The House resumed from April 12 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and speak to Bill , the budget implementation bill.
It is my pleasure to make a brief speech on behalf of the residents of greater Moncton, my riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, and the people of Atlantic Canada.
I would like to take this opportunity to speak to the budget on behalf of Atlantic Canadians. We are all in this place representing various areas of the country and I want to point out what is a glaring absence of any policy, of any care or of any words related to the hopes, the aspirations and the mere existence of Atlantic Canada.
In the budget speech we all received a document entitled, “Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth”, delivered by the who, like many in this House, has Maritime roots, in fact New Brunswick roots, which I know he is proud of. Nonetheless, in his speech of some 19 pages there was not one word toward Atlantic Canada, which is what we might call exhibit A.
Second, we in Atlantic Canada laud our coastal brethren in the Pacific for their initiative with respect to the Pacific Gateway and we understand that it is vital to Canada's economic growth and future. I could probably speak for all members of the Atlantic Liberal caucus when I say that we are happy there was mention of and movement toward forming and making stronger the Pacific Gateway, but there was not one mention of the term “Atlantic gateway” in the budget speech, the Speech from the Throne or the budget documentation.
We have a right arm and a left arm. We have a ying and a yang. In this place, we represent a country with three coasts. Economically, we have a Pacific coast but we also have an Atlantic coast and that coast deserves and is acting on a provincial level toward the crystallization of an Atlantic gateway, both port-wise and inland. No one need take my word for it. There are various provincial governments of all political stripes. We have a whole rainbow of colours of governments in Atlantic Canada now. We have a provincial NDP government, a provincial Conservative government and provincial Liberal governments. It is not partisan when I say that there is good work being done by all provincial governments on the Atlantic gateway and yet the federal government appears not to want to mention anything of it in its recalibration document. In fact, there is no real effort toward sustaining or helping the Atlantic lobster fishery which is in crisis.
I want to take a few moments to speak to other entry point aspects. Moncton is an area that is clearly inland and it is the hub of the Maritimes. It is a transportation centre. For a long time, after being one of the first airports to be transferred to a private authority in Canada, has been at the cutting edge of having small or mid-sized community transportation issues made important. The Greater Moncton International Airport handles over 500,000 passengers a year. It puts itself into the same category, with the same aspirations, hopes and struggles, as places like Abbotsford, Charlottetown, Mont Tremblant, Fredericton, Saint John and Kelowna, the airports that are not, frankly, Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal.
There are challenges presented to those points of entry, which is why, in the budget document beginning at page 299, there is the strange term called “strategic review savings”. To many people, this might go unnoticed, but we need to be clear that those are cuts to budgets. If they were cuts to budgets of Air Force One and the PMO's plane, maybe we would not have a big problem, but they are cuts to things like CATSA, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. Those are the fine men and women who, until I suppose a month ago or so, were not very well-known until a certain visit by a former cabinet minister to Charlottetown. However, they are the people who administer security in our airports. They perform a very vital function in flowing traffic for commerce and ensuring security, which needs to be top of mind for all of us.
In the 2011-12 budget, $12 million will be cut to the services, followed by a further $15 million in 2012-13. The government gives lip service to the notion of airport security. When the focus should be on ensuring security personnel in our airports, the only safety measure the government is able to employ is body scanners and there is no indication that the body scanners will be deployed in mid-sized airports. It is of crucial importance to people, like I say, in Abbotsford, Charlottetown and Moncton to ensure the flow of passengers continues.
The presence of body scanners suffices for the government while it cuts personnel. How will that help on the issue of security and with respect to the flow of goods and persons on a commercial level? For many of the airports in Atlantic Canada, it will be crippling. Frankly, the government is abdicating its responsibility in this regard to protect Canadians. We can forget about commerce, Atlantic Canada gateways and the importance of emerging economies, the real point is that there is an offloading of the costs of security to the citizens.
While the government talks about tax decreases and easing the burden for Canadians, what is happening through this budget instrument is that the Conservative government, in claiming to prioritize security in Canada, is hiking airport security fees to the passengers while simultaneously reducing the budget by some $12 million to $15 million for CATSA, the agency providing security. In the end, the Canadian traveller will pay.
Canadians already pay up to $17 in security taxes per flight and the government is proposing to raise it on some flights by over $8. It may not sound like a lot but for some people travelling across this country it may be the difference between some people choosing to stay home, to not travel through an airport or not to use the Moncton airport, for instance, especially if there is one scanner employed for over 500,000 passengers. We do not know what the future holds but there is certainly no emphasis on small and medium-sized cities and their airports in this budget and, as I mentioned, not a word about the issue of the Atlantic gateway.
The government claims to care about Canadian security but it is cutting funding to CATSA and expecting taxpayers, Canadian citizens, to cover the shortfall. It is another instance of a hidden tax. It is another incidence of untruthfulness in a budget document. It does not even provide sufficient funding for airport security in terms of personnel and there will be cuts of people employed at Canada's airports.
Another issue with respect to security, an issue of importance to the Greater Moncton International Airport and other airports, is the work of the Canada Border Services Agency. The disregard for the security and safety of Canadians citizens shown in this budget has been furthered by the fact that the CBSA cuts, which total $6.5 million in this year and $54 million in 2011-12, show a complete disregard for the need for service at our airports and ports. How will CBSA deal with the budget cuts?
I want to know where the champions of Atlantic Canada are. Where are the Allan J. MacEachens? Where are the Don Jamiesons? Where are the Roméo LeBlancs? They are not in the House or in the government. They are not on the government side because Atlantic Canadians have been told, along the lines of a famous 1997 speech given by the prime minister, that Atlantic Canadians should come to the House and mind their spots. They should just mind their place, follow the rules and be quiet about their aspirations.
It is no longer time for Atlantic Canadians to accept the ignorance of the government toward their dreams and aspirations. It is no longer time for them to be quiet about the future of Atlantic Canada. It also is not time for the Government of Canada to omit the words “Atlantic Canadians” from a budget document. We will not stand for it and I urge all members of the House to take that to the government during the budget debate.
Madam Speaker, today I rise to speak against Bill , which would bring into legislation a number of measures already announced in different ways and means motions or previous budget documents. It also spells out a number of measures originally presented as part of the most recent Speech from the Throne.
As the New Democrat consumer protection critic, I will devote the majority of my time to discussing the provisions contained within Bill that relate to the credit and debit industry. However before my analysis of the credit and debit sector provisions, I would first like to address two measures contained in Bill that are extremely concerning. The first is environmental assessments, and the second is the employment insurance fund.
With regard to environmental assessments, and in keeping with our party's concerns about the oil sands, the measures contained within Bill are very worrisome. If passed, Bill would exempt certain federally funded infrastructure projects from environmental assessments, going well beyond efforts by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to streamline the environmental assessment process.
Bill also would allow the minister of the environment to dictate the scope of environmental assessments. It would also weaken public participation and enable the removal of assessment of energy projects from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to the National Energy Board and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Eighteen months ago, the Conservatives came out with their now infamous economic and fiscal update. Within this update, they gutted the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which had been in place for 100 years, and the Liberals supported them. Now the Conservatives are trying to finish what they started by doing away with environmental assessments for most projects that receive federal funding. Several provinces have rather weak legislation and no way to conduct real inspections and assessments. The Navigable Waters Protection Act was the only way some provinces could have an assessment done.
The second measure I would like to address, before going into my analysis of the credit and debit provisions, is the measure introduced regarding employment insurance. If passed, Bill would empty the employment insurance account, which held a surplus of roughly $57 billion, money paid by workers and businesses, built up over years of Liberal and Conservative rule. First the Liberals took the $57 billion from the employment insurance fund and transferred it to the government's general revenue fund, and now the Conservatives will finish off the job they admonished the Liberals for.
There is a fundamental difference between the employment insurance fund and the government's consolidated revenue fund. All Canadian companies and their employees have contributed to the employment insurance fund. If a company recorded a loss, it did not matter. It still had to contribute to the employment insurance fund. Only a company with enough profits to pay tax was required to fork over corporate taxes into the general revenue fund.
In other words, the same companies, primarily the forestry and manufacturing industries, which suffered greatly because of the high dollar, for example, that had not turned a profit and that did not have to pay tax, could not benefit from the $60 billion in tax cuts given to the most profitable companies, and yet each and every one of these companies paid for every single one of their employees and every employee contributed to the EI fund.
The manufacturing and forestry companies that were already suffering believed their contributions would be used for a very specific, precise and dedicated purpose. This means that those who paid, who suffered because of the high dollar, supported the rich, particularly those in the oil industry in western Canada.
Now I will move on to discuss the measures relating to the credit and debit industry in Canada. I would like to share with the House the opinions of various stakeholders in the credit and debit industry on the government's latest measures released in the budget.
The Credit Union Central of Canada appreciates the overall intent of the draft code as stated in its purpose. However, and that is a big however, it believes that the draft code should give additional consideration to protecting the interests of Canadian consumers, to ensure they are provided with transparency, flexibility and the opportunity to make an informed choice when using debit and credit services, and of course to preserve a competitive, balanced market that includes a strong Canadian-focused payments delivery channel, as provided by Interac.
The Credit Union Central of Canada continues by stating that the most significant concern of Canadian credit unions regarding the draft code is the combined potential of provisions 5 and 6. They negatively impact the future of Interac debit services and the viability of Interac itself. They believe that providing merchants with the ability to set priority routing for debit services will exacerbate the concerns put forward by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and that aggressive marketing practices and the dominant market positions of Visa and MasterCard may cause debit card processing fees to skyrocket and may ultimately lead to the end of Interac.
The CUCC believes that provisions 5 and 6, as currently written. will make it easier for Interac to be overwhelmed by targeted pricing strategies of the much larger international payment card networks. Provision 5 reads:
|| Merchants will be allowed to provide discounts for different methods of payment (e.g. cash, debit card, credit card). Merchants will also be allowed to provide differential discounts among different brands.
Depending on how this provision is interpreted and applied by merchants, consumers may find that it becomes hard to tell the difference between discounting and surcharging, particularly if there is no requirement for the discount to reflect or relate to the merchant's cost for the transaction or payment card network.
Provision 6 reads:
|| Merchants can decide whether they will accept multiple forms of debit card payment. In such a case, merchants can choose the lowest-cost option on transactions involving co-badged debit cards.
The draft code states:
|| When a consumer uses a co-badged debit card with a merchant who accepts both debit products on the card, the merchant will decide which debit payment option is used for the transaction.
By unintentionally facilitating a significant threat to the future viability of Interac, these provisions may ultimately hasten a reduction in competition and choice of debit services available to Canadian merchants, consumers and card issuers.
Canada's payment card industry is one of the most successful and stable models in the world, due in no small part to the unique role of Interac and its national infrastructure for the provision of debit card services. Interac has become a valuable national utility that Canadians trust and depend on to provide universal, cost-effective debit services and is uniquely positioned to design and deliver services suited to the Canadian markets and in the interests of Canadians.
The principle of protecting the public and consumer interest should be primary and should be reflected in the rules of conduct and operation for all parties involved in providing debit and credit services, including the payment card networks, card issuers, acquirers and merchants. We believe the draft code, as written, places consumers at a disadvantage. It does not acknowledge the consumer as an equal participant and party to debit and credit card transactions, and several of the code's provisions either do not adequately protect consumer interests or protect the interests of merchants at the expense of the consumer.
Option consommateurs, a not-for-profit association dedicated to the defence and promotion of consumers' rights, is also concerned about the adoption of the code of conduct for the debit and credit card industry. According to Option consommateurs, if adopted as is, the voluntary code would give more power to merchants, to the detriment of consumers.
It also argues that whenever consumers make a purchase, they must be able to freely and transparently choose their preferred payment method from among those offered by merchants. However, the voluntary code allows merchants to require the payment method of their choice.
Furthermore, the government should prohibit surcharging on the payment method in order to make it easier for consumers to compare prices.
In closing, the measures contained within Bill , mainly the gutting of our employment insurance fund, the removal of environmental checks on government infrastructure projects and the implementation of a flawed code of conduct that would negatively impact consumers, are just some but definitely not all of the reasons why our party cannot support this budget.
Madam Speaker, I too have many small businesses in the riding of , and they have been coming to me with their concerns about both Visa and MasterCard entering the debit market.
We had a voluntary code of conduct that was presented in November, and of course prorogation stopped the process in which we were supposed to have a discussion when that voluntary code of conduct assessment ended. When the toothpaste is out of the tube, we cannot stuff it back in.
Many small business owners are concerned about priority routing. Many of them are concerned about how this will impact consumers' choice. That is, if consumers come into their place of business, whether they will be able to even use their cards and whether the businesses will be able to take their cards.
Consumers are very concerned about the interest rates that we have seen on the credit side as well. When they go in there, they want to use their card, but now they are starting to hesitate because of the interest rates.
On that side, we also see small businesses having interchange fees increasing. In some cases they have a negotiated rate of 1.6%, but when we start getting all of these new cards in place, the premium cards that the companies are putting out, those negotiated rates go out the door and they end up paying about 2.6%, sometimes even 3%, on the interchange fees.
More needs to be done. We need to have an honest discussion and debate about this, because more needs to be done to help consumers—
Madam Speaker, today I will be debating Bill .
The Bloc Québécois is against this bill, and I will explain why. I will also talk about what has been excluded from this budget.
First of all, my colleague from did a tour of all the ridings, including mine. During his visit, he met with various organizations: an organization representing women, another representing non-profit groups, farmers, employment insurance recipients, as well as experts on social housing and homelessness.
It was noted that the budget does not offer anything to women, who represent about 52% of the population. As women, they are responsible for the family. A number of single mothers must find housing on minimum wage or with minimal government assistance. These women need social housing assistance. Since no money is being invested in social housing to help these women, we are seeing increasing poverty.
It was clear that the gap between the rich and the poor will widen even more because of this Conservative budget. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
It is also clear that the majority of caregivers are women. Our employment insurance system allows them only eight weeks of special leave, which is not much. These women who decide to stay at home to help their family will lose their jobs or quit them temporarily. But being a caregiver does not come with a contract. No one can know whether the person being cared for will pass away within six weeks. It is impossible to know.
Furthermore, the court challenges program was very important to women, who cannot afford to pay lawyers $1,000 an hour to defend a job.
That is why we are against this budget, particularly because of its impact on women.
This budget is also silent on the subject of moneys owing. The government owes Quebec $2.2 billion for harmonizing its tax with the GST. Considering Quebec's latest budget, which is a controversial attempt to deal with some financial difficulties, I sincerely believe that if the government were to truly take its responsibilities and stop scorning the Quebec nation, it would transfer that $2.2 billion to the province. That money would pay for the social programs that Quebec has chosen to implement, such as $7-a-day daycare for single mothers who want to go back to work or return to their studies. That costs money. It provides direct assistance to women.
In general, women who have part-time jobs are eligible for employment insurance. If a person who earns $9 per hour three days a week gets 55% of her salary, she will be living below the poverty line. I have much more to say on the subject of women, but I will move on to other matters.
Our seniors are our library. These are the people who built our society, who educated us and who raised us. These people have been forgotten. I am talking about the guaranteed income supplement.
I meet women who are living off their old age pension, which is $500 per month. How is anyone supposed to pay for housing, food, clothing, electricity and medication on less than $7,000 per year?
Not helping these people spend their retirement years and the last years of their lives in dignity suggests a truly narrow vision. It is unacceptable. Stranger still is the fact that when these people owe the government money for taxes, it does not take long for the government to collect. However, when it comes to helping vulnerable people, most of whom are women, the government just forgets. Apparently, it is a little more complicated to help these people than it is to collect money from them.
Just as unacceptable is the discrepancy between what this government promised when it was in opposition and what it is doing now that it is in power. That is what we call selective memory.
They talk about voting for power. I have power from my electors, the power to defend their values and needs in the House, be it in terms of agriculture or otherwise.
We asked for just over $625 million for the agri-flex program. The government gave nothing. They are simply holding consultations, but meanwhile nothing is being fixed. While they are travelling around Canada visiting farms, nothing is being fixed.
It is the role of government, which the public trusts, to fix what is broken. If the Conservatives are not able to fix what is broken, they can just stand aside and let us have our own country. We will fix our problems without always having to be at the mercy of a centralizing government that does not share our values. It is not that our values are better or worse, they are simply different.
The government could have found other ways to get money. In 2008, when we came back after the election, the said that Canada had no problems. I do not know what colour his glasses were, but all of a sudden everything changed. This is the same minister who was once Ontario's finance minister. Things did not go well at the provincial level either. I wonder if it is mere coincidence that this happened twice or is it just a lack of knowledge?
The Bloc is doing a thorough job. It visits its electors every week, every month and every year in order to find out what they need. It would have been easy enough to get money from tax havens, which are worth $3 billion. That amount would help many young families with limited means.
Also, Quebec's equalization payments should be restored. We pay 25% of the bill and the $3 billion would have been a tremendous help to Quebec. In addition, there is the $2 billion for the GST, and Hydro-Québec's $400 million still locked in the federal government's coffers. This money has not been returned to Quebec. All these items add up to $6, $7 or $8 billion. It is as though this money was owed. It is not an amount owing, it is a right. This money belongs to Quebec and must be returned to Quebec.
There is also the matter of Quebec's responsibilities, in health, for example. The population is aging. Money is being transferred in small doses, and is not flowing very quickly into the population. For that reason, we must make intelligent investments and the money we send to Ottawa must be returned. This is taxpayers' money, money from people in my riding. They are experiencing difficulties or are going bankrupt because the money is not being returned. They have to feed their families and pay their bills.
This bill will mainly help banks and the oil sands industry by providing tax credits to oil companies and all the rest. I find that unfair.
Quebec has chosen to provide social programs such as a child care program, among others. That is the choice that we have made and we cover the cost.
Government expenditures must be cut. The government says that it cut 245 positions, phantom jobs that were already empty. They are abolishing 245 jobs, but creating 300 others to manage other things. I may not be a mathematician, but I do know how to do the math. When you get rid of five people and then hire 300, that makes an additional 295 hires.
There is also a great deal of duplication. There are officials at the Quebec ministry of health and officials at the federal health department. This is something that should be looked at in order to better manage public funds.
I will leave some time for members to ask questions, which I welcome. The Bloc Québécois is opposed to this bill and I am proud of that because it is not a good bill.
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak briefly to Bill , the budget bill, and what this means to most Canadians.
My constituents of Don Valley East are concerned, as in general this budget has very little positive impact on the average Canadian. Instead they feel the budget is providing businesses greater profits on the backs of average hard-working Canadians. For example, the budget does not provide any real relief for the unemployed or any hope for those who are in imminent danger of losing their employment.
Currently 1.5 million Canadians have lost their jobs and more will lose their jobs due to the inaction of the government. Young people are especially vulnerable. The current unemployment rate for youths is 16%, the highest it has ever been. The government needs to develop a strategy to get these Canadians back to work. It is very simple. If people work, they can spend and with that spending, they can enhance the economy.
The one thing the government has boasted about is the stimulus plan, the economic action plan. I would like to do a reality check on the action plan. So far the stimulus plan of the government has only created photo opportunities for ministers, a feel-good advertising campaign, which is all talk and no show, and false promises of jobs.
The question being asked by many Canadians is this. Where are the jobs that the government claims it is creating, the full-time well-paying jobs? A reality check, after the first year of the stimulus plan, is there are very few full-time well-paying jobs for Canadians.
The and his officials are unable to verify either how much of the stimulus money has been spent or the numbers of jobs that have actually been created. How could they? They do not track the job numbers. The question my constituents are asking is this. Where are the thousands of jobs that the government is claiming it has created?
We understand the government spent about $250 million on advertising. How much did it spend on job creation? It was $9.4 million. If one does the math, the proportion is 1:25, $1 on job creation, $25 on advertising. That does not create jobs. The government needs to be more strategic in job creation and needs to spend less on advertising.
To add insult to injury, we have learned that more than $1 billion of this stimulus plan in the last budget did not even leave the federal coffers. How can that be possible? By not spending the money, the government can claim it managed the deficit. Talk about manipulating the public. How can Canadians trust it?
The government also lacks an economic antenna and fiscal credibility. Just last October, the claimed there was no recession, no economic crisis. The Prime Minister claimed that he would never create a deficit. It just goes to show that the Conservatives have never balanced a budget. The last time they did it was during the time of Prime Minister Borden, which was when the Titanic sank.
What are some suggestions that the government can do? It could extend the home renovation tax credit, with a new emphasis on energy efficiency and retrofit and build affordable housing for Canadians across the land. These are really the social determinants of the health of Canadians.
The government could invest in eco-energy retrofits and research and development to create value-added jobs. Canada has the technology and the know-how, but it needs a government to provide a conducive environment, not a government that cannot think beyond ideology, like it did with the Avro.
The government has a reverse-Midas touch. It kills everything that is good and progressive for Canadians, like the popular eco-energy retrofit program.
It is also a well-known fact that the most effective economic multipliers that provide stimulus are infrastructure. For every dollar that is invested, $1.60 comes back. In housing, the yield is $1.50 per $1 investment. Investing in the unemployed gives back $1.60.
Instead of doing the logical thing, what does the government do? It brings in a payroll tax. Increasing EI premiums, which is a payroll tax, kills jobs and is not an efficient way for the government to collect revenues. Canadians cannot figure out how the government can be so economically obtuse. A payroll tax of $13 billion to small and medium-sized enterprises is not an incentive for businesses to create jobs.
Officials from finance tell us that a percentage change in GDP equals approximately $16 billion and that its impact on job creation is around 0.6%. This means that $16 billion would create 96,000 jobs. However, the government's investment is only one-quarter of that, so how can it claim it is creating thousands of jobs? This is a plain falsehood.
One of the biggest losers of the stimulus program has been the women. They have not benefited from the stimulus package. Women have only seen a small part of the action in the Conservative government's economic action plan.
As the federal government rolled out the budget, a new study by Queen's University Professor Kathleen Lahey argued that men were seeing a disproportionate share of the benefits of Ottawa's record spending over the past years. Professor Lahey says that the top question for the government this week should be what budget 2010 will do to ensure that women receive a fair share of the benefits of these costly initiatives. Women have only seen a small part of the action in the Conservative government's economic action plan.
The study notes that of the $9.4 billion spent to date on stimulus, only $572,475, that is, 0.00006%, has gone to upgrade women's shelters, when nearly triple that amount has been committed to upgrading three animal shelters in Canada. While the care of animals is something very close to my heart, I believe the care of abused women should take precedence.
As I mentioned previously, the government has decided to massively increase EI premiums in 2011 for both the employees and employers. This impacts women and youth who are trying to seek employment or getting back into the workforce. How imposing a payroll tax helps stimulate the economy boggles one's mind.
The government also has proven itself to be an incompetent fiscal manager. In 2006 it inherited a $13.2 billion surplus, which carried over to the following year to about $9 billion. Today we find ourselves with a $56 billion deficit. When we add that up, it works out to over $70 billion in three and a half years that we have lost. That is shameful. If the government can claim it is an economic manager, I shudder to think what it would do next.
The government is putting a burden on every Canadian adult and child to the tune of $3,000, a burden on some who have not even started walking, let alone working.
What does the government have to show for this massive mismanagement of finance? There is nothing for seniors, women or the unemployed. There is no social housing, nothing for the homeless, older workers or informal caregivers.
What about the environment? Yesterday we learned that Alberta was facing a huge shortage of water. Why? Because of the lack of rain and snow. Climate change is a science that the Conservative government still refuses to accept.
What about R and D? The government let the space agency funds lapse and got rid of the government's leading scientists.
The budget does nothing for most Canadians. It is truly unfair to those who are most vulnerable and who care about the environment or the future. It affects the public service and programs of Canadians. The budget reinforces my belief that Conservatives are not here for average Canadians. They are only here for their ideological friends.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill , the budget implementation bill.
An implementation bill often contains fine print. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. The government often tries to slip in certain measures in implementation bills that it did not announce in the budget. These measures end up in the overall bill, as do all the technicalities and all the details on implementing the budget. Everything must be read very carefully because often the government tries to pull a fast one, as is the case in this bill.
Fortunately, this poses no problem to the Bloc Québécois since it was already against the budget, which in no way meets the needs of Quebec in a context of economic crisis and the crisis in the forestry and manufacturing sectors. Obviously we will be voting against the budget implementation bill.
I have discovered that the budget says nothing at all about the restriction on Canada Post’s exclusive privilege that the implementation bill would introduce. Once that measure is implemented, it will allow exporters of letters to collect letters in Canada and transport and deliver them abroad. That means that Canada Post’s competitors will be able to collect mail in Canada and Quebec and then ship it outside Canada.
The people in the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have been publicly calling on the government for a long time to preserve jobs in this sector. Instead of listening to them, the government has proposed a measure that will end Canada Post’s exclusive privilege.
On June 17, 2009, the Conservative government introduced Bill to eliminate international mail from Canada Post’s exclusive privilege. The bill, which made it to second reading, died on the order paper because the House was prorogued. It died, like all other government bills.
So they decided to short-circuit the democratic process. They put that measure in the budget implementation bill. That shows the insidious nature of the Conservative government and its real intention to completely deregulate this crown corporation.
The people in our various ridings, particularly in rural regions, are continually lobbying for the survival of postal services as we know them today. This is not a matter of closing your eyes and thinking there should be no change in the services. But we know how governments work. I say governments because the Liberals did the same thing in their time. They were closing post offices in the regions left and right, saying they weren’t profitable. But we have the evidence that Canada Post is actually very profitable.
We have to accept that the services we receive in the regions must be paid for and that they may be less profitable than other services, but they do make it possible for a community to survive and keep its services. It is the same thing for schools and financial institutions. When those establishments close down, one after another, the regions lose their vitality and their population declines. These are services the public is entitled to. We pay for these services and governments use sleight of hand to reduce those services.
The Bloc Québécois is firmly opposed to privatizing Canada Post, even partially. This crown corporation must continue to be a public agency and maintain universal services with uniform rates throughout Quebec and Canada. When these services are eliminated, all rural regions suffer the same fate.
The change to the Employment Insurance Act is also not in the actual budget but in the implementation bill. The Bloc Québécois has been calling for substantial improvements in the employment insurance system.
A few examples of this would be to administer the system on the assumption that applicants are acting in good faith; increase the program's wage replacement rate to 60% of maximum insurable earnings; eliminate the much-discussed waiting period; standardize the qualification requirements for benefits at 360 hours of work; calculate benefits on the basis of the 12 best weeks of insurable earnings; expand the right of recipients to continue receiving benefits while receiving training; and make self-employed workers eligible for regular benefits.
More generally, we believe that the government should submit a plan for reimbursing the funds diverted to its own accounts from the employment insurance fund. It should also drop its obvious intention to loot this fund once again; the fund does not belong to the government.
We are very concerned about certain provisions in the implementation bill. The Conservatives’ 2008 budget established a new crown corporation, the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board, reporting to the . This board’s duties included administering a separate bank account. Any annual surpluses in the employment insurance fund were supposed to be retained and invested until needed to cover the costs of the program.
Budget 2010 closes the board’s separate bank account, the EI account, and creates a new one, the employment insurance operating account.
They are permanently eliminating the accumulated surpluses in the EI account, effective retroactively to January 1, 2009. This account will therefore no longer exist and will be replaced by the employment insurance operating account, which will start from zero. The EI surpluses, amounting to more than $57 billion on March 31, 2009, according to the Public Accounts of Canada, will disappear for good.
We very much regret the fact that there is no mention of the reforms needed to make employment insurance more accessible. That is a real problem. Most people who contribute to employment insurance do not necessarily qualify for it.
My colleague from spoke about the situation of women, who are especially affected. They are the least able to access employment insurance. It is nearly as bad for young people. People contribute to EI but are not entitled to the fruits of their labour, that is to say, benefits. When someone loses his or her job and has paid into the system, that person should have benefits for a little time before finding another job. Unfortunately, though, some people cannot even get employment insurance benefits.
Furthermore, lifting the freeze on premium rates will not improve the system. The government will not hesitate to pilfer $19 billion from the employment insurance fund between 2011 and 2015.
When the Conservatives were the official opposition, they, like the other opposition parties, publicly criticized the pillaging of the employment insurance fund by the Liberals who were in power at the time. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin, when he was finance minister, was mandated by Jean Chrétien to get Canada's finances in order. He did two things: he pilfered from the EI fund and cut transfers to provinces.
The Conservatives were highly critical of these measures. They took power a few years later, and are now pilfering $19 billion from the EI fund themselves. For that reason alone, we must vote against the budget implementation bill.
Between 2011-12 and 2014-15, the government has estimated the surplus at $19.2 billion. With the 2010 budget, the government will be able to pocket these surpluses.
In order to generate these surpluses, the government plans on increasing premium rates by 15¢ a year, as of 2011, as permitted under the act. However, I must note that the increase will be suggested by the EI Financing Board, which we find very worrisome.
I will talk about other changes we found in the implementation bill, such as an amendment to the Banking Act, which will enable credit unions to incorporate as banks
I have just mentioned some aspects of the implementation bill that show that this government has tried to slip in some completely unacceptable measures. The people of Quebec are calling on us to vote against this bill.
Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today and give thanks to the proud, hard-working people of .
I left a job I loved to run for elected office because I believed, and still believe today, that it is the job of government to make life better for Canadians and to have a plan, a real plan, to build for a better tomorrow.
Where is the help now for Canadian families in the budget? The budget comes up short and often offers mere gimmicks; for example, superficial tax changes to the universal child benefit that do not benefit low income and single parents.
Almost 20% of my riding is engaged in manufacturing, the second highest percentage for the entire country. About 25% of the families in my riding are headed by single parents who regularly work two jobs just to put food on the table for their children. As a result, I have served as the vice-chair for our Toronto breakfast programs. Sadly, we feed 100,000 students every morning in the city. That means one in four of our students go to school hungry, and hungry children cannot learn.
My riding has the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in children in Ontario. Children develop diabetes because it is the choice between a $5 litre of orange juice versus a $2 double litre of orange pop. The choice is clear for parents trying to stretch each dollar.
We will offer a real alternative, a better offer to Canadians: quality early childhood care and education. Canadian researchers calculated a two to one economic and social return for every dollar invested in child care. American researchers demonstrate a three or four to one return for low income families, and show that childhood development programs could have a substantial payoff for governments, improve labour skills, reduce poverty and improve global competitiveness.
Where is the help now for our seniors in the budget? A mere $10 million to encourage volunteerism and a day of recognition is a far cry from concrete help to fix pensions.
Where is the investment in our aging population? We have a federal government that has hardly uttered the word “health” for the last four years. Yet, worldwide there is concern that the baby boomers are retiring and entering their high demand period for health care. In Canada there will be 7.5 million people over the age of 65 by 2025. Population aging has tremendous implications for Canada, where most elderly people would not be able to meet more than a small fraction of the cost of the health care they incur. The average hospital stay in Canada costs $7,000 and does not take into account emergency or cardiac care.
Where is the investment in prevention? Worldwide the leading global risks for fatality are high blood pressure, responsible for 13% of deaths globally; tobacco use, 9%; high blood glucose, 6%; physical inactivity, 6%; overweight and obesity, 5%. These risks are responsible for raising the risk of chronic diseases such as cancers, diabetes and heart disease. Reducing exposure to the aforementioned risk factors, along with reduced alcohol use, cholesterol, and high fruit and vegetable intake would increase global life expectancy by an astounding five years.
Illnesses associated with aging such as cardiovascular disease and cancer cost $20 billion and $13 billion respectively. Moreover, the impacts of brain and psychological diseases are greater than cancer and cardiovascular disease combined.
Today, someone in Canada develops dementia every five minutes. This will change to one new case every two minutes in 30 years. In 30 years the prevalence of dementia in Canada will more than double, with the costs increasing tenfold if no changes are made. This means the total cost associated with this mind-robbing disease could reach $153 billion by 2038, up from the $15 billion a year today.
The Alzheimer's Society of Canada suggests four key ways to slow the growth in cases of Alzheimer's and dementia: promote healthier lifestyles including encouraging people over age 65 to increase their physical activity levels; add system navigators to guide families through the complex health care system; invest in support and education for caregivers; and combine risk reduction strategies to delay the onset of dementia by two years, particularly through the discovery of new treatments.
If we could merely slow the onset of dementia by two years for each affected Canadian, we would see a return on investment of 15,000% over a 30 year research effort. One of the biggest challenges we face, therefore, is how to best prevent and postpone disease and to maintain the health, independence and mobility of an aging population.
As someone who taught at a business school, I understand that we must slay our country's biggest deficit in history of $56 billion, but that we cannot do it by destroying what makes us Canada and in some cases, uniquely Canadian. We must dream of the future we want, whether it is the future of health care or the future of the earth's climate.
Incidentally, where was the investment in climate change and clean energy jobs in the budget? A mere $25 million does not cut it when the government spent almost none of its green infrastructure fund last year. It does not cut it when President Obama invested $50 billion for green jobs, the United Kingdom invested $1.5 billion, Germany invested $13.8 billion, and China invested $221 billion, or 110 times that of the U.K.
For a second year in a row the government is using the budget bill to weaken federal environmental laws. These amendments have nothing to do with implementing the budget and are a direct attack on Parliament.
Parliamentary review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is required to get under way by June 2010. The parliamentary standing committee is planning to start this review in May. Why not present these amendments to the committee as part of the review process and let members of Parliament determine if these amendments are necessary?
One last issue to cover today. I have always loved to listen to our vets and today I am honoured to serve Royal Canadian Legion Branch 286 in my riding. The most important lesson I ever learned from our veterans, while growing up, was that they went to war for my mom's generation, for my generation, and for those to come. They did not go for their own and 100,000 never came home.
I have never forgotten what one vet said to me, namely, “What will you and your friends do for the next generations? We are entrusting you with the future we fought for”.
We have to negotiate for our children who are not here. We have to accept moral responsibility. With every tough decision it is important to ask, is this something my children would be proud of? This is not a budget that looks ahead at the challenges of our times. It is hard to see how it will make Canada more competitive, more prosperous, or better prepared to create jobs or protect pensions.
We must start building for the future. We face tough decisions including our growing deficit, the future of our health care system, our warming climate, all of which will have an impact on future generations.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill , the budget implementation act. I would like to spend my time talking about some of the things that are in the bill but also about some of the things that are not in the bill and things that should be discussed.
I certainly appreciate the comments of my colleague across the way and thank her very much for those comments.
Let me talk about a couple of things that are in the budget that will create hardships not just for people in Thunder Bay—Rainy River in northwestern Ontario, but right across northern Ontario and other regions across the country. There is the increase of 50% in security fees in the airline tax. That is one of those hidden things that people will be hit with. There is the HST on financial services. We have talked about some of the problems with that before. Another is employment insurance.
Employment insurance is of particular interest to our party, to me and to our member from New Brunswick who is the critic in that area. The budget implementation bill empties the employment insurance account which held a surplus of roughly $57 billion. That was money paid by workers and employers which had built up over many years. The bill empties that account once and for all.
People talk about the budget being a budget that says nothing. There are a number of things in it that we need to be aware of.
There is very little said about pensions. I suspect that the who is now going across the country will be getting an earful about pensions. We know where pensions need to go in this country. We are really in the dark ages as far as pensions are concerned. The NDP has a plan and we put it forward. The Minister of Finance is aware of what we are talking about regarding reforming the pension system.
I will make a quick plug for Bill which will be coming up for debate next month. It is a bill that moves workers' pensions from unsecured into secured status. It is a very simple, straightforward bill. I am hoping that everyone in the House will support it, including my colleagues from Saskatchewan and other places whom we try to co-operate with as much as possible. I am sure we will find some common ground on Bill C-501 and will be able to push it through very quickly to protect workers.
Imagine a country where workers and employers who paid into pension funds actually get the money back in the case of bankruptcy. That is what the bill would do. I certainly hope that members will support it.
I do not want to be completely negative when I talk about the budget. The budget extends the mineral exploration tax credit for another year, which is good. I am glad that the government has done that. The government is at least taking a couple of steps forward to fight contraband cigarettes with a new stamping regime which is a good thing. The budget also enacts certain payments to some charities, for example the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, the Rick Hansen Foundation and others. That is also a good thing.
Let me move from examining the propaganda in the budget speech to the nuts and bolts of Bill . We see that the Conservative government continues to sell out our long-term interest for questionable short-term gains.
I was not surprised to see many items in Bill , the HST payment to McGuinty's Liberals for example, a freeze on MPs' salaries and office budgets and huge corporate tax cuts. These were all expected.
Buried deep in the 904 pages of legal jargon that is Bill there are also provisions that eliminate the need for environmental assessments for stimulus projects, enable the sale of crown assets like Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, and increase the export tariff penalty for Canadian forestry producers.
Given that we are blessed with a beautiful and relatively pristine natural environment in northwestern Ontario, I am very concerned that environmental assessments will no longer need to be completed before infrastructure stimulus projects get under way.
While the Canadian economy is in desperate need of public investment, northwestern Ontario is in desperate need of new roads and highways right through the region. I would rather have a month or two delay on these projects so as to ensure that they comply with existing environmental regulations and do not have negative long-term effects on our natural environment, which many families in our region depend upon for their economic well-being.
Just as it does not make sense to cancel environmental assessments in the name of short-term economic stimulus, it also makes little sense to sell off profitable crown corporations and crown assets when we are facing many years of large fiscal deficits.
In the case of AECL, Bill lays the groundwork for the selling off of particular assets or of the company as a whole, even though the company is one of the world's largest producers of nuclear technology and brings in millions of dollars each year through the sale and licensing of its cutting-edge technology. Would it not make more sense to halt the $100 million ad campaign the Conservatives are using to promote their budget? Imagine $100 million being spent on ads to promote themselves; the Conservatives are using that to promote their budget supposedly.
How about reducing the $60 billion in corporate tax cuts before selling off a proven long-term money maker? The answer is obvious but the government has never shown an ability to look beyond the next poll when it comes to its decision making.
Perhaps the most troubling detail contained in the fine print of Bill is the acceptance and enforcement of the London Court of International Arbitration ruling that Canadian forest companies owe $68 million to their U.S. counterparts, $68.26 million to be exact, due to an unintentional violation of the softwood lumber agreement. In fact, the unintentional violation is the government's fault. To comply with this ruling, the Conservative government included a provision in Bill that increases the export tariff on softwood lumber products from Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan by 10% immediately.
When one subtracts the paltry $25 million in new forest sector investment that is also contained in the budget, Canada's forestry sector will actually be forced to pay out $43 million in new taxes and tariffs this year just as it begins to emerge from a catastrophic decade-long downturn. It makes no sense. At the very least, since the tribunal has already ruled, the government should be on the hook, not forest companies that are struggling to manage and are just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It is a horrible situation in Bill , eliminating the need for environmental assessments on infrastructure projects and selling off profitable assets while running massive long-term deficits.
I talked about AECL. Also contained in Bill is the beginning, the thin edge of the wedge, in starting to dismantle Canada Post. Think of all the fine public sector workers who have good jobs, work hard, are paid well and have pensions at the end of their time. There is nothing wrong with people working hard, getting paid well, raising their families and having a little pension when they get to the end of their working lives. There is nothing wrong with that, but the government is making it more and more difficult for people in Canada to do that.
Surely Bill will go down as one of the most shortsighted and misguided budget documents ever before the House of Commons. Should the Liberals and Conservatives band together to pass this bill, as they did with the HST, then both parties must share the blame for the substantial damage that it is likely to cause to the long-term economic and environmental interests in our region.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this government bill. One could have a number of bones to pick with the bill, but I will focus on three.
The first is the extraordinary slowness with which the government has sent out the money, thereby having a very limited impact on jobs, as confirmed recently by the government's ideological soulmate, the Fraser Institute. The second is the lack of direct action on jobs. The third is the fact that without admitting it, the Conservatives are imposing tax hikes in a number of areas, notably a tax on jobs by raising employment insurance premiums.
While we believe these are bad aspects of the bill, we do not think they are so egregiously bad as to warrant a general election at this time. As we have said a number of times, the Liberal Party will vote against the bill, but not in sufficient numbers to provoke an election.
Let me begin on the subject of the slowness of the stimulus money. We have been saying for many months that the government should have pursued a gas tax type mechanism, which would have allowed it to quickly transfer funds to municipalities. They then would have been able to quickly get shovels in the ground and create jobs months ago when the recession was at its deepest. The government refused to do that.
We have seen evidence over many weeks and months that a small fraction of the money had gone out the door. More recent, the Fraser Institute confirmed this by saying that the government stimulus spending had little effect on jobs.
Some may know that the Fraser Institute is an arch right-wing institute, an ideological soulmate of the government. Yet the attacked this report with great ferocity. There are two separate points worth making in this regard.
First, as the himself said, fiscal stimulus was the right thing to do in the middle of the greatest recession the world has seen since the 1930s. In this respect, the Prime Minister has moved away from his traditional soulmate and joined the rest of the world in recognizing that at this time John Maynard Keynes had made a remark about return from the dead and that his kind of policy was the order of the day. In that sense, I, my party and the Prime Minister are on the same page.
The second point is it is the inefficiency with which the government carried out these Keynesian policies, which is what we are now criticizing. As the Fraser Institute study noted, the fact is very little money had gone out and very little impact on the economy in 2009 came from the government's stimulus, and not because stimulus is a bad thing, but because the government managed it ineffectively.
The worst part of the recession, hopefully, unless something gets worse, was in 2009. That was the time when the job stimulus was most needed and because of the ineffective way in which the government managed it, very little help was provided in 2009 for those desperately needing work.
The second aspect is that partly because of this ineffective action, there is still a jobs crisis in the country. Yes, the GDP has shown improvement, but what really counts for many Canadians is jobs. The unemployment rate remains at 8.2% and the recent performance for permanent jobs has been poor.
Before the budget, we had proposed to the government that it adopt a number of policies to directly promote jobs. We proposed a policy to directly help manufacturing and forestry jobs through the accelerated capital cost allowance. We proposed tax incentives to directly help youth jobs because youth face an unemployment rate twice the national average. We had also proposed a policy to help the jobs of the future in the high tech sector. These proposals were at a reasonable fiscal cost.
Indeed, we identified wasteful spending by the Conservative government in areas like partisan advertising. Had it cut that wasteful spending in addition to following to our job proposals, the net impact would have been to reduce the deficit.
The government would have none of it. It adopted none of our job proposals. At the same time, the government carried on with its partisan advertising spending. That had a second negative and unfortunate impact on Canadian jobs.
My third and final point is the Conservative government continues to claim that it is not raising taxes, but over and over again in place after place we find out it is indeed raising taxes.
I am not talking just about employment insurance premiums, but about a number of other charges as well. The Conservatives will raise Canadians' taxes with this bill, but they claim they are not raising taxes.
It is not just a question of whether tax increases are a good thing or a bad thing. It is also a question of honesty, transparency and clarity with the Canadian people when the government is proposing significant tax hikes in a number of areas while denying it is raising taxes at all.
The first and most significant of these is huge increases in employment insurance premiums, starting next year, to the point where by year four those premiums will be up by $6 billion per year. The additional revenues arising from the EI premium hikes will amount to $6 billion a year, which happens to be about the same effect as if the Conservatives were to hike the GST by one point. That would also bring in $6 billion per year.
I might note that this same issue of job-killing EI premium tax hikes is at the heart of the U.K. election campaign as we speak. The counterparts of the Canadian Conservatives, the British Conservatives, are objecting to the job-killing employment insurance premium hikes announced for the United Kingdom.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has estimated that these job-killing EI premium hikes will kill no less than 200,000 jobs in our country. Given the fact that we are facing a continuing crisis in jobs, this is surely a misguided policy at this time.
It is not as if the government is content to only raise taxes in the form of EI premiums. It is also raising taxes on airport security and on research. Post-doctoral research fellows who previously enjoyed a tax exemption will now have to pay tax. It is even putting taxes on toupees. The government seems to be taxing here, there and everywhere. There are new taxes on jobs, health, research and travel, while at the same time it is claiming there are no new taxes.
For these and many other reasons, the Liberal Party will oppose the bill. We oppose it because it has been ineffective and extraordinarily slow in terms of fiscal stimulus. We oppose it because it does little or nothing directly to create or save jobs. We oppose it because of the job-killing EI premium tax hikes and tax hikes in other areas, while at the same time the government pretends it is not raising taxes at all.
Mr. Speaker, the bill before us is the budget implementation bill.
Since we were opposed to this budget, because it did not address any of Quebec's demands or concerns, we will of course also oppose the budget implementation bill. But as Bloc MPs and representatives of Quebec, we all plan to be here in the House, unlike the members of other opposition parties, to vote against this bill and try to stop this legislation that does not address any of Quebec's needs or concerns.
Before the budget was tabled, during the time the gave us when he prorogued Parliament and locked us out, our finance critic, the member for , toured Quebec. He visited Lanaudière, Gaspé, the North Shore, Saguenay, the Outaouais, the Montreal area, the Quebec City area—the national capital—Abitibi, Montérégie and the Eastern Townships. He came to Joliette to meet with socio-economic stakeholders. People expressed a number of concerns and needs during this tour. One thing that clearly emerged was that Quebec, like Canada, needs a phase 2 of the recovery plan.
Whole industries have been forgotten by the Conservative government. I am thinking of forestry, aerospace and the manufacturing sector in general. Once again, we do not disagree with the efforts made to help the auto industry, which is heavily concentrated in southern Ontario. But we are seeing a lack of fairness, since the forestry and aerospace industries are being left out. And yet we know that in these sectors of the economy, the recovery that seems to be just around the corner is having no effect. On the contrary, even more big layoffs are planned, both at the sawmills and at the pulp and paper plants, or even in aerospace, particularly among small subcontractors.
What we needed was phase 2 of the recovery plan, and that was made clear from the consultations held by my colleague from . The government has simply kept going down the unfair path it laid out in last year’s budget. No change is being made to respond to the concerns of the people and the various regions of Quebec.
When it comes to employment insurance, there again, there is no response to what workers, unions and municipal leaders have been calling for. We are well aware of the fact that, with adequate income security, not only would workers affected by layoffs have a minimum social safety net, but the regions could also maintain a degree of economic dynamism. Very clearly, if someone loses their job at Louisiana Pacific in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, the employment insurance benefits they receive will be used to pay the grocer in Saint-Michel-des-Saints and to buy clothing in Saint-Michel-des-Saints or Joliette. That will then help to maintain a minimum level of economic activity. The Conservatives’ approach has been to cut both corporate and personal income tax for the benefit of the wealthiest, the most well-off. What do those people do with the money? More often than not, they put it in tax shelters or send it to tax havens, as we unfortunately see all too often. Again yesterday there was a report about this happening.
In the case of corporations, the ones that get these tax cuts get them because they are making profits, while the ones that are not making a profit have received no form of assistance from the Conservative government.
On the question of employment insurance, we were hoping that the government would make an effort to make it an adequate social safety net. I would point out that in this respect the Liberals are just as guilty as the Conservatives. Let us not forget the famous Axworthy reform. The only “reform” about it was the name, because in fact it simply made a hash of employment insurance.
At the time, seven or eight people in ten contributed and could collect employment insurance if they lost their jobs. After the Axworthy reforms, this fell to four people in ten who contributed but were not necessarily entitled to benefits because of the excessively restrictive rules implemented by the Liberal government and maintained by the Conservatives. That explains why we have these huge surpluses.
Turning to what Quebec might expect regarding equalization, the promised for example during the 2005-06 election campaign to change the formula. He also promised not to change it unilaterally. Last year, the changed it unilaterally by capping it, resulting in a $1 billion loss for Quebec. This is a recurrent loss.
The government has been unfair to Quebec in other ways as well. For example, there is the way in which Hydro-Québec revenues are treated in comparison with those of Ontario Hydro, resulting in a loss to Quebec of $250 million a year since 2008. It is absolutely incomprehensible. The capping of equalization, as I said, cost us $1 billion last year. There is talk now of $357 million a year, and this will continue. For example, between 2002 and 2004, the Government of Quebec received a little more in equalization than it was entitled to because the situation had improved. If my memory is correct, it was $2.3 or $2.4 billion more. The federal government asked the Government of Quebec to pay back the excess amount, and every year the Quebec government has to transfer $238 million to Ottawa, while the other provinces that also received too much have not been required to pay anything. That is what is called protection money. Here too there is $238 million a year that Quebec loses, which eats away terribly at its financial situation.
There is also the matter of the harmonization of the GST and QST. That is $2.2 billion that the Government of Quebec is entitled to but has not received. It is totally absurd. How is it that the first jurisdiction to have harmonized its sales tax with the federal GST has never been compensated while all the others that followed have been compensated? It is very clear that the Conservative government wants to use this debate and these negotiations over compensating Quebec for harmonizing its sales tax with the GST to try to take over the collection of the GST and the QST, which has been done since 1992 by the Government of Quebec.
What they want ultimately from the Government of Quebec and all Quebeckers is an act of submission in order to receive this $2.2 billion, even though Quebec is entitled to it for simple reasons of fairness and equal treatment with Ontario, British Columbia and the three Atlantic provinces. We obviously have an awful lot of grievances.
I am short on time, so I will not talk about the government's crazy plans for a Canada-wide securities commission, a plan despised by all financial stakeholders in Quebec, a plan with the sole objective of taking away Quebec's only remaining financial levers. Nobody in Quebec agrees with this plan. It is unacceptable to the Quebec nation and to all Quebeckers, be they federalist or sovereignist.
Everyone can see that there is absolutely nothing in this bill that is good for Quebec. That is why we will vote against this budget.
Mr. Speaker, I do ask your indulgence and the indulgence of members but in light of the terrible tragedy in Poland, I want to acknowledge the Poles in my constituency of . St. Anthony's Church in my riding has a Polish mass once a week. It is the home of St. Faustina Kowalska Polish Mission's Rev. Jan Grotkowski. Like other members, my heart goes out to the people of Poland and the people of Polish descent. We offer our prayers and our best wishes.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the budget. I have had the opportunity on other occasions to speak to an issue that matters a lot to me, which is the issue of poverty. I will not focus on that today but I take every opportunity I can to commend to members reading the Senate report, “In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness”. I commend Senator Eggleton and Senator Segal for the work they did leading that group.
The human resources committee of the House of Commons is doing the same kind of work. I see a colleague of mine from B.C. who is on that committee. The work has gone on for a couple of years and I am very hopeful that the committee will be coming to a conclusion and issuing a report. This country needs to do more about poverty and the Government of Canada needs to follow the lead of the six provinces that have anti-poverty strategies. I do not think the government has done anywhere near enough for the people who are most in need in this constituency, and I hope we can do much more.
I also do not like the fact that we have frozen our overseas development assistance. I think that is a huge mistake. Canada is abdicating a place that was head in the world, which may not have been enough but which was better, which was a symbol of peace and democracy and also a symbol of support and partnership for developing countries.
The budget is very weak on the environment and has been criticized for its lack of action. After the embarrassment of Copenhagen, we need to do more.
I want to talk about three specific things, the first being on the research and innovation side with the Canadian Council on Learning not having its funding renewed. This is a travesty. The Canadian Council on Learning was set up in 2004 and was set up to help develop a coherent vision for education, particularly post-secondary education in Canada. It has done amazing work. It has received plaudits, not only in Canada but from outside agencies as well who have said that the work of the Canadian Council on Learning must on, and everybody assumed that it would go on. I think even the Government of Canada assumed that.
I have a copy of a letter here that the sent in May 2009 to Robert Giroux, the chair of the board of directors of CCL, where she says, “I agree the Canadian Council on Learning has played a key role in supporting efforts in this area of knowledge and skills”. She also says, “I understand the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada officials began discussions with CCL in the summer of 2007 about stabilizing strategies for the organization”.
CCL has put out some fabulous information, which is what Canada needs. When we talk about research and innovation and about where Canada is, we have always been a very educated country but we are losing the edge that we had as we focus less on research and innovation and education and other countries focus more on those things.
In fact, CCL has produced, as part of its composite learning index, a chart that looks at a number of countries, Australia, EU countries, Germany, U.S., Switzerland, U.K., New Zealand and Canada, and looks at a number of areas where education can be measured. For example, has there been a major review in the last five years? Every country, yes, but Canada, no. Has there been system-wide goals and objectives? Every country, yes, but Canada, no. Is funding aligned with national priorities? Other countries, yes, but Canada, no. Are quality assurance agencies in place? Other countries, yes, but Canada, no. These are the things we need to have. We need to have accountability in education. We need to know where we are. We need surveillance. We need to know where we are in terms of having a national post-secondary education strategy, and we do not have that. It is my view, and I think the view of many others, that is just totally and completely foolish.
When people heard that the Canadian Council on Learning was being shut down or that the federal funding, which provides almost all of the funding, was being shut down, they could not believe it. Arati Sharma, the national director of CASA, said:
|| Without the research of groups such as the Canadian Council on Learning, Canada will continue to lack the knowledge needed to improve access, persistence and quality in our post-secondary institutions.
A Toronto Star editorial stated:
|| But without the council's work, it will be more difficult for us to know how we stack up as a nation.
Cary Brown, an associate professor at the University of Alberta, said that the loss of funding to an organization like CCL is shocking and short-sighted.
Even the Secretary-General of the OECD sent a letter to the of Canada saying that we need to keep CCL in place. That is how important this work has been.
Why would the government cancel the funding for CCL? It is not a huge amount of money. The best thing we could say about this decision is that it is stupid. The worst thing we could say about it is that it was a deliberate attempt to hide the inadequacies of the government. When we have a decision that the best thing we can say about is that it is stupid, it does not speak very highly of where we are going in post-secondary education, at least in coming to terms with where we need to be to compete with other nations.
We also had the example in this budget of the cancelling of the tax exemption for post-doctoral fellowships. This is something that not a lot of Canadians may understand but it will have a big impact on research and innovation in Canada.
The , in defending that decision, had come up with the idea that the average salary of a post-doctoral fellowship student was $70,000 a year. In fact, the average salary is less $40,000 a year. It is nowhere near $70,000 a year. We have 6,000 post-docs in Canada, a large number of whom will be hit, in terms of taxation, to the tune of $4,000 or $5,000 a year. If we look at that, it does not make any sense. We are supposed to be encouraging research and innovation. In this move, we are telling post-doctoral fellowship students to go look at the United States where the tax regime is better and the funding is stronger. We do not have strong graduate or post-doctoral investments in Canada. We cannot afford to lose people who are doing this kind of work.
One specific post-doctoral student, David Davidson, has put on paper what he is actually earning and he talks about his four children. He must make some decisions now that will mean he may not be able to put his children into some of the programs that they were in. He needs to look at how they are being schooled. He even needs to look at how they are being fed. He also may possibly need to look at leaving Canada like other of his colleagues have done to do their work. This is a short-sighted decision that makes no sense.
At the very least, the government should have reviewed that decision. Probably some clarification would have been good because we do have some post-docs in Canada who were entitled to the exemption and some who were not getting it. However, it should not just come out in a budget and tell people, who we want in Canada and who in many ways epitomize the research and innovation agenda that this country is seeking to achieve, that it will penalize them by making decisions that may not be good for them and may not be good for Canada either. That is another decision that does not make any sense.
The budget also announced the extension of the enabling accessibility fund. At page 131 of the budget, it states:
|| Budget 2010 builds on the success of this program by extending the Fund and providing an additional $45 million over the next three years.
When the enabling accessibility fund was announced originally, with funding of $45 million, people looked at it and wanted to know what it was made of. It turned out that of that $45 million, $30 million would go to two projects. So, of all the needs in Canada, two projects were to get 66% of that funding. That never made any sense to people in the disability community. Right away they recognized that the program was tailored specifically for two projects, one of which would be in the 's riding for a project that I believe he and his wife were on the board of, and that I think his constituency assistant is still on the board of. The disability community did not think that made any sense.
The kicker to that is that the money was never even expended and the program never got off the ground. It may be that it is a wonderful facility, and I have no reason to believe that it is not, but we have facilities like that across the country. We need to ensure that any program that comes forward serves the needs of the people who are most marginalized in this country, and when we talk about poverty we talk about people with disabilities. They deserve, at the very least, to be treated to a standard of fairness and dignity that would allow them to have equal access across the country to the services provided by the Government of Canada.
We have seen decision after decision that does not make any sense, that does not take into account the needs of Canadians. For that reason, I do not like everything in the budget; there are many flaws. We do not believe that Canadians want to have an election, but Canadians deserve a lot better than this budget and deserve better than the current government.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity, brief as it is, to enter into the debate on Bill , the budget implementation bill, this massive tome that I hold before me today. My only regret is that I will not have the time to adequately go through many of my strongly-held views on the inadequacy of this particular document.
Let me begin my remarks by sharing with the House the content of a speech that I once heard by a civil rights leader in the United States. He began by saying that if there are five children and only three pork chops, the solution is not to kill two of the children and neither is it the solution to divide those three pork chops into five equal pieces because then all of the children go to bed hungry and none of them have enough to eat.
The social democratic point of view, as well as my own, is to challenge the whole idea that there are only three pork chops and to challenge the whole myth or lie, as it were, that in the richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world, we cannot provide for the basic needs of a family to not only survive but to flourish.
This introduces the theme, in the few minutes that I have today, that Bill , the budget implementation bill, fails Canadians in the most fundamental ways because a budget implementation bill is an opportunity for the redistribution of wealth in this country and speaks volumes about the priorities of the ruling party that crafted the budget and the implementation bill.
I am trying not to overstate things, but there has been an undeniable and recognized trend in recent years of the shift of wealth from the middle and working classes to a smaller and smaller elite of the very wealthy. This budget document does nothing to ameliorate this shift of wealth, what I argue is the redistribution of wealth, against the best interests of ordinary Canadians. In fact, it exacerbates the problem. It compounds that trend.
I will perhaps only have time to dwell on what I believe is an obvious argument to make my case. Within this document is found the argument that dealing with poverty or bringing seniors out of poverty through dealing with inadequate pensions, et cetera, is somehow a structural deficit and, therefore, the government cannot go there. Yet, giving permanent corporate tax cuts to the extent of $15 billion is viewed as a necessary investment in the economy.
How did we ever come to such a perverse view of the distribution of wealth in this country that lifting seniors out of poverty is viewed as a structural deficit that we cannot allow ourselves to enter into and yet, in fact, going even further, borrowing money to give permanent tax cuts to corporations is viewed as an investment in the economy? Nowhere can anyone find a single study that proves beyond doubt that giving corporate tax cuts leads to job creation. It simply does not exist. I challenge and defy people to show me the direct evidence that giving yet another corporate tax cut will create jobs in Canada and can, therefore, be viewed as an investment.
This is all an elaborate hoax, in my view. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I accuse the neo-conservative mindset of perpetrating an elaborate, deliberate hoax on the Canadian people to further what I believe is a nonsensical argument that corporate tax cuts will produce the results claimed. It is a leap of faith that is not warranted. It was not even warranted when there was a budgetary surplus and now we have to borrow money to give another $15 billion away.
I will give one example of how wrong-headed this is. It is a point made by the leader of my party, the member for , to our recent NDP convention in Manitoba. He and our party costed out what it would cost to lift every Canadian senior citizen up to the poverty line. There are approximately 450,000 Canadian seniors living below the poverty line. The cost of elevating every one of those seniors just to the poverty line would be $700 million. That is less than one-fifteenth of the corporate tax cuts that are inherent within this budget.
The leader of the NDP went to the with this very argument, suggesting the government put the brakes on these tax cuts for a year or two. Given that we are in an economic recession and we want to get money out there quickly, one way that we can stimulate the economy and achieve a secondary objective as well is to put more money in the hands of poor seniors. They would spend the money immediately and they would spend it in the right places, in the local economy. It would be in circulation the very next day at a cost of $700 million, not an insignificant amount of money but it pales in comparison to the $15 billion that the government contemplates giving in corporate tax cuts.
That is how wrong-headed it is, and one of the reasons that so many of these Conservative absurdities actually become government policy is the intellectual veneer that is applied to them by right-wing think-tanks that, in fact, are bought and paid for by the same people whose special interests are being served by this reasoning and this logic.
Again, I challenge the reasoning. I challenge the logic behind this spending. I am frustrated in my tone perhaps, but somebody has to sound the alarm. Somebody has to blow the whistle on this trend.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day on a car that said, “At least the war on the middle class is going well”. In fact, working people, or those from the middle class on down in the economic spectrum, are feeling the pinch. It is not their imagination. Canadians should be comforted to know that it is not their imagination that it is harder and harder to make ends meet. It is true, and this is the predictable consequence of economic policies and economic trends that, in fact, leave less money in the pockets, transferring this wealth, once again concentrating this wealth, in the hands of people who do not even necessarily have the best interests of the country at heart, who do not even reinvest in Canada.
When given the opportunity, again I challenge anyone to show me the empirical evidence that these tax cuts create jobs in Canada. More often than not, that money is transferred to these corporations in the form of tax cuts and there are no strings attached. They could invest in an offshore plant. They could actually lay off 1,000 workers in the same year that we are giving them money. The irony is that these tax cuts are not going to the very businesses that do need some help and support. Because of its nature as an income tax break, it is only businesses that are showing profits that are benefiting from these particular tax breaks.
It is just wrong-headed and the leader of my party was right to appeal to the , to urge him, even if he cannot see fit to cancel this round of even further corporate tax cuts, to delay them or cut them in half, reduce them, use some of that money for something more strategic that would, in fact, elevate the living standards of the people who gave us their confidence, who sent us here to advocate on their behalf.
I was shocked to learn that 450,000 seniors are living below the poverty line in this country. I believe that if we had used $700 million to address their specific needs, it would have put more money into circulation and it would have been the moral thing to do.
Let me perhaps spend the last minute that I have to comment on the last article of this 450-some-odd page tome, which is the final straw in the wholesale theft of the $57 billion surplus of the EI fund.
I have been speaking on this for the better part of 10 years. When someone deducts money from workers' paycheques for a specific purpose and then uses it for something entirely different and denies them the benefits they were guaranteed when it was taken off their cheques, that is wholesale fraud. It is not only misleading; it is fundamentally wrong. That is $57 billion that would have given us the fiscal capacity to address our social programs. It has been eliminated and gobbled up and used for different things—
Mr. Speaker, we are discussing the implementation of a budget that never would have passed if the Liberals had not been so complicit or passive. Some showed up in the House to vote against the budget, as did the hon. member for in New Brunswick, but there were not enough of them. That was a form of complicity, which is why we are here today talking about the budget implementation bill.
Before I get to the heart of the matter, I must say, I am concerned about several current issues, particularly what is happening in the crab industry in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the riding I represent.
Earlier there was discussion about employment insurance measures that are missing from the budget. If the budget had truly met the needs of the public, the impact of the crab fishery crisis on the people of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine would not have been as great. They would have felt supported by a government that has their best interests at heart during such a difficult time. Some 1,000 jobs in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine and 2,500 jobs in New Brunswick are at stake.
To give hon. members an idea of what that means, 1,000 jobs in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine is equivalent to roughly 20,000 jobs in Montreal and even more in Toronto. If it were a matter of losing several thousand jobs in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, there would probably be an emergency debate held today.
We have to take the time think about these people who are in difficulty as a result of mismanagement by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which has reduced the crab quota by 63% this year. Such a reduction will have an impact: less money will circulate in the economy.
We heard today that Michel Chartrand died. I had the chance to meet and get to know Mr. Chartrand. If he were to deliver a speech today, his language would undoubtedly be quite colourful. If I were to describe the budget using the names of symbolic objects generally found in a church, I would be called to order. As hon. members know, tabernacles, chalices and hosts are found in a church.
In addition to his rather colourful use of language, Mr. Chartrand was a passionate man. He defended people in difficulty, like the workers in the crab fishery who are in crisis right now. That is why it is important to pay tribute to him today.
I know that the people in my party will be paying tribute to him later on during question period and members' statements, but I think it is important to take the time to acknowledge him right now.
In any case, we have a budget and an implementation bill. We are examining some aspects of the budget implementation bill, but we must also look at items that, unfortunately, are not mentioned in the budget, especially tax havens and employment insurance.
I would like to talk about tax havens. What does this budget actually do?
It ignores the fact that, if we changed the laissez-faire approach to tax havens, we could stop the budget hemorrhaging, which will fatten companies and individuals who no longer know what to do with their money. They go to the Bahamas or elsewhere and put their money in the banks' vaults to avoid paying Canadian or Quebec taxes. That hurts because this is not done by just a few.
I was listening to some supposedly distinguished economists who have done major studies and concluded that taxing the rich will not change much. Excuse me, but it will yield many millions, even billions. And remember, one billion is 1,000 million. We could recover billions of dollars if we truly tackled the problem of tax havens and tax loopholes. That is what should be highlighted and considered when presenting a budget. In fact, measures have been introduced but there are other measures that have been forgotten, relegated, ignored, clearly set aside, and that could help to balance the budget, even just a little, and result in interventions that more closely meet needs.
Speaking of needs, I wish to linger a little longer on the employment insurance issue. It is frightful what is going on there. It started some time ago with the Liberals and the Conservatives of the period, when they used to call themselves Progressive Conservatives.
On this issue I think in particular of Gaétan Cousineau, of the Mouvement Action Chômage Pabok. This is a person who has always been dedicated to the cause of employment insurance and the injustices in that field. I remember working with him and others when I was waging the employment insurance battle in community and union organizations.
That battle continues for me as a member, but at the same time, there have been what one might call “mini-measures” on employment insurance announced right and left by the Conservative government and by the previous Liberal government. I say “mini-measures” because one’s final impression, if I may be permitted some colourful language, is that of a drop of justice in an ocean of injustice. That is really what is happening.
The regions of Gaspé and Îles-de-la-Madeleine, like other regions in Quebec and Canada, have had to absorb cuts and to suffer them at the same time, for those cuts have impacts. When this sort of decision is made to cut employment insurance, to slash benefits, to arrange that fewer EI benefits are provided or that eligibility is made more difficult, the money is recovered somewhere, but there is an impact that can be felt across many regions.
Such an impact affects individuals as well as communities. Yes, it can affect individuals. I heard someone talk about people who earned their living at the minimum wage. Consider, for example, a wage of $9 an hour for someone in the tourism industry who has to work as a cleaning lady,or in a restaurant or elsewhere. These people work split shifts for the minimum wage. This is not a job where you work 40 hours a week and everything is fine. On the contrary, there are situations where people have to work 20 hours during the week. Other times it is 35 hours or 60 hours a week, depending on what is happening in the tourism industry. These people must be available to work seven days a week during tourist season. That is why it is important to consider this issue.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill , the so-called jobs and economic growth act, but based on my reading of it, I believe it needs a new title. This rather large tome is short on potential for jobs and growth and long on gimmicks, fee increases and a lot of challenges.
The bill does not address some of the key issues of importance to Canadians, such as child care and pensions. It does not assist small business to encourage job growth. It does not address the requirement for future economic success. It does not address the skills shortage, nor does it encourage lifelong learning. Bill does not focus on productivity and does not focus too heavily on innovation.
What the budget did do was increase moneys for the Privy Council Office for ministerial advice. It continues the deep investments in government advertising. I guess government ads will be showing up during the Academy Awards and the Super Bowl in the future. This bill funds a record number of ministers, and we all know how that is going.
This bill ensures another huge deficit after 11 straight surpluses. The Conservatives formed government and within a couple of years the country was back in deficit. At the same time the bill does not provide security for Canadians in tough economic times. This bill fails to improve the lives of Canadians. It fails to ensure economic security. It fails to ensure job growth.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, there are some 400,000 more unemployed today than in 2008. Youth unemployment is double the average national unemployment rate. There have been several reductions in manufacturing shift hours, which means less take home income and a lower standard of living. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, we are 4.5% behind where we should be in terms of job growth.
What did the Conservative government do? It laid out a plan that would raise employment insurance premiums by 35% over the next four years. This payroll tax would cost a two-earner family $900, and a small business with 10 employees $9,000 more.
This bill would also impose an increased charge for air traveller security. The cost of an airplane ticket will rise. For a domestic one-way trip the fee of $4.90 will rise to $7.48, a $2.58 increase. A domestic round trip fee will rise from $9.80 to $14.96, a $5.16 increase. The fee for trans-border trips will increase from $8.34 to $12.71, a $4.37 increase. The fee for other international trips will rise from $17.00 to $25.91, an $8.91 increase. This will raise about $1.5 billion in revenue over the next five years. That is quite a substantive fee increase.
I live on the island of Newfoundland. There are only two ways to get off the island of Newfoundland, either by plane or by ferry. We know what the government is doing with respect to air travel security. We know there is going to be an increase. To get off the island of Newfoundland, there are going to be increased costs.
On the other side of things, in order to get off the island of Newfoundland and Labrador I could drive and get the ferry at Port aux Basques. Marine Atlantic is a crown corporation. In the budget a small amount of money has been set aside to have additional capacity on this ferry. This small amount is a pebble in the ocean of requirements for Marine Atlantic.
The Auditor General produced a report which indicated that over $1 billion was required to ensure that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador had adequate service and to ensure effective and timely capacity so that the transportation of goods and services is efficient and effective and available. During certain times of the year grocery stores hang a sign saying, “Sorry the boat didn't get in”. In this day and age that is simply not acceptable.
I am concerned about this budget. There are several other things in Bill .
There is some mention of pensions. The government is going to increase the maximum solvency ratio for pension plans from 110% to 125%, allowing for more overfunding. However, during the briefing on Bill the financial officials suggested there would not be many pension plans in a position to take advantage of this extra room. This is an overfunding of pension plans. I wish there were more businesses in a position to overfund their pension plans so that we could ensure that people who pay into their pensions actually have them at the end of their working lives when they retire.
For the second year in a row the government is using the budget bill to weaken environmental laws. We have this tome, as I said earlier, and buried in it is a change to ensure there will be some weakening of the federal environmental laws. This is not acceptable. If the government is going to change environmental laws, there should be full disclosure so that we can have a discussion and debate.
Also buried in this very large bill are changes to Canada Post. Bill removes the exclusive privilege of Canada Post to deliver mail outside Canada, allowing remailers to collect and transport mail to a foreign country. This is being done through the back door because it would not have been allowed through the front door.
In previous sessions of Parliaments the Conservatives tabled Bill and Bill to try to do just that. Now they have included it in this budget implementation bill. It should not be in this large bill. It should have a full discussion. It should go through the proper process. It should have a full review, complete disclosure. There should be complete democracy actually. People should be able to debate it and bring forward their ideas on how improvements could be made, or simply express their concerns with regard to remailers.
There is a lot in this rather large document that does not necessarily work for Canadians. It does not necessarily give the kind of economic security that Canadians are looking for.
We are coming out of a very difficult economic time. We still have a situation where, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said, over 400,000 people are still without work. We have been talking about this in Parliament.
Yes, the bill puts in place a second phase of the economic stimulus package and that is going forward.
My view on this bill is that a lot more should have been done to ensure Canada's position for the future. In my riding I have talked to a number of people. A lot more should have been done to ensure that we have the economic security that we require as Canadians, to have a vision.
KAIROS is an organization that did international development work. Sadly, its funding was cut by the government. For 35 years that organization did some great work worldwide. At the same time we see increases in advertising. I guess there is a disconnect between what Canadians want and what the government is prepared to allow to go forward.
This is a stay the course budget that is on the wrong course. I believe that Canadians deserve better. I believe that Canadians want better. I would be remiss if I did not say there is a lot in this bill that should be taken out, debated, disclosed and discussed in other ways.
Again, I appeal to the government and say there are things we should be addressing in this country. We take our international development work quite seriously. We take the needs of Canadians for health care and pensions quite seriously. It is time for us to buckle down and do just that.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate. It is interesting that some of the final comments to the previous speaker were about the Liberal position vis-à-vis the exclusive privilege at Canada Post. That is a nice segue, a nice place for me to begin, because that is going to be the focus of my remarks.
What was previously known as Bill and Bill is now incorporated into the budget implementation bill, basically making it an omnibus bill. They have stuffed everything they can possibly legally manage and think of in there in the hope that one vote gets a whole bunch of things passed.
One of the cute things for the Liberals in this particular bill is that when Bill first arrived, the Liberal critic at the time was very clear. They were in favour of this bill and they were opposed to maintaining the exclusive privilege, without any question. Then the bill came back with a new number, but very little else changed. I am not really sure what the new critic for the Liberals said. They sort of modified it a bit.
When my colleague asked a very specific question about support, the answer was about process. They were playing games particularly with the union in this regard and in terms of conversations they were having with them, because of course the organization that represents the 55,000 people who provide our important, crucial, efficient mail service cares about this issue.
The Liberals got some heat from the first go-around, so what did they do in the second go-around? They made up some kind of nonsense about how they were going to help the workers when it got to committee. When it got to committee, they would roll up their sleeves and be there for the workers. The difficulty is that the Bloc was already on record as being opposed to both bills and so were we. This means that, had the Liberals taken a position that said they were opposed to the bill, we could have killed the bill and there would not be any committee for anybody to roll up sleeves at and play games.
We are hearing the same thing again. As I understand it, and things change over there a lot, they are going to roll in a minimal number of members to technically vote against it. However, by not bringing in enough members to actually win the vote, the government will get what it wants. Bill , the budget implementation act, moves on to committee. Tagging along like a trailer hitched to the back is a little issue that the government is hoping nobody will pay any attention to, and that is the issue of Canada Post and the exclusive privilege.
We have been around and around on this issue. What is frustrating is that something has happened during the tenure of the government. Let us understand where we are. The law right now says Canada Post has exclusive privilege to all mailing, full stop. Canada Post is not obligated or mandated under the Canada Post Corporation Act to solely be there as a cash cow to make money. It is quite the contrary. The act spells out that it is there to provide a similar service across the country at the same price to every Canadian, and it makes sure they charge reasonable fees for doing that.
Let me just say what an undertaking that is. Canada is the second-largest country by land mass on the planet, and we are promising to deliver mail to the farthest corners of this huge country at the same price as we charge for halfway across downtown Toronto. We do it efficiently and the workers there do a great job. It is not perfect, but nothing is. However, when we look at this and compare it to other countries and the challenges, they do an excellent job.
All of a sudden, these private entities take a look over there. They are eyeballing Canada Post, as they do all the time. They are looking at the money to be made and they are saying that they want a piece of this action. So they just step right in and start getting involved in the international remailing issue. Canada Post reminded them it is against the law. To make a long story short, these private entities took Canada Post to court. They lost. They appealed. This is where it gets interesting.
On May 8, 2007, when the panel ruled on behalf of the Ontario Court of Appeal, this is what the judge said:
|| The purpose of the statutory privilege can only be to enable CP to fulfill its statutory mandate or realize its objects. It is meant to be self-sustaining financially while at the same time providing similar standards of service throughout our vast country. Profits are realized in densely populated areas which subsidize the services provided in the more sparsely populated areas.
It sounds like a great Canadian idea. That was to support the law. That means the work that these international remailers were doing remains illegal. It remains illegal this second as I stand here. So the government's intent is to change the law. If their buddies cannot win in the courts, the beauty of being the government is to change the law so the courts have no choice but to rule in the way it wants.
In fact, on July 25, 2006, the Conservative minister responsible said:
|| The activities of international remailers cost Canada Post millions of dollars each year and erodes the Corporation's ability to maintain a healthy national postal service and provide universal services to all Canadians.
What changed? It was illegal to start with. They went to court and lost. They went to the Court of Appeal and lost. The Conservative government in 2006 said it was standing by the exclusive privilege. What changed? I think what changed was that friends of friends got talking here and there. I am not suggesting anything illegal. I do not know enough of the details to make that charge. I would not say it was not, but I would not say it was. Anyway, discussions took place and the government had an epiphany. Conservatives woke up one day and said they had been wrong, the previous government was wrong, the courts were wrong, the strategic review in 1996 was wrong; they needed to sell off part of Canada Post and at the same time have their backbenchers make speeches about no privatization of Canada Post and hope that no one followed the details enough to know that they really were starting to privatize Canada Post. That is what is going on.
The Liberals are going along with it. We are going to have a couple of opportunities, if the Liberals want to suggest that what I have put forward is not accurate. We are going to ask that the bill be severed and we are going to need support for that. We have the votes and we would hope that the Liberals would join with the Bloc and us in severing off this piece of Bill and at the very, very least, allow Canadians an opportunity to have some input before the government monkeys around with the financial stability of something as important as Canada Post, particularly when 55,000 Canadians and their families rely on those jobs. It is not there solely to create jobs. It is not there to be a cash cow. It is meant to do exactly what it is doing, and that is why this change ought not to happen. It is wrong. It is not in the interests of Canada Post. It is not in the interests of the workers there and it is not in the interests of Canada. So we ask the Liberals to finally get off the fence, join with us, get it severed and let us kill this sucker before it kills Canada Post.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to a budget which impacts my constituents in Brampton—Springdale and many Canadians across the country.
In attending numerous events in my constituency, meeting with many Bramptonians, both men and women, in their workplaces, listening to seniors in seniors homes and visiting with children at schools, I have had the opportunity to hear first-hand of their needs and their priorities.
The past few years have been a very difficult time for many families in Brampton. Brampton based companies, such as Nortel, Saputo and Chrysler have closed their doors. Other small and medium-sized businesses have also struggled. The impact has been felt by many men and many women who were employed at those companies.
There are men and women who have been let go and others who have been laid off. There have been seniors and many of the people who have been laid off who have been forced to make that choice between filling up the fridge, the medicine cabinet or their gas tank.
Many of those families that have struggled in the past few years are looking for opportunities for themselves to ensure they can put bread and butter on the table. They are looking for opportunities to ensure their children have the very best in education, resources, tools and skills they need to succeed. Then there are new Canadians who are looking for opportunities, the opportunity to contribute, to build a better Brampton and a greater and stronger country. Also seniors out there want to have the opportunity to age with dignity and respect.
I think all Bramptonians, like all Canadians, are looking for that better hope for tomorrow and a brighter future. This is why the budget implementation bill brought forward by the government is so incredibly important. It is important to those Bramptonians who are struggling to be heard and those individuals who are the vulnerable.
Let us take a look at the areas in the automotive and manufacturing sectors, both crucial to the economy of Brampton and Brampton families. When Chrysler closed its doors, over 2,000 men and women lost their jobs overnight.
It was amazing to see how the community came together in this time of need. The Chrysler Action Centre was opened for the men and women who had just lost their jobs. The union showed its leadership. Chrysler took leadership. The provincial government also took leadership in opening the centre, which provided resources such as resume writing and job finding for those who had lost their jobs.
They were also looking for leadership in that time of need from the federal government. The budget claims to have created many jobs, but the fact is the country has lost almost 300,000 jobs. Look at our unemployment rates, which continue to rise.
Just a few weeks ago in my riding, Saputo, Canada's largest cheese maker, announced its decision to close its plant. The result is 190 Bramptonians are out of jobs. These are hard-working families that are looking for hope and for the opportunity to give back.
We must ensure that as these people struggle in this recession, there is the opportunity to provide them with job security for the future and with the resources and the skills they will need to find new jobs.
This global recession really knows no boundaries or barriers. A demographic that has often been forgotten is our young people. This recession affected everybody. We only have to take a look at the unemployment stats for young people aged 15 to 24, which reached a record high in 2009 of 20%, the highest jobless rate since 1977.
A report of the Community Foundations of Canada, called “Canada's Vital Signs 2009”, provides insight into the dire situation young people face. The normally lucrative summer months for these young people was 30 hours. It now is down to 23.4 hours. We must ensure these young people have the opportunity to go to university or college. They need that employment during the summer months.
Investing in education, investing in our young people is really about investing in our country's future economic prosperity and productivity. No government can turn a blind eye to young people. We must ensure they have the opportunity to get the educations they desire. As Canada moves forward, we must base the opportunity to go to college and university not on the pocketbook but on the desires and passions of students.
Another challenge we have faced is the issue of infrastructure. Communities like Brampton, one of the fastest growing cities in the country, put forward a number of projects for which they needed funding assistance from the federal government. We heard during the Speech from the Throne and budget 2009 that funds were committed but many of those funds had not been spent.
Out of $2 billion for the infrastructure stimulus fund, $874 million were unspent. Out of $200 million for the green infrastructure fund, $186 million were unspent. The list goes on. Money unspent means projects have not started, which mean people do not have the opportunity to work.
The government needs to act to help Bramptonians who are looking for those jobs. If the projects Brampton had put forward had been implemented, it would have created an estimated 21,000 jobs for Bramptonians who lost their jobs in the past few years.
Then there is the issue of health care. In many ways Brampton's new civic hospital has been leading edge both in terms of technology and the provision of services. However, there still continues to be a challenge faced by not only for my constituents but by many people across the country, and that is the issue of wait times.
Looking at the statistics of Brampton Civic Hospital, individuals with complex conditions are having to wait 17.5 hours versus the average of 13.6 hours. We realize much work needs to be done in the area of health care. People are looking to the federal government for leadership on this issue.
As a health care provider, I have had the opportunity to see first-hand the challenges encountered in our health care system. There is the issue of wait times, as well as the shortage of doctors. We must ensure we provide Canadians with access to doctors, specialists and nurses. We must invest in health human resources to ensure that every Canadian, regardless of where one lives in Canada, or the amount of money one makes or one's socio-economic status, has the opportunity to receive the very best in health care. It is the hallmark of our great country.
I also want to touch upon the issue of poverty. Poverty is a growing concern in my riding. People look at the medium income of almost $80,000 and think my riding must be doing very well. The fact is the issue between those who have and those who have less continues to grow.
The issue of poverty is increasing and impacting many individuals. Many low-income and single-parent families are living too close to the poverty line. People like Edna Toth with the Peel Poverty Action Group have done incredible work to raise awareness.
We must ensure, as we move forward, that the federal government once again takes leadership and puts together a national housing strategy. We are one of the only industrialized countries in the world that does not have a national housing strategy.
There are many issues to discuss and many challenges being faced by constituents, Bramptonians and Canadians. I hope the government will take this opportunity to examine these challenges and work in a co-operative and collaborative manner to ensure Canadians get the changes they need and, most important, the hope for a better future and brighter tomorrow. We must ensure that every man, child, woman and senior in Canada are given the resources, skills and tools needed to succeed. When Canadians succeed, our country succeeds.