have worked hard and saved diligently for their retirement years and rely on their pensions and savings.
The economic recovery act would not only help maintain the quality of life for seniors, it would actually improve it during these difficult economic times. For example, the act would strengthen the Canada pension plan by implementing a number of reforms, reforms that were unanimously supported and recommended by the federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers in their tri-annual review of the CPP last May.
The reforms include the following: removing the work cessation test in 2012 so that people may take their retirement pension as early as age 60 without the requirement of a work interruption or earnings reduction; enhancing the retirement pension calculation to allow up to an additional year of low earnings to be dropped from the calculation; and enabling a person under the age of 65 who receives a retirement pension and continues working or returns to work to contribute to the Canada pension plan and thereby create eligibility for a new post-retirement benefit.
The Canada pension plan reforms would ensure that older Canadians across the country have the support they need to adapt to a changing economy. Furthermore, our Conservative government is also continuing to move forward on pension issues. Earlier this year, we held national consultations on improvements to federally regulated pensions to inform of key changes to be released shortly.
Moreover, as only approximately 10% of pensions are federally regulated, we are also working with provincial governments, forming a research work group and arranging a national summit of finance ministers later this year to further look at the larger issue of retirement income security in Canada.
I would also like to take a moment to quickly review other vital initiatives in the economic recovery act to help provide the stability our economy needs, initiatives include: helping farmers by extending the existing tax deferral available in regions affected by drought; ensuring that the province of Nova Scotia continues to receive a meaningful net fiscal benefit from its resources by resolving the crown share saga after decades of neglect by the previous Liberal government; improving transparency and accountability in the use of taxpayer dollars by mandating that all federal departments and crown corporations produce quarterly financial reports; ensure dependability for public broadcasting by increasing the borrowing limit for the CBC; and promoting global growth and co-operation by giving small and low income countries a bigger voice at the IMF while strengthening Canada's commitment to debt relief.
Canada's economic recovery act would provide a balance between stimulating our economy for the short term and building our capacity in the long term. In every region of Canada, families and businesses are paying less tax and unemployed workers are receiving better support and new training. Major job creating infrastructure projects are breaking new ground. Colleges and universities are benefiting from new investments, and Canadian households and businesses are seeing improved access to financing.
Our Conservative government's economic recovery act would provide much needed stability for our country's economy. It is timely, targeted, temporary and cost-effective and it would lay the foundation for long term growth.
The would rather look at narrow, partisan self-interests and force an unnecessary election, jeopardizing the recovery and inviting a prolonged session. Now is not the time for political games but a time to recognize that our economic recovery remains fragile. We must stay focused and we must stay on course. We need to continue to implement Canada's economic action plan, supporting Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
As the Calgary Herald editor noted:
||...the Canadian economy, when compared with outcomes in peer nations, vindicates [the Prime Minister's] claim to sound [fiscal] management...[the Liberals'] promise to vote against him can only be seen as a self-interested reach for power, at a dangerously sensitive time in the nation's recovery. It is irresponsible, as well as widely unwanted.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill .
I took the opportunity to attend the briefing session provided by the finance officials. There were a number of people there. I found it very interesting and found myself put at somewhat of a disadvantage. As we walked in the door we were given a copy of the draft bill, which is the bill now before us, to see it for the first time. There were no other briefing notes. There were no other documents that would explain why changes were being made. It was not about the precise words, but it was to indicate to the members the reason why this is being made.
Very often, the Library of Parliament will prepare briefing notes for members so that they can fully participate in debate from knowledge rather than from ignorance. I think it is very important. When we get important bills and initiatives from any government, accountability requires that it must explain or justify its words, actions or decisions in a manner that is true, full and plain.
That accountability has to not only happen after the government has done something but before it has done it and when it anticipates it should be done. People need to be informed about where a government is going and why. They need to be given an opportunity to prepare themselves. Members need to prepare in a reasonable fashion for debate in order to understand the nuances. Legislation is complex. This is basically an omnibus bill because it touches so many different acts.
With regard to this budget implementation act, in addition to the various credits and amendments in terms of the Income Tax Act, we also have changes to the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act, the Broadcasting Act, the Canada pension plan, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act, the Canada–Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act, the Customs Tariff, the Financial Administration Act, the Public Service Superannuation Act, and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.
If members were expected to somehow comment on this bill, it would be extremely difficult in the little time that is allocated to individual members to make reasonable contributions to the whole act. One will notice that a number of the members take aspects of the act that they are somewhat familiar with and have something specific that they would like to provide input on.
It may be with regard to the home renovation tax credit or the Canada pension plan. I know that hon. members have received a lot of input on that. I think that most people would concede that allowing Canadians the opportunity to invest in their homes is a good thing because it does create jobs. That kind of improvement is a good thing to happen.
However, as I followed the debate, there seemed to be a big question about relevance and whether or not talking about the broader picture was relevant to the debate and in fact in order. I submit that this budget implementation act is pursuant to a budget. The budget is the government's vision, outlook and proposals to address the condition of the country.
We know that we are in a recession. We know that unemployment has risen to record levels. We know that the deficit, being the shortfall of cash inflows versus cash outflows, is growing to the highest level it has ever been in our history. It is around $60 billion and it is expected to go much higher.
When we talk about a budget implementation bill, we are really talking about the budget, which is really talking about the government's plan to address the realities of a country.
It is very relevant for members to say that this bill, which is in part what is included in the budget, is part of something that some members believe is not the right track to deal with the problems facing the nation. It is not the right track with regard to saving current jobs or to promote future jobs in areas where there is the highest probability of creating jobs. It maybe does not hit the mark when it comes to dealing with a plan to get the country out of deficit over the long term.
The previous speaker talked about a prior Liberal government. His description was that it slashed and burned and all other good things. That is good rhetoric, but if the member were accountable to the House, he would have been truthful and plain about the facts. The facts are that in 1993 the then Liberal government inherited a $42 billion deficit and a debt-to-GDP ratio that was terrible compared to what it is today. It meant one's ability to deal with it was terrible.
I can remember asking Paul Martin at the time about our strategy to balance the budget within a reasonable period of time. That first happened in 1997 and for 10 years since then there were balanced budgets, in fact tax cuts and the restoration of other cuts.
The question I asked him was how we explain to Canadians that this is the right approach to deal with the economic reality of the country. He said he had to impose cuts right across the board and the federal government would be the worst hit. The public service really took a big hit, Canadians took a big hit, our health care took a hit, and the provinces took a hit in terms of the transfers for social services and health care costs. He told me that he had to cut 20% to save the 80% left, and once the government could stabilize the situation, just like a doctor dealing with a patient, then it could build back.
There was a lot of pain and nobody is going to doubt that. However, we should understand that the books were balanced and the financial integrity of Canada was restored within three years from a $42 billion deficit inherited from Brian Mulroney. That in fact carried over to the current government, which took over in 2006.
I have forgotten what the deficit was at the time. The election was in January 2006, Parliament did not start until April, the cabinet was not even formed at that time, and I believe the surplus for the year ended March 31, 2006, was some $17 billion. The current government inherited not only balanced books but a surplus, which allowed it latitude and flexibility to be able to continue to offer tax cuts to Canadians and also to restore program funding, where necessary, to meet the urgent needs of Canadians.
I do not apologize for what happened there. When one has a terrible situation, one has to make tough decisions. Paul Martin always said that government is about making tough decisions.
I never judge a government by what it does when times are good; I judge a government by how it responds when things are going bad. That is important for individuals as well. It is really easy to boast when everything is rosy, but what happens when it hits the wall? How do people show composure, professionalism, knowledge and wisdom to address a situation in the most appropriate fashion? Those are the kinds of things we are talking about.
I cannot talk about everything in this bill, but I went to the briefing session. I was sorry we did not get the briefing notes from the officials. They had panels come forward on each and every one of the items that are dealt with in this implementation bill. I wish they had given us their notes. They had notes, because they explained it to us. When I asked if I could have the notes, they said I would have to write my own from whatever they said. That was not very helpful and I did not think it was very accountable, but so be it.
I talked about and asked questions about the home renovation tax credit when it first came out in the budget. I had to read it a couple of times because there was one aspect, and this will show how members of Parliament may have input into important legislation such as this for our country.
I noticed that the home renovation tax credit, as it said in the initial language, was available to the registered homeowner or joint owners of that dwelling. What if we had a situation where there was a couple, the stay-at-home spouse brought the house into the marriage and the other spouse was the working spouse, but when they got married they did not change the registration to both of them? That means that the registered owner has no income and the home renovation tax credit would not be worth anything to them because they have no income taxes payable to which to apply a tax credit.
I immediately sat down with the and raised it with him. It was kind of interesting. He did not realize it. He said that it was not the intent and there was family law, division of assets and all that other stuff. One of his responses to me, and I do not think he will mind if I share this, was to ask whether I really thought the Canada Revenue Agency would check the registration of households before it gave out the credit. Probably not, but I was kind of hoping that the finance minister would not even make such a flippant remark, because our legislation has to be grounded and rooted in sound decision-making elements and facts.
With regard to the home renovation tax credit, I wanted to inform my constituents, so I did a householder on it, laying out generally how it works. I talked about the dwelling, which could be a house, a cottage or a condominium. Renters would not be able to do anything. It was not clear to me, and I said it would have to be checked out, whether a person operating a business out of a home would qualify or whether there would be a reduction of the credit otherwise available. Then I saw that if two families shared the same dwelling, each would get one credit. These are the kinds of things I was letting them know about. I gave them some examples of eligible expenditures. I wanted to be sure that they knew that furniture and appliances and the purchase of tools, et cetera, would be ineligible expenses and not applicable for the credit.
I also indicated to them that these expenditures had to be made in a period after January 27, 2009, and before February 1, 2010, pursuant to agreements after January 27, 2009.
It is family-based. People should know that. It is important. That means one family gets a chance to do it, and a family includes children who are under age 18 at the end of 2009.
It does raise the question, though, that if a person has a child who is over 18 years of age and living in that dwelling, who has his own room over the garage, whether he can renovate his room and claim his $1,350. He is not under the definition of family, but he certainly is a taxpayer. I am told that children sometimes do come back to the family home. To anybody who is in that situation I would suggest that they might want to consider, if they have a child over 18 years of age who has some designated area of the house that is his or hers, whether maybe he or she could qualify for this credit. It would be an interesting challenge to the Canada Revenue Agency.
I also dealt with the fact that people can do the work themselves or have others do it. This will probably surprise and maybe annoy some people who do not have disposable income to spend on renovations at this time, but the first $1,000 of the eligible expenditures does not qualify for any credit. The first $1,000 is on a person's own ticket. So it is the amount after that. That means that expenditures after that, up to an additional $9,000, qualify for the 15% non-refundable tax credit. The person actually has to spend $10,000, and the last $9,000 is what is eligible for the credit.
Non-refundable means that it will be applied against taxes otherwise payable. If people have no taxes payable, it does not matter how much non-refundable tax credit they have, they do not get any refund.
People should understand that if there is any way to generate income in 2009, knowing that they will have unused credit, that would be a good thing to do. So they may want to crystallize some investments or whatever.
I also gave them some contact information, because I think there will be a few questions and perhaps a few peculiar situations that people were not aware of. I do encourage Canadians, if they do not remember any phone numbers, to just remember 1-800-O-Canada. That is the main number and will get them to whomever they have to speak to in order to get answers to questions.
Also at this briefing session I had a chance to engage the officials with regard to the CBC. When we mention the CBC in this chamber, Canadians get nervous. We know that. The CBC has had a very significant challenge. There are some who do not believe the CBC should be getting any funding from the Government of Canada. They believe it should compete with others on its own merit. I certainly do not hold that view.
We have a national broadcaster that holds this country together. It is probably, other than our health care, the only thing that keeps us all together. Whenever the CBC has gone on strike or had lockouts or that kind of stuff, Canadians en masse have told parliamentarians, “Deal with it; I miss my CBC”.
Well, the CBC is going to be authorized to borrow $220 million, up from $25 million. I asked whether they could give me more details as to why they are doing this and what it relates to. It basically has to do with properties that the CBC owns that it is not using for its own purposes, so it is leasing them out and getting lease revenue.
If people have an annuity, being lease revenue coming in over this period of time, it is worth something and they can present-value it and discount it. They can in fact go to a financial institution and it may buy it from them. It will buy that right to receive those future payments for a lump sum today.
That is exactly what this is about. It is basically monetizing an asset, a stream of income. That means that the CBC is going to have the cash it needs today to address the severe the problems it has and the challenges, because in down times the CBC has trouble raising advertising revenue as well. It also has to make job cuts and has done so.
The concern, though, and I think many Canadians may agree, is that if the CBC is basically selling assets to take care of today's bills, what it is really doing is mortgaging its future.
My immediate reaction was that the fuse has been lit to the future privatization of CBC at fire-sale prices. It concerns me, and we have to watch this.
Finally, I want to talk about what the member for was talking about. I think his words were that we want to save jobs, we are saving jobs today, managing the economy for jobs for tomorrow, boosting the recovery and promoting economic stability.
I think those are laudable objectives. However, I can tell members that when we look at the unemployment line hurtling toward 10% and then look at the words the Conservatives said, that they want shovel-ready infrastructure projects to save today's jobs and to provide jobs in those areas that have the highest prospect of growth, “shovel-ready” to everybody in Canada means that as people are losing their jobs or that curve is starting to go up, they need to have those projects going.
What has really happened, and it is a real shame, is that the infrastructure cash, the cheque to the people for these projects, has not happened, has not tracked with the unemployment curve, and therefore, the job need. They have missed the boat.
I think the government has failed miserably on the infrastructure program, and I hope Canadians will understand it appears that it really did not want to inject stimulus at all in the first place.
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege today to speak in support of the economic recovery act at second reading. The recovery act would implement key measures in Canada's economic action plan and other vital initiatives that would help to secure a strong recovery and protect jobs. Key among these measures is a set of important tax cuts that would support individuals and businesses right across Canada.
To begin with, this act would implement the temporary home renovation tax credit, or HRTC. The HRTC has proved enormously popular with millions of Canadians who will be able to receive up to $1,350 in tax relief on eligible home renovations completed before February 1, 2010. The temporary nature of this tax would provide an immediate boost for Canadians to take on new renovations or speed up already planned projects.
The HRTC is encouraging Canadians to invest in the long-term value of their homes and is increasing the demand for labour, building materials and other goods and services, helping to create more jobs and stimulating our economy when it is needed most.
Do not take my word for it, listen to the feedback we are hearing from right across the country.
Robert Dutton, Rona president and CEO, cheered:
|| We are happy to see measures such as the Home Renovation Tax Credit being implemented as we believe they will help stimulate the Canadian economy....This initiative directly benefits consumers and the industry while also helping save Canadian jobs.
Paul Straus, Home Hardware CEO, gave the HRTC a big thumbs up. He said, ““That’s been a big help to many of the retailers and certainly we’ve benefited from that”.
Canada's premier celebrity contractor and television personality, Mike Holmes, heralded:
|| Most homeowners have heard by now of the home renovation tax credit, and many are taking advantage of it. The idea of the tax credit is to stimulate local economy by keeping contractors working and keeping building supply retailers busy. It's a win-win: Invest in your home, and invest in your local economy.
Moncton Times & Transcript columnist, Alec Bruce, said:
||—Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC)...is arguably the smartest piece of micro-economic policy this government has yet written....This is precisely how the government stimuli should work. By providing incentives to improve the value of the most important assets most people ever own--their homes--the feds guarantee that public money flows back to communities and neighbourhoods, employing skilled tradesmen and women and leveraging private credit markets.
The Ontario Home Builders' Association, president Frank Giannone, heralded the measure, noting:
||—renovators are also witnessing positive trends with increasing consumer interest as a result of the federal government's Home Renovation Tax Credit.
Building Industry and Land Development Association president Stephen Dupuis gives the HRTC his stamp of approval. He said:
|| There's no question that the renovation tax credit has been the most effective stimulus spending initiative the federal government brought forward last January. The tax credit is spurring economic activity while helping to combat the underground economy...
What about small business owners like Maurice Meagher, who owns a construction company in Halifax and was booked solid through the summer building decks, patios and fences for Nova Scotians. He said:
|| Without [the HRTC]...maybe we wouldn't be getting these calls....People have been kind of sitting on the fence, looking at projects that maybe they'd be thinking about for a while.
Unbelievable as it sounds, the NDP finance critic, the member for , in the Winnipeg Sun:
||—praised the Conservative government's home renovation tax credit...initiatives like that helped the economy because they got “hammers into hands quickly”...
The economic recovery act would also implement the first time home buyers' tax credit, putting up to $750 back into the pockets of Canadians who bought their first home. This tax credit would also be available for individuals who purchased a home for the benefit of a related individual who would be eligible for the disability tax credit.
I am hopeful, but doubtful, that our Liberal colleagues are listening and reconsidering their decision to vote against the economic recovery act with such popular measures, a decision that they will have to explain to their constituents.
However, if neither the home renovation tax credit nor the first time home buyer tax credit are worthy enough for the Liberals to support, what about the enhancements to the working income tax benefit to help those who are particularly vulnerable during tough economic times? This benefit, often referred to as WITB, is targeted to support low income working Canadians. WITB is a refundable tax credit which helps make work pay by supplementing the earnings of low income workers to help ensure that these workers are financially better off by getting a job. It does this by reducing significant financial disincentives to find and keep a job due to having to pay higher taxes and receiving reduced social services support as their paid income increases. WITB also includes disability supplements in recognition of the fact that low income working Canadians with disabilities generally face even greater barriers to workforce participation.
Even the Liberal leader on page 20 of his 2006 book, “Agenda for Nation Building”, claimed that no other measure would do more to strengthen the spine of equal citizenship than a working income tax benefit. When our Conservative government first introduced the WITB in budget 2007, he and his fellow Liberals shockingly voted against its creation. Now the economic recovery act will, as outlined in budget 2009, effectively double the benefits through WITB, increasing its estimated value for low income Canadians by $518 million for 2009. In subsequent taxation years, he probably boasts that he will vote against it.
The Liberal leader will be shamefully voting against more than 1.5 million Canadians that will benefit from the WITB for the 2009 taxation year even despite the fact that enhancement to the working income tax benefit has already garnered wide praise.
The OECD heralded the move stating:
|| Recent moves to increase the generosity of Canada’s Working Income Tax Benefit are welcome, particularly given that the benefit is strongly targeted to the lowest-income households.
Food Banks Canada praised it commenting:
|We called for increases to the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB), and the government’s proposed improvement to the WITB is a welcome development.
The Caledon Institute of Social Policy applauded the enhancement writing:
|The 2009 Budget’s actions to enhance the Working Income Tax Benefit--an important recent addition to Canadian social policy--are laudable. They strengthen both key aims of the program--helping welfare recipients get over the welfare wall, and supplementing the earnings of the working poor. The investment in WITB will foster economic stimulus by sending more money to more working poor Canadians.
As odd as it may seem, the Liberal leader will likely vote against it as his Liberal leader edict. The Liberal member for has given it a big thumbs up, telling his hometown paper, the The Hants Journal only months ago:
|| The Working Income Tax Benefit...has helped many working families and increasing it further will contribute even more significantly to helping make work pay.
Again, I am hopeful, but doubtful, that our Liberal colleagues have listened. I am doubtful that they have the capacity to push aside partisan self-interest, ignore their election-mad leader, do what is best for low income working Canadians and pass the economic recovery act and its enhancements to the WITB, and not scheme to force an unnecessary election that Canadians do not want and that could threaten what is an extremely fragile economic recovery.
Nevertheless, there is much more to the economic recovery act.
For instance, we are reaching out to hard-working farmers who have been hit hard by floods and have to dispose of their livestock by extending these farmers the same tax credit deferral that applies to farmers affected by drought. This is a move that Canadian Federation of Agriculture President Laurent Pellerin gave his nod of approval, saying:
|This announcement is welcome news in assisting not only Manitoba livestock producers affected in the summer of 2008 get back on their feet. But it also has the potential to assist all Canadian livestock producers who may find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to liquidate their herds due to weather related events in the future.
Furthermore, on the issue of relief for businesses, the economic recovery act will relax tariffs on temporarily imported shipping containers, primarily by increasing the amount of time that such containers can remain in Canada on a duty tax-free basis from 30 to 365 days. This proposal, recommended by various reports and Canadian transport-related associations, will both promote the efficient movement of empty containers in Canada and improve the efficiency of our transportation network.
This action builds on the previously announced elimination of tariffs on a wide range of machinery and equipment in Canada's economic action plan that will lower business costs by an estimated $440 million over five years and the recently announced public consultations to further eliminate all remaining tariffs on imported machinery, equipment and manufacturing inputs.
Our Conservative government's campaign against tariffs will provide a short-term boost and a long-term competitive edge for Canadian industry and lead the charge against the threat of creeping protectionism around the world. Daniel Ikenson from Cato's Center for Trade Policy Studies, an influential American think tank, said, “Canada is doing a great thing. The idea of lifting tariffs frees up businesses, lowering their costs. It shows the United States the proper way to emerge from global recession. We should be moving towards reducing barriers, not imposing them”.
Together, we will have the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the leading industrialized countries by 2010. This adds up to a big Canadian advantage for attracting businesses and the jobs they create. Thanks to the business income tax reductions introduced by our Conservative government since 2006, the business tax rate will continue to fall from more than 22% to 15% by 2012. Provinces have added to their efforts by reducing their corporate income tax rates, helping Canada move closer to our Conservative government's goal of a 25% combined federal-provincial tax rate.
We have been seeing the impacts of these business tax reductions recently. Tim Hortons, a homegrown Canadian icon that was forced to flee the high business taxes under the former Liberal government, has reorganized as a Canadian company once again. As a Calgary Herald editorial claimed:
|| Talk about a double-double blessing!...Canada's national coffee--Tim Hortons--is leaving Delaware and coming home, for all the right reasons. That is, after years during which Canadian business rightly complained of being at a tax disadvantage compared to its U. S. competitors, the pendulum has swung...However, it shows Canada is doing something right...That a company such as Tim Hortons is prepared to go through the upheaval of moving its head office to take advantage of a lower tax environment shows business tax cuts by successive federal governments are starting to work...Timmies may well be starting a trend.
However, our tax relief measures are also benefiting thousands of businesses that are so vital to our communities and economy. Thanks to measures taken by our Conservative government, small businesses can retain more of their earnings for reinvestment, expansion and job creation through an increase in the amount of small business income that is eligible for a reduced federal tax rate of 11%.
That amount is $500,000 this year, up from $400,000. Through Canada's economic action plan, the economy recovery act, our Conservative government is providing tax relief that will encourage economic growth and create jobs for Canadians.
Indeed, since our Conservative government formed government in 2006, we have been working to reduce the tax burden on Canadians from the day we took office. We have provided and continue to provide tax relief that leaves money in the hands of Canadian families and businesses, where it belongs, to encourage growth and boost our economy.
We have slashed taxes by $220 billion for individuals, families and businesses over the next five years. Tax freedom day fell on June 6 this year, nearly five days earlier than under the former Liberal government.
The tax reductions in Canada's economic action plan reinforce our government's goal to foster a tax system that improves standards of living and investment in Canada.
In my short time here today I have presented but a few highlights of our economic recovery bill related to reducing the tax burden on Canadians.
While there is much more to this important legislation from strengthening pensions, to promoting global growth and co-operation, to improving government transparency and accountability, to supporting public broadcasting, and much more, it regrettably appears that Liberal members do not care enough to discuss them.
The Liberal leader wants to plunge Canada into an election regardless of what it would mean for Canadians or our economy and our recovery. Little wonder the Saskatoon StarPhoenix editorial said of the Liberal leader, “For [the Liberal leader] to propose such a thing only makes him sound patronizing and out of touch”.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for .
I am rising today to speak to Bill . I would like to speak to a few of the policies that are covered by this piece of legislation. I am going to focus on a couple of items in this legislation, in particular, payments to be made out of the consolidated revenue fund for offshore petroleum resources, the CBC, the home renovation tax credit, and if there is time, changes to the CPP.
The first issue I would like to address is the $174.5 million for Nova Scotia under the offshore agreement. I would like to thank our former colleague, Bill Casey, the former member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, for the time and effort he gave to this issue, and also for his commitment to keeping all Nova Scotia MPs across party lines updated on Atlantic accord issues.
The federal government did not keep its word. It did not abide by law. It completely ignored and did not honour the original Atlantic accord. I believe that Nova Scotians, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are still getting short shrift. There was an agreement and the government did not keep up its end of the bargain.
However, the government did come to a second agreement with Nova Scotia to try to mitigate the damage caused by not honouring the first agreement. We have been waiting and waiting for this money.
The NDP has been pressuring the government to at least honour the second deal. Thanks to our continued pressure the government is taking the first step toward treating Nova Scotia properly, fairly and with respect.
This money is a step in the right direction. It is a good thing for Nova Scotians, and it is a good thing for Nova Scotia. While I would like to see the next step toward honouring the Atlantic accord, and I hope that the government does work with my premier towards that end, I am very pleased to see this first step towards giving Nova Scotia the respect that it deserves. This is yet another reason that we do not need an election right now. What we need is to see this money get to Nova Scotia.
I will be very proud to stand up and cast my vote in favour of this bill if only for this measure alone, the $174.5 million for Nova Scotia. I am sure that all Nova Scotians would agree with me.
There is also a change to the loan provisions for the CBC in this bill. New Democrats have been calling for these types of changes for some time. I have spoken in this House about the cuts to the CBC in Halifax. We lost programming in the form of reduced time for Maritime Noon, a maritime-wide call-in program. It is an opportunity for maritimers to stay connected, across the Bay of Fundy and across the Northumberland Strait. It talks about issues facing our region.
It is an important show for allowing debate and discussion and the free exchange of ideas. On any given day one can tune in and hear about something as specific as regional gardening tips to ideas as broad as the international response to climate change. The cuts to Maritime Noon are a little snapshot from my corner of the country about how these cuts are affecting Canadians and our public broadcaster.
My colleague, the member for , has worked hard on this issue both inside and outside the House. In fact, he said in a speech, “These job losses were completely avoidable. All it required was his signature so that they could get a bank loan or bridge financing, and it would not have cost the taxpayer a cent”.
The Conservatives have responded by increasing the amount of money the CBC can borrow in order to bridge that financing. This is what the NDP has been calling for.
In many of our communities from coast to coast to coast the CBC is a vital part of the communication link. This measure that has been introduced will only strengthen the CBC.
I will be supporting this bill as it contains positive measures, like the home renovation tax credit, the first-time home buyers tax credit and drought relief for livestock owners. However, I am not kidding myself that this is some sort of grand vision for Canada during an economic crisis, because it is not.
I support the home renovation tax credit because Canadians are relying on it, but earlier this week my colleague from pointed out that he saw a rather large sign outside a hot tub emporium which stated that the tubs were available under the home renovation tax credit, that if people bought these hot tubs and installed them, they could be eligible for the home renovation tax credit. We are all trying to reduce our energy consumption and the government purports to take our international obligations about climate change seriously. This is a great example of why policy should have direction.
I believe in government. I believe that governments are there to provide direction. They are not there simply to enable more consumerism. They are there to help Canadians make good choices.
New Democrats have often called for a tax credit or for programs for retrofitting houses that would actually have a green energy focus, not just renovations, but green renovations. This tax credit does not do that. Almost anything could be done with the tax credit, like putting in a hot tub on a new deck.
Before I was elected I worked with the provincial government and the utility in our province on energy efficiency programs. Energy efficiency is absolutely our greatest resource right now. If we could reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, it would be like finding a new source of energy. It would be like an oil field's worth of efficiency.
Energy efficiency could also create jobs. The Suzuki Foundation put out a paper called “Cool Solutions to Global Warming”. In its analysis the foundation said, “Investments in energy efficiency have been found to produce four times more jobs than equivalent spending in new supplies of conventional energy”. That is an oil field's worth of jobs.
There we have it. We could have a positive impact on the environment, a positive impact on making life more affordable for Canadians. The government could have a profound impact on job creation, if only the government would realize that government has a role in providing direction to Canadians. It has a role in helping us make good choices.
I will turn briefly to the proposed changes to the Canada pension plan. This bill would make amendments that would allow people to collect their CPP without actually having to stop work. It would increase the number of low-income years that a person could drop from the calculation of his or her career earnings. Among a few other measures, it would allow people to contribute past the age of 65.
The measures introduced would allow for greater flexibility and choice for people approaching their retirement years. These are very good first steps to reforming the CPP and are worthy of support. However, I remain hopeful that these are just first steps and that the government will honour its obligation under the unanimously passed motion that my colleague from moved.
The motion put forward by the NDP states that we need to expand and increase the CPP, QPP, OAS and GIS to ensure that all Canadians can count on a dignified retirement. Would that not be something if people could have dignity in their retirement? Bill does not do this, but I am hopeful the government will begin its expansion of these pension programs soon, as 30% of Canadians are without retirement savings and seniors in my riding are struggling to get by on their meagre pensions.
In summary, I will be supporting this bill. The NDP has decided that it will look at each bill on a case by case basis and see if it is in the best interests of Canadians. According to the measures that have been introduced, we will be supporting it, but we are hopeful that this is just the first step toward a grander vision for understanding that government does have a role to play during this economic crisis.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and privileged to be sharing my time this morning with the member for , a new member of the House of Commons who has proven herself over the last couple of years as a capable, well-researched and hard-working member. She was actually recognized by Maclean's
magazine and named best rookie of the year for the year 2009.
|| In less than six months in the House, she has attracted an unusual amount of notice—enough to win her the best rookie MP title in the Maclean’s poll of her peers.
I congratulate her very publicly for that.
However, it is not just since she has been here. I think people need to recognize this and, because of it, be willing to listen very closely to the advice that she gives in this place and to the voice that she brings to the House of Commons on behalf of so many who have no voice and cannot find the place to have their voice heard. For example, when she was back home in the wonderful city of Halifax, she was part of the Community Coalition to End Poverty. She was part of the Metro Immigrant Settlement Association's legal workshops for newcomers. She also participated in the Dalhousie Association of Women and the Law.
She also was the developer of a very unique and helpful project in Halifax called the “Tenant Rights Project” . She was also awarded for her excellent community development work and her social justice activism in Halifax.
People can get all this information if they google the member. I would suggest that anybody who wants to understand how this place works and the voices that are here, they might want to do that.
She was awarded the Muriel Duckworth award for raising consciousness of women's issues and feminism in the legal community and also the CBA Law Day award for encouraging and promoting access to justice.
As I said, I am very pleased to be sharing my time with such an accomplished, effective and now recognized member of this chamber.
I want to put a couple of thoughts on the record today on Bill that we are debating.
First, for all the reasons articulated by the member for , I also will be supporting Bill but I must say that I do it with a heavy heart. Even though there are some things in this bill that would be helpful to some people, I have some real concern about the overall agenda of the government and whether it understands fully how we got ourselves into this very difficult economic circumstance in the first place and if in fact it has a program to get us out of it.
I will use a couple of the initiatives that the government has brought forward to show the shortcomings and how it is that even though it may make a difference for some people it would not go that full distance to make it better for everybody.
For example, the renovation tax credit, which was announced to great applause in this place and across the country, it turns out that at the end of the day it will probably not benefit those at the low end of the income scale because it is a non-refundable tax credit. Therefore, if people do not get anything back on their taxes or if they do not pay taxes because their income is so low but they have already done the renovations that they thought they were going to get a tax credit back for, at the end of the day they may end up not getting a tax credit at all.
In my view, the renovation tax credit is very short-sighted. It should have been a refundable tax credit and perhaps could have been done differently. It could have focused on those who really needed it in these difficult times to renovate their homes, particularly from an energy efficiency perspective so they could change their windows and doors, put more insulation in or buy more efficient furnaces. That would have gone a long way toward helping people on fixed incomes who are trying to stay in the little homes they have been able to purchase over the years and are struggling now to pay the bills on. That is just one of the initiatives in this bill that I would suggest the government take another look at.
On the other end of the age spectrum, the initiatives in the bill that my colleague from has spoken to, such as the improvements to the CPP program, will help some seniors but for other seniors who have worked all of their lives, many very hard in workplaces that were very challenging, the government is saying that instead of increasing the CPP or OAS or giving a little bump to GIS that would cover the increasing cost of energy to heat their homes, as the member for Halifax suggested, the government has come up with a plan that actually makes it easier for seniors to continue to work.
It has been said that McDonald's was from birth to the grave work for people. That in fact will be what we will see in this country.
I understand that some seniors will appreciate this but for my money it would have been better had we focused on how it is that we might help seniors who have already done their life's work, raised families and helped build their communities. We need to allow them to enjoy some comfort and dignity in their senior years and those senior years should start earlier rather than later if for no other reason than it creates space for younger people to pick up good well-paying jobs.
Those are just two examples of why it is that even though we will support this, in a very unique and particular time with the economy still falling apart and many people being affected more and more every day we should, as a House of Commons and as different parties, be working together to support things that will be helpful, we think this does not go near far enough.
In my office in I am beginning to hear the voices of those who have been on employment insurance for a significant period of time and who are looking at it ending. There will be no new jobs for them so they will have very few choices to make. One choice will be to go on welfare, which we know is not nearly sufficient. EI in the first place is not sufficient, but when people fall onto welfare it becomes a different world altogether. People who will fall onto welfare will find that it is a difficult challenge to make ends meet, to keep body and soul together and to look after their families.
The other option they have will be to take on part time jobs. We already know that people working full time in many of those part time jobs that nearly always pay minimum wage are already living in poverty. If people are working part time at one of those minimum wage jobs, they will be falling even further into poverty. The government has no comprehensive program or role to play in eliminating poverty or dealing with poverty, particularly in these very difficult times for hundreds of thousands of people across the country. I find it unconscionable that we would not be putting our minds to that and moving quickly here in this place as we debate initiatives that could be helpful to those most as risk and the most vulnerable.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It is an honour to rise in the House today and give thanks to the people of my riding of , the community where I was born and raised. We are proudly one of the most diverse ridings in the country. We rank fifth of 308 Canadian ridings in terms of the 74% of people who are first generation Canadian, born into a Syrian, Italian, Somalian and other vibrant cultures.
Sadly, however, we also have major hurdles. Almost 20% of our residents are not yet citizens and often face language and job barriers. About 25% of families are headed by single parents who regularly work two jobs just to put food on the table for their children. Almost 20% of the riding is engaged in manufacturing, the second highest percentage for the entire country. In stark contrast, only 5% are involved in management, the 301st ranking of 308 ridings in Canada.
Etobicoke North is also one of 13 at risk neighbourhoods identified by the city of Toronto and United Way. Our community wrestles with many socio-economic issues related to unemployment, namely affordable housing, education, family breakdown, poverty and violence. In mid-August we tragically experienced three murders within only a few weeks.
Many Etobicoke North families struggle to make ends meet when the economy is booming, but the economy is struggling and the government's policies have hurt our families. For example, the government promised it would not raise taxes, yet it announced a $13 billion EI payroll tax grab.
Last September, the government said that there would be no recession. In October the government said that there were some good buying opportunities. In November it promised a surplus. However, 12 days later the Bank of Canada announced our country was in a recession. In December the government admitted it would run a $20 billion to $30 billion deficit. In January it was a $34 billion deficit. By June a $50 billion deficit and last month a $56 billion shortfall.
The government put Canada on track for a deficit before the recession hit and now holds the record of the largest deficit on record, at $56 billion.
Canada is the worse performing economy of the G7. EI enrolment has increased 63% since October 2008. Young people under the age of 25 have been particularly hard hit, with those receiving EI benefits increasing by 108%.
Statistics are clean, neat, tidy and do not adequately convey human suffering. My office serves 65 families each day. Last week, we met a young man who was accepted into university but who could not afford to go because his mother was out of work after having worked over 10 years in her company. Today she cannot find a job, he cannot find a job and they are at risk of losing their home. On Friday, we met a man age 59 years of age who had been living in his car for two years because he could not find a job.
It is not just those in manufacturing who cannot find a job. To date I have met over 75 internationally trained doctors who are working to earn their Canadian accreditation to practise. I have also met over 50 university professors, one who has two masters degrees, one PhD., two teaching certificates, speaks four languages and yet cannot find a teaching job in Toronto.
In the meantime these talented individuals work in call centres, drive taxis, wait tables or do whatever is necessary in order to support their families. Then they are laid off from call centres and they come to our office desperately looking for employment leads and help for their families. Many after seven years of contract jobs give up their dream to practise medicine in our country.
The last year has taken a tremendous toll on many of our Etobicoke North families that have lost work because auto, manufacturing and steel plants have closed. There are 450,000 more unemployed Canadians today than a year ago and the Conservatives' fiscal update predicts another 200,000 will join them in the coming year.
Our families need jobs. Our youth see the opportunities other families have and ask, “Why not us?” In June I had the joy of attending the graduation at a local high school. Sadly, the valedictorian's speech was not like others, namely bright, full of hope and waiting for the next phase of life. Rather it was based on Dylan Thomas' Do not go Gentle into that Good Night. The theme was even if one was not from the right family, the right school or the right community, graduates should “rage, rage” and fight for what is duly theirs. I left saddened, distressed that our graduates thought that they were from the wrong side of the tracks, that they would never have the same opportunities as others their age and that some had already given up dreaming.
What makes change happen? It is investment and economic stimulus for community projects to create jobs for families.
Unfortunately, only 12% of the government's $4 billion infrastructure program is getting shovels in the ground and actually creating jobs. Only $71 million, or less than 1%, of the $1 billion green infrastructure fund has been allocated. Only $80 million, or less than 0.5%, of the $2 billion municipal infrastructure lending program has been allocated. Only two projects, totalling $5.4 million of the $400 million set aside for housing for low-income seniors, have been announced.
The Liberal opposition supported economic stimulus spending, but withdrew confidence in the government after it used the money for political favouritism.
The government had the opportunity to invest in communities across this country, create jobs and make a difference to families. More jobs would have meant fewer hungry children. In Toronto we feed 90,000 children, up from 83,000 last year, every morning because hungry children cannot learn.
This week is Feeding Toronto's Hungry Students Week. It is proclaimed by Mayor David Miller to highlight the sad fact that one in three Toronto students lives below the poverty line and 41% of students arrive at school every day hungry. In the city's most at-risk communities, 68% of children go to school without breakfast.
Toronto District School Board trustee Howard Goodman shares, “The kids are hungry for a whole bunch of things. They're hungry for knowledge. They're hungry for experience and independence. They're hungry for affection, recognition and respect, but they hunger above all for food. If that core hunger for food is not fulfilled, they can't satisfy easily any of their other hungers.
We are the only industrialized nation that does not have a breakfast program for our children. Less hunger would mean healthier children, more students staying in school, less youth looking for belonging in gangs and more young men and women eager to improve their lives if only they are given a chance.
We need jobs for the 23% of women-headed, single-parent families in my riding of , who scramble every month just to make ends meet, yet lose almost a quarter for every dollar a man is paid. What would jobs for these women mean to their children, who are poor because their mothers are poor, and to child care and early childhood education? We know there is a return on investment of $2 for every dollar invested.
Real economic stimulus means needed projects for communities and jobs for families. This is development. It is not something abstract. It is real change in the lives of real people.
In closing, the future of Canada depends considerably on investing in families, as their economic health, physical health and social well-being determines the health of their children, who are the adults of tomorrow. As a first step to protecting the next generation, let the government fight for creating jobs for families.
Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. members opposite are all fussed about an “unnecessary election”, but this time last year we were in the middle of an unnecessary election. It was interesting to go back to the quotes of the and the during that unnecessary election and find out what they were thinking at the time, or at least telling Canadians about the deficit.
The , on CTV Question Period, on October 12, said:
|| We're not running a deficit. We have planned a realistic scenario. We've got conservative budget estimates.
That is probably true; we do have Conservative budget estimates.
|| We've got a modest platform that doesn't even fill the existing fiscal room....
Before the Business News Network, he said:
|| I know economists will say that we can run a small deficit, but the problem is once you cross that line, as we see in the United States, nothing stops deficits from getting larger and larger and spiralling out of control....
Come on, I do not think so. Some economists will say it is probably true. It is more true than possibly what a politician running an election wants to tell the Canadian public. The who should know the numbers better than most, on October 9, just a year ago, said:
|| We will not run a deficit.
On September 16, he said:
|| We're running a balanced budget, we're running a surplus, we're paying down debt, so our government finances are solid.
Even during that fiscal year, the and the were being a touch economical with the truth, because this fiscal year is not the first year that this government has run a deficit. It was the last fiscal year. It is the fiscal year during the election, that unnecessary election that we were told we did not need.
Deficits do not just spring out of nowhere; we actually have to work at it. We have to really work at mismanagement in order to take a $13 billion surplus that we inherited from the previous government and run it into a $60 billion deficit over a period of four budgets. The Conservatives started out with revenues, in really their first year of administration, of $236 billion. The revenues then went up to $242 billion and that is where they peaked. They went down to $233 billion, and then down to $223 billion, roughly where they were five budgets ago.
That is fine. We are all in favour of reduced taxes. If I listen to the members on the opposite side, they can hardly speak a sentence without using the phrase, “reducing taxes”, et cetera. I am all in favour of that. We all like to reduce taxes, but there is another side to that equation, which is that the Conservatives are spending and spending. They started out in, effectively, their first fiscal year with $222 billion worth of spending, and over those years they ran it up to $272 billion worth of spending. That is $222 billion to $272 billion, $50 billion worth of increased spending. Meanwhile they destroyed or flatlined their revenues for a variety of reasons, largely having to do with the ideological predisposition to cut taxes at every corner.
Essentially, the Conservatives made a $25 billion paydown on the debt, and we will even give them the $13 billion from the previous Liberal government, so we will say that is north of $35 billion, $38 billion worth of paydown on the debt. That is all good stuff. We like that. In the last two years, they have run up the deficit by $60 billion. So in that four- or five-year budget cycle, that period of time, they have essentially run the government into a deficit position.
This is not even within the Mulroney era of deficits. The last time we had a Conservative administration it was $42 billion. These guys have exceeded Mr. Mulroney and now it is $56 billion.
I was amused at the fantasyland of going from September or October of last year, where they said they were not running a deficit, that the nation's finances were under control and they would not do the dumb things that were being done in the United States, to the fairy tale in November called “the fiscal update”. The fiscal update showed a small surplus of $1 billion.
They then induced upon themselves a political crisis and suddenly they got a little more realistic. Between the end of November and the beginning of February, we went from a small surplus to a $34 billion deficit. Then we went from January and February to May of this year and we were up to a deficit of $50 billion. As of last month, we were at a deficit of $56 billion.
Lord knows what next month will bring as far as a fiscal update is concerned. Perhaps we will be getting more fanciful statements from the and the saying that the nation's finances are under control, that it is a conservative budget. It certainly is that. It is a Conservative budget. It is a Conservative example of gross mismanagement of the nation's finances, and members wonder why the Liberal Party would withdraw confidence in the government.
The is given enormous powers in our system of government. He gets to control the executive of the government by appointing the cabinet. He gets to influence the judicial branch of government by appointing the justices who sit on the Supreme Court and all the ones below that. He gets to influence the legislative branch of government by appointing senators, and he of course has shown some great enthusiasm for appointing senators lately.
There is enormous power concentrated in one person and in one office, and the only thing that this system requires of the is that he maintain the confidence of the House, and he has not. He does not maintain the confidence of the House.
When we were allowing him to govern, he spent an inordinate amount of taxpayers' money ridiculing the leaders of our party, and I imagine those expenditure go on. He spends an inordinate amount of time and money destroying the nation's finances. We got to the point where enough was enough and the confidence of the Liberal Party has been withdrawn from the government.
One would hope that the government would learn its lessons but I have no great anticipation that it will do so. It appears to be the same gang that ran the Mulroney show, which ran deficit after deficit.
In four budget cycles, five if we want to count the tail end of the Liberal administration, we have gone from revenues of $222 billion to revenues of $223 billion, which is wonderful. They have flatlined it. Meanwhile, the population has grown over that period of time by a million people and expenditures have run from about $209 billion to $272 billion, an increase of $63 billion.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know how you run your household, but I imagine that everybody sitting in this room has to run their households within their fiscal ability, and if they do not have an increase in their revenues, they cannot go crazy on their spending. The government has gone crazy on its expenditures and we will pay and we will pay and we will pay.
In today's news, there was an item about an Australian bank raising its interest rates. If one does it, they are all going to do it and the low-interest environment that the Bank of Canada has created here will go. If it goes, then all bets are off, because in terms of what we see here now, we ain't seen nothing yet.
Mr. Speaker, it is obviously a great opportunity to speak today in support of the economic recovery act, an important piece of legislation to enact key parts of Canada's economic action plan, along with other crucial initiatives.
I understand the Liberal Party will vote against this legislation, sight unseen, for no reason other than to force an unnecessary election which no Canadian wants. It is my hope in today's debate, along with colleagues on this side of the House, to show that now is not the time for that sort of self-serving opportunism.
The stakes for Canadians and their families are high. The member for does not understand that the stakes for his constituents are high. He mentioned a moment ago that he is surprised I spent so much time on the finance committee and did not get it. He has been on the finance committee a lot longer than I have, in fact he is a former parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance, and he still does not get it. So I guess I still have some time by his scale to get it. Maybe I will catch up, I do not know.
We simply cannot play political games because we cannot jeopardize a recovery with an unnecessary election. Catherine Swift, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, warned recently:
|| We've got some good news.... [W]e've been seeing three months of good recovery...we got the highest confidence level in over two years.... All we need is a stupid election to put things right back in the tank. What we need is certainty. Elections do not produce certainty.
I am going to digress for a minute. I mentioned the Liberal green shift. The Liberal green shift means anything but certainty for business.
Catherine Swift said that what we need is certainty and that elections do not produce certainty. With the economy turning right now, this is a bad time to have it. She said that we are just seeing things come back, that we are just seeing confidence come back.
It is clear that we must stand together with our global partners and stay the course. We must keep our focus squarely on protecting our economy and building on the success of Canada's economic action plan and stabilizing our economy.
As declared in the G20 leaders' statement following the Pittsburgh summit:
|| Our forceful response helped stop the dangerous, sharp decline in global activity and stabilize financial markets.
|| A sense of normalcy should not lead to complacency.
|| The process of recovery and repair remains incomplete. In many countries, unemployment remains unacceptably high. The conditions for a recovery of private demand are not yet fully in place. We cannot rest until the global economy is restored to full health, and hard-working families all over the world can find decent jobs.
Clearly, Canada must stay on track by continuing to implement our economic action plan and its related components, like the economic recovery act. This is fundamental to securing Canada's success in the face of ongoing economic challenges.
As expected, to date, Canadians have risen to face these challenges head on and allowed our economy to outperform where others have struggled. This has lessened the recession's relative impact. A sentiment shared by private sector economists, CIBC World Markets forecast that Canada will lead all industrialized nations in economic growth next year, while RBC economists expect that Canada's recession will turn out to be the least severe of the past three.
Our Conservative government has supported the efforts of Canadians with an unprecedented and timely stimulus contained in Canada's economic action plan, representing $61 billion in effective targeted measures.
Only last week we confirmed in the third report to Canadians on the implementation of the action plan that 90% of its 2009-10 funding is now committed. Canadians will continue to benefit from what is proportionately the largest fiscal stimulus package among all G7 partners with a projected 220,000 jobs being created or maintained by the end of 2010.
As Scotia Capital economist Aron Gampel points out:
|| The substantial stimulus injected into the economy from both monetary and fiscal measures is beginning to show more signs that the economy is regaining traction, but the full impact will become more visible in the months ahead.
Contrary to the views of the doom and gloom Liberals, there are more encouraging signs that Canada is leading the recovery with our strong fundamentals intact. Indeed, last week the International Monetary Fund, IMF, forecast that Canada will be the least affected by the global downturn and that our recovery will be the strongest in the G7.
Contrast that with what we are hearing from the Liberal members. We are not hearing these things. They are talking down the Canadian recovery. They are talking down the Canadian economy. For whatever reason, they do not want to see things recover in Canada because they think that hurts their political fortunes. Canadians do not care about the Liberals' political fortunes. What they care about is their families and their jobs. They want Canada to work. They want parties working together provincially and federally. They want municipalities to be engaged. That is what our government is doing. It is not what the Liberal Party supports, by the way.
Nevertheless, Canada and the global economy will continue to be challenged. As noted in the G20 leaders' statement, we have yet to sustain a full private sector supported recovery. Likewise, as IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn conceded recently, even though we are seeing tentative signs of recovery it remains fragile. I quote, “I want to be crystal clear. Until unemployment will decrease, it is difficult to say the crisis is over. It is too early to crow victory”.
Without a doubt we are at a critical juncture. If we hope to stabilize our economy and secure this recovery, we must stay the course and stay focused on the economy. Parliamentarians of all stripes can accomplish that, not by throwing Canada into an unnecessary election, but by passing the economic recovery act into law on a timely basis.
The economic recovery act is a complex and multifaceted piece of legislation with many components that have been highlighted by previous speakers.
For the remainder of my allotted time, I would like to focus on the reforms to strengthen the Canada pension plan, or CPP, that are included in the economic recovery act. However, before continuing, I should point out that the CPP is a jointly managed federal-provincial plan. Neither the federal government nor provincial governments can unilaterally alter the CPP.
The reforms laid out in the legislation were unanimously agreed to by federal, provincial and territorial governments this past May as part of a mandated triennial review of the Canada pension plan. Moreover, these reforms were made public at that time, available for all to review.
Before these reforms can take place, they must be officially approved, not only by Parliament, but by two-thirds of the provinces with two-thirds of the population of Canada. Moreover, the approved changes will start to take effect in 2011 and will be gradually implemented with all the changes expected to be in effect fully by 2016.
In short, the reforms agreed to by federal, provincial and territorial governments are intended to modernize the CPP to better reflect the many different paths people take to retirement today.
As Patricia Lovett-Reid, host of Money Talk, a popular Canadian personal finance television show and senior vice-president with TD Waterhouse Canada, noted that the CPP reforms speak “to the fact that we are living healthier and longer”.
Increased flexibility will be offered through the removal of work cessation tests that require individuals who apply to take their CPP benefit early, i.e., before age 65, to either stop work or reduce their earnings. The economic recovery act will remove the work cessation test in 2012 so that individuals will be able to take their benefit as early as age 60 without any work interruption or reduction in hours worked or earnings. This change will benefit those who would like to take their CPP pension while continuing to work either full or part time and could help individuals to use income from their CPP to phase in retirement or supplement their earnings.
Such a proposed reform has been particularly welcomed, as an Edmonton Journal editorial applauding it noted:
||--the prospect that thousands will be able to discern a horizon when they can not only choose to be gainfully employed but also collect on a pension they paid into for years must come as some relief....
|| Older Canadians are healthier than ever and getting even fitter. If they want or need to continue to make a material contribution to the nation's productivity, they mustn't be discouraged.
Increased CPP benefits for a number of Canadians will continue through an increase in general lowering dropout which currently allows for 15% of the years where earnings are low or nil for whatever reason, to be dropped from calculations used to determine an individual's CPP retirement pension amount. The economic recovery act will gradually enhance the retirement pension calculation to allow up to an additional year of low earnings to be dropped from the pension calculation. By 2014, it will allow a maximum of eight years to be dropped.
This will benefit virtually all CPP contributors and improve their basic retirement pensions. It will also increase the average CPP disability and survivor pensions, as a calculation of these benefits would be based on the retirement benefit calculation.
It would be particularly helpful to those whose careers suffer more work interruptions for a variety of reasons like those who pursue post-secondary studies or other educational opportunities, those who reduce their participation in the labour force to provide care to a family member, or those who immigrate to Canada as adults.
Respected Sun media financial advice columnist Alan Caplan approved this reform noting:
|| It's intended to smooth out the earnings history for each pensioner who stopped working. The reasons vary, but may include job loss, further education, illness or care giving and child rearing. Almost everyone benefits from the provision.