Mr. Speaker, it was exactly two years ago when the people of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques did me the honour and privilege of choosing me to represent them in the House of Commons. I would like to thank them once again. I believe I have done an excellent job these past two years, and I promise to honour the privilege bestowed upon me of representing them in the House.
It is very appropriate that I rise on this first day of the third year to debate Bill , the federal government's first budget implementation bill. It is appropriate because, as others have already mentioned in this place, the official opposition will not be voting for the bill for a number of reasons. I could probably talk about the 125-page bill for an hour or an hour and a half. This bill is not as hefty as the previous one, but it is nevertheless an omnibus bill that we will call omnibus bill 3.0. This one bill will amend about 50 pieces of legislation with one vote. It is an important bill and we would have liked the Conservative government to be much more pragmatic given the very uncertain economic situation in which we find ourselves.
Yes, there was a major recession in 2008-09, and we are still feeling its effects. Contrary to what the Conservative government is saying, we are not out of the woods yet. In fact, the situation is still uncertain.
For instance, three weeks ago, the International Monetary Fund scaled back its forecast, its economic growth outlook for Canada, reducing it from 1.8% to 1.5%.
A rate of 1.5% in 2013 is less than what Canadian economists were predicting and less than what the Conservative government had predicted. The predicted growth of 1.6%, and the minister himself admitted that it was a cautious projection. The IMF's projection is even lower than the finance minister's cautious forecast.
Very recently, just two weeks ago in fact, the OECD said that Canada would have one of the slowest growth rates during the first quarter of 2013, which contradicts what the parliamentary secretary was saying. According to him, Canada has the strongest economic growth in the G7. That is completely false. Canada's growth is slower than that of not only the United States, but also Japan, Germany and the G7 average and many G7 countries are still in serious trouble, including Italy for example, and to a lesser degree, France.
Why is the government doing the exact opposite of what it should be doing?
In her latest report, which the Standing Committee on Finance examined this week, the Parliamentary Budget Officer described budget 2013 as an austerity budget, much like budget 2012. The consequences of budget 2012 and budget 2013 mean that, in relation to our economic potential, measures included in budget 2013 will lead to a growth rate that is 0.57% lower than what it could have been without those austerity measures. In terms of job creation, if those austerity measures had not been included in the Conservative budget, we could have created 77,000 additional jobs over the next five years. That is not insignificant.
In the depths of the 2009 recession, Canada created a lot of jobs. This made sense, since we had hit rock bottom. However, the Conservative government's measures are curbing the growth we could achieve without these austerity measures. For example, the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report showed that we are nearly 2% below our potential for economic growth. Our growth is currently very slow, and the Conservatives's measures are doing nothing to improve that. On the contrary, they are limiting our economy's potential growth.
Anyone who does not believe me can read the report issued by the International Monetary Fund three weeks ago. This report says something very interesting:
Although fiscal consolidation is needed to rebuild fiscal space against future shocks, there is room to allow automatic stabilizers to operate fully if growth were to weaken further.
For those watching at home, I will point out that “fiscal consolidation” means “budget cuts” or “austerity measures” in order to balance the budget in 2015-16. This objective to balance the budget before the election is artificial and arbitrary. All Canadians know that.
The International Monetary Fund agrees with the general objective of balancing the budget at some point. It does not mention 2015-16 specifically; it talks about some point in an economic cycle. It also says that there is room for the federal government to allow automatic stabilizers to operate fully if growth were to weaken further. What are these automatic stabilizers? These are measures that directly help the public. We are talking about employment insurance and old age security. These programs are automatic stabilizers that can help avoid stalled economic growth by putting money in people's pockets, particularly people who will spend this money.
But what is the Conservative government doing? It is going against the IMF's recommendations and moving forward with fiscal consolidation, with austerity measures, decreasing the federal government's ability and willingness to strengthen stabilizers such as employment insurance and old age security benefits.
I wonder how we as the official opposition could vote in favour of a budget that flies in the face of growth and job creation in Canada.
Another factor prevents us from voting for this budget: it goes against what the government promised. The , the and the promised that there would be no tax increases for anyone in the 2013 budget. However, the opposite is true. There are numerous tax increases that total $8 billion over the next five years, $8 billion worth of tax increases.
We could have an adult discussion in the House, to determine whether the government’s measures are reasonable. The government does not even want to consider this. Despite the evidence, it is still denying that there is even one tax increase in the 2013 budget.
The proof is the tax credit for labour-sponsored funds and venture capital corporation funds. The elimination of this tax credit is not included in Bill , but it is something that we expect to see in the next budget implementation bill. This is worth mentioning. The government plans on getting rid of this tax credit, something that will ultimately mean a tax increase for small investors, people who invest small amounts in these labour-sponsored venture capital funds. This represents $355 million over the next five years.
These labour-sponsored venture capital funds are essential for a number of reasons, one being that they help people save. The savings rate in Quebec was one of the lowest in Canada before the early 1980s, prior to the creation of the Fonds de solidarité FTQ. This fund enabled people to save and to set aside money for their old age. The government wants to eliminate the supplementary tax credit, the 15% labour fund tax credit, and in so doing, it will eliminate the major incentive to save that was provided by the Fonds de solidarité FTQ and now the CSN’s Fondaction.
It is also important for investment. Now we have a private venture capital industry, but the fact remains that most of the investment in regional economies comes from labour funds. It is important and interesting to note that one of the first organizations to speak out against the Conservative measure announced in the budget to eliminate the 15% labour fund tax credit was Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association. Why was this group opposed to the measure? It was because it recognized the importance of these two major funds which, by the way, also invest, just like private venture capital organizations.
The government, looking for a good deal and thinking that it could get rid of one more labour organization, announced a totally regressive measure in the budget that goes against our need to encourage savings and venture capital investment.
Bill also contains another measure, which aims at increasing taxes by eliminating the additional deduction for credit unions and caisses populaires. Eliminating this deduction will lead to a tax hike of $205 million by 2017-18.
The Conservative government is bringing in boutique tax credits and saying that they are tax reductions for Canadians, but of course when you get rid of labour fund or credit union tax credits, it is actually a tax hike.
By getting rid of this deduction, the Conservatives are ignoring the specific mandate of credit unions and caisses populaires. These are not profit-making institutions, as any surpluses are redistributed as dividends to the members, investors and depositors. It is important to note that the mandate of organizations such as credit unions and caisses populaires is very specific and also very different from the mandate of private financial institutions.
When I am in my home riding, I note that there are credit unions in Lac-des-Aigles, Esprit-Sain and Saint-Jean-de-Dieu. There are no longer any banks or bank branch offices, only credit unions. The reason for this is that, even though they are not the most lucrative institutions, they offer essential local services for the people in those areas. No bank is going to do this, and the additional deduction for credit unions and caisses populaires reflected this reality and their specific mandate.
Bill also eliminates the dividend tax credit, but I will not be able to go into this in detail because I also want to discuss other essential elements in the bill. By eliminating this tax credit, the government will recover $2.4 billion over the next five years through tax increases. Here again, eliminating the tax credit is the same as raising taxes.
It is therefore not true to say that there are no tax increases, as the government has been saying, because there are tax increases totalling $8 billion. I would like to list them all, but I realize that I will not have enough time.
There is a key and crucial element in Bill , and that is the changes to the Investment Canada Act. This legislation requires the Minister of Industry to conduct a systematic review when the acquisition by a foreign company of a Canadian business exceeds a certain threshold, which is currently $344 million. This means that any acquisition over $344 million by a company operating in a country that is a member of the World Trade Organization, the WTO, must be reviewed.
It should be noted that the dollar amount has been increasing gradually. In 1997, the threshold was set at $172 million. Over the years, the threshold has been increased to its current level of $344 million. Over the next three years, the government will be increasing the threshold to $1 billion. Therefore, all acquisitions under $1 billion—for instance an acquisition valued at $800 million or $900 million—will no longer be reviewed by Industry Canada to determine whether they are likely to be of net benefit to Canada and meet Canada’s economic development requirements.
Furthermore, the legislation also specifies that foreign state-owned enterprises will not be covered by this higher threshold. Therefore, a Chinese, Indian, European, American or North American state-owned company that wants to invest and make an acquisition will not be subject to the new threshold levels, and the minimum threshold will still be $344 million.
This is obviously a response to the statement in December 2012 on the acquisition of Nexen by CNOOC, a Chinese state-owned company. The said at that time:
When we say that Canada is open for business, we do not mean that Canada is for sale to foreign governments.
However, that is clearly the direction this is going in. The Conservative government is blind to the fact that this measure is absolutely useless and will be challenged by companies such as CNOOC as soon as the government signs the FIPA, the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement.
It could be challenged right out of the gate because FIPA gives foreign companies, including foreign state-owned enterprises, the right to the same treatment as a Canadian company.
With a provision like that—which is meant to exclude CNOOC or any other investor from those provisions or an increase in that threshold—a company will say that there is no national treatment, that it is not being treated like a Canadian business, which is not subject to the Investment Canada Act. The Conservative government is trying to please everyone with measures that make absolutely no sense and that are inconsistent with its international trade measures.
Part 3, division 17 of Bill allows the federal government to meddle directly in collective bargaining within Canada's crown corporations. The government does not even hide the fact that it is targeting the CBC, VIA Rail and Canada Post.
The Treasury Board Secretariat oversees all of this independently, because crown corporations are supposed to operate at arm's length.
Under this bill, the Treasury Board Secretariat can give direct instructions to directors of crown corporations about salaries, standards, benefits and so on. Basically, the Treasury Board Secretariat can tell directors at the CBC, VIA Rail and Canada Post what they can and cannot negotiate. That takes away the arm's length relationship that defines Canada's crown corporations.
According to another rule set out in Bill , which pertains specifically to negotiations within crown corporations, a Treasury Board Secretariat employee—a federal government employee—can sit alongside directors at the negotiating table.
What happened to the crown corporation's independence and ability to manage its own affairs? Yes, it is accountable to the government for its performance, but the government must not interfere with crown corporations in this way. I did a quick calculation, which is very telling.
When we ask the questions about Canada Post or VIA Rail, he always says that nothing can be done because they are at arm's length from the government. Since the 2011 election, the has refused to answer questions in the House on 22 occasions and has stated that crown corporations make their own decisions and are responsible for them.
In a recent statement made on April 19, he said:
Mr. Speaker, Canada Post will respect the Supreme Court's decision on pay equity and implement the ruling as soon as possible.
As members know, the Crown is at arm's length from the government and is responsible for its own operations, including human resources. The issue the member is referring to is before the courts, and therefore I cannot comment further.
About one month ago, the told the committee:
Library and Archives Canada, like the CBC, like our national museums, operates at arm's length. I don't involve myself in their day-to-day decisions.
For two years, the ministers have refused to answer questions about crown corporations because they are at arm's length from the government. However, the government is tabling Bill to directly interfere, quite openly, in the negotiations that are supposed to be conducted by the crown corporation's managers and their employees.
The government is not even trying to hide this. It is obvious that it wants to interfere, create downward pressure on wages, claw back benefits and meet its objectives that it keeps trying to ram down Canadians' throats. We saw the general downward pressure exerted on wages by the temporary foreign worker program and the employment insurance reform. That is absolutely irresponsible.
For all these reasons, the official opposition will have no choice but to strongly oppose Bill . This bill does nothing for job creation, good working conditions and economic growth.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to address Bill , economic action plan 2013. I will be splitting my time with the very hard-working member for and I look forward to his speech very much.
This is budget implementation act 1. Just for the benefit of those following this debate, I will outline the process at the beginning. Each summer, the finance committee initiates pre-budget hearings to hear from Canadians and organizations from across the country. Last year we heard from approximately 800 organizations and individuals who had input into the pre-budget process. We table our report in Parliament each year in December. The government considers that report and tables its budget, typically in February or March. We tabled it in March this year. It then follows up with two implementation acts, one in the spring, which the government hopes to pass by June, and then one that follows in the fall.
What the budget implementation acts do is take the budget, which was debated for four days this spring and then passed by this Parliament, and then make all the necessary legislative changes to ensure that the budget will in fact be implemented.
This particular bill, Bill , has a number of measures that were included in our budget presented in March.
It would extend for two years the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for new investments in machinery and equipment by Canadian manufacturers.
It would index the gas tax fund payments to better support job-creating infrastructure in municipalities across Canada. This is something I just asked my colleague across the way about.
It would extend for one year the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through shares for investors, especially for the junior mining sector in our country.
It would modernize the Investment Canada Act, as announced in December 2012 by the government, to clarify the treatment of proposed investments in Canada by foreign state-owned enterprises and the timeline for national security reviews.
It would provide $165 million in multi-year support for genomics research through Genome Canada, following up on our research and development agenda.
It would provide $18 million to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to help young entrepreneurs grow their firms.
It would provide $5 million in 2013-14 to Indspire, which is an excellent organization, for post-secondary scholarships and bursaries for first nations and Inuit students.
It would support Canadian families through such measures as promoting adoption by enhancing the adoption expense tax credit to better recognize the cost of adopting a child.
Following up on recommendations from the finance committee with respect to our report on charities, it would introduce a new temporary first-time donor super credit for first-time claimants of a charitable donations tax credit to encourage all young Canadians to donate to charity.
It would expand tax relief for home care services to better meet the health care needs of Canadians.
It would remove tariffs on imports of baby clothing and certain sports and athletic equipment.
It would provide $30 million in fiscal year 2013-14 to support the construction of new housing in Nunavut.
It would invest $20 million in the Nature Conservancy of Canada to continue to preserve ecologically sensitive land.
It would provide $3 million to the Pallium Foundation of Canada to support training in palliative care for front-line health care providers.
These last two measures, with respect to palliative care and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, I should point out were both brought to members of the finance committee over the last year.
It would commit $3 million to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind to expand library services for the blind and partially sighted. This, again, was brought to members of the finance committee as well.
It would support veterans and their families by no longer deducting veterans' disability benefits when calculating other select benefits supporting veterans in this manner.
It would streamline the process for approving tax relief for Canadian Armed Forces members and police officers.
We are also very much respecting Canadian taxpayer dollars. We are proposing to improve the fairness of the tax system by eliminating duplication. We are proposing steps to align employee compensation offered by crown corporations with what is available to federal employees.
I want to address a couple of these points in particular. I will start with the accelerated capital cost allowance for new investments in machinery and equipment. This is an extension of a measure that was first put forward by our government in the March 2007 budget. It follows on a report by the industry committee in February 2007. That committee did an intensive six-month study of the manufacturing sector. We travelled across the country. Members of both sides did an excellent job in surveying what the challenges were for that sector.
The committee made 22 unanimous recommendations at that time. The first recommendation was to have an accelerated capital cost allowance. For people who are not aware of all the technicalities, it allows businesses in the manufacturing sector to write off their equipment at a faster rate. It enables them, therefore, to purchase more equipment on a much more expeditious basis to ensure that they are as up to date as possible. This makes them more productive, as they can have the most recent equipment in their shops. Having the most up-to-date equipment is also better from an environmental point of view. It has multiple benefits.
In the past, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, led by Jayson Myers, who has done an outstanding job as head of that association and of the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition, has argued that this enables companies to invest in their own productivity.
I see the here. He was an instrumental part of that report as well.
This is fundamental to ensuring that our manufacturing sector is competitive. We often hear that manufacturing is sort of a thing of the past. In fact, in Canada, considering the challenges they have had to face in the past, such as a rapidly appreciating dollar, variable energy costs, finding enough skilled and unskilled labour to meet their challenges, and responding to some real challenges from emerging and now emerged economies such as China, the manufacturing sector, in my view, has responded very well, in part because of specific measures like these and some of the other measures in the budget that was presented in March.
The accelerated capital cost allowance was first introduced in March 2007. It has been extended a couple of times, and it is going to be extended in this year's budget. This is an excellent reason for the members opposite, particularly those who have manufacturing bases, to support this particular piece of legislation. I encourage them to take a very good look at that.
The second item I want to spend some time on is the gas tax fund. Municipalities from across Canada have been coming to provincial and federal governments for years, saying that they need a long-term infrastructure plan to address their needs. They cannot go by this variable rate on a year-to-year basis. They are asking for a long-term sustainable plan. They asked, obviously, for gas tax funding.
Every time we, as Canadians, fill up our vehicles, we pay the 10¢-per-litre federal excise tax. Approximately half of that flows into funding, through the federal government, through the provinces, back to municipalities to ensure that it meets their needs. What we are doing is indexing that gas tax fund so that municipalities can not only count on it over the long term but will know how much it is going to be and will know that it will, in fact, be increasing on an annual basis.
This allows municipalities such as Edmonton—Leduc, Devon, Leduc County, in my area, to then borrow against that if they have something large. In Edmonton, light rail transit was expanded in my area. I believe that the City of Edmonton took approximately $100 million out of gas tax funding and put that money into light rail transit, which I think all parties in this Parliament should support.
Further to that, Edmonton recently announced another extension of their light rail transit system by using the P3 model the government has put in place. That is another excellent model municipalities across the country should look at.
The one-year extension of the mineral exploration tax credit was first put in place in 2000. This credit is sort of like Groundhog Day, because it is constantly extended by one year each and every year. This is especially important for the junior mining sector. It is very important for us to realize the importance of the mining sector in Canada.
The largest mining conference every year, the PDAC conference, is held in Toronto. It is an outstanding conference that not only shows the importance of the mining sector but the importance of that sector in relation to our other important sectors, such as the financial services sector.
I will just finish up by talking about investments such as those in Genome Canada. This follows on the government's science and technology strategy. We released our S and T strategy, again going back, in 2007. Following on that report, we have been investing in a number of areas, whether it is in the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Genome Canada, or the research granting councils, which received increased funding in this past budget, as well. That is why organizations such as the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada have strongly endorsed this budget.
I would ask all parliamentarians to endorse the government's initiatives in this budget to support research and development, science and technology and those high-quality jobs of the future in this country.
I look forward to questions from all members in this House.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to share time with the member for . I am sure that he would have used these 10 minutes in a fantastic way, and I am honoured that he chose to share them with me so that I can add my comments to this debate.
Before I get into the substance of what I will speak about today, I will hit some of the important highlights. The budget and the budget implementation are key drivers of the economic success of our country, and we have had great economic success in Canada. One of the things that is often talked about by members of my party is the fantastic job creation we have had since the peak of the recession. We have over 900,000 net new jobs. We know that 90% of those jobs are full-time jobs, and 80% of them come from the private sector, which is important. My friends from the New Democratic Party would like to believe that the way to grow the economy is to hire into the public service, but we believe that private sector jobs are the key drivers of economic growth.
Canada's job creation record since the recession is among the best in the G7. Improvement in employment over the recovery is, in fact, the best in the G7. One key indicator I always look at is our unemployment rate compared to the rate in the United States. Historically, we have had a significantly higher unemployment rate than the United States. Due to the great leadership of our and to our economic action plans, we actually have an unemployment rate that is lower than the rate in the United States, which is significant.
With respect to investment, we have recovered all the business investment lost during the recession, which is also unique among the G7 countries.
Members might feel that this is a bit like Groundhog Day, but great minds think alike. The member for talked about a couple of key points in this budget implementation act. I would like to highlight, again, some of the points he spoke to.
One issue that is very important is the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturers. My colleague spoke about that, and I will as well. My riding, which is in the great city of Brampton, has a proud tradition of manufacturing, and these are welcomed programs.
The accelerated capital cost allowance would be extended for an additional two years. It would allow manufacturers to purchase new machinery and equipment and have the cost of those purchases written off over a much shorter period of time. It would allow business people to buy that equipment and machinery, increase their productivity and therefore be more competitive in the increasingly competitive global environment in manufacturing. This has been very well received. The president and CEO of CME, Jayson Myers,said:
The budget recognizes the importance of manufacturing and exporting for each and every Canadian, as an anchor of high-value, high-paying jobs in all parts of the country and across all sectors of the economy.... The business is rapidly changing with new customers, new competitors, new technologies and new skills requirements. This budget will make a real difference in helping our manufacturers and exporters compete and win in global markets.
That is an exceptional program that would help our manufacturers.
Also, with respect to infrastructure, we often hear New Democrats comment that we are not investing in infrastructure. We are not doing enough. We should help cities. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. We have made significant investments in infrastructure. In fact, they are the largest infrastructure investments in the history of any federal government, with $53 billion in long-term support. It is composed of $32.2 billion in the community improvement fund and is sub-composed of an indexed gas fund.
What the New Democrats seem to forget is that it was this government that made the transfer of the gas tax permanent, which was a key ask of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Now we would index it, which, again, was something municipalities asked for. These would be funds municipalities could count on, year after year, to make investments in the infrastructure needs in their communities.
We have had significant investments in infrastructure in my city of Brampton. We can look at the investment in the AcceleRide program and the investment in the Züm buses, which Bramptonians are very pleased about.
Our mayor was very happy with those investments. I have a quote from the great mayor of Brampton: “I am encouraged by the 2013 federal budget which will help municipalities...”.
Of course this came from the FCM itself: “Today's budget delivers significant gains for Canada's cities and communities”.
If that is not a ringing endorsement of our budget, I do not know what is.
I also want to talk about one other aspect of the budget, which I consider to be important with respect to the first nations land management. We are going to invest a further $9 million over two years for the expansion of the FNLMA regime. Why is that important? I sit on the aboriginal affairs committee, and I can say that one of the best ways to unlock the economic potential of first nation communities is to allow them to move at the speed of business, to exempt them from the land code provisions of the Indian Act. That is exactly what the FNLMA does. It allows first nations to enact their own land codes and therefore be able to develop their land and, that great phrase, move at the speed of business, so they can continue to economically prosper.
We believe these additional funds would allow 33 first nations to move into the regime. There are currently 39 that are fully operational, and 30 are in the process of drafting their land codes. This would greatly add to the improvement of the quality of life on first nations.
Quickly, one of the other things I wanted to talk about is with respect to the donor super credit, which is of course going to encourage Canadians to make charitable donations. We know the great work that gets done all across our communities in this country with our charitable organizations. The first-time donor super credit would provide an additional 25% tax credit for a first-time donor, up to $1,000 in monetary donations. I think this would have an exceptional impact on the giving of Canadians across this country.
It is also important to note the things we would do: the accelerated capital cost allowance; the extension of the mineral exploration tax credits, which my colleague talked about; the investments we are making in infrastructure. All of these things would be done while balancing the budget. We remain on track to balance the budget in 2015-16, and we are going to make sure the budget is balanced, because it is important for Canadians and important for the government, and we would do all the things we are talking about in the budget and still be able to balance it in the coming years.
From my pre-budget consultations, and I also did some post-budget consultations with local businesses in my community, I can say that a number of the things they were looking for are in the budget. I do not have time, but we could talk about the new job training credit, which is being worked on. It is very exciting.
One of the business owners in my riding sent me an email after he had reviewed the budget, and I am going to read what he said because I think it is reflective of the general view of small businesses in my community:
Economic Action Plan 2013 builds on the strong foundation the government laid last year, create jobs and economic growth while keeping taxes low and returning to a balanced Budget in 2015. Economic Action Plan 2013 demonstrates to hardworking Canadian families that our Government is committed to their priorities: jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
That is from Herman Custodio, from Custodio's Studio Inc., which is in beautiful downtown Brampton. He is a great business owner in my local community.
For these reasons, I fully support our budget and, of course, the budget implementation act.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will share my time with the member for .
I find it somewhat exasperating to rise once again to express my disapproval at third reading of this omnibus bill. This one is not quite as thick as the others, but even so, this so-called budget implementation bill will change over 50 laws.
The people of LaSalle—Émard are against the omnibus bills that the Conservative government has introduced repeatedly in the House. What is more, it has once again limited debate, as it has done a record number of times since the beginning of this Parliament.
In my remarks today, I will focus primarily on division 6, which is about the Investment Canada Act. Much ink has been and continues to be spilled over this act, particularly in 2012. The largest transaction yet to be reviewed under the Investment Canada Act was the purchase of Canadian oil company Nexen by Chinese state-owned CNOOC.
Many experts have expressed their views on this transaction and on the Investment Canada Act. They have said that the rules were not clear. Throughout the development of that saga in 2012, every time we asked the minister a question, he said that yes, a decision was being made and that yes, the government was going to take net benefit for Canadians into account.
The government waited until December 7, 2012. During a press conference at 4:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, the signed off on this major transaction. The interesting thing is that, during the press conference, the Prime Minister said that the government had approved CNOOC's purchase of Nexen, but then he turned around and said he was going to change the rules. That indicates that the government realized such decisions have significant consequences, but approved the transaction anyway. A closer look at the government's measures suggests that it might be aware it made the wrong decision. This is about natural resources in a strategic sector of the Canadian economy, and now a foreign state-owned company controls part of it.
Once again they have hidden away one of the most important laws, the Investment Canada Act, in an omnibus bill. We have been asking the government for a number of years to carry out an in-depth review of this legislation. Instead, the government is making announcements. It has announced two things. During the 's press conference, one of the people attending commented on how the takeover of Canadian companies by foreign corporations would be handled. Those rules are in this bill and, what is more, the is being given the authority to define or decide what rules will apply to foreign state-owned enterprises. That is worrisome.
The other aspect that I would like to talk about is the increase in the thresholds that trigger the review of these transactions under the Investment Canada Act and the application of the infamous net benefit to Canada test.
The Conservatives are establishing new review thresholds, which will first increase from $600 million to $800 million and then to $1 billion in less than five years. The valuation will no longer be based on asset value but instead on the corporation's market value. With these two factors, fewer and fewer takeovers by foreign corporations will be reviewed under the Investment Canada Act or be subject to the net benefit to Canada test.
This is disturbing because it means that the government is hanging up a big banner across the country that reads “Canada is for sale to the highest bidder”. Even Chris Hadfield will be able to see it from space. That is the government's message.
The NDP recognizes that foreign investment in Canada is important. It stimulates the economy. However, we must understand that some foreign business people and investors see Canada as a pool of talented workers. They come here because they recognize that Canadians are very talented when it comes to innovation and creativity.
They also recognize that Canada has appealing and favourable work conditions. People are treated well here. We have high health, safety and environmental standards. They also recognize the importance of establishing themselves and participating in the community. These foreign investments are a good thing for Canada because they help advance science and technology and improve knowledge sharing.
I have had the opportunity to visit many businesses that are well established here in Canada. They see Canada as a place that supports growth and trade. However, in the last 20 years, a number of businesses have been fair-weather friends. They have come to establish here, have more or less complied with working conditions and then have left. That is my concern, and I demand that we be able to study the Investment Canada Act in committee.
I ask for the unanimous consent of the House to move the following motion: “That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, clauses 136 to 154 regarding the Investment Canada Act be removed from Bill C-60, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures, and that these clauses do compose Bill C-62; that Bill C-62 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology; that Bill C-60 retain the status on the order paper that it had prior to the adoption of this order; that Bill C-60 be reprinted as amended; and that the law clerk and the parliamentary counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary to give effect to this motion.”
We are moving this motion because we believe that this section of Bill is very important and complex and should therefore be carefully studied as a separate bill.
Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank my NDP colleague from for her excellent speech.
Just a few minutes ago, before coming into the House, we were in the lobby discussing my beautiful region, the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. I must say that she knows my region very well. If the member for LaSalle—Émard were the minister of industry, I would bet quite a lot of money that my region’s economic development would be flourishing in a way that it is not under the current Conservative .
Today is a special day. I have time to discuss the budget. I think it is very important for members to be able to express themselves in the House. It makes me angry every time the Conservative government decides to silence the NDP members of Parliament. It is important for our democracy to be able to speak out. I will therefore take advantage of this opportunity, and I treasure the time I have to speak about my beautiful riding and the economic situation there.
Today is May 2. It has now been two years since the people of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord put their faith in me to represent them in Ottawa. I think I am representing their interests quite well, especially when I see what the Conservative government is trying to do to the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region. As the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, I feel that what is happening in my riding is as important to me as what is going on in the riding of Jonquière—Alma and the riding of Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, the current riding of the .
The Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean is a very complex region. It is isolated because of its rural nature. It is one region: Lac-Saint-Jean must help Saguenay, and vice versa. Our ancestors go way back. We are a nation within a nation within a nation; we are closely connected. The same can be said for our economy.
Two years ago, the Conservative government tabled an omnibus bill that took aim at the people of Canada and the people in my riding by implementing a variety of inappropriate tax measures. The same thing happened last year: a monster bill sent a shock wave through Quebec voters, particularly those in my riding. For the past two years, people have been talking about their concerns, about how to make ends meet, how to create jobs, decrease unemployment, and spur regional development. The fact is that society and the world are moving forward, and we do not want to be at the back of the pack. We want Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean to be a strong region in a strong Quebec, within a strong Canada.
This year, unfortunately, I must condemn omnibus bill 3.0 and I will vote against it on behalf of all the people of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. Once again, the Conservatives have introduced a bill that is inadequate for many reasons. In my short speech, I will list a number of those reasons. I hope the Conservatives on the other side of the House will listen, because I will first talk about the economy and the reality of my riding.
Right now, even though the comes from a riding in my region, I do not think the Conservative government really understands my region's socio-economic situation. I do not think this government is putting its energy into developing the region. On the contrary, over the past two years, I have noticed that the Conservative government has been erecting barriers to the development of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean.
I am the proud representative of one large municipality and eight little ones, including cities and villages. When I go to Saint-Fulgence, which has about 2,000 residents, those people are very concerned about employment insurance. In omnibus bill 3.0, the Conservative government is once again going after workers who rely on certain industries. In Saint-Fulgence, the forestry industry is very important. It is no secret that, since the 2008 recession, Quebec and Saquenay—Lac-Saint-Jean have had a hard time revitalizing the forestry industry. As a result, the unemployment rate is higher.
Yesterday, during question period, my colleague from mentioned that the youth unemployment rate for Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean is 13.5%, which is very high.
When I see that level of unemployment, it tells me that our young adults and even our young children want to stay in the region. They like our region, which is very nature-oriented. The pace is a little slower than in the big cities. We want to keep our young people. In recent years, the population of our region has been declining. We have been working very hard to turn things around. However, this means that young people must have jobs. At present, with an unemployment rate of 13.5%, it is hard for our young people to find work, especially in Saint-Fulgence, which depends on one particular industry.
I am very disappointed that the government is not putting more energy in the right place in order to help the people of Saint-Fulgence, both youth and adults, find work. The next generation of workers, or at least the young generation of workers, is the future of our region. If they leave, they are giving up the opportunity to raise a family in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. It is appalling that my region is declining because of that.
Ferland-Boileau is a municipality that is quite similar to Saint-Fulgence, because the forestry industry is very important there, too. The Conservative government injected 10 times more money into the automotive industry in southern Ontario than it did into the entire Canadian forestry industry, and only a small fraction made its way to Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. I deplore what is happening, because this government is creating winners and losers.
In the latest budget, omnibus 3.0, the government did not allocate any new funding for the forestry industry, although it tried to claim that it did. Canadians are not the fools that this government seems to think they are.
In Sainte-Rose-du-Nord, a charming town of 500, people are concerned that their small community does not have the financial resources it needs to build a waste water treatment plant. I know that waste water treatment is under provincial jurisdiction, but the problem in my region is that waste water gets dumped into the Saguenay Fjord. I am not sure many people know this, and I am not even sure that government members are aware, but the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is co-managed by the provincial and federal governments. That is why the federal government must do its part to protect water and environmental quality within the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park.
Unfortunately, when small communities like Sainte-Rose-du-Nord dump waste water into that lovely expanse of water, which is protected by the federal and provincial governments, I have to wonder. The government is doing two contradictory things. It is not putting in the effort or coming up with the money that these small communities need to treat their waste water. All they need is a $5 million waste water treatment plant. The government could do something to support these small communities financially. I am not talking about transferring the gas tax, which is worth $500,000 over a period of four years, to Sainte-Rose-du-Nord. I have done my homework, so I am not interested in hearing any nonsense. We can all agree that a community with a population of 500 will not be able to come up with $4.5 million to build a waste water treatment plant. The government's lack of vision for the development and support of the small communities I represent is deplorable.
Unfortunately, the community of Petit-Saguenay is wasting away. Its population is declining rapidly, as are the revenues that would enable it to recover and thrive. When I talk to elected officials there, they all say that the Government of Canada, specifically Canada Economic Development, is not helping them.
Saint-Félix-d'Otis has a lot of great projects going on, such as the Site de la Nouvelle-France and the transformation of its elementary school into a nature-focused school. Unfortunately, Economic Development Canada is not doing enough.
I wish I had more time to talk about my riding, but I urge the Conservative government to take note of my concerns.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill , economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the for remaining committed to what matters most to Canadians, and that is jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
Canada's economic action plan 2013 advances a solid vision with a proven track record. We are the only party with a plan and that plan is working for the Canadian people. Let us look at the evidence.
Before I continue, I would like to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Just this week, Statistics Canada announced that Canada's economy grew by 0.3% in February. Over 900,000 net new jobs have been created since the end of the recession in July 2009, the strongest job creation record of any G8 country.
All major global institutions say that Canada is a model of economic leadership. The OECD says that Canada has the most sound economic fundamentals in place for a strong economy for the next 50 years. We also have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of any G8 country.
However, we must remember, and this is a very important point, that Canada is not an island. We are not immune to economic shocks emanating from our global neighbours. Therefore, while the Canadian economy continues to grow and create jobs, the challenges confronting us remain significant and we cannot afford to become complacent.
That is why now, more than ever, we must remain focused and on track. Economic action plan 2013 is a balanced and responsible approach. What we propose is not partisan; it is simply good for Canada and will lead to further growth in our economy and to job creation.
Bill contains a number of substantive measures to build a stronger economy and create jobs. Some of these include extending for two years the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance; indexing the gas tax fund payments to better support job creating infrastructure in municipalities across Canada; extending for one year the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors; modernizing the Investment Canada Act to clarify the treatment of proposed investments in Canada by foreign state-owned enterprises, the timeline for national security reviews; and providing $18 million to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to help young entrepreneurs grow their firms.
One critical area we are focusing on is Canada's skilled worker shortage. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has identified the skill shortage as the number one obstacle to success for its members. There are too many jobs that go unfulfilled in Canada because employers cannot find workers with the right skills.
We heard this message time and time again at finance committee. Therefore, our government has taken action. The temporary foreign worker program has been reformed to enable employers to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis to fill immediate skills and labour shortages when, and only when, Canadian citizens and permanent residents are not available to do the job. However, let me be clear. The temporary foreign worker program is designed to ensure that Canadians are given the first crack at available jobs.
Bill also has a number of proposals to support Canadian families and communities. Some of these are introducing a new, temporary, first-time donor super charity credit for first-time claimants, expanding tax relief for home care services to better meet the health care needs of Canadians and removing tariffs on imports of baby clothing and certain sports and athletic equipment.
I want to take this opportunity to talk a bit about the general preferential tariff. I am proud that the economic action plan would modernize Canada's general preferential tariff regime, which has not been updated substantially since 1974. A lot has changed since the 1970s in the global economy.
Let us consider this. In 1980 the Canadian economy was $269 billion. It was bigger than China's, bigger than Brazil's and bigger than India's. Why would we continue to administer, virtually unchanged, a foreign aid subsidy program based on what the state of the global economy was in 1970s? We should not.
The GPT was a collective commitment from developed western countries in 1974 to help the economies of the poorest third world countries. The program gave companies from these countries preferential access to the Canadian market. Throughout the years, as some of the poorest countries grew stronger, many in the west modified their list of countries to ensure it properly reflected changing economic realities. In fact, the United States revises its program every two years.
Remember, as I said just a few minutes ago, that in 1980 the Canadian economy was bigger than China's, Brazil's and India's. Compare this to today. The economy of China is $7.3 trillion, Brazil is $2.5 trillion, India is $1.8 trillion, and all have overtaken Canada, which is $1.7 trillion. If our government does not revise the general preferential tariff with these countries, all three countries will continue to receive the same benefits as the poorest third world countries.
The general preferential tariff is not a free trade program. There is no increased access for Canadian exporters to those preferred countries. In fact, many Canadian companies face hurdles when they try to enter those very markets. That is why our government has been pursuing an aggressive trade strategy, negotiating nine free trade agreements since 2006 and negotiating to open more markets for our goods and diversify our trade. However, we cannot accomplish that by letting an outdated program from the 1970s continue indefinitely.
The recent changes would provide an incentive for many countries to open their markets to Canada, meaning better jobs for Canadians and tariff reductions for Canadian consumers. I recently heard from a business owner in my riding who was having trouble competing with his counterpart in China. He was quite upset that Canada was giving tax breaks on imports from China. He did not seem to think this was fair, and neither do I. I am proud, therefore, that t his new budget would graduate countries from the list of developing countries and ensure Canadian companies could better compete so jobs would be created in Canada rather than in China.
I would like to conclude by clearly stating my support for Bill , economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1, which would keep our promise to the generation that made us great but also would invest in the next generation that would make Canada even greater.
I thank the for his hard work on this budget. The people of York Centre and Canada truly appreciate it.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to show my support for economic action plan 2013, the budget implementation act. I am pleased to see our government continue to invest in the programs and services that are most important to Canadians.
The impact of Canada's economic health is vital to all Canadians. The economic action plan was initially designed to lead Canada out of the worst recession in generations. The temporary stimulus measures of the economic action plan had their intended effect. The projects created jobs at a time of recession while making investments in local infrastructure that would benefit our communities for years to come, leaving a lasting legacy.
Our agenda has kept Canada's economy on the right path. For instance, we are increasing skills and training support by introducing the new Canada job grant to help more Canadians get high-quality, well-paying jobs. We are also helping businesses succeed by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance to encourage manufacturers to invest in new equipment, extending the hiring credit for small businesses, and making strategic investments in world-class research and innovation.
Through the strong leadership of our and the , Canada has created over 950,000 net new jobs since July 2009. I am pleased to report that the vast majority are full-time, private sector jobs. That is the best record in the G7.
We have seen Canada maintain its Triple-A credit rating through this period of difficult economic instability and uncertainty. We continue to see Canada with the lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio and the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7. Moreover, the IMF and the OECD have forecast that Canada is on track to stay near the top of the G7 in economic growth in the years ahead.
I would like to take a closer look at some of the initiatives in the budget and share with the House some information on how this budget would benefit the people of the city of Barrie, whom I have the honour to represent.
Set around Lake Simcoe, Kempenfelt Bay, Barrie's waterfront is one of the most beautiful natural assets we have. It is a major boost to tourism across Simcoe County and all around the province. There is no doubt that the health of Lake Simcoe is vital to our region and to the people who live in the city of Barrie. Unfortunately, in recent years, the presence of zebra mussels has become an increasingly large threat to the lake's well-being. The growing presence of invasive species has continually posed a problem in Lake Simcoe's waters.
Our government has been very committed to making sure that the lake is as healthy as possible. It all started in 2007 when we announced a historic $30 million cleanup fund, which is a five-year fund from 2007 to 2012. It was going to deal with some of the concerns over rising phosphorus levels, which result in excessive weed growth and a reduction of marine habitat. This fund was very successful in working with stakeholders at reducing the phosphorus levels. In 2013, this fund was extended for another five years with an additional $29 million.
I would note that, historically, the health of Lake Simcoe has been left to local governments. It took a Conservative government to finally invest in cleaning up the lake. I have to say that it was very well received in our region. The fact that we continue to fund that cleanup has been absolutely terrific.
However, it is not just cleaning up the lake; this budget also deals with the concern of invasive species, as I mentioned. It allocates an additional $4 million over three years to continue this battle against zebra mussels through the continued enforcement and monitoring of ballast water regulations.
Our government's commitment to protect our natural environment is commendable on many levels. I am pleased to note that younger generations in our region can be confident that they will be able to enjoy Lake Simcoe for years to come.
In furthering this commitment to protect and sustain our precious waters, our government has paid close attention to the depleting water levels, particularly in the upper Great Lakes, including Georgian Bay. I have heard from many of my constituents in and around Barrie that this is a major concern, especially for cottagers. It is not just people living along Georgian Bay; an incredible number of people use the water area. Therefore, I was pleased to see this budget address the concern of lower water levels.
In March 2012 the International Joint Commission received the results of the water levels study. It is great to see that this budget commits to working with the IJC on resolutions and recommendations to deal with this growing concern.
There are also a few more highlights for Barrie in the budget.
We have seen the importance of infrastructure, such as transportation, community centres and water treatment facilities, in our communities. Our government's investment in infrastructure in the Barrie area alone has totalled well over $100 million since we were elected in 2006. It makes the city much stronger, a much better place to attract business and a healthier place to live. It is great to see that this current economic action plan would enhance that commitment to infrastructure.
The budget would deliver the new building Canada plan, which is a combination of other measures in the budget. It actually is the largest infrastructure program in Canadian history. The building Canada plan would provide stable funding for 10 years and help keep our communities moving with investments in roads, bridges, commuter rail and other aspects of transit. Over the next two years alone we would be investing close to $10 billion. That is more than the previous government's entire 13 years in office. This plan's three main components include the community improvement fund, the new building Canada fund and the renewed P3 Canada fund to include in total over $70 billion in federal infrastructure funding, which is just incredible.
The gas tax, a temporary program by the previous government that we have enhanced and made permanent, has a tangible benefit for every community in the country. It means $7.8 million on an annual basis to the city of Barrie.
Let me speak of some other positive aspects of the budget.
In order to promote the culture of giving in Canada, the 2013 economic action plan proudly increases the federal charitable donations tax credit and introduces a new temporary first-time donor super credit for first-time claimants. I am particularly impressed with this aspect of the budget as it creates an appeal for young Canadians to donate to charity. There are many huge capital campaigns in my community where that is exactly what they are working on, finding new first-time donors, whether it is the hospital expansion, the Georgian College expansion, the new Gilda's building or Hospice Simcoe. This is another great initiative that our has illustrated.
As Barrie is a growing community, one of our ongoing concerns is jobs, and I think this is pretty common across the country. I very much recognize that this is a budget that focuses on jobs.
Economic action plan 2013 continues to support education and training, helping Canadians be prepared for good, high quality jobs. That is why our government is introducing the Canada job grant. This grant aims to transform the labour market by providing funds for the skills training that many Canadians need. In doing so, it encourages employers to recognize these skills and qualifications in order to fill the jobs of Canada's high demand fields.
In building upon this commitment to job growth, economic action plan 2013 also focuses on creating opportunities for apprentices. Canada is currently facing a shortage of skilled tradespeople that is expected to grow in the future as the population ages. Georgian College in Barrie offers 10 valuable apprenticeship programs alone. Our government responded to the shortage of new tradespeople by creating important new opportunities for apprentices. This would be done through the implementation of various grants and tax credits that would open the doors for apprentices at every stage in their career. I am confident this plan would promote accessibility to the training that Canadians need to find employment.
I realize I am running short on time. I just want to highlight two other aspects of the budget, the first being the importance of the Southern Ontario Economic Development Agency. This agency alone has been absolutely fantastic for job creation; IBM located in Barrie because of it. We have seen expansions to Southmedic Inc., the moving of the plant from China to Barrie, the expansion of TNR Doors and the expansion of Wolf Steel Ltd.
In my final 30 seconds there is another aspect of the budget that I want to emphasize. We continue to keep our ironclad investment to universal health care in support for the provinces for health care. We are reaching record levels in funding of the Canada health transfer. It will be nearing $40 billion by the end of the decade, which is just an astronomical commitment to something that Canadians tremendously value.
Overall, this is a terrific budget for Canadians. I applaud our for such a fine job.
Mr. Speaker, what would this budget do for everyday Canadians?
For families, it would mean dealing with lengthy wait times for surgery or not being able to find a family doctor. For young Canadians, it would mean not being able to find a job or get the training they need to get a job. For commuters, it would mean being stuck in traffic gridlock or on overcrowded buses.
The Conservatives promised to focus on jobs, but instead they are pushing ahead with their job-killing austerity cuts. They are maintaining their fatally flawed temporary foreign workers program that takes jobs away from Canadians and they are hiking taxes on Canadians.
This budget introduced no new measures to create jobs and plays a shell game on infrastructure and skills training funding.
The Conservatives are pushing ahead with $36 billion in reckless cuts to health care funding. For Canadians who cannot afford home care to begin with, this budget would not help them, nor would it improve caregiver support for families who are struggling to provide personal care service for their loved ones.
There are 240,000 more young people unemployed today than before the recession. All this budget does for youth job creation is reannounce funding for internships. This is hardly an adequate strategy for addressing the very real problem of youth unemployment.
The government would scrap the $300 million in skills training funding to the provinces in order to give the money to companies on a matching fund basis. It is a shell game, plain and simple.
Instead of addressing Canada's skilled labour shortage, the government has close to half a million temporary foreign workers in Canada while 1.4 million Canadians are out of work. With this fatally flawed immigration policy, the federal government is undermining the labour market, signalling to companies to hire cheap labour overseas to replace Canadian workers.
Banks and insurance companies do so by outsourcing their IT jobs. Airlines lay off Canadian pilots to hire foreign workers. Mining companies bring in workers from overseas, even though there are unemployed miners in Canada. Construction companies do exactly the same. Such short-sighted immigration policy eliminates all incentive for companies to train and hire talent permanently.
This policy also depresses wages, making it harder for working families to get by. Immigrants are nation builders, not just economic units. Canada is built by immigrants, and the way to deal with a labour shortage is to train our young people and bring in immigrants as permanent residents so they can build a future in Canada, establish a family and set down roots in this country, just as many generations of immigrants did before them.
The Conservatives have failed to deliver a comprehensive strategy to deal with our growing skills gap. They have failed to deliver greater educational opportunities to first nations, newcomers, youth and the aging workforce. This budget would provide no additional funding to close the 30% funding gap for students in first nations communities.
On the pension front, Canadians have to wait two years longer to receive benefits under old age security. They now have to wait until age 67, up from 65.
Investing in health care, skills training and opportunities for youth is crucial to the well-being of ordinary Canadians and our economy. We need to do better.
I am splitting my time with the member for .
This budget is a disappointment, not only for Canadians who want reliable and accessible health care and job opportunities but also for those who rely on a car or on public transit to get to work. Canada's cities continue to be mired in gridlock. We are losing $10 billion in economic productivity every year. The average commute time in the Toronto area is 82 minutes. That is almost as long as a soccer game or preparing and having dinner at home.
Our cities are overwhelmed. They only get 8¢ on every tax dollar collected in Canada and they are experiencing a whopping $171 billion infrastructure deficit. What does the government do about traffic gridlock, the lack of proper transit and crumbling infrastructure? The answer is, not much.
When it comes to federal investments in roads, bridges and public transit, the budget is a disappointment. Instead of giving communities predictable, long-term and non-partisan funding, they get a net cut in infrastructure investments. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has determined that municipalities will be in fact receiving $2 billion less each year in 2014 and 2015. This is the hard truth when we compare current federal funding on infrastructure with what is planned going forward. Ten billion dollars less in 10 years is a lot of buses and streetcars not being purchased or replaced, a lot of roads and bridges not fixed and a lot of commuters waiting for subways and light rail in vain.
A slew of programs got cut completely, such as the green infrastructure fund. The government believes there is no need to invest in green technology and no need to make our communities more energy efficient.
The same goes for small-town Canada. There will be no more designated infrastructure money for small towns or rural communities. They will now have to compete with the big cities over less money.
What a deep disappointment it is. For 2014, grant-based infrastructure spending is going down from $3 billion to $2 billion. The building Canada fund will be 10% of the size it was last year, from $1.2 billion a year to $210 million. Canada's commuters will pay the price for this cut. They will pay for the lack of federal leadership on breaking the gridlock.
However, I am happy that the government also listened somewhat and changed its way, in a small way, after much encouragement from both the New Democrats and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. For years we have been calling for indexing of the gas tax transfer. This vital fund gives cities across Canada a minimum of stable, long-term funding. However, until now, it shrank every year in real terms because of inflation.
Partially indexing the fund to inflation would give cities slightly more secure funding, at least from this source. However, the municipalities would not be getting a nickel more in the next three years because of a very regressive formula.
Let me provide details. For 2013, 2014 and 2015, the municipalities would continue to get only $2 billion across Canada. It is only in 2016 that the indexing would go up somewhat and an extra $100 million would kick in.
However, indexing is only the first step. Now the government needs to get serious about long-term, predictable funding that closes the gap. We need gas tax fund no. 2.
There are some promising signs in the budget, but we need to make it concrete and deliver results to Canada's unemployed youth. Infrastructure spending has to be tied to apprenticeships and training so that a new generation can get good-paying jobs in skilled trades and we can get young Canadians the training and jobs that they need to succeed while we fix our cities.
Much work needs to be done, but if the government gets serious about fixing Canada's crumbling infrastructure and creating jobs, we can turn the budget from a disappointment to an opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill today, which is yet another salvo in the Conservative attack on working people in this country.
A war on working people, not an attack.
Mr. Mike Sullivan: It is even a war on working people. I thank the minister for making sure I got my terminology correct.
We were given the role of Her Majesty's official opposition two years ago today, and almost immediately the Conservatives began their assault on working people in this country.
Canada Post locked out its workers, and despite being at arm's length from the government, the government not only legislated them back to work, but that legislation included reducing the workers' wages and attacked their pension plan.
Shortly after that, the government went after the workers at Air Canada, twice, legislating them back to work before a strike or lockout even began, again with conditions unfavourable to workers.
Later, the government legislated another private company back to work: Canadian Pacific Railway, a private company. I remind the House that it was not even a public corporation or a crown corporation.
Air Canada then closed its maintenance bases in Winnipeg, Montreal and Toronto. Despite the government's assurance that those bases and those workers would be protected, the jobs are now performed elsewhere, and the Conservative government sat on its hands and did nothing.
Caterpillar closed its Electro-Motive Diesel plant in London, Ontario, after getting a lovely cheque from the during the election campaign. The workers were tossed out and production moved to the U.S.
The U.S. government then loaned money to Iron Ore Company of Canada in Labrador to buy its locomotives in the United States. The U.S. government is loaning money to a Canadian company to buy American. How ironic is that? Again, the Conservatives did not even raise a finger to help the workers. We do not have a buy Canadian policy. Nothing in the budget suggests we should be buying in Canada.
However, the Conservatives had not finished. They attacked working Canadians again by demanding they work an additional two years before retiring. The announced this broken promise in Davos, Switzerland, I guess because he is afraid of facing Canadians on issues as big as that.
Next, the Conservatives attacked workers unlucky enough to need access to the safety net called employment insurance. They have reduced the number of weeks of payment, raised the premiums and put in place new rules that demand workers take jobs that pay up to 30% less and can be up to an hour's drive away. Of course, that 30% less becomes a vicious circle and a downward spiral, because the next time individuals are laid off, they have to take 30% less, and the next time they are laid off, another 30%, until finally they are paying to work.
While workers were trying to fathom those changes, the government made it easier for employers to not hire Canadian workers by easing rules for importing workers from other countries. A staggering 338,000 such workers are in Canada now, in jobs ranging from food service workers in fast food restaurants to airline pilots. Banks are even so bold as to ask the outgoing laid-off staff to train their foreign replacements.
This is not what we should be doing in this country. This is not what we want in a budget, to have Canadian jobs fleeing as fast as we can get them out the door in favour of cheaper foreign labour. That is not how to run this economy, and the Conservative government is running our economy quickly into the ground.
Bill , a government bill in private member's bill clothing, attacks the unions that help support these workers by subjecting those unions to mountains of red tape. So much for being the party of red tape reduction.
Now we have Bill , the next anti-worker salvo in the government's arsenal of weapons aimed at workers in this country. I notice that, as of today, the government is afraid of debating that bill. It has now limited the ability of this House of Commons to actually bring to this House of Commons issues with regard to this bill, in front of every member of this House. Instead, the Conservatives have given us time allocation, which will force the bill to be voted on in four days, after only four days of debate.
There are 60 separate acts of Parliament that will be discussed in only four days.
How on earth are we, as representatives of the people, going to give the proper accounting of how we looked after their interests over the course of the next four days? I stagger to think how we can do it.
The has mused about eliminating the Rand formula, another attack on working people in our country. The Rand formula is a uniquely Canadian solution to the problem of union membership, which was put forth in the 1940s and is a model around the world of how to protect employers and union members, yet the government would perhaps try to attack it.
The has suggested on a number of occasions that the wages at Canada Post are too high. He would attack wages. That is part of the problem we have with the government. Each time we turn around, the government is trying to lessen Canadian wages and expectations of job and wage. Foreign workers are allowed to be paid 15% less than the prevailing Canadian wage, yet we are supposed to think that is a good thing. The government is driving down wages time after time with its policies and formulas, and even this budget would do it again.
How would it do it specifically? It would do it by attacking, through the Treasury Board, the collective bargaining process in crown corporations. Some 49 crown corporations would now have to face the government, supposedly at arm's length, but the arm is in a stranglehold around the neck of the crown corporations and their workers.
By that arm's length now permitting the Treasury Board to determine how much money these crown corporations get, which the government does already, the crown corporations would be faced with trying to make do with what they have. The government has already lowered the budget for VIA Rail. It has lowered the budget for all of the crown corporations, generally, across the system.
Now the government wants to go in and tell the crown corporations how to do business with their workers. It has not consulted with anyone on these changes.
The Treasury Board can apparently change a crown corporation's bargaining mandate at any time in collective bargaining, which could force the employer to engage in regressive bargaining, going backward. That is what the Conservatives seem to want to do. They want to take Canada backward as fast they can and take wages backward to make us compete with low wages in parts of the world with which we have no business trying to compete.
The Treasury Board could dictate that a crown corporation violate countless rules under the Canada Labour Code. We have the Canada Labour Code for a reason. It is to govern the working relationships between federal employers, including crown corporations, and their workers in a manner that everyone can read and understand. Now we have the Treasury Board saying it is going to set different rules and not pay attention to the Canada Labour Code. I do not know if that would survive a court challenge, but it is scary nonetheless.
The Treasury Board can have one of its employees present at bargaining to ensure that the crown corporations follow its dictates. Not only will the big hand of Big Brother be no longer at arm's length, but it will be right there at the table. Big Brother will be watching as they try to bargain with their employees in a manner that is fair, reasonable and just, which is what we want in this country.
The Treasury Board can also dictate that a crown corporation can change the conditions of employment for a non-union employee at any time. There are laws against that in this country, called the Canada Labour Code, which the members opposite should read one of these times. The Canada Labour Code suggests that it would be tantamount to a constructive dismissal and is illegal. It is illegal here in Canada to constructively dismiss individuals by changing their terms and conditions in a way that they can no longer stand. That would be challengeable under the Canada Labour Code.
The provisions that have come to us in the form of Bill are, unfortunately for us, just another salvo in the war against the working people in this country.