The House resumed from May 8 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Madam Speaker, I am certainly proud to rise today in support of the budget 2012 implementation act tabled by the hon. . This budget not only delivers strong results for today's economy; it holds sound promise for the future of all Canadians.
By identifying the economic challenges facing future generations, the government has developed a thorough plan to tackle these challenges and inspire hope in our young people.
Canada's economic action plan 2012 is a plan for jobs, growth and prosperity. It includes many important measures to expand our economy, and it preserves the quality of life for all Canadians.
According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities president Berry Vrbanovic, from my own city of Kitchener, Canada's municipal leaders welcome today's commitment by the federal government to continue working with cities and communities to rebuild the local roads, water systems, community centres and public transit that our families, businesses and economy depend on. Today's budget continues building a new infrastructure partnership that creates jobs and strengthens Canada's future economic foundations.
Let us take a look at some of the new initiatives introduced in this budget, which will deliver future prosperity for all Canadians.
One such measure recognizes the importance of a well-trained, highly educated workforce. In my riding of , I have had the opportunity to meet with plenty of youth who are attending our local institutions, Wilfrid Laurier, the University of Waterloo, Conestoga College and others.
In speaking with these bright young minds, I am constantly reminded of how essential it is that these individuals have jobs to look forward to on completing their education. This budget addresses their worries about finding suitable employment opportunities. It offers additional avenues for young people to train for careers in new and exciting fields.
The youth employment strategy began in 2011. It is a program created to reduce barriers to employment faced by some of our young people. It has helped to connect 70,000 young Canadians with job experience and valuable skills training. In particular, one of this program's streams, the skills link program, has had a significant impact in my riding, and I am pleased that our government has committed to deliver an additional $50 million over two years to further enhance the youth employment strategy.
In addition to tackling the challenges of an uncertain job market for young workers generally, we cannot neglect the difficulties disabled Canadians are also facing. Improving labour market opportunities for those living with challenges has always been a key agenda item for this government, and it remains so with this budget.
For example, economic action plan 2012 delivers $30 million over three years to the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities. I know that this fund has provided opportunities to people in my riding, connecting them with valuable work experience. We can never overlook the importance of integrating the skills and experience of every Canadian into our economy.
We should also commend the government for its commitment to helping to expand small businesses. In my riding of , I am consistently amazed by many small business owners and their willingness to find innovative ways of doing things. This progressive spirit confirms to me why small businesses can and will be prepared to compete in an increasingly competitive global economy.
To illustrate this government's commitment to small business, I will start by noting that budget 2012 extends the temporary hiring credit for small business by one year, an investment of $205 million. An investment like this not only reduces payroll costs but it helps small businesses to retain more of their earnings for expansion. It permits them to create new jobs.
Building on this dedication to expand small and medium-sized businesses, we have also proposed an additional $95 million over three years to make the Canadian innovation commercialization program permanent. This program has shown exceptional results. It connects small and medium-sized companies with federal departments and agencies. It builds their capacity.
In supporting programs like this, we are providing a solid foundation for these companies to compete in the marketplace. We position them to further create high-value jobs and long-term economic prosperity.
In addition to our commitment to building the private sector and helping small businesses, budget 2012 offers much more. In keeping with our promise to ensure prosperity for years to come, we have also upgraded our social programs to ensure future generations have a secure retirement to look forward to.
We have given more than 10 years' notice of a gradual increase in the age of eligibility for old age security, not starting until April 2023. We are also allowing for the voluntary deferral of the basic OAS for up to five years, starting July 1, 2013. These important changes would ensure that the cost of the old age supplement remains balanced and proportionate for many years to come. Moreover, following a triennial review by Canada's finance ministers of the Canada pension plan, we have confirmed that the plan will remain sustainable for at least the next 75 years, giving our young people an assured sense of future financial security.
By making responsible decisions like these, we are able to make considerable investments in skills training. We can support our science and technology sectors, creating an optimal environment for high-value jobs. As financial situations change, older business practices are continually being superseded at a rapid pace in a knowledge-based economy. Following an extensive review conducted by an expert panel in the fall of 2011, a number of recommendations were made on how the government could improve our support for innovative businesses. Canadian businesses spoke and the government listened.
We knew that we needed a new approach to directly support innovation in Canada, and this budget delivers. Economic action plan 2012 contributes $1.1 billion over five years for direct research and development support. It also makes $500 million available for venture capital. This funding would go toward research collaborations, new procurement opportunities and applied research financing. Innovation leads to success, and I have seen many examples of this in my riding of Kitchener Centre.
Of course, a driving premise behind this budget and every Conservative budget to date has been keeping taxes low so that hard-working Canadian families can continue to thrive in challenging global economic times. Unfortunately, our friends across the aisle still seem not to understand the importance of this low-tax agenda. They believe that raising taxes will somehow magically create prosperity. I cannot stress enough the savings this low-tax approach will deliver for Canadians.
Our government paid down more than $37 billion in debt between the years 2006 and 2008, before the global recession, and that maintained Canada's low net debt position throughout the recession. Even still, we were able to implement a remarkable stimulus phase included in Canada's economic action plan. Even in times of global economic fragility, the Canadian government is continuing to focus on the drivers of job creation and growth. Learning from the international landscape has shown us the importance of taking action now rather than delaying. We are prudent; we are far-sighted; we are planning for the future.
I am reminded of a comment made by one of Canada's great prime ministers, Wilfrid Laurier. “In 1908, Canada has become a star to which is directed the gaze of the whole civilized world. That is what we have done”, he declared. Today, more than 100 years later, we can once again say that Canada has become a star to which is directed the gaze of the whole civilized world. That is what the government has done with our economic action plan, and that work continues with this bill. I am proud to support a government that will continue to support and put a priority on a balanced budget and building a strong economy for all Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I am happy to add my voice to the debate on the omnibus budget implementation act, Bill . The budget is being described as a Trojan Horse, and for good reason. It is yet another omnibus bill from a government that favours broad, sweeping legislation that defies appropriate scrutiny and oversight. It is another attempt to baffle Canadians with a huge bill that does too much.
To top it off, we have time allocation on it, which is no longer a surprise from a government that seems to consider closure as a normal feature of the parliamentary cycle. That is why we say it is a Trojan Horse, and it is on a fast track to boot.
However, as the official opposition we have given the government the opportunity to appear to be a little more democratic and have proposed a solution to make Bill better match the way that Parliament is supposed to work. In fact, New Democrats are really just calling for respect for Parliament and long-standing tradition when we say that the budget should be split into five separate, manageable pieces of legislation.
It is the right thing to do. At the very least, it would allow for proper scrutiny by this House and from the appropriate committees. Sadly, we know that the government feels the need to rush this bill past Canadian eyes and will not consent to the reasonable oversight that is the job of Parliament and parliamentarians. In that respect, we are not being allowed to do our job, and that is a shame.
Before I go any further, there is something I would like to address right away, and that is how the Conservatives apply their own logic to NDP decisions. I am sure there will come a day when the Conservatives will point out the few useful measures in this budget and criticize the NDP for not supporting them.
However, I would like to point out that we absolutely cannot support the budget because this is really an omnibus bill—and it is therefore impossible to study it thoroughly—and because blind environmental deregulation is the dominant theme.
I hope the Conservatives will remember this before they engage in their revisionist history, but I might as well believe in the goose that lays the golden eggs; there are so many other things that I would rather see and hope for. The NDP understands that this budget does not at all reflect Canadians' priorities.
New Democrats are listening, and we know that Canadians do not want their environment gutted in the name of economic expediency. Canadian families do not want regulations tossed aside because they are not convenient for big oil and foreign investors who only want to export Canada's resources with a minimum benefit to Canadians, but that is what the budget does.
Canadians do not believe there should be a time limit on processes designed to protect our environment. That speaks to a mindset that does not appreciate nature's delicate balance. I am reminded of the phrase “fools rush in”; those words are not the lyrics of a song, but an age-old maxim that speaks to the wisdom that time and perspective allow for. When we are dealing with things as sensitive as the great salmon and steelhead rivers that are part of the constituency represented by my friend the member for , there can be no such thing as taking too much time to make the right decision, and I am sure that the majority of Canadians feel the same as we do in the official opposition feel.
New Democrats know that Canadians do not want to gamble with our children's future, but that is what a full one-third of this budget does.
New Democrats get it. They get it that Canadians do not want power concentrated more and more at the cabinet level, but that is what this budget would do by allowing the cabinet to overturn National Energy Board rulings that it does not like. These are not the priorities of Canadian families, who want their environment to be protected; they are the priorities of investment bankers, who want to win at any cost, and that is not the Canadian way.
We are being asked to gut environmental regulations and legislation that other Parliaments have carefully considered. We are being asked to undo years and decades of work in just one week of debate. How is that reasonable? It is not, and Canadians will not be fooled.
Over these past few weeks we have watched the rushing about, claiming that the sky will fall if Parliament does not fast-track the budget and that somehow our energy reserves—the ones that the government cannot get out of Canada quickly enough—will be cast aside as undesirable by big oil and international investors if we do not move fast.
However, that is not the case at all. The only thing that will happen if we do not swiftly gut our environmental regulations and rig the deck for big oil is that Canadians will pay attention to what the government is up to and rain down a chorus of disapproval.
It shows us how the government is worried that downloading federal environmental responsibilities and dumping those costs onto the provinces, territories and future generations will come under the watchful eye of most Canadians who actually care about the environment, and that what is left of their support will disappear.
The government is worried that anglers will figure out what is happening to the Fisheries Act and that cottagers and campers will start to wonder if their lake is next. I know this much: Canadians did not want protection of fish habitat removed from the Fisheries Act and replaced with market-based language. Canadians get it. They understand that fish live in ecosystems that are complex webs of food items and interdependencies.
This is knowledge shared by elementary school students who study basic science, but it is ignored by a government keen to remove all barriers to development so that it can please its friends who want to fast-track a pipeline through some of the most pristine parts of British Columbia.
It is a bit much to see the changes to the Fisheries Act. They came just days after I received an update from the Bright Lake Association celebrating the fact that the water in the lake was so pure that it could sustain a population of northern redhorse suckers, a fish that can be considered an indicator species for excellent waterway health, much like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Those suckers will not receive any protection under the amended Fisheries Act; the preoccupation of the act is now commercial and sport fisheries, not habitat and systems.
If we ask someone who fly-fishes about how fish habitat works, that person will tell us about bugs that grow under rocks and mate in trees. They will tell us about prey fish, like sculpin and stickleback, that will lose protection if the Fisheries Act is changed to discard the protection of fish habitat. The government claims it is only helping farmers who have been hamstrung by the Fisheries Act, but the government is not acknowledging that there are other ways to fix those problems. It claims it is stopping the Fisheries Act from protecting unnatural habitats; we know that the government knows all about unnatural waterways and fake lakes.
We also know that the government has spent more hard-earned tax money for self-promotion in the past few years than it has for protecting the Great Lakes. I and my colleague from and many communities across northern Ontario know that the government has actually cut funding for the Lake Superior Binational Forum, and we are extremely concerned.
It had no end of cash to tell us what a great job it was doing to build that infamous fake lake. I say Great Lakes over fake lakes every time, and the government should get back to protecting fish habitat in Canada or the anglers of this country will be casting for something in the next election that the Conservatives will not like at all.
What is obvious is that the budget marks a crossroads in Canada. It attempts to put an end to publicly scrutinized development of resources and puts blind faith in private sector self-regulations and regulators. It marks the end of a national vision and the ascent of a mindset that sees Canada as a corporation.
We now have two very distinct political parties in Canada. One believes in science-based, carefully considered regulatory practices and reporting. It is a party that sees the benefit of careful consideration and long-term planning for our natural resources. It cherishes the treasure we have inherited and must carefully steward and ultimately deliver to future generations.
The other party wants to rig the deck for its corporate friends. It guts our environmental legislative and regulatory framework. It wraps itself in small, divisive issues, but it sets to work on great sweeping changes that cut to the heart of the Canada most of us cherish.
The Conservatives see only opportunity and blind themselves to negative outcomes while they deafen themselves to dissenting opinion. They have little regard for things like endangered species, and are well on the way to becoming as--
Madam Speaker, in advance of March's budget, I had the opportunity earlier this year to discuss creating job opportunities and economic growth in Canada with a wide variety of stakeholders in my riding of Barrie, Ontario. Included in these consultations were a number senior staff in the city of Barrie: cultural leaders, such as real estate brokers, hospital administrators, health care professionals, YMCA executives, outreach staff members, seniors issues advocates, faith leaders, lawyers, tourism representatives, grassroots media and business people from a wide variety of areas, including manufacturing, financial services, transportation, construction and home heating.
Each of those participants provided insightful contributions from different aspects of our city. Many shared the same concerns as all Canadians: ensuring good jobs are available, keeping taxes low, investing in long-term growth and ensuring sustainability for generations of retirees.
With over $63 billion in targeted stimulus, Canada's economic action plan helped protect Canada from the worst of the global recession and the city of Barrie had tremendous support from the federal government during these tough times.
Through the steady leadership of our and our , we have seen Canada's economy expand for nine of the last ten quarters. We have seen Canada create close to 700,000 net new jobs just since July 2009. Canada's unemployment rate is significantly lower than that of the U.S., a phenomenon that has not been seen in nearly three decades.
Overall, since we have formed government in 2006, over 1.2 million net new jobs have been created. Even better, Canada has had, by far, the best rate of job growth in the entire G7 since 2006.
Canada has the lowest overall tax rate and new business investment in the G7. Our net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7 by far and we have the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7. Both the independent International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, forecast that Canada will be ahead of the pack for economic growth in the G7 for the years ahead.
I am particularly proud to say that Canada has maintained its AAA credit rating through the period of economic downturn and uncertainty, something that has rocked nations from around the world.
However, the global recovery remains fragile, especially in Europe and the United States, and too many Canadians are still looking for work. That is why I am so pleased to see that budget 2012 is clearly focused on jobs, economic growth and ensuring Canada's economic advantage remains strong today and into the long term.
One of the most important exercises in ensuring future success is for us to return to balanced budgets. Before the global recession hit, our Conservative government paid down over $37 billion of debt, bringing Canada's debt to its lowest level in an astonishing 25 years. Our fiscal responsibility and aggressive debt reduction plan placed Canada in the best possible position to weather the global recession when the global recession hit. We made a deliberate decision to run a temporary deficit to protect our economy and jobs, and all parties in Parliament agreed.
Reducing debt frees up tax dollars that would otherwise be used to cover interest costs, keep interest rates low and, most important, ensure lower taxes for Canadian families.
Our plan to get back to balanced budgets is working. In the past two years we have already cut the deficit in half.
In 2010, we started down the road to balanced budgets by winding down temporary stimulus spending, putting into place targeted spending restraint measures and reviewing government administrative and overhead costs. In 2011, we continued to return to balanced budgets by delivering over half a billion dollars in new ongoing savings.
In 2012, we are building on our existing efforts by refocussing government, making it easier to deal with and streamlining back-office administration to achieve $5.2 billion in ongoing savings for taxpayers. Almost 70% of the savings will come from eliminating waste in internal operations of government, making it leaner and more efficient. These modest savings, less than 2% of federal program spending, will help ensure that Canada returns to balance over the medium term, while also respecting taxpayer dollars.
Unlike what other parties in the House would do if they had the chance, our Conservative government will not raise taxes and, unlike the former Liberal government, we will not slash health, education and support for seniors through provincial transfers.
Economic action plan 2012 demonstrates our Conservative government's strong support for my home province of Ontario through record federal transfer support for hospitals, schools and other critical services. Totalling $19.2 billion in the 2012-13 fiscal year, the transfer support represents an increase of nearly $8.4 billion, or 77%, since the former Liberal government was removed from office by the voters of Canada. We are continuing the long-term stable funding arrangement with the provinces for health care social services that will see transfers reach historic levels of $40 billion by the end of the decade.
As indicated by the recent Canadian Institutes of Health Research information data, federal transfers are projected to grow faster than average provincial spending in health care. We are leading in health care investment.
Federal support for health care will keep growing every year beyond the record levels the federal government already invested since 2006 and in a way that is both predictable and, most important, sustainable. This will help ensure Canada's health care system, including doctors and nurses, will be there when Canadians and their families need them most. This is very good news for all Canadians.
Balancing the budget and reducing debt interest costs help keep interest rates low and instills confidence in the Canadian economy, allowing families and businesses to plan for the future. It will also ensure sustainability of Canada's social programs, like health care, for future generations. I applaud our for the responsible, realistic and common sense approach contained in this budget.
Another key area of prudent fiscal management is to stop unnecessary spending. There is probably no better example of this than the elimination of the penny. By stopping the production of the penny this fall, our government will do what should have been done years ago. An independent study estimated that the economic cost of maintaining the penny amounted to $150 million. The penny has lost its purchasing power over the years and now most are hoarded, resulting in a useless expense for Canadian taxpayers. In fact, taxpayers pay 1.6¢ for each new penny made. This costs taxpayers $11 million every year.
After hearing strong support from consumers, retailers and small businesses, a recent public study by the Senate committee recommended the elimination of the penny. I am pleased to tell Canadians that this government absolutely concurs. Eliminating the penny is a lot like the penny itself. Producing pennies may not seem like much in the context of the entirety of the federal budget, but every penny makes a difference. However small things may seem, they can certainly add up to something significant over time. Former U.S. president Ronald Reagan once said that government was the people's business and that every man, woman and child becomes a shareholder with the very first penny of tax paid. We have a responsibility to our Canadian shareholders. No amount of cost is insignificant, no amount of waste is acceptable.
Canadian families deserve the cleanest air, water and environment possible. That is why, since 2006, our Conservative government has made major investments to preserve our environment and to protect the health and well-being of Canadian families for today and tomorrow. Economic action plan 2012 builds on our Conservative government's impressive record for supporting a cleaner and more sustainable environment. The budget proposes $50 million over two years for the protection of wildlife species at risk. The Species at Risk Act is one of the government's main conservation tools to protect wildlife species, maintain healthy ecosystems and preserve Canada's natural heritage.
We are also committing to the creation of a new near-urban national park in Rouge Valley, Ontario, only 40 minutes south of beautiful Barrie, Ontario. I am particularly pleased with our commitment to the continued support of Canada's lakes, including Lake Winnipeg and Lake Simcoe. In 2008, the federal government's unprecedented $30 million funding for the Lake Simcoe cleanup was an extremely welcomed initiative for the residents of Simcoe county and Barrie. To see included in this year's budget a commitment to continue the cleanup of Lake Winnipeg and Lake Simcoe is a wonderful thing.
The cleanup of the lake has had dramatic effects. For four decades, phosphorous levels have gone up. High phosphorous levels mean a reduction of marine habitat. It means excessive weed growth. For the last four years, because of this federal funding, we have seen the lake become cleaner. We have seen phosphorous go down for the first time. It is a remarkable achievement in cleaning up our lake.
We are improving conditions for businesses, for environment and for Canadian families.
I want to commend the for a prudent, responsible budget that I believe protects and enhances the best interests of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to stand in support of Bill , the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, the key legislation to implement the economic action plan 2012.
Our Conservative government, as demonstrated through today's act, is focused on what matters to Canadians, which is keeping the economy on the right track. In that regard, the nearly 700,000 net new jobs Canada has created since July 2009, 90% of those being full-time jobs, is a positive sign we are on the right track for Canadian families.
Indeed, a recent Wall Street Journal editorial praised Canada's economic leadership focus on private economic growth and its sound policies as a model for others to follow. As CIBC World Markets chief economist Avery Shenfeld recently declared:
|| Canada’s federal government remains the very picture of health, standing head and shoulders above many developed countries in terms of fiscal sustainability.
Nevertheless, we recognize global economic turbulences remain today and too many Canadians are still looking for work. That is why the economic action plan 2012, legislated through Bill , takes responsible, positive action to support the economy now and over the long term, while keeping taxes low and returning to balanced budgets.
This plan has been largely welcomed by Canadians from coast to coast to coast, save the ideological NDP opposition.
For instance, the Vancouver Board of Trade, representing thousands of businesses in the Lower Mainland, assigned an overall grade of A to the economic action plan 2012, noting:
|| The federal government's reasonable and prudent 'game plan' continues to be the right one for British Columbia and Vancouver, and it remains the right strategy for Canada within a challenging global economic environment
For the remainder of my time today, I want to focus on the aspects of the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act that deal with responsible resource development and how we have found the right balance between economic and environmental priorities.
Let me be clear. Our Conservative government is committed to being proactive in our stewardship of our national treasures, preserving them so we can pass them down to future generations. However, unlike the ideological NDP, we recognize that a healthy environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. Major economic projects create jobs and spur development across Canada.
In 2011 alone, the natural resource sector employed over 790,000 Canadians in communities throughout the country. It is predicted that in the next 10 years more than 500 major economic projects, representing $500 billion in new investments, are planned across Canada.
Increasing global demand for resources, particularly from emerging economies, will create new economic and job opportunities from which all Canadians will benefit. Canadians will only reap the benefits that come from our natural resources once investments are made by the private sector to bring the resources to market. Currently conditions are hardly ideal for any business that wants to do so.
Canadian businesses in the resource sector that wish to undertake major economic projects must navigate a complex maze of regulatory requirements and processes. Approval processes can be long and unpredictable. Delays and red tape often plague projects despite few environmental risks. In the federal government alone, accountability for assessments rests with dozens of departments and agencies, each with its own mandate, processes, information needs and timelines. This leads to duplication and the needless waste of time and resources.
The starting point of federal environment assessments can also be unpredictable, which can cause lengthy delays. This leads to delays in investment and job creation, and some plans are even abandoned because of them. Frankly, that is unacceptable.
As stated in a recent Vancouver Sun editorial:
|| Currently, worthwhile projects are needlessly bogged down in repetitive environmental and regulatory assessments that increase costs to industry without adding value for Canadian taxpayers.
That is why we have worked hard, since 2006, to streamline and improve regulatory processes. However, more work still needs to be done. A modern regulatory system should support progress on economically viable and significant projects and sustain Canada's reputation as an attractive place to invest, all the while contributing to better environmental outcomes.
That is why we are focusing on four major areas to streamline the review process for major economic projects in economic action plan 2012, specifically making the review process for major projects more predictable and timely, reducing duplication and regulatory burdens, strengthening environmental protection and enhancing consultations with aboriginal peoples. This modernized federal regulatory system will establish clear timelines, reduce duplication, regulatory burdens and focus resources more effectively to protect the environment.
We will achieve the goal of one project, one review, in clearly defined time periods, something long overdue, especially for my home province of British Columbia. In the words of British Columbia's finance minister Kevin Falcon:
|| The moving to a one-permit, one-process approach on environmental assessments is extraordinarily important for British Columbia...We have many major, major projects on the table today that are in the billions of dollars that could have important ramifications for jobs and employment. I’m really encouraged by that...
He went on to say that what they always said about the environment was that they should not measure the environmental process based on how long the process took, that it should be measured based on outcome and that was what they believed in.
Rest assured our Conservative government also understands that long-term economic prosperity and a high quality of life requires a healthy and sustainable environment. That is why protecting Canada's environment and the health of Canadians is a key priority of this government.
For instance, the safe navigation of oil tankers is very important to our government. Oil tankers have been moving safely and regularly along Canada's west coast since the 1930s. For example, 82 oil tankers arrived at Port Metro Vancouver in 2011. Nearly 200 tankers visited the ports of Prince Rupert and Kitimat over the past five years. They all did this safely.
Canada's regulatory system had a lot to do with that. Oil tankers in Canada must comply with the safety and environmental protection requirements of international conventions, and while in Canadian waters, with Canada's marine safety regulatory regime.
These requirements include double hulling of ships, mandatory pilotage, regular inspections and aerial surveillance. In fact, in 2011 almost 1,100 inspections were carried out across Canada, 147 of them on oil tankers.
We have a strong system, but any responsible government must continually work to make it stronger. That is why economic action plan 2012 includes further measures to support responsible energy development, including: new regulations which will enhance existing tanker inspection regime by strengthening vessel inspection requirements; a review of handling processes for oil products by an independent international panel of tanker experts; improved navigational products, such as updated charts for shipping routes; research to improve our scientific knowledge and understanding of risks; and to manage the impacts on marine resources habitat and users in the even of a marine pollution incident, and much more.
As I indicated in my introduction, we must be vigilant in guarding our spectacular natural treasures, but unlike the NDP, we realize that Canada's economic prosperity cannot be sustained without a healthy environment, just as environmental progress cannot be achieved without a healthy economy.
That is why I urge all hon. members to join with me in supporting Bill , the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, and supporting a stronger Canadian economy.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill , the first implementation bill of budget 2012, an omnibus bill that should never have been.
If we want to talk about the budget that is one thing, but when everything is thrown into this bill, it makes it impossible for Canadians to have a real handle on exactly what it is that is in this budget, which causes a problem not only for me as a member of Parliament representing the people of Random—Burin—St. George's, but, I would expect, for all MPs who take great exception to what the government has done here.
Canadians from coast to coast to coast anxiously awaited this budget as they continued to struggle to make ends meet. I know that from first-hand experience as there are difficult times in my own riding of Random—Burin—St. George's, particularly when we are talking about seasonable industries, which is another issue that we need to deal with.
With sporadic job growth in the last six months and thousands of full-time jobs being replaced with part-time jobs, Canadians expected the budget to focus on jobs. Unfortunately, the government let Canadians down once again. Rather than focusing on much-needed job creation, the government has chosen to focus on dividing Canadians.
Since 2006, the government has sought to divide Canadians. It is obvious that budget 2012 is no different. Given the damage that will be done by this budget, it is impossible for anyone concerned about the future of our country to support its implementation.
As the government irresponsibly pits generation against generation, and we see that with the OAS changes, region against region, economy against environment, and when we consider that over 120 pages of the budget deal with the environment, it is reckless. In its reckless quest to divide and conquer, the government has done all of these things.
Canadians stand united in opposition to the government's dangerous politics and policies. The Liberals have never shied away from ensuring that government is run efficiently.
As members debate the implementation of this austerity budget, it is important to remember how Canada's economy reached this stage. The last Liberal government left the Conservatives with a $13 billion surplus and the Conservatives promptly spent the Liberal surplus into a Conservative deficit well before the recession. In fact, the Conservatives have the distinction of being the highest spending, largest deficit creating government in Canadian history, and now they are trying to have Canadians take responsibility for that. The Conservatives are taking it out on the backs of Canadians.
Had the Conservatives not spent so much irresponsibly before the recession, Canada's deficit would be nowhere as high as it is today.
Bill is the first in a series that will attempt to implement the Conservative's slash-and-burn agenda and cause havoc in Atlantic Canada in particular as federal jobs and services are cut.
The Conservative government began its slash-and-burn agenda in the 2010 strategic review that saw $32 million in cuts over three years to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, with an additional $17.9 million in new permanent cuts. These new cuts in budget 2012 represent nearly 20% of ACOA's entire operating budget. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians rely on ACOA to create opportunities for economic growth in their region, just as the rest of Atlantic Canada does.
Now is hardly a time to cut programs that stimulate the economy, help create jobs and increase federal tax revenue in the process.
Adding to the $6.6 million in cuts over three years to Marine Atlantic, which occurred in the last budget, budget 2012 cuts an additional $10.9 million in new permanent cuts. These cuts are especially difficult for my constituents when we consider that the Marine Atlantic ferry service is our connection to the rest of the country.
These cuts also include the closing of vitally important washing stations in Channel-Port aux Basques and Argentia. Some vehicles need to be washed off because they have picked up contaminated soil that is prevalent in Newfoundland and Labrador that carries the potato wart and the potato cyst nematode infected soil. Washing the vehicles ensures that the contaminated soil is not exported to other Canadian provinces where it could do irreparable harm, particularly in P.E.I. and New Brunswick, to the multi-billion dollar potato industry in this country.
History shows even a minor infestation in a potato-producing area can have serious consequences. In 2000, when a small area, a mere 24 hectares, of Prince Edward Island soil was found to have been contaminated by the potato wart fungus, the United States moved immediately to close its borders to P.E.I. potatoes for months. This resulted in a $22 billion loss to P.E.I. potato farmers.
For a province such as Prince Edward Island where the potato industry is a major contributor to its economy, the loss of this industry would be as devastating as the cod moratorium is to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I can only explain how devastating that was when today that cod moratorium is still in existence. The cod has not returned and I can only imagine how it would be in P.E.I. if the contaminated soil were to impact the potato industry there to the extent that the cod moratorium has impacted Newfoundland and Labrador.
Of particular concern to my constituents in Random—Burin—St. George's and to the many coastal communities in Canada is the dangerous approach the government has taken to the fishery.
Last year's budget cut the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by $84.8 million over three years, while this budget goes further, permanently cutting an additional $79.3 million from the DFO budget. Worse, the government is rolling the dice when it comes to fish management strategy by cutting the financial capacity for evidence-based fish monitoring and protection of fish habitats and removing the protection of many freshwater fish species.
Even the Conservatives are upset with this attack on the fishery. Former Conservative fisheries minister, Tom Siddon, said, “This is a covert attempt to gut the Fisheries Act, and it’s appalling that they should be attempting to do this under the radar”.
In addition to the Conservatives' cuts to the fishery, they are considering sweeping changes to the fleet separation and owner operated policies, which would directly affect 30,000 jobs and destroy small rural fishing communities. If DFO were to cancel the fleet separation policy, allowing large processors to engage in the inshore fishery, the traditional harvester would eventually be squeezed out of the industry. Clearly, the Conservatives have no interest in seeing the fishery survive.
As I mentioned earlier, I also have concerns with the proposed changes to employment insurance in Bill . While not all changes are negative, we know already from budget 2012 that instead of working to help create more jobs, the government is increasing a direct tax on employment by hiking the employment insurance premiums by $600 million. EI recipients must apply for suitable employee vacancies to qualify for benefits. Bill C-38 would delete the provisions that deem employment opportunities to be unsuitable whether or not the opportunity is in the claimant's usual occupation and offers a lower rate of pay or working conditions that are less favourable than the claimant has a right to expect, only something that we would all expect.
This bill also would unduly grant the minister the power to make changes to the EI Act without legislation and parliamentary approval by giving the minister the power to change the definition of “suitable employment”. What is suitable employment? There was no consultation whatsoever with either employers or employees with respect to these proposed changes to the EI. The Conservatives have yet to announce details of what they will consider suitable employment and yet they expect Parliament to grant them unrestricted power to do so. People are nervous and naturally scared not knowing what to expect.
One has to wonder if the government's end game is to force Atlantic Canadians to relocate permanently to Alberta for work or to accept jobs outside of their skill area. There is no discussion about appropriate training for people and, of course, when they get to the age of 55 or 60, particularly if they have been working in a fish plant all of their life and, in a lot of cases, in the seasonal industry in the fish plant, what are they going to retrain for? What other skill will they retrain for at that age in their life? It is a time when they would like to retire and they would like to retire at 65, as has always been the case. However, the government has seen fit to move that age of eligibility from 65 to 67, making it even more difficult on people who work in demanding environments.
In contrast to the government's attempt to implement its austerity budget is the government's shockingly expensive advertising campaign to try to convince Canadians that the government is not failing Canada, not as badly as it seems anyway.
Madam Speaker, I am very proud to have the opportunity today to rise on behalf of the citizens of Winnipeg South Centre and to speak to my colleagues about the government's economic action plan 2012.
As a chartered accountant, I am proud to be part of a government that represents sound fiscal planning, job creation and economic growth. As a mother, I am grateful for the government's direction on long-term prosperity. We have to take care of future generations. We need to be responsible and make sure that our children do not start their lives with their futures mortgaged. It matters that we are good stewards. It matters to our children's futures and well-being. It matters to our country's future and well-being.
I would like to speak of our government's support in economic action plan 2012 for research and development and commercialization because it also matters for the future.
The regularly consults private-sector economists to find out what they think about the future of Canada's economy. The economic forecasts in our 2012 economic action plan are based on a survey carried out in early March of this year and take into account the viewpoints of 14 independent private-sector economists. The average of these independent private-sector economic forecasts has been used as the basis for financial planning since 1994, which gives our economic forecasts an independent dimension. This practice is endorsed by international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund.
In addition, since the 2012 economic action plan was tabled last month, Canada's leading economists have applauded its prudent outlook and Canada's solid economic performance.
For example, on March 29, economist Patricia Croft said of the budget's “ initiatives in the job front and addressing the demographic challenge.... In both regards I’d have to give the budget probably an ‘A’.... In a global context, I think Canada is in a fabulous position”.
Avery Shenfeld, Chief Economist, CIBC World Markets, said in The Toronto Star on March 30 that the budget “makes sense in a world economy that is still not what we would like it to be… Relative to what anybody else is doing, we still come out with flying colours”.
I mentioned that I am a chartered accountant. I would like to speak to comments made by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants regarding the government's budget. The CICA is a professional body representing CAs in business, government and public practice. It even represents a member of Parliament. In its budget brief 2012, it said that the budget “positions Canada well for the future while providing prudent fiscal management”. These are the fiscal managers of Canada. It continued, “Budget measures being introduced are designed to serve the short-term while maintaining a vision that embraces the long-term.”
Given those glowing remarks, I am going to share with the House today some of the initiatives being taken by our government to support innovation and create a reputation for Canada as a world leader in cutting-edge research, development and commercialization.
The global economy is changing. Competition for the brightest minds is intensifying. The pace of technological change is creating new opportunities while making older business practices obsolete.
Canada’s long-term economic competitiveness in this emerging knowledge economy demands globally competitive businesses that innovate and create high-quality jobs.
As the just said, we have created over 700,000 jobs since the global crisis in 2009 and 90% of those are full-time positions.
Since 2006, the government has provided nearly $8 billion in new funding for initiatives to support science, technology and the growth of innovative firms. Despite strong policy fundamentals to support innovation in Canada, Canadian businesses do not take full advantage.
Canada continues to lag behind peer countries in terms of overall innovation performance, including private sector investment in research and development and the commercialization of research into products and processes that create high-value jobs and economic growth.
Following a comprehensive review of federal support for research and development by an expert panel led by Thomas Jenkins, the government is committed to a new approach to supporting innovation in Canada by pursuing active business-led initiatives that focus resources on better meeting private sector needs.
In economic action plan 2012, our government announced $1.1 billion over five years to directly support research and development and $500 million for venture capital.
These investments and actions keep our economy strong, create high-quality jobs and ensure that Canada is a premier destination for the world's brightest minds.
Economic action plan 2012 implements important measures that will make it possible to meet the challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the global economy, while maintaining sustainable social programs and sound public finances for future generations.
I engaged in significant pre-budget consultations within my community and I continue to consult widely to best serve my constituents. I recently had the honour of speaking with Mr. Kevin Dancey, the national president of the CICA. We discussed the budget. Of course, Mr. Dancey is very interested in serving his community of chartered accountants, and there were three areas that Mr. Dancey singled out and praised.
First, the new tax incentives for innovation, which I have already referenced.
Second, the significant reduction of red tape being undertaken by the government to assist small businesses in particular to create jobs and assist with continued economic growth.
Economic growth is truly necessary.
Finally, critical to Canada's accounting professions and to many other professions in Canada are the measures being taken by the government's commitment to support improvements to foreign credential recognition.
Economic action plan 2012 was developed with current and future Canadians in mind. It creates new opportunities for the brightest Canadians to create jobs through innovation and fosters long-term financial growth. Its prime focus is on job creation. The economic action plan focuses on economic growth and long-term prosperity. I am very happy to say that it recognizes the importance of support to science, technology and commercialization.
As the global economy changes, I am proud to see Canada remain proactive in preparation for a future of economic prosperity that will benefit our children.
To that end, I am so proud to be associated with a government that not only cares about the right now but cares enough about our future generations to make things possible. We do not just care about giving pensions to pensioners now; we care about making sure that our children and their children will also have those privileges.
I am proud to be associated with a government that is focused on creating jobs for Canadians and on ensuring we have une croissance économique extraordinaire et, franchement, le meilleur du monde and is focused on long-term prosperity.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be speaking today on budget 2012, which is going to be keeping our taxes low and returning Canada to a balanced budget over the medium term, which is good news for Canadians.
Economic action plan 2012 focuses on creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Budget 2012 also demonstrates the Conservative government's strong support for British Columbia through record federal transfer supports for hospitals, schools and other critical services. Transfers totalling over $5.6 billion in 2012-13, represent an increase of over $1 billion from the former Liberal government.
The average hard-working family is paying $3,100 less in taxes under our government. It is also keeping taxes low for small and medium-sized business, and it facilitates the responsible development of Canada's energy and natural resource sector. We will do this without raising taxes and without cutting transfers to the provinces for services that families rely on, like health care and education.
There is more that our government can and will do in the years to come to ensure Canada remains competitive in the world market and provides great opportunities for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
The natural resource sector employs more than 760,000 people in communities throughout the country. It is the engine that drives our great nation. Over the next 10 years, 500 major projects, representing $500 billion in new investment, are planned across Canada. In the rich oil sands developments, the Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates that in the next 25 years oil sands growth will support, on average, 480,000 jobs per year in Canada and will add $2.3 trillion to our GDP.
In my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, Teck Resources, the world's second largest producer of metallurgical coal, is expanding to ensure that it is able to keep up with the world demand for steelmaking coal.
We must ensure that the natural resource sector can move forward with projects in a timely and transparent manner, while effectively protecting the environment. With that in mind, our government will focus on four major areas to streamline the review process for major economic projects. We will be making the review process more predictable and timely. We will reduce duplication. We will strengthen environmental protection. We will enhance consultation with aboriginal peoples. With that, we are going to consolidate responsibility for reviews and have fixed beginning-to-end timelines. Panel reviews will be 24 months. NEB hearings will be 18 months. Standard EAs will be 12 months. We will institute a one project, one review process.
There are countless examples of companies having to go through a dual process for a project only to be approved at one level and denied at another. At best, this is extremely frustrating, provides no surety to investors in the project and further bogs down the process.
What are we going to do? We propose to invest $54 million to renew the major projects management office to transform the approvals process for major natural resource projects by shortening the average review time from 4 years to 22 months and improve accountability by monitoring the performance of federal regulatory departments.
We propose to invest $13.6 million over the next two years to support consultation with aboriginal peoples. We want to ensure that their rights and interests are respected and also facilitate discussions on how they can benefit from economic development opportunities.
We propose investing $35.7 million over the next two years to support responsible energy development.
I have heard much about the concern of tanker traffic specific to our west coast. Oil tankers have been moving safely along Canada's west coast since the 1930s; 82 oil tankers arrived at Port Metro Vancouver last year, and over the past five years nearly 200 oil and chemical tankers have visited the ports of Prince Rupert and Kitimat. They all did so safely.
Tankers in Canada must comply with the safety and environmental protection requirements of international conventions, and they must also comply with Canada's marine safety regulatory regime. This includes double hulling of ships, mandatory pilotage, regular inspections and aerial surveillance.
We propose to invest $13.5 million over the next two years to strengthen pipeline safety. We will do this by increasing the number of inspections on oil and gas pipelines from 100 to 150, and we will double the number of annual comprehensive audits from three to six, to identify issues before incidents happen. Why? Because we value the importance of economic stewardship. We want our natural resource sector to continue to be the safest and most environmentally responsible in the world.
Our government also recognizes that in order for our business sector to flourish, we must open new markets for it. That is why we will continue to explore free trade agreements with countries around the world. It is the best way for Canada to grow its economy and create jobs.
Our Conservative government recognizes the importance of clean energy and the opportunities available to those who wish to explore this avenue. As such, under the capital cost allowance regime in the income tax system, class 43.2 of Schedule II of the Income Tax Regulations, we will provide an accelerated CCA rate for investment in specified clean energy generation and conservation equipment. Here are some examples: using a renewable energy source such as wind, solar and small hydro; using fuels from waste such as landfill gas, wood waste and manure; and making efficient use of fossil fuels such as in high-efficiency cogeneration systems, which simultaneously produce electricity and useful heat.
This is an exciting opportunity for communities across Canada to look at investing in cogeneration plants that can create electricity and heat from solid waste, as it is something that every community across Canada must deal with on a daily basis. It opens up opportunities for companies across Canada to expand in new technology, which will benefit Canadians for generations to come.
Finally, I am extremely pleased that our government will invest $150 million over the next two years to support repairs and improvements to existing community facilities. This will be done under the community infrastructure improvement fund. As a former mayor, I can say that keeping community facilities updated is vitally important to ensure they can be used in a safe and efficient manner. Every community in Canada can benefit from this program, and in turn it will promote healthy and vibrant cities and towns from coast to coast to coast.
This touches on just a small portion of the economic action plan 2012. I am proud to be part of a government that continues to focus on jobs, growth and the economy. This is what Canadians want us to do: be responsible, forward-thinking and prudent.
Mr. Speaker, it is inconceivable that the Conservatives could present a bill that is 421 pages long and then limit debate to the bare minimum. It is clear they want to pass this bill quickly, but does that not suggest that perhaps they are afraid of the public's reaction to the bill if we were to take the time to properly examine it?
I have examined this bill thoroughly and I can assure you that I have never seen such a hodgepodge in the House of Commons. In true Conservative style, this document is not at all what it claims to be: rather than a budget implementation bill, it is a bit of a free pass for businesses and politicians who have no use for transparency.
Bill C-38 is much more than just an omnibus bill, like those we have become accustomed to with these Conservatives. This bill constitutes a brutal and unreasonable seizure of power that leaves Canadians unable to challenge any of it. We are therefore very surprised as we watch this government getting rid of anything that could limit the damage caused by its blind ideology. After taking a laissez-faire approach for so long, now they want to dismantle everything.
This bill ridicules the institutions of the very government that introduced it. Is that not ironic?
We have already seen the Conservative government's bias in favour of employers in certain disputes, for instance, those involving Air Canada and Canada Post. However, this government does not seem to care at all about well-paid, stable jobs for Canadians, because this new bill will cause even more poverty.
This government is allergic to basic rights and has restricted the right of free association by giving a minister—a minister, mind you—the power to veto collective agreements.
In other words, this government thinks it is okay to scuttle a good-faith negotiation between two parties to further a partisan and ideological political agenda. That applies to all workers. In addition, a significant number of federal government workers will also be affected: women.
I have fought for women's rights for 40 years. There are no words strong enough to describe how angry I was when I realized that the government no longer intended to make its contracts compliant with the Employment Equity Act. The Conservatives seem to believe that father knows best and a woman's place is in the home. All the historic progress we have made toward achieving equality is being recast as purely cosmetic.
Women have the right to be treated fairly, and trying to make women pay the price for the government's penny-pinching is downright disgraceful. How can the government justify such an irresponsible decision?
By so doing, the Conservatives are saying that feminist struggles, which were particularly successful in Quebec, were simply a glitch in history's patriarchal plan. Well, that is not how I see this country and I am certain that many of my fellow Canadians agree with me.
While the Conservatives are throwing the door wide open to privatization, I am saying that we are soon going to take over this government and give the control and the benefits back to Canadians. This government, which seems to work harder for shareholders, has gone too far this time. Canadians are not fools and they can see that the Conservatives are trying to deceive them.
And what is all this for? Over a third of this giant bill is dedicated to doing away with environmental protection measures in a clear path that goes from the plains to the Pacific Ocean, where the Conservatives hope to get a share of Asia's wealth. What a plan.
Promoting the economy is not a bad thing in and of itself. However, Canada used the approach of putting all its eggs in one basket for too long for us to want to go back to it.
Focusing all our energy on oil can only lead to a historic dead end of monumental proportions. It is a well-known fact that the wealth of economies that depend on a single resource is short lived and poorly distributed.
In any case, sustainable development is not of interest to this government, which is also doomed to be unsustainable. The champions of “bigger and better” will end up realizing that irreversible climate change has already begun to transform things.
Although some believe that they are in the Texas of the 1950s, I would like us to be rooted in 21st century Canada.
In terms of the environment, it is not surprising to learn that the Conservatives intend to broaden the definition of prohibited political activities for environmental groups, but only so they can place more restrictions on these groups.
While this government cozies up to oil companies and eliminates all the so-called legislative constraints with respect to the environment, it is also limiting the fundamental right of freedom of expression for hundreds of Canadian groups.
Do Canadians who have been given the right to assemble under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and who choose to express their opinions, again by virtue of this Charter, not have the right to enjoy the full benefits of their citizenship?
On another matter, Bill confirms what we already knew: Rights & Democracy will be abolished. It was obviously an embarrassment to this government to support an organization that was neutral, independent and dedicated to the cause of democracy. Totalitarian governments, oil dynasties and, worse, communist dictatorships do not favour the independence of institutions. Have the Conservatives become communists?
For the Conservatives, it is all about the open market, except for matters under state control, which they manage with an iron fist. The Conservatives seem quite motivated to give more and more arbitrary powers to their ministers. That is the case for the Minister of Health, who will now be able to approve certain products without having them go through the usual inspection process, which is supposed to take place with any imported product.
Based on the government's priorities, Canadians' health has taken a back seat to profitability. But who will benefit from this profitability? When we consider that so much freedom is being given to business and so little to the people, we are justified in wondering who this government is working for. The answer is obvious.
More proof that this government does not care about well-paid jobs is that it thought it would be a good idea to enshrine in this bill the possibility of allowing 2,500 foreign workers to fill highly specialized positions in Canada and then leave again. Now the government wants to contract out Canadian citizenship.
Neo-liberalism loves outsourcing because it sets workers in a race to the lowest wages. This government has taken that to a new level. If it cannot outsource our resources, then it will import workers. Importing workers means the commodification of human beings by virtue of an ideology that would eliminate all trade barriers, but add many barriers to life for the general public.
With the Conservatives, it is law and order for the people and anarchy for big business. It was not enough for the Conservative government to considerably reduce the powers of the Auditor General and to completely get rid of the Inspector General of CSIS, who was getting in the way of its agenda; now the government is opening the door to privatizing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
In other words, by playing with alliances and subsidiaries, a business could wind up doing its own inspections. Is that the kind of rigour that Canadians deserve? In addition to the Conservatives' devious behaviour and their refusal to submit their bill to thorough examination, we also see a threat to freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, transparency and oversight.
While perhaps not an outright coup d'état, this bill places Canada on a dangerous path towards dictatorship. This bill's shortsighted short-term vision is eclipsed only by the long-term, harmful effects it will have. We all want a prosperous economy, but that should not be a government's only goal, since a government has many roles to play. There are many important responsibilities that only a responsible government can assume with authority. Otherwise, it would be too easy.
With this bill, the Conservative government is undermining its own legitimacy and giving up on what it sees as inevitable. It is high time that this government started showing some leadership and did us the honour of behaving like a real government for this orphan country. Instead, it seems to be doing everything in its power to destroy our institutions, sully our international reputation and shoot down everything that reflects basic common sense.
The Conservatives do not think like us. They spend. They spend money on prisons, on F-35s and on $16 glasses of orange juice, yet they slash away at the very essence of our democratic way of life. It makes no sense. This government already looks old, used up, wasteful and tired. It seems incapable of assuming the most basic responsibilities towards the public. The government must always remember this: Canadians are not fools. No, we are not fools.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to highlight some of the key measures in Bill , our government's plan to legislate economic action plan 2012, which will, undoubtedly, help to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
Economic action plan 2012 contains numerous measures that would benefit Canadians, and I will highlight a few today. Today I will talk about something that is very imperative for any politician. As I stand here today and speak in the House of Commons, New Brunswick is in the midst of a municipal election. Members are probably wondering why I am raising this today. I have had the opportunity in the last weeks and months to speak to various organizations throughout my riding and, undoubtedly, the municipal election came up.
The comments that I provide with respect to the municipal election are that when people are approached by candidates looking for their support, they should ask what it is the candidates see as priorities for the communities and what they will focus on if they are elected. I believe that it is very important for governments to outline very clearly what it is they will focus on, what they see as priorities and that they listen to the people they represent and understand very clearly what the priorities of the people are.
I have had the benefit, pleasure and honour of serving at all three levels of government in this great country. I have been elected to municipal office, provincial office and now I serve in a federal capacity. I believe that when we ask for support, we should outline very clearly what it is we will focus on if we are elected. Our government has done that. It has been very clear. Members are probably wondering where I am going with this. We are very clear when we talk about the need to ensure federal transfers to the provinces. The provinces are the lifeblood of our country, the very fabric of our federation. We have had governments in the past that have broken that trust, tattered the fabric and have brought great concern to the general public.
I speak from experience when I talk about how important federal transfers are to the provinces. I speak from experience in the province of New Brunswick where its federal transfers will be in excess of $2.5 billion through this budget and economic action plan 2012. Why do I highlight this? It is because it is important that Canadians, New Brunswickers and the people of my riding of Saint John, New Brunswick know and understand that our government feels that this is a priority. Our government is committed to this priority because Canadians have told us that it is a priority. We will maintain that trust and certainly continue to grow the transfers. We have done that every year that we have been in office and in every budget that we have brought forward. This is not by chance or happenstance.
Many members in the chamber have had the same experiences I have. The was a provincial politician before he came to this great House. The member for was the minister of finance for the Province of Nova Scotia and he understands. Many members in our caucus understand how important these transfers are to maintaining the services that our constituents in our provinces depend upon. It is very important that we maintain these transfers so that the Province of New Brunswick, in my case, is able to provide the health care and education programs that the people of New Brunswick desire, require, depend upon and have come to rely on our government and the provincial government for.
I did not come to this realization by just walking into this chamber. It comes from the experiences that I have had in my past life, whether in municipal or provincial politics. I served in a government that was very clear and focused provincially. I served with a premier who laid out priorities and strategies to the electorate and stayed very true to them. In my lifetime, he was the only premier in New Brunswick's history to deliver seven consecutive surpluses and the only premier in that province to ever pay down debt. Just so there is no misunderstanding, I am 48 years old. That is a long time. That is a huge commitment. However, that shows that when a government is prepared to focus on the priorities, it can achieve what it set out to do.
We have had governments in the past. We have had Liberal governments provincially and federally that did not maintain that commitment, did not stay true to their priorities and were not focused. They did not have the same level of respect for the provinces that make this federation great. They tried to balance the books on the backs of the provinces. The results were that we had less health care services in the province of New Brunswick and less money for educational and social programs. Was the federal government of the day concerned about that? No. It was not concerned because it did not see the provinces as a true partner. It did not see the value in the relationship that the provinces and the federal government needed to maintain. We in New Brunswick suffered, Atlantic Canadians suffered and this great nation suffered.
That Liberal government made a choice and today it is paying the price. Canadians did not give the Liberals the trust that they thought they deserved. Canadians put them out of office and put our government into office because we demonstrated that we understood the priorities of Canadians. We understand that Canadians value the relationship between the provinces and the federal government. We respect that and we will maintain it.
The and the have been very clear in saying that we will not balance the books on the backs of the provinces. We see the provinces and the federal government in a true partnership. They have demonstrated that commitment over and over again.
Just recently the announced that we will see health transfers continue to grow by 6% for the next five years and 3% at a minimum beyond that based on economic growth. That is an increase in health care transfers. That is quite the contrast to the days when the Liberal Party ruled this House. It did not understand how important it was for Canadians to see that partnership and its value.
I know my time is running short so I will talk about how important it is that we maintain this relationship. However, I also want to ensure that people know that this budget demonstrates very clearly that we value that relationship, that we understand the priorities of Canadians, that we are focused on those priorities and that we will deliver when it comes to jobs, growth and true prosperity. We will deliver for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition of Bill . As the Conservatives' first budget as a majority government, the budget implementation act serves as a road map to the government's priority for these four years. Let me say that the future does not look very green.
The biggest theme I drew from this budget is the government's focus on large industrial projects as the key to Canada's economic success. Behind the guise of such words as “streamlining” and “modernization”, the government is stripping away long-standing protections for our environment from short-sighted, unsustainable development projects such as, for instance, the Enbridge pipeline proposal.
One-third of the budget implementation act is dedicated to gutting environmental laws that protect Canada's fisheries, rivers, oceans and ecosystems. With the stroke of a pen, the government would eliminate decades of progress, condemning future generations to deal with its mess.
I would like to speak on the changes to the Fisheries Act the Conservative government is attempting to sneak through in this Trojan Horse budget implementation act. These changes are an undemocratic and egregious abuse of power that would do permanent harm to the ecosystem and to Canada's fisheries.
Let us make no mistake: these are radical and dangerous changes. Rather than prohibiting the harmful alteration, disruption and destruction of fish habitat, it would narrow habitat protection to apply to those activities that would harm “...fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery”. The Conservative government does not seem to understand the concept of an ecosystem or biodiversity. If the Conservatives did, they would know that they cannot protect only one species of fish and forsake the others.
The Conservatives would like Canadians to think that they care about creating jobs, yet Western Economic Diversification Canada would be cut by $16.3 million by 2015. Our economy in western Canada is still facing economic challenges, and we need Western Economic Diversification Canada to assist in the development of new industry and jobs. Downturns in commodity prices generally lead to volatility in western Canada, particularly in forestry, agriculture and manufacturing. Canada's New Democrats believe we should invest more in research and development, encourage more participation by aboriginal peoples and get people properly trained for jobs for the future.
For months I have heard from constituents who are furious with the government for raising the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67. Canadians understand that our demographics are changing, but these negative changes to OAS are motivated not by statistics but by ideology.
Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and the old age security program is sustainable in the long term. Seniors who would be hit hardest by these changes are those who have worked all their lives for modest incomes at jobs that often take a toll on their bodies. Instead of raising the age of retirement, Canada's New Democrats continue to put forward practical solutions that would strengthen Canadians' retirement security. We propose working with the provinces to increase CPP, with the goal of eventually doubling benefits. We also propose increasing the guaranteed income supplement. This measure alone would immediately lift every senior in Canada out of poverty.
I have also heard from constituents who believe that the government's move to eliminate all funding for Katimavik is short-sighted. Past participants have written to me to describe the multitude of economic and social benefits that this program brings to communities across Canada. The government's cuts to youth programming come at a time when the youth unemployment rate in Canada remains at over 14%. That is double the national average.
Budget 2012 also outlines millions of dollars in cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, including the elimination of 100 food inspection positions. Canada's New Democrats are calling for the reversal of these cuts so that Canadian consumers can be assured that their food is safe to eat.
Despite repeated election promises to maintain support for our public broadcaster, the Conservatives are cutting CBC's budget by almost 10%. These deep cuts will result in significant programming cuts and hundreds of jobs lost. More troubling is the government's move to weaken the public pillars of Canadian culture rather than to invest in a more vibrant, innovative and creative future.
In my riding, constituents remain concerned about chronic overcrowding in the ERs of Royal Columbian Hospital and Eagle Ridge Hospital, as well as long surgery wait times and expensive prescription costs. They look to their federal government to provide leadership by enforcing national health care standards and implementing long-awaited reforms. Instead, the government seems more concerned with downloading responsibilities to the provinces and territories, which will inevitably result in increasing disparities in the quality of health care among the provinces and territories.
Small businesses are also looking to the federal government for leadership. While I was pleased to see that budget 2012 extended the hiring credit for small businesses, more needs to be done to ensure small and medium-sized businesses continue to be the job-creating engine of our economy. I have been consulting with small businesses in my riding; they overwhelmingly support an overhaul to regulations governing credit card processing fees. It is time to make the system more fair and more transparent.
I have heard from constituents who continue to be frustrated by the lack of adequate public transportation infrastructure in our communities. While the federal government continues to ignore this vital issue, cities across our country lack a mechanism for sustainable, predictable and long-term funding. Canada's New Democrats propose a national public transit strategy as well as immediately allocating another cent of the existing gas tax to public transit funding for municipalities.
Let us focus on getting more cars off the road and reducing commuter-caused pollution by ensuring municipalities have the tools they need to build public transit systems that are forward-thinking and that contribute to building healthy, sustainable communities.
While our economy is said to be in recovery, many Canadians remain unemployed or underemployed. The majority of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque and work hard to make their monthly budgets balance. Those who are close to retirement are worried about the security of their pensions and are upset at the government for mandating them to spend two additional years of their lives working.
As managers of the public purse, the Conservatives have shrunk national revenues by slashing the corporate tax rate to 15% and subsidizing the heavily polluting and highly profitable oil and gas sector. On the other hand, in the past few weeks Canadians have learned more about the Conservative government's secretive plan to spend some $30 billion on F-35 fighter jets, as opposed to the $10 billion figure quoted by the Conservatives in the last election.
Canada's New Democrats believe the Conservatives' spending priorities are out of line with the priorities of Canadians, which include ensuring the viability of the public services Canadians rely on, such as universal public health care, a strong pension system, affordable advanced education and a healthy environment.
It is time to address the growing inequality we see in our schools, our neighbourhoods and our cities. It is time to stop sacrificing the long-term economic, environmental and social health of our country in order to achieve short-term economic gains.
Budget 2012 makes it clear that the majority Conservative government has no intention of addressing these pressing issues. I will be voting against the implementation of budget 2012, and in doing so, I believe I will be reflecting the majority views of my constituents.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill , the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act as this legislation is vital to the implementation of the economic action plan 2012.
Economic action plan 2012 is a positive plan that will ensure Canada's economy remains strong. It is already forecasted to be at the head of the pack for economic growth in the G7 in the years ahead by both the independent International Monetary Fund and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
In the words of former Liberal finance minister John Manley, current president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives:
|| Budget 2012 builds on our country’s reputation for fiscal responsibility, while at the same time establishing a more positive environment for private sector investment and growth.
In my time today I would like to focus on the necessary adjustments today's bill would make to the old age security program, or OAS, to ensure its long-term sustainability.
In 1952 the old age security program was launched, and I think we can all agree it was a very different world. At the time, life expectancy was significantly lower than it is today. Government policy-makers built the program around the understanding that seniors would be collecting OAS for only a few years after retirement. They also assumed there would always be a sufficient number of younger workers to finance OAS benefits through taxes. Because of these two assumptions, they were confident that the cost of the OAS system would continue to be manageable.
Those policy-makers could not have predicted 60 years ago the rise in longevity or the fall in our birth rates. They could not have anticipated how these two trends would threaten the sustainability of the OAS program. Let me be clear. This is not an issue of how much money will be saved, but rather whether the OAS program will be sustainable over the long term.
We want to ensure these benefits will be there for future generations when they need them. According to the World Health Organization, average life expectancy in Canada is one of the highest in the world. It is now almost 81 years, and it is increasing. Already one in seven Canadians is over the age of 65 and in 25 years nearly one in four Canadians will be a senior. The number of basic OAS pension beneficiaries is expected to grow from $4.7 million in 2010 to $9.3 million by 2030.
Canadians can be rightfully proud of our public pension system, which has been influential in dramatically reducing the incidence of poverty among seniors and enhancing their dignity and independence. As I said, the world has changed. When I say the world, I mean every country.
The demographic trends we are seeing in Canada are occurring all over the globe. Life expectancy is rising and birth rates are dropping. Population aging is happening more quickly in industrialized nations, which is why many of those countries have already moved to adapt their retirement support programs to account for this new reality.
In most cases, industrialized nations are raising the age of eligibility for retirement benefits, as this is the simplest and most effective way to ensure the sustainability of the program. Of the 34 nations in the OECD, 22 have made or will make the kinds of changes we have now proposed. Thankfully, because of the strong economic leadership of our Conservative government, Canada has the fiscal room to bring in these changes over a longer period of time.
Our government has pointed out that by 2030 there will only be two working age Canadians for every retired Canadian. If we do not adjust OAS, those two working age Canadians will support the tax burden that is currently shared by four working age Canadians.
Times change and government policies and programs must change with them. I would ask the NDP members to pay close attention to the words of Keith Ambachtsheer, director of the Rotman International Centre for Pension Management. He said:
|| You can't put your head in the sand...When you look at the underlying economics of what's going on...It's perfectly logical in a general sense to say, yes we're going to have to look at all social programs because of these demographics that are baked into the pie. There should be nothing surprising about that.
This is why we are making modern changes to OAS to strengthen it for the future.
We will gradually increase the age of eligibility for OAS and the guaranteed income supplement benefits from 65 to 67. This change will start in April 2023, with full implementation by January 2029, and will not affect anyone who is 54 years of age or older as of March 31 of this year. We owe it to future generations to leave them a solid OAS program and an affordable tax burden. We understand that we have to make these changes in a sensible way. That is why these changes do not apply to seniors or near seniors, and there will be no reduction in benefits to seniors.
We are also making other significant positive reforms to OAS through today's act. To improve flexibility and choice in the OAS program, starting on July 1, 2013, we will allow for the voluntary deferral of the OAS pension for up to five years, allowing Canadians the option of deferring take-up of their OAS pension to a later time and receiving a higher actuarially adjusted annual pension.
We are also putting in place a proactive enrollment regime for OAS and GIS to reduce the burden on seniors of completing application processes and reduce the government's administrative costs, a major positive change.
In the words of noted personal finance author, Gordon Pape, writing in the Toronto Star, it is:
||—a welcome elimination of bureaucratic red tape that should have the effect of putting a lot more money into the hands of seniors....This means that many people will no longer have to apply for benefits when they turn 65 – the payments will come automatically.... The potential gain for seniors is huge....any change that simplifies the process and gets some of that foregone money into the hands of needy seniors has to be welcome.
Our government is proud of our record with respect to seniors. We have increased the GIS to help Canada's most vulnerable seniors and we increased the GIS earnings exemption. We have provided $2.3 billion annually in additional tax relief to seniors and pensioners. We have abolished the mandatory age of retirement in federally-regulated industries so older people have more choice as to when they retire.
We have increased funding for the new horizons for seniors program to support seniors who want to participate in community projects. We are supporting healthy and active aging through a number of initiatives and we are funding projects to combat elder abuse.
All of these policies and programs will be adapted to meet new needs and circumstances of seniors as they evolve. In the same way, old age security must also adapt to new needs and circumstances. That is why the provisions in today's bill are the right thing to do and why I call on all members to support it.
Mr. Speaker, we keep unearthing all these little treasures hidden deep in the bowels of Bill that we did not even realize were being snuck into this omnibus bill. Now we know why they were put there and their significance.
Bill repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. This is the construction fair wages act for the federal jurisdiction. For 100 years, we have been fighting for fair wages and working conditions for the construction industry. It is an industry with a transient workforce. Contractors and the like can exploit desperate working people in the construction industry if we do not have regulations that prevent them from doing so. This legislation took wages out of competition so that contractors would win their jobs based on their merits, skills and productivity, not on their ability to find cheaper labour because, by virtue of the fair wages act, it was agreed that it does not benefit anyone.
We have a quaint expression where I come from that “fair wages benefit the whole community”. It is virtuous to have a well-paid, consuming, middle class. It is good for the economy. Driving down the wages of Canadian workers is in no one's best interest. Members would know that the federal government is one of the largest consumers of construction industry services in the country. This act applied to any construction project contracted by the federal government, including military bases, prisons, ports, banking and telecommunications. The Canada Labour Code, which is the federal labour code, applies to all of those including projects that go across provincial borders. What comes to mind when we think about large projects that might span interprovincial borders are pipelines. We have unearthed now that deep within Bill the federal government has eliminated the fair wages and working conditions that are found in this act. It has completely eradicated that.
The act also states that contractors, whether unionized or non-unionized, have to pay the prevailing wage. This is usually determined by the by consulting in that area what a normal prevailing wage would be, not the union scale but somewhere in the same living-wage ballpark. As well, it sets the hours of work, including that no construction worker has to work more than 48 hours without time and a half overtime.
All of that has been eradicated. Now, a contractor can bid on one of these federal jobs and post a job notice saying “Wanted: Carpenters, $8 an hour, 84 hour work week, straight time”. No one will apply for that job, which opens the door to the other side of the coin, to mix a metaphor.
The other side of the coin is that the government has changed the laws for temporary foreign workers again by virtue of recent legislation to the point where a contractor can get temporary foreign workers within 10 days. Where do they come from? They are not some unemployed guys in Bangladesh who notice a job opportunity in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Rather, they come from international labour brokers who are peddling crews of temporary foreign workers all over the world for construction projects. We call them labour pimps. Unfortunately, many of the workers working for these international labour brokers are working in a form of bonded servitude for substandard wages with substandard living, health and safety conditions. Not only are they exploiting those temporary foreign workers, they are also driving down the wage and industry standards of Canadian workers by virtue of these contractors who will undoubtedly win every job.
I know construction. I am a journeyman carpenter. I spent my whole life in construction. I used to be a representative of the carpenters' union. I know the margins that construction contractors play with. There is only 2% or 3% between this bid and that bid. It is very competitive. Contractors who bid a job by pricing out labour at 20% and 30% and 40% lower than their competitors will win every job, every time. They will drive down the prevailing wage, because those other contractors will now have to start bidding lower if they are to ever win a job.
To whose benefit is it to drive down the fair wages of Canadian workers? Let me point out a secondary problem this raises. How are we going to attract bright, young men and women into the building trades if the normal wage is now going to be $8, $9 or $10 an hour instead of the $20 or $30 that it is now? Try feeding a family on $8, $9 or $10 an hour. Nobody in his or her right mind is going to go into that industry. We are going to have temporary foreign workers all over again. This is a recipe for undermining the integrity of the construction industry. I believe it is set up specifically to enable the construction of interprovincial pipelines, which used to be subject to these fair wage standards. It is going to create an open door for contractors to avoid paying fair wages to Canadians and these things are going to be built with temporary foreign workers.
Let me provide a recent example. Unfortunately, the pulp mill in Gold River, British Columbia closed down due to normal market forces. The pulp mill was sold to China. Instead of hiring locals to tear down the pulp mill, the 400 men and women who worked there all their lives and knew every nut and bolt in the place, the mill owner applied for temporary foreign workers. The permit was granted. I have a copy of the application. It asked if the mill tried to find Canadians to do the job. The answer was yes. It asked for the reason it did not hire those Canadians. The answer was that the price was too high. Therefore, it brought in crews of guys from India, who sleep six to a hotel room, to tear down the pulp mill while Canadian workers were outside the fence looking in, wishing they had another 12 weeks so they could get a pogey claim at least.
These temporary foreign worker permits are being given away like party favours at Conservative Party conventions to anybody who asks for them. Now the rules have been changed to make it a 10-day turnaround. A company posts an ad in the paper saying carpenters are wanted for $8 an hour, no overtime, no benefits. Nobody applies for the job. Within 10 days, that company has a crew from an international labour broker pimp who is going to provide all the manpower for that job.
Another example is the Winnipeg international airport. Winnipeg is very proud of its airport. Why is it that unemployed Canadian carpenters were outside the fence watching a crew of temporary foreign workers build that airport? It is simple. It asked the government for it. The crew consisted of 80 guys from Lebanon. The last job they came from was in Latvia, where they built another big concrete job. These guys are moved all over the world because it is cheaper than paying Canadians a fair wage. Companies would rather pay foreign nationals, not landed immigrants but foreign nationals, our wages. They are eating our lunches, and those jobs should be going to Canadians.
As if there were not enough to criticize in Bill , the government has just repealed the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. It makes one wonder what kind of a government is opposed to fair wages for Canadian workers. How many trusting blue-collar workers look to their government for support, not to undermine their living conditions? In its zeal to smash the unions, the government is dragging down the standard of living for the largest-employing industry sector in the country: the construction industry.
I know who is behind it: the merit shop contractors. They are regular and frequent visitors in the PMO. They went to the PMO and said, “It would be really great if we could win all the jobs. We win some of the jobs now, but it would be great if we could win all the jobs”. The government asked, “How can we help you?” They said, “Just eliminate the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act and then we can offer whatever wages we want, with no restrictions and no controls”.
It used to be that companies had to pay employees time and a half after 48 hours when they should have been paying them time and a half after 40 hours, but that was not good enough. Now they do not have to pay time and a half at all. Minimum wage is the only prevailing wage now, and I mean the provincial minimum wage, on these projects. It is destructive and counterproductive.
It is in nobody's best interest to ratchet down the wages and working conditions of Canadian workers. It is bad for the economy. The government says it is doing these things because it is good for the economy. What is good for the economy are well-paid, consuming, middle-class workers who are buying cars, houses and jeans for their kids, not people who are driven into the poorhouse by their government.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House this afternoon and speak to the important investments and reforms our government is making in budget 2012. Economic action plan 2012 is squarely focused on what matters to Albertans and all Canadians: valuable new jobs and sustainable economic prosperity.
We are moving forward with a stable plan to encourage long-term economic growth and job creation by maintaining our focus on supporting entrepreneurs, business innovators and world-class researchers.
Alberta understands the importance of business innovation. Alberta's cities and rural communities are home to some of the world's most innovative companies and research institutions.
Our government is committed to fostering an economic climate that encourages business innovation. Business innovation is increasingly vital to maintaining our international competitiveness and our excellent standard of living.
Economic action plan 2012 contains over $1.1 billion in significant investments for research and development and $500 million for venture capital and for increased public and private research collaboration.
This direct investment will support private sector business projects that will develop new and innovative technologies demanded in the global market.
Our government will help increase the number of persons employed in high-paying research and development fields and will ensure long-term growth by enabling innovative Canadian companies to thrive in an increasingly competitive and global business environment.
In addition to strategic investments, our government is also committed to improving conditions for business investment. Our government will bring forward legislation to implement across the board changes to achieve the goal of one project, one review in a clearly defined time period.
This includes system-wide legislative improvements to the review process for major economic projects, which will establish clear timelines, reduce duplication and regulatory burdens and focus resources on large projects where the potential environmental impacts are the greatest.
In addition, Western Economic Diversification Canada will be launching the western innovation program, which is a new program that provides support to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises in western Canada.
This budget also places a renewed emphasis on cutting red tape and making it easier to do business in Alberta and the rest of Canada. Reducing red tape helps businesses to better compete; it represents a low-cost way to enable economic growth and to boost productivity as Canada emerges from the global recession.
That is why our government will propose new legislation to modernize and streamline its regulatory system.
In addition, economic action plan 2012 proposes $54 million over two years to continue to support effective project approvals through the major projects management office initiative, which has helped to transform and streamline the approval process for major natural resource projects.
Budget 2012's measures build on a strong foundation of investment and support for research and innovation in Edmonton, Alberta and all of Canada. For example, in May 2009, the Government of Canada committed $195 million to the Government of Alberta as part of Canada's economic action plan through the knowledge infrastructure program. These funds facilitated the enhancement of the science degree program at Grant MacEwan University with the building of new and renovated high quality science labs. They helped to build innovative facilities, like the Alternative Energy Centre at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and helped to upgrade the fume-hood exhaust systems in the chemistry and biological sciences building at the University of Alberta. These upgrades will improve the use and utility of high quality research space, ensuring that students and researchers have the best possible space to learn and conduct their work.
Since 2006, we have provided nearly $8 billion in new funding for initiatives to support science, technology and the growth of innovative firms. With economic action plan 2012, our government would continue to invest in research and innovation in Canada.
Budget 2012 proposes to invest $400 million to help increase private sector investments in early stage risk capital and to support the creation of large scale venture capital funds. Facebook, Google and Research in Motion were all at one time start-up companies financed by venture capital, and we want to help launch the next Canadian business success story.
The western innovation program is another proposal from budget 2012. Western Economic Diversification will soon launch this program to provide financial support to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises in western Canada. Budget 2012 also proposes further supporting advanced research at universities and other leading institutions. Our government plans to invest $500 million over five years to the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support new competitions, including the college industry innovation fund which we will begin funding in 2014.
These commitments demonstrate in concrete ways our government's commitment to following a new approach to supporting advancements in research and innovation by pursuing active, business-led initiatives that focus resources on better addressing the needs of the private sector.
However, we must remember what the lifeblood of our economic engine is. In the Alberta economy, as well as in the rest of Canada, our natural resources have given us a tremendously high quality of life.
These resources have also given jobs to hundreds of thousands of Canadians, which, in the current economic climate, is an extremely important asset. The oil sands in Alberta are merely one of myriad examples of natural resources that have helped to drive the Canadian economy forward with benefits to all provinces and territories.
In this global economy, we need to make full use of all of the assets at our disposal and, in this great country of ours, our natural resources are certainly one of those. In 2010, the natural resources sectors of our economy employed more than 760,000 Canadians in communities across the country. In the next 10 years, there will be more than 500 new major economic projects totalling $500 million in new investments. The oil sands industry currently employs over 130,000 Canadians and generates wealth that benefits the entire country.
A recent study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates that, over the next 25 years, growth of the oil sands industry will support approximately 480,000 jobs and will add $2.3 trillion to Canada's gross domestic product. In addition to all of this, the increasing global demand for resources, particularly from emerging economies, will create new economic and job opportunities from which all Canadians will benefit.
However, our economy and our people will only benefit from these demands if investments are made by the most important driver in our economy and that is the private sector. We need the private sector, with all of its drive and innovation, to bring these natural resources to market.
Recently, however, those wanting to invest in our resources have faced an increasingly large and tangled web of bureaucratic rules and reviews before being able to bring these resources to market. Such obstacles can add costly delays, deter investors and undermine the economic viability of major projects.
In order to achieve the greatest value possible from our natural resources, Canada needs a regulatory system that reviews projects in a timely and transparent manner while at the same time effectively protecting our environment. We will adopt a balanced and responsible approach to protecting our environment that makes a significant tangible difference but does not transfer Canadian jobs overseas.
That is why in economic action plan 2012 our government proposes to streamline and modernize the review process for major economic projects. As part of our plan, major projects will have fixed timelines, panel reviews will be limited to 24 months, National Energy Board hearings will be limited to 18 months and standard environmental assessments will be held to 12 months in length. This will create clear, certain and predictable timelines for businesses that will lead to quality, well-paying and skilled jobs for Canadians. These measures will reduce duplication and burdensome regulations while focusing resources instead on large projects where the potential environmental impacts are the greatest.
These improvements to the regulatory and approval process will benefit Alberta’s economy and, therefore, Canada’s and will position us competitively for long-term growth and future prosperity.
Canada is a great nation and we are in an excellent fiscal position. Budget 2012 keeps us on track to balance the budget, keep taxes low and create jobs and economic prosperity in the long term.
Many governments around the world would envy this budget and, if they were in the economic position of Canada, they might be content to rest on their laurels. Not us, not this government. We will not rest. We will continue to work hard to ensure that Canadian businesses, the industrial and educational sectors, are pushing the envelope in each of their respective domains. We will continue to ensure they have the resources and the environment they need to succeed and create jobs, deliver products to market, develop the next cutting edge technological innovation or make revolutionary scientific discoveries.
We will keep working hard as if it all depended on us, and, frankly, it does. Through all of our work, we will keep in mind the model of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which clearly sums up our goals as a government and the economic circumstances we have come through in the past four years: per aspera ad astra, which means “through adversity to the stars”, and if our history and emergence from past adversities is any indication of our future prosperity, Canada's future is very bright indeed.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a few minutes to talk about this omnibus bill, this huge 400- to 500-page budget bill, which is going to change the face of Canada. The bill is full of bundled information. I am disappointed that, instead of dealing with something that is maybe 50 pages, we have to try to dissect something that is 400 or 500 pages and full of all kinds of changes to everything we could possibly think of.
I have been here now for 13 years. I have been in cabinet. I have been on the back bench and I have been on the front bench. I have been in opposition and in government. I have never seen such a lack of respect for democracy in this country and for the Parliament of Canada and parliamentarians as this attempt to put all of this into an omnibus bill that would change so much with so little input from Parliament. The bill is designed specifically in a way that undermines the essential and historic role Parliament plays in writing and passing good and sound laws.
Bill attacks old age security and would implement budget 2012, which the Liberal caucus clearly opposes.
The bill includes many other items, including the gutting of 50 years of environmental protection.
Bill should not be a single omnibus bill, and for these reasons and many more, I will be opposing this legislation quite happily.
Bill would make sweeping changes to 60 different acts of this Parliament. It would rewrite a generation's worth of environmental regulation and oversight and roll back assistance for low- and middle-income seniors.
Bill would change program rules such as the employment insurance rules that would affect claimants' ability to reject jobs that are not within the field associated with their expertise. Just imagine being on employment insurance. Never mind being told one must take a job 50 miles away, but one must take a job possibly all the way to the west or to the east. Imagine what that would do to a family. It is bad enough to be unemployed without being forced to relocate away from family and all of the struggles that are there. It is all just part of the meanness that is clearly evident in the government. A lack of concern and a lack of compassion for Canadians is what it is all about.
I have no concern with change. Frankly I welcome change. I would welcome an opportunity to truly debate the bill, as would all of us. Our role here is to make Canada better, not to support making Canada worse and treating its citizens with disrespect.
Parliament has a constitutional role that includes spending oversight. Even the Conservative government cannot sidestep that, even though it is not for lack of trying.
The government has already moved and passed closure on the bill, limiting debate within the House. Rest assured; that will come back and the government will pay a price for that--if not today, then tomorrow.
The Conservative government has pursued a policy of forcing committees into closed sessions at every opportunity, further locking Canadians out of the parliamentary process. The Conservatives have set up special rules for senators, rules that they are refusing to allow for elected members of the House. What are they so afraid of? Openness, public debate and discussion are allowed in the Senate but not allowed here in the House of Commons, where we are truly supposed to be having that kind of debate.
We did have some success in the Senate, though. The Liberals asked that the bill be split up so that the relevant Senate committees could study it, just exactly the kind of thing we asked for a couple of weeks ago here in the House. The Conservatives would not allow that, because we might actually debate important issues that they might disagree with. There was a time when the ralied against the other place, but today he seems prepared to give it every consideration as long as it does what he wants.
There was also a time when the ralied against heavy-handed and reckless governing, but now that he is in charge, he seems to enjoy it. These are not his first policy reversals, though, since becoming Prime Minister. Conveniently forgetting his election promises seems to be a speciality of the Prime Minister.
The bill attacks a variety of things, including our immigration laws. The bill would allow foreign workers who have come to Canada, be they seasonal or temporary, to be paid less than people working beside them.
Just imagine what that would do to the reputation of this country. We are looking to exploit people who are basically just looking for a day's pay, coming from another country for a short period of time, leaving their families and homes to fill a need we have. We would pay them less than anybody else who is doing that job.
The bill would also raise the age at which seniors can get a pension. It would take $30,000 out of the pocket of every Canadian, while the government members stand back and say they are reducing taxes, or doing this or that. They would take $30,000 out of the pocket of every Canadian who is 54 years of age and under.
The budget would rewrite the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, handing power to cabinet to be used behind closed doors. It would amend the Canadian Oil and Gas Operations Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, legislation that is all related, interestingly enough, to the northern gateway pipeline. One has to wonder what that is all about. It would not affect some areas, but specifically those areas, to get rid of what government members continue to see as roadblocks to their ultimate goal, which is to see that pipeline go through.
As I indicated before, the and the government are breaking a specific promise. The Prime Minister indicated two months before the election, in March 2011, that he would not change the health transfers. He would not cut health transfers or social payments or touch pensions. That was in March 2011.
Now what is the Prime Minister doing? He is ignoring the advice of the worldwide OECD, Canada's chief actuarial officer, his own Parliamentary Budget Officer and even the government's experts, who all agree this change is not necessary, as Canada's OAS program is already and will continue to be sustainable. Worse yet, he is betraying the trust of Canadians, as all the government members have done. None of them has stood up and opposed it. None of them has had the courage to do that. This change is going to hit Canada's most vulnerable people.
Some of these changes negatively alter federal protection of waterways and limit the list of protected species, without a scientific basis, which is always the way the government does it. Never mind evidence-based science that shows one should not do this or that; it is all about political expediency.
Some of those changes to immigration would affect 100,000 immigration applications made by people who want to come to Canada, which have been in the queue for years. What does the government do? It throws them all out. It does not care. Let people start all over again. They will never get to this country in their lifetimes. Some of those changes would fundamentally change the way we welcome new Canadians to this country.
We at least owe it to Canadians to fully vet and debate the changes. That is what democracy is all about. It does not work in secret. That is not the way it is supposed to happen in Canada.
Bill would radically shift power from publicly accessible oversight and regulatory mechanisms to the bloated autocracy found within the 's office. Bill C-38 is essentially a document that wrests power from Parliament and Canadians and places it directly into the waiting hands of the Prime Minister.
I have to ask how long it will take before the will approve the northern gateway pipeline after environmental oversight is removed. I do not think it is going to take very long.
I ask what the next cuts are that are going to happen, whether to seniors or other Canadians. What are the other things that are considered by this government to be irrelevant, that it does not care about and has little respect for?
This is just the beginning of many, many changes that are going to come to this country of ours that we call Canada. Clearly, in 2015, with these changes coming through, Canada will not look the same.
I for one, as a parliamentarian, find it very sad that we are also being denied the chance to debate these issues. It is one thing to have a healthy debate on them in which we respect each other and something passes. That is the way it is. To have these changes made while muzzling everyone is truly a slap in the face for democracy in this country.
Mr. Speaker, giving a speech on Bill , the budget implementation act, is a true honour for me. We are dealing with one of the most substantial budgets in decades and it is extremely important to the future of the country.
Before I get into that, I am very surprised at what I have heard over these last days of debate on the bill. I have heard members say, “That is there, and that may be all right, but there is something hidden, and it is such a big document, we cannot study it”. They say that they do not have enough speaking time, yet the member for took 11 hours in a filibuster, which deprived 44 members of a chance to speak to the bill.
What were we to do? Were we to let every member of the House filibuster for 11 hours? We could have been years on the bill. We have to deal with the bill. We hear a lot of nonsense from the members opposite, but quite frankly that nonsense does not cut it. What is in the bill is very significant and important to the future of our country, and it is extremely positive legislation.
I will talk about one part of the legislation, and that is the responsible development strategy. This part of the legislation is truly the most significant change that any government in our country has made in decades. It is extremely important, and I will give hon. members an idea of why I believe that in the 10 minutes I have.
First, we have heard from companies across the country that they want to invest about $500 billion in 500 major projects in the next 10 years. That is a lot of investment. That investment is not just in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. That investment is right across the country. There would be huge investments in Atlantic Canada and in Quebec. In Ontario the ring of fire is a mammoth project. It is almost unimaginable, judging from what we heard from witnesses at our natural resources committee.
This is extremely significant and important legislation, and the part on responsible development is pivotal in the future of the country. It will mean our children and our grandchildren, and even our great grandchildren, will have extremely good, top-notch, top-paying jobs, jobs that are fun to go to every day because they are exciting and people can really make things happen. This change in legislation will allow that to happen.
I chair the natural resources committee. We have been hearing from witnesses on various studies, most recently resource development in northern Canada. We did a major study on forestry in Canada. We did a study on the ring of fire in northern Ontario. We have done some fascinating studies and we have heard four main concerns from witnesses on development.
Almost all of them brought forward these concerns. This is not only from business owners and business managers. This is from union leaders who are concerned about future jobs for their members. It is from community leaders. It is from a wide range of people right across the country. They say that these things have to change in order to allow Canada to develop these incredibly good jobs for our children and grandchildren.
From almost all of the witnesses, we heard there was an infrastructure need. Much of that infrastructure the companies themselves are willing to put in place. It is that important to their projects. A lot of resource companies have some cash right now so they are willing to do that. For those who follow, they are willing to make an arrangement so that they pay for the development of infrastructure they put in place.
That includes the obvious things like roads, bridges and that kind of thing. It also includes something else, which is an even bigger problem for many of these natural resources developments, and that is a power supply. They need a relatively small power supply for running a mine, for example, but they need a much larger power supply if they are to add some value right at the site and if they are to refine the ore into one of the end products, or all of the end products. That takes a lot larger electricity supply, and getting that supply is a major infrastructure demand.
Many companies can do that, working with other companies. Some have suggested that maybe there might be some need for either provincial or federal government lending or some such thing, but infrastructure is an important thing.
The second thing almost every witness talked about, and this is not an exaggeration as anybody sitting on the committee would know, is the shortage of skilled workers.
A lot of people think the shortage is only in western Canada. However, that is not the case. The shortage exists in every province and territory in the country. Now it is not in every town. As we know, some communities have very high rates of unemployment. However, that shows another problem that we will start to deal with in the budget implementation act and in our budget. It makes that connection between the areas of relatively high unemployment and the desperate need for skilled workers. I will talk more about how we will do that a little later, but it is a connection that we have gone a long way to make in this budget. We have done some of that over the past few years, but there is more to be done.
As there is an incredible need for skilled workers, we have put more money into post-secondary education, universities, technical schools and community colleges so our kids can get their education closer to home. All of that is helping to solve this problem.
Also, this shortage has become a huge opportunity for first nations across the country. Almost every one of these resource development projects is near or involves a first nation community. We know that in many of these communities there is a high level of unemployment, so this opportunity is there.
Many of our companies across the country are taking advantage of that source of workers by offering not only training but teaching these people how to get into the workplace to get some of the top-notch jobs that are available. That is a benefit of the skilled worker shortage. We are getting first nation people much more involved, sometimes through their own companies and sometimes through working for someone else.
Third, if we are going to have these developments take place in Canada, we have to become more competitive.
Canadians simply are not very competitive. For example, we are not competitive compared to our American neighbours. Therefore, if we want to keep these high wage jobs and if we want to create more, then we have to become more competitive. We have to do that through new innovation, new technology, et cetera. We have a major focus in the budget on exactly that and we will move ahead with it. This third area is of great concern to all companies and we will deal with it along with them, because they often take the lead on that.
Fourth, we need a better regulatory system. These companies have made it very clear that they can either invest their $500 billion in Canada or they can take it anywhere else in the world, and they mean it. They are not married to our country; they can go anywhere. Therefore, we have to ensure we get these projects in Canada and that means improving our regulatory approval system. A lot of the budget is about that. We have to improve the process for not only for large projects, but for small projects as well.
I have heard from municipalities across the country about the difficulty they have when they put a larger culvert in to move water across the road. The cost of doing that is triple in many cases because the regulatory process runs interference.
For large and small projects, we need to have a streamlined regulatory process. Does that mean we will ignore the environment? It is exactly the opposite. Instead, we will have a focused environmental process that will bring together the federal, provincial and local governments, first nations and private business. Together they will go hand in hand sharing information and expertise. The end result will be a better environmental assessment process and there will be more certainly in that process. Therefore, these companies will be willing to invest their money if there is certainty. If they know the government part of the process for a major project will not take more than two years, they can live with that and go ahead with their investment.
I cannot overstate the importance of what is being done through the budget, particularly through the common sense approach to the regulatory process reform. I am proud to stand as a member of the Conservative caucus. I am proud to be a part of what will be the most significant government action taken for generations to come.