Mr. Speaker, in the debate on Bill , the concerns of the Liberal opposition fall into two categories.
First, from a procedural point of view, the government is again trying to jam Parliament, making sensible debate very difficult and rendering any votes on the bill both muddled and meaningless, all because Bill is another offensive omnibus bill, one that exceeds every legitimate precedent and that clearly constitutes an abuse of power.
Second, when economic growth is slowing to a crawl; when Canadian productivity is worse than we thought; when household debts are reaching dangerous proportions; and when worldwide financial risks are “alarmingly high”, to use the words of the IMF, Bill is stunningly complacent. There is nothing significant to promote growth, jobs, innovation and productivity, or to achieve genuine sustainable development in one of the world's most important resource economies, or to foster a dynamic and successful middle class, or to combat growing inequality between different sectors, regions and demographic groups.
On the procedural point, so-called omnibus bills obviously bundle several different measures together. Within reasonable limits, such legislation can be managed through Parliament if the bill is coherent, meaning that all the different topics are interrelated and interdependent and if the overall volume of the bill is not overwhelming. That was the case before the government came to power in 2006.
When omnibus bills were previously used to implement key provisions of federal budgets, they averaged fewer than 75 pages in length and typically amended a handful of laws directly related to budgetary policy. In other words, they were coherent and not overwhelming.
However, under this regime the practice has changed. Omnibus bills since 2006 have averaged well over 300 pages, more than four times the previous norm. This latest one introduced last week had 556 sections, filled 443 pages and touched on 30 or more disconnected topics, everything from navigable waters to grain inspection, from disability plans to hazardous materials.
It is a complete dog's breakfast, and deliberately so. It is calculated to be so humongous and so convoluted, all in a single lump, that it cannot be intelligently examined and digested by a conscientious Parliament.
Worse still, routine matters and positive measures are interwoven willy-nilly with destructive and contentious issues so that at the end of the day there can be no clear vote on anything, and thus the basic reason for this House to exist, to vote and to decide, is subverted.
Clearly Bill and its immediate predecessor, Bill , are an abuse of power, and there is no greater authority for that indictment than the himself. When he served in opposition, he complained bitterly about a rather tiny omnibus bill back in 1994 that dealt with just five interconnected topics and ran a grand total of 21 pages.
In high dudgeon at the time, the said that the modest bill was:
—so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles.
We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse? Dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill.
He asked government members in particular to worry about the implications of omnibus bills for “democracy and the functionality of...Parliament”. That was the in 1994 complaining about a bill of a mere 21 pages.
By contrast, what we have before us today in Bill is massive, with more than 400 pages and more than 500 sections covering more than 30 different topics, amending more than 60 other pieces of legislation, some of which were never mentioned in the budget itself.
The must be totally twisted out of shape by this perversion of parliamentary democracy. It is either that or, now in power, his previous principles have become expendable. Canadians fear the latter is the case.
It is not just manipulative omnibus bills that break the rules of decent behaviour. It is also ministerial binges on $16 orange juice and lavish limousines and ornamental gazebos in Muskoka, all at the taxpayers' expense, and never a word of complaint from the Prime Minister. It is hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on the most self-serving tax-paid advertising, external crony consultants, a bloated cabinet and 30 extra totally unnecessary MPs. It is routinely invoking closure to stifle debate. It is forcing parliamentary committees to do the public's business in secret behind closed doors. It is ministers' offices interfering with the public's access to information. It is systematic personal attacks to discredit and intimidate charities, NGOs, public servants and parliamentary watchdogs from the budget officer to the Auditor General, from the information commissioner to Elections Canada. The government will try to shut up anyone who has the temerity to speak truth to power. Ultimately, all of this leads to bad governance, like the multi-billion dollar F-35 stealth fighter boondoggle, which both the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Budget Officer have depicted as dishonest and incompetent.
Expendable principles also lead to election financing fraud, for which the party opposite has been charged and convicted. It also leads to deceitful robocalls and tampering with people's right to vote. Abusive omnibus bills are part of that same matrix of wrongdoing with impunity.
How can this be fixed? The government accepted a Liberal idea last Thursday and Friday to carve out MP pension reforms, which were previously in Bill , so they could be approved separately and immediately. That was a decent start. It proved that these bills are severable. Yesterday, the government accepted another Liberal suggestion to subdivide Bill C-45 for committee study. Instead of being sent as a single lump to the finance committee, the various subject matters in Bill C-45 will each be examined in detail by the House standing committee that has the appropriate expertise.
That is a very good second step. However, voting is the key. After all the debating is done, the vote will still remain convoluted because Bill will not be voted upon in sections or by topics but rather all together, at once, as one lump sum. That makes any such omnibus vote quite meaningless.
This too can be fixed. We call upon the government to structure the final vote on a topic-by-topic basis. It should not muddle scientific tax credits with bridges to Detroit, not confuse the IMF with the EI financing board, but should call separate and distinct votes on each of these topics and let the result be clear and honest.
With distinct and honest voting, and subject to the detailed review that will take place in the appropriate committees, there are certainly some measures in Bill that Liberals could support—for example, the IMF reforms, the CMHC adjustments, the concept of monetary penalties for violations of the internal trade agreement and, no doubt, others.
On some topics we would like to offer the government better alternatives. One example is the employment insurance hiring credit for small business. This measure is necessary only because the Conservatives are increasing the payroll tax burden on small businesses, indeed on all employers, each and every year. Last year and the year before and next year and the year after and every year into the foreseeable future, the government is increasing job-killing EI payroll taxes by some $600 million every year. Then it brags about a tax credit that gives back about $200 million. It takes away $600 million and gives back $200 million. As a consequence, employers are generally worse off. Those employers are paying more new Conservative taxes on jobs than they are getting back in any of the credits.
Business would have a greater incentive to generate new jobs if the government would just stop its annual payroll tax increases. When Liberals faced the challenge of a tough economy in the 1990s, we first froze EI payroll taxes and then we cut them, not once, not twice, but 12 consecutive times. We brought them down by more than 40%, and 3.5 million net new jobs were created. There is no room here to brag about the hiring credit. It is a temporary band-aid over the damage being done by higher and higher Conservative EI payroll taxes year after year.
Another area where Liberals would suggest a better idea has to do with the registered disability savings plans. The changes outlined in Bill are fine as far as they go. They offer some technical improvements in the plans, but they do not go far enough. Still left out, still discriminated against, are those unfortunate Canadians who are diagnosed with long-term debilitating conditions, like multiple sclerosis, for example. Given the capricious nature of diseases like MS, the sufferers may be fine today, with no signs of disability yet emerged, but they know that their future prognoses are quite likely to be problematic. What they would like to do now, while they still are able to earn a living, is to set up a registered disability savings plan and start building some financial security for their more difficult days down the road. But the government says no. To have an RDSP, they must be permanently disabled right now. They cannot make provision for the future. They have to wait until their disability overtakes them. Such rigidity in the rules is shortsighted, mean-spirited and just plain foolish. It can and it should be fixed in Bill C-45.
In the fight for greater equality of opportunity, other things should be done too. Personal tax credits for children's arts and sports, for volunteer firefighters and for family home caregivers should be made equally available to all of those who qualify, not just the more wealthy. As strange as it sounds, the government's tax credit structure is designed in such a way that those below a certain income level do not quality. It is perverse. It punishes the poor. Why is a child from a wealthy family more deserving than a child from a low-income family? Why are more wealthy firefighters or caregivers more deserving than low-income firefighters or caregivers? Of the 25 million people who file tax returns in Canada each year, more than one-third, some nine million families, have incomes so low that they are not eligible for these tax credits. It is unfair, it is wrong and it should be fixed.
Therefore, the government should stop increasing the EI payroll taxes and fix the flaws in registered disability savings plans and family-based tax credits. These things would actually promote economic growth and reduce the inequality among Canadians, but sadly, they are not in Bill . Also, the government should not mangle the scientific research and experimental development tax credit by eliminating capital expenditures from the formula, because that is explicitly discriminatory against some sectors and some regions of the country that need this incentive.
We also want the government to get serious about the situation of young Canadians. Most of those young Canadians have seen very little improvement in their prospects since the depth of the recession four years ago. Unemployment among those under the age of 25 keeps hovering close to recession-like levels of 15%. Some 250,000 fewer young Canadians are employed today than before the recession began. Worse still, 165,000 young Canadians have just given up and dropped out of the job market. From preschool to grad studies, continuous, high-calibre learning is one of the keys to a strong, productive Canadian economy in a precarious world. While fully respecting provincial jurisdictions, the Government of Canada needs to be more than just an idle spectator when it comes to this crucial determinant of Canada's overall economic success and Canadians' individual wellbeing.
We will thrive, or not, in a tough global environment on the quality of our brain power. Therefore, it is good public policy for the federal government to invest in early learning and childcare, to break down financial barriers to post-secondary studies and skills, to ease the burden of student debt and shift toward more grants than loans, to bolster more curiosity-based pure research, to foster innovation and to make Canada the most connected and digital country in the world.
Squarely within federal jurisdiction for aboriginal education, the federal government must end the cap that limits first nations' access to post-secondary learning. In the kindergarten to grade 12 system, the feds need to fill that disgraceful gap between what they invest to educate aboriginal children and the much higher amounts the provinces invest for non-aboriginal children. That discrepancy has to be fixed.
Sadly, none of these courageous measures are to be found in Bill , nor does the bill address the urgent need for more affordable housing, especially for seniors, students, the disabled and others with special needs. It does not take the creative step of transferring the entire federal gas tax to local municipal governments to help underpin community infrastructure. It does not advance the principle of a more extensive CPP, while it perversely maintains the government's odious decision to cut the future pensions of the poorest and most vulnerable of senior citizens. Those pensions will be cut gradually in the future at a saving of something approaching 0.3% of GDP. The burden of that minor saving for the Government of Canada will fall squarely on the backs of the lowest-income and most vulnerable older Canadians who have no alternatives.
Bill fails in the first obligation of every government, to keep Canadians safe. There is erosion in border services, prison security, our spy system, Maritime search and rescue, consumer product labelling, emergency preparedness, community crime prevention, cyber security and, most blatantly, food safety.
Why the government would choose to make these areas its primary focus for cutting has a lot of Canadians scratching their heads. They want to be able to count on their governments to ensure public health and safety, first and foremost. However, the government seems to have that priority nowhere significantly on its list.
On procedure and on substance, for what it does and what it fails to do, Bill in our judgment cannot be supported as it stands today.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am certainly pleased to stand in the House today to speak to Bill , which is our second budget implementation act. As members are aware, the budget was introduced last spring and, as is the typical practice of the House, there are usually two pieces of legislation that turn this aspirational and directional document into legislation. Today we are considering the second important implementation bill.
The opposition has taken a very simplistic view of this process. The opposition members are busy counting pages rather than reading them. They are focused on worrying about the number of statutes as opposed to looking at the current context and the unique challenges that we face as a country.
Canadians want their government to focus on results. They expect us to work hard to ensure that this happens. I want to provide a small example, using MP pensions. Since I was elected in 2008, I have heard regularly and frequently from constituents that they felt the current plan was unfair to the taxpayer.
As a government, we committed to make a change where parliamentarians would pay their fair share. We need to look at this in a little more depth. This represented one line in the budget, but it took 22 pages in the BIA to make the change. To be frank, I do not think Canadians care about how many pages it would take. What they care about is the outcome. They expect legislators to know how to make it happen.
I would like to note the comment of Speaker Parent when the issue of budget scope was debated in 1994. He said:
In conclusion, it is procedurally correct and common practice for a bill to amend, repeal or enact several statutes. There are numerous rulings in which Speakers have declined to intervene simply because a bill was complex and permitted omnibus legislation to proceed.
We are aware that an important plan is necessary. Our government knows we must make changes to ensure Canada's long-term future, a future focused on prosperity, jobs and growth, a future that will help further unleash the potential of Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate and thrive in a modern economy to the benefit of all Canadians for generations to come.
As has been said often in the House, Canada is the envy of the world. We were well-positioned to face the great recession and fared better than most countries. We have over 800,000 net new jobs, most of them in the private sector and most of them full-time.
Our plan is working but we must do more. That is why the economic action plan is so important. There are many challenges ahead that range from a continual fragile global economy to a significant demographic challenge with an aging workforce.
I would now like to give a few examples and focus in on what the BIA 2 will do. We are looking at responsible resource development. It absolutely is critical to ensure environmental protection, but at the same time have some balance.
When I was mayor of a small town, we took incredible pride in the protection of some of our important fish habitats, but we were also tried to put in a walking trail. We had a walking trail, with a tiny footbridge, that had to go over a creek that was wet very infrequently. It was considered a navigable water. The amount of bureaucracy and paperwork involved was stunning. A canoe never went in that water. There was never any navigation in that water. The process we had to go through with Transport Canada in order to put in a small footbridge that would support the recreation and well-being of the community was absolutely stunning.
This is where we need to create better balance in terms of what we are looking at, focusing important resources in areas that are going to be most important.
Another place I would like to look at within this BIA is the expanding opportunities for the aboriginal people to fully participate in the economy. I am really particularly proud of Tk'emlúps Indian Band which has shown real leadership in moving forward for a good economy for its people and using their land in ways that the band approves of but provides challenges.
The Auditor General has identified the designation and leasing processes to be the cause of unnecessary lengthy approval times for projects on reserve.
I have seen that up front, whether it be a number of the bands as they are trying to move forward wanting to do some very important things and the months of delay with the bureaucracy again getting in their way. The legislation has important amendments that would take away some of the government's patriarchal land ownership rulings and let the bands move forward in terms of some important economic opportunities.
We recognize that having a social safety net that supports Canadians must be there for future generations. We cannot leave a legacy of debt that will suffocate our children and we must return to a balanced budget in the medium term, again an important focus of what we are doing right now.
Expanding trade and opening new markets for Canadian business is critical. Our prosperity is ultimately linked to reaching beyond our borders for economic opportunities. I will look at the forestry industry in British Columbia where the new markets in China have seen us through a very difficult time and helped buffer the U.S. recession because our pulp mills and our forestry workers were able to keep working and have looked at a significant increase in terms of trading with China.
Our government also understands the importance of a fair and equitable tax system and that is why this bill includes a number of important measures to improve on certain tax credits and other issues. Overall, these measures would improve access to some very important tax programs. I will talk briefly about the RDSP,which has been very well received. We will simplify the process to open RDSPs for individuals who have reached the age of majority and lack contractual competence. We would reduce the repayment of the Canada disability savings grant and Canada disability savings bonds in certain cases. We are introducing changes to the minimum and maximum withdrawal rules. We are allowing a tax-free roll-over of registered education savings plan investment income into an RDSP. We are temporarily suspending the termination of an RDSP following cessation of eligibility. I could go on and on but essentially these are technical changes that would provide a vast improvement to the program. If it takes a lot of pages, I ask that the opposition members read the pages and support the legislation.
I will contrast our low tax plan focus on jobs and growth with that of the NDP. On page four of the NDP platform, there is a $21 billion carbon tax that would be used for a myriad of government social programs that range from housing to food. We need to be clear that this is a tax that would raise the cost of everything from gas to heating bills and it should be contrasted—
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill .
It is very important legislation that deals with a lot of specific technical changes, such as changes to the registered disability savings plan, which was introduced by this government and is a benefit for families to deal with some of the costs related to a person in the family with a disability. It also deals with changes to the Indian Act, which is something that was presented to the finance committee by the member for . A member of the Kamloops Band presented the idea with respect to changing the ownership on reserves. This would be a real step forward and it is something I will return to later in my remarks. There are number of measures in this comprehensive legislation.
As chair of the finance committee, I thought I would provide some context for members of Parliament and Canadians in terms of the process that we go through to arrive at budget implementation acts.
The process actually starts at the finance committee each fall. In fact, it starts in June when the finance committee sends out a notice asking Canadians to give us their thoughts on what should be in the next budget in the upcoming budgetary cycle. Canadians respond and, over the last two years, in dramatic numbers. This year we have had nearly 800 submissions from organizations and individuals from across Canada giving us their thoughts on what should be in the next budget.
This year we tried a slightly different process. We put five questions on the public website and asked Canadians to respond to those five questions. We put all the responses online. This is the second time we have done this as a committee. We want to be very transparent in terms of the input the committee is receiving.
The deadline for submissions was in the summer. We then had the submissions translated and put online. Members of the finance committee from all parties are now working diligently to go through those submissions.
In addition to that, we are doing what the committee has done for over a decade now, which is to hear from individuals and organizations before the committee. We will hear from approximately 120 organizations and individuals. We will have a very good dialogue with members of Parliament in terms of what should be in the next budget.
This is a very broad process and there is no topic that cannot be raised at the finance committee in prebudget consultations. However, following some of the discussions last year on the first budget implementation act, there was the thought that maybe we should narrow our focus at the finance committee but members from all sides said no, that it should be a very broad public consultation process. Anyone should be able to come and say anything in terms of where the country should go because fiscal matters are incredibly broad. We hear from environmental groups, health groups, aboriginal groups, small business organizations and chambers of commerce across the country, anyone bringing forward any type of measure. This is not simply related to tax, financial or fiscal information. It is very broad. It is a fantastic discussion and I think members from all sides enjoy the debate.
That then leads to the committee deliberating on what should go into the report that it will table in Parliament in December. Obviously, that report is public and Canadians can compare the submissions that came into the committee to what the committee decided in terms of what it wants to recommend to the government for the next budget. The then takes the report under consideration and presents the budget typically in February or March.
I would remind members that the budget document is the primary document that the government presents to Parliament each and every year and it is a very broad document. Here are some of the sections in the budget that the minister tabled in March.
With regard to entrepreneurs, innovators and world-class research, the budget proposes to support the research and innovation that is happening in this country, as well as education and training at the universities and colleges across the country.
Improving conditions for business investment deals with a lot of the changes to SR&ED and acts on the Jenkins report, which the government commissioned and which I think it was a report that was fairly well received in all quarters.
The budget also deals with investing in our natural resources; expanding trade and opening new markets for Canadian businesses; keeping taxes low for job creators; strengthening business competitiveness; financial sector advantages; and investing in trade infrastructure and opportunities, which involves human resources in terms of investing in the skills that Canadians have.
On infrastructure, there is the , but all the infrastructure is funded first through finance.
On expanding opportunities for aboriginal peoples to fully participate, obviously we have a committee and a minister that deals with aboriginal peoples but that is all funded through the budget first.
Supporting families and communities, investing in communities, protecting Canada's natural environment and wildlife, and the sustainable management of public finances are all included in a very large budget document, but the budget document itself, as a policy document, is somewhat specific. In certain areas it outlines in general where the government would want to go with respect to items like responsible resource development, the deficit reduction action plan and returning to balanced budgets over the medium term. Various officials then draft legislation to deal with the budget. They typically do two budget implementation acts, one in the spring and one in the fall. They are very comprehensive pieces of legislation.
In terms of the deficit reduction action plan, which is a policy that was endorsed by Parliament after the budget was introduced, all of the specific items under that action plan are then put forward in the two implementation acts which, in my view, is the way it should be happen. The overall policy should be in the budget, but the specific items, which are what we dealt with both in the act in the spring and then partly in this act, actually deal with everything that is in the deficit reduction action plan.
Some people have asked if they would be able to vote. Our colleague across the way from the official opposition asked legitimately if they could vote on each and every section. In fact, they can at committee. As the member knows, we vote on each and every clause at committee and the official opposition and the Liberal Party can choose to support or oppose that specific clause on the record. We can have recorded votes on any specific clause at committee and the member could say they voted in favour of that clause but still oppose the bill at third reading. That is certainly an option for the members opposite. It is important to know that process.
I want to return to one specific item that was raised by Manny Jules, someone whom I think has been a real trailblazer in trying to improve economic development and the economic opportunities for aboriginals within this country. I believe it was three years ago, and I am looking at the member for and hoping I am correct in my timeline, that the finance committee actually met Mr. Jules.
We went to a former residential school, which has now been turned into offices, and he described to us the challenges that first nations people have in owning property on reserves. He said there have been some steps forward in this area, but we need to do more to change the legislation to ensure that aboriginal people have the same full opportunities on reserve, frankly, that other Canadians have in terms of ownership of property.
It was a very interesting idea. I thought members of all parties listened to the idea very carefully and in varying degrees, I think they all thought it was a good idea that should be followed up. It has been looked at. It was endorsed by the finance committee in a report. While it is technically under aboriginal affairs, it actually did end up in the budget and it is therefore in a budget implementation act.
This is the way the process has worked for years. This is not something the Conservative government has invented. This is, in my view, the way the process should work. It should go back to an idea presented to a parliamentary committee. That committee puts it in a report. It goes in a budget and then it goes into a budget implementation act. There is a thread through that entire process that I think we have to draw attention to.
In terms of some of the other changes in the implementation act, I know members at committee will take them very seriously. They will go through all the items. In terms of registered disability plans, something that we introduced as a government, many of the people who have used the benefit have said there are ways in which the program could be improved.
People talked about the navigation act. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, municipalities in my area and other areas across this country have said to the government that it has to amend this act in terms of municipalities and their own growth and investment so that they can move forward.
These are responses to things we hear at committee, which are later put in the budget and then come into the budget implementation act.
I want members to go through that whole process. At committee they can do a very thorough study. The government has indicated it is very open to other committees studying the legislation. I heard the member for say he saw that as something he would certainly welcome.
It is my understanding that we could have any other committee study a piece of the bill and report it back to the finance committee. The finance committee members can then vote yea or nay to any specific clause or provision of the bill.
I look forward to comments from the other side but I do hope they take into account the whole process that occurs, with the policy idea originating here and ending up in a budget implementation act at the end.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise in the House and speak to Bill , even though, clearly, it does not come close to meeting the targeted objectives.
I know the government members do not like talking about procedure. We cannot avoid talking about it, because that is how we can evaluate this government's good governance.
We are opposition members; of course we examine the government's initiatives, particularly those like Bill . We look at the elements that we do agree with, as well as the elements that we oppose. And we suggest ideas that we think could help the government get back on track regarding certain elements that we believe are headed in the wrong direction.
We have a majority government that can decide whether to accept or reject the proposed recommendations. However, based on what happened when the previous mammoth budget bill was introduced in June 2012, we know that this government has no respect for this process, which is absolutely crucial to the good governance of Canada, and particularly of our economy, which is having difficulty right now and needs our attention.
We are dealing with a 450-page budget implementation bill, which is not to be confused with the budget itself. This bill amends, adds or repeals 64 different laws. Thus, this one bill affects 64 different pieces of legislation.
I heard my colleague from say that this is a completely normal process. I imagine that is why the Conservatives did what they did in June. That must also be why they introduced a bill that was 800 or 900 pages long in 2009, when stimulus was needed for the economy during the recession.
This is not normal. According to media commentators, constitutional experts and parliamentary experts, our parliamentary system was not designed for this. At present, the government is using a single bill to address a good number of issues that, in many cases, have nothing to do with the budget, were not mentioned in the budget and could have very easily been introduced in a separate bill. We have been sitting since the middle of September. Many initiatives that were not introduced could have been introduced at that time in order to be examined separately. Instead, they are all included in this monster bill.
The government often says that we should not just focus on numbers, such as the number of pages and acts, and that we must read the bill. But we must do both. We cannot do away with process, because democracy itself is a matter of process. This government seems to have profound contempt for the democratic process and the parliamentary process. We need only think of the fact that the Prime Minister's Office decided to prorogue Parliament, not as part of the normal process to transition to a new legislative agenda, but simply to protect itself and avoid a defeat on a confidence vote in the House. We need only think of the gag orders or time allocation motions, such as the one we saw this morning for Bill . I cannot even count how many we have had since the last election. Obviously, there is also the use of omnibus bills like the one before us today.
Omnibus bills are not the right approach. Unfortunately, that is what the government has decided to use in this case. We find that deplorable because our economy is cause for concern right now. We have told the government many times. Economic indicators clearly show that we are in a period of uncertainty. The latest unemployment statistics are one example. Despite the creation of 52,100 jobs, the unemployment rate increased by 0.1% in September 2012. Between 2000 and 2009, Canadian productivity increased on average 0.6% a year, but the average for all OECD countries was 1.5% per year. So we are lagging behind right now.
The government claims that it is taking measures, such as Bill and Bill , and that the economy is its top priority, but at the end of the day, we have to wonder if it is headed in the right direction.
I would like us to consider two situations. The first has to do with productivity, which is more or less stagnant right now. Since 2006, the government has tried different measures to increase productivity, but nothing is working.
A good indicator of productivity is research and development. In the budget and in Bill —for once there is something in the bill before us that actually has to do with the budget—the government introduced changes to the way companies are allowed to do research and development. Instead of issuing tax credits, the government has chosen to provide companies with direct research and development subsidies.
Unfortunately, there are two problems with this approach that the government has not yet addressed. The first problem is that these measures leave the door wide open for the government to pick winners in every industry. The second is that a lot of money has been lost in the process. Consequently, there will be no increases in amounts allocated to research and development or in corporate assistance for research and development. Canada will ultimately lose out as a result, and our productivity will not improve. This is a recurring problem.
There is another problem with the overall reduction in corporate income tax. The government usually argues that the general corporate income tax measure, which was extended in the last budget, is a measure that allows businesses to invest. However, there are two problems with that. When the Conservative government came to power in 2006, the corporate tax rate was 22%. Starting next year, it will be 15%. Every percentage point cut results in a reduction in revenue, which varies from $2 billion to $4 billion, depending on the year. The government is foregoing an enormous amount of tax revenue through this measure, in the hope, of course—since this is the argument of the government and many economists—that businesses will reinvest the money and create employment.
What have we seen so far? Businesses are sitting on approximately $500 billion, half a trillion in unused cash or dead money. This money is not being reinvested. It is currently lying in coffers waiting to be used, and it is not benefiting the economy in any way.
Another aspect that has to be considered in evaluating the success of these measures is whether the money has in fact been reinvested. If we look at Canadian statistics on reinvestment, we see that net real investment has stagnated in the past 10 or 15 years. So the government is making massive tax cuts and losing the tax room for various programs and services that help Canadians, but we are not seeing any significant increase in investment. Private sector businesses are sitting on a considerable amount of cash that could be invested in economic growth but is not.
The government has to ask itself some questions about this situation. It has to ask itself why the methods it is using do not seem to be working. Yet, we are seeing no such introspection on the government's part. This is a major problem. We know the definition of insanity.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping that things will change.
That is what the government is doing. Eventually, the Conservatives are going to have to revise their economic ideology to allow the Canadian economy to achieve its potential. Right now, it most definitely is not.
As I told the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, the member for , there are many things in Bill that were not in the budget. The Conservatives can do all the mental gymnastics they like, but there are things that were not in the budget, contrary to what the told the House.
A number of these elements are important enough to warrant separate debate.
Take, for example, the elimination of the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board. It was created by the Conservatives, but never did much of anything. In fact, its only function was to set employment insurance premiums. Once again, a board created for a very specific purpose will be abolished, even though it could have been useful to the government. In the end, even though the government went to the expense of creating it, the board will be shut down, which will result in more power being concentrated in the hands of the minister. That is another example of the use of discretionary authority, which is becoming a habit with this government.
Who is going to cover the cost of abolishing the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission? Workers. These are not trivial matters. We are talking about monitoring hazardous materials that many Canadian workers handle in chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing. With a stroke of the pen, and with no mention of it in the budget, this commission is being eliminated.
There was also no mention in the budget of abolishing the Grain Appeal Tribunal. The government is trying to make us believe that one measure in the budget, written in very imprecise and vague language, covered this. That is not the case. If a budget is headed in a certain direction and budget items, offices and agencies must be eliminated, then this should be set out in the budget so we can vote on these elements. That is not currently the case.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer raised two very troubling issues that touch on what we are experiencing with Bill . First, he said—and parliamentary experts agree—that members do not have the information in hand that they need to make decisions about the budget.
In April, we voted for the 2012 budget, but we did not have all of the information. The government was talking about eliminating 19,200 public service jobs and making $5.2 billion in cuts. However, we had no idea where these cuts would be made, and where these jobs would be eliminated, or which sectors would be affected. The information is trickling out as we go along.
That was why the Parliamentary Budget Officer demanded that the government be more transparent in the budgetary process by compelling the departments and agencies to report on their cuts. In doing that, he sought to determine what services would be cut and whether Canadians needed those services. Where will those cuts be made? What objectives does the government want to achieve by making those cuts? What will the consequences be?
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is unable to obtain that information, in spite of the Federal Accountability Act, which the Conservative government asked us to pass in 2006. We fully supported that act. However, the government decided to contravene its own act in order to prevent the Parliamentary Budget Officer from analyzing the impact of budget 2012.
Honestly, I have to say that if the Parliamentary Budget Officer cannot obtain that information, members will have no access to it either and will not be able to conduct a proper debate on budget 2012 and its impact.
We are studying Bill , and we are clearly feeling the impact of budget 2012, for which we have yet to obtain all the information.
Bill very significantly watered down the environmental assessment process, the Fisheries Act and protection of fish habitat. Bill will have very significant consequences for the environment, among other things.
Now with respect to the repeal of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, that act concerns the environment, despite what the government claims. It is trying to create a smokescreen by saying the act concerns only navigation. That is not true: it refers to the protection of navigable waters, including waters where one can navigate in a canoe. This is a rigorous process that the government is in a hurry to water down in order to repeal certain provisions that the lakes and rivers development sector does not like.
This is a big problem and will have major consequences, like the massive watering down of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the amendments to or massive watering down of the Fisheries Act. Some aspects of Bill also concern the Fisheries Act. We were surprised when we read the division of that bill that concerns the Fisheries Act, because most of the provisions correct the errors and excesses of the previous budget implementation bill, , which was passed in June of this year.
We introduced numerous amendments that would have eliminated those errors and excesses, but the government disregarded them. I recall that the government would not agree to any amendments during the study by the Standing Committee on Finance or in the House. Now, a few months later, the Conservatives realize the opposition may have been right on certain points and they are quickly changing things so that no one realizes it. That is what is happening now.
Because of the major repercussions that will result from these important amendments, they really belong in a bill if that is the direction the government truly intends to take, and should be treated separately and given close scrutiny.
There is a great deal of expertise in ocean science, oceanography and biotechnology in the Lower St. Lawrence. In fact, the Université du Québec à Rimouski was rated the best research university by the Toronto magazine RE$EARCH Infosource for its work in this field. The University of Quebec at Rimouski has the capacity for this work because of the networking done by the Technopole Maritime du Québec.
Within the institutional community, UQAR, with its oceanography department and ISMER, its ocean sciences institute, has solid linkages and networks with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Maurice Lamontagne Institute. The UQAR is also linked to private sector organizations like the Centre de recherche sur les biotechnologies marines. The problem is that the massive budget cuts and the dilution of environmental measures put forward in Bill , and reintroduced in Bill , will cripple a region that has succeeded over a 25- to 30-year period in developing internationally recognized cutting-edge expertise. The Maurice Lamontagne Institute’s department of ecotoxicology and the department that studies fish habitat are about to be shut down. The libraries and archives, the only French-language sources serving the university and researchers in the region, are also being closed.
All of these measures, which were not in the budget but derived from it, and about which the Parliamentary Budget Officer would like further details, will diminish the capacity of Rimouski and the lower St. Lawrence to make their mark as international leaders. Is that really what the government wants?
This government should do some soul-searching and look at the measures being put forward in the various budgets tabled and their budget implementation bills. It must seriously consider whether Canada is moving forward or backward.
All of the Canadian and Quebec stakeholders I have heard speak about this issue have a strong feeling that Canada is moving backward. We are deindustrializing and putting all our eggs in one basket, as we used to do when free trade was almost solely with the United States. At least we have been begun to diversify the countries we trade with.
We are putting all our eggs in one basket once again in terms of industries and relying more than anything else on natural resources. This sector is certainly important, but from an economic growth standpoint, it has become the only sector we can rely on. We need to make sure that other sectors in which we could play a leadership role are supported by this government, but there are no signs of this in Bill .
That is why we will oppose Bill at this stage. We are against the process being proposed and against the content which, although it does contain some interesting ad hoc measures here and there, is definitely not a panacea for the Canadian economy.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill , the jobs and growth act 2012.
I will be sharing my time with my colleague from the riding of .
The bill is a continuation of our government's steady focus on the Canadian economy. It is what Canadians want and it is what they expect.
In March the introduced our government's pragmatic and prudent vision for the future of Canadians, one that looked forward to not only the next few years, but also the next generation.
Since 2006, our government has worked to build a strong economic foundation for Canadians. While the effects of the economic downturn of 2008 were felt in homes and businesses across the country, it was through the steady, constant leadership of the and the , as well as our Conservative government, that ensured the Canadian economy emerged from the recession well ahead of every major developed economy in the world.
We have delivered for Canadians. Our strong record speaks for itself: the creation of 820,000 net new jobs since July 2009; a 3.9% increase in year-over-year growth in manufacturing output; a reduction of personal income taxes and cuts to the GST; income splitting for seniors' pensions; the creation of a landmark tax-free savings account; and lower taxes on Canadian businesses, with Canada having the lowest tax rate on new business investment among major advanced economies.
Our banking system is regarded as the most stable in the world. The OECD and the IMF predict Canada's economy to be one of the international leaders over the next coming years.
Therefore, when we sift through the partisan rhetoric and the inaccurate facts and figures thrown about by my opposition colleagues, our government's record on the economy is laid to bare.
Ours is a low tax-plan that would help create jobs, while the NDP pushes high taxes that would kill jobs and growth.
Ours is a plan that would promote clean energy and enhance the neutrality of the tax system, while the NDP's massive carbon tax would not only take $21 billion out of the pockets of hard-working Canadians, it would also cripple Canadian businesses and kill Canadian jobs.
We are also extending the popular hiring credit for small business, which benefited nearly 534,000 employers last year. In my riding of , business owners from Alliston to Collingwood spoke to me about how this measure provided needed relief to small businesses by helping defray the costs of hiring new workers and allowing them to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
My first job was as a small business owner. I ran a moving company to get through university. I took my inspiration and direction from my father, a construction company owner: hard work, dedication to employees and a commitment to service.
Like my father, small business owners, like Fred Hamilton in Glen Huron, do not want handouts or government telling them how they should be running their businesses. All they want is a fair shot, an equal playing field and a government that gets out of their way, or at least works with them as opposed to against them.
Small businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy. As Winston Churchill wisely said:
This is no country of vast spaces and simple forms of mass production...it is by the many thousands of small individual enterprises and activities that the margin by which alone we can maintain ourselves has been procured.
The hiring credit for small businesses does just that. It supports all those small businesses, like the Home Hardware run by Todd Young in Wasaga Beach in my riding. A huge benefit of this program is the tax credit is actually automatically applied. Business owners need not waste their time filling in forms. We have cut red tape as well as deliver a tangible benefit for Canadian businesses.
I am now pleased to speak about the amendments our government proposes to part III of the Canada Labour Code under this legislation.
As members will see, the proposed amendments will not represent significant changes to either employer or employee rights or obligations under part III of Canada's Labour Code. These changes will be part of an overall effort to reduce red tape, cut the cost of government and make our programs and services more responsive to the needs of Canadians.
Part III of Canada's Labour Code establishes minimum working conditions for employees in federally-regulated industries, such as banking, telecommunications and cross-border transportation.
Part III covers hours of work, general holidays, annual vacations and statutory leaves.
Part III also has provisions to help employees recover unpaid wages and get recourse in case they are unjustly dismissed.
The second budget implementation act 2012 contains a number of amendments aimed at making it easier for employers to comply with part III requirements. These proposed amendments will streamline processes, reduce the costs of administering the Labour Code and facilitate the resolution of complaints. We will all benefit from this: workers, employers, and taxpayers.
First, we will be simplifying the calculation for holiday pay for employees from the nine annual paid general holidays provided for in the code. The current method of calculating general holiday pay is highly complex and difficult to apply. Different formulae have to be used, depending upon whether an employee is paid on a monthly, weekly or hourly basis.
In addition, the current eligibility requirements also exclude many employees, for example, part-time workers, from entitlements to holiday pay. The amendments we are proposing will make things simpler so that employers will find it easier to make the necessary calculations for employees' pay and will also make more employees eligible to qualify for these benefits. For regular employees, little will change. General holiday pay will be one-twentieth of total wages, not counting overtime earned in the four week period preceding the week of a general holiday.
For example, Paul, a regular employee working full-time as a manager for a shipping company and earning $1,000 a week would be entitled to $200 in general holiday pay for Thanksgiving.
For employees on commission whose earnings fluctuate, the formula would be one-sixtieth of total wages, not counting overtime, over the preceding 12 weeks. Therefore, Julie, who works as a sales representative on commission and earns a total of $12,000 of the 12 week period before Thanksgiving, would also be eligible for $200 in general holiday pay.
The proposed amendments will also simplify eligibility of requirements for general holiday pay.
It will still be necessary to have 30 days of employment with the employer, but employees will no longer be required to have earned wages for 15 of the 30 days preceding the holiday. This will be beneficial for part-time employees.
We are setting a clear 30-day deadline for employers to pay any vacation pay owed to an employee once his or her employment ends. This will serve to clarify employers' wage payment obligations under the code.
Currently, any person affected by a payment order or anyone who has been notified that his or her complaint is unfounded can appeal the decision. Appeals are heard and adjudicated by external referees appointed by the minister on a case-by-case basis.
Through these amendments, we are establishing an administrative mechanism to review inspectors' payment orders and their decisions to reject a complaint. The internal review will be conducted by the labour program officials and will confirm, amend or rescind inspectors' decisions. This will create a win-win proposition.
The new administrative review process is intended to lead to a quicker and more cost-effective resolution of complaints, while remaining fair for employers and employees.
As members can see, these proposed changes to part III of the code are mainly administrative in nature. Some of them simply formalize existing policy directives.
I should also mention that these proposed amendments will establish provisions in the Canada Labour Code that are similar to existing provincial legislation.
Finally, we are also proposing amendments to the Merchant Seamen Compensation Act to eliminate the Merchant Seamen Compensation Board. While these amendments will streamline the administration of the act, benefits to affected seamen will not be altered.
The board currently consists of three part-time members who adjudicate claims and determine benefits. The Merchant Seamen Act applies to only five shipping operators. Most of these seamen have eligibility coverage under provincial jurisdiction. In a typical year only one claim is made.
Given the very small workload, there is no good reason for the board to be retained and have yet another unnecessary administrative layer. Therefore, under the current legislation, we will remove the Merchant Seamen Compensation Board and provide that authority to the .
Many of these changes we have proposed to part III of the Canada Labour Code were recommended by the Federal Labour Standards Review Commission, also known as the Arthurs Commission, in a 2006 report. Overall, these changes will not significantly alter the balance of rights or obligations of employees and employers under the Canada Labour Code. I think both employers and employees will benefit from these amendments, which will reduce the administrative burden and hopefully will result in a quick resolution of complaints.
Bill , the economic action plan 2012, would provide my constituents in Simcoe—Grey a plan for jobs and growth, something that all Canadians want. Our government is responding to that by having an action plan in place.
Mr. Speaker, I thought the points made by the member who just spoke were very well made. In fact, it is very important to see as a macro vision what we are doing as a government and how we are concentrating on jobs, the economy and the strength of the Canadian economy in the future, which of course is very important to Canadians and most important when we do not have it.
I would like to talk a bit about the future goals of the budget bill and what I see as our overreaching goals. That, of course, is to make sure we have better safety and security, more efficiency, the removal of red tape and, ultimately, a better quality of life. That is what this is all about and why I am in this place, to make a better quality of life for the people in my constituency of Fort McMurray—Athabasca and every part of this great country.
Since the Conservative government has promoted Canada's economic action plan, we have seen tremendous growth and development in this country, even while the rest of the world is suffering from an economic decline and people are wondering how they are going to build jobs in the future. Our country is doing tremendously well, and the people of Canada are doing very well overall. There are pockets of unemployment, of course, and we are addressing that with some changes through our economic action plan, as the member said earlier, in employment earnings legislation specifically, and I believe those changes will be efficient enough to move forward with our economy, because that is ultimately what it is about.
Speaking of records, our economy has expanded in nine out of the last ten quarters. That is right; it is very unusual in today's economic climate, but out of the last ten quarters, nine of them have seen economic growth and expansion. As well, 810,000 net jobs have been created since June of 2009. That is no small feat, especially given the size of our economy and workforce. That is a tremendous thing to brag about. The rest of the economies in the world, the G7 and the G20 all recognize that Canada is the leader as far as jobs and growth go and are envious of our position.
Our nation also holds the strongest fiscal position in the G7. We hear that all the time, but it is the truth and something to be proud of and brag about, because we are in such great condition today compared to most of the world. We do not sit on our laurels, though, and we feel we must continue to secure more jobs and have more growth and long-term prosperity because, as I said, that is what Canadians expect of their federal government and that is what we are going to deliver.
With that, we will specifically focus on supporting entrepreneurs, on innovation and research, and on business investment, strategically encouraging businesses and private enterprises to invest the money they have stockpiled during this recession and hire more workers. That is why things like the small business hiring credit and other initiatives from our government are so popular in the small business community. Businesses know, when we put forward a plan like this tax credit, we will follow through with legislation, unlike what happened in previous Liberal governments, especially regarding climate change and other environmental initiatives. The Liberals talked about it but never acted on it.
That is the difference with this government. The Conservative Party puts forward policies based on its economic platform. People can find it on the website, conservative.ca. We have clearly indicated all the initiatives we are going to have over time, that we are going to concentrate on jobs and growth for the economy, remove red tape and get rid of duplication of services so that Canadians know that, when they contact their federal government, they are going to get good service in a reasonable amount of time and just and satisfactory decisions. Clearly, that is what interests me.
Efficient productivity is vital for this country. Productivity moves up and down, and we can make changes today that we will not see on the productivity index for some period of time. I think, bluntly, that the changes we have made over the last six years are tremendous and we will see positive repercussions on the productivity of our nation for decades as a result. We are going to see an increase in manufacturing jobs, a stronger, more robust economy for manufacturers, and workers who are employed and feel job security, instead of what happened over the past decade or two, such as the insecurity of auto workers' jobs, in particular.
I have friends who work in the auto sector. For years and years they wondered whether they were going to have a job in two or three months. We are going to add substance, long-term planning and predictability for companies and corporations such as the auto sector, so they know they will not have to worry about bailouts, that they will have a good, robust agenda for trade and workers and that their jobs will be good for many centuries to come.
Since 2006, our government has also moved forward in the most aggressive manner on lowering corporate taxes to the lowest level of any industrialized nation, 15%. Even the President of the United States recognized this. The challenger to the President of the United States recognized what Canada has done with the economy, how robust our economy is, because we have lowered taxes for corporations.
Even though we have lowered our corporate taxes to 15%, corporate revenues have actually risen to the highest record ever. It is obvious that this strategy by the Conservative government and this is working, is effective and is working well for Canadians. Canadians can count on their federal government to continue that.
We have also provided $500 million to support venture capitalist activities. This is important, because during times of economic slowdown everyone holds onto their wallet tightly and they are not prepared to invest or take risks. As a government, we have to help them move forward on some of these ventures to make sure the economy keeps going, to make sure jobs keep growing and there are new jobs.
We have also extended the domestic powers of Export Development Canada to continue to provide financial support for both manufacturers and exporters, because if we do not trade with the world we are going to lose; our competition is the rest of the world. We need to make sure we open those markets. Unlike what the NDP has been doing for years, and that is working against any trade objective with any country around the world, we are going to move forward aggressively, as we have done and will continue to do, and sign agreements with other trading nations to bring the rule of law, to bring human rights and the acknowledgement of what Canadians hold dear, but also to create jobs right here at home. We are going to continue to do that.
The $14 million to expand the industrial research and development internship program is very important for our future. Of course, so is the $110 million to the industrial research assistance program in support of manufacturers and exporters.
In terms of the environment, I want to talk about a lot of things. There is not enough time obviously for me today, but the environment is very important to me and I see some of the initiatives we have moved forward with as a government, especially in northern Alberta. We have moved forward with initiatives in co-operation and partnership with the Province of Alberta to have cleaner air monitoring services, to make sure the air that my constituents and my family breathe is cleaner at all times. It is the same for water. I applaud those two initiatives by the federal government. My constituents applaud the for those particular initiatives, because we want to make sure we have significant funding strategies in place to keep the health and welfare of Canadians as our predominant concern.
We have also had other initiatives, and I am going to mention some of the success stories: the ecoenergy for homes program; over $140 million toward creating a national urban park in Rouge Valley, Ontario. That park is one of the largest in North America as far as urban parks go. It is a great success story for our government as well, because we do not want to industrialize every part of the country; we do not even want to industrialize most of it. We want to make sure that in urban areas there are places for people to enjoy and have a good quality of life, as we do in rural Canada.
There is $71 million in funding upgrades to the Mayo B hydro facility in the Yukon. This is a transmission line that will increase clean energy and reduce greenhouse gases from energy production by 50%. It took a $71 million investment by the federal government with about an eight-year payback. Those are good business strategic investments by the government for a return on investment for taxpayers that is reasonable and very good.
We also invested heavily in green energy generation, carbon transmission infrastructure, clean energy research and regulatory activities to address climate change. These are only a few provisions.
I want to talk about the navigable waters changes and how important those are, but I see I do not have a lot of time for that. The changes we are making to the navigable waters will protect navigation. That is what it is for and that is important. I am a canoeist. I spend a lot of time outdoors, and I want to make sure this government protects my right and that of other Canadians and future generations to continue to be able to navigate.
Other pieces of legislation, such as the Marine Transportation Security Act, the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, should deal with the environment and with fish. Let navigation deal with the navigation and let those acts deal with what is important for them. If we streamline those things, we can make sure Canadians get the proper return on investment for their tax dollars and we eliminate the need for duplication and bureaucracy that does not accomplish anything. That is what it is about for our government, building jobs, having productivity and efficiency to ultimately give us all a better quality of life.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
There are many things wrong with the bill, but first and foremost, Bill is another omnibus bill that conspires to ram a wide range of unrelated legislation through Parliament. Despite claims from the , much of this legislation is not included in the budget from earlier this year. The problem with an omnibus bill is that it does not allow MPs to properly study, understand and review the legislation. The very purpose of Parliament and the reason we are here as MPs is to review legislation and improve the laws governing our country. This omnibus bill is a flagrant attempt to prevent MPs from doing their jobs. This is an obvious disservice to the Canadians who elected us to represent them.
Due to the size of Bill C-45, I do not have time to outline all the issues I have with it, so I will restrict my focus to only three sections of the bill.
First, I want to talk about the sections that relate to pooled registered pension plans, or PRPPs. New Democrats have been very clear that we need pension reform. However, the PRPPs are not the solution. Canadians do not have extra money for investing. As it stands now, Canadians are not investing in RRSPs. PRPPs are just another scheme that will have little pickup. Why on earth does the government think people will start investing in PRPPs? If they do not have the money, they cannot invest. Those who do invest in PRPPs will find much of their investment siphoned off by banks and institutions through management fees. PRPPs are another scheme that will add to bank profits, with a poor benefit for individual Canadians.
Seniors represent one of the fastest growing populations in Canada today. The number of seniors in Canada is projected to increase from 4.2 million right now to 9.8 million by 2036. With so many more seniors retiring in the years to come, we need to have the social safety net in place now to avoid dramatic increases in the rate of poverty among those seniors in future. We need real pension reform and not a savings scheme that is dependent on the ups and downs of the stock market. Recent bad experiences in the markets remind Canadians how ineffective that kind of saving is. Too many saw their savings crumble away as the markets took a nosedive. This is not how savings for retirement should be organized.
For employees, a PRPP is like a defined contribution or group RRSP. It is a savings vehicle, limited by RRSP limits and regulations, purported to allow workers to save for retirement, but it does not guarantee retirement security. PRPPs are managed by the financial industry, the same crew receiving huge corporate tax breaks from the Conservatives. The PRPP is not a defined benefit plan. It does not provide a secure retirement income with a set replacement rate of pre-retirement income. It is not fully transferable. It is not indexed to inflation and therefore will not increase with the increasing cost of living.
It is noteworthy that employers, not employees, will decide the contribution levels, and it will not be mandatory for employers to contribute or match workers' contributions to PRPPs. Without employers contributing, it is not really a pension plan. In fact, employers who do not help their employees save for retirement could end up with a competitive advantage over employers who do.
The best option for Canadians is to double the CPP/QPP. We could do that for the cost to an employee of a couple of dollars a week. This is the best option for Canadians, as the money invested would not be going toward big bank profits but would go into the retirees' pockets when they retire.
I want to highlight one more thing about the PRPP section of the bill. It is long and complicated. It needs to be studied on its own as a separate bill. By slapping this into the omnibus budget bill, we cannot do our due diligence as MPs. We cannot give it the proper critical scrutiny it needs. To be frank, we know the PRPP legislation has passed and is going ahead. Consequently, we do need to make changes in tax legislation.
However, there is no reason for this piece to be in the budget bill. This should be a separate bill that could be scrutinized to ensure that no mistakes are made. It is the reasonable and logical thing to do.
The second section of the bill that I want to talk about today is the portion on public sector pensions. Bill sets out to increase public sector employee contributions to 50% regardless of the date of hiring; to increase the age of retirement from 60 to 65 for all employees hired after January 1, 2013; to eliminate the ability for public servants to take early retirement without penalty after 30 years of continuous service; and it only allows employees hired after January 1, 2013 to be eligible for early retirement after 30 years of service if they are 60 or older. It is also noteworthy that employees who are 55 or older with 25 or more years of service are eligible for a reduced pension.
New Democrats are concerned that this legislation is creating a two-tiered work force in which younger people have to work longer for the same retirement benefits as their predecessors. This appears to be part of a greater agenda by the government to force young people to pay the price for the government's tax breaks to large corporations.
The Conservatives are taking no measures to curb youth unemployment, and we know that it is the young people today whose OAS benefits will not kick in until they are aged 67. It is their retirement security that is in jeopardy. They are paying more for goods and services, making less money, and their pensions are being cut.
Here I would add that the public service has acted as a model for best practice and has had the ability to attract the best and brightest to serve this country. Public servants work to ensure that our country runs smoothly. They work to ensure that federal services are available to Canadians and that federal regulations are in place and followed. They work behind the scenes to draft and improve legislation. They do research and ever so much more. They ensure that this country runs efficiently.
This legislation will jeopardize the ability of the government to attract the best and the brightest. We cannot afford to risk losing such an integral element of government administration.
I am pleased that we were able to split off the MP portion of the bill, but I would like to note how disappointing it was that my colleagues in the other parties would have been quite happy to lump in changes to the public service pension changes despite this split. That would have left us with no opportunity to debate or address the changes to the public services portion of the bill.
The third section of the bill that I wish to discuss is the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Canadians have made it clear that they want us to take action to protect their environment and grow a sustainable economy for the future, while the Conservatives are focused on gutting environmental protection.
The changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act are a prime example of Conservative mismanagement. The government has determined, with the exception of a list of three oceans and 97 lakes and 62 rivers, that the act will no longer automatically apply to projects affecting waterways. This will leave thousands of waterways unprotected, meaning there will fewer environmental reviews by Transport Canada. In fact, the bill would remove water protection from the name of the bill. Now it is just about navigation protection.
Of Canada's 37 designated Canadian heritage rivers, only 10 are included in the new act. One heritage river that has been left off the list is the Thames River, which runs through my community and riding in London, Ontario. The Thames is an important part of our local economy and a part of the fabric of our community, a part of its history. These changes would put our river at risk.
To conclude, the NDP will always be proud to stand up for transparency and accountability. We will always stand up for the environment and we will always stand up for retirement security and health care. In short, we will stand up for Canada.
I would like to seek unanimous consent to move the following motion. I move:
That notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice of the House, clauses 464 to 514, related to public sector pensions, be removed from Bill , a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012, and other measures, and do compose Bill C-47; and that Bill C-47 be entitled an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, the Public Service Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act,
That Bill C-47 be deemed read a first time and be printed, and that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates; that Bill C-45 retain the status on the order paper that it had prior to the adoption of this order; that Bill C-45 be reprinted as amended; and that the law clerk and parliamentary counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary to give effect to this motion.
We are proposing this motion to ensure that Canada's Parliament can fully scrutinize the legislation before it and to look out for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I am in the habit of beginning my speeches by saying I am extremely happy to speak to a bill. In this case, however, with a time allocation motion having been moved, I have to say I am extremely disappointed for my colleagues who would also have liked to make the voices of their constituents heard in this House and who will be unable to do so. It is extremely disappointing to see that for at least the 20th time, time is being limited, and for a bill as gargantuan as this. It is simply scandalous. I am therefore extremely disappointed to be debating a bill that I would also describe as antidemocratic for the two reasons I have just mentioned.
Bill is the second omnibus bill introduced by the government this year—the second bill of this kind in less than seven months. This is certainly a record. At nearly 450 pages long, this is their second titanic bill. We have to ask ourselves whether the government has an iota of respect for democracy and parliamentary procedure. The answer is self-evident: no, it does not.
Why do I say this bill is antidemocratic? Because Bill is again going to amend over 40 different statutes, in addition to creating a new one. As was the case for Bill , the various pieces of legislation this bill contains have nothing to do with one another. The bill will amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Pension Act, the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Grain Act, and more.
That is why, since the beginning, we have been calling for this bill to be split into several parts, as the leader of the official opposition proposed. The government quite simply has an obligation to agree to that proposal and refer the bill to 13 different committees, so that each of the parts that relate to each committee can be examined effectively and the committees can be allowed to hear the appropriate experts. This an obligation to which the government should be held, in view of that suggestion. The parliamentarians on those committees must also be allowed to present the amendments that are needed to make this bill acceptable.
The government prefers to bundle all these legislative changes into a single bill that will be examined by a single committee and ultimately submitted to a single vote. This is a farce; it is contempt for parliamentary democracy. This is the same thing that happened when the government forced its elephantine bill through Parliament: it is allowing us no opportunity for a thorough examination. The government is preventing the opposition from doing its job, which is to oversee the work on government bills. Instead of showing Canadians that a Conservative government has to be transparent and accountable, the Conservatives have decided to do the exact opposite. What they are proving, as I said, is the extent to which they hold parliamentary democracy in total contempt.
The Conservatives moved a time allocation motion this morning. I do not know how many they have now made since the beginning of this Parliament; I have simply stopped counting. If it were up to them, they would fax the bills to our offices and we would show up here two or three times a year to vote two or three times on a few bills, without examining them adequately. This is quite simply scandalous. Transparency and accountability, to this government, simply do not exist. They seem to be allergic to those concepts. They simply do not want to hear about it.
The Conservatives are introducing a bill like this to have hundreds of changes enacted, changes that I would describe as completely radical, without consulting Canadians—and yet consultation with voters and accountability of the government to the House that represents them are two of the fundamental principles of our parliamentary democracy.
We are not the only ones who think the government is lacking in transparency and accountability. We need only look at what the Parliamentary Budget Officer is having to do to get the information he needs. His job is to assess the budget measures that are in Bill and their impact. I wager that it will be exactly the same situation for Bill . The government will do everything it can to throw obstacles in the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s way.
The Conservatives are big on giving bills grand titles that mean absolutely nothing, to my mind, while at the same time spending tens of millions of dollars on advertising for propaganda purposes. They have called this bill the . The title they have come up with may be a punchy one, but there is nothing in this gigantic bill that will create jobs or stimulate long-term economic growth.
Working people and their families are still going through hard times because of the 2008 recession and the current economic slowdown. They need the government to do something to help them get through these hard times.
The government’s response to their problems is a wonderful “economic action plan” that is eliminating more jobs than it creates. At the end of the day, the only people who are benefiting from the Conservatives' action plan are their friends in the oil companies. With this bill, the million and a half jobless Canadians are being left completely to their own devices by the government.
Bill will create no jobs, and we are not the only ones saying that. The Parliamentary Budget Officer contends that the budget will result in the loss of 43,000 Canadian jobs. In reality, the budget will cause the unemployment rate to rise. Canadians deserve a government that can create jobs, not raise the unemployment rate.
The measures in the budget are going to affect millions of Canadians. The Conservative government is imposing those measures at the same time as it is doing nothing to combat youth unemployment. As well, it is asking people to work longer in order to be eligible for old age security benefits.
According to the Conservative government, Canadians do not work enough. It is therefore going to cut paid holidays by changing the method of calculating how they are paid. Employees will no longer be entitled to holiday pay for a holiday that falls within the first 30 days after they are hired. As well, employees who are paid on commission will have to work for at least 12 weeks before they are entitled to holiday pay. Government employees are also affected significantly by this bill—as if they had not been affected enough already by the current and upcoming job cuts.
The Conservatives have poisoned the atmosphere in the public service because of how they have managed these changes. This is very serious, but it does not seem to bother our colleagues opposite. They keep hammering away, raising employees’ contribution rates to 50%, regardless of when they were hired. The retirement age will be pushed back from 60 to 65 for any employee hired after January 1, 2013. At present, public servants can take early retirement with no penalty after 30 years of continuous service. However, with this bill, employees hired after January 1, 2013, will be eligible for early retirement after 30 years’ service only if they are over the age of 60. Employees aged 55 and over with 25 years’ service or more will be eligible for a reduced pension.
We are very concerned about this. One group of workers will have to work longer in order to be entitled to the same pension plan as other employees, which is simply unfair.
The main job creation measure in Bill is the implementation of a temporary hiring tax credit for small businesses. In my opinion, this measure is insufficient because it gives employers a maximum credit of only $1,000, which is available only for 2012. In other words, once the bill has been passed, the year will be almost over and the measures will have a very limited application. Despite its flaws, we support this provision.
All these measures, which will be of no help to Canada's labour market, come on top of the major cuts the government is making to employment insurance. We questioned the to try to make her listen to reason. She did an about-face and changed her approach, but the new approach is not much better.
The cuts to old age security will cost people up to $34,000 in benefits. Health transfers to the provinces will also be reduced by $31 billion.
It is important to remember that 100 inspectors lost their jobs and 300 positions at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency were cut, which led to the biggest tainted beef crisis in Canadian history. Why? It is because the Conservatives did not listen to Canadians when making these many changes. This is no longer the Canada that Canadians believe in.
We will not let the government change the laws, policies and programs that Canadians believe in and that they are entitled to. We are going to stand in the government's way. The NDP has an economic plan to improve the health care system and services for Canadians. We are therefore going to oppose many measures in this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for on this very important debate that we are undertaking today on Bill , which is the second half of the budget implementation act. It is part of the budget that was introduced on March 29 of this year by our .
I will begin by talking about one of my favourite movies, The Candidate, starring Robert Redford. Robert Redford was a democratic candidate running for the U.S. Senate in California. When he was picked to run, he was way down in the polls and was not expected to win. He was supposed to be a sacrificial candidate. What happened though at the end of the movie is that he wins. In the very last scene, he and his political consultant were in a hotel room and Robert looks across the room and mouths to his consultant, “What do we do now?”
We knew exactly what to do on May 2, 2011, when our led us to a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government. We did not have to ask what do we do now.
Success does not come by chance. Success is a matter of making the right choices, which our and our who has been declared the best finance minister in the world by his colleagues, did. The right choices is about building bridges to the future. We are building those bridges. We are not destroying bridges, like the NDP and the Liberals. We are looking forward, not backwards.
The New Democratic Party is a really misnomer. It should be called the old democratic party because it wants to take us back to the old spend-and-tax—
An hon. member: They are not democratic.
Mr. Mark Adler: That is true, as my friend says.
—policies of the sixties and the seventies.
An hon. member: They are a socialist party.
Mr. Mark Adler: Yes. My friend from Manitoba says that it is a socialist party. Indeed it is. It is a member of the Socialist International. Do members know who is the head of the Socialist International? It is George Papandreou, the former prime minister of Greece who got Greece into that whole mess that it is in now.
An hon. member: Socialists will do it every time.
Mr. Mark Adler: They will do it every time. The member is so right.
We have a record of success on this side of the House. Our policies through the economic action plan have created 825,000 new jobs, 80% of them full time and 80% of them in the private sector.
We have the lowest corporate tax rate in the world at 15%. We are attracting investment. Our corporate tax revenues are up and are increasing. Governor Branstad of Iowa has said that he cannot compete with Canada because when he tries to attract investment on the global stage, everybody says that they are going to Canada. Forbes magazine has said that Canada is the best place in the world to be doing business. The World Economic Forum has said that we have the safest and most secure banking system for the third year in a row.
Those are all as a direct result of the polices of our government, of our and of our .
The opposition, however, would take us back. It is hard to keep track. We really need a program of what is going on over there. The leader of the Liberal Party used to be the head of the NDP. It is quite a mess. We really need a program.
However, I will tell members something. When the current Liberal leader was premier of Ontario, it was the welfare capital of North America, taxes were increased, credit ratings were way down, the debt rose to $60 billion—
Mr. Rodger Cuzner: The Leafs made the playoffs.
Mr. Mark Adler: The Leafs are undefeated so far this year.
The question we need to ask is whether we want to stop economic growth.
An hon. member: No.
Mr. Mark Adler: No, we do not. That is the right answer. We want to move forward. We want to create jobs.
I see that I am running out of time. Stay tuned. I will be back after question period.