The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill , as reported (without amendment) from the committee.
moved that Bill S-209 be concurred in.
Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to)
When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to open the third reading debate of Bill .
No changes were proposed in committee, so Bill has not been amended. Since the bill is rather short, that is not surprising. We heard from several interesting witnesses in committee. Most of them were in favour of this bill, and only one opposed it.
I think it is important to take everyone's opinions into account so that we make the best possible decisions. The concerns that were raised were not about the bill itself, but about combative sports in general.
This is not a matter of promoting a specific sport. All sports involve their own risks. Many Canadians participate in certain sports knowing full well the associated risks.
This bill would modernize the Criminal Code to reflect what is really going on in our society by decriminalizing several extremely popular combative sports, such as karate, tae kwon do and mixed martial arts.
Although they are illegal under the Criminal Code, these sports are widely practised by Canadians across the country. The provinces tolerate these sports by designating them as boxing matches. Since the combative sports section of our Criminal Code has not been updated in 80 years, the provinces have had no choice but to tolerate them.
This situation is all the more ridiculous considering that certain combative sports are now Olympic sports, but they are illegal in Canada if we enforce the Criminal Code word for word. Young children participate in these sports.
No one in the House is questioning a person's right to participate in these sports. We are not trying to promote these sports or discourage Canadians from participating in them. All we want to do is modernize our laws to reflect today's reality.
The Canadian Medical Association told us that it thinks we should ban mixed martial arts and boxing, but it did not have a problem with other combative sports, such as karate or tae kwon do, which also involve hits to the head.
However, with the exception of boxing, these sports are all officially illegal, but tolerated. Doing nothing would not change anything. People would continue to participate in these sports, even though they could technically wind up in court for doing so.
Other sports, for example skiing and hockey, cause many serious injuries such as fractures and concussions. If we had to ban every sport involving risks, only sports such as curling and badminton would be left.
During the same meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, another doctor who works in the world of combative sport, told us that he supports the bill. He explained that the health risks for participants can be reduced considerably by implementing safety regulations and measures. This particular doctor believes that by decriminalizing these sports we will foster regulated rather than underground competitions, which occur more frequently than we might imagine.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University faculty of medicine published an article in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine in 2006. They studied injuries sustained in mixed martial arts, which they found were similar to those in boxing and other combative sports. What is more surprising is that they believe fewer brain injuries are sustained in mixed martial arts than in boxing, because fewer mixed martial arts competitions end in knockouts compared to boxing.
As members probably know, a knockout usually occurs when the brain hits hard against the skull. However, mixed martial arts fights frequently end as a result of an armlock or choke. The competitors are often less inclined to punch because they want to avoid being pinned to the ground. In short, given that boxing is legal, we really do not have any good reasons to ban mixed martial arts.
This bill will decriminalize these sports and allow the provinces to regulate them.
A province could pass much stricter regulations for amateur mixed martial arts contests, such as not allowing a competitor to hit an opponent who is down. The bill does not aim to dictate rules for the sport; it aims to give tools to the provinces. The situation is ambiguous right now. If we do not amend the Criminal Code, there will be a threat hanging over the heads of the organizations involved in these disciplines because someone could contest their legality in court.
The bill will also have a positive impact on the growing industry of professional fights, which has been incredibly successful in Canada in the past few years. UFC is unbelievably popular across the entire country. Canadians represent approximately 25% of the global fan base. Organizers would obviously like to arrange fights in Canada as often as possible, which would inevitably bring a large number of tourists as well. There will be significant economic spinoffs for Canada. The provinces and cities will no longer have to creatively interpret the bill and will have more flexibility in allowing these types of competitions.
People are likely wondering why this bill adds only feet to the current definition of a prizefight. The reason is simple: there are no combat sports that do not use fists, hands or feet in some way, but there are sports, such as football and hockey, where contact is permitted with other parts of the body. By adding more descriptors, we would simply be adding more problems. That is why the proposed definition mentions only fists, hands and feet.
While this bill might not spark a revolution, it is still important. The prizefight section of the Criminal Code has not been amended since 1934, despite the fact that the world of combat sports has changed dramatically in the past 80 years. It is important that we, as parliamentarians, update the Criminal Code to reflect that reality.
This is one of those rare bills that we can all agree with, and I hope that all members will support it.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech and also for bringing this Senate bill back to the House. He did a great job of explaining why it was so important to clarify the legislation in order to provide a clear framework for a sport that can indeed be very dangerous. If we want this sport to be properly regulated, it is important to update the legislation.
I would like to give him the opportunity to elaborate on one thing he mentioned. People are sometimes surprised to learn that the incidence of concussion is lower in mixed martial arts than in boxing, for instance. Those who practice martial arts blend several disciplines, so participants are not limited to just hits to the head. Wrestling is also part of it, so various holds can be used during a match.
I wonder if the member could elaborate on some of the studies done on this. Perhaps he could also talk about the emotional aspect of this debate, since this sport is quite violent and extreme.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for for his question. I know that he has been working very hard on this issue. I am grateful for his support.
Indeed, this is a relatively new sport, which the UFC is actively promoting. The UFC has begun regulating the sport and trying to make it safer, relatively speaking, given that participants are not allowed to fight without first passing a medical. In addition, they cannot fight in a competitive match more than once every six months. Regulating the sport will also help eliminate illegal fights.
The bill gives us good reason to decriminalize this part of the Criminal Code and the legislation by adding the word “feet” to one section of the existing Criminal Code.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his presentation.
Personally, I am not really a big fan of these types of fights. If I have understood correctly, the bill introduced this morning will update the rules and make this type of fighting legal, but not promote it. I would like to hear what he has to say about that.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.
This is not about promoting a sport, but about regulating it. It will be up to the provinces to regulate and approve these fights. Furthermore, municipalities will have to decide whether they will allow these fights in their areas. The laws across Canada are all different. Some provinces and municipalities have such laws, others do not.
I will say it again: the idea is to update the Criminal Code. The bill does not promote the sport; it simply updates a section of the act that has not been updated for over 80 years. That is the purpose of this bill. It is a technical detail, and it is about time that Parliament took action.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his presentation.
My colleague said that the bill does not promote the sport. However, there are real repercussions in this regard, whether in Montreal or Toronto. He talked about how this bill will affect tourism, but could he now talk about its legal ramifications? We know that the bill was studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and that some provinces allow the sport. Can he talk about what the Criminal Code does in this regard?
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, who is a good hockey player. It is a pleasure to respond to his comments about sports.
The bill aims to decriminalize sports where feet are used in combat, for example karate, taekwondo and other martial arts. Sports must be regulated at the federal level in order to ensure that participants are able to practise them in a safe environment. I do not believe that we should criminalize these sports, which is why the bill seeks to update the Criminal Code. Parliament has not examined this issue for 80 years, so it is time to review this technical detail.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak today in support of Bill .
Most of the attention given to Bill has focused upon the professional mixed martial arts matches that are contemplated by the bill, and that will be my first area of focus. Somewhat less attention has been given to the aspects of the bill that deal with amateur combative sports. I will speak later about that aspect of Bill .
When the prizefight offence was first enacted by Parliament in 1892, there were no exceptions to the offence. In the Statutes of Canada, 1932-33, exceptions were made for boxing prizefights. Currently section 83 of the Criminal Code bans all prizefights, and then lists the exceptions to the offence. The first exception is for amateur boxing matches that meet the minimum glove weight. That is the requirement, the minimum glove weight. Each amateur boxing glove must weigh at least 140 grams.
The second exception is for a pro boxing match that is licensed by a province or an amateur “under glove weight” boxing match that is licensed by a province. Throughout my remarks, please understand that when I say province, this includes territories, which is exactly how the Interpretation Act defines it.
The amateur and professional boxing exceptions that I have just spoken of are the only exceptions that currently exist within section 83 of the Criminal Code. Former Bill , introduced during the second session of the 40th Parliament, died on the order paper. This included a proposal to expand the exceptions in section 83, but only for amateur combative sports. An exception to the section 83 ban on prizefights for professional mixed martial arts was not a feature of the former Bill .
Some provinces have chosen to license professional mixed martial arts contests as professional boxing matches under section 83 of the Criminal Code. While not all provinces have interpreted professional boxing in this way, it is clear that it is the responsibility of the Attorney General of the province to determine whether section 83 of the Criminal Code has been breached, and if so, whether to prosecute those involved with a mixed martial arts contest.
In any case, Bill will certainly clarify that provinces may license professional mixed martial arts contests, and the matches will clearly fall within the section 83 exceptions to the prizefighting offence. Some provinces are awaiting this clarity before they will move to license professional mixed martial arts matches.
Under Bill , a professional boxing match that is licensed by a province and a professional mixed martial arts match that is licensed by a province would be the only forms of professional combative sport that would be exempted from the section 83 prizefighting offence. Bill does not contemplate other professional combative sport exceptions.
I want to note that professional wrestling has not been considered to engage the prizefight offence provisions in section 83 of the Criminal Code. Although professional wrestlers are trained athletes, professional wrestling is viewed as entertainment that is carefully choreographed and therefore not as a prizefight.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has heard about the many safeguards that exist in the world of professional mixed martial arts, including the use of medical doctors who are independent of the athletes and who do assessments before, during and after the matches. Moreover, unlike boxing, the athlete may tap out, thereby signalling submission. Most importantly, under Bill , the province would determine what additional safeguards and conditions it will attach to the provincial license for a professional mixed martial arts contest.
Professional mixed martial arts and professional boxing each carry a risk of injury. While a knockout is one way to win a match in boxing, a match can also be won on points that include blows to the body. In mixed martial arts, matches can be won by submission holds or by an athlete tapping to signal submission.
It seems to me that it is better to allow provincial regulation of boxing and mixed martial arts, because a regulated environment is a safer environment than one that is not regulated. Conditions can be inserted that promote health and safety of athletes. I am satisfied that the provinces are best placed to determine the acceptance by the provincial public of pro boxing and pro mixed martial arts matches, and to determine the conditions to granting a provincial license for a prizefight. If Bill is adopted, the police will continue to have investigative responsibility for prizefights in combative sports that are unsanctioned and therefore illegal.
With regard to prosecution, the Attorney General of each province, as I have noted earlier, is responsible for the prosecution of Criminal Code offences within the province. Bill would not in any way change this investigative or prosecutorial responsibility. I am confident that the police and prosecutors will be vigilant in investigating and prosecuting prizefights that are not sanctioned by a province.
There has been recent media attention to an unsanctioned martial arts contest in the United States in which a Canadian athlete died. Amending the Criminal Code, section 83, would encourage professional athletes in Canada to participate in licensed boxing and mixed martial arts events where there is medical supervision before, during and after the match, and also in situations where rules and conditions of licensing are carefully considered by the provinces.
Let me speak now about amateur combative sports. With one small addition that I shall soon discuss, Bill reproduces the proposed amateur combative sport amendments to section 83 that were found in former Bill C-31. That bill would have amended section 83 of the Criminal Code in order to expand amateur prizefights beyond amateur boxing to include any amateur combative sport contest that is sanctioned by the province. Similarly, Bill would expand the range of provincial decision-making related to amateur combative sports.
They key concepts in Bill relating to amateur combative sports are the following:
First, a province would be able to authorize a prizefight in an amateur combative sport that is on the Olympic program. The addition, found within Bill but not found in former Bill 31, which I mentioned earlier, adds that a province would be able to authorize amateur prizefights in a combative sport that is on the Paralympic program. Moreover, if the province so chooses, it could require licensing for prizefights in Olympic or Paralympic amateur sports.
Second, a province would be able to authorize a prizefight in an amateur combative sport that the province chooses to place on a list of designated amateur combative sports. Here again, if the province desires, it could require licensing.
Third, Bill adds an exception for any amateur combative sport prizefight if the province has granted a licence. This gives a province the ability to license an amateur combative sport prizefight even if the amateur combative sport is not on the Olympic program, the Paralympic program or the provincially designated amateur combative sport list.
Bill would introduce far greater provincial choice on the range of amateur combative sport prizefights that could occur than currently exists under section 83 of the Criminal Code. This seems entirely fitting, because provinces are best placed to determine whether there is public acceptance and what measures need to be in place to assure athlete safety in a particular amateur combative sport or for a particular competition.
In this day and age it is entirely appropriate to update the Criminal Code to ensure that amateur combative sport prizefights are clearly on side with the law. I believe that amateur athletes in combative sports beyond boxing should clearly be able to participate in prizefights if the province has sanctioned the matches.
Members will have noticed a small change in Bill relating to amateur boxing when compared with the existing section 83 of the Criminal Code. Currently an amateur boxing match that uses the minimum glove weight does not need to have any provincial sanction. If “underweight” gloves are used, currently the match must obtain a provincial licence. With Bill , even if the current minimum glove weight is used for an amateur boxing prizefight, the province will decide whether it will simply allow the match because amateur boxing is on the Olympic program or whether it will require that the amateur boxing prizefight obtain a provincial licence.
While not everyone enjoys watching professional mixed martial arts matches, the sport has reached the point of great popularity in Canada for both fans and athletes. I am much happier to see these events clearly legalized so that whenever a province grants a licence for a match, we can be assured that athlete safety is top of mind.
Having provincially sanctioned matches will make it very clear that a mixed martial arts prizefight that does not hold a provincial licence is an illegal activity. I want to underscore that promoters, participants, surgeons, aides, referees, attendees and even reporters at illegal prizefights are subject to police investigation and to prosecution under section 83 of the Criminal Code.
In closing, I encourage all members to support the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill . As the previous speaker pointed out, this issue was also addressed in Bill , which was introduced in a previous Parliament.
Bill seeks to update section 82 of the Criminal Code to include mixed martial arts and, more generally, prizefights. Debates on this issue can get quite heated, since some people disapprove of these sports for reasons that are sometimes emotional, but nonetheless legitimate.
As my hon. colleague from so eloquently stated, this is first and foremost a legislative issue, not a sports-related one. This distinction must be clear, since sporting activities can become a social issue. As legislators, I believe that our role is to ensure that there is a clear legal framework in place to properly regulate sports.
What does “properly regulate” mean? That is a very important question. At this time, we all know that mixed martial arts fights take place throughout most of Canada, in most municipalities, provinces and territories, where the athletics commissions that have been created apply their own definitions to the sport in order to circumvent section 82 of the Criminal Code and make these fights subject to provincial legislation.
For instance, when the UFC—the most popular and largest mixed martial arts league—championships were held in Montreal, Quebec, the Government of Quebec logo appeared on the referees' jackets, sending the message that the provincial government is very involved in regulating the sport and can impose sanctions.
We are in a rather odd situation, given that the sport is practised regardless, even though the Criminal Code is rather vague about it all. This means that major leagues like the UFC have to carefully watch over and protect their athletes, for insurance reasons, among others. Nevertheless, smaller leagues are less subject to this obligation.
Decriminalizing these fights will give the provinces the discretion to decide whether such fights can take place within their borders. Furthermore, bringing the smaller leagues and all fights into the spotlight will help ensure that they are all properly sanctioned and regulated.
The example given by the is very interesting. Historically speaking, and even more recently, the most tragic incidents have occurred during illegal or underground fights. Given that this sport will continue to be practised regardless of the outcome of our vote on this bill, we do not want to see these fights go underground. In order to properly regulate this sport, we want everything to be clear. I cannot emphasize this enough, for it is truly key. This is really a legal issue, not a sports-related one, as the various members who have already spoken on the matter have pointed out.
I would like to bring up another interesting point. We asked people why they oppose this sport, and their reasons were often emotional ones. People seem to think that the injury rate is very high, yet studies have shown the opposite. There are fewer concussions in mixed martial arts than in boxing, for example.
That shows that people sometimes forget that mixed marital arts blends a number of disciplines—some of which are permitted at and part of the Olympics—such as tae kwon do, judo and wrestling. Boxing is legal in Canada and it involves only hits to the head. There are various ways of winning a fight in mixed marital arts, including by submission. It is important to point that out because certain studies have shown that there are far fewer injuries than in other sports, such as football and hockey. People need to take that into consideration before they write the sport off as being more dangerous.
The witnesses heard by the Senate committee were divided, particularly those in the medical community. I would be remiss if I did not mention those who oppose this type of contest and only mentioned those who are in favour. The Canadian Medical Association, for example, has spoken out against this bill. I would like to talk more about why. Doctors are stakeholders in this issue, but they do not have reason enough to oppose the sport. The Canadian Medical Association opposes all sports that aim to incapacitate an opponent. However, there is a grey area there.
The same goes for football, where there is blocking, and hockey, where there is checking. A person playing defence might be tasked with neutralizing his opponent in a certain way. In that context, we understand the association's position, but in this case enough studies show and enough doctors agree that there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that the injury rate is higher in combative sport. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I thought that was very important to point out.
In mixed martial arts, the rules in place ensure that the athletes are in good health and that they do not suffer serious injuries, such as concussions. The current rules are better than the ones for football and hockey. Other sports should consider adopting similar rules. For example, an athlete who has participated in a fight cannot participate in another before a significant period of time has passed. What is more, the provincial governments are responsible for making the rules. When we are talking about the rate of injury and concussions, we have to keep in mind that there is already a solid set of rules in place.
Speaking of the provinces, only a handful of them still do not allow this sport. I wonder what they have to say about all this. The bill is interesting in that sense because it leaves the final decision to the provinces and does not tell them what to do. It is all there in black and white. If a province decides to allow this sport to be practised in its jurisdiction, then it is up to that province to set up an athletic commission to govern this sport. We are not talking about legalizing a sport. We are talking about decriminalizing it and then leaving it up to the provinces to use their sound judgment and wisdom in their own jurisdiction to oversee the whole thing.
Finally—and I cannot stress this enough—this is not a matter of promoting one sport over another. This is a legal issue. It is a question of removing an ambiguity that currently exists and decriminalizing a sport so that the provinces can regulate it better. This sport already exists, and the athletes who practise it—and we know that their numbers are growing in Canada—need to be properly monitored and kept safe.
That is what we are trying to do today. For that reason, I will support the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today in the House to speak in support of Bill . I want to applaud the hard work of the Liberal member for . He has worked very hard with other members from all parties and with the mixed martial arts community to make this happen. I am also very pleased that the government is in support of this Liberal initiative in the House of Commons.
The purpose of this bill is to legalize certain combat sports that are currently illegal under the Criminal Code. Mixed martial arts is a growing sport, and its popularity is clear. It is, therefore, critical that we amend the Criminal Code so as to remove any uncertainty regarding the legality of the sport. By way of background, the provisions of the Criminal Code that deal with prizefighting have not been amended since 1934. Much has changed, obviously, since then.
During the early decades of the last century, these sports were primarily boxing and wrestling. Following the conclusion of the Second World War, mixed martial arts and combat sports saw significant growth.
Let me give a few examples of the growth in this industry, in particular the influence of martial arts such as judo, karate and tae kwon do. The influence of Asia in this regard is remarkable and a direct result of our Allied soldiers having been stationed overseas in Asia. Soldiers brought those sports back home, and today we can see how far they have come in becoming mainstream. Young and old, all appreciate these sports. Even more enjoy watching them, either in person or on television. Likewise, these sports are recognized by the Olympic organizing committee.
While these sports are somewhat new and popular, some are still illegal because the only exception to prizefighting set out in the Criminal Code is boxing. There can be a situation then, for example—and this happens—when, let us say, two women trained in the sport of tae kwon do decide to have a match for a prize in a basement. This fight would be only legal so long as they do not use their feet. The definition, therefore, is too restrictive and needs to be expanded. That is why Bill intends to change the definition to include feet.
As it was established in the Senate committee, adding more descriptors to this definition, such as elbows and knees, is not necessary and could even be counterproductive since contact sports such as hockey could then be considered prizefighting sports. That is why the definition is limited to fists and feet. By modernizing the Criminal Code to permit combative sports such as mixed martial arts and karate, we would go a long way to encouraging wider acceptance of these activities as legitimate and mainstream sports.
One other feature of this bill is to provide greater uniformity and, again, clarity from one jurisdiction to another. Currently, some provinces call mixed martial arts “boxing” to ensure compliance with the Criminal Code. They do so because the code provision specifically references hands and fists. In other provinces, these sports are not permitted simply because those provinces apply a more stringent standard to the application of the Criminal Code.
As a result of this lack of uniformity, many groups organize underground contests that are not governed by provincial commissions. This, as everyone can imagine, is very dangerous. In underground contests, there are seldom any safety standards or, if there are safety standards, they vary from contest to contest. This bill would hopefully lift these underground matches to the public arena where they belong and where they could be properly regulated by the provinces. In fact, the bill would free provinces to construct or develop safety standards as they see fit, and we assume the provinces would look to each other for best practices in this regard.
Likewise, as my colleague from noted in an earlier speech, these proposed changes to the Criminal Code would provide amateur and professional level organizations enhanced stature and public approval through appropriate legislative oversight, when needed.
It is true that some Canadians have raised concerns about the perceived violence contained in these sports. Injury in sport is common. We see it time and time again in hockey, when a clean check on an opponent can cause great damage. How often do we see in hockey games concussions and injury resulting from a hard check? We need only recall the Montreal-Ottawa game just this past Thursday, when we saw Lars Eller knocked out, injured as a result of a check. Depending on which team one roots for, that particular check was either clean or dirty. The point is that in most sports, contact sports particularly, the risk of injury exists.
As noted by the mover of the bill, we have heard from experts who appeared at committee and referred to a study from Johns Hopkins University that compared injuries resulting from mixed martial arts to those occurring in other major sports. The rate of injuries is not inconsistent with that of other sports, for example, hockey. In fact, it suggests that the injuries in mixed martial arts are generally less serious than those in boxing.
The reality is that mixed martial arts sports exist and a significant number of Canadians participate in them. These sports should not be confined or relegated to underground contests away from public scrutiny and proper regulations, and that is exactly the point. The sport of mixed martial arts must be regulated, not banned. Prohibition only leads to more underground fights and, as I mentioned, this is dangerous. Prohibition also means that the illegal underground economy is allowed to benefit. Revenues from underground prizefighting go undeclared, which again does not benefit the public nor taxpayers.
We know that when we watch a UFC contest, we are watching athletes. We are watching individuals who take their sport seriously. We are watching athletes who train hard. We are watching athletes who respect each other. We also know that every precaution is taken to limit injury. However, when injury does occur, medical teams are ready to intervene. My colleagues will know that Canada is the home of the world's most accomplished mixed martial arts athlete. Quebec's Georges St-Pierre is a world champion and an example of professionalism. He is a true athlete.
Bill would support both fans and organizers, which will in turn help improve the Canadian economy. Expanding the scope of what is permissible under the Criminal Code is important.
For all these reasons, I support the bill and congratulate my Liberal colleague for his efforts to modernize the Criminal Code to reflect the new realities of these popular sports.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill .
I think it is important to start by making one thing perfectly clear about this bill. Everyone who has spoken about this bill today has said the same thing. The purpose here is not necessarily to promote a sport like mixed martial arts over another, but simply to update the Criminal Code to reflect current practices.
Personally, like many people from my generation, I was a Bruce Lee fan growing up, but that does not mean I wanted to go out and hit everyone just to be like him. However, I did take lessons that were very interesting. They gave me discipline and taught me to take care of my body. I was not going to hit everyone just for the sake of doing so or so that I could emulate Bruce Lee.
Things change and that is what we are seeing now, in a way. Mixed martial arts are a little more structured. This sport is quite new. The members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights had a chance to study the bill and many witnesses appeared before the committee, including members of the UFC.
I would like to point out that the UFC is a league. It does not necessarily represent the entire sport. It is a well-organized league. Georges St-Pierre, who is famous in Quebec, Canada and around the world is a member of that league. Again, I am not here to promote this sport, but to say that society has changed and adopted this sport.
At the federal level, the objective is to decriminalize this sport. We do not want to regulate it by proposing rules. We want to leave it up to the provinces to regulate it. In fact, that is what is happening now, even though the sport is technically illegal under the Criminal Code. Subsection 83(2) of the Criminal Code legalizes or decriminalizes boxing, but it does not cover sports like karate, kung fu or, in this case, mixed martial arts.
Our objective is to come up with a certain definition. I am not going to get into the details of that definition, because I think everyone agrees on this. There was no real discussion with regard to the amendments because we all agree on this point. A few questions were asked and the experts who came to committee answered those questions.
We are happy with this bill. I thank my colleague, the member for and the NDP's sports critic. He has worked very hard on this issue.
What I am saying is that society is changing. More and more people are participating in this sport. Although the sport is prohibited under the Criminal Code, such events attract tens of thousands of spectators at places such as the Bell Centre in Montreal and bring in a lot of revenue. Toronto hosted the largest mixed martial arts event in Canada.
Once again, as my colleagues have said, this is not about promoting the sport. We simply want to look at the facts. The provinces already regulate the sport with certain protocols. For example, they require athletes to have a certain skill level. Not just anyone can walk into an arena to fight.
However, if we continue to ignore the facts and say that we are against mixed martial arts and do not want it happening in our backyard, nothing will change. The sport will remain a crime or remain technically illegal, and there will be a black market. That means that people will continue to fight, but the fights will not be properly regulated.
The purpose of the bill is to decriminalize this sport at the federal level and to let the provinces create their own regulations. Several provinces—though not all—have already developed regulations for this sport. However, things are evolving. This sport is very new on the international scene. We are seeing a change within Canadian society.
We know that the people of Quebec have accepted this sport. When there is a major public event, the police do not try to interfere or to stop it. Of course, I am not saying that everyone supports these sports. I am not a big fan myself. I would rather watch a Bruce Lee movie than see people fighting for real in a cage, something I find quite violent.
That being said, I am not passing judgment, and I do not necessarily wish for the federal government to intervene and decide that, based on its moral values, these activities are wrong and must be regulated and criminalized. Things have simply evolved.
The bill introduces legal changes to the Criminal Code. One change adds the word “feet” to a definition, in order to include some mixed martial arts sports. It reflects a societal change.
I will use karate as an example. My four- and seven-year-old nephews are both learning karate. This does not mean that they are particularly violent kids. On the contrary: their parents chose this sport as a way to direct their activities. That is exactly our message to the provinces: they can direct how these sports are practised. They have agreed to have these sports in their territory, so they should be responsible for regulating them.
Meanwhile, the federal government must make sure it does not create obstacles. It must also decriminalize these activities. We know that society has evolved, but the Criminal Code did not evolve in the same way. As a result, provinces may wonder whether they can regulate these sports. We have already seen cases where provinces worked around the problem, either by deciding to treat an event just like an ordinary boxing match or sport event, or by using other solutions. Provinces have tolerated the sport.
When we studied the bill in committee, all parties supported it because they saw it as a good option.
I would like to draw a parallel with another bill that was introduced. Bill addressed bets on individual events. I want to mention it because it was unanimously passed in the House. Unfortunately, the Senate has not gotten around to dealing with it yet. Now we have a bill from the other chamber. I am wondering how legitimate the Senate really is.
Bill was introduced by one of my NDP colleagues. The House agreed to it unanimously. Now it is at the Senate. People seem to be waking up. I even heard a Conservative member say that he did not know it passed and that he did not support it.
The bill is at the other chamber. I do not know what is happening with it. We heard that some Senators are not in favour of it. I am mentioning this because the same principle comes into play here. Certain provinces want to legalize both mixed martial arts and betting on individual events. It generates revenues. However, revenues are not the main argument. They simply want to legalize something that is currently illegal and take the money out of the black market and the underground economy.
Will not changing the Criminal Code immediately result in prohibition? Will that fix the problem? No. Society—be it the provinces, the people who watch the sport, or people in general—has changed and now accepts these sports.
I hope that Bill , from the other chamber, will receive majority or unanimous support here. If the bill passes, we hope that Bill , which was passed unanimously here, will make progress in the other, supposedly “wiser”, chamber. I put that in quotation marks because I am not entirely sure that is the case.
Before I recognize the hon. member for Sudbury on resuming debate, I will just let him know that there are about seven minutes remaining in the period for private members' business. Of course, he will have the remaining time when the House next resumes, presuming he takes that time.
The hon. member for Sudbury.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for informing me about the time. I will do my best to get the seven minutes in. I will take my remaining time at the next sitting.
I am very proud to stand today to offer my support for Bill S-, an act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights). The rules governing prizefights have not been updated since 1934, and the current legislation simply does not represent the reality of what is happening in Canada.
In the Criminal Code as it stands, boxing is the only combative sport permitted, and even then, only in certain circumstances. Having this law that we turn a blind eye to is bad on two fronts. First, it can begin to undermine the legitimacy of other laws, which is bad for our legal system as a whole. Second, it creates uncertainty for people who organize or participate in sports such as mixed martial arts, commonly referred to as MMA. It is therefore timely for the House to address the discrepancy between what is written in statute and how the law is applied.
In my opinion, the bill strikes the right balance by allowing provinces and municipalities or designated regulatory bodies, such as an athletic commission, to allow MMA, as defined by the bill, in their territories without breaching the Criminal Code.
What exactly does the bill do? Prizefights would remain illegal in Canada. The bill goes further in defining a “prize fight” by adding “feet” to the definition. It would include fights in which combatants use their feet as well as their fists and hands. The bill then lists four exceptions to the definition of “prize fight”. These exceptions are not “prize fights” but rather are authorized combative sports.
The first is a contest between amateur athletes participating in sports in a program of the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee. This exception covers sports including boxing, fencing, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling and tae kwon do.
The second and third exceptions are for contests between amateur athletes in sports designated by a province or a body appointed by a province. These exemptions cover sports such as karate, kick-boxing and mixed boxing, depending on the province.
The fourth and final exception covers professional contests. The bill states that they are exempt from the prizefight ban only if the fight is “held...with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board, commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the province's legislature for the control of sport within the province”.
A number of provinces, such as Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, as well as municipalities such as Edmonton and Calgary, have already acted and have changed their definition of combat sports to allow MMA. By passing the bill, Parliament would simply be updating our legislation to make it consistent with the laws in these places.
It is important to note that no province or municipality, depending on which level of government regulates combative sports in a province, would be obliged to allow MMA. The ultimate choice would still rest with them.
There is significant growth in the popularity of MMA in Canada. Like many Canadians, I spent last Saturday evening watching UFC 159 on TV. UFC events have filled arenas such as the Bell Centre in Montreal and the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, is the largest mixed martial arts promotion company in the world. Georges St-Pierre, one of the biggest stars in UFC and the current welterweight champion, is from St. Isidore, Quebec. He boasts a 24-2 record in MMA and was named Sportsnet's athlete of the year in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
However, while GSP may be the most renowned Canadian in the UFC, he is not the only one. For example, Mitch Gagnon trains in my own riding in Sudbury. After having an 8-1 record in MMA, he recently joined the UFC. His first contest was in July last year at UFC 149 in Calgary, and he recorded his first win at UFC 152 in Toronto last September.
Mitch trains with Team Shredder, which is housed in the Northern Ontario Multi Discipline Athletic Arts Academy in Sudbury. NOMDAAA, for short, trains students in mixed martial arts, tactical Sambo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai kick-boxing, Russian Systema, wrestling, judo and Yu Shin Do, and it offers cardio circuit training and athletic development as well. It has a proven track record of training champions and of ensuring a positive, motivating and fulfilling experience for all students, including me.
I spoke this week with Yves Charette, the owner/operator. They have over 150 students, both adults and children. He is very focused on providing confidence-building for the young children who are participating in many of these martial arts. I know that this is helping my own daughter with confidence.
We talk a lot about anti-bullying programs. When we provide children with confidence, it actually goes a long way in ensuring that bullying at school will not happen. These are some of the things that are important when we are talking about karate or any type of sport in which children can gain confidence. Whether mixed martial arts, hockey, football, basketball or canoeing, if it provides confidence for children, it is doing something right.
NOMDAAA is a not-for-profit organization that has received funding from the chief of police youth initiative fund, which also takes kids off the streets and provides them with training. It gives them something to do with their time and something to learn, which again builds that confidence. I am very proud of what NOMDAAA is doing in Sudbury.
I will save my final piece for next time, but I want to thank organizations such as NOMDAAA and the other amateur athletic groups that are doing great work from coast to coast to coast in this country.
I think this bill will allow us to see it at the professional level and will hopefully inspire kids to get involved and gain confidence.
The hon. member for will have three minutes when the House resumes debate on this motion.
The time provided for consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
The House resumed from May 3 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, in my last introductory speech on Friday, I laid out the history of prior budgets to stress the importance of having a good fiscal position. As a result, it is possible today to speak of a budget that is the right budget for this time.
I spoke about the action our government took early on. It lowered taxes, for instance, so that today's average family of four pays $3,400 less in taxes. Our federal corporation tax has been reduced from 21% in 2006 to 16% and will go to 15% to make businesses more competitive and allow them to invest in their businesses. That will give them an edge in global competition.
We also paid down our debt by $34 billion between 2006 and 2008, while still increasing transfer payments to the provinces. We gave our municipalities much needed revenue by way of gas-tax sharing and made it permanent to ensure predictability. We began tackling red tape and other irritants that have hindered businesses in the past and helped create a healthy economic climate so that Canada could position itself against global competition.
I could go on explaining why these measures have helped make Canada the envy of our G8 trading partners. It was because of these pre-emptive measures that this government was able to provide the necessary stimulus by way of the economic action plan, announced in budget 2009, when the world faced a financial meltdown resulting in a shocking recession, which some even called a depression, that still afflicts much of the world today.
The stimulus money from this economic action plan has helped thousands of communities right across Canada update or replace aging infrastructure. For example, in my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex, this money has been used to repair roads and bridges, since this area has one of the highest concentrations of bridges in our country. We have reached a crisis point, with many bridges in need of repair and a municipality stretched to its full extent. There is water treatment in Leamington, community projects, and the list goes on.
Bill would build on all these past budgets. This budget would include a new building Canada plan with over $53 billion in new and existing funds. The gas tax fund would be indexed. There would be $14 billion allocated for major economic infrastructure projects that have national, regional and local significance. This is good news, again, for Chatham-Kent—Essex.
In addition to all this, the federal government would invest over $10 billion in bridges, meteorological services, national parks, VIA Rail, small craft harbours, ports, military bases and other federal infrastructure assets. Again, this is good news for Chatham-Kent—Essex.
The Windsor–Detroit crossing is critical to the economic well-being of my riding. Every day, for instance, trucks ship produce from our greenhouses in the Leamington area. Eighty per cent of what is produced in Leamington and the surrounding area, which is incidentally the largest collection of greenhouses in North America, is shipped to the U.S.
Anyone who has been on the Ambassador Bridge knows why it is so important to replace this aging bridge. Work has begun on the approach, and the project is well under way. This was made possible by budget 2009. I was pleased to be able to help open the Huron Church parkway project, and last fall I was also present when our signed the important agreement with Governor Snyder from Michigan to make the twin-span bridge a reality. All that was left was a presidential sign-off, and that was completed when President Obama signed off on this project just last month. This project will provide thousands of jobs in the next few years and until 2020, when the bridge is to be completed.
Included in budget 2013 would be additional monies to keep this process going, making sure that there would be funds for permits, necessary licences, et cetera. They would be just part of our ongoing commitment to this important project.
Another part of our federal infrastructure asset fund that would affect Chatham-Kent—Essex would be the small harbour component. Few people know that the riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex has the largest freshwater fishing port in the world.
Wheatley Harbour is an important part of our community. Freshwater fishermen rely on the harbour, as does a shipbuilder named Hike Metal, which has built some very impressive ships throughout the years. The commitment by this government to freshwater harbours will enable me to go back to this community and continue to plan toward the success and improvement of Wheatley Harbour.
Like many places in Canada, my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex was severely affected by the economic downturn in 2008-2009. As was the case in many other areas, the measures enacted by our government helped to get people back to work, but we are not finished yet. Budget 2013 will help Canadians connect with jobs through such measures as the Canada job grant. This will connect skills training directly to employers.
Budget 2013 will also help create opportunities for apprentices by working with the provinces to reduce barriers through using practical tests as a means of accreditation. A new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities is also going to be introduced, along with new programs for first nations youth. All this will be supported by programs connecting Canadians with available jobs.
These are a few of the exciting benefits of budget 2013 and a description of how they will affect my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex. The budget also contains measures to strengthen major manufacturing industries across Canada and investment in research and innovation, and it will support leading-edge research and infrastructure.
I wish I had more time to speak about how the budget will help promote entrepreneurs, as this is an area near and dear to my heart. If we look at any package in a grocery store, at name brands of automobiles, at electronic equipment, et cetera, we see one thing emerge: the name of a individual or a group of individuals who had an idea and went to work, and after falling down and getting up and trying again, they brought this idea to market. This required an entrepreneur, capital and a market.
I am proud that this government recognizes and will encourage entrepreneurs, including youth, to create a healthy economic climate the some assistance to help spawn the next Research In Motion or Westport.
Of course, none of this would be possible without our government's continued commitment to free trade, and we are aggressively pursuing it. We are very close to signing an agreement with the European Union that would give us access to 500 million people. Our government, our manufacturers, our farmers and business people who rely on free trade will be able to compete.
Our government understands the need to help stimulate the economy, but just as importantly, we understand the need to get back to a balanced budget. Our commitment continues: jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. This budget delivers on all of those.
Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the speech given by my eminent colleague.
I think it gave an excellent summary of the debate we are having here today. This is really a third omnibus bill. Of course, we agree with a few of the measures presented in this bill, but they are mixed in with many a bitter pill that will be difficult to swallow. This is becoming a real problem.
For example, I wonder if the member could explain how it is that a government that raised the retirement age from 65 to 67, telling people they will simply have to plan better, could at the same time take away one of the most important measures available to small investors, a tool that allowed them to put money aside for a decent retirement.
Of course, I am referring to the removal of special tax treatment for workers' funds.
Mr. Speaker, as laid out in my speech, having a continuum is important. We have demonstrated that since 2006. This government has a plan for economic growth or stimulus, and part of that was to recognize that Canadians were living longer, which is a good thing; however, as a result, our demographics are such that fewer people are coming into the workplace. That caused a problem. As a result, we are getting people ready. With that in mind, we warned them about the necessity of changing our age of retirement from 65 to 67. We did that over a measured time to give Canadians an opportunity to do that.
As for the measures that the member spoke about in relation to small business, the best thing we can do for small businesses is to give them strength so that they have a good, solid business. I am a small businessman; I know that our nest egg is that business itself. We want to make sure that small businesses remain strong, and the measures we have enacted and put into place will ensure that will happen for a long time to come.
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech with great interest. I would acknowledge that, yes, there are some positives in the budget, but I do need to ask a question considering his emphasis on small business, his background in small business and his claim that this budget is about making small businesses stronger.
Could he please explain how taking $2.3 billion out of the pockets of small business owners over five years through changes to the dividend tax credit is actually going to make those businesses stronger?
Clearly, the facts would suggest that there is $2.3 billion less that those owners can utilize to invest in technology and growth for their enterprises.
Mr. Speaker, again I would emphasize that the best thing we can do for small businesses is lower their taxes. We have done that. We have repeated that process.
The other thing that is so important, as we often forget, is that as important as lowering taxes is, we need markets for our businesses. This government is actively engaged in opening new markets. We have a great standing relationship with the United States and Mexico. We have expanded that and we are looking at other countries in the western hemisphere, but now the most exciting thing that has happened since the North American Free Trade Agreement will be the European free trade agreement. We are very close to doing that. Just think of the possibilities that our businesses and small businesses will have when they are able to reap the benefits of a trade deal that has expanded to a huge market like that.
That is where the answer lies for success for our small businesses.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity contribute to the debate on Bill , which is a budget implementation bill, and to provide my comments.
It is difficult, really, in the time available to do justice to a bill like this, because once again we have a bill that has a huge variety of measures. Some of them are new policy measures and some of them are not even in the budget speech. To actually do justice is very difficult.
What I would like to do is think about how this bill contributes to a sustainable future for our country and the opportunities and freedoms that we enjoy today. How does this bill help our children and their children in the future to enjoy those same kinds of opportunities and freedoms?
I want to start by saying that one of the things that is important for the health and well-being of society over time is transparency and honesty in government policy and government measures. One of the reasons the Liberals will not be supporting this bill is the tax increases, but beyond that, it is because of the lack of transparency in terms of these tax increases.
We call them “stealth tax increases” because the government continues to deny that it is increasing taxes, while it is absolutely clear that with this budget implementation bill the government is actually increasing net taxes over the coming five years.
In fact, in each and every year, the net impact on middle-class Canadians would be higher taxes. By the end of five years, $3.3 billion more would be coming out of Canadians' pockets through this net increase in taxes. We cannot support a budget that would do that.
I want to focus initially on the impact on small business. Like the speaker before me, I am from a small business background. In fact, I spent 25 years building a business into another category, as a mid-sized business. I know the challenges of small business, especially in securing capital for their growth and in securing investment to upgrade and update their equipment.
What small businesses do is utilize the retained earnings of that business itself, and in many cases they utilize the paycheques or savings of the business owners. That is why this dividend tax credit was so important to small business owners: they could use those funds to help grow their businesses when the market was not available as it is to public corporations.
That is why it is so mystifying to me that a government that claims to be pro-business and that claims it wants to make a healthier economy is side-swiping the very people—small business owners and their employees—who are so critical to achieving that goal.
This change to the dividend tax credit for small business is only one of many ways in which small businesses are paying for some of the Conservative government's mismanagement of budgets and unaccountable spending.
It is also surprising to me that large corporations have enjoyed an approximately 7% reduction in their corporate taxes under the current government, yet the small business rate has only dropped one percentage point in that time. In the meantime, $600 million a year, each and every year for the past three years and going forward, is loaded onto businesses for an EI payroll tax increase.
Small businesses account for 42% of private sector GDP. That is an enormous part of our economy, yet we are undermining those enterprises' ability to invest and grow their businesses.
Between 2001 and 2005, Canada's small and medium-sized enterprises created 467,708 jobs. That is almost half a million jobs.
What is the comparable figure under the current Conservative government? Between 2006 and 2010, under the Conservatives, the overall net number of jobs created by small and medium enterprises was negative 10,831. We are seeing a government that is failing the small and medium business community.
Here is a snapshot. In 2005, Liberals helped small businesses create almost 40,000 net jobs. In 2011, small businesses created 21,000 net jobs.
It is the government that has been failing small businesses, and this particular bill, Bill , this budget, is a huge extra hit on small businesses. Certainly, that is not something we can possibly support.
Let us take a look at some of the other impacts of this bill on sustainability.
However, before I do that, I do want to acknowledge that there are elements of the bill that I think are positive and that I support, and certainly the Liberals support.
With respect to social sustainability, we support enhanced allocations for our veterans by putting an end to the deduction of disability payments, and we are indexing the gas tax fund by 2% a year.
Indexing the gas tax would certainly be helpful in my community of Vancouver and my riding of .
As for economic sustainability, I support the measures to fight tax evasion, because no one likes cheaters. It is important to have measures in place to stop people from cheating.
Furthermore, the tax credits for mineral exploration will be very important to my province, British Columbia. As for the environment, the bill includes a $20 million investment in the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
That $20 million to Nature Conservancy of Canada is one small amount of funds. It is so woefully small.
In terms of sustainability, that is $20 million to one organization, when the government has cut hundreds of millions from Environment Canada, Parks Canada and climate change. The Experimental Lakes Area is just one example of so many program cuts. This is a government that, unfortunately, is untruly claiming that it is at a certain level of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, whereas it is on track to actually having higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions than in 2005, while the Conservatives' target is 17% below.
I think everyone should take notice of what the Keeling curve is telling us today. Now, the Keeling curve is the world's longest unbroken record of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. This record, which is from a facility operated at the Mauna Loa Observatory near the top of a volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii, shows that carbon dioxide has been increasing steadily from values around 317 parts per million, when Dr. Charles D. Keeling began measurements in 1958, to nearly 400 parts per million today. That means that we are coming close to the level that this world saw in the Pleistocene era, at a time when the Arctic was 10° hotter than it is today and the rest of Canada was 6° to 8°.
We have an emergency with respect to climate warming, and the government is not only ignoring that, not only not funding anything to deal with that, but is in fact pretending it is accomplishing advances that it simply is not.
In conclusion, some of the important elements of social, democratic and environmental sustainability, as well as business sustainability, that I would like to see are not in the bill. In fact, the key measure that jumps out from the bill is a woeful attack on small businesses through a massive increase in their costs. That is money taken out of their pockets that they need to expand and update their enterprises.
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech and, frankly, it was a speech about what the Liberals did not get done under their agenda.
First, when she talks about climate change, we know that after they signed the Kyoto accord, the Liberals allowed emissions to increase by 33%. Our government is getting it done. We have lowered emissions. We have a plan and we are working toward it.
For most of my adult life, I have created my own job. I am a small business owner, so I know what it means to create jobs for other people. I look at what the budget is doing. It is strengthening the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector, providing tax relief for new manufacturing machinery and equipment and investing in world-class research and innovation.
When she talks about putting problems in place for small businesses, my question for my colleague is this. Why is it that the Liberals stole $52 million out of the EI fund, which put a tax on small businesses?
Mr. Speaker, my response to the parliamentary secretary opposite is to ask why the government continued to put those funds into general revenue if it felt so strongly about it. It did exactly the same thing.
I would like to point out to the parliamentary secretary that in her department there has been a massive 39% cut to CIDA by 2014-15. Therefore, in terms of democratic sustainability, our very organization for development assistance overseas, which ties into Canada's reputation as a member of the international community—or used to—has had a 39% cut. Also, now that organization has essentially been swallowed into the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to simply be another arm of the government's attempts to improve trade. We are not seeing the results yet and we have a massive trade deficit, so whatever the government is doing on the trade file is not working.
Mr. Speaker, I agree that the Liberals had 13 years to get the job done at a time when they had a big surplus but still did not get the job done.
Let us look at the Conservative side now. The Conservatives like to crow about their record on job creation, but there are still almost 1.4 million Canadians out of work. There are still 240,000 more young people unemployed today than before the recession, and the only job creation measure in Bill is for more cabinet members.
I bring this up because the two members on the Conservative side who just spoke said that they are small business people, and my colleague talked about the fact that she is a small business person. I will talk about the small business people on Manitoulin Island and the fact that the Conservative government did not do the job of making sure that the ports were in order, and now that whole economy is about to fall apart. We are talking about anywhere between $25 million and $35 million that the government is willing to see go down the pipe.
Maybe my colleague could speak to the fact that small businesses are about to fold if the Chi-Cheemaun ferry does not continue. Does she think this will increase jobs and the government's stand on the economy, or does she think this will be detrimental and there will be a higher rate of unemployed people and people on welfare?
Mr. Speaker, I agree completely with my hon. colleague that the Conservative government has been a failure in terms of job creation. There are still hundreds of thousands fewer jobs than there were when the Conservatives came into office. Youth unemployment is far worse than it was five years ago. In my constituency of Vancouver Quadra, where we have the world-class University of British Columbia, that hits young people coming out of university who cannot find a first job.
Another aspect of the problems with job creation is the tourism industry. The Conservative government has made cuts to the tourism marketing arm. There has been a 41% plunge over the last decade that has led to Canada slipping from 7th to 18th in international arrivals over the last 10 years. There are many fronts on which the government is failing and is, in fact, exacerbating the problem. It is making it harder for young people to get jobs.
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy and proud to stand today as the elected member for the riding of Mississauga East—Cooksville and speak to Bill , which is designed to implement the measures in the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, 2013.
Economic action plan 2013 is focused toward Canadians. Speaking to my constituents, I consistently hear time and time again that their top priorities for our government are jobs and economic growth. I truly believe the same holds true for all Canadians.
Our government has earned international praise and recognition for its economic results. Canada has the strongest record for job creation among the G7 countries, with more than 950,000 new jobs created since the depth of the global recession. Our government is delivering what we promised Canadians, careful and competent stewardship to improve our employment rates and strengthen our economy to benefit all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
As strong as our economy is, there are many external factors that we cannot control and that may pose a threat to the global economy. We are not immune. It may affect us as well.
I would like to talk about some important measures that are included in economic action plan 2013 that focus strongly toward increasing and aiding employment possibilities by building support toward Canadians jobs and growth.
Building from 2006, the 2013 economic action plan has introduced many important initiatives to help boost job growth, create jobs and build toward an even greater Canadian economy. Our government is committed to helping job growth, but we are also trying to make sure Canadians are able to connect with the available jobs by ensuring they have the correct skills and expertise to obtain high quality and well paying jobs by means of initiatives such as the Canada job grant, which is expected to help about 130,000 Canadians access the training they need to fill available jobs.
The government will create opportunities for apprentices by investing financial resources, introduce measures that would support the use of apprentices in projects receiving federal funding and reduce barriers to apprenticeship accreditation.
While recognizing the contributions persons with disabilities make to our economy, economic action plan 2013 announces the government's intention to bring forward a new era of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities by 2014.
The government will invest $222 million per year, and Canadians will find their government providing extensive agreements that will positively meet the needs of Canadian businesses and meet the employment needs throughout the nation, therefore contributing positively to the economy while providing greater opportunities for persons with disabilities. For both sides, it is a simple win-win situation.
The government will also continue supporting the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities and provide additional funding of $40 million a year for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Canadians with disabilities have great skills, and we are fully committed to improving their employment possibilities.
Economic action plan 2013 aims to reform and employ tact by modifying Canada's temporary workers program. The purpose of the program is to allow employers to temporarily utilize foreign workers in sectors where there are labour shortages. New reforms assist the Canadian job market and in turn the Canadian economy by ensuring citizens of this country are given priority for available jobs and employment opportunities. Significantly, the proposed reforms would ensure the program is being operated appropriately and in the way in which it was intended.
Amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provide stricter regulations, as they sanction authorities to revoke permits issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The amendments also allow authorities to suspend and revoke labour market opinions provided by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada if an employer is found to be exploiting a program.
Moreover, the Government of Canada will introduce user fees for employers applying to hire temporary foreign workers through the labour market opinion process. Existing regulatory authority under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act will introduce a user fee for potential employers wishing to request a labour market opinion. The government's aim is to ensure employers are accountable to authorities, and in addition, ensuring employers are accountable to the Canadian economy and our taxpayers.
I am very proud to serve on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. Canada has a very strong sense of respect and love for the men and women who make up a significant aspect of our society, men and women who served our country, the veterans. In keeping with this notion, the war veterans allowance program is available to provide assistance to the veterans of low income, and survivors of the Second World War and the Korean War. Also, it is very important to mention that the proposed changes will find that the determination of eligibility and calculation of benefits no longer take the disability pension into account during the calculation of eligibility and benefits provided under the war veterans allowance.
Economic action plan 2013 also proposes to simplify and enhance the funeral and burial program that is delivered by the Last Post Fund corporation on behalf of Veterans Affairs Canada. It will amount to about $65 million over two years and will double the reimbursement rate, from $3,600 to $7,376.
Our government is working hard to maintain low taxes for Canadian families and individuals. Since 2006, the government has successfully provided significant tax relief. The average family of four in Canada now receives $3,200 in extra tax savings as a result of this hard work. Our government's long-term agenda sheds light on many positive aspects that will help provide relief to Canadian families as well as individuals. Here are some examples.
First, the government has fulfilled its commitment to reduce the GST by 2%, seeing it fall from 7% to 6% to 5% in order to benefit all Canadians. Second, we have successfully introduced the tax-free savings account, a flexible, registered and general purpose means of savings which is available to allow Canadians all across the nation to earn tax-free investment income in order to meet their lifetime savings needs.
Our government recognizes the difficulties that Canadians face, while trying to achieve peace of mind by ensuring their loved ones are taken care of. Therefore, the registered disability savings plan is another great initiative presented by the government to help secure a better future for those with severe disabilities. This tax-assisted savings account allows individuals as well as families to save for the long-term financial security of those with a severe disability. Since it became available in 2008, over 65,000 Canadians have chosen to open a RDSP either for themselves or for those in their care.
With Bill , we are taking further steps forward for the constituency I represent, for the constituencies each of us represent, and for all Canadians. Therefore, I urge all parties and all members to support the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that my colleague spoke about creating opportunities and creating jobs. He talked about the positive economic impact on both sides and that it would be a win-win situation.
I would like to bring back the issue of the Chi-Cheemaun ferry on Manitoulin Island. We have a government that is wasting millions of tax dollars doing partisan advertising while the future of small businesses on Manitoulin Island are hanging by a thread. Does the member believe that the government's refusal to put in $300,000 for the fenders and the dredging of the port in Manitoulin Island will have a positive or a negative impact on the economy and on jobs?
I can tell him that people are quite concerned. The students and full-time and part-time employees are extremely concerned that they are about to lose their jobs for the summer.
Can he talk about that?
Mr. Speaker, what the member is referring to is a very important issue, but it is also a very difficult issue. It is an issue of low water levels in the Great Lakes.
The hon. member probably knows that a study was just completed. There are some solutions that are available, and our government together with the local and provincial governments are willing to work together to address the problem of low water levels in the Great Lakes. It does not only affect Manitoulin Island; it affects all the people on the Great Lakes.
It is a difficult issue. The hon. member mentioned that dredging is available in some instances and not others, but we should all work together to help the businesses—
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague speaks a lot about reducing taxes in certain areas, and everybody is in favour of reducing taxes, particularly when the economy is in a good state and we are in a surplus.
However, when we reduce taxes in a deficit situation, there is a downside to doing that. We are currently aiming for over $150 billion of added debt in 2015 due to this government.
I would like to hear what the member or the government have in mind in terms of taking care of this massive debt, for which interest payments are going to continue to increase over time.
Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that the member expresses that view.
We have a very competitive market and we are working very hard to bring businesses to Canada, not to export them out. Therefore, one of the measures to attract businesses is to lower taxes.
I do not believe, and our government does not believe, that increasing taxes actually increases revenue. Increased taxes might actually result in decreased revenue for the country and for the government.
Mr. Speaker, we heard from the NDP and we heard from the Liberal member.
The NDP member, of course, tried to fire off blame instead of saying how she is rolling up her sleeves and working with the residents there. The CFDC is using a whole plethora of federal agencies that are designed to work with the member of Parliament to excite the community and get the community ready to work. She failed to state that the Government of Ontario has indicated a willingness to make the necessary repairs to the ferry, which is a provincial jurisdiction.
To the hon. Liberal member, perhaps he would comment on what the government did before the last recession, paying down our debt and positioning the government so it could weather the economic storm.
Mr. Speaker, as the member very well knows because he was in the House, the government took very quick action to address the issue of the economic downturn and invested heavily in our economy and our businesses. We have achieved results because we saw that this was the right way to approach the issue. We have had positive results for all Canadians and for the Canadian economy.
Before I recognize the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London, I see that as more members join in today's debate there is a great deal of interest and comments. We can get more members participating if members and respondents keep their interventions to just under the one-minute mark. I will be watching for that closely.
We are now resuming debate. The hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
Mr. Speaker, I am here to speak about, and in favour of, Bill , the economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1.
I would first like to discuss Elgin—Middlesex—London and southern Ontario. I will be sharing how this budget relates to and assists the people of Elgin—Middlesex—London.
The area of southern Ontario in which I live is very unique, very beautiful and a very hard-working part of this country. It includes 80 miles of Canada's south coast, the shore of Lake Erie, only 50 miles across to where Cleveland sits, and miles and miles of great farmland. The 401 Highway, the most travelled transportation route through southern Ontario, cuts through the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London. Large manufacturers cluster along this highway, as goods come and go, into the United States and from the United States. In our area, almost everything we make, almost everything we service, almost everything we assemble, is either sold to a United States customer or shipped there for further processing.
It has certainly meant that since the United States has slowed, its economy sputtering, our area has also felt the decline, not the demise but a decline. The decline in manufacturing in our area has led to even more innovation, more entrepreneurship, more vision and more desire to succeed.
Let me share some of the great ideas that have happened. First of all, we have seen the gathering of Canadian businesses. As I shared, most of our economy in that area of southern Ontario used to have a real north-south edge to it. The economy was southern Ontario to the United States, and the United States to southern Ontario. Since the decline in the United States, we have had to go looking for other customers. We found them right here in Canada. Western Canada is flourishing, for those members across the way who have not noticed.
Recently, and thanks to the member for —I wish he was here so I could thank him in person—we had a large group of Canadian oil producers from the west come to southern Ontario, into small communities in southern Ontario like St. Thomas, put together by the economic development officers in southern Ontario and the oil producers from the west.
They came looking for stuff; gaskets, gauges, pipe, steel. Just about everything we make in southern Ontario that used to be made for the auto industry fits perfectly in the oil industry too. They brought their order books, and they came to southern Ontario. We matched Canadian company with Canadian company, and we are moving forward with this process and continue to do so. It is entrepreneurism at its best.
We have other auto-related companies in southern Ontario that are currently converting or have converted through the recession to products that are not always auto-related. Some are now making solar panels or brackets for solar panels. Some are making blades for windmills or parts for the wind energy industry. This is the innovation of the manufacturing community of southern Ontario.
What else do we do? We have food. We are great farmers. We have a fantastic growing area in southern Ontario. What else have we done from an innovative point of view? We have started to process the stuff we grow, right there at home. It is phenomenal. We have great producers of corn and dairy and whatever else we can grow in Canada.
Dr. Oetker is building a very large frozen pizza factory right there in the south part of London in the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London. It is under construction right now, but will be opening soon. The company will buy wheat for flour cheese made out of dairy from our farmers and produce for toppings on those pizzas, all grown right there in southern Ontario. That is the productivity of the farmers and the food distribution piece.
We continue to look at food distribution. Most of the food grown in southern Ontario gets shipped to Toronto where it is sent to the food terminal, bought by people in southern Ontario and brought back. That does not make sense to most people, so why not put a food terminal right there in southern Ontario? That is what we are working on.
I think I spoke about this House. It is very unique. Right there, enclosed in farmland in southern Middlesex County is a tilapia farm. Aquaculture right there in southern Ontario, not on the lake but inland. A great entrepreneur realized there was millions of dollars of tilapia being sold in the Toronto market from the United States, and said that we could do that in Canada, right there in southern Ontario.
What else have we asked for?
We have heard speeches in the House this morning about tourism in southern Ontario and how it is thriving and newer than it used to be. We knew we lived in a beautiful place, and now we are telling other people about it. We are okay if tourists come to visit and take up some of our space. The 80 miles of Lake Erie shoreline, ports and beaches are fantastic.
If one goes to the beach at Port Burwell along Lake Erie, one will now find a 300-foot submarine. The HMCS Ojibwa has been landed and will open on the long weekend in May for tourists. I have been through it, so anyone can fit. This is the type of entrepreneurship that is happening in tourism in southern Ontario.
Here is another piece we are doing that was never thought of before. Rural Canada has always had the issue of its youth, after high school, having to go somewhere else for post-secondary education. They always went someplace bigger—not always better, just someplace bigger. However, we now have a branch of Algoma University right here in St. Thomas, Ontario, teaching undergraduate studies in what used to be a historic old schoolhouse. Also, Fanshawe College, a community college branch in St. Thomas, is there to teach skilled trades in the new skills program. It teaches people the skilled trades that will be needed to move Canada forward. We will keep our youth at home. Not only will our youth stay at home to go to school; others will come. We are attracting dollars into our community by people coming here for post-secondary education.
We cannot talk about entrepreneurs without talking about those in southern Ontario. Sure, it has had its troubles in manufacturing, but to many who would see a problem, thousands have seen opportunities from an entrepreneurial point of view; they have seen this as a time to move forward and open a small business.
With John and his people at the Elgin Business Resource Centre and their business incubator program, the community futures program and the mentorship programs they are developing, we are returning jobs to southern Ontario. It may be two, three, five, ten or twenty jobs at a time, but they are returning to southern Ontario. The great economic development teams of Elgin County, Middlesex County and the City of St. Thomas are all doing the same thing and attracting small and medium-sized businesses.
How does the budget help all this?
Each of the things I have mentioned has a piece in the budget that has helped move these things forward. I am sure I will not have a chance to cover them all unless the Speaker forgets what the clock looks like, but I will talk about some.
How about creating the Canada jobs grant for training skills for the needs of youth and employers?
As both a small business person, and my business is small, and volunteer president of the Youth Employment Counselling Centre for some 10 years before politics, I have recognized the need to ensure that youth are available and trained for the jobs of today and tomorrow. It seems like a no-brainer, but including employers in that mix of the Canada jobs grant program means that employers will be sharing their needs, and not just today's needs but tomorrow's needs too, so that the training programs for youth will be there and will be the right ones to create the jobs.
For years, we have talked about apprenticeships as an area of concern, certainly in southern Ontario's manufacturing belt, and the skilled trades workers. I remember having a conversation with a principal of a community college some 15 years ago. I asked him how many millwrights would be trained this year. He said that there would be 41. I said, “Wow, that's fantastic. How did you come up with that number? Did you talk to the local manufacturing association? Did you talk to the schools to see how many people were graduating?” He said, “No, that's how many seats there are in the classroom.”
That is how we used to determine how many skilled tradespeople we used to train. How about getting out and talking to employers about their needs? How about getting out and talking to the schools and finding the youth who want to move into those careers? We can merge the two and make it so that employers have enough people to hire.
Also, there are opportunities for those with disabilities. My friend, the member for , has a great private member's motion coming up that will help move forward opportunities for people with disabilities.
I wish I had a great deal more time to talk about other things such as options and what we are doing for infrastructure. I am sure during questions I will be able to talk about some of those.
Mr. Speaker, as MPs, we have to do a good job and we have to take our work very seriously
The government presented a notice of motion to the Standing Committee on Finance requiring it to complete, in just five meetings, its study of Bill , which contains 18 sections and 233 clauses. If we take these clauses and divide them by five, that is 40 clauses per meeting.
Does my colleague believe that five meetings of the Standing Committee on Finance is enough to properly study the bill?
Mr. Speaker, in my time here I continue to be told the opposite. When I am at home for weekend events, I share with people what work happens in the House. Someone asked, “Are you still discussing the budget? How many days does it take? Does everyone not agree it is a great idea?“ The answer is yes, there is always a need for debate in this House and that is what we are doing today. We debated last week and we will do it this week. As far as debate goes, I say fill your boots, get the stuff you want to talk about out and let us talk about it, but let us not go on forever trying to just talk out the clock rather than talk out ideas.
I can assure the hon. member my boots are full.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.
Mr. Speaker, there is a lot to talk about in regard to the budget. Many, including myself and the leader of the Liberal Party, have said this is really an assault on our middle class. Hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases are what we have witnessed by the government and we need to emphasize that. Millions and millions of dollars of tax increases. That is what the Conservative government has done over the years, attack the middle class.
My question is very specific and it relates to ads for the economic action plan which makes Canadians irate. How much money does it cost to have one of those ads televised during NHL playoff games?
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Winnipeg North. I apologize for not quoting him in my speech; I believe I quoted him in my last speech. First of all, I love the opportunity to speak about the Leafs and I will take every opportunity to say that I am happy to have them back. I remember the last time they won the Stanley Cup, the game was in black and white, if I remember right, and I was my father's remote.
We have cut taxes for business in this country time after time. As a small business person and an entrepreneur, I am thankful that there is a government like this that is willing to take care of cutting taxes for small business and for business in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member to expand on his entrepreneurial comments and the fact that he headed up an organization and what he has seen over the years. He described what is happening in southern Ontario. When we look at what the budget is providing in trying to match the skill sets to the jobs available, could he expand on what entrepreneurial small and medium-sized businesses' needs are?
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to. Spending many years as the president of a youth employment counselling centre and the moving of youth between school and employment and skills training was very near and dear to my heart. We have continued to move forward from an apprenticeship point of view to the skilled trades piece for 20 years. As far back as I can remember, being in business as an entrepreneur, I mentored some of those youth as they moved into small businesses of their own. When somebody would go out and get a skilled trade as a plumber, but was not trained on the business side, I used to do the mentoring for those types of businesses.
It is important to fill that gap, to make sure that what the employer needs is available when he or she needs it, so skills training is out there and we are spending the right dollars to make sure that happens and skilled trades are there for students and the unemployed as they need a new skill, if they are looking for something to move to. The training must be there and matched to provinces, businesses, employers and employees; they all have to work together to make this work right. If we do not talk to each other, we will not do it properly.
I compliment all hon. members in keeping their interventions right on time. We had time for three questions and comments in that round.
The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to move the following motion: That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, clauses 174 to 199, related to the proposed department of foreign affairs, trade and development 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 do compose Bill C-62; that Bill C-62 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for the second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development; 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.
Does the hon. member for have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
Some hon. members: Yes.
Some hon. members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): There is no unanimous consent.
The hon. member for has the floor.
Mr. Speaker, this debate on Bill is another sad day for our ailing Canadian democracy. The only reason I can rise today is that I am very fortunate. I am fortunate not because I have the pleasure of being a member of Parliament, which is already a great privilege, but because even though a 32nd gag order is depriving the House's 308 members of their right to speak, I am one of the lucky few who has a chance to rise and to state, loud and clear, his many reasons for voting against this bill.
Although the bill includes some good elements, the Conservatives' now-notorious habit of using omnibus bills forces us to vote either yes or no. For example, voting “yes” would mean that I support the adoption tax credit, something this side of the House totally agrees with, but it would also mean that I agree with all the tax increases laid out in the budget. This creates a real dilemma. When faced with such a Catch-22, we can only give one answer: “no”.
Canadian voters expected much more when they voted for a Parliament as diverse as the one we have now. They expected all of their members of Parliament to be heard, and they expected ideas to collide.
Unfortunately, today is yet another dark day because, although our government has a majority, it feels the need to hide all of its plans, which likely do not reflect what most Canadians want.
It is ridiculous that the committee had only five days to study Bill , which will amend or create no fewer than 50 pieces of legislation. I will leave it at that, since I do not want to be disrespectful. I will let those watching decide for themselves how inappropriate this tactic is.
The Conservatives' Bill is unfortunately not a surprise to the official opposition, and it should not be a surprise to Canadians. Bill C-60 is part of a growing trend that spells dark days ahead for Canadians. We are seeing an increasing number of omnibus bills, the committee had little or not enough time to discuss the bill and the government is not consistent or transparent in how it manages public affairs.
We are still not used to all that, and I hope that we never will be. However, these tactics are unfortunately becoming all too common.
As I said earlier, Bill includes some positive measures. For example, it allows for two tax credits that we support: the tax credit for adoption-related expenses, which I mentioned earlier, and the charitable donations tax credit. However, there are a lot of concerns about the fairness of the provisions that aim to increase charitable donations. The NDP raised these concerns at the Standing Committee on Finance.
Charitable organizations are increasingly relying on donations from individuals to fund their activities, as a result of the countless cuts made by the Conservative government.
Despite what the Conservatives claim, this budget does not stimulate the Canadian economy. Budget 2013 will eliminate thousands of jobs and cut program spending.
More and more studies by well-known economists show that strict fiscal restraint and austerity budgets are counter-productive.
I will just quote one of them. Carol Goar of the Toronto Star said that^, ever since the began chopping programs and expenditures, the economy has drooped, the job market has sagged, consumers have pulled back and the corporate sector has hunkered down, sitting on its earnings. She also said that the same formula has delivered worse results in Europe.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's estimates, the 2012 budget, the 2012 budget update and the 2013 budget will lead to the loss of at least 67,000 jobs by 2017 and a 0.57% drop in the GDP.
That will seriously slow down the country's economic growth, but will we still see growth?
The Conservatives' measures put the brakes on growth and job creation. There is nothing in this budget that would create jobs; there is nothing that would make living more affordable; nothing to strengthen the services on which families depend. Not only are the Conservatives failing to create jobs, but they are still attacking working Canadians. This bill gives the Treasury Board far-reaching powers to intervene in the collective bargaining process and dictate the working conditions in crown corporations.
I want to emphasize this point, in view of the portfolio and responsibilities my leader, the hon. member for , has given me. As the deputy critic for transportation, infrastructure and communities, I regularly rise in the House to ask the government questions about Via Rail or Canada Post, for example. Invariably, the or who is responsible for transport replies candidly that these crown corporations are independent corporations and that the government does not intend to interfere in their management.
The reality, however, is quite different, and we have seen this in the many pieces of special legislation that have been imposed on workers in various sectors. Bill goes even farther in this "non-interference". It would bring in changes that would allow the government to direct a crown corporation to have its negotiating mandate approved by the Treasury Board for the purpose of the crown corporation entering into a collective agreement with a bargaining agent.
I am asking the simple question: is this intervention or not? I must admit that I am starting to get a bit confused. Do we believe the words of the or the will of the President of the Treasury Board? It is hard to answer this question. Still, if I must choose between a speech and a law, I know what I need to know.
Under the provisions of Bill , if the government directs a crown corporation to have its negotiating mandate approved by the Treasury Board, then the Treasury Board can impose whatever it wants in terms of the crown corporation's employees' working conditions. However, let us not forget that these are independent corporations.
No crown corporation receiving such a government order will be able to reach a collective agreement without Treasury Board approval. Can we see an intervention there? Bill also authorizes the Treasury Board to establish the terms and conditions of employment of non-unionized employees, on a government order.
The amendments proposed in Bill clearly constitute an attack on the right to free collective bargaining in Canada. They violate the basic principle of the operational independence of crown corporations, since they give the government the right to intervene if a crown corporation is not managing its labour relations to the government's satisfaction. Is this still not interference? I think the answer is clear.
I will therefore conclude by saying that all members of my party and I oppose this bill, because of its content and for procedural reasons. Bill is proposing a very wide range of complex measures that should be analyzed and examined carefully. Bringing in such a huge bill on such a tight schedule makes it impossible for members to study the proposed measures and their likely effects in a satisfactory manner, and that undermines the fundamental role of Parliament.
Moreover, Bill does not reflect the real concerns of Canadians. Instead of passing meaningful legislation to create jobs, the Conservatives are imposing austerity measures that will stifle economic growth, raise the cost of living, and negatively affect employment.
Thus, we are opposed to the 2013 budget and its implementation bills, unless they can be rewritten to take the real priorities of Canadian families into account.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member to comment on the issue of priorities. The government has committed to significant advertising of the economic action plan, well into the millions of dollars, yet, on the other hand, there are many needs within communities, particularly with regard to people who are unemployed and trying to find work.
My question to the member is in relation to the importance of government being more proactive at providing the training necessary for more people to gain employment. At the same time, we are seeing a great deal of government waste through the millions being spent on advertising. Does the member want to comment on that?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my distinguished colleague for his question.
The first question had to do with the huge amounts of money being spent on advertising. The word “advertising” itself could spark a debate of its own: is it advertising or propaganda? It is worth asking. What is a budget, after all? That is another very relevant question.
Mr. Speaker, you and I can probably think of more things we would like to do than we have funds to pay for. Drawing up a budget means making choices. And for a government, making choices means choosing what will help all Canadians improve their quality of life.
The proposed budget falls far short of that goal. The government is presenting an austerity budget whose only goal is to work toward balancing the budget, but I am still not convinced that it will work. One thing is sure: this bill will not boost the economy the way Canadians expect it to.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his excellent speech.
Canadians are deeper in debt than they have ever been, and municipalities are having a hard time making necessary upgrades, whether they involve substandard private septic systems or the pyrrhotite used in building houses. These are serious problems, and Canadians are currently saddled with debt.
Does my colleague feel it would be appropriate to include in the budget initiatives aimed at regulating septic systems installation and addressing pyrrhotite problems? Could my colleague comment on that?
Mr. Speaker, obviously, that would be good.
I have serious doubts about the government's empathy for pyrrhotite victims, whom I see regularly in my riding. The infrastructure measures are no different. Municipalities across Canada have strongly criticized the significant amount of catching up that needs to be done just to update existing infrastructure. I am not even talking about creating new infrastructure, just updating our existing infrastructure.
With a sleight of hand worthy of Merlin the magician, the latest budget proposed by the would have us believe that the government will be investing more in infrastructure when really, it is suddenly going to be cutting billions more from the infrastructure budget.
That leverage could have really helped what is at best a struggling economy. The Conservatives wasted yet another opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member has said, not only are the Conservatives cutting millions from infrastructure and other programs, but they are also sneaking in fee increases and tax increases.
One of the ones included in Bill has to do with immigration, including visitors visas, work permits, study permits and visa and permit extensions. It would mean that under the budget the government would be able to increase fees without tabling a proposal in Parliament and without being transparent about how much revenue the fees would bring in.
Could the member comment on the impact that would have on the many people who sometimes find it very difficult to pay those fees anyway, and who would now be facing possible increases?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for such a relevant question.
In the past few weeks, I have listened to some epic conversations and debates about the word “tax”. Whether they call it a tax or a fee, the result is the same: it comes out of taxpayers' pockets. The fact that the budget contains such a big tax grab is certainly a reason to vote against Bill .
Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, it gives me great pleasure to speak in favour of budget 2013. I am pleased to congratulate the hon. for the outstanding job he is doing on behalf of our government and all Canadians. Canada is recognized internationally for the sound economic and fiscal policies of our Conservative government. The appreciation of the world of the sound economic policy practices of Canada is a vote of confidence in our . Average Canadians—those who work hard, obey the law and pay taxes—understand leadership on the economy.
There are many benefits to the passing of budget 2013 for the people in the great riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. I intend to focus on the aspects of this important statement of federal government economic policy that are of interest to my constituents.
A number of my parliamentary colleagues are proud of the many immediate beneficial measures in the budget, such the benefits to municipalities, seniors, veterans and students. I am focused on the future and why the sound economic policy in the budget is so important to the future prosperity of the Ottawa Valley and our nation.
Innovation valley north is what the upper Ottawa Valley will become through the adoption of the measures in the budget. Innovation valley north represents jobs of the future and the long-term economic future of the upper Ottawa Valley, eastern Ontario and Canada. Innovation valley north in the Ottawa Valley is the combined impacts of the defence, nuclear and aerospace industries as well as the historic Ottawa Valley lumber producers coming together to respond to the various initiatives announced in budget 2013. Their synergy has the potential to create new employment and sustain existing jobs as our local economy positions itself to take advantage of such budget measures as the almost $1 billion in the strategic aerospace and defence initiative, SADI, to enhance the competitiveness of Canada's economically important aerospace and defence industries, which include businesses such as Allen-Vanguard, formerly MedEng, which produced the bomb suit in the movie The Hurt Locker.
By encouraging new innovation in Canada's aerospace sector and by creating the aerospace technology demonstration program, which would be $110 million over five years beginning in 2014-15 and $55 million every year thereafter, we would support large-scale technology projects with commercial potential for companies like Magellan, Haley Industries in Haley Station and Arnprior Aerospace just down the road.
Critical to innovation valley north is the hub, the ideas generator, which turns ideas into employers. In the upper Ottawa Valley we are very fortunate to have two hubs that form the nucleus of innovation valley north.
The first hub is Chalk River Laboratories of Atomic Energy of Canada. Budget 2013 would invest $144 million to the continued operation of AECL's Chalk River Laboratories to ensure that Canada has a reliable supply of isotopes. This investment in the future of AECL represents a vote of confidence to AECL and its 2700 local employees to complement the previous announcement made by our government to continue the process of modernization at Chalk River Laboratories by moving to a government-owned, contractor-operated governance model.
A government-owned, contractor-operated GOCO model of governance following the United States and British practice provides for a proven, cost-effective, high-accountability approach to management and operation of a national laboratory. A GOCO partnership shares the risk between government and the private sector. It allows each partner to perform duties for which it is uniquely suited. The government establishes mission areas and sets performance targets and the private sector implements the missions, using best business practices that ensure simultaneous excellence: excellence in technology solutions, delivered by the best scientists, engineers and managers; excellent operations, protecting employees, the public and the environment; and excellent community involvement, contributing to our all-important economic needs.
A comprehensive program of technology transfer and commercialization implemented by the Chalk River national nuclear laboratory would sustain, attract and create companies and employment in the upper Ottawa Valley as a technology, research and development hub. Innovation valley north in the upper Ottawa Valley is a partnership, taking advantage of the AECL platform of knowledge and assisted by many initiatives announced in budget 2013.
This is all about putting in place the conditions for Canada's knowledge industry to thrive.
During the decade of darkness under our old government, AECL was directionless and starved for funding, just as our military was. Throughout the late 1990s, AECL's future was so uncertain that it could not even complete a budget. We cannot build a future on false promises; as a consequence, the 1990s was a lost decade of opportunity for Canada's nuclear industry.
The field of nuclear science and technology has potential for innovation and clean energy technologies, both directly related to nuclear energy and in strategic areas of technology development and overlap, such as hydrogen technologies. The next generation of nuclear reactors, generation IV technologies with reduced capital costs, will enhance nuclear safety, minimize generation of nuclear waste and further reduce the risk of weapons proliferation through the use of natural uranium.
Budget 2013 would provide $325 million to support the development and demonstration of new clean technologies in Ontario and across Canada, and that would create savings for Canadian businesses and support job creation for Canadians. One of the by-products of a generation IV power reactor is hydrogen, which can be used as a clean fuel for vehicles or be stored until needed for other uses. When hydrogen is used as a fuel in an internal combustion engine modified to use it, water is what comes out the tailpipe.
The Canadian nuclear industry has a critical role to play in climate change and the economy in keeping the price of electricity affordable and in protecting the air we breathe.
The second hub in the Upper Ottawa Valley that has the best potential is Canadian Forces Base Petawawa.
Our government committed to providing the women and men in uniform with the best equipment to do the many tasks we ask them to do on our behalf. It only makes sense for defence procurement to support economic activities and opportunities for all Canadians. As the training ground of warriors, Canadian Forces Base Petawawa has greatly benefited from the implementation of the Conservative government's Canada first strategy, as have the people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. Our Canada first strategy reversed the decade of darkness, the hollowing out of our military by the old government that the voters of Canada wisely replaced in 2006.
Our government, like all Canadians, has the utmost respect for the women and men who put their lives on the line for freedom. For their service to Canada, we must ensure that when they pass on, they receive the dignified funeral and burial they so rightly deserve. To that end, I am pleased to confirm for the soldiers and their families at CFB Petawawa and all veterans in my riding that economic action plan 2013 would improve the existing funeral and burial program by simplifying it for veterans' families and by more than doubling the current reimbursement rate from $3,500 to over $7,300.
The upper Ottawa Valley has benefited from the standing up of the new Canadian Special Operations Regiment, CSOR, at CFB Petawawa. This new regiment reverses the bad defence policy decision of the old government to make scapegoats of the historic Canadian Airborne Regiment. With the acquisition of new strategic airlift and the purchase of new heavy transport Chinook helicopters that will be stationed at CFB Petawawa, our local civilian economy is already benefiting from local procurement and supply contracts.
Innovation valley north is here, brimming with potential, and I, as its member of Parliament, am ready to help.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite must know that she has no credibility when it comes to the economy. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report, budget 2013 will actually eliminate thousands of jobs, reduce direct program spending and slow the growth of the gross domestic product.
What is more, the Conservative government has invoked closure in the House of Commons in order to prematurely end debate on this budget implementation bill. It should be noted that we have just learned that the recently presented a notice of motion to the Standing Committee on Finance in order to reduce the number of meetings allocated to complete the study of Bill C-60.
Why does the member opposite believe that five days are enough to study this bill that amends more than 50 Canadian laws?
Mr. Speaker, what our government is cutting are taxes. Time after time, we have reduced taxes, from the GST and so on. Now the average family has an extra $3,200 to spend or save for things they need.
All we hear from the opposition are policies to stifle job growth. For example, it brings up the issue of our trying to help Canadian businesses by increasing the tariffs on countries that are now first-rate competition for Canada. It would instead have us lower tariffs for these countries, which would cause more of our employees to lose their jobs. I am sure the NDP would not want to decrease the tariffs for our dairy farmers either.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague what she is telling people in her riding about the fact that by 2015, after seven or possibly eight deficits in a row, there will be over $150 billion of debt added to the national debt. What does she tell her constituents with respect to the national debt?
Mr. Speaker, our party brought to Parliament the concept of balanced budgets and paying down the debt. It was a consequence of having paid down the debt to the extent we did that when the global economic downturn occurred in 2008 we were better positioned than most.
The Conservative Government of Canada will take no lessons from people who drove the debt to the limit.
Mr. Speaker, I am an avid reader of the World Economic Forum's competitiveness report that comes out every year. In this year's report it had Canada ranked at 82 for the category of “business costs of terrorism”. From what I have seen from the government, it seems to have misplaced or does not really know how it spent $3.1 billion in the realm of security defence. Does the member know where the money went?
How can her government be credible on the budget when it does not even know where the money goes? Where did the $3.1 billion go?
The estimates report where everything is spent.
Overall, let us talk about results. In Canada, unlike other countries, such as the United States and the U.K., our security forces have done their job. We have not been hit by terrorism. We find them before they injure Canadians. There was the Toronto 18 and the VIA Rail episode. We are doing what it takes to protect people and to prevent these things from happening.
Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill . However, this piece of legislation does not address Canadians' real concerns.
Ever since the Conservatives’ 2013 budget was unveiled, my constituents have been calling me to say that they feel isolated and neglected by this government’s economic measures.
I have to say that I feel quite privileged to be able to speak to this bill, given that the Conservatives have imposed time allocation for the thirty-second time, which is surely a record for Canada. At least I have the opportunity to voice my opinion on the subject.
Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to Conservative bills that lack depth. Instead of actually being concerned about ensuring our economic recovery, creating stable jobs and tackling the growing debt levels of Canadian households, the Conservatives are proposing austerity measures that will kill jobs. These measures will mean a higher cost of living for Canadian families and will stifle economic growth.
For instance, there is nothing in Bill to deal with household debt in Canada, which is currently estimated at a record level of 167% of disposal income. That is a staggering number.
The Conservatives’ economic agenda does not address the needs of Canadians. Canadians need measures that are geared toward creating quality jobs. The NDP will be voting against budget 2013 and the budget implementation bill, unless they are reworked to take into account the real priorities of Canadian families.
While I do agree with some of the measures contained in this budget, I have to say that, since I have been a member of this House, the Conservatives have refused to split budget bills into components that we can vote on separately, and thus let Canadians know, through a transparent process, which measures we support and which ones we do not.
I would like to single out several measures in this budget that I think are worthwhile in order to let people know exactly which ones I consider to be important. I will then tell you which budgetary provisions I think completely miss the mark.
Budget 2013 provides for two tax credits that I endorse: one for adoption-related expenses and one for first-time claimants of the charitable donations tax credit. I believe that these are positive measures. Furthermore, the budget streamlines the process for approving tax relief for Canadian Forces members and police officers, which I strongly support. It extends the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for the manufacturing sector. It includes measures to facilitate the collection of unpaid taxes and taxes sitting in tax havens and to streamline Tax Court of Canada procedures. It provides for changes to the GST and HST that are generally positive. Lastly, it calls for reducing the general preferential tariff, the GPT, on sporting equipment and baby clothing. These are sound measures, and I am not afraid to say so.
However, the Conservatives will not split up the budget and instead are forcing us to vote on a mammoth bill, as was the case in 2012 and 2011, which prevents me, as an MP, from voicing my true opinion of the budget to my constituents. I find it very troubling that I am unable to do so. However I do know that the Conservatives will seize the opportunity to say that we are voting against these measures when we ask any questions. Incredible.
I would now like to turn my attention to some of the important issues raised by Bill which is chock-full of various measures.
This budget contains tax increases for Canadians. It calls for changes to the bargaining mandate of the Treasury Board and 49 crown corporations. It proposes changes to the temporary foreign worker program, as well as changes related to citizenship and immigration. It announces the merger of the Canadian International Development Agency with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. It highlights the Conservative government’s ongoing failure to address the challenges facing aboriginal peoples and the lack of viable, concrete job-creation measures for Canadian youth, the segment of the population hardest hit by the economic downturn.
Bill as tabled amends 49 laws and includes new legislation along with complex provisions containing myriad details and programs that will affect Canadians, the very people who elected us to establish a more just society and bring about wealth and prosperity for all Canadians.
For the sake of the public, we have a duty to weigh the major issues that this bill targets, but it will be very difficult to accomplish this in such a short period of time. The fact of the matter is that the Conservatives are giving us a mere four days to debate this mammoth bill.
On top of everything else, we have just learned that the has asked the Standing Committee on Finance to set aside only five days to study the bill.
The committee that is supposed to conduct an in-depth review of the bill will have a mere five days to tackle this job. That is outrageous.
The NDP opposes Bill , not only because of the measures it contains, but also because the process lacks transparency and is unethical from a parliamentary standpoint. Bill C-60 contains a broad range of measures that warrant careful consideration, but instead, the Conservatives have tabled another omnibus bill, much like Bills and that were brought in last year. Tabling such a wide-ranging bill and imposing such a tight deadline for review undermines the very nature of Parliament, as members do not have the opportunity to learn everything they need to know about the bill and its ramifications.
Unfortunately, it has become commonplace to say that such actions weaken the nature of Parliament. Yesterday, while I was knocking on doors in my riding, I talked for 20 or 25 minutes to a man in Dorval, whose name is John and who is 50 or 60 years old. He told me that he had always voted to do his duty as a citizen but that he had become cynical in the past two years. He told me that he was dismayed and that he no longer believed in the parliamentary process because of our government. I was astounded and did not know what to say to him. I am not cynical, but I had a hard time finding good arguments, because I, too, think that what is happening in Canada is not reasonable and not healthy.
Moreover, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has pointed out several times that members of Parliament do not have access to the information they need to exercise their role of oversight. For the third time, the Conservatives are undermining the democratic process inherent in Parliament and trying to escape the watchful eyes of parliamentarians and the public.
I would like to point out another important concern. The former Parliamentary Budget Officer clearly indicated that the cuts announced in the 2013 budget are not necessary in order to re-establish a structural surplus. In his opinion, the 2013 budget will eliminate thousands of jobs, reduce direct program spending and slow the growth of Canada's GDP.
There is evidence. According to estimates by the new Parliamentary Budget Officer, the 2012 budget, the 2012 budget update and the 2013 budget will lead to the loss of 67,000 jobs by 2017 and a 0.57% drop in the GDP. Based on these facts, the Conservatives' 2013 budget will raise the unemployment rate in Canada. It is unfortunate, because when unemployment rates are high, the economy runs slowly. I wonder what logic the government is using when it talks about the economy.
The Conservatives love to boast about their job creation record, yet 1.4 million Canadians are without work and 240,000 more young people are unemployed than before the recession. Despite that, the Conservatives' Bill offers no job creation measures.
As the official opposition's youth caucus president, I am particularly concerned with Canada's youth and young workers. As a result, the rest of my speech—which is not much longer—will focus on the younger generation that is ignored by the Conservative government.
In today's labour market, there is a desperate lack of jobs for young Canadians aged 15 to 24. A study by TD Economics revealed that a young person who is currently unemployed or under-employed will be financially scarred for 18 years. This young person, who wants to work and often has an extensive education, not only has a problem finding work, but will be affected in the future with reduced earning potential. Right now, this young person has no job and cannot invest in the economy. As I said, it will take this young person 18 years to overcome the economic deficit that is being created today. This is not the way to make the economy work.
For these young people in their 20s, this means putting off purchasing their own property, having children later, needing more time to pay off their debt and earning lower salaries. That is what the Conservative government is offering our young people at this time.
Combining the underemployment crisis and unemployment among young people with the tax hikes announced in budget 2013, with Bill , the Conservative government is in fact reducing my generation's purchasing power.
Although the Conservatives promised not to raise taxes, their budget includes new tax hikes for Canadians on almost everything, from hospital parking to credit unions, safety deposit boxes and labour sponsored investment funds, not to mention bicycles and strollers. These tax hikes will cost Canadians $7.8 billion over the next five years.
Why did the Conservatives promise not to raise taxes if they knew for a fact they were going to raise them by several billion dollars? Budget 2013 is based on an ideology that is harmful to Canadians. Although economists agree that austerity measures undermine growth, the Conservatives are determined to impose these backward-thinking measures in order to achieve their political agenda of cutting the deficit by 2015.
I see my time is up. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to finish and giving me a chance to speak to this bill. I will now take questions. However, I would like to emphasize that, although there are some good measures here, it is unfortunate that we have to vote on everything at once.
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech, in which she talked a great deal about young Canadians. I think she said young people want to work and she is looking for jobs for young Canadians.
I wonder if she has read page 180 of the budget—jobs, growth and long-term prosperity economic action plan 2013—where it talks about a new bridge for the St. Lawrence, which would provide long-lasting economic benefits to municipalities on each side of the river and, more broadly, to the region as a whole, through a commitment of up to $124.9 million from the government.
I wonder if she could tell us what she has said to young Canadians who would have the opportunity to work on this job if she would support this budget. We are looking to create jobs, and we hope the member will step up for young Canadians in her riding and say there are jobs coming with the building of this bridge.
Mr. Speaker, that is what I was getting at in the last sentence of my speech. I think it is unfortunate that we are forced to vote on an omnibus bill and that the Conservatives refuse to split this bill, which does have some good measures.
I do have something to say about young people. Canada has 240,00 unemployed young people who are unable to find jobs, despite job creation measures. That is unacceptable. These young people are looking for jobs, but there are none to be found. It is not just the fact they are unemployed that is disgraceful, it is also the fact that these young people end up under-employed. I know; this is my generation. I have plenty of friends from university who are in their late twenties. They have a bachelor's degree, master's degree or Ph.D and are getting jobs that pay $12 or $15 an hour.
I have asked questions to the minister and parliamentary secretary several times now and they never have anything specific to offer. No, I will not vote in favour of the budget, because I find—
Questions and comments. The hon. member for Winnipeg North.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about good-quality jobs. Air Canada was supposed to be maintaining overhaul bases. Those were good-quality jobs that paid a relatively good wage. Literally hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs were lost in Winnipeg, Montreal and Mississauga, and the government chose to do absolutely nothing to protect those jobs, even though it was in the legislation.
My question is with regard to people in the middle class who are losing jobs. To what degree does the member believe the government is doing enough to address the middle-class people, 35 to 55, who are finding themselves unemployed because of lack of action by the government?
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his question.
I know that his riding was greatly affected by the closure of Aveos. Employees in my riding, in Montreal, also lost their jobs. I want to reiterate to those workers that I think it is sad that this situation still has not been resolved.
To answer my colleague's questions specifically, no, I do not think the Conservative government is doing enough to help the middle class, and the Aveos situation is a perfect example. We had good jobs here in Canada and now we do not. There is nothing concrete in the budget for jobs for the middle class. The government keeps talking about job creation. When we ask questions, the stock answer is “jobs, growth and prosperity”, and nothing more tangible than that. The government never spells out exactly what it is going to do to create jobs and it ships out the good jobs. I do not think that these are good measures for Canada's middle class.
Mr. Speaker, not only are the Conservatives not doing anything concrete for jobs, but they are doing very concrete things in terms of tax hikes. In fact, there are hundreds of tax hikes on hospital parking, credit unions and safety deposit boxes, and the list goes on and on. I wonder if the member could comment on that.
I know the feedback I get is that people are always pretty outraged at the incredible cost of parking at hospitals. We are kind of a captive audience since there is nothing we can do, yet the bill would permit increased taxes for people who have to go to hospitals and pay for parking. I wonder if the member could comment on that.
Mr. Speaker, indeed, as I mentioned, the tax increases affect hospital parking, bicycles, strollers and sports equipment.
There have been a lot of questions about that, especially when it comes to hospitals. If I put myself in the shoes of a person visiting her husband, brother, sister or children in the hospital who has to pay more for parking, I think that is very sad.
The hospital in my home town charges for parking. People are already using street parking around the hospital in order to save the $5 charge. In many cases, $5 really eats into their budget and now the government would have them pay even more. I think that is ridiculous and outrageous.
I do not see how the Conservatives can say they are lowering taxes when they use hospital parking lots to increase taxes. It is outrageous.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak to Bill , the budget implementation act, 2013.
I am proud of our government's fiscal record and how well we have come through the worst recession in a generation. Canada continues to be number one among all G7 countries in economic performance and job growth and, under the leadership of our , will continue to focus on what is important to Canadians: creating jobs and economic growth, while keeping taxes low, balancing budgets and balancing the budget by 2015.
The economic action plan for 2013 was well received in my riding of Blackstrap. Saskatoon is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, and this legislation would provide much needed infrastructure support to the city and surrounding rural areas.
Bill , the budget implementation act, proposes to legislate key elements of economic action plan 2013, including indexing the gas tax fund to offer stable, predictable funding for municipal infrastructure. Canada's gas tax fund provides long-term funding for Canadian municipalities that can help build and revitalize their public infrastructure and their assets. Communities choose projects locally and prioritize them according to their needs. The gas tax fund is making a difference in communities, in my riding of Blackstrap and throughout the province of Saskatchewan.
Today, more than 3,600 municipalities have benefited from the financial support of economic growth and provide a high quality of life for families in every city and community across the country. Our government's record on infrastructure investments in economic action plan 2013 exceeds the amount of investment required to cover the cost of federal infrastructure for the next decade.
In fact, our Conservative government has introduced the largest long-term federal commitment to Canadian infrastructure in our nation's history, $70 billion over the next 10 years. In the next two years, we are investing close to $10 billion in infrastructure. That is more than the previous Liberal governments spent during their entire 13 long years in power.
Since 2006, we have invested more than $40 billion, supporting more than 43,000 infrastructure projects from coast to coast to coast. As a result of our investments, we have brought down the average age of Canada's core public infrastructure from a peak of 17 years in 2001 to an estimated 14.4 years in 2011. We can see what a significant contribution that is to our public infrastructure. It is now lower than the historical average age over the last 50 years.
Bill would also see the introduction of a new first-time donor's super credit for the first-time claimants of the charitable donations tax credit, to encourage all young Canadians to donate to charity. Canadians recognize that the charitable sector plays a vital role in our society and provides valuable services to Canadians, including the most vulnerable.
Canadians also provide generous support to the sector in recognition of its important work. Recent data from Statistics Canada shows that more than 5.7 million Canadians donated almost $8.5 billion to registered charities in 2011. Canada's incentives for charitable donations have been described as the most generous in the world. Registered charities are exempt from tax on their income and may issue official donation receipts for gifts received, which donors may use to reduce their taxes by claiming the charitable donation tax credit.
In 2012, federal tax assistance for charitable donations exceeded $2.9 billion. The standing committee on finance reported that there is a need to foster and to promote a culture of giving and that tax incentives can play a role, both in increasing the number of new donors and encouraging existing donors to give more.
Our government has responded to the committee's report by proposing the new temporary first-time donor's super credit, designed to encourage new donors to give to charity.
The first-time donor super credit supplements the charitable donations tax credit by providing an additional 25% tax credit for a first-time donor on up to $1,000 in monetary donations. An individual would be considered a first-time donor if neither the individual nor the individual's spouse or common-law partner have claimed the CDTC or the FTDSC in any taxation year after 2007. The FTDSC may be claimed only once and may be claimed in any of the 2013 to 2017 taxation years.
I see, Mr. Speaker, that you would like me to sit down.
The will have four and a half minutes remaining for her remarks when the House next resumes debate on this question.
Question No. 1229--Mr. Ted Opitz
Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 1229, 1231, 1233, 1234, 1235, 1237 and 1241.
With regard to passport services, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to provide free passport services to veterans as defined in subsection 2(1) of the War Veterans Allowance Act, their spouses or common-law partners and to members of the RCMP and their spouses or common-law partners?Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, although Passport Canada is unable to estimate the financial impact of providing free passport services to veterans and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police together with their spouses or common-law partners, it is expected that the loss of revenue would be significant.
As a cost-recovery agency, Passport Canada does not receive an annual parliamentary appropriation and finances its operations entirely on the fees charged for passports and other travel documents. In effect, the Canadian passport program is funded by applicants, not taxpayers.
For this reason, lost revenues would need to be subsidized by means of an increase to the adult and child passport fees for other applications. In order to evaluate the precise impact of such a decision, Passport Canada would need to undertake an 18- to 24-month consultation process, in accordance with the User Fees Act. Question No. 1231--Mr. Ted Opitz
With regard to the development of affordable housing for Canadians, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to exempt affordable rental and non-profit housing from the Goods and Services Tax? Hon. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, residential rents are already exempt under the GST, meaning that the GST is not charged on residential rents paid by tenants. The Tax Expenditures and Evaluations 2012 report indicates that the exemption for residential rent reduced government revenues by about $1.3 billion in 2012.
Qualifying non-profit organizations, or NPOs—i.e., non-profit organizations that receive at least 40% of their total revenue through government funding or charities—are entitled to recover 50% of the GST they pay in respect of certain types of housing. This situation occurs when more than 10% of the residential units in the housing complex are intended for certain groups, such as seniors, youths, students, individuals with a disability, individuals in distress or in need of assistance, or individuals whose eligibility for occupancy or rent amount is dependent on a means or income test.
When charities or qualifying NPOs submit rebate claims for GST paid to the Canada Revenue Agency, they are not required to provide any information on the purchases that gave rise to the rebate entitlement. They just claim a rebate for 50% of the GST they paid on eligible purchases. Therefore, data are not sufficiently detailed to provide for the determination of the portion of the existing rebate that relates to this type of housing. While the value of the total rebate for charities and qualifying NPOs is known and was $355 million in 2012, there is no way to know what portion is attributable to housing for the underprivileged.
Depending on how affordable rental or non-profit housing is defined, providing full GST relief could result in substantial additional fiscal cost to the Government of Canada. Question No. 1233--Mr. Randy Hoback
With regard to the passport services set out in the schedule of the Passport Services Fees Regulations, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to charge those 65 years of age or more, 50% of the fee set out in column 2 for the services set out in column 1?Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, Passport Canada estimates that charging those 65 years of age or more 50% of the fee for passport services could result in a loss of $225 million in revenue over a four year period. In the event of an increase in the proportion of Canadians over the age of 65 or an increase in demand from that portion of the population, this number could rise.
As a cost-recovery agency, Passport Canada does not receive an annual parliamentary appropriation and finances its operations entirely on the fees charged for passports and other travel documents. In effect, the Canadian passport program is funded by applicants, not taxpayers.
For this reason, lost revenues would need to be subsidized by means of an increase to the adult and child passport fees for other applications. In order to evaluate the precise impact of such a decision, Passport Canada would need to undertake an 18- to 24-month consultation process in accordance with the User Fees Act. Question No. 1234--Mr. Randy Hoback
With regard to services provided for new Canadians, what would it cost the government, on annual basis, to reopen 19 local Citizen and Immigration Offices throughout Canada and reverse any reduction in staff at the central call centre?Mr. Rick Dykstra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, the loss in savings would be $5.2 million annually, starting in 2014-15.
There are no reductions in the staff at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada call centre.
Question No. 1235--Mr. Randy Hoback
With regard to protected persons, refugee claimants and other individuals not eligible for provincial health insurance, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to reverse any changes to the Interim Federal Health Program that took effect on June 30, 2012? Mr. Rick Dykstra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, with the changes to the interim federal health program, the government expects to save approximately $100 million over the next five years. If the changes were reversed, the government would lose these savings. Question No. 1237--Mrs. Kelly Block
With regard to the Good and Services Tax, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to add to Part II of schedule VI of the Excise Tax Act, regarding zero-rated supplies, a supply of batteries purchased at a pharmacy or retail store that includes a pharmacy and is installed by a person employed by the pharmacy or is purchased from and installed by a medical practitioner, for a medical and assistive device described in Part II of schedule VI of the Excise Tax Act? Mrs. Shelly Glover (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, relief from the Goods and Services Tax, GST, is provided for certain medical devices that are specially designed to assist an individual. To ensure that the benefits of this relief are targeted to individuals in need of assistance, the approach has been to relieve only those items that are designed to be purchased and used by individuals with a chronic illness or disease or a disability. Parts, accessories or attachments that are specially designed for use with tax-free medical devices are also eligible for GST relief.
As part of this relief, batteries that are specially designed for use with a tax-free medical device are eligible to be acquired GST-free, as has been the case since the GST was established in 1991. General purpose batteries have many potential uses and are not considered to be specially designed parts, accessories or attachments for tax-free medical devices. As a result, general purpose batteries do not qualify for this GST relief.
There is no information of sufficient detail on use of general purpose batteries in medical and assistive devices and their costs. Accordingly, there are no data that would allow for reliably determining the cost to the government of zero-rating these goods.
Specifically, the Department of Finance does not have information on the types and numbers of batteries that would be purchased for use in medical devices. Further, the prices of batteries that can be used in medical devices can range from a few dollars for an AA battery to potentially hundreds of dollars for larger-capacity batteries similar to car batteries. As a result, there is no feasible way to estimate the cost of this proposal and its impact on the government’s fiscal framework. Question No. 1241--Mr. François Choquette
With regard to the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing and shale gas extraction: (a) what chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing and shale gas extraction in Canada or the United States that are being evaluated or will be evaluated by Environment Canada are not on the Domestic Substances List (DSL); (b) of the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing and shale gas extraction in Canada or the United States that are being evaluated or will be evaluated by Environment Canada, which ones are substances subject to the provisions on significant new activities under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999; (c) what chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing and shale gas extraction in Canada or the United States that are being evaluated or will be evaluated by Environment Canada have been added or will be added to the DSL; and (d) are any of the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing and shale gas extraction in Canada and/or the United States that are being evaluated or will be evaluated by Environment Canada identified as persistent organic pollutants under the Stockholm Convention of 2004 and, (i) if yes, what are they, (ii) what is Environment Canada doing to comply with the Stockholm Convention?Hon. Peter Kent (Minister of the Environment, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, petroleum drilling and production primarily falls under provincial jurisdiction, except on federal land. Environment Canada has the authority to regulate the environmental impacts of oil and gas development throughout Canada. Environment Canada’s role and authorities in relation to pollution prevention and habitat protection are provided for in a number of statutes, in particular the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, known as CEPA 1999, and the Fisheries Act.
Environment Canada has a number of initiatives under way toward gaining a better understanding of the substances used in hydraulic fracturing fluid and the potential environmental risks associated with the hydraulic fracturing process. At this time, the department is working with industry to confirm the identity of chemicals that are used in hydraulic fracturing in Canada. Once the department obtains this information, it will be in a better position to conduct detailed and targeted analyses based on the chemicals that have been reported. Results of these analyses will serve as a basis to determine whether further action is required from an environmental protection and/or human health perspective.
In the meantime, substances not on the domestic substances list continue to be subject to notification and assessment under the New Substance Notification Regulations (Chemicals and Polymers) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
Of the more than 17,000 new substances notifications received since 1994, approximately 30 notifications have been received for substances potentially used for hydraulic fracturing in Canada, although this potential use was not always specified in the information provided. None of these substances are identified as persistent organic pollutants. Canada is committed to upholding the Stockholm convention.
Of these approximately 30 notifications, there have been three substances that have had a ministerial condition imposed on them that restricts the manner in which the substance can be disposed of. Details may be found at
Question No. 1230--Mr. Ted Opitz
Mr. Speaker, furthermore, if Questions Nos. 1230, 1242, 1246, 1249, 1250, 1251, 1252 and 1253 could be made orders for return, these returns would be tabled immediately.
The Speaker: Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
With respect to survivors of Members of the Canadian Forces, the public service, judges, RCMP or Members of Parliament, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to allow a survivor who married or began cohabitating in a conjugal relationship after the deceased beneficiary attained the age of sixty years or became entitled to an annuity or annual allowance, to receive an annual allowance or annuity after the death of a beneficiary?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1242--Mr. François Choquette
With regard to the Customs Tariff: (a) how many complaints were there from March 1, 2012, to March 1, 2013, concerning agricultural products; (b) how many complaints were there concerning Chapter 63; (c) how many complaints were there concerning mesh bags under HS code 6305.32.00; (d) what measures did the government take to address the concerns raised by these complaints; (e) is the government planning to review the Customs Tariff; (f) are small businesses that do not have access to a specialized bagging machinery serial number in the Customs Tariff penalized; and (g) are small businesses that do not have the machinery required in the tax exemption forms subject to financial consequences?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1246--Ms. Olivia Chow
With respect to aircraft leased by Canadian airlines: (a) according to Transport Canada, the Canadian Transport Agency and, where applicable, other federal entities, what is the number of passenger aircraft leased through arrangements that include the lessor providing aircraft and crew, broken down by year from 2006 to 2013 year to date, type of aircraft, including but not limited to Boeing 737 and 767, lease duration, lessor name, lessee name, application date, approval date and justification; (b) according to Transport Canada, the Canadian Transport Agency and, where applicable, other federal entities, how many aircraft are leased through arrangements that do not include the lessor providing crew, broken down by year from 2006 to 2013 year to date, type of aircraft, including, but not limited to Boeing 737 and 767, lease duration, lessor name, lessee name, application date, approval date and justification; (c) what is the number of instances in which pilots employed as temporary foreign workers have operated aircraft leased by Canadian airlines, broken down by year from 2006 to 2013 year to date, type of aircraft, including but not limited to Boeing 737 and 767, lessor name and lessee name; (d) in instances where pilots operate aircraft leased under arrangements where the lessor provides aircraft and crew, i) what procedures and safeguards are in place to ensure that they meet Canada’s legal standards for aircraft pilots, ii) which statutes, regulations or other documents set out these procedures and safeguards, iii) which entity is tasked with enforcing these procedures and safeguards; and (e) in instances where pilots operate aircraft leased under arrangements where the lessor provides aircraft and crew, i) what procedures and safeguards are in place to ensure that they meet their country of origin’s legal standards for aircraft pilots, ii) which statutes, regulations or other documents set out these procedures and safeguards, iii) which entity is tasked with enforcing these procedures and safeguards?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1249--Ms. Olivia Chow
What are all applications submitted for federal infrastructure funding for transit-related projects from 2006 to 2013 year to date, broken down by (i) applicant, (ii) location of proposed project, (iii) approved, rejected or pending status, (iv) total federal funds requested, (v) total project budget, (vi) application date, (vii) response date, (viii) start and end dates of proposed project, (ix) reason for approval or rejection, (x) applicable federal fund or program?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1250--Mr. Guy Caron
With regard to the awarding of contracts to SNC-Lavalin by the federal government: (a) what is the financial value of the contracts that were awarded to the firm between 2003 and 2013, broken down by (i) year; (ii) type of contract; (b) what are the numbers of the contracts that were awarded to the firm between 2003 and 2013; (c) for each individual contract, who signed the contract; and (d) for each individual contract, from which budget envelope the did the contract come from?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1251--Mr. Guy Caron
With regard to contract approval at Public Works and Government Services Canada: (a) what are the various monetary levels of contracts that can be approved, and by which level of employees can they be approved; (b) how many employees occupy each of the levels identified in (a); and (c) how many contracts at each approval level were approved between 2002 and 2013, broken down by year?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1252--Hon. John McCallum
With regard to government communications since December 11, 2012: (a) for each press release containing the phrase “Harper government” issued by any government department, agency, office, Crown corporation, or other government body, what is the (i) headline or subject line, (ii) date, (iii) file or code-number, (iv) subject-matter; (b) for each such press release, was it distributed (i) on the web site of the issuing department, agency, office, Crown corporation, or other government body, (ii) on Marketwire, (iii) on Canada Newswire, (iv) on any other commercial wire or distribution service, specifying which service; and (c) for each press release distributed by a commercial wire or distribution service mentioned in (b)(ii) through (b)(iv), what was the cost of using the service?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1253--Hon. John McCallum
With regard to government expenditures on media monitoring, for every contract entered into since April 1, 2011, what search terms were required to be monitored?
Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
The Speaker: Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill on the budget implementation act.
I would like to focus my speech on the issues, concerns and priorities raised by my constituents during my annual pre-budget consultations. As a member of Parliament, I take seriously my job to represent my constituents' voices in Ottawa. In March of this year, I hosted four town hall meetings: one in Port Moody, one in Coquitlam, one in New Westminster, and a final one by telephone. I also meet with all three mayors and councils in my riding, as I believe it is important to also listen to their priorities and concerns. I also sent out a survey to every household in the riding, asking constituents for their input on spending priorities and economic concerns. In total, I engaged thousands of constituents on what they would like to see in this year's budget.
My constituents' number one priority is health care. I believe Canadians are proud of our health care system, which is the envy of countries around the world. However, we also recognize the importance of ensuring health care remains universally accessible and properly funded. I hear far too many stories from people who have to wait months on end to see a specialist or to receive a vital surgery. The government's hands-off approach to health care is unacceptable. Instead of working with the provinces and territories to address the challenges facing our health care system, the current government unilaterally imposed a funding scheme that actually sees federal health care transfers decrease in the long term.
The high cost of prescriptions is another issue of serious concern, particularly for seniors who must also balance the realities of shrinking pensions and the shortage of affordable housing options. The current government's track record on support for Canada's seniors is dismal. The Conservatives' scheme to raise the age of retirement for the old age security from 65 to 67 years of age is disgraceful.
I also heard from a number of constituents who are frustrated with trying to find quality, affordable child care. Canada's New Democrats understand that a comprehensive national solution is required. That is why we are proposing, with the provinces and the territories, to establish and fund a Canada-wide child care and early learning program.
Another troubling issue we are seeing across our country is youth unemployment rates, which remain stubbornly high, at 13.5% for those under 25, compared to 7% for those over 25. Let us not forget that many students coming out of post-secondary education are saddled with record-high levels of student debt. Where are the jobs of tomorrow? Where are the quality jobs that enable people to support a family or pay down student debt or save for a down payment or save for retirement? Quality full-time jobs are disappearing at an alarming rate, and we are not seeing this issue get the attention it deserves in this budget.
I will take a moment to credit some of the great small businesses operating in my riding, like Resonance Technology, an innovative company on the cutting edge of new technologies. Companies like this are at the forefront of our economy, driving growth and creating jobs. We need more of this. Unfortunately, the reality is that income levels for average Canadians have stagnated while the cost of living continues to increase. From food prices and housing costs to MSP premiums and bridge tolls, British Columbians have been feeling the pinch. However, their tax burden will soon be a bit lighter, thanks to the people's successful efforts to overturn the harmonized sales tax, which was unfairly imposed on B.C. by its provincial government in collaboration with the current federal Conservative government.
I would like to focus on the claim by the Conservatives that this budget would increase funding for infrastructure. In fact, when the numbers are adjusted for inflation, over the next four years federal infrastructure funding will be $4.7 billion lower than it was last year. City officials are asking for a long-term funding arrangement so they can plan for the needs of our growing regions.
Improved transit infrastructure is one of the greatest needs in the Lower Mainland. Residents in Coquitlam and Port Moody have waited well over a decade for the Evergreen Line, which was nicknamed the “nevergreen line”, after years of delays made many people question whether it would ever be built.
The case of the Evergreen Line demonstrates that our governments are not up to the task of working together to meet the transit needs of our growing communities. At every town hall meeting I held, people expressed concern over the government's agenda to degrade environmental protections.
Let us talk about its record. Through last year's massive omnibus budget bills, Bills and , the Conservative government gutted environmental protections from every act it could think of: the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and many others. Canadians rallied to save the Experimental Lakes Area, which conducted world-class freshwater research. Unfortunately, the government chose to ignore these calls. A number of my constituents were particularly disturbed by the government's Orwellian attitude towards scientists, environmentalists and public servants. In March, the official opposition introduced a motion in Parliament calling on the government to defend basic scientific freedoms and evidence-based policy. I am sad to say that even the voted against that motion.
The government has been in power for seven years now and its arrogance is beginning to show no bounds. Its unilateral move to shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard station flew in the face of expert opinion as well as the will of the public and municipal and provincial governments. Despite serious safety concerns raised over shutting down the only Coast Guard station in Vancouver, which is home to the busiest port in Canada, the government rammed through this closure. Consolidation of marine communication traffic services will put B.C.'s coast at greater risk. The government has also cut oil spill response centres. Given the number and scale of proposed resource development projects, this is the worst time to be cutting enforcement monitoring and emergency response.
This budget has announced $108 million in cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. While the government claims that this will be found through efficiencies like travel and printing, we know this will have a serious impact on DFO front-line services, including its ability to carry out its mandate to protect wild fish. Last year's cuts left DFO with only five offices in B.C., and the smallest staff level since 1983.
It has been almost seven months since Cohen's recommendations were released and we have yet to hear a single word from the government on how it will respond. Following the $26 million Cohen report, the government should be responding to the 75 recommendations rather than turning its back on B.C. salmon and fish habitat.
All of the concerns I have highlighted speak to the serious feeling of neglect that has been brewing on the west coast. The Conservative government has been ignoring the priorities of British Columbians for far too long.
I would like to conclude my remarks on the budget by focusing on a theme that was frequently raised at pre-budget consultations. There is a feeling of restlessness and discontent among the electorate with the state of our democracy. I heard much criticism on the way the government has centralized power, limited debate and tried to marginalize the role of Parliament, not to mention the muzzling of scientists and quality information. Taxpayers are frustrated with being on the hook for the unelected, unaccountable and under-investigated Senate.
Principles anchored within the Senate's mission, such as the protection of minorities and balancing the executive and legislative branches of government, are important principles, but they must be addressed through accountable and democratic means. Abolishing the Senate is part of the NDP's broader and progressive vision for democratic reform. This means reforming our electoral system to ensure that Parliament reflects the political preferences of Canadians. New Democrats have long advocated for a system of proportional representation. A reformed electoral Senate would go a long way toward better representing Canadians in Parliament. It could reverse dismally low voter turnout rates and improve representation of women and minorities.
Canadians are hungry for change. Canadians are looking for leaders who are not afraid to tackle the issues facing our communities and our regions. This was an underwhelming budget. I believe Canadians want to see their federal government build healthy, sustainable communities.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opening remarks from the member in regard to health care.
I believe in our health care system, and I value the important role it plays for all of us. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin had the health care accord. That health care accord is going to expire in 2014. That agreement ultimately led to record dollars to finance health care from coast to coast to coast, and it is absolutely critical in terms of ensuring things such as national standards and protecting what Canadians value so much.
As the member points out, it is the number one issue in his area. I would say the same thing in terms of Winnipeg North. We want and believe in our national health care system.
Does the member believe that the Government of Canada is doing a disservice by not working with the different provinces to come up with a new health care accord so we can have ongoing longevity in regard to stable funding and commitments by the federal government toward health care in Canada?
Mr. Speaker, I certainly do feel, and I pointed it out in my speech, that the government's hands-off approach to health care is unacceptable. Not working proactively with the provinces and the territories to come up with a solution to tackle one of the greatest challenges that our country faces is simply unacceptable.
I mentioned that health care was a top priority from those responding in my town hall meetings. It was almost 50% that focused on health care as their concern. We absolutely need to find innovative ways, whether it is through technology or other ways, to deliver health care in the country more efficiently. At the same time, we need to retain the fact, and this was reinforced in my town hall meetings, that people want to see universally accessible and properly funded health care. That is a critical component.
Mr. Speaker, this is a critical bill that we are speaking about. This is about what we should be spending our money on or whether we should be wasting our money on it.
I look at what is happening on Manitoulin Island. I would just like to read something from Arlene Kennedy, who talks about the fact that the tourism revenue generated during the sailing season is the main source of income to many on both the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island:
An inability to hold to the ferry schedule for the season will deter potential passengers from purchasing tickets. The elimination of this service will ruin small businesses, eliminate jobs and create an economic disaster for the entire Manitoulin and Georgian Bay Circle Route Region.
Arlene is from Tobermory.
We are looking at a waste of taxpayers' dollars with respect to ads. I would like the member to speak about the money that is being put into the ads, compared to a little investment that would actually keep the economy going in northern Ontario and protect jobs.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's comments.
That is the kind of input that I heard, the kind of input that this member heard from Arlene. I heard it from many constituents who were very concerned about the priorities of the government and of this budget.
I mentioned health care. The member raises the issue of priorities, putting money into ads, and the government bragging about what it is doing in Canada's economic action plan.
Here is a specific case where infrastructure funding could have been used a long time ago as opposed to waiting to review the situation. We heard from the parliamentary secretary earlier today that the situation of this bridge is now being reviewed. The government should have done that a long time ago. It should be addressing the situation now so we do not miss the tourism season, which is going to happen if we do not get that funding to replace the bridge and get that tourism happening.
Mr. Speaker, I am thrilled to rise in the House and speak in support of the economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1.
Since July 2009, our government's policies have helped the Canadian economy create over 900,000 net new jobs and lead the G7 in economic recovery.
Prior to the introduction of this budget, I had the opportunity to meet with many of my constituents in order to hear their concerns on the economy and to get their input. Through these meetings, I can report that the citizens of Brampton—Springdale strongly support the important actions our government has taken to lead Canada.
My constituents understand that our country is changing and want our government to look ahead into the future and plan for generations to come. They want their children to grow up in a country where job opportunities are plenty. It is for this reason that our government has tabled a strong and stable budget that every Canadian family can benefit from.
Like all Canadians, the wonderful people of Brampton—Springdale understand that the job of steering Canada through a troubled global economic downturn is not yet finished. There is still work that has to be done. Our government has done an outstanding job when it comes to keeping our country on the right track. In order for our country to stay on the right path, we must implement the measures introduced in the budget. This is not the time for us to rest on our hands. Our government and the citizens of Brampton—Springdale understand it very well.
During my consultations with my constituents and small business owners, there were four very clear priorities: creating jobs, support for small businesses, improving infrastructure and overall respect for the taxpayers.
Last year, small businesses across the country praised the hiring credit for small businesses. By extending the hiring credit for an additional year, an estimated 560,000 employers would be eligible to take advantage of this program. The true success of the hiring credit can be measured by the number of companies that took advantage of the assistance already provided.
Each job created represents an individual receiving a new employment opportunity. It is one more person who is given a chance to return to the workforce. These are real people with families who depend on them. I am proud to stand in the House and support a budget that is going to make their lives easier.
Over 80% of the businesses in my riding are designated as small or medium-sized businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Many of these are small and family-run businesses. The budget would increase a lifetime capital gains exemption to $800,000 from $750,000 and index it going forward. It would now be easier for owners to transfer their family businesses to the next generation when the time comes, encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit that makes Canada great.
However, this is not the only way that we would be helping Canadians find the jobs they need to support their families. In economic action plan 2013, our government also introduced the Canada job grant. This grant would assist Canadians by providing the training and skills they need to take on a new or better job.
There are a number of manufacturers that call Brampton—Springdale home, like Blue Giant Equipment, Magnum Integrated and Gray Tools. Our government recognizes the important role the manufacturing sector plays in our economy.
Since 2006, we have worked hard to help the manufacturing sector by lowering taxes, cutting red tape, and making Canada the first tariff-free zone for manufacturing in the G20.
With our economic action plan 2013, we would continue our support for manufacturers that keep jobs in Canada, by extending the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for new investment in machinery and equipment. Extending this tax relief for an additional two years would provide businesses in Ontario with approximately $562 million in tax relief and would allow these firms a greater opportunity to expand operations and create new jobs.
The budget would also invest $18 million into the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to help young entrepreneurs start and grow new businesses, with an additional $5 million for post-secondary scholarships and bursaries for first nations and Inuit students. By investing in the best and brightest of our youth, we would be supporting the next generation of Canadian leaders in all fields and helping to ensure the long-term prosperity of our country.
The City of Brampton has benefited tremendously from the gas tax fund for municipalities. The budget would index the gas tax fund payments to provide municipalities with reliable funding to support job-creating infrastructure projects across Canada. With this funding, municipalities would be able to build roads, improve public transit and build new recreational facilities for their residents to enjoy; residents would be able to commute to and from work much more quickly as communities expand their transit and infrastructure network to meet ever-increasing demands; businesses would save on lost productivity due to traffic congestion in our cities; and Canadians would be able to spend more of their time with their families, rather than stuck in traffic.
This is an issue of great concern to many of my constituents in . I know that they support our government in making this a top priority.
Finally, our government would achieve these aims while ensuring Canadian taxpayers are treated with respect. The budget would improve the fairness of the tax system, align employee compensation at crown corporations, and introduce a new temporary first-time donor super credit for first-time claimants of the charitable donation tax credit.
Economic action plan 2013 would take important steps to demonstrate to hard-working Canadian families that our government remains committed to the priorities of jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
As the member of Parliament for , I am proud to support the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. It would directly benefit the families, children, seniors, new Canadians and businesses in my community. However, on a larger scale, this budget would help all Canadians and the plan set before us would provide a promising future for our country.
I look forward to continue working alongside every one of my constituents as a member of the government focused on creating jobs, relieving financial stress and providing the assistance that every hard-working Canadian truly deserves.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the member who just spoke that we just learned that the presented a notice of motion to the Standing Committee on Finance in order to limit the study of Bill to five meetings and in order to ensure that the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill is completed by May 28, which is eight sitting days after a time allocation motion forces the bill to be passed at second reading.
Does the member opposite think it would be a good idea to divide this omnibus bill so that all members can really study it in detail along with the effects of this government's measures, which will harm our economy and kill jobs?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that this budget was introduced well over a month ago. Since then all members of the House have had tremendous opportunity to debate the bill and that will continue. I understand, as my hon. colleague pointed out, a number of different committees will be studying the bill moving forward. There has been plenty of opportunity for all members of the House to debate the bill and there will be plenty more opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, I think we would find a consensus among most Canadians that this particular budget would collect literally hundreds of millions of new tax dollars from the middle class in particular. The government has failed to address the need for balanced budgets. It has taken huge multi-billion dollar surpluses from the Paul Martin government and turned them into multi-billion dollar deficits. The trade surplus under Paul Martin has been turned into a trade deficit. The fundamentals are starting to dramatically change and that is having a negative impact on the middle class in Canada.
Could the member tell me why the government is failing to deliver for middle-class Canadians?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to my hon. colleague the number of initiatives this government has taken since coming into power in terms of reducing the tax burden. I understand there have been about 150 different tax reductions. An average family of four currently saves in the neighbourhood of $3,200 a year.
I would also like to point out that the Liberals want to raise taxes. They are on record as asking for an increase of the GST from 5% to 6% to 7%. It was the Conservative government that reduced the GST and other tax initiatives that we have taken to help Canadian families. We will continue to do that.
Mr. Speaker, would the member like to expand on Canada's incentives for charitable donations and what that means for charities across Canada?
Canada is seen around the world as a leader when it comes to charitable donations. Could the member also expand on that?
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are very generous people who are known for their generosity right around the world. This government clearly recognizes that. That is one of the reasons why this government put a provision in our budget that encourages new Canadians and Canadians who have not donated in the past to donate. It would give them additional tax breaks and encourages first-time individuals who will be making donations. Charities are doing wonderful work across this country and other parts of the world and they will truly benefit from this.
Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege of representing a wonderful riding, the riding of Etobicoke North, the community where I was born and raised. We are proudly one of the most multicultural ridings in the country, but sadly, we also have our challenges.
Recent statistics show that almost 20% of our residents are not yet citizens. Our families face family reunification challenges and language and job barriers. Almost 25% of our families are headed by single parents who work two and three jobs just to put food on the table. Almost 20% of our riding is engaged in manufacturing, the second highest percentage for the entire country. In stark contrast, only 5% are involved in management, the 301st ranking of 308 ridings in Canada.
I am sharing this because we need real investment in our families and in our community, particularly during tough economic times. What we do not need are broken promises such as the Conservatives promising that they would not cut the rate of increase to transfers for health care, education and pensions.
The previous cuts to old age security, a move that would cost our seniors tens of thousands of dollars in support, are still causing outrage in my community. Single moms ask how the could do this, when he promised not to touch pensions. They have children and have to work. How will they pay for their children's education? They have no money to put away for retirement. What will happen to them?
Humber College students are saying that once they graduate they will have no job, and that is not fair. They ask why they are being treated differently by their country. Grandparents continue to come in wanting to know why their grandchildren are being targeted by the Government of Canada.
Today we are debating Bill , the first Conservative omnibus bill following its 2013 budget, which impacts at least 18 different government portfolios. While there are some items in the bill that people could generally support—for example, better allowances for veterans and more incentives for charitable giving—these are mixed with many negative measures that will hurt the people of Etobicoke North. I simply cannot support these negative measures.
It is important to remind those watching at home that when the Conservatives came to power in 2006, they inherited from their Liberal predecessors 10 straight years of balanced budgets, an annual surplus that was running at the rate of $13 billion every year, lower debt, lower taxes, a sound Canadian pension plan and 3.5 million net new jobs. The last time a Conservative government actually balanced a budget for Canada was 101 years ago in 1912.
Bill creates the illusion of action regarding jobs and training. The government proposes to claw back the $2.5 billion per year in labour market money that it now sends to the provinces and renegotiate it with provincial governments. This amounts to recycling existing money. There is nothing new, no additional federal investment.
My community needs jobs, and each day at least one young person calls our office looking for work and we help find jobs, week after week. The youth unemployment rate remains a staggering 14.2%, nearly twice the rate for other Canadians. Today, 404,000 young people lack a job and another 171,000 have simply given up and dropped out of the labour market.
Another reason I cannot support the bill is that it increases taxes—for example, new Conservative taxes on safety deposit boxes totalling $40 million a year, new Conservative taxes on credit unions amounting to $75 million a year, and the list goes on. However, what I really object to is the new Conservative increase of tariff taxes, taxes on imports, which will take about $333 million every year from Canadians.
The people of Etobicoke North do not want the cost of baby carriages to go up 3%; bicycles to go up 4.5%; blankets to go up 5%; ovens, cooking stoves and ranges, 3%; plastic school supplies, 3.5%; pillows, 6%; and vacuum cleaners, 5%. I have heard from Canadians battling cancer, who must fight their disease every day, that their cosmetic wigs will go up by an astonishing 15.5%. It is absolutely shameful.
When all these measures are fully implemented, as well as some other taxes that are buried in the legislation, the burden will add up to more than $2 billion per year in new Conservative taxes on Canadians.
I did make a specific request to the for budget 2013, as families in Etobicoke North asked, and respected the minister's request that ideas be cost neutral or non-spending steps. My appeal was for a joint meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health and agriculture to develop a plan of action to work with stakeholders across the country to improve student nutrition, because children in my riding and across the country go to school hungry, and hungry children cannot learn.
Forty per cent of elementary students and 62% of secondary school students do not eat a nutritious breakfast. Poor nutrition status leads to poor health outcomes for children, and Canadian children from all income brackets are vulnerable to inadequate nutrition, especially the one in five Canadian children who live below the poverty line.
In addition to making the human argument, to do the right thing and to honour the promises Canada has made to our children, I even made the economic argument for student nutrition. The Boston Consulting Group reports that, on average, each high school graduate contributes an extra $75,000 to the economy. They earn higher salaries than dropouts, pay increased taxes, have lower health care costs and are less dependent on social assistance. If providing food at school increases graduation rates by only 3%, a pan-Canadian school meals program in high schools at a cost of $1.25 a day could result in an annual net payback of more than $500 million annually.
The potential economic stimulus for Canadian agriculture is also considerable. Realistically, 70% of the pan-Canadian nutrition program could have domestic content, with an annual return to Canadian producers of $1.5 billion.
Not only do our children want healthy food now, but they also want a healthy environment to grow up in and raise their children and grandchildren. While no cuts to the environment are specifically mentioned in budget 2013, Canadians should remember that cutting is actually a three-year program with a $13 million reduction this year, growing to $31 million, then $58 million and ultimately representing a 5% cut for Environment Canada.
Budget 2013 offers mere scraps for the environment and in no way makes up for the war on the environment and science that the government has been waging and continues to wage: for example, $4 million for marine-based ecosystem conservation, when the government has promised to protect 10% of marine areas and yet has protected only 1%; $10 million for the conservation of fisheries and a salmon conservation stamp after eviscerating the Fisheries Act; and a new tax credit for clean energy worth a tiny $1 million for a global $1 trillion industry.
Perhaps most concerning of all is the lack of action on climate change, when the government is under increased study for its environmental and climate change record, particularly by our largest trading partner, the United States, and the fact that record low Great Lakes levels, which many experts attribute to a changing climate, are mentioned but not acted upon in the budget. For a government that is desperate to greenwash its record, budget 2013 and Bill clearly show that the environment is only an afterthought for the Conservatives, although Liberals support the funding for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
In closing, I do not support this bill because it will make life harder for the people of Etobicoke North to make ends meet and does nothing to help youth find work. My hard-working constituents should not have to pay for the government's wasteful spending.
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member and I would characterize much of her speech as wrong and out of context. However, one area that the member did not speak on, and that is very important, is the area of infrastructure. Our government has committed in this budget a plan of $70 billion over 10 years. It includes indexation of the gas tax fund. It includes the GST rebate. It includes monies for P3 projects, for innovative ways to do new projects.
This is an unprecedented amount of money, combined with the $15,000 job grant for people to acquire the skills they need. Why is the member silent on the infrastructure when FCM and every municipality has praised our government for its infrastructure program?
Mr. Speaker, the information is not incorrect; it is very well researched. I notice he did not bring up child hunger. He did not bring up the environment. I did recognize there are positive steps, but by and large it is a negative budget and I simply cannot support it.
I will talk a bit about youth jobs. The youth employment rate is now more than five points worse than it was before the recession. Last year, Canada had some of the worst summer job numbers since Statistics Canada began measuring this in the 1970s. Despite these challenges, the only measure for youth in Bill is to encourage greater charitable donations. They cannot donate because they cannot find work.
In stark contrast to the government's inaction, Liberals would introduce a real job strategy for youth to give young Canadians the job experience they need to succeed, including a youth hiring credit for small business, significant new investment in the Canada summer jobs program and re-opening the youth job centres the Conservatives closed.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her speech. She outlined a number of issues, some of which may have been more on the budget side than on the budget implementation bill. However, that is probably one of the problems with this budget implementation bill. It does not really apply changes to the government's behaviour in a good fashion.
Right across the world, the fastest growing energy form is solar energy, interestingly enough, with investments that are expected to hit $300 billion in the next year or so, yet within the budget there is an absolute lack of understanding about the nature of the green energy movement that is going on right across the world. The Conservatives' head-in-the-sand approach to renewable energy is really going to leave Canada in the lurch over the next number of years. Certainly, it will not make their case with our oil and gas trading partners that they are actually working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What does my colleague think of the government's approach to renewable energy?
Mr. Speaker, I mentioned that in budget 2013 the government offers a $1 million credit for a $1 trillion industry. Canada should be having a green economy strategy, so we lead in the new economy. We should have a national sustainable energy strategy. We need a comprehensive climate change plan.
Unfortunately, the environment and sustainable development are not government priorities. Recent rankings of environmental performance clearly demonstrate this fact. For example, the 2008 climate change performance index ranked Canada 56th out of 57 countries in terms of tackling emissions. In 2009 and again in 2013, the Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th out of 17 wealthy industrialized nations on environmental performance.
Our world-renowned heritage was then further imperiled by the government's economic action plan 2012 and its draconian omnibus budget bills, Bill and , which destroyed 50 years of environmental safeguards.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill today, to describe the measures that address our country's most urgent needs. The 2013 economic action plan focuses on our goals—jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canada. We have six major priorities and I will go over them briefly since I do not have much time.
First, we are going to connect Canadians with available jobs, and we will do that through the Canada job grant. We want to prioritize helping Canadians acquire the skills they need to obtain the jobs that are available now. Demographic trends mean that many good jobs will soon be vacant as people retire from the workforce, and we want our young people and those embarking on a second career to have all the skills required for those jobs.
We believe that involving businesses in the process and in funding the process is a key factor and a winning strategy. We look forward to working closely with all the provinces. In addition, we want to support the apprenticeship system and help people acquire the experience they need to obtain their journeyperson certificate. We also will offer more than 5,000 young people in transition an opportunity to turn their academic training into practical experience. Finally, we want to offer employment opportunities to persons with disabilities, young people, Aboriginals and recent immigrants. In order to do this, we are creating the tools that will help them find jobs.
Our second priority is the new building Canada plan, with more than $53 billion available over 10 years. That includes $32.2 billion over 10 years for the community improvement fund to build roads, public transit, recreational facilities and other community infrastructure across Canada. This plan will enable municipalities to plan for and achieve their priorities. There will also be $14 billion for the new building Canada fund to support major national or regional economic projects. In addition, $1.5 billion will be used to renew the P3 Canada fund. Finally, $6 billion will be allocated to the provinces, territories and municipalities under the new infrastructure program for 2014-15 and following years.
In our view, this predictable long-term funding represents the largest and longest-lasting federal investment in employment-creating infrastructure in Canada's history. We will also invest in world-class research and innovation in order to support cutting-edge research, encourage innovation in business, and improve Canada's venture capital system, which in turn will foster talent and ideas among entrepreneurs, promote an entrepreneurial culture in Canada and support young entrepreneurs.
We will continue to support families and communities. In order to support families, we will increase tax relief for families who adopt a child and those who require home care, we will eliminate tariffs on baby clothing and sports equipment in order to reduce their cost to consumers, and we will develop a new code to better protect consumers of financial products.
As for community investments, we will invest nearly $1.9 billion over five years to create more affordable housing and to combat homelessness. We will also introduce a new, temporary, first-time donor tax credit to encourage charitable donations.
We are also thinking of helping our businesses grow and prosper in the global economy. We will provide $1.4 billion in tax relief for manufacturers through a two-year extension of the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for new investment in machinery and equipment in the manufacturing and processing sector.
We will also contribute to small business expansion by granting $225 million to enhance and extend the temporary hiring credit for small business for one year.
We are thinking of our future generations and are very proud of the plan to return to budget balance. Canada is on track to return to balanced budgets by 2015-16. Our economic action plan 2013 announces more public spending savings totalling $2 billion by 2015-16.
We will do this through many logical improvements, including cutting needless spending and waste, reducing travelling expenses through technology, pursuing measures to limit public service compensation and closing tax loopholes that benefit a few taxpayers.
We will continue supporting seniors, as we have done since 2006, because we know and acknowledge that Canadian seniors have helped build our great country. That is why economic action plan 2013 contains new measures to improve the quality of life of our Canadian seniors. We will expand tax relief for home care to include personal care provided to individuals who, due to age, infirmity or disability, require such assistance at home.
We will also provide assistance for the construction and renovation of accessible community facilities by investing $15 million a year in the enabling accessibility fund.
Agriculture is very close to my heart, given my family roots. Our budget will also provide support for our Canadian farmers. The family farm is one of the pillars of our country. For generations, our farmers have fed Canadians and the rest of the world and generated jobs and job opportunities across the country. That is why economic action plan 2013 contains a number of measures to support Canadian farmers and agricultural innovation.
For example, we will increase the lifetime capital gains exemption from $750,000 to $800,000. That will not only help Canadian farmers plan for their retirement, but it will also help transfer the family farm to the next generation of Canadian farmers. We will also help part-time farmers by doubling the deduction limit currently permitted under the restricted farm loss rules from $8,750 to $17,500.
Lastly, we will invest $165 million in Genome Canada, whose research work is helping to design new technologies for the agricultural sector—such as the bovine genome—which offer considerable advantages for the cattle and dairy industry.
I would like to remind hon. members that these measures are in addition to the support our government has been proud to give Canadian farmers and the agricultural sector since 2006.
The budget contains even more. It is available online, on the Internet, and it is a budgetary reference work. I am very proud because, now at the end of this laborious cross-Canada consultation process, we have a goal and a common vision: a working plan. We conducted pre-budget consultations, and we answered the call of businesses that want a skilled, qualified and engaged Canadian and Quebec labour force.
Together we are paying our fair share of taxes, and we are proud of this budget, which will not take money away from families unfairly because we are not increasing taxes. Our budget meets needs in a quick and tangible way, without further undermining our children or our country. Our budget is responsible and offers hope for the thousands of Canadians who just want to be active in the workforce.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague said that his government is trying to cut back on waste. What about the Conservative ads for the economic action plan?
I wonder if my colleague could remind the House how much money was invested in those ads. How many jobs have been created since those ads were launched? Instead of wasting that money, would it not have been better spent on investments in aboriginal education?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.
I would like to tell her that the money invested in keeping Canadians informed about the various federal government's initiatives that benefit all Canadians is critically important. Canadians have a right to know what the Government of Canada is doing for them in terms of initiatives, tax cuts and services, which are very important to all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, credit unions from coast to coast to coast have provided an absolutely essential service to millions of Canadians over the years.
In this budget document, the government is taking a hit on our credit unions. It could have a very profound negative impact. These credit unions provide all sorts of services in our communities. They provide support to our middle class. They are there to provide competition for the big banks. They often open in communities where banks do not exist.
My question is why has the Conservative government gone against small credit unions, in the need to be able to support them from the government's point of view?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.
I would remind him that Canada has the lowest tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses in the G7, which gives Canada as a whole an undeniable competitive advantage on all international markets.
Furthermore, credit unions can benefit from the low tax rate that our government is offering to all Canadian businesses.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member why they are still, in the budget and for a long time, subsidizing oil companies to the tune of $1.3 billion a year and increasing taxes on credit unions, as we have just heard?
The really big question is: when are they going to put a price on carbon, which is so clearly and desperately needed if we are to save the planet from the greed of oil companies and oil consumers?
Mr. Speaker, I would remind my hon. colleague that Canada's energy sector is extremely important to our economy.
Government support for this sector helps ensure long-term prosperity and safeguards thousands of jobs for all Canadians. Without this support, if we were to follow my dear colleague's logic, Canada would have serious economic problems.
Mr. Speaker, our whole objective in the budget is to continue the progress that we have made in creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for our country.
We heard from the opposition earlier. The member for talked about not having jobs in her area, and the member for talked about youth unemployment in the country. We have looked at this and we have said that it is absolutely critical that we get these young people into jobs.
I am the very proud mother-in-law of a young man who has just finished his doctorate in electrical engineering and is looking to get into the job market now. I know that these infrastructure projects that we are investing in are going to create jobs for engineers and for construction companies, and trickle-down effects for the service companies.
I wonder if my colleague could talk about how these opportunities are going to impact his riding?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her excellent question.
I know that she does wonderful work in her riding. She is very passionate about the future of our youth, as am I. I have five children at home who are entering the workforce.
The Government of Canada cares about the future of Canadians. Our country offers tremendous opportunities for young people who want to work. We are creating more than 5,000 internships so that they can transition from studying to a work experience that will allow them to gain skills for their future and for the future of our country.
Mr. Speaker, drawing up a budget means making choices. In their 2013 budget, the Conservatives have chosen austerity. This government justifies its decision on the grounds that it wants to wipe out the deficit. All of us here in this House are in favour of wiping out the deficit. Nobody can argue with that, but it is all in the way you do it.
The Conservatives are proposing lean years for everyone in the hope that these cuts will return us to a balanced budget. We believe we must invest in our economy in order to wipe out the deficit. Our economy needs a little help. It needs investment to create jobs and growth. It definitely does not need utterly austere policies like those proposed by this government.
The IMF, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and many renowned economists have warned the government about the harmful effects of its strategy. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says the 2013 budget will eliminate thousands of jobs, cut direct program spending and slow GDP growth. That is not very encouraging, especially for a government that claims to champion employment and the economy.
With Bill , the government is giving us version 3.0 of its omnibus bills. Like Bills and , Bill C-60 amends nearly 50 acts and contains hundreds of unrelated legislative amendments.
As a parliamentarian, but especially as a citizen, I am shocked to see that this government has not adopted a more co-operative and democratic approach. Its bill is full of inconsistencies and counterproductive measures. However, the government is determined to force it down Canadians' throats without us really having the time to study it or propose improvements.
A very specific example of a counterproductive measure that will harm the economy of my region, the Outaouais, is the elimination of the 15% tax credit for shareholders of labour-sponsored funds. Labour-sponsored funds are essential to the development of Outaouais businesses. On May 2, the Gatineau chamber of commerce organized a press conference to announce its request that the government reverse its decision. The FTQ's Fonds de solidarité alone has invested $125 million in 80 businesses in the region. Those investments have made it possible to create or maintain 6,700 jobs in the Outaouais alone.
The hardest thing to understand in the Conservatives' attitude is that the government will achieve no savings by eliminating the tax credit.
A study conducted by SECOR in 2010 clearly shows that the economic impact of the jobs created and maintained through the investments of these labour-sponsored funds enable the government to recover the tax credits in an average period of three years.
I ask myself the question and I put it to the government: what is the justification for this attack on labour-sponsored funds? These funds create and maintain employment in addition to playing a positive role in our economy.
Eliminating the tax credit will also have a direct impact on small investors. It has benefited some 23,000 people in the Outaouais alone.
By investing $5,000 in a labour-sponsored fund, a taxpayer can currently save up to $750 in federal income tax. Because of this government, 23,000 small investors in the Outaouais will lose a profitable savings vehicle for their retirement and for the economy. This government must open its eyes and reverse its decision.
I have looked through Bill at length and have found virtually nothing about the measures this government intends to take to combat poverty. In a developed country such as Canada, we would be wrong to believe that poverty is a marginal phenomenon. Poverty exists. It is very real. We see it on the ground, in our ridings. Many of us could describe numerous unfortunate examples of poverty.
Every month, 800,000 Canadians turn to food banks. A growing number of these 800,000 food bank users are working people. Despite earning an income, they cannot always afford to put food on the table. More and more workers are living in poverty, and this government’s policies are obviously to blame to some extent for this situation. This is unacceptable. Fighting poverty must be one of the government’s priorities.
In conclusion, I would like to comment briefly on this government’s repeated attacks on public servants. Last year, it announced that it was eliminating 19,200 jobs, while solemnly swearing that services would not be affected. We subsequently learned that in reality, 29,000 public servants would be losing their jobs and that services to the public would be directly affected.
The Conservatives enjoy depicting public servants as privileged, lazy individuals. That is part of their strategy. They want to pit private sector workers against public servants. We would all do well to close ranks in the face of this government’s attacks on workers in general.
The fact of the matter is that the average pension of a public servant upon retirement is $24,000 a year, or $18,500 for women and $28,000 for men. It is time to stop implying that public servants are rolling in money. Those who are doing very well are the Conservatives’ friends, those who are on the receiving end of favours and generous subsidies while they generate profits totalling millions and sometimes even billions of dollars.
I am thinking here, among other things, of oil companies that are still subsidized to tune of $1.3 billion a year and that often use our soil, our air and our water as a free dumping ground. Natural resource development is a major source of revenue, but development must be done properly. Right now, major polluters are enjoying a free lunch. Things could be done differently, but this government is failing when it comes to fighting for the middle class and for the environment.
As I said in my opening remarks, drawing up a budget means making choices. In budget 2013, the government clearly chose to turn its back on the middle class and on SMEs. Canadians will remember this when the time comes to elect a new government.
Mr. Speaker, the best way to counter poverty is to create an economy that is full of jobs and growth and prosperity. Then we would have the ability to help those people in our economy who are most in need.
My hon. colleague said that we do not have anything in the budget that would assist people who are in need. I would like to direct her to page 228 in the budget, where we talk about investing in communities. First, we talk about our homelessness partnering strategy, where we would be contributing $119 million per year, over five years, working with our provinces and territories.
Then, on page 230, we talk about investments in affordable housing where we are proposing $253 million per year, over five years, to 2018-19.
Would my colleague speak to why it is she would vote against these kinds of investments for the people who live in her riding?
Mr. Speaker, when I look at the economy in my region, where many public servants live, I also see that there is a great deal of poverty. I find it unacceptable that this government plans to raise taxes in the coming years on things families need every day to work and to provide for their children's day-to-day well-being.
As for sustainable social development, I would say to the minister and my colleague that I have worked in the affordable housing sector and I was a member of a number of boards of directors in my riding. I saw first-hand the deterioration and lack of affordable housing in regions across the country. Do not tell me that the government's proposals will help this cause.
Mr. Speaker, an unemployed individual can appreciate why the jobs issue is so critical. Over the last period of time there has been a great deal of concern with regard to how the government dropped the ball with respect to the temporary foreign worker program. If this program is utilized properly it can save industries, it can provide a great quality of life to Canadians and those people who call Canada their home. The Conservative government has now had in the neighbourhood of 338,000 jobs through the foreign worker program.
Does my colleague feel that the government needs to improve the temporary foreign worker program process in order to come up with a more realistic number in terms of the number of jobs that are being taken by individuals from abroad? Even during Liberal peak times, I believe we hit 160,000. There is no doubt that the current system needs to be fixed.
What is the NDP's position on the issue?
Mr. Speaker, we have debated this matter in recent weeks.
Foreign workers were allowed to come to Canada to work in various jobs that needed to be filled.
However, the government dropped the ball because Canadians could have filled those jobs.
This government opened the door without thinking about our economy or the fact that Canadians could have filled those jobs.
I acknowledge that we need foreign workers and that they must come to Canada. However, at the same time, we must provide them with decent housing, working conditions and benefits so that they can return home when they need to. That is not what happens with these types of jobs.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak on budget 2013 and the budget implementation act. As I prepared for this speech, I reviewed from budget 2006 onward with an eye to looking at how our government is focused on the economy, jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. One thing I was very happy to see was that even in the early days of our government, in 2006, we have always had an eye towards providing stability and environmental stewardship.
The has always recognized that environmental protection goes hand in hand with our economic future as a country. Whether it is through strategic investments in clean energy infrastructure, strong partnerships with our provincial and municipal partners, NGOs, industry and even landowners, or whether it is actually doing the tough work of regulatory reform, our government has always had an eye toward making sure we have the balance between our economic prosperity and increasing our environmental stewardship and habitat conservation. Whether it is looking for results in increasing air and water quality or reducing greenhouse gases, this government has consistently set targets and moved toward actual results in hitting those targets.
As a young boy growing up in rural northern Alberta with a grandfather who was both a trapper and farmer, I was always very close to the land. I was always in an environment where I understood the importance of environmental stewardship and good conservation, being a good Conservative. I contrast that upbringing with my niece Vienna, who was born and raised in Ottawa. I see how she would have a different opinion of what environmental stewardship and the problems of our country look like today, when she tunes in to CTV News or any of the news stations, as she likes to do, and sees evil oil and gas companies destroying thousands of hectares of land, and mining companies putting big holes in the ground, making it look like some kind of sci-fi moon landscape from the 1970s.
I understand how this negative connotation that people constantly receive from the media can lead this generation to perceive that these are the problems of environmental stewardship today. In fact, in the last 50 years, when it comes to issues such as wetlands conservation, air quality, water quality or greenhouse gas emissions, the largest problem in our country has been urban sprawl. More and more urban areas have taken up more and more wetlands and have increased the output of effluents.
I can remember, as a young man, going to the University of Calgary, and when I left the north end, between Calgary and Balzac and then Calgary and Airdrie, there were actual green spaces. Now there are houses from one end to the other, just like Toronto to Hamilton. It has become concrete. This is one of the biggest issues that we have to deal with. This is one of the issues we have to make sure we pass on to Vienna's generation, that it is a problem we have to engage in.
I am proud to be part of a government that has made strategic investments in partnerships, not just with municipalities but organizations like Nature Conservancy Canada. An additional $20 million was put into budget 2013 to help them leverage it three to one so we could protect more habitat and species at risk. Since budget 2007, we know this has been a successful program. We have invested $225 million and preserved over 875,000 acres of land over all 10 provinces in our country, and conserved habitat for up to 148 species at risk.
The fact is that we can still have growth and economic prosperity at the same time as increasing our environmental sustainability. That is a message we have to pass on. We can actually continue to grow our environmental conservation habits, not just be happy with some kind of net zero through innovative partnerships like we have already demonstrated.
One of the other things we have to do in these partnerships is win the hearts and minds of Canadians. We have to show Canadians like those in my niece's generation that habitat, wildlife and the environment are things worth saving, and to do that, we have to give them a value. We have to be able to attribute a value to that, and it is very hard to attribute a value to something that one has never really encountered.
We have Thousand Islands National Park, a beautiful park, about two hours away from Ottawa, but for my niece to pack up her family and go there takes a couple of hours. To go to Jasper National Park from Edmonton, it is two and a half hours. It limits the number of encounters they are going to have with nature and natural habitats.
That is why it is so important that our government's initiatives and investments in parks such as Rouge national urban park, where we are investing $143 million over 10 years, including in this budget as well, to bring nature closer to Canadians and to that generation that has grown up in urban sprawl. This is critically important when we talk about winning hearts and minds so that they can understand the importance of habitat and species at risk.
I am proud to be part of a government that has created over 149,000 square kilometres of national parks, including parks such as Sable Island. This government has always had an eye toward making sure that we invest in the future, and not just in job training and job growth but also in environmental stewardship.
One of the other aspects that is very important, perhaps one of the most important, is working with industry and taking a real approach. If we want to continue to extract and develop our natural resources and sell them around the world, we have to have a regulatory approach that is perceived to be one of the best in the world, not just talked about as being one of the best in the world.
That is where the 's leadership in regulatory reform is so important. Whether it is in the transportation sector, the coal-fired electricity sector, or the oil and gas sector, we have worked with these sectors one by one. It is not just to do a redistribution of wealth, which is what a carbon tax is, taking from one to give to the other, but the rich never really have to make a sacrifice. We are talking about changing the way sectors operate so that they actually become better environmental stewards and bring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality.
This kind of work is far harder and politically far more difficult, but it brings the benefits of real results for Canadians and for the next generation, at the same time respecting our jurisdictions and understanding that the coal-fired electricity issues in Ontario or Quebec are not the same as the issues in Alberta. We have to have some flexibility, yet have targets that we are moving forward to meet.
At the same time, as we see in budget 2013, we are investing $325 million in Sustainable Development Technology Canada to help develop clean technology and help industry to continue to move forward. I come from an oil-rich part of the country where we have in situ oil sands that are nothing like what most Canadians would perceive when they think of the oil sands in Fort McMurray. These are oil sands with a very small footprint. These are oil sands for which our government has just put water monitoring in place in the Athabasca River so that we can make sure we are open and transparent and can actually demonstrate the positive results coming out of the work we have done on this sector.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the importance of working with landowners and the importance of respecting property rights when we are doing all of these things. It is important that we incentivize landowners so they are not worried about running into a species at risk on their land, yet see the natural habitat area as a value to their land. That can only happen through strong partnerships with our municipalities, as we are experiencing in Vermilion River.
To close, I would like to say it is our responsibility to look the next generation in the eye and say that we have been good stewards of both the environment and the economy. Environmental protection goes hand in hand with our economic future.
God bless Canada.
Before I go to questions and comments, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for , The Environment; the hon. member for , Aboriginal Affairs; and the hon. member for , Telecommunications.
Questions and comments.
Mr. Speaker, in February, I actually visited Westlock—St. Paul, the member's riding. I visited a power plant there in Dapp. It was a biomass plant. I asked the people there if the member had ever visited, and they told me, “No.” This is a plant that takes wood waste from Edmonton and turns it into electricity. The electricity that comes from this process is distributed to all the farmers around. It is a great community project that powers 600 houses with electricity from the grid.
When I got there, people asked me a few questions. The first one was, “When is there going to be a national energy strategy that includes renewables?” I would ask the same question to the member across.
The other thing is, I would point out that there is only $1 million for SDTC this year to promote projects, like things that are happening in Dapp with its biomass plant. Will the government commit to funding SDTC more at the front end rather than the back end in 2018?
Mr. Speaker, I am very familiar with the project the member is talking about. In fact I grew up in that area.
The local councillor, Mr. Bert Seatter, has been a strong advocate of this project. If the member wishes, I would be happy to share information on the company that he talked about.
It is very important, as I said, when we start talking about these issues that we look at it as a balanced approach, that we look at economic development and growth of our economy in balance with the environment.
I am glad the member brought it up. My home province of Alberta is one of the leading provinces when it comes to wind and solar technology, which invests more money in renewable fuels than many of the provinces twice its size in this country. I am proud to be from a part of the country that does not just talk about environmental stewardship but actually takes a step forward and starts practising it.
Mr. Speaker, I believe the member is being very selective when he talks about practising it.
Let me talk about a petition that I have introduced on numerous occasions, and that the Liberal Party has been advocating for, that is in regard to the Experimental Lakes project.
I quote from the petition:
Since 1968, ELA has been a global leader in conducting whole-ecosystem experiments, which have been critical in shaping environmental policy and understanding human impacts on lakes and fishes...
This research is done at the Experimental Lakes Area. It provides important, critical, scientific knowledge. The government was content with seeing it completely wiped out, closed. If it was not for the Government of Ontario, there would not be an ELA, even though the benefits are immense from an environmental perspective.
How does the member justify the government's behaviour on that specific project, the ELA? Why did the government not support it?
Mr. Speaker, as always, I am happy to see my friend from standing up. Unfortunately the Jets are not in the playoffs this year, so he has a little more time to spend here than he would otherwise. As he likes to trade quotes, and he is always prepared, I would like to read him a quote, as well.
From Mr. John Lounds, president of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, in committee last week:
You will no doubt hear many witnesses tell you where government hasn't got it right. We'd like to tell you about something where the government has got it right in our view, which is the natural areas conservation program. In 2007 the Government of Canada made a bold investment of $225 million in this unique public-private partnership led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
I am proud of the fact that we are part of a government that has helped establish important habitat conservation for over 875,000 acres of land across 10 provinces of this country, including saving habitat for 148 species at risk. I think that is a record of success.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by asking a question.
Today in the House, the member for talked about renewable hydrocarbons. The has also talked about the same thing recently.
Frankly, I would like to know what this creature is, given that hydrocarbons come from dinosaurs that lived millions of years ago. It seems to me that this is not a renewable energy source, unless the Conservatives are telling me that there may be dinosaurs somewhere in the Caribbean islands. I am trying to understand what this is.
They may be talking about the corn and ethanol business. Recently, we saw that when ethanol derived from corn was on the market, it created an extreme crisis for the corn market, to the point that a lot of people in the world could no longer buy basic products such as corn because it was being converted into renewable energy.
I quite simply do not understand why the Conservatives are trying to make us believe this renewable hydrocarbons story. I am having a hard time seeing where this thing exists. I would certainly like to hear more about it though, because frankly, I sometimes think it is coming out of the mouths of dinosaurs.
Bill contains very few things that will benefit people in my riding. I will even go out on a limb and say that it could hurt them.
We will talk about a few measures that are in the budget, and other measures that are not. What worries me most is what is not in the budget.
I would first like to talk about the investment that needs to be made at Fisheries and Oceans. The budget says that over the next five years, Fisheries and Oceans will be cut by another $100 million. That department has already endured cuts, very recently, of over $70 million a year. Now the Conservatives are talking about more cuts. We do not know how big those cuts will be. The Conservatives have simply announced cuts. They have not said what is going to be cut. That is the real problem with the bill we have before us. It is supposed to be Bill , yet it is not a budget, or at least it is hard to believe that it is.
When I was a businessman, a budget had columns. It was a sheet with figures on it, with the money spent the previous year and the money spent during the current year. You saw how spending increased or decreased. To the Conservatives, budgets are no longer budgets; now, they are action plans. Frankly, they are works of fiction. They are books that tell a story, but do not in any way achieve the objective of managing a country in a sound and sustainable way.
I will come back to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which is going to lose $100 million over the next five years. Nowhere in the budget, or the Conservatives’ economic action plan 2013, do I see where they are going to cut. We know the impact of the cuts, though. So much has been cut from maintenance at Fisheries and Oceans Canada that our docks are in a pitiful state. The Percé dock is closed today. The lobster industry depends on that dock. My riding also depends heavily on the tourism industry, which in turn depends heavily on the dock. We are talking about 400,000 tourists a year who visit the dock.
Last year, Bill made changes to employment insurance. In today’s budget, nothing has been changed, even though every region of Canada where there is seasonal work and people make a living from seasonal industries has called for a moratorium or a return to the starting point, and for real consultations to be held. That has not been done. The result is the bill we have before us, which makes no changes to employment insurance.
As a result, people in my region have lost weeks of employment insurance benefits and they will therefore find it harder and harder to have an income to get through the seasons and make it through the whole year.
The minister says that the reason why the government made changes to employment insurance was to help people get jobs. At the same time, however, the Conservatives have cut so much from dock maintenance in my riding that they have put people out of work. In 2013, we risk losing the tourist season in the Gaspé region, because they have cut so much from the budgets that people depend on, without consultation and without doing the groundwork.
They are making so many cuts that people are losing their jobs. There will be no tourists to support merchants who depend on the tourist industry and so there is a risk that we will lose an entire year of tourism, simply because Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not been able to do its job. The department has been unable to do its job because the cuts have been so deep that it has had a great deal of difficulty meeting its obligations.
In today’s budget, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is being cut by $100 million. What is going to be cut? I have a hard time seeing where the remaining cuts at Fisheries and Oceans Canada could be made. I congratulate the department for demonstrating creativity by inventing cuts that could be made in future, without specifying what is left to cut. It seems to me that there are no cuts left to be made at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, apart from the minister’s salary maybe.
We absolutely have to think long-term. There is no long-term vision in Canada. The Conservatives are trying to cut all government spending, and they think that that is going to create the conditions upon which an economic recovery could be based. We saw this situation in the 1980s, in the Reagan era. It is called trickle-down economics. If the government cuts taxes and is less and less involved in the economy, the invisible hand of the market will take over and solve all of our problems. In my opinion, in 2008, when the serious crisis in the banking system happened, the invisible hand of the market simply did not work.
Frankly, credit does not go to the Conservatives for the regulations that were in place at the time and that helped us to get through that serious worldwide economic crisis and be in the condition we are in now.
The Conservatives boast about the fact that Canada has one of the best economies in the world. It is difficult to boast when we compare ourselves to Greece, for example, which is in free fall. Saying we are not in free fall is not all it takes to determine that everything is fine. That is not the case.
Certain conditions must prevail in order for Canada’s economy to grow. The budget now before us will not create these conditions. Furthermore, Canada has 240,000 more young people out of work than during the previous recession in 2008.
There needs to be an action plan in place to help these 240,000 unemployed youths find jobs. Instead, we have cuts to Service Canada’s summer jobs programs that encourage young people to return to the regions to work, settle down and create vibrant communities. Cuts are being made to the summer jobs program and a new internship program is being created. However, an internship is not a job. A job is paid, permanent employment. An internship usually involves unpaid work.
The government has just spent a considerable amount of money creating unpaid job opportunities without having in place an action plan to help young people find gainful employment.
Getting back to my riding, cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada programs means the future of the region’s children and economy are impacted. The Gaspé is not the only region affected. All of Eastern Canada will be facing problems as a result of the cutbacks recently announced. Today’s budget does nothing to alter the course this government has embarked on, one that is bad for the economy and for the regions in particular.
The government is simply unwilling to consult with people. It is unwilling to ask Canadians how they feel about Canada’s growth and what they think our priorities should be. With their parliamentary majority, the Conservatives seem to think they can do whatever they like.
Destroying laws that protect the environment is tantamount to mortgaging the future. Ultimately people will end up paying a great deal more to repair the damage wrought by the Conservatives.
This budget will cost us dearly. Therefore, I urge members to vote against it.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's speech. I would like to know what he thinks the government should have included in the budget to increase job creation in his riding. What would he do to better promote job creation?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. Investment is a given. The government has powerful tools at its disposal to help industry and the economy. Regarding seasonal work in the regions, it is essential to think long term if we want to ensure sustainable regional economies. The government must invest. The only organization capable of supporting jobs in the regions is the federal government. It then follows that the government has a very important role to play in support of seasonal industries.
Let us not forget that Canada is a northern country where seasonal industries are prevalent. When the government withdraws from these industries, not only does it create long-term problems, it also empties out the regions. The people leaving have to find somewhere else to go. When they arrive in the big city, they struggle. They do not have the means to start a life in the big city as long as the federal government does not have a long-term strategy.
Regional support is being slashed while, at the same time, these people are not getting the tools they need to settle elsewhere. What is more, the cuts being made are such that well-established regional industries get even less support than before.
Mr. Speaker, the opposition plays a fundamental role in the parliamentary system. According to a paper I read from the Library of Parliament:
Parliament, after all, is fundamentally about debate…and the transacting of the people's business in public.…A vigorous opposition in Parliament can be the chief bulwark against the temptation [for a majority government that wishes to do everything without debate].
In Bill , the Conservatives are attempting for a second time to escape parliamentary and public scrutiny. Does my colleague agree with me that our democracy is suffering?
Mr. Speaker, we are going through a period in which the government appears to be circumventing the idea of building consensus in the country. It disregards the parliamentary tools at its disposal to assist it in building consensus. On the contrary, it constantly seeks to oppose. The government does not want to discuss. Once again, there is very little debate about a bill as important as Bill , which will amend 59 laws. Previously, there was very little debate on Bills and , which amended more than 70 laws.
The same thing happened to a number of bills introduced during the 41st Parliament, or ever since the Conservatives have held a majority. They do not want to take the time to listen to the public's concerns and needs. They disregard them. This is a highly ideological government, which does not listen to the people and has difficulty justifying itself.
We cannot continue this way. We absolutely need a government that listens, that responds to needs, that has a long-term vision and that can promote sustainable economic growth. The goal was not to introduce bills full of ad hoc measures, to turn back time in order to eliminate protections previously put in place or to deregulate industries to the point where the invisible hand of the market reigns supreme.
We have seen the consequences of this kind of thinking, which was at the root of the economic crisis of 2008. We do not want to see that happen again. We want something sustainable. We have no lessons to learn from the present government.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be able to stand here today and speak to Canada's economic action plan 2013.
I think in the House we can all agree that there are a multitude of elements involved when a person, business or family works towards a common set of goals of success and prosperity. Of course, the individual has a lot to do with the outcomes in terms of the choices we make, our determination and how hard we are willing to work toward the objective.
Admittedly, we share responsibility. The government and all members here share responsibility in helping our citizens achieve those goals. We can provide either stepping stones or barriers. I am very proud to say that our government is providing the stepping stones by putting Canadians and the economy first. It is certainly evident in our latest budget, economic action plan 2013.
Undeniably, a firm base for any healthy economy is a thriving manufacturing and small business environment coupled with job-creating initiatives. Economic action plan 2013 includes our government's plan to make the largest federal investment in job-creating infrastructure in Canadian history, totalling $70 billion over a decade. This investment would help build and repair roads, bridges, subways, rail and more, certainly in communities in Prince Edward—Hastings and across this wonderful country.
There would be a new tax break for new manufacturing machinery and equipment with the accelerated capital cost write-off, which would provide the manufacturing and processing businesses in Ontario alone approximately $560 million in tax relief to grow their companies and create jobs.
Our government has extended and expanded the hiring credit for small businesses for another year, which would see many small businesses in Ontario and across Canada save another $225 million in 2013. I can tell the House that as a small businessman myself with 38 years of experience, in my riding of Prince Edward—Hastings, small businesses are one of the key components of the local economic engine. I can assure the House that this particular initiative would go a long way to helping those businesses grow, prosper and ultimately create more jobs.
We are increasing the lifetime capital gains exemption to $800,000 from $750,000 and indexing it going forward. We are indexing it the same way we indexed the gas tax. This would provide small businesses in Ontario approximately an additional $39 million in tax relief to grow their companies and create more jobs.
I live right next to Trenton Air Base, one of the most significant air transport capitals, not only in Canada, but in the world. We are investing almost $1 billion in the strategic aerospace and defence initiative to enhance the competitiveness of Canada's economically important aerospace and defence industry. We have created the aerospace technology demonstration programs, which would support large-scale technology projects with commercial potential in Ontario and across Canada. We have CAE in Montreal, now with simulators around the world.
The northern regions of my riding had a very active forestry industry, which certainly suffered some severe challenges when the economic downturn hit and the housing boom in the States went off. Therefore, I am pleased that we would be providing $92 million to help the forestry sector in Ontario and across Canada to continue to innovate new products and to expand into new markets.
We would provide $920 million to renew the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. Since its creation in 2009, FedDev has supported over 340 projects and has played an important role in building a stronger economy in southern Ontario. FedDev has been instrumental in the success of so many projects in Prince Edward—Hastings and across the regions of southern Ontario.
I am very pleased as well to support the eastern Ontario development program, which would be renewed as well. It would continue to promote job creation and business development in all the rural areas of eastern Ontario. As part of the renewal of FedDev, I am very pleased that $200 million would be invested in a new advanced manufacturing fund to help Ontario's manufacturing industry innovate and become much more competitive.
Another ingredient required to maintain economic health is ensuring Canadians get the skills training and the employment-seeking assistance they need. I am fortunate. I have Loyalist College, the brand new skills development centre, which will play a pivotal role in developing skills in my area. Job-seekers know that if they have the right skills and education, they are well on their way to finding a good job. I am proud to say that our government firmly recognizes that, too.
As such, we are providing up to $15,000 per person, in Ontario, with combined federal-provincial-territorial and employer funding to help them get the skills they need for in-demand jobs. That is right; we are helping them to develop the skills for a job that is waiting for them. We know how important education is, especially, in high-demand fields. We will be encouraging students to undertake education in these high-demand fields, including the skilled trades, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Our government is also investing $70 million to support an additional 5,000 paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates in Ontario and across Canada. These young people are our future. We are helping them along and providing the initiative for them to get a job.
My riding of includes a first nations reserve, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte—Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, a very proud and successful local aboriginal group.
I am proud that we are helping first nations students with post-secondary education, by providing $10 million to grant scholarships and bursaries to help them attend a post-secondary education. We realize the importance of engaging first nations youth. They are going to play a tremendous role in our country.
Finally, another very important key to having a robust economy is to limit government's interference in Canadians' wallets.
Winston Churchill once said:
For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
It just does not happen.
Our government gets that, unlike the opposition, unfortunately, the tax-and-spend Liberals and the “speNDP”. There is just no end of spending. The solution is very simple with them. Just spend more, spend more, spend more. Unfortunately, we have to find a balance, and we have done that.
Right from the get-go, our government has been dedicated to freeing up Canadians' paycheques by lowering taxes. In economic action plan 2013, our government eliminated tariffs on important items for families, including baby clothing, sports equipment, skates, hockey sticks, golf clubs, and more.
In fact, our Conservative government has cut taxes over 150 times and is saving the average family over $3,000 a year. That can buy a lot of groceries or clothes for the kids, or even allow families that vacation that they have waited for and that they have deserved for so long.
Our government does not put obstacles in the way of Canadians, obstacles like red tape or increased taxes. Our red tape commission said every time we bring in a regulation, we have to get rid of one. That is common sense.
So, yes, we are providing stepping stones to help Canadians achieve the happy and successful lives they want to have.
I am thankful for the opportunity today to talk on economic action plan 2013. I am proud of the initiatives in it. I have had many extensive pre-budget consultations across our riding, with so many different groups. I know our government worked closely with recommendations from the stakeholders, the businesses, the community leaders, the experts in so many fields, to achieve the best use of taxpayer dollars. We have created a budget that will strengthen our economy and solidify our economic recovery.
Mr. Speaker, I note that my colleague opposite would like to suggest that the Conservatives are somehow being generous to first nations when, in fact, there is an alarming 30% funding gap that exists between first nations on reserve and other Canadians whose educations are provided for by the provinces.
So, number one, nothing has been done about that.
Number two, with respect to public funding of post-secondary education, my understanding is the waiting list is so long that people cannot even get on it because there is just not enough funding. My understanding is there are something like 10,000 students waiting on a waiting list in order to get into post-secondary education. Ten million dollars would barely touch that, if at all.
How will the government actually work to create a level playing field between first nations and other members of Canadian society?
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question takes me back. I sat on government operations and public accounts when I first came here nine years ago. The situation with regard to first nations aboriginal education was absolutely horrendous. For five to six years after, we spent more and more money and we did not improve the result.
We then formulated a working group to go forward. We said we had to get more bang from the buck, we have to create more jobs and we have to train our first nations people. We have a strategy now in place, and of course it has been agreed upon by the first nations people themselves, who are part of the solution on the advisory council. The dollar is going forward. The member is incorrect. We are spending more on first nations education than we ever have in the history of this country.
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. friend for his speech, but I could not help but notice that he, like other Conservatives, speaks all the time about the taxes that the government cut, but not a peep on the taxes that the government increased.
The 2013 budget document itself says that the tax increases are bigger than the tax cuts, so there is a net tax increase imposed on Canadians. In budget 2012, what do we see? Tax increases bigger than tax cuts, a net tax increase. This is getting a bit repetitive, but it is the same thing in budget 2011 and the same thing in budget 2010. In all of the last four years, the Conservatives have raised taxes by more than they have cut taxes, thereby imposing net tax hikes on Canadians.
My question is, how can this member possibly say that his is the party of lower taxes, when indeed, over the last four years in each and every year, the Conservatives have increased the net tax load facing Canadians?
Mr. Speaker, the reality is, that just is not true. The hon. member should look at the amount of taxation that has been cut across this country. I know him well. I respect him as a person. Regrettably, every now and then his orientation gets him in little challenging moments.
When we look at the overall tax reduction, the transfers that have been increased to provinces, the increased programs that have been put out there, the bottom line is, yes, we have more money coming in, but what if we did not have a growing economy?
The economy has been growing very well. Naturally, it generates more tax. It generates more income tax when people do well, when they make more money and businesses prosper. To suggest there is no reason for taxes to have a receivable that is a gain would mean we would simply have an economy that is going the other way.
Under the Conservative government we have an economy that grows, hence more taxes coming in. That is a simple equation the hon. member could understand.
Mr. Speaker, today I join my NDP colleagues in opposing Bill , the Conservatives' latest budget implementation bill.
As has unfortunately become a trend in the House, we once again have an omnibus bill that is smaller than previous ones in terms of pages, but is just as devastating.
Bill amends nearly 50 Canadian laws and even creates a new one: the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act.
Bill also proposes a number of complex measures that require extensive study in committee or in the House, particularly with respect to the temporary foreign worker program, but the Conservatives are trying to rush them through after abuse was revealed as a result of their poor management of the program and the excessive flexibility.
It is completely unacceptable that the Conservatives are trying to hide their poor decisions from the Canadian public and prevent members from examining the bill, hence avoiding the oversight that all MPs should be providing, whether they are on the government or opposition side. These parliamentarians were sent here by their constituents to represent them and be their voice in the House. They should be able to carefully examine the budget implementation bill without having the Conservative government impose time restrictions as soon as it can.
Although previous omnibus bills were heavily criticized and thousands of Canadians voiced their disapproval, including many from my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, the Conservatives keep persisting. They are doing everything possible to avoid an extensive study in committee, because they know very well that a close study of their bill would highlight the budget's many flaws and their gross incompetence at managing public finances.
As we already know, the has already suggested limiting the time allotted for studying this bill in committee. The practice in the House, that is, limiting the time allowed for debate, is being reflected in committee. In committee, we find the Conservatives have the same attitude and the same bad faith, as they are still limiting parliamentarians’ opportunities to do their work and represent their constituents properly.
The Conservatives are trying to make Canadians believe that they are the only ones equipped to manage Canada’s economy properly, but if we take a look at their record to date, obviously this makes no sense, and Canadians across the country are well aware of it.
It is not just NDP members or members of the other opposition parties that are making these kinds of comments. Last weekend when I was walking around in my riding, the subject that was brought up most frequently by the constituents I met was the $3.1 billion that mysteriously disappeared under this government’s watch. Frankly, that has shocked and horrified people.
That is why we should be able to take a closer look at the bills this government is introducing, whether they have a direct impact on the economy or not. The Conservatives put on a great show, but if you scratch the surface a little, their façade falls apart quite quickly. The Conservatives do not have the abilities they are bragging about.
Instead of bringing in a budget with concrete measures to create jobs and stimulate the economy, the government is doing exactly the opposite. In fact, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Conservative government’s 2013 budget is more likely to eliminate thousands of jobs, reduce direct program spending and significantly diminish growth in Canada’s gross domestic product.