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41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 257

CONTENTS

Tuesday, May 28, 2013




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
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NUMBER 257 
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1st SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

Committees of the House

Procedure and House Affairs 

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 104 and 114, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 56th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding membership of committees of this House. If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 56th report later today.

Parliament of Canada Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, in an ongoing attempt to make this House more functional and democratic, I rise to introduce a bill to end the abuse of the convention of confidence in this House.
     This bill would curb the excessive power of the Prime Minister to declare any vote a matter of confidence and to play chicken with legislation. It would also mean that budget and money bills are no longer confidence motions by default.
    Only a motion that explicitly stated “that this House has no confidence in the government” would trigger a government to fall.
     It would allow for a 14-day cooling-off period to re-establish confidence before Parliament would be dissolved. It would also mean the government would actually have to abide by its own fixed election date legislation.
    I hope this would lead to greater government accountability, more empowered MPs and more co-operative governance.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Committees of the House

Procedure and House Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 56th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier today, be concurred in.

    (Motion agreed to)

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics  

     Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented to the House on Monday, May 14, 2012, be concurred in.
    I want to first say what an honour it is to rise again in this great chamber on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay. I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, particularly the excellent chair, the member for Sherbrooke, on the report regarding the changes to the Lobbying Act. This is work that was badly needed. On the whole, it was not too much of a partisan fight because we all, as parliamentarians, have a fundamental responsibility to ensure that the secret back doors for lobbyists are closed.
    Unfortunately, the issue of back-door lobbying does, however, remain a major problem with the government. I want to say at the beginning that we are not talking about honest lobbyists who meet with members of Parliament, because it is their job to begin and facilitate discussions on issues. There is nothing wrong with that. It is about the use of backroom access, the whole issue of who one knows in the PMO. These are issues we have to root out if there is going to be confidence that Parliament and government work for the people and not just for the insiders. Unfortunately, there have been numerous examples under the government, once again, where it is who one knows in the PMO.
    In terms of what was studied under the Lobbying Act, there are a number of examples that are very concerning. I would like to raise a few of them as we look through the recommendations in the report. Certainly, one of the most disturbing is the role of Bruce Carson, who is now up on criminal charges for influence peddling. On June 27, 2012, Mr. Bruce Carson was charged by the RCMP on one count of influence peddling for his role in illegal lobbying through his friends in the Conservative Party.
    The disturbing thing about Bruce Carson is that this is a man with a history of fraud convictions. This is a man who had already been convicted as a criminal and yet the Prime Minister invited him into his office as his most senior adviser. We see the ethics problems swirling around the Prime Minister and his judgment problems with supporting people like Patrick Brazeau, despite the numerous red flags that came up, telling us that Pamela Wallin's expense claims were perfectly acceptable, that he had personally seen them, and now she has had to resign in disgrace, as well as telling us that Mike Duffy showed real leadership in using the illegal cheque he received for $90,000.
    There are certainly questions about the judgment of the Prime Minister, but this goes back to the question of Bruce Carson, who was brought into the Prime Minister's Office as a senior adviser even though he had been convicted of fraud. Then Bruce Carson used that position as an insider to the Prime Minister to set up an illegal lobbying scheme with his young fiancée, Michele McPherson. Their scheme was that she was representing a clean water plan. We need clean water on reserves, but there is something very tawdry about the idea that these insiders were going to cash in on the need of desperately poor first nations for clean water.
    Mr. Carson used his influence as an insider friend of the Prime Minister, so that when the former top chief adviser to the Prime Minister started making calls to people, they answered the calls. That is the difference between illegal lobbying versus legal lobbying, and it is one of the loopholes we tried to close. Under the Lobbying Act now, there is a certain threshold before people have to report their lobbying activities. I believe it is 25% of their time. If less than 25% of their time is spent lobbying, then they do not have to report it. When someone is an insider, all he or she needs to do is make a call. He or she does not have to spend 40 hours a week banging on doors, like all the run-of-the-mill lobbyists with their suitcases and PowerPoint presentations. All an insider has to do is make a call. That is the loophole we were trying to close.
    Mr. Bruce Carson, convicted fraud artist and personal friend of the Prime Minister, got into the Prime Minister's Office. How did he get past the Privy Council or anybody around the Prime Minister? It should have sounded alarm bells. Fraudsters should not be put in the position of having the ear of the Prime Minister. Then he stepped out. Once again, it is the issue of the revolving door, which we have tried to close as the lobbying loophole, so that people cannot just step outside and then call back in to their former pals inside. The closing of the revolving door is an important recommendation that we put forward to make sure that door stays closed, but it did not stay closed in the case of Bruce Carson.

  (1010)  

    He and his girlfriend tried to cash in through their friends in Indian Affairs. They were trying to call the former Indian Affairs minister to say, “Hey, we have a deal for you.” What was at stake was over $250 million, so they would have made a cool $25 million. There is no real incentive for this illegal lobbyist to cough up.
     This was another recommendation that the New Democrats brought forward and that the Conservatives opposed. We feel it is really important that the lobbying commissioner have the authority to be able to charge fines to those who do not follow the rules.
     This is not to say that she is going to be going after all the honest lobbyists who are doing their run-of-the-mill jobs. It is about the illegal lobbyists. If they stand to make $25 million, why would they come forward? This was all going to be done under the table. The Bruce Carson issue is certainly very disturbing.
    Another really concerning issue in terms of insider influence in lobbying is Mr. Nigel Wright, the now-disgraced adviser to the Prime Minister. We have Bruce Carson, convicted fraud artist, key adviser to the Prime Minister. He was involved, and now he is up on influence peddling charges. Now we have Mr. Nigel Wright, the other key adviser to the Prime Minister who is involved in his own ethical problems with lobbying.
    It is really important to look at this in terms of what has happened with Mr. Nigel Wright now. Mr. Nigel Wright is very well known in the business community, and that is perfectly fair. He is extremely close to Barrick Gold, extremely close to Barrick founder Peter Munk and a very close friend of Anthony Munk, his son.
    Mr. Wright worked with Anthony Munk on Onex Corporation, the private equity investment giant. He took a leave of absence from that portfolio to go and work for the Prime Minister.
    He was also on the board of directors of the Aurea Foundation, a charitable foundation set up by Peter Munk. Peter Munk has said that he would rank Nigel Wright among the mere handful of people he has met in whom he has complete trust. Have I also mentioned that he is the godfather to Anthony Munk's son? This guy is like family.
    The Conservatives were telling us that Nigel Wright is as straight as they come in terms of ethics and that we would never have to worry about Nigel Wright. In April 2012, our Prime Minister was down in South America. He was at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia in mid-April. Our Prime Minister, of course, likes to decide that he is a mini-Maggie Thatcher sometimes, so he stepped out at this conference and started shooting his mouth off about the Malvinas.
    One has to wonder what the Prime Minister was thinking, going down to South America and deciding that he was going to start to wave Maggie Thatcher's legacy on the Falkland-Malvinas situation. He upset the Argentinians terribly. The Argentinians were very upset, and the president of Argentina asked herself what she was even doing there, listening to this guy. Then she left and started putting the screws to Canadian businesses in Argentina as a result of our Prime Minister, “Mr. I-know-everything-about-the-world, but I do not have any of the power to back it up”.
    One of the screws they started to put was to Barrick, which had a multi-billion-dollar gold operation that it was trying to get off the ground in Argentina. However, thanks to our Prime Minister and his decision to be a mini-Union Jack, Argentina was putting the screws to Barrick.
    What did the Barrick people do? They called Nigel Wright. They called right into the Prime Minister's Office, because they knew Nigel Wright.
    The Lobbying Act and the conflict of interest guidelines are really clear. No one is supposed to be able to just call their insider friends and say, “Fix it”. Barrick called, not once, not twice, but three times. There was a meeting set up. There were phone calls made. Nigel Wright was the point person, the man who is the godfather to Peter Munk's grandson, the man whom Peter Munk said he trusts, out of a mere handful of people in whom he has complete trust.
    Nigel Wright was playing this role of friend of the Munks, friend of Barrick Gold and insider to the Prime Minister. That is not the way ethical government is supposed to run. This is a government that promised government was not going to be run on who people know in the PMO.
    If the alarm bells had gone off at that time, we might not be in the trouble we are in now with Mr. Wright, who may have written an illegal $90,000 cheque that contravenes the Parliament of Canada Act.

  (1015)  

    Under the Parliament of Canada Act, anyone who offers compensation to a senator in a controversy before the Senate has committed an indictable offence. We are talking about a crime being committed out of the Prime Minister's Office.
    We have a former criminal, Mr. Bruce Carson, who was in the Prime Minister's Office. We have Mr. Nigel Wright. Alarm bells should have been going off because of his role with Barrick and his insider influence in the Prime Minister's Office. Now we have found out that he has written a secret cheque to cover off a political scandal. Why was that cheque written? Senator Tkachuk said that the political scandal was hurting the Prime Minister, so once again Nigel Wright started to make calls. Instead of receiving the calls, he was making the calls. He was making the calls to the Senate, which is completely inappropriate.
    I have never had a lot of respect for what happens in the Senate, but the one thing I do respect is the separation of powers. However, we see that it is the Prime Minister's right hand calling the Senate to find out how they are going to shut down this problem. Senator Tkachuk dutifully changed an in camera report to protect Mike Duffy, and Nigel Wright cut the $90,000 secret cheque.
    We have been looking at the issue of gifts under the Lobbying Act and Conflict of Interest Act guidelines. The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is actually saying that we need to drop the level of gifts to $50. Of course, the Conservatives are hacking and coughing, because they are going to receive only $50 gifts. What an outrage. The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and the Commissioner of Lobbying have spoken about the issue of gifts and the influence gifts have.
    When the Commissioner of Lobbying talks about gifts, I am sure she is thinking about box tickets to the Rogers Centre, like our friend from the St. Catharines area received, or perhaps an expensive bottle of wine. No one is thinking about $90,000 even coming close to being a gift. In most places, $90,000 would seem like a bribe. It is pretty staggering that the Conservatives would consider $90,000 a gift.
    Under the Lobbying Act and the Conflict of Interest Act, there are clear rules about accepting gifts. Gifts have to be reported. This is the other interesting thing that needs to be addressed. Mike Duffy pocketed the $90,000 and apparently told the Senate, “Do not worry. I went to the bank and got a loan”. If this were perfectly on the up and up, why would he not just say that he called his friend Nigel Wright? This man is a paragon of virtue. He wants to help the poor downtrodden trough-eaters. If one is on the streets and is one of those senators who has not been able to get the latest bottle of champagne, here is Nigel Wright who walks along and says, “Do not worry, because at my table, a place is set for you, and here is your $90,000”.
    If Nigel Wright were doing that as his sense of public duty, the Conservatives would be crowing about it. These are not people who are quiet. No, that did not happen.
    This is again an issue under the Lobbying and Conflict of Interest Acts, because gifts have to be reported. They pretended on the government side all last week that this was a gift and an attempt to be ethical. I thought I heard the word “heroic” used. That was some heroic gift. A $90,000 secret payout was somehow heroic for the Conservatives. It was honourable, heroic and ethical, and now it is “disappointing”.
     If one reads the Conflict of Interest Act or the Lobbying Act, it is not disappointing to cut secret $90,000 cheques; it is illegal. There are reasons it is illegal to pay off politicians. There is a reason rules are put in place.
    There are numerous other examples from the government showing why we need to clarify the Lobbying Act. This is interesting. We have studied the Lobbying Act and the Conflict of Interest guidelines, because there are actually two different sets of rules. There are the rules that cover the lobbyists, and those who are lobbied have a different set of rules.
    The present Minister of Labour was in a little foofaraw of her own when a number of lobbyists started selling tickets for her fundraiser. These are major ethical issues. It is not as though lobbyists just showed up at her fundraiser, because that happens when a fundraiser is held and people buy tickets. Everyone cannot be screened. However, lobbyists were taking her tickets and selling them. Of course, these guys were in the cement industry, and they thought this was a good way to curry some favour with the minister.

  (1020)  

    The Commissioner of Lobbying found that these three lobbyists had breached the act. Karen Shepherd said that in the three cases, the lobbyists were in breach of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct. She concluded that Bruce Rawson did not register lobbying activity on behalf of two clients. The commissioner found that Will Stewart and Mike McSweeney created an apparent conflict of interest by conducting fundraising activities for a federal cabinet minister whose department they were lobbying.
    Our present minister is the one who was hiding in a sleeping bag. When they invited him out to a major weekend to discuss major deals, he went off and slept in his sleeping bag. I was thinking that he must have been the only guy who ever went to that mansion and brought a sleeping bag. However, that was his line. We were supposed to fall for that. He was in his sleeping bag. He was not being lobbied.
     Karen Shepherd found that these guys were selling tickets to her political fundraiser. I am sorry. They cannot walk around saying, “Hi. We are friends of the minister. Will you give us 250 bucks?” and then go to the minister and say, “Listen. We sold all these tickets for you. Things should be cool. Let us sit down and maybe talk about our plan”.
    We have rules about that. Canadians are fed up with this kind of backroom buddy system that has fed and nurtured the Conservative Party for so long.
    The interesting thing is that these two men were found to be in breach of the Lobbying Act, yet the minister was under the conflict of interest guidelines, and she was cleared.
    If I am the lobbyist who sold tickets to her fundraiser and was smacked, I would think, “Wait a minute. I sold the tickets for her. She collected the money. She is in the clear. I am not. Why is that?” I am sure the folks back home are wondering the same thing. It is because we have different rules for ministers than we have for lobbyists. Under the rules for ministers, she did not personally benefit. They did not buy her a car; they paid for her political fundraising.
    Now, the lobbying commissioner has been very clear. There are problems with this view, because there is the issue of apparent conflict of interest. The government likes just the words “conflict of interest”.
    The issue of apparent conflict of interest is very important. What we are talking about is that because she did not exactly personally gain from the fact that her riding association was raising money to get her re-elected, the Conflict of Interest Commissioner said that she did not know if she exactly received a benefit. That leaves me scratching my head. Politics is about political favours being paid at these fundraisers. The lobbying commissioner was really clear that the minister was receiving a benefit.
    As New Democrats, we have asked the government to work with us to clear up this loophole. Let us ensure that we have a clear set of rules so that the issue of “apparent” is added to the guidelines for conflict of interest. Ministers would be responsible if people were selling tickets to their fundraisers. That is the issue.
    We are not going to do “gotcha” moments and go back over their fundraising lists. Certain people do pay in. Sometimes it is rather sketchy. They were selling the tickets.
    We see the difference in the government now. When it came in in 2005-2006, I remember the present foreign affairs minister saying that they were going to shine the light into the dark places. He said that one day when I was asking him questions about the infamous Bev Oda.
    Now, Bev Oda crossed as many lines as one could cross. The very first line Bev Oda crossed was before she was the heritage minister. At that time, major reviews were going on before the CRTC. Some of her friends in the broadcast industry held a fundraiser for her in their office. They held the fundraiser. They sold the tickets, and she collected the money. The present Minister of Foreign Affairs made her give the money back. That was the Conservatives in 2006. He said that they were going to shine the light into the dark places.
    Going forward to 2013, we do not ever hear about them shining lights anywhere anymore. In fact, they are systematically taking the light bulbs out of Ottawa and making this place as dark as it can be. Folks watching from back home are going to see that our Prime Minister has been skipping out, hiding out, refusing to answer questions on Nigel Wright. Nigel Wright has gone for the high jump. One has to run after him at four in the morning to try to get him while he is jogging to get an honest answer, and we still are not getting an answer.
    They are taking the light bulbs out, when they promised to shine a light on the darkness in their activities. This is why the New Democrats have pushed the issue of lobbying and conflict of interest.

  (1025)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Timmins—James Bay for the points he has just made. I was elected following that election of 2005-2006, and I recall the promises that were made. In fact, my own election occurred because there were questions raised about the previous member. We talked about honesty. We talked about shining that light in those places it needed to be. What I would call into question now are the activities of the government.
    One of the questions the hon. member raised concerning Mr. Carson, Mr. Wright, Pamela Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau was with regard to the vetting of those particular individuals. If we are to shine a light on anything, we have to shine a light on the vetting process and the very clear errors in that process. We had a DUI case and previous assault involved. It is very clear that there was no honest vetting done. That calls into question the relationship between the PMO or the Prime Minister and these individuals. Why would they bypass it?
    Here in the House we have had debate shut down 36 times. We cannot talk about issues in an upfront way and place before Canadians the concerns we have.
    I would ask the member to comment on that lack of a vetting process.
    Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question, because what we are talking about here, as the stench of corruption is now coming right out of the Prime Minister's Office, is the incompetence around the Prime Minister and his fundamental lack of judgment.
     On December 22, 2008, a day that will go down in infamy for really dumb pork-barrel decisions, the Prime Minister chose Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau. At the time, it was known that both Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy were not even eligible to sit in the Senate. That was no problem for the Prime Minister. He has never paid much attention to those things. The other red flag was Patrick Brazeau. There were numerous red flags around Patrick Brazeau, and they were raised. There were issues of misspending and sexual harassment. At the time, the Prime Minister's Office said that anyone who had a problem with Patrick Brazeau was a political ankle biter. The Conservatives stood by him and sent him out on the fundraising circuit. Then when they dumped him under the bus, they said they were disappointed.
    Just two weeks ago, the Prime Minister stood and praised Mike Duffy for showing leadership. Here is a guy who refused to pay any money back and received a secret payout from the Prime Minister's Office, and they said that was leadership.
    Just a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister stood in the House and said that he personally reviewed Pamela Wallin's expenses and would stand by them. I am very interested to see what her expenses say, because this is about the judgment of the Prime Minister.
    I did not even get to Bruce Carson, the convicted fraud artist the Prime Minister hired.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for his speech because I believe that it is indeed important.
     However, I was one of those people who campaigned in 2006 and were defeated because the Conservatives went around everywhere presenting themselves as the white knights of transparency, honesty and the right way of doing politics. When I look at what is happening now, it feels like déjà vu, except that we are dealing with a different political party. Before, it was the Liberals, now it is the Conservatives.
     I am surprised by the silence on the benches around and behind the Prime Minister. For the most part, those people went into politics because they believed they would do things differently.
     By doing nothing more than applauding for the Prime Minister, are they not complicit in his incompetence, to say the least?

  (1030)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I remember being in the House with my hon. colleague when she was on the Liberal side. At that time we were on the New Democrat side. We watched as the Conservatives made that promise to Canadians that they would clean up Ottawa, and many Canadians thought that they would, because certainly people were disgusted with the kind of corruption that had gone on under the Liberal watch over 13 years.
    What we are seeing here is different. We are talking about corruption that is coming out directly from the Prime Minister's Office. They are not rogue operators, not people who are on the sidelines working for the party; these are people within the Prime Minister's Office. This is where the corruption is coming out.
    I look at some of the Conservative backbenchers who still believe in ethics, and they are scratching their heads alongside the rest of Canada, wondering it how was that a Prime Minister who promised so clearly that he would clean up Ottawa allowed himself to be surrounded by the same kind of insiders and decided that he would start defending the perks and entitlements of people like Mike Duffy rather than defending the interests of the taxpayers.
    I think most Canadians are certainly let down. If I were a Reform Party Conservative, I would be very let down at this point, because the stench and the corruption that is coming from the Prime Minister's Office needs to be answered. Hiding out in Peru or hiding over in Langevin Block on a Monday, not showing up for work and leaving the backbench of the Conservative Party to explain to their people why their government is now the most corrupt government in Canadian history is certainly a sad situation.
    Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague from Timmins—James Bay has pointed out, this is also a question of judgment. It is a question of the judgment of the Prime Minister.
    I think it is worth noting that while scandals are engulfing the government, another close ally to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance is also engulfed in his own scandals, and that is the mayor of Toronto.
    I am wondering if my hon. colleague could comment on whether it is important to draw that connection and remind Canadians that indeed the mayor and the Prime Minister are political allies and friends, and whether he may find it useful to remind Canadians that this is a question of judgment on the part of the Prime Minister.
    Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting that the first time Rob Ford got himself into trouble was on the issue of lobbying. He was misusing his office for lobbying for his pet project. It was amazing that the right-wing base attacked people who stood up on integrity, and said that it was no big deal that he was breaking the rules because he was Rob Ford. That is the right-wing mentality. As long as they break the rules it is okay. If anyone else breaks the rules, they will throw the book at them.
    We are seeing a Prime Minister who closely allied himself with Rob Ford and Doug Ford. I have to say, being in this House, I am certainly glad I am taking on Mike Duffy right now and not Doug Ford, because otherwise I might be swimming with the fishes.
    The issue is that these people have brought their office down to a level of degradation that is humiliating. There is a level of honour that a person has to have as a public official, regardless of political background. People have to have a sense of honour and code, that they are there to represent the people and not turn it into this barbaric circus of meanness and snideness and insider influence.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague raised a very interesting point. He spoke about actual conflict of interest as opposed to apparent or perceived conflict of interest. What is odd is that conflict of interest itself is a perception. The very existence of the term is a matter of perception.
     I can accept a very expensive gift, but even if I do not change my opinion about an issue there is a perception that the gift could influence me. The government does not seem to understand that. Even though we consider ourselves honest and capable of making decisions without being influenced by all the friends and other people who come to the office—that point was clearly made by my colleague—there is still that perception.
     I would like him to comment further on the fact that it is about time the Conservatives understood that conflict of interest is real, even though they are telling us not to worry, there is no conflict of interest. As long as the perception remains, Canadians cannot trust the Conservatives.

  (1035)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the issue of the apparent conflict of interest when we are dealing with public duties is very important. This is the standard the public expects us to have.
    We will make mistakes. Everyone in this House will make mistakes over the years. Some of them will be issues of judgment. We cannot be on top of everything at all times. We have to take responsibility for our mistakes, number one, but we also have to understand that even if we think it is sort of okay, maybe it is loosey-goosey or maybe other people do it, the issue is the appearance. If there is an appearance of a conflict of interest, that is the standard that they are bound by.
    We have seen with the government that it has set this limbo bar of ethic accountability and it keeps lowering it each time. As long as one of the government members can slip under that bar, it says that is the standard.
    That is not the standard of ethics that this Prime Minister promised. He promised to set a clear standard, and that standard is, when there is an apparent conflict of interest, if it looks like it is wrong, it is wrong.
    It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings on the motion at this time. Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, the debate is deemed adjourned.

[Translation]

    Accordingly, the debate on the motion will be rescheduled for another sitting. The House will now continue with the remaining business under routine proceedings.

[English]

Petitions

Abortion  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by more than 500 Canadian residents who are calling upon the House of Commons and Parliament to enact legislation that restricts abortion to the greatest extent possible.

Nuclear Fuel Processing Licence  

    Mr. Speaker, several months ago now, the members of my community in Davenport awoke to the news that for 50 years, there had been a nuclear processing facility operating in close proximity, in fact right across the road from many of my residents of my community, and no one knew of its existence. Whereas the licence for this nuclear facility clearly stated that they were to have pursued a comprehensive public engagement program with the community, this has never been done.
    This petition calls on the government to reopen the licence so the community can have its due say and follow due course in this process.

Search and Rescue  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition on behalf of a number of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They are raising concerns about the closing of the Canadian Coast Guard Maritime Rescue sub-centre based in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, and asking that the centre be reopened, its staff reinstated and full services restored.
    This is a matter that has long been outstanding. People have not forgotten the government has been downgrading search and rescue services across the country.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 1283, 1286, 1288, 1291, 1294, 1297 and 1299.

[Text]

Question No. 1283--
Mr. Nathan Cullen:
     With regard to the government’s Special Federal Representative on West Coast Infrastructure: (a) what are the terms of reference for the Special Representative's mandate; and (b) what is the Special Representative's budget?
Mr. David Anderson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board, CPC):
     Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the special federal representative’s mandate can be found on the Privy Council Office’s website at http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/oic-ddc.asp?lang=eng&Page=secretariats &txtOICID=&txtFromDate=2013-03-15&txtToDate=2013-03-31&txtPrecis=Special+Federal+Representative &txtDepartment=&txtAct=&txtChapterNo=&txtChapterYear=&txtBillNo=&rdoComingIntoForce =&DoSearch=Search+%2F+List&viewattach=27554&blnDisplayFlg=1.
    With regard to (b), the special federal representative on west coast energy infrastructure will be paid a per diem within the range of $1,200–$1,400. Support will be provided by Natural Resources Canada using existing resources.
Question No. 1286--
Mr. Marc Garneau:
     With regard to the required public consultation process by Canada Post following the announcement of the possible closure of a post office location: (a) how many times has the public consultation process taken place with citizen input received and responded to by mail, email or attendance at a public meeting; and (b) on how many occasions, after public consultation, has action resulted in an outcome other than the closure of a location?
Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Transport), CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), since the implementation of the Canadian Postal Service Charter in September 2009, the public consultation process has taken place 33 times.
    With regard to (b), after public consultation, action has resulted in an outcome other than the closure of a location on zero occasions.
    Canada Post regularly reviews its network of post offices to address issues such as population, housing and business development, as well as the shopping patterns of Canadians and finding ways to improve operations, enhance the customer experience, remain competitive and provide relevant postal service for all Canadians.
    As part of the public consultation process, Canada Post carefully reviews all the feedback received as well as surrounding postal network coverage before making a final decision. The ultimate goal is to ensure the service Canada Post is providing is appropriate and meets its customers’ postal needs.
Question No. 1288--
Mr. Matthew Kellway:
     With regard to the section of the Economic Action Plan 2013 starting on page 106 entitled “Creating Jobs by Building Equipment for the Canadian Armed Forces in Canada” and the estimate quoted in this section from the February 2013 Jenkins report of $49 billion in Industrial and Regional Benefits (IRB) obligations that foreign prime contractors are expected to accumulate as a result of defence procurements by 2027: (a) does the government concur with the estimate of $49 billion in IRB obligations as a result of defence procurements by 2027; (b) if not, what is the government’s estimate of IRB obligations as a result of defence procurements by 2027; (c) what specific defence procurements does the government’s estimate of IRB obligations pertain to; (d) for each specific defence procurement included in the government’s estimate of IRB obligations, what is the estimated dollar value (i) of the acquisition, (ii) of operation and maintenance, (iii) of total life-cycle costs, (iv) of the expected IRB obligations; and (e) what documents, reports, or other relevant information were provided by the government in the drafting of the February 2013 Jenkins report with regard to the planned acquisitions?
Hon. Rona Ambrose (Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the Government of Canada is committed to working with Canada’s defence-related industries to better leverage military procurements in support of Canadian jobs, economic growth and the competitiveness of these industries, particularly in regard to innovation and technology development. With this objective in mind, it has received the Jenkins report, including the industrial and regional benefits, IRB, context described therein. It is currently examining the various recommendations and supporting analyses.
    The Jenkins report provides an overview of potential economic opportunities related to planned major acquisitions under the Canada First defence strategy. In support of this analysis, the report estimated that $49 billion in IRB obligations will accumulate by 2027.
    As indicated in annex 3 of the Jenkins report, this estimate was calculated based on two key elements: data on planned major acquisitions and current IRB obligations, which was sourced from the Department of National Defence and Industry Canada, and assumptions that were based on observed patterns from past defence acquisitions projects.
    As noted in the Jenkins report, the resulting estimate of $49 billion could only be considered as a rough estimate given substantial uncertainty on the annual rate of IRB fulfillment over the planning period of 2012-2027.
    The validity of the estimate, and its interpretation, must therefore be understood within that context. At this time, and subject to the context, purposes and assumptions of the Jenkins report, this estimate is deemed to be reasonable.
    With regard to (b), IRB obligations are part of contractual commitments, and for projects already under contract, specific obligations are listed on the IRB website at http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/042.nsf/eng/h_00017.html.
    As IRB obligations apply only to contract values rather than project values and will form part of any negotiated contracts, the government cannot determine IRB obligations that will apply to planned procurements. Therefore, the government cannot provide an estimate of IRB obligations that will be accumulated by 2027.
    With regard to (c), as per the response to part (b), the government cannot provide an estimate of IRB obligations that will be accumulated by 2027.
    With regard to (d), as per the response to part (b), the government cannot provide an estimate of IRB obligations that will be accumulated by 2027.
    With regard to (e), two lists related to planned acquisitions were provided: Capital Equipment--Future Procurement--Beyond 2016, and Capital Equipment--Potential Contract Awards--Short Term, 2013-2015 estimated.
     These lists were prepared by the Department of National Defence and were valid as of October 2012.
Question No. 1291--
Ms. Megan Leslie:
     With regard to fossil fuels: (a) who has overall responsibility within the government for monitoring and reporting on Canada’s progress against the G-20 commitment to rationalize inefficient fossil fuel subsidies; and (b) what steps has the government taken to ensure that support of the fossil fuel sector is not contradicting or impeding policy objectives related to the environment and sustainable development?
Hon. Ted Menzies (Minister of State (Finance), CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the Department of Finance has overall responsibility within the government for monitoring and reporting on Canada’s progress against the G20 commitment to rationalize inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
    With regard to (b), first and foremost, not only has the government never introduced any tax incentive favouring the oil and gas sector, but it has also formally committed to rationalize and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies along with other G20 countries.
    In support of that commitment, the government announced in 2007 and 2011 the phase-out of all tax preferences for oil sands producers relative to the conventional oil and gas sector. Indeed, due to the government’s action, the Income Tax Act does not include any tax preference specific to oil sands producers. As part of Economic Action Plan 2012, the government continued Canada’s efforts to meet our G20 commitment by phasing out the Atlantic investment tax credit for the oil and gas and mining sectors.
    Moreover, the oil and gas sector faces the exact same general corporate income tax rate as all other sectors of the economy. Each year, the oil and gas sector pays billions of dollars in taxes, tax revenue used by governments to pay for health care and other social programs that Canadian families depend on. Furthermore, the oil and gas sector plays an important role in our economy, providing job opportunities for Canadians in communities across the country. The government will continually look for ways to further support global environmental commitments and eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
    Beyond the government’s recent steps outlined above to remove fossil fuel subsidies available in the oil and gas industry, it is also taking action through the tax system to encourage clean energy investments. Principally, the government has extended and expanded the scope of the accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation equipment in recent years.
    For instance, in 2011 the government expanded the incentive to include equipment that generates clean electricity using waste heat, while in 2012 it expanded the incentive to include a broader range of bioenergy equipment. Building on these measures, Economic Action Plan 2013 further expands eligibility for the incentive by including a broader range of biogas production equipment and equipment used to treat gases from waste.
Question No. 1294--
Mr. Ryan Cleary:
     With regard to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans: (a) how many commercial salmon licence holders remain in Newfoundland and Labrador; (b) when was the last time a buyout for commercial salmon licenses was instituted; (c) what has been the total cost to date of commercial salmon licence buyouts for the East coast of Canada by province; (d) is the department considering another buyout; and (e) what is the likelihood that the commercial salmon fishery will reopen?
Hon. Keith Ashfield (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):
     Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), there are 57 licence holders remaining in Newfoundland and Labrador whose licences were never retired.
     With regard to (b), the last commercial salmon licence retirement programs were announced in 1998, for northern Labrador and Quebec.
    With regard to (c), the federal government offered a series of salmon licence retirement programs for Atlantic Canada and Quebec dating back to the early 1980s. The federal government spent $53 million to retire commercial Atlantic salmon licences. The costs were as follows: Newfoundland and Labrador--$41,700,000; Nova Scotia--$3,500,000; Prince Edward Island--$52,000; New Brunswick--$4,700,000; and Quebec--$2,900,000.
    With regard to (d), there are no further salmon licence retirement programs planned for any part of Atlantic Canada or Quebec.
    With regard to (e), no opening of the commercial salmon fishery is planned at this time.
Question No. 1297--
Mr. Hoang Mai:
    With regard to new bridges over the St. Lawrence river: (a) what is the specific purpose of the $14 million in table 3.3.2 of Budget 2013 and what is the breakdown of the costs; and (b) with respect to the $124.9 million to build a bridge-causeway between Nun's Island and the Island of Montreal in Chapter 3.3 of Budget 2013, what is the breakdown of the cost?
Hon. Denis Lebel (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the $14 million identified in table 3.3.2 of budget 2013 reflects accrual costs of the temporary bridge-causeway to replace the Nuns’ Island Bridge. The total costs of the bridge-causeway construction, $124.9 million, will be amortized linearly over the expected lifespan of the bridge-causeway.
    With regard to (b), the preliminary breakdown of the $124.9 million to build the temporary bridge-causeway cannot be shared at this time as the breakdown reflects the value of contracts to be awarded through public tenders. Sharing the breakdown at this point would jeopardize the upcoming competitive processes.
Question No. 1299--
Mr. Scott Simms:
     With respect to Canada’s National Parks: (a) what is each park’s specific set of policies on the use of snowmobiles and other motorised off-road vehicles within the park’s boundaries; (b) for what reason is each policy in place; and (c) what studies have been conducted on any economic, environmental, cultural, or other effects of these vehicles within the parks, when used both within and outside the bounds of the policies?
Hon. Peter Kent (Minister of the Environment, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a) and (b), use of snowmobiles and other motorized off-road vehicles is restricted in Canada's national parks, except in specific circumstances where use associated with law enforcement, public safety or other administrative activities may be permitted, where use is associated with traditional aboriginal harvesting activities, where there are specific provisions permitting use within a park establishment agreement, and where limited area-specific recreational use of snowmobiles may be permitted.
    Use of snowmobiles and other motorized off-road vehicles is subject to the provisions of the National Parks Highway Traffic Regulations and must be conducted in accordance with legislative requirements outlined in the Canada National Parks Act and the Species at Risk Act. Additionally, use must adhere to direction within the corresponding national park’s management plan, including zoning.
    With regard to (c), all use of snowmobiles and other motorized off-road vehicles within national parks is conducted in accordance with national park legislation, regulations and operational policies where, if permitted, such use is deemed to not adversely affect wildlife, vegetation or terrain. Prior to permission being granted for such use, background studies are undertaken to assess wildlife, ecosystem and cultural resources considerations to ensure that there are no adverse environmental or cultural effects associated with the proposed activity.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 1278, 1295 and 1298 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed

[Text]

Question No. 1278--
Hon. Ralph Goodale:
     With regard to infrastructure in Labrador: (a) has the federal government at any time since January 1, 2009, received from the government of Newfoundland and Labrador any proposals, requests, or other documentation in support of funding for the following projects or proposals, namely (i) Nain Airport, (ii) Port Hope Simpson Airport, (iii) other airports or airstrips in Labrador, specifying which airports or airstrips, (iv) a new ferry or ferries for the Strait of Belle Isle ferry service, (v) a feasibility study concerning the construction of a highway from central to northern Labrador; (b) when did the federal government receive any proposals, requests or documentation referred to in (a); (c) which department or departments have received any proposals, requests or documentation referred to in (a); (d) what federal funding share is the provincial government seeking on the part of the federal government in respect of the projects or proposals enumerated in (a); and (e) what has been the response of the relevant federal government department to each of the projects or proposals enumerated in (a)?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1295--
Mr. Ryan Cleary:
     With regard to Transport Canada and Marine Atlantic Incorporated: (a) by how much has the price of a round-trip ferry crossing, both personal and commercial, increased since 1986 for both the Argentina to North Sydney and the Port-aux-Basques to North Sydney runs; (b) what were the increases on a yearly basis from 1986 to 2013 for personal and commercial crossings for both the Argentina to North Sydney and the Port-aux-Basques to North Sydney runs; (c) what other fees have been added to both commercial and personal ferry crossing fares between 1986 and 2013; and (d) how many days were the new vessels the MV Blue Puttees and MV Highlander docked due to weather during the 2011-2012 season?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1298--
Mr. Brian Masse:
     With regard to the automotive and manufacturing industry in Canada, what has the government done to attract new automotive and manufacturing investments since 2006?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
    The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking at third reading on Bill C-48. It is largely a housekeeping bill that implements technical matters that have been introduced previously. Most of the measures that are contained in this bill were recommended by the Auditor General.
    The Liberal Party supports Bill C-48 and we would like to see it passed quickly. The overarching theme of the bill is the need for clarity and certainty in the administration of Canadian law. That is certainly something that the Liberals support and we see it as an important function of the government in its service to Canadians.
    I would like to spend a bit of time speaking about how this bill and taxes, since the bill is about tax changes, are serving Canadians' needs. I would like to make some comments from my perspective, not only as the member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra, but also as a former businesswoman from a business that became international in its scope.
    As a business person for 25 years, my understanding of one of the key imperatives of service is to continually improve the quality of service to those we wish to serve. In business shorthand, we could say that people are looking for faster, cheaper and better service. Who would not want that? Who would not want the goods and services that are provided to them to be provided more quickly, in a less costly manner and at a higher standard of quality?
    Faster, cheaper and better are what people expect. Are we getting that from the Conservative government with respect to taxes and tax changes? Certainly, this bill is not an example of faster service. In fact, this is the third time that some elements of this technical tax bill have been introduced since 2001. It has taken far too long to bring this bill to the House. Some of these tax measures have languished in draft form for nearly a decade. For example, the provisions in part 3 of this bill, which deal primarily with reorganizations of and distributions from foreign affiliates, were first released on February 27, 2004 and we are now in May 2013.
    What happens when tax measures take such a long time? Many of these measures were introduced by the Conservative government a number of years ago. These measures were introduced with a great deal of fanfare and then never actually brought into force because of delays. It does bring the question: Why wait so many years and then lump everything together in this 955-page bill, rather than give the kind of certainty that citizens of this country deserve and expect?
    In fact, in meeting with the small business community as the critic for small business, I have heard feedback about the kinds of frustrations and costs that are incurred through not having had this bill earlier. There is a great deal of confusion when the government announces a certain tax change but does not actually take the steps to put forward the bill to make those changes law. The kinds of costs that small businesses will incur in having accounting and professional and legal consultations to help them understand the implications of these measures that have not actually been made into law are preventable. The bill could prevent confusion and expense for the business community. It has actually been a form of red tape on our small businesses that it has taken so long for the bill to be put forward.

  (1040)  

    Now that the bill has been put forward, I want to comment on the government's ability to apply its laws regarding taxes and to serve the needs of Canadians and small businesses with respect to the vast complexity of the tax regime in our country.
    The Conservative government tends to put forward literally dozens of boutique tax measures that are not supported as part of a clear, simple and effective tax system but more as tax measures that are clearly designed to attract votes from one segment of the population or another. As a result, we have a much more complex tax system than we had before.
    Does the Canada Revenue Agency have the resources to assist people in finding their way back to the quality improvement mantra of having faster, cheaper and better service? Is the government providing that to Canadians who are struggling with tax complexities? My answer would be no.

  (1045)  

[Translation]

    The overarching theme of the debate on Bill C-48 is the need for clarity and certainty in the administration of Canadian tax laws. However, the government's ability to respond to this major need is threatened by the Conservatives' cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency.
    The Conservatives targeted the CRA in budget 2012 by reducing the agency's funding by $253 million per year. In addition, budget 2013 provides for further cuts to the agency, amounting to $61 million per year. The cumulative cuts to the CRA therefore total $314 million annually.
    Even before the cuts were implemented, the CRA had trouble issuing advance tax rulings in a timely manner. The government's goal is to inform taxpayers of advance tax rulings within 60 days. This may be an acceptable timeframe, but the agency now needs 106 days, on average, to provide such rulings to taxpayers.

[English]

    We are seeing that the cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency are making its service far slower and certainly not faster, as we would expect in the business community. The business community expects an organization to continue to improve its service, so its service could be faster, cheaper and better. If the government had been providing service in private enterprise, it would have failed and gone out of business long ago because of these unfortunate reversals in the speed and effectiveness of service. We have now gone from 60 days to 106 days for serving customers' information needs with respect to changes in tax laws.
    I had meetings with former Yukon member of Parliament Larry Bagnell, who has been advocating for many years for services to citizens in Yukon. The one and only CRA office for Yukon used to be in Whitehorse, but that has been closed, so people living in Yukon no longer have a single agent to talk to in person when filing or asking questions about their taxes. How frustrating for people. That certainly is not better service; it is in fact far worse service.
    People can go online to try to connect with this huge agency and get service, but many people in Yukon do not have access to the equipment or the high broadband Internet to do that. Many would have to drive for many hours to get to a place where they could engage the CRA to help serve their information needs.
    I appreciate the work that our former colleague and MP, Larry Bagnell, has done on behalf of constituents in the Yukon. Even now that he is no longer a member of Parliament, he has become a voice for their needs.
    I am not sure where the current member for Yukon stands with respect to the closure of the CRA office in Whitehorse. I will not comment further on that. However, this does have huge implications for people, especially for low-income, less educated people living in remote communities and for seniors, all of whom used to use this business office on a regular basis.
    We have a pattern here of service not being faster but slower, and it certainly is not better. Is it cheaper?
     Taxes are important as part of a sustainable society. Canadians by and large accept that taxes are positive because they help to purchase public goods that we need for our society, whether those goods are environmental safeguards, programs that create equality of opportunity for Canadians, or tax regimes that reduce income inequality. “Taxes” is not a four-letter word to most Canadians.
    However, what Canadians expect and deserve is honesty from their government about their tax regime. They expect competence, transparency and honesty, but since 2010 there have been new, hidden tax increases that exceed the new reductions each and every year.
    That is not what the current government has been promoting in terms of its image to Canadians. The Conservatives have not been honest and forthcoming and transparent about the fact that they have been increasing taxes on Canadians each and every year since 2010, and these are not minor tax increases. In fact, if I go back to an analysis of these tax increases, we would see that in budget 2010 there was a set of tax increases. There was a set of tax decreases, of course, but the net impact would be to increase taxes by $729 million over five years from the measures announced in budget 2010. That is almost $1 billion in tax increases.
    Did the Prime Minister go forward and say this is how they are going to pay for goods and services, by increasing our taxes? I did not hear that from the Prime Minister, nor did I hear that in the budget speech from the Minister of Finance.
    As well, there are impacts on small businesses in each and every one of these years in terms of increased taxes, meaning less money in the pockets of the men and women in small business who are the engines of job creation in our economy.
    Let us look at budget 2011. In budget 2011, again there are hits on small business. In fact, the individual pension plan program is seeing, over five years, $75 million in reduced funds in the pockets of people who are utilizing that tax-planning tool. However, the key here is that the bottom line in budget 2011 is $2.168 billion in net tax increases over five years. It is over $2 billion.
    What about budget 2012? Here we saw a huge undermining of the well-being of the small-business community in terms of extra taxes on employees' profit-sharing plans and over $1 billion less in support for the research and investment tax credit, the SR and ED tax credit regime in this country. That is more than $1 billion taken out of the support that the government was providing for good public policy reasons.
     Why should government support scientific research and development? It is because scientific research and development provides, by and large, a public good. People in small business cannot afford to invest in research that soon becomes available to all of their competitors without having some support through this tax credit. That is how it is for the public good. The government supports something that becomes a benefit for all of society, and that is much of what happens with small business research and development.

  (1050)  

    However, that tax credit was reduced by over $1 billion for a net increase in taxes, as announced in the budget, of $3.547 billion. It is over $3 billion more out of the pockets of Canadians and small businesses, thanks to budget 2012.
    In budget 2013, once again we have tax increases that exceed the tax reductions, this time to the tune of $3.3 billion. This is a big-tax government.
     The challenge Canadians have in even understanding what the government is doing is that there is no transparency and no honesty here. There are hidden tax increases that now have a cumulative impact of almost $10 billion over the period covered by these announcements. It is cumulatively $10 billion dollars out of the pockets of Canadians and small businesses.
    Who knew that? This is something the government has kept hidden. Is that cheaper service? No, government is actually costing taxpayers almost $10 billion more cumulatively, without actually revealing that it is doing that.
    Why has the Conservative government felt a need to increase taxes with these incremental net increases of $10 billion, as I have laid out and as expressed in budgets 2010 to 2013? Could it be that since the Conservatives took office, annual federal spending under the Conservative government has risen to $280 billion, which is an increase of more than 30%? That is certainly not providing faster, cheaper and better service. It is very much more expensive service.
    This is a government that inherited a $13 billion budget surplus in early 2006, but within a matter of a few years we were running deficits, and the government continues to run an annual deficit this year of $26 billion. There may be a change when the budget is balanced, but it may take a long time.
    These tax increases hurt middle-class Canadians and small businesses. We have spoken at large and at length about the impact of the increase in tariffs on Canadians, which is driving them across the border to get goods cheaper. We have talked about how tax increases are hurting our tourism industry, an industry that used to be rated seventh among countries for international visits but that has dropped to 18th in international visits. This is hurting our tourism industry. We now have a $14 billion tourism deficit.
    There are many comments I could make about how these hidden tax increases have hurt our economy and our small businesses, but I will give one last indication of the impact this government has had on small business.
    In the last five years of the previous Liberal government, small and medium-sized businesses created over 460,000 jobs, but in the first five years under the Conservatives, the overall net number of jobs created by small and medium enterprises was negative. The number actually fell by 10,000 jobs.
     Therefore, we do not have faster, we do not have cheaper, and we certainly do not have better service from the Conservative government. In fact, the spending choices the government is making with these tax increases are not supported by Canadians. Economic action plan advertising alone has cost $113 million, and I know that Canadians would rather that money were used for student summer jobs. Every second these ads for the economic action plan air during Hockey Night in Canada is another second that another young Canadian does not get the support that he or she previously enjoyed to have a summer job. Every second we are losing a job for youth.
    I am happy to answer questions on how I see the government's spending choices as being part of this failure to provide faster, cheaper and better service to those the government was elected to serve, the Canadian people.

  (1055)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I take my role in the House very seriously. Earlier today, in discussion of the concurrence motion, I attempted to make humorous comments about the very serious situation facing the Ford administration in Toronto. That is simply not acceptable.
    I would like to retract those comments and apologize for making any unsubstantiated comments or potentially leaving a false impression regarding the very serious issues that are facing the City of Toronto and the Ford administration.

  (1100)  

    Mr. Speaker, my question relates to the member's comments on how the government's tax regime is affecting tourism.
     We have dropped from seventh or eighth place in the world as most visited by international visitors to 18th. We understand the cutbacks to the Canadian Tourism Commission have forced it to cut advertising for tourism in the United States, which is a major drawing market for us in Atlantic Canada. It will impact our tourism industry, our seasonal workers and our economy.
    Could the member elaborate further on how some of those hidden taxes by the government have impacted tourism? I know airport fees is one. What others might the member elaborate on?
    Mr. Speaker, this is certainly an example of worse service by the government.
    Tourism employees and owners across the country, including in my riding of Vancouver Quadra, are suffering from mismanagement by the government. As the member mentioned, there are high taxes on airports that are driving consumers to shop for flights in the United States, including from Vancouver Quadra. In Vancouver, Bellingham and Seattle are seen as frequent choices of where to fly from, rather than Vancouver airport.
    This has cost the Canadian economy 8,900 local jobs, $500 million in wages, over $1 billion in GDP and more than $2 billion in economic output. That is just the high taxes on airports.
    Surprisingly, we no longer provide a GST rebate to tourist visitors to Canada. Therefore, that makes us a higher-cost destination in another way. That is also deterring international visitors from coming to Canada.
    Why is the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism not defending this industry, which has been so mismanaged by the Conservative government?
    Mr. Speaker, we recognize that one of the driving forces in job creation is small businesses. Small businesses have the greatest potential in the generation of jobs and new employment.
     My question for my colleague is in regard to performance. We need to recognize that the Conservatives have failed in supporting small business, especially if we contrast that to the days of Paul Martin or Jean Chrétien when small business was a priority and its growth was encouraged, which led to the creation of tens of thousands of jobs.
    Things have changed under the Conservative-Reform government. Could my colleague provide some comment on just how things have changed?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's advocacy on behalf of small businesses in his community. Small businesses are a huge driver of the economy and the success of new Canadians who have come to Canada.
    I want to go back to my comments about taxes and if taxes are competently applied to the public good. Canadians, by and large, support contributing their share. At the same time, there are occasions when taxes need to be reduced.
     The small business tax rate, for example, under the Conservative government, has been reduced by only 1%, and a huge part of that 1% reduction is being clawed back through a small dividend tax credit change in the 2013 budget. Some $2.34 billion will come out of small business pockets due to this dividend tax credit change over the course of five years.
     How does that help small business owners reinvest in their companies, grow their companies and bring them up to technological advances? They will have $2.34 billion less to do that. This is in the context of a decrease in the large corporate tax rate from 22% down to 15%, at the cost of $60 billion, yet small business owners saw only a 1% reduction, which was then pretty much clawed back.

  (1105)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her contribution to this debate and ask her a very simple question.
    As members of Parliament, should we not be focusing on promoting a more regular process for this kind of modernization of the income tax laws? Indeed, perhaps we should reduce the scope of such bills by making more regular updates. Instead of waiting 10 or 13 years to modernize our laws, should we have a more regular process to ensure that parliamentarians do not always have to consider 950-page bills, as we are doing today?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his question.
    Clearly the current process is not working. I mentioned that in my comments.
    It has taken over 10 years to make a few changes to the Income Tax Act. There is indeed a need for a formal process, but what is at stake here is the government's competence. Usually, governments are more competent than this Conservative government. It is normal procedure to introduce a bill like this more often, say every two or three years, yet that has not happened for many years. This is not acceptable and has to improve.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on a few comments my colleague has made about the question of choices a government makes.
    In my riding of Ottawa South, there are 3,250 small businesses. They could have one, five or 50 employees, but they are the backbone of our local economy and the Canadian economy.
     I want to ask the member about the choice the government is making about advertising. One of the things I hear from small business owners is how offended they are when they see hundreds of millions of dollars of advertising on TV about some kind of economic action plan, yet their small business taxes are increasing.
    Could the member comment on that in terms juxtaposing the government's priorities, self-promotion versus helping to strengthen small businesses?
    Mr. Speaker, I concur 100% with my colleague's comment. Every day in my role as a small business advocate, I hear that these hundreds of millions of dollars of self-promotion are a grievous insult to the small business community. At the same time, we had the minister looking to put major new taxes and fees on small businesses in the historic Rideau Canal zone in the Ottawa area, which has since been reversed thanks to members such as that member, who spoke up on behalf of his constituents. That is just one example.
    Another example of the government taking money out of the pockets of small businesses while spending it on self-promoting ads is the increase in tariffs. This is a government that has set a priority that apparently does not include small business, which is the heart of our economy and our communities. It is difficult to understand why it does not get it.

  (1110)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this very important discussion today. I want to speak to the matter of taxes generally and why both tax legislation and a well-functioning tax system are so important to Canadians. Well-functioning is key, and I am very happy to hear my colleague across the way say a mere few minutes ago that it is not working the way it is, so I will appreciate her support of the bill when it comes to a vote.
    All of this is underlined in today's legislation, the technical tax amendments act, 2012. As most Canadians appreciate, creating jobs and growing our economy is top priority for our government and the main objective of Canada's economic action plan. Since being elected in 2006, our government has been working on a number of important fronts to create optimal conditions for sustained growth. Indeed, we are making it easier for Canadian employers and entrepreneurs to successfully compete in the global economy and to make it more attractive for others to invest in this country.
    The end goals here obviously are more jobs for Canadians and a healthy and thriving economy, and that “low tax in Canada” brand is getting noticed around the world. Indeed, here is what John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, a major global technology company, recently had to say about Canada's economic leadership on an American television program entitled Charlie Rose:
    The number one country in the world to do business is which one? It's Canada and that was a surprise to me when I first started seeing this occurring several years ago, but they have a government that partners with business to solve issues.... They are willing to work together to create an environment to say, “What does it take you to keep your jobs here or bring more jobs here?”
    Key among those strategies that we are employing is our government's low-tax plan for jobs and growth that has made Canada a great place to invest. It began in 2007, when our Conservative government passed a bold tax reduction plan that started us down the road to branding Canada as a low-tax jurisdiction for business investment. At the same time, our government also encouraged the provinces and territories to collaborate in supporting investment, job creation and growth in all sectors of the Canadian economy by establishing low combined federal-provincial corporate income tax rates.
    Today, we have made substantial progress toward that objective, which has lowered the federal business tax rate to 15%. Also, in 2012, the last of the provincial general capital taxes was eliminated. This follows the elimination in 2006 of the federal capital tax and the introduction in 2007 of a temporary financial incentive to encourage provinces to eliminate their general capital taxes.
    There are other key measures that we have taken since 2006 to fuel job creation and spur our economic growth. They include implementing a temporary hiring credit for small business to encourage additional hiring by this vital sector; reducing the small business tax rate to 11% and increasing the amount of income eligible for this rate to $500,000; supporting manufacturers by introducing a temporary accelerated capital cost allowance rate for investment in manufacturing or processing machinery and equipment, and extending it; eliminating tariffs on imported machinery and equipment and manufacturing inputs, to make Canada a tariff-free zone for industrial manufacturers by 2015; improving the ability of Canadian businesses to attract foreign venture capital by narrowing the definition of taxable Canadian property, thereby eliminating the need for tax reporting under section 116 of the Income Tax Act for many investments; and much, much more.
    The fact is that our government's low-tax plan is working, and the world is increasingly noticing, as the quote from John Chambers clearly indicated. As a result of these and other tax changes, Canada now has an overall tax rate on new business investment that is substantially lower than any other G7 country and below the average of the member countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. That is both an incredible achievement and a draw for investment. It has proven invaluable in helping Canada skirt the worst of the global recession.

  (1115)  

    Let me quote at length what the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters had to say about Canada's low-tax advantage and our Conservative government's business tax cuts, and I am quoting directly:
    If federal tax rates had not been reduced, Canada's unemployment rate would have exceeded nine per cent in 2009 during the recession. Today, our unemployment rate would be higher than that of the United States, with about 200,000 fewer Canadians working....
    Investment meanwhile has also increased. Canada's business sector invested $25 billion more in capital assets last year than in 2007, and $50 billion more than at the depth of the recession in 2009. Investment in industrial machinery and equipment, which has been given an additional boost by the rapid depreciation that the federal government has made available to manufacturers, has risen 12 per cent since 2007, and has jumped by 37 per cent since the end of the economic downturn....
    It's time we get the facts on the table. Business investment has been a key driver of economic and job growth over the past five years, and lower taxes have contributed significantly to that growth.
    This is a significant advantage for Canada in the global economy and will be a key contributor to Canada's long-term economic prosperity, and we are not going to stop there.
    Canada's economic action plan is continuing our efforts to preserve this country's advantage in the global economy, to strengthen the financial security of Canadian workers, seniors and families, and to provide the stability necessary to secure our recovery in an uncertain world. Canada weathered the global economic and financial crisis well compared to a lot of countries, particularly when we compare it to most other developed nations.
    As the Toronto Sun noted in a March 2013 article:
    Since the Tories took over, no other G-7 country has surpassed Canada in per capita job growth. Canada has added 1.5 million net jobs since 2006.
...Canada is in good shape compared to all the other industrialized countries of the West.
    Nevertheless, Canada is not immune to the global challenges that emanate from beyond our borders, especially in Europe and the United States.
    That is why I was extremely pleased to note that our government has stated clearly that this is not the time for dangerous new spending that would increase deficits or raise taxes, like those proposed by the NDP with its dangerous carbon tax proposal.
    We have heard time and time again in uncertain global economic times such as these that the most important contribution the government can make to bolster confidence and growth is to maintain our sound fiscal position. That means maintaining our focus on fostering prosperity for Canadians and their families by growing the economy and helping to create high-quality jobs. In other words, we have to do everything we can to keep taxes low for Canadian families and businesses and also make the tax system predictable for taxpayers. That is exactly what we would do through today's legislation, the technical tax amendments act, 2012.
    As members know, the Auditor General released her study in the fall of 2009 on the existing backlog of outstanding income tax legislation, a backlog that this legislation seeks to address. While outlining the delay in addressing the current backlog of outstanding income tax amendments, the Auditor General also made some important observations about the impact of not dealing with this issue in a timely manner, an impact with far-reaching implications.
    Among the many negative effects for taxpayers caused by the uncertainty of the backlog of outstanding income tax amendments, the Auditor General's report identified higher costs of obtaining professional advice to comply with tax law; less efficiency in doing business transactions; inability of publicly traded corporations to use proposed tax changes in their financial reporting, as they have not been substantively enacted; and increased willingness to engage in aggressive tax planning.
    Therefore, we will applaud this government for taking action to finally end this more than a decade-long backlog and the Office of the Auditor General for its report that really helped crystallize this issue for parliamentarians.

  (1120)  

    Furthermore, the Auditor General made a series of recommendations to help deal with this issue going forward, and as we stated at the outset, we agree with each of her recommendations.
    For instance, the Auditor General recommended that the Department of Finance use an integrated and consistent process for recording, tracking and prioritizing all technical issues for possible legislative amendment. We agreed, and we moved to consolidate the system of the Department of Finance for ensuring that technical issues are documented and catalogued consistently, and that this system is maintained and kept up to date.
    The Auditor General also recommended that the Department of Finance regularly develop and release draft technical amendments, including those that arise from comfort letters, so that taxpayers and tax practitioners know what changes will be made and can provide input. Again, we agreed, and we formally committed to bring technical amendment packages forward for consideration where appropriate, notwithstanding the fact that the prior technical amendments had not yet been adopted by Parliament.
    In fact, this past December, the Department of Finance released a package of draft legislative proposals for public comment relating to a number of technical changes to the Income Tax Act and the income tax regulations.
    Since there is only one level of taxpayer, we must work together to ensure Canada's taxpayers are treated with respect and taxes are kept low. An important way to keep taxes low is by returning to balanced budgets. We must recognize that balanced budgets are important for what they make possible and what they avoid.
    Reducing debt frees up tax dollars that would otherwise be absorbed by interest costs. These dollars can then be reinvested in the things that matter most to Canadians, including lower taxes. Reducing debt keeps interest rates low, encouraging businesses to create jobs and invest in the future. It preserves the gains made in Canada's low-tax plan, fostering the long-term growth that will create more and better paying jobs for Canadians.
    Canadian tax reductions that play an important role in supporting economic growth are those that enable businesses to invest more of their revenues in their operations. Such investments boost efficiency and productivity. It is this productivity growth that allows businesses to hire additional workers or offer higher wages in order to expand production and earn more profits.
    Our government is committed to lower taxes for all Canadians. That is why we have introduced broad-based tax relief, with more than 150 tax reductions such as lowering the GST from 7% to 6% to 5% and introducing the landmark tax-free savings account.
    Our strong record of tax relief is saving the typical Canadian family of four more than $3,200 each year. That is great news for Canada and great news for taxpayers. When we make these cuts, not every taxpayer benefits, but when we get an overall average savings of $3,200 per year, that means a lot to young families especially, and I have a lot of those in my riding, as many members do.
    What is more—as is demonstrated in today's legislation, the technical tax amendments act, 2012—our government has been aggressive in closing tax loopholes used by a small group of taxpayers to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. I even hear there are some people in this House who have been using those loopholes. We will close them.
    Ensuring tax fairness helps keep taxes low for all Canadians and their families, not only a select few. This is very important and reflects the feedback we have received from Canadians, who have consistently told us that they want a tax system that is both simpler to understand and comply with and ensures everyone pays their fair share of the national tax bill.
    That is exactly what our government would deliver with this legislation. Put simply, this legislation would help ensure everyone is treated equitably under our tax laws.
    Among the measures in the bill are enhancements to the Income Tax Act to better target and simplify rules relating to non-resident trusts. There are also modifications to rules to simplify and make more equitable the taxation of Canadian multinational corporations that have foreign affiliates.
    In short, this legislation would close tax loopholes, crack down on tax avoidance and create greater fairness for all taxpayers.

  (1125)  

    I want to reiterate and stress in no uncertain terms tax fairness is a basic principle that our government is committed to upholding. We are proud to build upon it here today. I hope my friends across the way share our commitment. Who among us could oppose action to improve the integrity and fairness of the tax system? Who among us would oppose closing loopholes that allow a few businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax? No one on this side of the House.
    In all fairness, no one likes to pay taxes, but anyone who looks at it with a dose of reality at all realizes that without taxes we could not enjoy our standard of living, health care and all the things that sometimes we all take for granted.
    Since 2006, our government has introduced more than 75 measures to close tax loopholes and ensure that taxes are fair for all. By ensuring this integrity, we help make our tax system even more attractive for new business investment, which is a key goal of our government. The fact is that we want to make sure the world knows that Canada is open for business and is the best place to invest.
    In closing, tax reductions brought in by our government are allowing individuals and families to keep more of their hard-earned money and are improving incentives to work, to save and to invest, while also contributing to the government's long-term economic agenda. What is more, once the federal budget returns to balance, we have committed to building on our record with additional broad-based tax relief.
    Ensuring tax fairness through today's legislation helps keep taxes low for all Canadians and their families. This will help keep our economy strong and lead to a better quality of life for every Canadian. I encourage all members to support the legislation before us today and to help create a better tax system and greater fairness for all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague across the floor talked about creating jobs here in Canada. Jobs for whom? Are they jobs for temporary foreign workers? How many jobs were created for temporary foreign workers last year?
    I know my colleague is not going to answer that, so I will answer that for him. There were 300,000 temporary workers allowed into country. We believe that, yes, we need skilled workers. We need highly skilled workers for jobs when we cannot find the workers here. However, last year, as we have seen through scandals throughout the last year, 300,000 temporary foreign workers were allowed into the country. My question for my hon. colleague is this: how is the government going to fix that broken immigration system that allows for unskilled workers to be imported into Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, we all know that many members from across the way, and I am not sure if my colleague who just asked the question was one of them, did ask for favours under this program because it benefited jobs and businesses in their ridings. At the same time, we know that with every program, from time to time there are people who literally lie awake at night trying to figure out ways to abuse a program that is there for good reasons. The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and the Prime Minister have committed to fixing that program, and we will.
    The member who asked the question may have come in halfway through my speech, but I did use a quote in my remarks from an organization that talked about the number of real jobs that we have created in our country. We will stand second to no one when it comes to job creation.

  (1130)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound's remarks with interest. I know that he himself is a small business person and certainly has the interests of his businesses in his community at heart.
    However, despite the PMO talking points behind his speech, the fact of the matter is that the Conservative government is doing a poor job. Growth has flatlined. We are lagging behind a number of our important competitors. Youth employment is stuck at high rates that are double that of other Canadians. The number of people out of work is still more than 200,000 persons higher than it was when the government first came in. Additionally, 25% of graduates are underemployed.
    It is not working. I pointed out some of those of factors, as did the member for Ottawa South, who talked about taxes on businesses in his community.
    My question is this: which economists would have advised the government that reducing the GST and then increasing EI payroll taxes by almost $10 billion, as well as adding other tax burdens around dividends and R and D credits to compensate for the GST reduction was the right trade-off for the economy? My understanding is that the GST was not supported by the economists, and these taxes on small businesses are definitely having a dampening impact on our economy, growth and jobs.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the member brings up the GST, because it was her former leader who declared back in 1993 that he was going to get rid of the GST, in order to get on the good side of the public, I guess we would say. Of course, we all waited for 10 long years, and that never happened. Almost immediately when this government came to power in 2006, we moved the GST from 7% to 6% and not too long after to 5%. I am glad to hear that she supports the direction in which we are going on that.
    It has been over a decade since Parliament last passed a comprehensive package of technical income tax amendments. The member who just asked the question declared in her remarks half an hour or so ago that the system is not working. We all know that. The government knows that, and that is why we are all here today debating this bill. We will certainly appreciate her support on it at the end of the day.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for his comments on the technical tax amendments act. Indeed, my colleague is very wise. Everyone would be better served if we could just get rid of this backlog of technical amendments.
    I wanted to ask him today about something really important to me as the member of Parliament for Oshawa. He talked about Canadian manufacturers and exporters and their support for us and our government. There have been so many challenges facing manufacturers, especially in Ontario.
    I wonder if I could get his comments on the different approaches. We have a Liberal government in Ontario that put in a green energy program with feed-in tariffs and we have seen recently how horribly this has affected our economy. It has driven up costs for manufacturers, small businesses and everyone in the province. They have lost at the WTO. It has just been a horrible disaster.
    I would like to ask my colleague in his wisdom if he could contrast our plan as a government to lower taxes to continue investing in manufacturers and exporters versus the opposition's plan. He mentioned the topic of taxes. We see from the opposition consistently that they just want to raise taxes and bring new ones in. He talked about the carbon tax and also the $50 billion in unfunded promises from the opposition.
    If he could comment on how that is going to affect manufacturers, and contrast the two approaches, it would be beneficial to us here in the House.

  (1135)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member for Oshawa is the best member that Oshawa has ever had, and I thank him for the great question.
    I do not have enough time here today to talk about the amount of taxes or the will to add taxes that the opposition members would like to see. As we all know, the New Democrats have never seen or heard of a tax they would not like to put in, and the Liberals, when they are in, have never seen a tax that they have not put in, and we all know what that does to young families.
    I have three young sons trying to get started out, and I can tell members that lower taxes help them to raise their families and get a better start in life, not the opposite. It is the same with small businesses.
     In my riding, agriculture and tourism are probably the two biggest industries, but small businesses and small manufacturing businesses are what we have there. That is our trademark and what makes our riding. Although we had some problems through the recession, the same as most ridings did, our small business owners were able to cope, with the lower taxes and tax rates that this government has put in. It is the only way, long-term, that businesses can do it. If we do not create a climate where government can let businesses compete and be profitable on their own, we are not doing our job.
     We have had nothing but praise from small business owners on this, and that is why we are going to continue in that direction.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to inject some numbers into this debate.
    The hon. member said that reducing debt keeps interest rates low, yet when the Conservative government took office, the debt was $480 billion and it is now $605 billion. The Conservatives have added $125 billion of debt to Canada.
    He said that reducing corporate tax rates is important so that there is money to invest in the corporate sector, yet Mark Carney, the outgoing Bank of Canada governor, said it has $500 billion sitting on the sidelines. Unemployment is higher today than when the Conservatives took office.
    The hon. member said the number one focus is on economic growth. I wonder if he can tell us what Canada's economic growth has been over the last six years, in percentage terms. That is what I really wanted to know. Does the member know the answer to that question?
    Mr. Speaker, the amount of feedback that I talked about in my opening remarks, from representatives of different organizations who certainly support the cuts to business taxes, and the number of net jobs that we have created over recent years, say it all. My hon. colleague can ignore those comments and numbers all he wants, but the reality is that they are out there. We have had great support for a lot of things we have done in our budget, and that is why we are going to continue in that direction.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Sherbrooke.
    Contrary to what we just heard, while the government is trying to make up stories about a non-existent carbon tax, Bill C-48 has to do with actual tax-related issues.
    This is not a platform for Conservative members to invent stories. No, this is a very important process. We are looking at how the system will change, as well as at the implementation of certain procedures and recommendations that came out of letters sent by the Minister of Finance, communications with accountants, for example, and pre-budget consultations.
    We certainly support the various measures in the bill. As a result, we will be supporting the bill today at third reading.
    However, a number of aspects of the overall process are problematic, and some issues have to be given due consideration. We were given 1,000 pages all at once. People will wonder how we can support what is basically a 1,000-page omnibus bill after we opposed the omnibus budget bills introduced in the past year. The answer is simple. The difference today is that we are discussing a bill that deals with the same subject, namely, various related acts. This is not like what happened last year. For example, Bill C-38 covered employment insurance reform, environmental protection and so on. For that reason, we do not have a problem with this bill.
    What does bother us about the omnibus nature of this bill is that many of these measures have been dragging on for over a decade. We are not the only ones saying so. The former Auditor General also commented on the situation in her 2009 report. At that time, she pointed out that there were 400 measures that had not yet been enacted. These measures were proposed in comfort letters from the Minister of Finance or previous finance ministers in recent years, but none of them had been legislated.
    I will explain how this works for the benefit of our viewers. Unlike with other bills, tax-related measures such as these are initially implemented through comfort letters in order to expedite their application. However, the House of Commons must later pass a bill to truly finalize these measures.
    What the former Auditor General meant was that 400 measures had been proposed but that the House had not yet passed legislation on them. Bill C-48 contains only 200 of these 400 measures, so there is still a great deal of work to be done.
    I mention this because the former Auditor General is not the only one who raised this problem. Various members of the business and accounting communities have also done so. They have testified before the Standing Committee on Finance and written letters to the Minister of Finance and the various MPs who have held that position in the past 10, 12 or 13 years, while these measures have sat on the shelf.
    These people have said that it is not good for the business community, small businesses or people who have to deal with the tax code or the tax system. There is a great deal of uncertainty. The finance minister tells them that certain measures are going to be implemented but then the government waits 5, 10, 13 or 15 years before it passes legislation on these measures.
    This creates a certain amount of uncertainty, which is not good for the economy, or for business people and individuals who are trying their best to understand issues that are already quite complex. Very few people outside the accounting community can really stand up and say that they truly understand the entire tax code. It is extremely complex. Fortunately, we have accountants who can help us to understand it. However, they are the ones who are saying that this somewhat haphazard approach is causing them problems.

  (1140)  

    Although we support these measures and therefore the bill, I believe that this process and this debate highlight the fact that the process needs to be reviewed and made faster.
    If the minister is going to promise measures to business people, accountants and everyone concerned, those measures need to be passed in a timely manner, which has not happened in the past. Another issue that was raised is the fact that a number of measures are being passed at the same time. We need to avoid that.
    As I explained, this omnibus bill is less problematic than the budget implementation bills. However, to wake up one morning to all these measures and so many related tasks will create a lot of work for accountants, business people and the public, who want to understand how the government manages the taxes they pay. It is important to make the process easier, and that is what the government should be focusing on.
    As I already mentioned, we need to look at how the world is currently evolving. Tax season brings with it television ads encouraging people to buy tax software. People are making money off that, which is fine. I am not out to attack or criticize them. However, let us put ourselves in the shoes of someone who is not a tax expert. In my opinion, if the government simplified the process and made it more efficient and easier to comprehend, the public would be in a better position to understand how the system works. People would be more inclined to trust the government and how it spends taxpayers' money.
    Just look at the current climate: people do not have a lot of faith in how their elected representatives are spending their tax dollars. This would be a step in the right direction and a good way to regain the public trust. Of course, this is not the ultimate solution. However, the government should have a closer look at this issue, and that is what the bill before us proposes.
    I am not a member of the Standing Committee on Finance, but I had a chance to read the testimony given at that committee. It is quite interesting, because it shows just how out of touch past Liberal governments and the current Conservative government have been with reality as expressed by various accountants' associations during pre-budget consultations. They stated repeatedly that the government really needs to re-evaluate the situation.
    The bill contains measures that have been under discussion since 1998. The time frame is completely absurd. If I were a small business owner who had to pay taxes and was trying to understand these measures, I would see that some of these measures were supposed to have been incorporated into our tax law in 1998 or 2001. It is 2013, and they have not yet been incorporated.
    These measures are not yet part of the legislation. I see that as a serious problem. The process really needs to be re-evaluated. Every political party in the House would agree to that. Furthermore, members of the Standing Committee on Finance could examine it.
    I will close on that point, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak to the process, because although we support the bill, this has really highlighted some of its flaws. I think we need to use this debate as an opportunity to address these flaws and find ways to improve the system. We should not have to do this every 15 years, nor should we have to add hundreds of tax measures at the same time. A more appropriate approach would be better for taxpayers, entrepreneurs and accountants, to name a few.
    Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I now invite questions and comments from my colleagues.

  (1145)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague, who obviously has done a great deal of study on the bill.
    The issue we are talking about here, in terms of this massive omnibus tax legislation that would bring the code up from many years, going back, as my colleague pointed, to 1999, is the fact that it is being done in an atmosphere in which the government is actually shutting down debate. The bill has been sitting there, but we have not done our job in the House of Commons of fully debating it.
    When people back home wonder how we could possibly lose $3.1 billion, I would say to them that when we have a government that has numerous pieces of very technical information pushed through the House so that it cannot be debated, that is how we end up making mistakes.
    I would like to quote Thomas McDonnell, one of the tax lawyers who spoke on the bill. He said that the changes run to well in excess of 900 pages. Further, he said:
    [I]t will be passed without...informed debate in the House. Most parliamentarians voting on it will admit that they have not read it, let alone tried to fully understand the consequences of voting for (or against) it. This is not how Parliament is supposed to deal with one of its essential functions—the raising of revenue. It's sad to say it, but I don't think most of our parliamentarians understand this aspect of the role of Parliament, or, if they do, have the courage to go to the wall in defending it.
    I would like to ask my hon. colleague what he thinks of the failure of the Conservatives, particularly the Conservative backbenchers. They tell us that they want to stand up when its on a woman's right to choose, but when it is about the obligation of Parliament to vet bills on raising revenue from taxpayers, nobody on that government side is interested in looking at the issue fully and having a full debate so that we understand what the issues are and protect the taxpayer.

  (1150)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and for the quote he just shared. That is precisely the problem.
    When they move a time allocation motion to shut down debate, they sometimes accuse us of wasting time on bills that we support.
    This bill is a perfect example. We support it, but as my colleague said so well, this is a good opportunity to study something that is very complex and important for taxpayers in every one of our ridings. We have an opportunity to debate the bill and I must admit that I am no expert on the subject matter. Nevertheless, having the opportunity to share my point of view on this bill allowed me to study the issue and understand the concerns that have been raised.
    Even though we support the bill, we must point out any major flaws on behalf of our constituents, the people we represent. Missing out on this opportunity is simply unacceptable, but that has happened to us some 30-odd times since the 2011 election. It is unacceptable, shameful and unfortunate and we are seeing it more and more from this government.
    As my colleague said so well, when it comes to the taxpayers' money and complex tax issues, losing this opportunity to study and debate this issue is truly unfortunate. It is too bad that there are not more people across the way who share this opinion.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
    He spent a few minutes briefly going over the economic consequences of having a very complex tax system. Adding measures that are hard even for experts to understand and making frequent changes to the system can make it even more complex.
    How detrimental is it to the economy when businesses and individuals have a hard time navigating our laws and our tax system?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question, which is exactly what we are asking ourselves here today.
    If we look at the measures themselves, some of them will work for the people and for businesses, for the very people we represent. However, the problem is the impact they have on the economy. That is what people told the Standing Committee on Finance during pre-budget consultations. They pointed out that waiting 10, 12, 13 or 15 years for the government to incorporate promised measures creates a climate of uncertainty that is not good for the economy.
    I must say that it is a bit ironic for a government that claims to manage the economy so well to foster this climate of uncertainty. That is why we are raising this issue today. The government may not be so great at managing the economy after all. This issue is proof of that.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Chambly—Borduas for agreeing to share his time with me. I am very grateful.
    I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-48, which is a step any government would need to take in order to update our Income Tax Act. It is a relatively complex law. To begin, I would like to point out that I am not a tax expert or an accountant. I did study the bill, which is about 950 pages long. I did not read the whole thing because, unfortunately, I ran out of time this morning. I do understand the broad strokes of the bill, however.
    As a parliamentarian, I must say that it is always disappointing to be faced with bills of such scope. I would be surprised if a single one of my colleagues has read the entire 950 pages, one by one, and knows exactly what is in this bill, unless they happen to be one of the public servants who wrote it. It is always disappointing to see such massive bills, which no average person has the time to read or reflect on. We are asked to vote on these kinds of bills, as was the case for budget implementation Bills C-38 and C-45, which were 400 pages each.
    They were mammoth bills, like today's. I must say that these are important and useful measures. They have their purpose, but it is important to mention that more frequent updating could have at least made things easier for MPs. We would not have had to read 950 pages today if tax laws had been updated more frequently over the past 10 years.
    The most recent technical bill of this nature dates back to 2001, and it is now 2013. As a result, some things have been dragging on for over a decade and need to be changed for the better. This bill is not flawed, but before going into details, I wanted to point out that a bill of this size is problematic for MPs and prevents them from doing their job properly.
    With a 950-page bill, we need to wonder whether the government has done a good job. Why did the government wait so many years to introduce it? Why not introduce it earlier? More frequent updates would have helped. That point was raised several times in committee. I did not have the opportunity to be there, but I read the transcript.
    As the member for Sherbrooke, I agree with the principle of having a clearer system and more frequent updates to allow for more effective management, particularly for businesses and individuals who do their taxes each year and must comply with fairly complicated legislation. The Income Tax Act must be one of Canada's largest pieces of legislation at hundreds of pages long.
    Of course, the NDP believes that we must fight tax avoidance and tax evasion while preserving the integrity of our tax system. That is why we support the changes proposed in this bill, for they are meant to address issues that allow tax avoidance. This is not a mammoth bill like the budget implementation bills, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, but still, it is nearly 1,000 pages long. There is a difference though. This time, these are very technical measures that we supported and that we will support again at third reading.
    These changes are important. I would like to talk about the major changes, so that the viewing public can understand what they mean.

  (1155)  

    Part 1 of the bill deals with offshore investment fund property and non-resident trusts in accordance with proposals announced in budget 2010 and August 2010. These measures will ensure the taxation of Canadian residents' worldwide income from all sources.
    Part 1 will therefore update the legislation in order to guarantee the integrity of the tax system and prevent tax avoidance. Of course, the NDP supports this change in order to try to keep our tax system as clear as possible. The NDP also wants to make tax avoidance impossible in any way, shape or form.
    We realize that the existing legislation has some loopholes that people can use to avoid paying part of their taxes or to evade taxes in other countries. This fight will never end. People will always try to find ways to get around the law. Unfortunately, that is just how society is; some people will always try to abuse the system. As legislators, we must ensure that these people are punished or amend the legislation so that these things never happen again.
    Parts 2 and 3 of the bill deal with taxation of corporations with foreign affiliates.
    Part 4 deals with something important that I wanted to address as well, and that is bijuralism, an important aspect of our Canadian legal system. In Quebec we have civil law and the rest of Canada has common law. These are two different types of law. Part 4 deals with this situation that can sometimes be unclear and cause confusion.
    It is therefore important in the Canadian context that these legal systems be respected in our federal laws, laws that apply to the entire country. There are differences between civil law and common law when it comes to real property, personal property and joint and several liability. The bill addresses these issues and clarifies them for individuals and businesses that have to deal with these differences.
    Most of the changes are based on the specific circumstances of people in industry. In their testimony, they made their case to the legislators and the government to have the changes made. As the member for Sherbrooke, I pay taxes every year like everyone else, but I cannot put myself in the shoes of those whose tax circumstances are different or who are part of a business, for example. It is therefore important to have their comments so that we, as legislators, can change things that are flawed. Obviously, nothing is perfect.
    In closing, I take issue with the size of the bill and the fact that the government waited so long to introduce such a technical bill. I am in favour of having a clearer, more precise process that is used more frequently so that the necessary changes can be made more quickly with smaller bills that are easier for parliamentarians to understand.

  (1200)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my friend who just spoke talked about the length of time it took to get to this piece of legislation. In 2009, the Auditor General identified 400 technical changes that should have been completed at that point. She commented that this went back to 2001, when the Liberals were in government. Questions were raised about why the Liberal government failed to pass regular technical changes at that time.
    Obviously, we have 1,000 pages before us today addressing only 200 of the 400 technical changes required. Oftentimes these changes slide into the system, even though they are not law yet, which makes things complicated. They are complicated for citizens and tax lawyers who are trying to deal with it.
    Is the member aware of any plans on the government's part to start putting in these technical changes with a certain regularity?

  (1205)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.
    I hope that in the future there will be a plan and that the government will be more alert and focused on making significant technical changes to the tax system on a regular basis.
    As the hon. member stated, 400 changes were proposed by the Auditor General of the time, but only 200 of them were included in the bill. There is still work to do. That said, if all of these changes had been included, the bill would have been 2,000 pages long. This is how the Conservatives do things.
    I would prefer that these changes be made more often. They should also be shorter and more understandable to the average person, who expects to be able to understand tax law in order to properly obey it.
    Of course the ultimate goal is to make all this clear to Canadians and to businesses, who have to file their tax returns every year and understand why they pay taxes, why they have such and such a credit or why they are in such and such a position.
    In my view, these changes should be introduced as often as possible for the sake of clarity, to enable Canadians to be better informed.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, before I ask my question, do you see quorum in the House? I do not.
    I believe that there is quorum in the House.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Malpeque.
    Mr. Speaker, it was just like watching ants come out of an ant hill as we asked for a quorum. Members are almost like the Prime Minister; they are in hiding over there today.
    In any event, we are talking about the bill and various areas of tax relief. I wonder what the hon. member thinks of the fact that the government continues to reduce taxes to the corporate sector to the point that companies are sitting on about $560 billion of cash. They are not using that money to increase productivity, to create jobs or to develop new investments in technology. Is that not an area the government should be looking at to bring in revenues? The fact is that the tax system is out of balance, and the corporate sector is not pulling its weight.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question, but I will not comment on who is or is not present in the House, since we are not allowed to do so.
    However, I will respond to his very important question about corporate taxes. Our corporate taxes are among the lowest in the world, and businesses are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars.
    The NDP's position has always been very clear. We believe in encouraging businesses to create jobs. Even though we may give them hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits, these businesses sometimes do not create a single job. For example, a business in Ontario moved to another country after receiving millions of dollars and completely abandoned the jobs created in Canada.
    When we give corporate tax credits, especially to multinational corporations, we should demand that they create jobs. If they do not create jobs, they should not be entitled to this money.
    I think that is a rule of thumb for the government: businesses that receive tax credits from this government must create jobs, or else they are not entitled to that money.

  (1210)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to our government's low-tax plan for jobs and growth and how this important tax legislation, Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act, 2012, would fit into that plan.
    Through Canada's economic action plan, our Conservative government is continuing to create jobs and grow our economy. We are doing this while keeping taxes low and sticking with our prudent and responsible plan to return to balanced budgets in 2015.
    I would like to remind all members of the House that our fiscal responsibility and aggressive debt reduction has placed Canada in an enviable fiscal position. While other countries continue to struggle with debt that has spiralled out of control, Canada is in the best fiscal position in the G7. In fact, Canada's net debt to GDP ratio is the lowest level among G7 countries by far.
    While the NDP and Liberals want to engage in reckless spending, our Conservative government is on track to return to balanced budgets in 2015. Our plan to get back to balanced budgets is working. In the past two years we have already cut the deficit by more than half. Economic action plan 2013 builds on these efforts to reduce government spending by announcing an additional $1.7 billion in ongoing savings. Overall, measures taken by our government since budget 2010 will result in total ongoing savings of roughly $14 billion.
    Unlike the NDP and Liberals, our Conservative government will not raise taxes on Canadian families and businesses to balance the budget.
    Today we have legislation before us that, while technical, will help our government achieve this objective and help make the tax system more predictable. The bill would amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act and related legislation to close tax loopholes and create a stronger and fairer tax system for all Canadians.
    The bill contains proposals that have been previously released for public consultation on numerous occasions for many years. In fact, many of the proposals in the bill reflect the feedback that government received from Canadians and aim to ensure that everyone pays their fair share of tax and is treated equitably under our tax laws. Simply put, when everyone pays their fair share, tax rates can be kept low, something that benefits all Canadians.
    I would like to take a moment and speak to some of the very important measures in the bill and their purpose. Although the legislation is quite technical in nature, I will be brief in my overview of the bill.
    I will commence with part 1 of the act, which would modify the provisions of the Income Tax Act dealing with the taxation of non-residence trusts. These changes reflect the proposals initially publicly announced back in the winter of 2010, as well as from the feedback received from public consultations held the following summer.
    Part 2 and 3 deal directly with the taxation of Canadian multinational corporations with foreign affiliates, implementing changes, some of which date all the way back to 2004, that will make Canada's tax system more fair and equitable, not to mention easier to administer.
     As is the case with the majority of measures contained in the bill, these changes are again the result of extensive public consultations.
    Part 4 of the bill deals with the concept of bijuralism. More specifically, it contains amendments that would ensure that the bill will function effectively in both the common law and the civil law. This means that amendments dealing with certain private law concepts, such as right and interest, real and personal property, life estate and remainder interest, tangible and intangible property and joint and severable liability, will accurately capture both common and civil law in both official languages.
    Part 5 of the bill focuses on fairness for taxpayers by setting out a number of measures to close tax loopholes, ensuring that all Canadians pay their fair share. Specifically, the bill would close tax loopholes related to specific leasing property, ensure that conversion of specified investment flow-through trusts and partnerships into corporations are subject to the same rules as transactions between corporations, prevent schemes designed to shelter tax by artificially increasing foreign tax credits and, finally, implement a regime for information reporting of tax avoidance transactions. Taken together, these measures would help crack down on tax avoidance and ensure that everyone paid their fair share.

  (1215)  

    These measures, taken in conjunction with our government's recent action to curb tax avoidance in economic action plan 2013, affirm our continued commitment to making the tax system more fair and equitable for all Canadians, a subject that I will expand on in a moment.
    At the same time, part 5 also includes a number of important but technical changes that are designed to ensure that the income tax system functions in accordance with its underlying policy intent. Many of these changes are relieving in nature and would address issues identified by taxpayers in the course of working through the application of the income tax rules to their own situations.
    Part 5 would also implements an income tax amendment relating to the enactment of the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act. This would extend the personal income tax credit in respect of employment insurance premiums to apply also to such premiums paid by self-employed individuals.
    Part 6 of the bill would implement technical improvements to the GST-HST, including relieving the GST-HST on the administrative service of collecting and distributing the levy on blank tape imposed under the Copyright Act.
     Part 7 provides for administrative changes to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act.
    Finally, part 8 contains some housekeeping amendments to ensure coordination between provisions of the Income Tax Act, the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 and the Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act.
     All of these parts have been examined in great detail at the finance committee, where they received the support of all parties.
    In my time remaining, I will just highlight that the underlying goal of all the measures in this legislation is to simplify the tax system, make it easier to comply with and administer and to create more fairness for all Canadian taxpayers.
     The overwhelming majority of hard-working Canadians and business owners pay their taxes. They do so willingly and honestly. Others, shamefully, try to skip out on their taxes and avoid their fair share and, eventually, suffer embarrassing and costly legal ramifications when they are caught.
    However, honest Canadians expect their government to manage their tax dollars with respect and that they be asked to pay their fair share and not a penny more. Our government fully understands that sustaining a voluntary tax system rests on the foundation of tax fairness. It is a simple concept and one that we on this side of the House grasp and support.
    The fact is that we cannot expect taxpayers to continue to pay their share if they see that others are not. Tax fairness is a basic principle that our government is committed to upholding and we make no apologies for doing so. We are proud of our record and we are building upon it. In fact, that is precisely what this technical tax amendments act, 2012, would do.
    Indeed, several witnesses who appeared at the finance committee as part of its study earlier this year noted how today's legislation would improve tax fairness for all taxpayers. For example, Mr. Greg Boehmer of Ernst & Young remarked, “It's very clear that this legislation is aimed at fairness”. Mr. Lorne Shillinger of KPMG echoed this sentiment in regard to Bill C-48, saying, “It's preserving the integrity of the tax system and it's time to get this bill passed”.
    Ensuring everyone pays their fair share means tax rates can remain low and our government can ensure that Canada's fiscal house stays in order. Balancing the budget and reducing debt means that tax dollars that would have otherwise been absorbed by interest costs are freed up. These dollars can then be reinvested in the things that matter most to Canadians, like lower taxes. This is what Canadians expect and deserve.
    As I mentioned earlier, our government is committed to improving the integrity and fairness of Canada's tax system by closing loopholes that allow few businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax. Consistent with global efforts to close tax loopholes in their respective tax systems, measures introduced by this government will protect hard-working families that play by the rules, reaffirming the government's ongoing commitment to tax fairness.

  (1220)  

    Indeed, since 2006, and including the measures announced in economic action plan 2013, our government has introduced over 75 measures to improve the integrity of the tax system.
    If I might take a moment, I would like to highlight some of the many measures in economic action plan 2013 that will work to close these tax loopholes, address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules and combat international tax evasion.
    First and foremost, economic action plan 2013 announced the stop international tax evasion program. This new program would allow the Canada Revenue Agency, CRA, to pay individuals with knowledge of major international tax non-compliance a percentage of the tax collected as a result of information provided.
     Other measures would include requiring Canadian taxpayers with foreign income or properties to report more information and extending the amount of time CRA had to reassess those who had not properly reported this income, as well as streamlining the process for the CRA to obtain information concerning unnamed persons from third parties, such as banks, and requiring certain financial intermediaries, including banks, to report their clients' international electronic funds transfers of $10,000 or more to CRA.
    Our Conservative government's record on strengthening tax fairness is clear. I am sure all members agree on closing loopholes. Permitting a select few businesses and individuals to skip out on paying their fair share of tax is simply unacceptable. Most Canadians would be shocked and disappointed if any elected member would tolerate tax evasion. For this reason alone, I hope I could count on the support of the members opposite in passing this very important legislation.
    That is not all. In addition to ensuring the integrity of our tax system, our government continues to work hard to ensure that the tax system remains competitive so we can continue to attract new business investment into the Canadian economy. Canadian tax reductions that play a particularly important role in supporting economic growth are those that enable businesses to invest more of their revenues back into their operations. Indeed, our government has reduced the small business tax rate to 11% and lowered the federal business income tax rate to 15%.
     Over all, since 2006, our low-tax plan has resulted in $28,600 in savings for a typical small business, or almost 35%. Savings like this allow small businesses to make investments in their local communities, be it through new machinery, new equipment, a new location or, even better, hiring more people.
    Not only that, it is this productivity growth that allows businesses to allow more workers and offer higher wages to Canadians in order to expand production and become more successful. In fact, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters agrees with this assessment. It said:
    Reducing business taxes creates jobs, boosts investment, makes Canada more competitive and puts more money in the pockets of the Canadians...business tax cuts are critical drivers of the Canadian economy...
    Moreover, since July 2009, over 900,000 net new jobs have been created, the strongest job creation record in the G7. What better indication than this to show that our low-tax plan is working?
    Clearly, our government is committed to lower taxes for all Canadians. These are just some of the examples of our government's commitment to keeping taxes low for Canadians. Indeed, since 2006, we have cut taxes over 150 times, reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years. We cut taxes in every way government collects them, from personal taxes, consumption taxes, business taxes, excise taxes and much more. In fact, our strong record of tax relief has meant savings for a typical family of four of over $3,200 in 2013. Furthermore, we have removed over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls altogether.
    Unfortunately, the NDP and Liberals continue to vote against these tax savings measures that help Canadian families and Canadian businesses. The tax legislation before us today would help to further our government's objective of keeping taxes low and the tax system predictable.

  (1225)  

    One wonders if the NDP and Liberals would support a piece of legislation that supports that plan. As I hear hon. members speaking today, it sounds as though the official opposition is going to, for which I thank them. I hope they will support it and not fight closing tax loopholes that only benefit a select few.
    Why would anyone oppose ensuring that everyone pays their fair share of tax? I hope that all the members opposite will see the merits of this legislation and show their support for it by giving it swift passage.
    Mr. Speaker, I have been a small business person myself. As a business person, some certainty is required.
    The Conservatives have waited nine years to bring this bill forward to bring certainty to businesses and individuals and Canadians. What have the Conservatives been doing over the last seven years that prevented them from bringing this legislation forward? They certainly have not been fixing the Senate; we know that from the scandals in the other House.
    The member talks about the government lowering the tax rate over the last six years. The tax rate for corporations, their friends, has been lowered. There is no denying that. However, if we look at the other side, the government has had the largest deficit in the history of this country during the last couple of years. Not only that, the debt has grown by billions of dollars.
    My question is for the member. The Conservatives have lowered taxes, but who is going to pay the debt they have created? Who is going to pay the deficit the government has created?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the member was listening to my remarks, but we have made 150 changes in recent years for tax fairness in budgets, et cetera, and there has been some great work done on regulations by the scrutiny of regulations committee, but some of these proposals have been around for a long time, so I would like to make a proposal to the member today.
    I will go to my House leader, and perhaps he will go to his House leader, and ask that in every Parliament, perhaps every quarter of the year or every six months, we bring in a technical tax amendment bill. I am sure the members on this side of House will agree to sit until midnight in a periodic fashion to get that done.
    We have been sitting until midnight the last couple of weeks and we are prepared to do it the next couple of weeks to get bills through this House. That is important to us.
    The deficit has been cut in half, and the deficit will disappear by 2015. That deficit was created purposely, as the member may remember. I do not know if the member was in the House in 2008, but we faced a worldwide crisis, the worldwide recession, which was the worst recession since the 1930s.
    That deficit was created purposely to fight that recession. It worked, with 900,000 net new jobs created, 90% of them full time. Now it is time to balance the budget again and get back to paying down the debt as the government did in 2006 and 2007, when it paid down $30 billion of debt.
    Mr. Speaker, I thought it was an interesting proposal when the member suggested that he go to his House leader and that member could go to his House leader and maybe they would come to some sort of an agreement.
    It would wonderful if the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons felt it was somewhat important to negotiate in good faith. I suspect that if he made that leap of faith, we would probably see bills being debated and passed in a more orderly fashion. Time allocation would not be necessary.
    I want to pose a question. The Liberal Party supports the bill and has indicated its support for the bill for some of the very reasons the member talks about, issues such as tax evasion and tax avoidance. I suspect more than 98% of members of Parliament would be voting in favour of the legislation, because we see the merits of it.
    Where I take a little exception is when the member, in his presentation on the bill, talked as if the Conservatives were not increasing taxes. In reality, in the last number of budgets there have been net tax increases to Canadians of tens of millions of dollars. A good example is the most recent one in regard to the number of tariffs. A tax is a tax.
    Would the member not agree that an increase in a tariff is in fact a tax increase to our middle class and to all Canadians?

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member's point is well taken. When we change bills and bring forward sections in the budget for tax fairness, there will be situations in which some people will pay more taxes. Those would perhaps occur when a business operator had created a corporation or by aggressive tax planning was not paying as much as a competitor in a similar business was, simply by changing the paperwork and how they file their taxes.
    That is what this bill is designed to address. It is designed to address people who are not paying their fair share. Yes, there would be new revenues from this bill, although that is not the purpose of the bill—the purpose of the bill is tax fairness—but there would be new revenues.
    The amendments proposed in the bill have been discussed over years of repeated consultations. The bill has been before Parliament since last November, so any member who wanted to examine it or examine the issues has had many months to do so. The opposition members have had over 200 days to examine and debate this bill.
    We have had days of debate at the finance committee. On the government side we can all sub into committees, and any member can attend any committee at any time. If members have specific concerns, they can sit in on the finance committee and examine the bills closely. That is what committees are for. They do a clause-by-clause examination of the bills.
    Canadian taxpayers have been waiting for these technical amendments. They are overdue, and we should pass this bill quickly.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech in the House this morning talking about tax fairness. It is a very important issue right now. It is particularly important that we as a government recognize that tax evasion and tax cheats have to be clamped down on, and as a former businessperson, I also recognize that tax loopholes have to be closed.
    I agree with my colleague as he discusses tax fairness. I wonder if he could address the balance between tax fairness and tax reductions and the benefit that these bring to the economy of Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, regarding tax reductions, we do have 900,000 net new jobs in Canada since the summer of 2009, when we were starting to come out of that terrible recession, but we have a lot more than that. Businesses are actually holding on to a lot of capital right now; they are ready to explode in investment.
    However, we have a slowdown in our largest trading partner, which is the United States of America. Americans buy basically 70% of everything we produce in Canada. To deal with that slowdown, we are proposing free trade agreements. We are pursuing free trade with 50 countries, and the deal that is closest to fruition is the European free trade deal, which would mean about 80,000 jobs in Canada. Where would those jobs come from? It would mean Canadian businesses investing to expand into foreign markets, so it would mean about 80,000 jobs and about $1,000 of net income to the average family in Canada from free trade. That is just one free trade deal, and there are many more.
    We are well positioned for growth, and if the American economy continues to grow as it has been, our growth is going to accelerate as well. The tax picture has created an environment where we are ready for growth, and an explosion of growth is due.
    Mr. Speaker, people on different sides of the House can have philosophical differences on what the best policies are to stimulate the economy, but I want to look at some numbers.
    The Conservatives' philosophy starting in 2006 was to cut taxes, particularly on corporations. Their theory was that these tax cuts would stimulate growth, but in those six years under the Conservative watch, the debt of Canada has gone from $480 billion to $605 billion. That is $125 billion of additional debt added to Canada, a 25% increase in debt.
    In terms of corporate taxes, the idea was that if they cut taxes to corporations, it would leave more money in the hands of corporations and the corporations would then invest it. The outgoing Bank of Canada governor, Mark Carney, has recently stated that there is $500 billion of dead corporate money sitting on the sidelines that has not been invested in Canada because those tax cuts were broad-based and they were not tied to creating jobs in this country.
    Finally, I want to talk about unemployment, which is higher today. If we talk to people in communities across this country, they will tell us that there are more temporary jobs and more part-time jobs, but there are not the kinds of good-quality career jobs that used to typify jobs created in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s.
    Based on the numbers for the debt and the deficit, which is the highest deficit in Canadian history and is run by the current government, does my hon. friend consider those to be signs of the economic success of the Conservatives' philosophy?

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, I mentioned the $500 billion that businesses are sitting on. We cannot legislate businesses to start spending money. We have to create a climate in which they want to spend money, and that is exactly what we have done. As we pursue free trade agreements and open markets across the world, these businesses are going to start investing more and more.
    However, creating 900,000 new jobs is not something to play down. These are 900,000 people who went home to their families and said, “I got the job”. Jobs relieve financial pressures in those homes and people are then able to pay their mortgages. Some of these people also start businesses.
    We are poised for tremendous growth in Canada. We have had growth and we will have more growth, but the reality is that we are dependent on trade. We are a trading nation and we always have been. The economy of our largest customer is in trouble; it is starting to come back, but the best way to avoid being in that position in the future is to pursue free trade with many other countries, such as those on the Pacific Rim, which is what we are doing. I believe our future is very bright.
    With regard to Canada's debt, if the member looks forward in the financial documents in the budget, he would see that the debt will start to go down in a few years, which is exactly what we were doing from—
    Order. The hon. member's time has expired.
    The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Québec.
    Unfortunately, Bill C-48 is a story of failure. It is the story of our tax laws that have never been updated. This bill is currently over 1,000 pages long, which is a significant number. Although the previous member's speech was excellent, if I were to ask him to quickly summarize the content of these 1,000 pages, he would be hard pressed to do so. It would not be easy. I will not ask him to do so, but I tip my hat to anyone in the House who can tell me that he has a perfect understanding of Bill C-48, the bill on which we are going to vote. Understanding a 1,000-page legal document about taxes is quite a feat.
    There is a backlog of 400 technical amendments. Bill C-48 will address 200 of them. The other 200 will not be resolved, mainly because they are outdated and no longer necessary. The law is so old that the regulations are no longer relevant. In 2006, we wanted to close a tax loophole affecting airlines. The airlines took advantage of that loophole and are now increasingly making use of tax havens. What was proposed in 2005 and 2006 has therefore lost its relevance because the law is too old. For five or six years, there was a tax loophole that was not closed. That is unfortunate.
    This situation dates back to 2001. I understand that our Liberal colleagues are not always present, but I hope that they will wake up. They were in power in 2001. The boom in tax loopholes occurred under the Liberal government. It was actually quite embarrassing. With regard to shipping companies, the finance minister at the time had the House pass a bill that allowed him to avoid paying taxes. His shipping company no longer had to pay very much in taxes to Canada.
     An hon. member: That was when the Liberals were in office.
    Mr. Alain Giguère: Yes. The Liberals were in office.
    The Conservatives have not done much better. They were in power in 2007. They have had six years to introduce a bill to make technical amendments to the tax law. For a government that claims to be tough on crime, that is pretty bad from the perspective of regulation-making, red tape and bureaucracy. What is more, it is never-ending.
    We will support this bill because we no longer have any choice. We have to do so. We also believe that the government should amend the tax law every year in order to update it so that everyone can understand it.
    This is a complex 1,000-page bill that tries to reduce a backlog of 400 technical amendments. This means that as soon as a problem comes up, the accounting bills start piling up. An accountant does not come cheap.
    It can also be expensive for a company that is teetering on the brink and wondering whether or not this law applies to it. In theory, ignorance of the law is no excuse; however, the law is unintelligible to the average person, and unfortunately, Canadian tax laws are no exception.
    In 1917, Canada's first tax law, the Income Tax Act, was 50 pages in length. Those 50 pages covered everything.

  (1240)  

    Now, there are tens of thousands of pages of jurisprudence and as many doctrines. We can get a sense of our tax situation. It is clear why many business owners are telling us that their businesses are overburdened with accounting bills.
    Taking over 10 years to make formal changes to the law opens the door to risky operations and aggressive tax planning. It opens the door to tax risk. A company may be able to pay a tax expert $500 an hour to solve tax problems, but the average person cannot. That is a problem.
    The more complex tax laws are, the more they benefit the rich. People who do not have the means to hire a tax expert do not have the means to open a foreign bank account, build a family trust or incorporate in order to evade taxes. That is a problem.
    We are talking about tax fairness. Obviously, this is still not the case. Unfortunately, I think we will have to wait until 2015 for a change like this.
    However, I need to hammer home three main points and mention that the NDP by no means disagrees with this bill. In spite of everything, we feel that we need to fight tax avoidance and tax evasion, while preserving the integrity of our tax system. In short, our tax system needs to fulfill its main function, which is to enable the Canadian government to have the revenue it needs to cover its expenses.
    At close to 1,000 pages, this document is a perfect example of an omnibus bill. If the government had done an act-by-act study, for example, of the GST act, the Income Tax Act and the legislation on certain trusts, it could have reduced the number of pages and members could have had a clearer idea of what is involved.
    However, with this 1,000-page document, as I have said, I challenge any Conservative member to rise and say that he or she will vote entirely in favour of this bill because he or she understands it completely, has read it in full and knows it inside and out.
    As we can see, a great many volunteers from the Conservative Party are rising and saying enthusiastically that they understand the bill. Actually, that number is a big, fat zero.
    The business community is being penalized with similar changes. Our economy is also being penalized. Not only does this let people avoid paying tax, meaning that those who do pay have to pay even more, but those who pay more tax have to pay for an accountant and a tax lawyer on top of that. What joy, what luck. To think that this government claims to be effective.
    There are some important parts to this bill. Part 1 covers non-resident trusts. That is very important because it is a significant tax loophole. Parts 2 and 3 deal with the taxation of foreign corporations. Globalization has enabled companies to transfer their profits to tax havens. We need to put an end to that practice. Part 4 is essential. Canada has common law, but Quebec has the civil code. This type of bijuralism requires us to correct the situation.
    Clearly, this bill had to be drafted and, to be effective, this exercise should be carried out every year. An NDP government will commit to that.
    I will yield the floor to my hon. colleague after questions.

  (1245)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech in which he framed some of these issues around justice and fairness in the tax system and then extrapolated beyond that to discuss a more fair and balanced Canada.
    Today is World Hunger Day. Scanning some of the media attention, I note that in Ontario, post-secondary schools, universities and colleges have food banks on campus. This, to me, is an indictment of whatever the government has to say about its economic progress.
    I wonder if my hon. colleague would comment on that in the context of the debate today.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, what economic progress is he talking about?
     There are more unemployed workers today than there were before the recession and even during the recession. There has been absolutely no progress made. They say they created 900,000 jobs, but they are forgetting about the 600,000 jobs lost during the recession. That leaves 300,000 jobs. What is more, jobs that paid $25 to $30 an hour have been replaced with jobs that pay $12 or $13 an hour. Is that economic progress?
     Average Quebeckers have been impoverished. They have too much debt and now have to rely on food banks. With much of the Canadian population living so precariously, we cannot talk about economic growth.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague’s excellent speech.
     I still cannot fathom what Auditor General Sheila Fraser wrote in her fall 2009 report. She said that no income tax technical bill had been passed since 2001. I would point out to the House that it is now 2013.
     Can my colleague explain why no income tax technical bill has been passed since 2001 even though it is now 2013? Quite frankly, that is unacceptable.
    Mr. Speaker, the answer is simple and most unfortunate.
     Tax fairness has never been a priority for the Liberal government or the Conservative government. Tax unfairness does not bother them in the least. That is why it took them more than 12 years to introduce tax legislation. Everyone knew it, there were red flags, and yet they did nothing. It is not because they did not know or could not do anything about it, but simply because they did not want tax fairness.

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very heartfelt speech.
     He quickly mentioned that very complex tax laws benefit the wealthiest, who can afford to pay tax experts and accountants. The middle class cannot necessarily afford to pay such experts, and therefore they pay their taxes. There is no getting around it, since they cannot afford to pay a tax expert.
     My colleague is an expert who has studied taxation and law. Could he talk about how complex laws often benefit the wealthiest?
    Mr. Speaker, American multi-billionaire Warren Buffet said that it makes no sense that his tax rate is lower than that of an entry-level secretary at his company.
    That is tax inequity. That is the problem with our tax laws. People say that when the rich get richer, they reinvest their riches. Well, unfortunately, under the George W. Bush regime in the U.S. and the Conservative regime in Canada, the idiotic application of this theory does not work.
    The investments are just not there, since wealthy people do not reinvest in their own country simply because it is good to them; instead, they invest their money wherever they will make the most money. Clearly, in this case, they decided that that place was not Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House in support of Bill C-48 at third reading.
    This is a rather large bill that is more than 1,000 pages long. I just want to point out that Bill C-48 looks like a mammoth omnibus bill. It is a two- or three-inch-thick brick with more than 1,000 pages.
    Last year, we had the mammoth Bill C-38. Then we had the mammoth Bill C-45. Now we have Bill C-48, which is extremely large and complex. What is more, the font is quite small. It is very hard to read and very complicated.
    It makes many technical changes to the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, and other legislation. This topic may seem very technical and unappealing to many people, but these changes are often necessary and can have a significant impact on the Canadian economy. The majority of the measures proposed in this bill have already been in place for many years, but the bill makes them law.
    Unfortunately, the massive size of this bill shows that there is still work to be done to convert similar technical changes into legislative measures in a timely fashion. Failure to update our tax code on a regular basis makes it hard for Canadians, business people in particular, to find any clarity in our tax system. We must also look at the growing complexity of tax law and focus on the need to simplify it over time.
    The more complicated the system, the more flaws it contains, and the more room there is for loopholes. When that happens, then there are bound to people who will take advantage. That is why it is important to simplify everything.
    On that subject, I would like to quote the 2012 pre-budget submission from the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada:
[We] strongly believe that the key to sustained economic recovery and enhanced economic growth lies in the government’s commitment to tax reform and red tape reduction.
    CGA-Canada went on to make two recommendations. First, it recommended modernizing Canada's tax system to make it simple, transparent and more efficient. Second, it proposed implementing a “sunset provision” to prevent future legislative backlogs.
    The government has been very slow to legislate technical amendments. In a report tabled about four years ago, in 2009, the Auditor General at the time, Sheila Fraser, pointed out that the Department of Finance Canada had a backlog of at least 400 technical amendments that had not been enacted. Here is what her report said:
    No income tax technical bill has been passed since 2001.
    It is now 2013. That means that two previous governments have been asleep at the switch, and for a considerable amount of time. Today's majority government has been in power for nearly a decade, yet an income tax technical bill has not been passed. What is it doing? We do not know.
    Sheila Fraser's report goes on to say:
...the government has said that an annual technical bill of routine housekeeping amendments to the Act is desirable...
    Yet we know that nothing has been introduced since 2001. They are not doing what the Auditor General suggested:

  (1255)  

...an annual technical bill of routine housekeeping amendments...has not happened. As a result, the Department of Finance Canada has a backlog of at least 400 technical amendments that have not been enacted.... If proposed technical changes are not tabled regularly, the volume of amendments becomes difficult for taxpayers, tax practitioners, and parliamentarians to absorb when they are grouped into a large package.
    At one point, people said that Beta videocassettes were the future. We no longer use videocassettes. We are making technological advances. The same thing applies to taxes. It is time for us to get up to date.
    Obviously, the size of this bill and the long period of time that passed between the introduction of the previous technical bill and this one show that this process still needs improvement.
    On another topic, the NDP thinks that we need to combat tax avoidance and tax evasion, while preserving the integrity of our tax system. That is why we support the changes that this bill makes, particularly those aimed at reducing tax avoidance.
    However, we also believe that much more needs to be done to truly address the problem of tax evasion.
    According to some estimates, the Canadian tax system is losing between $5.3 billion and $7.8 billion in revenue a year to tax evasion alone. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists recently acquired a long list of individuals from all over the world who are holding billions of dollars in tax havens. According to the consortium, approximately 450 Canadians are on that list. We are not just making this up. We need to find out where all of this money is going.
    What is more, according to the information that was recently published by Statistics Canada on foreign direct investments, Canadian investments in the top 12 tax havens worldwide exceeded $170 billion, which is equivalent to 10% of Canada's GDP.
    It is true that the majority Conservative government is capable of losing track of $3 billion earmarked for public safety. As a result, it may have difficulty understanding what I am saying about tax evasion. I understand since the government has trouble implementing its own budget.
    One of the main reasons why wealthy Canadians and large corporations want to put their money in tax havens is to simply avoid paying their fair share of taxes. That means billions of dollars in lost tax revenue for the federal government and fewer new jobs in Canada.
    The government boasts that it has announced new investments to combat tax evasion, but unfortunately, this new money totals just one-quarter of the $113 million that this government has spent since 2009 to advertise its budgets.
    Furthermore, the government has made some $250 million in cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency. These cuts led to the loss of about 3,000 jobs within that department.
    The government is cutting the jobs of the people who are supposed to be working on combatting tax evasion. The Conservatives want to reduce the size of government—cut the red tape, as they say—but at what cost? They do not realize that sometimes we have to rely on the people who are able to help us. I do not think the Conservatives truly understand how important it is to combat tax evasion.
    In spite of the government's lack of conviction, we believe that Bill C-48 will have a positive impact and will help discourage tax evasion.
    In conclusion, the sheer size of this bill shows that the government must be more responsible in managing the tax system. More specifically, the government must ensure that it periodically passes legislation on proposed tax measures. Failure to do so creates uncertainty for business people, jurists and tax experts, and makes it nearly impossible for parliamentarians to do their jobs when they are faced with bills as big as the one we have today.
    I must point out how important it is to focus on compliance to guarantee the integrity of the tax system.
    The NDP believes that we must eliminate tax loopholes and work harder to combat tax havens. This government is tired and it is time for a change.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate my hon. colleague on her speech on a topic that is certainly not easy for everyone to understand.
    My question is one that might be asked by anyone who, like me, is following events by watching the headlines and who sees that, on the one hand, the bill encompasses tax notices of the past 10 or 11 years and, on the other hand, the government is still looking for $3.1 billion.
    Will this reassure the general public?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his intervention.
    I do not think this will be reassuring. In fact, nothing this government does is reassuring. I have said it before and I will keep repeating it: nothing has been done since 2001. Come on. That is embarrassing. This is a shameful time for the Parliament of Canada. Here we are and nothing has been done since 2001. Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have done nothing.
    All parliamentarians should be ashamed to face Canadians and say that unfortunately we did not understand that this needed to be updated. We did not understand that tax measures needed to be introduced, that we needed to walk the talk and that we really had to tackle these issues. That is what the members opposite do not seem to understand.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her passion and the conviction she always brings to debate.
    She was talking about fiscal responsibility and the lack of proper economic management on the government's side. We have a situation, for example, in my city in Toronto, where about 50% of all workers cannot find stable full-time jobs. That is an economic failure on the part of the federal government.
    I wonder if my hon. colleague would comment on that and on whether she sees similar situations like that in her city of Québec.

  (1305)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak for my entire region, the Quebec City area, which has experienced devastating job losses. I am particularly thinking of the Canadian Coast Guard, Parks Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
    Staff cuts have been made everywhere. Then the government tried to claim that services would remain the same and nothing would change. This is simply not true.
    For example, the Canada Revenue Agency, which is also in my riding, lost 3,000 employees specializing in the fight against tax evasion. These are people with a particular skill, who do this particular job for the government and for all Canadians. In a few years, the government will be greatly surprised that these measures have not worked out.
    Are the Conservatives wondering why? Because government jobs were cut, that is why. We know it; everyone knows it. Now the Conservatives must understand it too. This is how we will be able to act for all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker,when I started as a young tax specialist, I was told—funnily enough—to interpret the law my way, namely in the manner most favourable to my client. I was told I should then contact various Revenue officials and send the file to the one who was most likely to agree with me. That is how it was, and how it still is, unfortunately.
    The law is so complex that if you talk to different officials, you will get different answers. Will this bill change that?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not believe it will change anything because the necessary investments are not being made.
    I do not know how many times I have seen a minister rise in the House and deny that there is a problem. They say that they invested a little money and that the problem will work itself out. I am sorry, but that is not the case. That is not how it works.
    I do not know a lot about taxation, but I know enough to say that investing a little money will not make the system work. It takes competent people, such as legal and tax experts, people who specialize in their field. We have to trust them and believe in the work they do, not eliminate their jobs. It is important to understand that. It is fundamental.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to contribute to this very important discussion on Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act, and on our government's low-tax plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
     Our government, through Canada's economic action plan, is creating the winning conditions for all businesses, and the people they employ, to compete in the global economy and to continue to create jobs. We are always looking to improve on this record while, at the same time, controlling spending by federal bureaucrats and maintaining the government's commitment not to raise taxes or cut transfers to Canadians and other levels of government.
    Canadians understand the importance of living within their means, and taxpayers expect the government to do the same. That is why our Conservative government is committed to managing public finances in a sustainable and responsible manner, a commitment that underpins our plan to return to budgetary balance by 2015. It is this responsible financial management that put Canada in a position of strength when it came time to combat the global recession.
    From 2006 to 2008, our government paid down over $37 billion in debt, thus enabling our government to implement the stimulus phase of Canada's economic action plan without leaving our country, like many other countries, in a vulnerable fiscal position. As a result, Canada weathered the global economic and financial crisis well, particularly when compared to all other G7 countries. In the words of the noted economist Don Drummond, there is not a single developed country in the world that would not kill to have our position.
    To this day, the global economic environment remains fragile. The euro area is still in recession, and uncertainty regarding U.S. fiscal policy continues to weigh on growth prospects.
    While Canada's economy is expected to continue growing at a modest pace, we are not immune to external developments. In these uncertain times, we all know that the absolutely most important thing any government could do is bolster confidence and growth and maintain a strong fiscal position.
    This brings me to the subject of my address today, Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act. This is a broad and complex topic, so I will keep my remarks focused on three basic points.
    I will begin by describing the highlights of Bill C-48. I will explain how it bolsters tax fairness for Canadian taxpayers. Finally, I will discuss how it maintains the competitive nature of the Canadian legal jurisdiction.
    We have legislation before us today that takes further action to strengthen Canada's tax system. We must ensure its swift passage. I urge all my colleagues on the other side of the House to get on board and help us ensure tax fairness for all Canadians, just as members of the finance committee did earlier this year.
    As Mr. Lorne Shillinger of KPMG said, “Whatever the process is of getting this bill enacted, stick to it, full speed ahead”.
    I could not agree more. Let us pass this legislation so that all Canadians benefit.
    As an overview, let me note that this bill will amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act and related legislation to close tax loopholes and create a stronger and fairer tax system for all Canadians. The bill contains proposals that have been public for many years and was the subject of numerous, wide public consultations. Therefore, the bill is not new to the House. I want to note that the proposals in the bill represent the feedback from those numerous public consultations. Even better, they all aim to ensure that everyone pays their fair share of tax and is treated equitably under our tax laws.
    As the legislation is quite technical in nature, I will be brief in my summary of its highlights.

  (1310)  

    In part 1 of Bill C-48, our government proposes enhancements to the Income Tax Act to better target and simplify those rules relating to non-resident trusts, taking into account comments received during those public consultations I was speaking of.
     Parts 2 and 3 relate to the taxation of Canadian multinational corporations in respect of their foreign affiliates. Once again, our government consulted extensively with the public and stakeholders on these proposals with the objective being the creation of a fair and more equitable international tax system.
    Part 4 of Bill C-48 would ensure that the tax rules work well under both common and civil law.
    Part 5 of the bill would close tax loopholes and create greater fairness for taxpayers. Indeed, this portion of the bill would implement a number of integrity tax measures from 2010, on which we have consulted widely, to address any issues that may exist.
    These particular measures would, first of all, close tax loopholes relating to a specified leasing property. We have heard that before in this House. Second, they would ensure that conversion of specified investment flow-through trusts and partnerships into corporations would be subject to rules similar to those for transactions between corporations. Third, they would prevent schemes designed to artificially increase foreign tax credits in order to reduce tax. Finally, they would implement a regime for information reporting of tax avoidance transactions. These are very important. Taken together, these measures would help crack down on tax avoidance and ensure that everyone pays their fair share of tax.
    Part 5 also includes a number of technical changes that are designed to ensure that the income tax system functions in accordance with its underlying policy intent. Many of these changes would address issues identified by taxpayers themselves in the course of working through the application of the income tax rules to their own situations.
    I cannot stress enough how important it is that this legislation be passed. Implementing these technical changes responds to both the 2009 Auditor General's report and the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
    The Auditor General's report highlighted the importance of implementing technical amendments to give certainty to taxpayers and to the Canada Revenue Agency. The report recommended that technical measures be released on a regular basis. Indeed, Ms. Vicky Plant, Principal in the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, said this to the finance committee: “Mr. Chair, when the Department of Finance determines that some changes have to be made to the Income Tax Act, it is important that legislative changes be tabled in the House of Commons promptly”.
    With this legislation, our government had done so. The report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts I just mentioned that once technical bills have been tabled, it is up to Parliament to ensure that they are passed.
     It is not only the standing committee that feels that it is important for Parliament to pass this legislation. I will read a few quotes from tax experts who appeared at the finance committee earlier this year and pleaded for the swift passage of Bill C-48.
    Kim Moody, of Moodys LLP Tax Advisors, said: “[O]ur firm supports the passage of Bill C-48.... [I]t is important to get it passed”.
    Greg Boehmer, of Ernst and Young, said: “[W]e greet Bill C-48 with a sense of relief and hope to see its speedy passage”.
    Andrew Kingissepp, of Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP, said: “I would encourage all parties to enact this proposed legislation into law at the earlier opportunity”.
    I again implore my colleagues across the way to ensure that Bill C-48 passes swiftly. It is critical to the integrity of the tax system that we do just that as parliamentarians in this House.

  (1315)  

    Not only does Bill C-48 respond to the above-mentioned reports, but it achieves other goals as well. Part 5 implements an income tax amendment relating to the enactment of the fairness for the self-employed act. It provides a tax credit in respect of employment insurance premiums paid by self-employed individuals. Part 6 of Bill C-48 implements technical amendments to the GST-HST, including relieving the GST-HST on the administrative service of collecting and distributing the levy on blank media imposed under the Copyright Act. This is very important.
    Part 7 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act to provide for technical changes concerning tax administration agreements. Finally, part 8 coordinates amendments that ensure that the tax amendments in Bill C-48 interact properly with all other legislation. As all of the measures in the legislation have been examined in greater detail by the finance committee, I wish to emphasize that the underlying goal of this legislation is to simplify the tax system, make it easier to comply and administer, and create more fairness for all Canadian taxpayers.
    Ensuring that everyone pays their fair share helps to keep taxes low for everyone and it improves incentives to work, save and invest. It attracts companies to our country. It attracts business in Canada. This is very important. Allow me to quote Mr. Larry F. Chapman, executive director and chief executive officer of the Canadian Tax Foundation, who stated to the Standing Committee on Finance earlier this year:
    Bill C-48, the Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012, the so-called tech bill, is a massive piece of legislation....but it represents 10 years of repairs and maintenance in updating the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act.
    When members opposite stood in the House and showed the massive tax act bill, this is what this gentleman was referring to. It is a massive piece of legislation and represents 10 years of repairs and maintenance in updating the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act.
    He further stated:
    Its passage is important to all Canadians... I want to emphasize it again. Its passage is very important to all Canadians.
    They are awaiting its passage in Parliament, waiting for parliamentarians to do the right thing.
    All of us as taxpayers are obligated to provide a portion of our hard-earned incomes to fund health care, social programs and other vital services to Canadians. We do so willingly and honestly, asking only in return that governments both manage our tax dollars wisely and ask no more from us than our fair share. Canadians can count on our government to do both.
    I hope all members in the House who were elected would commit to that basic fundamental principle of paying their fair share of taxes. It is troublesome when we hear of members who have not done that. Broadening and protecting the tax base supports the government's efforts to return to balanced budgets, responds to provincial governments' concerns about protecting provincial revenues on a shared tax basis and helps give Canadians confidence that our tax system is fair.
    As part of the government's continuing commitment to keep taxes low for Canadian families and to ensure the integrity of the tax system, I am happy to report that economic action plan 2013 proposes a number of measures to close tax loopholes, address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules and reduce international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. Members on all sides of the House have mentioned this. The government is committed to closing tax loopholes that allow a select few businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share. Ensuring that everyone pays their fair share also helps to keep taxes low for Canadian families and businesses, thereby improving incentives to work, save and invest in Canada.

  (1320)  

    Since 2006, including measures proposed in economic action plan 2013, the government has introduced over 75 measures to improve the integrity of the tax system. The government is taking steps in economic action plan 2013 to improve the integrity of the tax system in several ways, such as further extending the application of Canada's thin capitalization rules to Canadian resident trusts and non-resident entities; ensuring that the lost pools of trust cannot be inappropriately traded among arm's-length persons; enhancing corporate anti-loss trading rules to address planning that avoids these rules; ensuring that derivative transactions cannot be used to convert fully taxable ordinary income into capital gains taxed at a lower rate; eliminating unintended tax benefits relating to leveraged, insured annuities; and eliminating unintended tax benefits relating to leveraged life insurance arrangements, commonly known as the 10/8 arrangements.
    These are but a few of the improvements that are being proposed here today. In addition, economic action plan 2013 will provide the Canada Revenue Agency with new tools to enforce the tax rules to reduce international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance such as extending the normal reassessment period by three years for taxpayers who have failed to report income from a specified foreign property on their annual income tax return and failed to properly file the foreign income verification statement known as form T1135. This does happen quite legitimately sometimes, but it has to be addressed. Other tools include revising of form T1135 to require reporting of more detailed information; streamlining the process for the CRA to obtain information containing unnamed persons from third parties such as banks; requiring certain financial intermediaries, including banks, to report to the CRA their clients' international electronic funds transfers of $10,000 or more; and announcing the CRA's new stop international tax evasion program that will pay rewards to individuals with knowledge of major international tax non-compliance.
    While ensuring its integrity and fairness, our government continues to work hard to ensure that the tax system remains competitive so that we attract new business investment in the Canadian economy that creates jobs that Canadian families depend on. Lower taxes play a particularly important role in supporting economic growth by enabling businesses to invest more of their revenues back into their operations. These business investments in machinery, equipment, information technology and other physical capital will boost Canada's productivity and help Canadian businesses grow and create more jobs.
    As we all know, our government's tax changes have greatly improved Canada's business environment and tax competitiveness. Canada now has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7. Our government recognizes that low taxes increase the productive capacity of the Canada economy as well as Canadian living standards. It is this productivity growth that allows businesses to hire additional workers or offer higher wages to expand production and earn more profits.
    Our government is committed to lower taxes for all Canadians. That is why, since coming to office in 2006, we have introduced broad-based tax relief such as lowering the GST rate from 7% to 5% and introducing the tax-free savings account. In total, we have introduced more than 150 tax relief measures. Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from tax relief introduced by our government, with low-income and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater relief. Indeed, more than one million low-income Canadians have been removed from the tax rolls. Our strong record of tax relief is saving the typical Canadian family of four more than $3,200 a year.
    The legislation before us today takes us even further toward this tax fairness objective. Once again, I encourage the NDP and Liberals to support this important legislation and to help create greater tax fairness for all Canadians.

  (1325)  

    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about how having the lowest business taxes in the G7 allows businesses to hire. Could she explain this to all the young people in Toronto and across the country who cannot find any kind of permanent job? In fact they are relegated to an endless cycle of unpaid internships and short-term contract employment. In Toronto right now the official unemployment rate for young people is above 15%, but we know that the unofficial rate is well above that. It is over 20%. What can the member say to young people about the government's abysmal record on job creation for young people? It is in the statistics. It is not in the speaking notes, but the stats are there.
    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is obviously very concerned about his riding. Therefore, I would hope that he would give new hope to those young people who are looking for jobs and tell them that now, in spite of the economic climate globally, our country is the most sought after country in terms of economic climate in the world. There are 900,000 net new jobs that have been created.
    I think it is a really good idea not to say to our youth that our country is no good and nothing is going right in our country when actually it is the envy of the world. Those 900,000 new jobs are very important for these young people and they can get out and get them.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party is going to be supporting the passage of this bill, and we indicated that at second reading.
    Average Canadians look at tax avoidance or tax evasion as a serious issue that needs to be addressed. The bill, in principle, by its passage would go a long way in dealing with that issue. Our constituents want to ensure that there is a sense of fairness to our taxation policy and it is one of the reasons that we feel it is important to pass the bill in a timely fashion.
    My question to the member is regarding the frequency of having legislation of this nature come before the House. There is concern about the length of time since it was amended in the past. We would like to think that we would not see that kind of gap in the future. Does she have some thoughts about what would be an appropriate time for passage of future changes to legislation of this nature?
    Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, this started in 2001 when the tax fairness plan and loopholes were first looked at. As I said in my speech earlier, the fact of the matter is it has taken years to work with this. We were not actually in government in 2001. There was another government here. It takes a long time for governments to close all these loopholes that have been long-standing.
     When we do a piece of legislation like this we want to do broad consultation. Broad consultation was done on this and there were things found that had to be addressed that no one had ever thought of. Therefore, with the finance committee and others culminating with this examination, this big bill has arrived now in Parliament, and it is very important that we get it passed very quickly.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am sure that if anyone is watching, they are wondering why it has taken so long for this to happen. The fact that this bill is 1,000 pages long proves just how negligent this government is and how negligent previous governments were.
    That brings me to two other questions. Who benefits from this being so complicated and that we need experts to figure it out? Who would benefit from it being simple and clear? Obviously, their negligence was not an accident.
    This government, and perhaps the one before it, wanted this to remain complex and wanted to foster confusion for as long as possible, so that those who can afford to make use of tax experts would have an advantage.
    What does my colleague think?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada said, as they welcomed the passage of Bill C-48:
    As the last technical income tax bill was passed by Parliament in 2001, a significant backlog has accumulated that must be addressed. The Government has consulted on the majority of these measures in recent years and now is the time for action.
    The fact of the matter is that our government has consulted widely. It did start in 2001 before we were in government, but the ball was picked up because it had to be picked up. These tax loopholes had to be addressed.
    As the member says, the bill is 1,000 pages long and it has now taken 200 days in this Parliament to pass it. When members opposite are talking about the speedy passage of this bill, one way that would be helpful is for all members opposite to support this bill and get it passed.

  (1335)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech on Bill C-48 which, as she said, is quite long.
    I would like to know if, as a parliamentarian, she thinks it is a good idea to have a bill that is about 1,000 pages. I would also like to know if she has read it. If she has, that means that when she votes on it, she will be voting with a full understanding of the situation, and she will know what she is voting on.
    If she has actually read it and fully understands the content, I would like to know which measure in this bill she prefers.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, to be perfectly honest, I will not begin to say that I have read the 1,000 pages thoroughly, but I can say that I have gone through it and studied the parts that are very relevant to me.
    I know I have been kept abreast of the consultations that have been going on. I have also been kept abreast of the issues that have popped up when companies and individuals have not paid their fair share of Canadian taxes.
    I also know how important this bill is. Simply because we are coming out of a recession is one very important aspect. Every single honest Canadian is paying taxes, as we all are in this Parliament. Everybody, whether they are very wealthy or very poor, must be honest Canadians as well, or honest people who pay Canadian taxes.
    Having said this, it has been a long consultation, a long process. It has been 200 days in this Parliament. I think as parliamentarians we can sit back and say it is a big thick book and we cannot get into it until sometime next year, but Canada is waiting. Canadians are waiting for the results. Canadian taxpayers are waiting to ensure everybody is paying their fair share of taxes. We need to do that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, if any of my law faculty colleagues from long ago are watching right now, they will probably be sniggering because they will remember that tax law was not my favourite field. I would add that it was not the favourite field of many law students.
     However, it is probably the subject that affects people's everyday lives the most. People always talk about the long arm of the government and how it finds all kinds of ways, each more imaginative than the next, to reach in and take what we earn with the sweat of our brow. Sometimes it does that under what is called the Income Tax Act. At other times it does so by means of hidden taxes, which are highly valued by the Conservatives, with charges levied on all kinds of things.
     We pay our share every day and our money flows in many ways into the government's coffers. Many people will obviously wonder why I am rising to discuss Bill C-48. I am doing so because it has an impact on everyone's life. It has an impact on the lives of the people in my riding, Gatineau. That is as true for small businesses as it is for big businesses, but it is also true for individuals. They pay every day through the GST, and barely a month ago they did through their income tax returns, so this is not the easiest subject.
     Earlier I flipped through the act and thought back on marvellous memories of my time at the law faculty and on the Income Tax Act, just from looking at a few sections of the act. I wondered why legislators were incapable of coming up with anything simpler.
     I was listening to the member on the other side of the House who spoke before me. Several questions were put to her, all asking the same thing: why are we making technical amendments in 2013 that should have been in place since 2001? Let us get something straight. This is technical, but Bill C-48 is already in force by means of comfort letters.
     People must understand that, from the moment the mean taxman decides that something must be done, it is done, even if it is not yet included in the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act or related legislation. From the moment a comfort letter is signed, the government takes that money from our pockets. This will therefore make little change to people's lives, but it will be much easier to access because it will finally be in the act. Comfort letters are all well and good, and they say what they say, but they are not always clear.
     For individuals, our tax system is based on voluntary assessment. In other words, we rely on average Canadians to file their tax return by April 30. If they are lucky, and Revenue Canada does not ask them to produce various documents, they can use the short form. In fact, it is not over yet. Even for people with some training in taxation, it is not very straightforward.
     As the Auditor General said, this is not like other bills, where we have seen three versions die on the order paper as a result of an election or prorogation forced by the Conservative government, whose agenda disappeared as if by magic. In this case, the work just was not done. The work was also not done by the Liberals, since the previous legislation dates back to 2001. Auditors general have been calling on the legislators of the House for ages to do something about this more quickly.

  (1340)  

     In this way, the public could immediately see the changes to the legislation.
     In my opinion, the Conservative response to this matter does not stand up. The legislation has not had previous incarnations, nor has it taken a great deal of time, nor is it the opposition’s fault. That is absolutely not the case.
     It has taken them this long to produce Bill C-48 and finally listen to what the Auditor General was telling them. What she was telling them was rather serious and blunt. She noted that there were more than 400 technical amendments, and there are barely 200 in Bill C-48.
     In her fall 2009 report she said:
    No income tax technical bill has been passed since 2001. Although the government has said [as quick as the devil] that an annual technical bill of routine housekeeping amendments to the Act is desirable, this has not happened. As a result, the Department of Finance Canada has a backlog of at least 400 technical amendments that have not been enacted, including 250 “comfort letters” dating back to 1998, recommending changes that have not been legislated.
    If proposed technical changes are not tabled regularly, the volume of amendments becomes difficult for taxpayers, tax practitioners, and parliamentarians to absorb when they are grouped into a large package.
    This is true, whether you are a New Democrat, a Liberal, the sole member of the Green Party or one of the few from the Bloc Québécois. This is true for everyone, including the Conservatives.
    In the 1991 Report of the Auditor General, chapter 2, the Auditor General expressed some concerns that income tax comfort letters were not announced publicly. We are talking about chapter 2 of the Auditor General's report from 1991. In response, the Department of Finance Canada stated that:
…the government intends to release a package of income tax technical amendments on an annual basis, so that taxpayers will not be subject to more lengthy waiting periods as in the past before amendments are released to the public.
    Comfort letters have since been regularly released to the public. However, in the past 18 years, very few technical bills have been introduced and passed. Only four of the bills relating to income tax have been passed.
    A few sentences in my colleague's speech caught my attention. I found them surprising because it seemed to me that I had heard them yesterday as well. It is important to understand that all these bills are subject to a time allocation motion, be it Bill C-48 today, Bill C-54 last night or Bill C-49, which is to come and will not be spared either.
    Introducing a time allocation motion for Bill C-48 seems particularly outrageous, especially when the members opposite do it ad nauseam, parroting the lines written and produced for them by the office on the third floor.
    They are trying to tell us that this has been before the House for 200 days, yet Bill C-54 was also in the House for 200 days, as was Bill C-48, and Bill C-49 probably will be, as well.
    With its majority, the government can advance its agenda as it pleases. Perhaps we are moving at a snail's pace because the government does not really know where it is going. It improvises a little and all of a sudden it realizes that the session may end and that it will leave a lot of things unfinished. That is why it is speeding everything up.
     I hear people say we are repeating ourselves, but that is not the case. The message the people of Gatineau want me to send the Conservative government, particularly on Bill C-48, is that they are fed up with provisions so inaccessible and incomprehensible to the average person that everyone would like us to change those aspects.
     When I got to page 13 of the Income Tax Act, I had covered only three sections, and I was already getting fed up.

  (1345)  

     Yet I was a lawyer for 30 years. I studied tax law. I was elected as a member in 2004. I have analyzed many budgets, and I have seen the Income Tax Act in all its forms, as a member of both the government and the official opposition. I was not born yesterday, but this can be hard to grasp even for someone like me.
     Small businesses also point out a problem I regularly hear about in my riding of Gatineau. For a small business required to complete all the forms, the disproportionate amount of red tape is good only for the numbers expert industry.
     When members of the middle class or less privileged individuals want to do the right thing and pay their taxes, but do not really know how the system works, they have to go see an expert to be sure they make no mistakes. Few people like to make mistakes when it comes to taxes. However, some people manage to divert a large portion of what they owe in taxes even though they make millions of dollars. Authorities often go after lower-income individuals and treat them like criminals even though some people are forced to make arrangements with the Canada Revenue Agency, Revenu Québec or other organizations simply because everyday life is hard for them.
     We get these kinds of messages in our ridings. True, we will vote for the bill, but the Conservatives tell us to shut our traps the moment we agree with them. We are no longer entitled to speak. I do not have the right to tell the House what the people of my riding would like to get from their politicians, and I was elected by 62% of the electorate, not 39% like the Conservative government. There are lessons to be learned from each of our ridings. That is what democracy means. It means electing 308 members of different political philosophies. Gatineau may not have the same problem as certain ridings in Alberta, British Columbia or the Atlantic provinces. That is what makes it possible for us to improve the situation together.
     Voting in favour of a bill is not necessarily the same thing as giving the government carte blanche or saying that overall the bill is amazing. Sometimes, the government would do well to listen to us and follow the interpretation, which it does not often do. This is unfortunate, but there is a reason why it sticks to the script, like a racehorse running straight for the finish line. The Conservatives’ problem is that they often hit a wall because they fail to listen to what people were saying along the way. That is regrettable, but the message they are sending to all of our constituents is that their opinion does not matter in the least.
     Yet if there is one issue that affects all Canadians, regardless of where they live, surely it is taxation. My grandmother always said that in certain areas of life, things should be the same for everyone. I am sure that she would qualify that statement, since some people are good at avoiding certain things. She used to say that some things were unavoidable, like death and taxes. She was right up to a point, although she would surely be turning in her grave at all of the tax avoidance measures that abound today.
     While I am very pleased to see that Bill C-48 attempts to address certain problems, I am not fooled either. The Minister of Justice argues that by amending and toughening up certain laws, the problems of all crime victims will be resolved. That is not true. If the government fails to put more police officers on the highways and to increase funding for psychological support services, then it will not accomplish anything. The same holds true for tax avoidance.

  (1350)  

     If there are not enough agents to properly investigate cases of tax avoidance, or better still, of tax evasion, we will hit another wall.
     Again, this is a problem that the Conservatives have. They have an extremely narrow vision of how to get from point A to point B. They are incapable of appreciating that in order to get to point B and the desired outcome, they might have to make a small detour. The Conservatives just do not do certain things, like admitting they were wrong or that they made a mistake. According to an old saying, a fault confessed is half redressed. They have a hard time with that and again, that is unfortunate.
     Bill C-48 is a sound piece of legislation, but it does resolve everything. Had we not had to contend with this time allocation motion, we would have been able to hear a lot more from my colleagues, and maybe even from the Conservatives.
     I listened to some of the speeches, and it was interesting to see what it is about this bill that makes some Conservatives react. Once they had dispensed with “we are the best, the nicest, the cleverest” or what have you, in the final 30 seconds, they tied it to what was happening in their riding. It was beneficial for all members of the House.
     We can all learn from one another. I learn something from my colleagues who represent more rural regions. They in turn learn about what makes people in urban areas tick. Of course, there are different kinds of urban areas. There are large cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver and cities like Gatineau, which is the fourth-largest municipality in Quebec. Gatineau’s problems are different because it is located right on the Ontario border. By talking to one another, it is possible to find real solutions.
     When I served in Parliament from 2004 to 2006, I chaired the women’s caucus. Back then, my favourite expression was gender-based analysis, or GBA.
     I would tell my male colleagues that GBA stood for gender-based analysis, not Game Boy Advance. When a bill was being drafted, we ensured that all of the facts were taken into account. We were not just concerned about women.
     The best example I can give you is young people who drop out of school. If the facts show that young boys are the ones who drop out of school and a policy is needed to address that situation, then young boys will be the focus of that policy. That logic will dictate our actions.
     We accomplish things by talking to one another, by discussing matters and especially by listening and by being willing to admit that sometimes ours is not the absolute truth. However, this government is absolutely incapable of understanding that someone other than the PMO may have some sound ideas or be right. Just imagine having to admit that the NDP had a sound idea. The government thinks the sky would fall and something terrible would happen if it admitted that. How utterly ridiculous and how out of touch with the public.
     When I weigh everything, I tell myself that maybe this is what the Conservatives really want in the final analysis. All this really does is leave the public fed up, and what happens when people are fed up? The Conservatives are gambling on two possible outcomes: either that people will come out in force and vote them out of office, which I am hoping will be the case because people no longer want to have anything to do with them, or that people will stay home because they are sick and tired of the whole process. The Conservatives are gambling that the second scenario will play out.
     I think people have to realize that while they may not be interested in politics, something like Bill C-48 affects their day-to-day lives, starting with taxation.
     Just think about the tax people pay every day on all kinds of things. If they were to calculate how much tax they pay throughout the year, not just income tax, but tax on items purchased at the corner store, at the grocery store, at the drugstore or elsewhere, they would realize that the government is truly omnipresent and that perhaps they should pay attention to politics.
     I will be voting in favour of the bill, but it is not an end in itself.

  (1355)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, a number of New Democrats referred to the time and said that 2001 was the last time that technical changes were made. One can imagine that changes are not made on an annual basis per se, but depend on the changes that are required.
    My question is related to just that. How often does the member believe it is necessary to make changes? Would she not agree that bringing out a new piece of legislation would depend on the nature and the number of changes that are being requested?
    For example, 2002 would not have been a good year to bring additional legislation forward, given that changes were made in 2001. Would the member suggest that we go on an annual basis with legislation?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question.
    I think that the Auditor General has actually provided part of the answer. In my view, once there are comfort letters, a corresponding bill should be drafted to make adjustments immediately.
    From 2001 to 2006, there was no temporary gap in tax rules because there were comfort letters. The Conservatives came to power afterwards.
    The Auditor General told us to stop using comfort letters for the sake of those reading the legislation. Luckily, I was able to do my 20 minutes without reading part of the Income Tax Act. That would have been a real treat. Sections 1 to 5 alone take the reader through subparagraph after subparagraph. Do you think that the individuals concerned can make sense of this? No way. This is why the Auditor General wants us to put an end to comfort letters and amend legislation quickly.

  (1400)  

[English]

    The time for government orders has expired. The hon. member for Gatineau will have eight minutes remaining in questions and comments when this matter returns before the House.
    Statements by members, the hon. member for Edmonton Centre.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Vision Health Month

    Mr. Speaker, May is Vision Health Month in Canada. This is a nationwide awareness campaign, designed to educate Canadians across the country about their vision health and to help eliminate avoidable sight loss.
    Recently I spent some time without sight at CNIB Edmonton, trying to cope with everyday tasks that most of us take for granted: walking down the hall or up and down stairs, making and serving lunch, crossing busy streets, and using communications technology.
     The experience brought home to me just how challenging life could be for those with impaired or no vision. It also made me appreciate the determination and inner strength of those who have overcome such challenges, as well as the great work being done by CNIB staff and volunteers in helping people cope and adapt.
    Vision loss does not have to mean the loss of independence or quality of life. With the right support, people who are blind or partially sighted can do almost anything.
    Throughout the month of May, CNIB and its partner, Doctors of Optometry Canada, are calling on all Canadians to do one simple thing that could save their sight, and that is get an eye exam from a doctor of optometry and do it today.

Research and Development

    Mr. Speaker, while the Conservative Party wages its war on science, the NDP continues to champion research and growing Canada's knowledge economy.
    Conservative cuts to basic research, muzzling scientists and dismantling the National Research Council shows that Conservatives do not understand how science works.
    Under the Conservative government, Canadian R and D investment has dropped from 16th to 23rd in the world.
    The NDP unanimously passed a motion at our 2013 policy convention to continue to develop our made in Canada national science strategy, which includes moving to match the percentage of GDP invested by the public and private sectors in R and D as found in other global leading countries, such as the United States.
    The Conservatives have no such policy goals or targets and only offer vacuous statements based upon dubious financial figures, while attacking the core of our knowledge economy.
    The NDP has a clear and positive vision, which we will implement when we form government in 2015.

Brooks Bandits

    Mr. Speaker, it is with great honour that I stand in this place to congratulate the Brooks Bandits, a team from a community that it has been my privilege to represent here since 2008, on having won the RBC Cup, Canada's junior A hockey championship.
    The Bandits worked so hard all season, as they always do, and it paid huge dividends. I have no doubt that many of these players will go on to play in the NHL. They have made their communities and families very proud, with the resounding 3-1 victory over the Summerside Western Capitals.
    The Brooks Bandits won the RBC Cup and, believe it or not, it was their very first time participating in this tournament.
    The Brooks Bandits ranked number one in the Canadian Junior Hockey League for the final 22 weeks of the season and won their second consecutive AJHL title as well.
    I am with the Bandits in spirit, as they parade triumphantly through Brooks today.
    I would like to congratulate team captain Cam Maclise, as well as coach Ryan Papaioannou, assistant coach Brent Gunnlaughson, and the entire team for a job well done. They have done us all very proud. Go Bandits, go.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, Prabh Srawn is a young Canadian studying law in Australia. He has been a Canadian Forces reservist for six years. I know many members of the House will know the story that Prabh went missing in Kosciuszko National Park in Australia on May 13, and he has not yet been found.
    The family has been asking for an enhanced effort by Australian officials to find Prabh. I am sure all members of the House would join with me in seeking every possible avenue to find him. The news that the rescue effort is being scaled back is especially troubling. We would hope that in fact additional steps could be taken.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with Prabh and his family.
    We continue to urge the Canadian and Australian governments to do whatever they can to find this exemplary young Canadian.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, far too often the scales of justice were tipped away from the rights of law-abiding citizens in favour of the rights of criminals, while the interests of victims were ignored altogether.
    Our government has taken action to right this wrong. We have put forward a strong tough on crime agenda by establishing tougher penalties for a wide range of crimes. We have introduced and passed the Tackling Violent Crime Act, which raised the age of protection and made it easier to keep dangerous, violent and repeat offenders behind bars. We passed the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which eliminated house arrest for serious and violent crime and toughened sentences for drug dealers. We passed the Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act, which clarified the rules related to citizen's arrest and defence of property and persons.
    Canadians can count on our government to continue to protect victims of crime by holding criminals accountable for the crimes they commit.

  (1405)  

[Translation]

Relay for Life

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to highlight an important event being held across Canada, namely the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life.
    I would also like to take this opportunity to invite my constituents to sign up for this one-of-a-kind event. This year, in Drummond and Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, people may join the Relay for Life in Acton Vale on May 31, in Drummondville on June 1, and in St-Hyacinthe on June 7.
    Walking 12 hours overnight may seem quite a challenge. However, the people facing the real challenge are those living with cancer and their loved ones.
    Civil society must engage in raising funds to support cancer research. The federal government should follow the NDP's health-related recommendations for a public and accessible Canadian health care system.
    Solidarity is also essential both for motivation and to keep hope alive. That is why I warmly invite my constituents in Drummond and Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot to join in an enriching human experience by participating in the Relay for Life. Together, we can create hope, the hope to eradicate cancer, to live healthy lives and to embrace a dignified life—hope for tomorrow.

[English]

Dream Believers

    Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to share an inspirational story from the great Kenora riding. On May 10, Dryden's own Mardi Plomp and her Dream Believers team held the “Shake Your Booty for Colon Cancer” gala to help raise money for colon cancer screening equipment for the Dryden Regional Health Centre.
    Mardi started her annual cancer fundraiser in 2008 with small garden parties in her home. This year, Mardi's fundraiser went big time, requiring the local arena to accommodate more than 700 folks from across northwestern Ontario who came out to shake their booty.
    Mardi and her team set a goal to raise $85,000 dollars in one night. In fact, they raised $106,844, which will be used to purchase a colonoscope and gastroscope for the Dryden Regional Health Centre.
    I am proud to stand in my place today and congratulate Mardi Plomp, the Dream Believers and all those booty shaking folks for their success and support to ensure that people in our region have access to the cancer screening tools they need to help prevent and detect cancer early.
    Mardi Plomp and the Dream Believers are just another example of what is so great about the great Kenora riding.

Wine Industry

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate the many Canadian vintners who are here today, and those across the country, on the recent results of the largest and most in-depth Canadian wine and grape economic impact study ever conducted.
    This third party report found that the industry generates more than $6.8 billion annually for the Canadian economy, including $1.2 billion in government-related revenue.
    With more than 500 wineries and 1,300 grape growers in Canada, this industry proudly supports 31,000 Canadian jobs in agriculture, processing and support services.
    It is also important to note that more than three million tourists are welcomed to Canadian wineries each year, which is four times the number of visitors to the Vancouver Olympics.
    I cannot overstate the importance of the Canadian wine industry to the people of my riding of Niagara West—Glanbrook and the greater Canadian economy.
    Mr. Speaker, I invite you and all hon. members to the Government of Canada Conference Centre tonight for the Canadian wine reception to fully experience the excellence of Canadian wines and winemakers.

[Translation]

Contribution of Women to Society

    Mr. Speaker, let us take a moment to celebrate the contributions of women to our society. Whether in urban or rural areas, in business or community organizations, in politics or the service industry, we need women—strong, engaged, influential women.
    I am thinking of women like Micheline Anctil, the mayor of Forestville and reeve of Haute-Côte-Nord; Line Sirois, who has been a volunteer advocate for the unemployed for over 10 years; Danie Harvey, who has remained dedicated to defending those less fortunate for the past 25 years. I am also thinking of women like Chantale Cormier, director of the CLD de l'Île-d'Orléans; Isabelle Lusignan, director of the Chambre de commerce de Charlevoix; Chantal Lachance, who, with her colleagues, has made a name for herself in business; and Ginette Faucher, who runs an organization that makes the Montmorency area a better place to live.
    I am especially proud to be part of a caucus that has a record number of women. Municipal elections will be held in Quebec this November. I congratulate organizations like Réseau femmes et politique municipale de la Capitale-Nationale, which encourages women to enter politics and promotes women candidates. I say hats off to you all, ladies.

  (1410)  

[English]

New Democratic Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, day after day the NDP members stand in the House and claim to be defenders of Canadian taxpayers. Then we find out that two members of the NDP cannot be bothered to pay the tens of thousands of dollars they owe in back taxes. What is more, these members cannot be bothered to properly report this to the Ethics Commissioner.
    The NDP admitted that it knew the member for Brossard—La Prairie owed back taxes “from the beginning”. Not only did it not disclose this to Canadians, it decided to make him the national revenue critic.
    Paying taxes is a responsibility shouldered by all Canadians. Not paying our taxes is irresponsible, inconsiderate and un-Canadian.
    The NDP cannot claim to have any respect for Canadian taxpayers while allowing those members to remain in its caucus.

[Translation]

Jeanne Martin Painchaud

    Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize the birthday of Jeanne Martin Painchaud of Saint-Lambert. She blew out no fewer than 100 candles last Friday and is here with us today. It was a great honour and an immense pleasure for me to mark this memorable event with her, her daughter, Hélène, her granddaughter, Marie-Noëlle, and her son-in-law, Mel, as well as the members of the Association des résidents du Carrefour Victoria.
    Ms. Painchaud has lived 100 years, a century, and during that time, she has had a busy life giving back to the community, particularly the Saint-Lambert hospital. She has shared 100 years of experience and happiness. She is an example of perseverance, accomplishment and dedication to her loved ones—
    The hon. member for Prince George—Peace River.

[English]

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, our government is focused on delivering meaningful reform to the Senate, including elections, term limits and tough spending oversight. We have also introduced 11 tough new rules governing Senate travel and expenses, which were introduced despite objections from the Liberals.
    It should come as no surprise that the Liberal leader is defending the Senate's status quo. Recently, the Liberal leader said, "We have 24 senators in Quebec and there are only six for Alberta and British Columbia. That benefits us. It is an advantage for Quebec”.
     The Liberal leader is once again dividing Canadians. Recently, he also said that speaking in one language was “lazy”. He also said, “Canada isn't doing well right now because it's Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn't work”.
    Time and time again he takes potshots at the west and then comes to the House and pretends he is defending its interests. Mr. Speaker, western Canadians know better.

[Translation]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my concerns about the housing first approach announced in budget 2013 and its negative impact on community outreach programs for homeless Canadians and others living in precarious situations.

[English]

    In Montreal alone, shelters serve over 2,000 individuals on a nightly basis and, as we know, citizens in shelters account for only the tip of the iceberg.
    Budget 2013 leaves community outreach groups focused on the homeless in the dark about whether they will have the funding required to maintain their services.

[Translation]

     Focusing on housing excludes other very important initiatives that help people leave homelessness behind once and for all.

[English]

    The government has a responsibility to continue to fund proven and effective programs provided by community outreach groups and to protect and support vulnerable Canadians. I hope the government will reconsider.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, another interview, another oopsy for the Liberal leader. Case in point: the leader of the Liberal Party has declared that he supports the status quo in the Senate because it benefits Quebec, clearly showing to Canadians he does not know or understand what our national interests are.
     The Liberal leader says one thing when he is in one part of the country and the complete opposite when he is in a different part of the country. It makes me wonder if the Liberal leader understands that the Internet is everywhere these days—yes, even in the west.
    Just because he is speaking to his media buddies in Quebec does not mean that western Canadians will not hear and be shocked by what he has said. It is the only reason I can explain why the Liberal leader said that “Quebecers are better than the rest of Canada” and “Canada isn't doing well right now because its Albertans in control of our country”. He then called Canadians who speak only one of our two languages “lazy”.
    The good people of the electric city riding of Peterborough, Ontario, understand that the Senate must be reformed if possible, or abolished if necessary.
    We stand with all Canadians, except perhaps the new Liberal leader, who will be standing up for the status quo, unaccountable Senate and demonstrating—

  (1415)  

    The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

[Translation]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, as the scandals pile up, the Conservatives are continuing with operation camouflage. Senators may be lounging in luxury at taxpayers’ expense, falsifying their residence claims, inflating their travel expenses and cashing in $90,000 cheques from the Prime Minister’s Office, but the Conservatives keep repeating that they saw nothing and knew nothing, that they did not do it and that the guilty party acted alone. It is almost like listening to the former mayor of Montreal, Gérald Tremblay. How pathetic.
     While one hides, the other defends the status quo and his privileges. The Liberals are arguing for the status quo that gave us Mac Harb, Raymond Lavigne and a number of other senators with questionable ethics, which does not make a lot of sense. The Conservatives still will not answer questions about this scandal, which is the direct result of the Prime Minister's partisan appointments, but the NDP's position is clear: the Senate is not elected, not accountable, not ethical, not representative, and not relevant. It is time to shut down this relic of the past. The NDP will do so with enthusiasm and a sense of relief in 2015.

[English]

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party is clearly in over his head. We know he does not want Canadians to have a say in who represents them in the Senate because the Liberal leader thinks that “...an elected Senate is a terrible idea”.
    Instead of working with our government to bring greater accountability and transparency to the Senate, the Liberal leader champions the Senate's status quo, this time because it is to Quebec's advantage, as he says.
    These divisive comments are not surprising. They are consistent with the Liberal leader's poor judgment and lack of respect for Canadians from all regions of our country.
    Our government is focused on delivering meaningful reform to the Senate, including elections, term limits and tough spending oversight.
    The Liberal leader is defending the status quo in the Senate because it benefits one region at the expense of others. It is time the Liberal leader and his Liberal senators stopped defending the Senate status quo.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, on what date and at what time was the Prime Minister informed that Nigel Wright had made a payment to Conservative Senator Mike Duffy?
    Mr. Speaker, I have been very clear on this question. This matter came to my attention two weeks ago, after speculation appeared in the media.
    On Wednesday, May 15, I was told about it. At that very moment, I demanded that my office ensure that the public was informed, and it was informed appropriately.
    Mr. Speaker, when did the Prime Minister first speak with Nigel Wright about Mike Duffy's expenses?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said repeatedly, my first knowledge of this was on the date and at the time indicated.
    Prior to that point in time, it was my understanding that Mr. Duffy had paid back his own expenses.
    Mr. Speaker, the question was when did the Prime Minister first speak with Nigel Wright about Mike Duffy's expenses, and how many times did he speak with Nigel Wright in the week preceding his resignation?
    Mr. Speaker, if the leader of the NDP is suggesting I had any information to the contrary from Mr. Wright prior to this, that is completely false. I learned of this on May 15 and immediately made this information public, as I have said many times.

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, we are asking very simple, straightforward questions and the Prime Minister is not answering them. That is the problem. Canadians want answers.

[Translation]

     What instructions did the Prime Minister give to Nigel Wright or other people in his office to solve the problem of Conservative Senator Mike Duffy's expenses?
    Mr. Speaker, I did not give any such instructions. It was my opinion that Mr. Duffy was to pay his own expenses, and that is what I believed until May 15.

[English]

    Then what changed, Mr. Speaker, between the time the Prime Minister expressed his total, absolute support of Nigel Wright and the moment he accepted his resignation just three days later? What changed?
    Mr. Speaker, Mr. Wright accepted full responsibility for his error in this matter. He offered his resignation, and I accepted that resignation.
    As we know, he will be subject to an examination by the Ethics Commissioner, and that is the accountability mechanism we have put in place for these kinds of things.
    Mr. Speaker, as the country now knows, the Prime Minister's closest adviser secretly paid $90,000 to a sitting legislator to obstruct an audit.
    Will the Prime Minister commit to releasing all records, emails, documents, correspondence and other material relating to any arrangement between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy?
    Mr. Speaker, the arrangement in question that the leader speaks to was, of course, between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy. It is a matter of examination by the Ethics Commissioners in each chamber of this Parliament, and obviously, should we be asked to produce any kind of information, we would be happy to do so.
    Mr. Speaker, we are asking for that information.

[Translation]

     I will try again.
     Is the Prime Minister going to release all the documents, including emails and correspondence, relating to the arrangement between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy? Is the Prime Minister going to show the public a copy of the cheque made out by Mr. Wright to Mr. Duffy?
    Mr. Speaker, once more, this was an arrangement between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy. I am expecting the Ethics Commissioners in each house of Parliament to look into these questions.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, these are questions to which Canadians have been asking for answers, and they deserve those answers directly from the Prime Minister.
    Will the Prime Minister commit to having everyone involved in this affair, including himself, testify about their involvement, in a public forum under oath?
    Mr. Speaker, the facts here are very straightforward. This is a matter between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy. It is the subject of an examination by the Ethics Commissioners in both houses of Parliament.
    What I think Canadians are completely bewildered about is why the leader of the Liberal Party thinks now is an appropriate time to try to pit one region against another region over the question of Senate reform.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister keeps referring us back to the whitewashed report of the Senate. Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen is his former press secretary. Did he or did he not ever have any conversations with his former press secretary, Carolyn Stewart Olsen, concerning this affair in the Senate?
    As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, no, I did not, but it is very clear the Senate committee itself has answered those questions. It is the author of its own report. That report mirrors the recommendations of an independent audit conducted on behalf of the Senate; and the government, as a matter of fact, agrees with the recommendations in those reports, which are that the expenses in question are inappropriate and amounts such as that must be repaid to the taxpayers of Canada.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, did the Prime Minister ever discuss this matter in cabinet?
    Mr. Speaker, the Senate committee has been very clear. It made its own report on these matters. The government's position is also extremely well known. When people claim expenditures they never actually incurred, these are inappropriate and must be repaid to the taxpayers.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister keeps trying to convince Canadians that he is being straightforward. That was a very straightforward and simple question. Did he ever discuss this matter in cabinet?
    Mr. Speaker, the Senate committee report is a Senate committee report. It is not a matter of government or cabinet business. That is plainly obvious.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, when did the Prime Minister learn that an agreement had been made with Conservative Senator Mike Duffy? This time we are asking about the agreement, not the payment.
    Mr. Speaker, once again, it was the same date.
     On Wednesday, May 15, Mr. Wright told me that he had given a personal cheque to Mr. Duffy so that he could reimburse the taxpayers.
     Until that moment, I thought that Mr. Duffy had paid his own expenses.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, who in the Prime Minister's Office spoke with Mr. Duffy about withholding information from auditors or others investigating this matter?
    Mr. Speaker, I have no information to that effect. Obviously, as I have said repeatedly, the arrangements between Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright are a matter of inquiry of the Ethics Commissioners of both houses of this Parliament, and we will provide any support necessary in those examinations.
    Mr. Speaker, Mike Duffy wrote in an email that after being paid $90,000, he “stayed silent on the orders of the Prime Minister's Office”. Who told Mike Duffy to remain silent?
    Mr. Speaker, these are not matters I am privy to. This is an email from Mike Duffy, who is no longer a member of our caucus and certainly never conveyed that information to me.
    Mr. Speaker, once Mike Duffy received the $90,000 from the Prime Minister's Office, he stopped co-operating with Deloitte, which was the auditor in the file. Was that part of the deal with Mike Duffy?
    Again, Mr. Speaker, I think it's important to note the falsehood in that particular question. Mr. Duffy has received no money from the Prime Minister's Office, nor from the taxpayers of Canada. Mr. Wright has been very clear that Mr. Wright gave this money to Mr. Duffy out of his own personal resources, and to my knowledge, there is no legal agreement between the two of them.
    Mr. Speaker, actually, when the chief of staff of the Prime Minister in the course of his functions from the Prime Minister's Office gives $90,000 to shut up a sitting senator, that is out of the Prime Minister's Office.
    No legal document? A cheque is a document. Do they have a copy of the cheque? Has the Prime Minister or anyone in his office seen that cheque?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition just said, there is no cheque from the Prime Minister's Office. There is no use of Prime Minister's Office funds in this affair.
    This was an action Mr. Wright took, using his own resources, on which he is now subject to examination and accountability by the Ethics Commissioner.
    Mr. Speaker, if he has never seen the cheque, how can the Prime Minister rise in this House and tell us that it is a personal cheque? How does he know that it is not from a trust account? How does he know that if he has never seen the cheque?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, this is a matter of public record, as Mr. Wright himself has said. I can certainly assure the member that no such money has gone out of our office or out of PMO budget.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has repeatedly stated in this House today that he only learned about the deal between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy on May 15.
    However, on the evening of May 14, CTV News ran the story about this deal and included commentary from the Prime Minister's own office that no taxpayer money was used.
    Is the Prime Minister so completely not aware about what is going on in his own office that he did not know the night before, when the news broke?
    Mr. Speaker, I think I have been very clear. Until the morning of May 15, when Mr. Wright informed me that he had written a personal cheque to Mr. Duffy so that he could repay his expenses, it had been my understanding that Mr. Duffy had paid from his own personal resources.
    Mr. Speaker, let us get this straight.
     On Tuesday, the Prime Minister's Office denies any problem with the payment. On Wednesday, it is an honourable act. On Friday, Nigel Wright still has the complete confidence of the Prime Minister. Sunday morning, he resigns, but cabinet ministers run around calling him “a great Canadian”.
    If the Prime Minister learned about the $90,000 payment at the same time as the rest of us, why did it take him a week to relieve his chief of staff of his responsibilities?
    Mr. Speaker, by his own admission, Mr. Wright made a very serious error. For that, he has accepted full, sole responsibility.
    He has agreed to resign. He is subject to an investigation and examination by the Ethics Commissioner, on which I anticipate he will be fully co-operative.
    Mr. Speaker, this is what the Prime Minister would have Canadians believe: the chief of staff walks into the Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday morning, looks him in the eye and says that unbeknownst to him he had secretly paid a sitting legislator $90,000 to obstruct an audit.
    If that were true, the Prime Minister should have fired Nigel Wright on the spot. Instead, he spent five days defending him and calling him “honourable”.
    Has the Prime Minister grown so out of touch that he actually expects Canadians to believe this story?
    Mr. Speaker, the facts here are reasonably simple, whether or not the opposition or anybody else particularly likes them.
    The facts are simple and they are clear. It was the belief of Mr. Wright—in fact, I think it is fair to say the belief of all of us—that Mr. Duffy should repay any inappropriate expenses. Mr. Wright ultimately decided, on his own, using his own resources, to assist Mr. Duffy in that repayment, a matter he kept to himself until Wednesday, May 15.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Benjamin Perrin denies having been a part of the decision to give Mike Duffy the money and write him a cheque. He does not deny having drawn up the agreement for Nigel Wright.
     Can the Prime Minister tell us what part Mr. Perrin played in this story?
    Mr. Speaker, Mr. Perrin has already answered these questions. It was Mr. Wright who gave the cheque to Mr. Duffy. According to our information, as far as we know at this time, there is no legal agreement between them.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is simply juggling the same words as his ministers.
     There is no legal agreement, but there was an exchange of emails, and we should see something here, because there was an exchange of emails. The cheque is a legal document. It is a negotiable instrument. It should be disclosed. We will find out if it was a personal cheque or one drawn on a trust account.

[English]

    We have another question.
    After expressing full confidence in Pamela Wallin, what did he learn from the audit of Ms. Wallin's expenses that led him to ask Senator Wallin to resign from the Conservative caucus after having expressed full confidence in her and having said in this House that he had personally checked her expenses and that they were fine? What changed?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is incorrect. What we said is there would be an examination of the expenses of all senators. There is in fact an ongoing audit of Senator Wallin's expenses. Senator Wallin has chosen to step outside the Conservative caucus until such time as that audit report and the matters that may or may not be raised in it are resolved.

Government Accountability

    Mr. Speaker, that was almost a moment of admission there.
    Let me remind the Prime Minister of what he said when he was in opposition. He said that the prime minister personally ordered adscam done and chose the people who executed the plan. He said that at the very least he fostered an attitude within the party, chose the managers who committed these crimes and completely and utterly failed to exercise any oversight, supervision or leadership. He said that in the end it does not really matter because the prime minister was the leader, and a leader is responsible for the actions of the people he leads.
    Does he still agree with these comments?
    Mr. Speaker, we certainly agree that Canadians expect and deserve accountability. That is why the Prime Minister, both in his entire term as prime minister and again here today, has shown the accountability and leadership that Canadians have come to expect.
    The Leader of the Opposition asked questions; the Prime Minister has answered. The Liberals were mired in corruption, and Canadians expected action; we delivered the Accountability Act. On Senate reform, we have legislation to go further. It would be nice if the opposition would join us in the fight to reform Canada's Senate.
    Mr. Speaker, let us talk about three people central on this. First Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister's own hand-picked and closest adviser, cuts a potentially illegal cheque for $90,000 to make a political crisis disappear. Second, the Prime Minister's longest-standing personal adviser, Carolyn Stewart Olsen, sits on a committee that whitewashes the report on Duffy, once again to make a potential crisis disappear.
    The third member of the Prime Minister's triumvirate is Ray Novak, now the last man standing. Did the Prime Minister ask Ray Novak to explain his role in the scheme to cover up this scandal?
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister just answered directly both of those questions that were in the Leader of the Opposition's question. However, more broadly on the issue, the Prime Minister was just very clear about when he learned about what Nigel Wright did when Nigel Wright was acting alone.
    We do want to indeed move forward on the issue of Senate reform and we do hope that the opposition parties will stand up and work with us to reform the Senate in a way that Canadians have come to hope that this House would do.

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, last week we learned that two members of the NDP caucus owe tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes. If we can believe it, one is the former revenue critic. The NDP advocate for higher taxes for Canadians and at the same time cannot be bothered to pay their own.
    Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport update the House on the measures the government has taken to keep taxes low for hard-working Canadian taxpayers?
    Mr. Speaker, we understand that when some cheat the tax system, everyone else has to pay more to make up the difference. That is why we have hired 100 new auditors. It is why we have introduced 75 tough new measures to crack down on tax cheats. We have caught 2,000 of them since we took office.
    At the same time, we are lowering taxes for hard-working, law-abiding families by, on average, $3,000 per family. On this side of the House we believe everyone should pay their fair share and everyone should pay just a little bit less.

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence is trying to keep up with his boss with his very own patronage scandal and cover-up.
     ACOA's rules were rigged. They were rigged to hire the defence minister's political aide. That is clear. When caught, his chief of staff stepped in to whitewash a report to cover up that interference.
    These agencies are supposed to help with crucial regional economic development. Instead, ACOA has become a home for Conservative partisan abuses.
    Where is the accountability? What consequences did the minister's chief of staff face for this attempted cover-up?
    Mr. Speaker, that question, I have to say, was very void of facts.
    The Public Service Commission is an independent body and, as such, makes its own determinations on what to include or not include in its reports. The independent investigation by the Public Service Commission did not find any evidence of any wrongdoing or influence on the part of ministers or political staff in this matter, and ACOA has taken action in response to the Public Service Commission's recommendations.

  (1440)  

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, they changed the report at the request of the minister's office.
    News reports have revealed that the Prime Minister, after making what we thought was a bona fide promise to Newfoundland and Labrador to provide a loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls, tried to force the province to concede fish-processing rules in the EU trade deal in order to keep that promise, and days before Nigel Wright resigned, he was pushing the issue with the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.
    Will the Prime Minister acknowledge his bad faith in this, or is he claiming that here is another case of Nigel Wright acting alone?
    Mr. Speaker, the member has it all wrong. There is no linkage between these two issues.
     Our government is proceeding with the Lower Churchill project. In fact, we just issued the request for financing for this very project.
     An ambitious trade agreement with the EU would be of significant benefit to hard-working Canadians, including Labradorians and Newfoundlanders. In fact, we are seeking a very high-quality fish and seafood package for Canada, and we are committed to achieving an outcome that would open up new opportunities for Canada's exporters.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians hoping for answers about the Jeffrey Delisle case got a whole lot of ducking and dodging from the Minister of Public Safety yesterday.
     The fact is that CSIS failed to share critical information on this case with the RCMP and left it to the FBI to inform Canadian police. Now we are hearing the United States had to step in to ensure Canada's security systems were actually fixed.
    After the damage this has done to Canada's reputation, what is the minister going to do to restore our credibility with our allies?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not comment on operational matters relating to national security. However, I can say that the conclusions drawn in the media report are inaccurate, and the comments of that individual are inaccurate as well.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister can shoot the messenger all he wants, but the facts are the facts.
     This disastrous breach in security could have been avoided. The loopholes that enabled Mr. Delisle to sell secrets to Russia for nearly five years had been identified by internal audits, but the Conservatives preferred to stand by and watch the disaster unfold.
     One expert stated, and I quote, “National Defence, if it had tried, could not have done worse”.
     Why were these security breaches not rectified?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I do not comment on matters of national security when it involves operational matters. However, I can say that the conclusions in the media report are inaccurate.

[Translation]

41st General Election

    Mr. Speaker, last week, the Federal Court issued a damning ruling against the Conservative Party.
    Justice Mosley ruled that the Conservative Party database had been used to conduct widespread, systematic fraud during the 2011 election.
    What will the Prime Minister do to hold all those in his party who committed fraud accountable?
    If he had, he would know that the Conservative Party was vindicated in the ruling and that there was no evidence that the Conservative Party was guilty of what the hon. member is accusing us of. We won the election, we were vindicated in the ruling and we will continue to work for Canadians.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this question is for the Prime Minister, who has been up talking about accountability all day. Justice Mosley ruled last week that the Conservative Party database was used to commit widespread election fraud and that in a typical pattern for the government, the Conservative Party did everything it could, to quote the judge, “to block these proceedings by any means”.
    Why did the Prime Minister allow the government to engage in trench warfare to prevent the truth from coming out? Will the Prime Minister explain the lack of accountability of his operatives in this case?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, actually, what the ruling said was that there was “no finding that the [Conservative Party of Canada], [or] any CPC candidates...were directly involved in any campaign to mislead voters” and that the partisan group that brought the legal action failed to produce even a single person who had been prevented from voting as a result of an illegal robocall or a phone call.
    Speaking of accountability, it is time for the member to stand up and explain why he took the occasion over this weekend to attack all Canadians outside of Quebec with a divisive comment designed to protect the Senate status quo and all the Liberals who are privileged to sit in that Senate.

[Translation]

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Panamanian police finally nabbed Arthur Porter, who allegedly misappropriated millions of dollars. That same Arthur Porter was the Conservatives' choice to chair the CSIS Security Intelligence Review Committee.
    Will the Conservatives finally admit that appointing Arthur Porter showed a serious lack of judgment?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the authorities for a successful arrest. While I cannot comment on a specific case, I can say that anyone involved in corruption must face the full force of the law. Arthur Porter resigned nearly two years ago. These allegations have no connection to his role with the federal government.
    Mr. Speaker, this is about the Prime Minister's judgment and lack thereof. We have Jeffrey Delisle selling off Canada's secrets. At the same time, the Conservative appointee, Arthur Porter, was chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee. Can members believe it? Now both are behind bars, yet Conservatives are refusing to take accountability and tell Canadians what really went on here.
    Will the Conservatives finally take responsibility for Arthur Porter?
    Mr. Speaker, in fact, I have answered those questions, but let us talk about the issue of accountability and the failure of the Leader of the Opposition to demand accountability from two of his members who are, in fact, not paying their income tax. He has taken no steps at all in that respect.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, my constituents in Selkirk—Interlake are extremely concerned about whether or not Canada's justice system has all the tools it needs to keep them safe from high-risk individuals. Most recently, Vince Li, a man who brutally murdered and cannibalized Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus, was granted escorted day trips by the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board. This, in my view and the view of my constituents, is an outrage.
    Could the Minister of Justice please tell the House about what action the government is taking to address these types of cases?
    Mr. Speaker, this is precisely why we have introduced the not criminally responsible act. We want to make sure that public safety is the paramount consideration when review boards have a look at these cases.
    What I do find outrageous is the position of the Liberal Party, which last night announced that it will vote against all of the common-sense reforms, this despite the fact that this has the support of victims groups, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and provincial attorneys general. Canadians should not be surprised, but they should be very disappointed in the Liberal position on this. We, on the other hand, will continue to stand up for victims in this country.

Government Accountability

    Mr. Speaker, this question period has been outrageous. The Prime Minister insists that he should not and cannot be held accountable for the actions of his own office. The Prime Minister insists that he cannot and should not be held accountable for the use of his party's database to commit widespread electoral fraud. Given his actions, does the Prime Minister believe that he is meeting the standard of accountability that he set for himself when he took office and that Canadians deserve?
    Mr. Speaker, indeed, he has set the level for accountability that Canadians have come to expect and deserve. That is why we have been re-elected twice since our first mandate.
    Equally, on the measure of accountability, would the Liberal leader care to explain again his position on the subject of Senate reform? He says he does not believe in changing the status quo, because it benefits the province of Quebec.
    He is going to be in western Canada later this week. It would be nice if he would actually come clean with western Canadians about why it is he thinks this institution should continue to be a disrespect to other parts of the country because of its current imbalance. It would be great if he would be accountable to this House for his position on the status quo in the Senate, which is unacceptable.

  (1450)  

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' attempts to stall a child welfare case at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal continue. We now have a copy of the investigation by the Privacy Commissioner. It confirms that the Conservatives violated privacy laws when they collected personal information about Dr. Cindy Blackstock. This has all the signs of retaliation over Dr. Blackstock's participation in the Human Rights Tribunal.
    Will the minister today agree to stop stalling the case, implement the Privacy Commissioner's recommendations and finally give first nations children the justice they deserve?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, the premise of her question is totally false. The commissioner's report never referred to the Conservatives.
    The fact of the matter is that we take Canadians' right to privacy very seriously. Most of the recommendations, if not all, were already being implemented. We shall fully implement the recommendations of the commissioner.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, over the weekend, I met with members of Prabh Srawn's family. They are upset, they are anxious, and they are worried. Prabh Srawn has been missing for a little over two weeks, and the family feels that not enough is being done to find him.
    I promised the family during that meeting that I would raise this issue and request that more be done. Can the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, Americas and Consular Affairs, please advise what has been done and what will be done to find Prabh Srawn?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Brampton West for his concern. Earlier today, I spoke with Australia's High Commissioner to Canada. I thanked her for their authority's dedicated efforts and relayed Canada's request that the search for Mr. Srawn not be reduced at this time.
    Canada has been actively working with Australian authorities to discuss the search mission and to convey the family's concerns. Our engagement at all levels will continue. We join Canadians in praying for his safe return.
    Mr. Speaker, it seems to be, once again, too little too late. Prabhdeep Srawn is a Canadian Forces reservist who has been missing for two weeks in Australia, and when his family reached out for help, the government ignored them.
    Mr. Srawn has proudly served our country. Now our country should be doing more for him. Why will the Conservatives not listen to the concerns of his family? Why have they not listened and worked to bring him home?
    Mr. Speaker, as I just said, our thoughts are very much with the family and friends of this Canadian missing in Australia. I have spoken with Australia's High Commissioner to request that the search for Mr. Srawn not be reduced at this time.
    Canada has been actively working with Australian authorities to discuss the search mission and to convey the family's concerns. Our engagement with Australian authorities at all levels will definitely continue.

[Translation]

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has not had much luck with his partisan appointments, to say the least.
    Yesterday, Arthur Porter was arrested. In 2008, the Bloc Québécois was the only party to oppose his appointment to the Security Intelligence Review Committee because allegations of conflict of interest and mismanagement were already hanging over his head. The Prime Minister refused to listen to the Bloc Québécois' recommendations about Arthur Porter, not once, but twice.
    This time, will the Prime Minister admit his mistake and ask the Governor General—as he is in a position to do so—to remove Arthur Porter from the Privy Council?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would thank the member for the question and for pointing out that the members of the opposition, in fact, did support that appointment.
    I would like to congratulate the authorities for a successful arrest. While I cannot comment on the specific case, I can say that anyone involved in corruption must face the full force of the law. Arthur Porter resigned nearly two years ago, and the allegations that he was arrested on have no connection with his role with the federal government.

  (1455)  

41st General Election

    Mr. Speaker, last week, as the Prime Minister will know, the Federal Court found that widespread electoral fraud was committed during the 2011 election involving phone calls telling voters that their voting location had changed. The court found that the voter database at Conservative headquarters was very “likely” the source of the data for those calls.
    The Conservative Party announced very quickly that they were “pleased” with these findings, so the question is this: Is the Prime Minister pleased that his party's resources were used to commit widespread voter fraud?
    Mr. Speaker, of course, the question is based on a false premise. What the court ruling actually said was: “....no finding that the [Conservative Party of Canada], [or] any Conservative candidates...were directly involved in the campaign to mislead voters”. That is what the ruling said.
     It was a partisan action brought forward by an ultra-partisan group that failed to produce a single solitary voter anywhere in Canada who was prevented from casting a ballot by a misleading phone call.

[Translation]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' official story is that nobody knows what happened. However, saying that the Prime Minister did not talk to his chief of staff before his chief of staff wrote a big cheque for a senator in trouble is about as credible as saying that the Prime Minister did not speak to his finance minister before the finance minister tabled a budget. It does not make any sense.
    Now that the Prime Minister is here with us, could he make a bit of an effort to try to remember whether or not he asked Nigel Wright to make the embarrassing problem that is the Senate go away?
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has already provided a very clear answer to that question.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Senator Tkachuk has admitted that he had discussions with Nigel Wright and took general advice from him during the audit. Was the PM also uninformed of those conversations his chief of staff had, which followed the secret deal to help Mike Duffy?
    Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has again said very clearly, he was made aware of the payment by Nigel Wright the day it was reported, on that Wednesday, and he is not aware of any agreement between Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright.

Finance

    Mr. Speaker, today at the finance committee, we were discussing Bill C-60, which is the first budget implementation act of this government. This legislation includes $18 million for the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, $165 million for Genome Canada, $20 million for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, $30 million for Nunavut Housing, $5 million for aboriginal students through Indspire, $3 million for compassionate care through the Pallium Foundation and $3 million for the CNIB for the national digital hub.
    Can the Minister of Finance comment on why it is so important that this Parliament pass these measures?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me thank the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc for the question. He is an excellent chair of the House of Commons finance committee, which is, in fact, an excellent committee, come to think of it. It does a lot work on budget preparation. A number of the recommendations from the House of Commons finance committee were incorporated in economic action plan 2013.
    In terms of economic growth, we have the largest and longest federal infrastructure plan in Canadian history in the budget. We have the Canada job grant initiative, which is very important in matching people with jobs across Canada, and of course, the incentives for manufacturing, which suffered greatly from the great recession. This is contrary to the NDP, which wants to raise taxes, and the Liberals, who have no economic--

Presence in Gallery

    Order. That concludes question period for today.
    I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of a parliamentary delegation from the Hellenic Republic, led by His Excellency Vangelis Meimarakis, Speaker of the Parliament of the Hellenic Republic.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

  (1500)  

[English]

Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act

    The House resumed from May 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    It being three o'clock, pursuant to an order made on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-54.
    Call in the members.

  (1505)  

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 698)

YEAS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Angus
Armstrong
Ashfield
Ashton
Aspin
Atamanenko
Aubin
Ayala
Baird
Bateman
Bellavance
Benoit
Bernier
Bevington
Bezan
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Blaney
Block
Boivin
Boughen
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brosseau
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Caron
Carrie
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Chisholm
Chisu
Chong
Choquette
Chow
Christopherson
Clarke
Cleary
Clement
Comartin
Côté
Crockatt
Crowder
Cullen
Daniel
Davidson
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Day
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dewar
Dionne Labelle
Donnelly
Doré Lefebvre
Dreeshen
Dubé
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Dykstra
Fantino
Fast
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Flaherty
Fletcher
Freeman
Galipeau
Gallant
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Glover
Goguen
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Gravelle
Grewal
Groguhé
Harper
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hoback
Holder
Hughes
James
Jean
Julian
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Kellway
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lapointe
Latendresse
Lauzon
Laverdière
Lebel
Leitch
Lemieux
Leslie
Leung
Liu
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Mai
Marston
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
Mayes
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Merrifield
Michaud
Miller
Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Mourani
Mulcair
Nantel
Nash
Nicholls
Nicholson
Norlock
Nunez-Melo
Obhrai
O'Connor
Oliver
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Papillon
Paradis
Patry
Payne
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Plamondon
Poilievre
Preston
Quach
Raitt
Rajotte
Rankin
Rathgeber
Ravignat
Raynault
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Ritz
Saganash
Sandhu
Saxton
Scott
Seeback
Sellah
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Smith
Sopuck
Sorenson
Stanton
Stewart
Storseth
Strahl
Sullivan
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Toews
Toone
Tremblay
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Turmel
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 242

NAYS

Members

Andrews
Bélanger
Bennett
Brison
Byrne
Casey
Coderre
Cotler
Cuzner
Dion
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Easter
Eyking
Foote
Fry
Garneau
Hsu
Hyer
Karygiannis
Lamoureux
LeBlanc (Beauséjour)
MacAulay
May
McCallum
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Murray
Pacetti
Rae
Regan
Sgro
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Trudeau
Valeriote

Total: -- 34

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

    (Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

    I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded division, government orders will be extended by nine minutes.

[Translation]

Canadian Museum of History Act

Bill C-49—Time Allocation Motion  

    That, in relation to Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the Bill; and
that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration of the second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

  (1510)  

    Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.
    The hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome everyone to this, the 36th time allocation motion. This is a record. It makes you wonder how the government justifies once again invoking time allocation.
    In October 2002, when referring to the number of times that the Liberals had invoked time allocation, the Prime Minister said the following:

[English]

    “The government has used closure and time allocation more frequently than any previous government.”

[Translation]

    The government has beaten this record, a record that the current Prime Minister denounced approximately 10 years ago.
    Professor Ned Franks, an expert in constitutional matters, stated a little earlier this year that no government in Canada's history had invoked time allocation as frequently as this government. It is a record. It is thoroughly undemocratic.
    I would once again like to quote the Prime Minister. On December 9, 2002, in reference to the then-Liberal government, he said the following:

[English]

    He said that the government invoked closure because “...there are no plans”. He added “...the government is simply increasingly embarrassed by the state of the debate and it needs to move on”.

[Translation]

    We are faced with a similar situation today. The Conservatives are so ashamed of what is occurring in the Senate that they want to cut short debate as quickly as possible, and prorogue the House, once and for all. It is, quite simply, undemocratic. When a time allocation motion is invoked, there is no opportunity to properly and fully discuss prospective legislation. Bill C-38 is a prime example of this.
    The government has amended so many bills that it is now trying to fill in the gaps left by the dearth of debate. For example, the Fisheries Act was amended to change the definition of fish habitat protection. Last month, Fisheries and Oceans Canada called on stakeholders across Canada to help it define fish habitat protection because it was unable to do so itself. Had we debated Bill C-38 last year, we would have found a solution.
    Invoking a time allocation motion is undemocratic and leads to second-rate legislation that will end up before the Supreme Court. It really is a waste.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for being part of this debate on such an important subject. I speak of Canada's heritage, our country's heritage, specifically the founding of a new Canadian Museum of History. I would like to point out that this bill deals with the creation of a new museum in the national capital, the Canadian Museum of History. As outlined in the bill, the museum's mandate is as follows:
    The purpose of the Canadian Museum of History is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experiences, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada’s history and identity, and also to enhance their awareness of world history and cultures.
    This government is creating a museum in Canada's capital that will set up a real national infrastructure to focus on and enhance awareness of our country's heritage.

  (1515)  

[English]

     I would like to point out the broad support that we have for the creation of the Canadian museum of history. It should be pointed out that the mayor of Gatineau, Mr. Bureau, supports the creation of this museum. Mr. Watson, the mayor of Ottawa, supports the creation of this museum, as do historians and museum directors from all across this country.
    I would just point out, for example, that John McAvity, who is the executive director of the Canadian Museums Association, said that the renaming of the museum is essential. He said, “That is good news....it will give Canadians greater access to their heritage, to their history”.
    Michael Bliss, an historian and an author, said, “It is very exciting that Canada's major museum will now be explicitly focused on Canada's history”.
    These are all important initiatives. Spokespeople for Canada's history, the understanding of Canada's history, are excited about Bill C-49, the new focus of Canada's largest museum, and moving forward so that Canadians have this national infrastructure for the teaching, dissemination and future study of Canada's history.
    Mr. Speaker, we are seeing this attitude far too often from the Conservative-Reform majority government. The majority Conservative government has abused this legislature in the form of closure, which is what time allocation is, 36 times. The government is saying that members of Parliament who were duly elected are not going to be afforded the opportunity to thoroughly debate legislation. Thirty-six times is a record in the history of our nation. The government should not be saying “hear, hear” to time allocation. This is not a badge of honour. It is a disgrace and a slap in the face of democracy. It is a style of governance that is just not acceptable to Canadians.
    We should not be taking for granted the system that we have in place. The government should be allocating more time to discuss legislation. It should be allowing and fostering democracy, not bringing in time allocation on every piece of legislation. Time allocation is not a tool to be used on every occasion. Every government of every political stripe, even New Democrats at the provincial level, have used different forms of time allocation when it was deemed necessary. It is not necessary on all pieces of legislation.
    Why has the government time and time again used closure as a means to pass legislation when that is not a good way of governance? What we are seeing is an abusive Conservative-Reform government taking advantage by passing legislation through time allocation, which is just wrong.
    Mr. Speaker, again, the problem with that, of course, is that our government actually moved forward to expand the time that the House can consider legislation, to have the House sit until midnight. The opposition parties voted against that. They are opposed to what he is prescribing, and then, when we take an alternative track, he is against that as well.
    We announced our plan to create the Canadian museum of history in the second week of October of last year. This is nothing new.
    We had what I thought was actually a very good debate. The leader of the Green Party spoke to the legislation. The member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor spoke to the legislation. The NDP spoke to it, as well. Actually, I thought we had a very good, very thorough debate, with all sides represented. I was pleased to answer questions. I am looking forward, actually, to going the parliamentary committee to talk about the legislation and what it would mean and being able to answer in more than 30-second sound bites like we have in question period and to actually have a thorough conversation about what it is we plan to do with this institution and how it would benefit all Canadians, not just the national capital.
    We are very excited to be going forward with this. We think it is in the best interests of this country. There is, of course, limited time on the parliamentary calendar. We have extended the time the House of Commons can sit at night. I am looking forward to having this legislation debated at committee. Let us move forward and support a great institution.
    Mr. Speaker, the members of the opposition are trying to close down debate, as well. We have been here twice, two nights, and they have been too tired to sit here and work past 9:30 p.m., so they tried to close down debate.
    More important, the member for Winnipeg North consistently gets up and talks about Reform-Conservative, as though we should somehow be ashamed of the fact that there are members on this side of the House who have been elected as Reform members, as Alliance members, as Progressive Conservatives and then as Conservatives, some of them seven times.
    We are actually proud of those people and the millions of Canadians who voted for them, unlike the Liberal Party, which suggests that somehow these millions of Canadians are stupid, that they do not deserve the quality representation they have had from the Reform, the Canadian Alliance, the Progressive Conservatives and the Conservatives who now form the best government this country has ever had.
    Again and again, the Liberals insult the west. That is why they are a rump of insignificant nobodies in this House.
    My actual question, though, for the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, the best Canadian heritage minister we have ever had, is this. Not only how important is the legislation to the communities across this country, to small museums across this country, but just to reiterate, how important is arts and culture to this country?

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, indeed, with regard to the start of his question, I am a proud former staffer of Preston Manning, I was elected as a Canadian Alliance MP and I am pleased to see that we have all been able to move forward, build our party and be in a position where we are able to put forward legislation and to build national institutions of national significance, like creating a Canadian museum of history.
    On his specific question about what this museum would mean to all museums across the country, Deborah Morrison said it very well. She is the head of Canada's History society. She said:
...the potential for the new Museum to create a national framework for our history is compelling. And the time [to do this] is right.
    What she is referring to about the time being right is that we are now just a few years away from 2017, Canada's 150th birthday. These moments do not come by often for many countries in the world. Having a sesquicentennial on the horizon is an opportunity for us to work together to build national institutions and to be proud of them and the work they can do. It is an opportunity not only to build up the presence of great institutions in the great capital of the city of Ottawa and Gatineau and the region but also, more important, to give a shot in the arm, a boost of financing and institutional pan-Canadian support to all the museums across the country. That is what this institution would do and that is why, as I said, we have broad-based support from across this country.
    The former Liberal member of Parliament and biographer of Pierre Trudeau said, “Congratulations on the Canadian museum of history. This is a great boost for the museum”.
    These are people, again, who are not typically Conservatives or Reformers or Canadian Alliance supporters but who are Canadians who can see the bigger picture, who can put partisanship aside and actually work with other people to support the creation of great institutions.

[Translation]

    There are only 18 minutes remaining for questions and comments. Accordingly, I would like to limit the answers to one minute.
    The hon. member for Gatineau.
    Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
     Well, it seems this minute starts with me. That is amusing, but it may be a rather dubious gift.
     I listened carefully to the minister. Frankly, the museum issue is not a matter of life and death. It is not as if the museum were in danger of extinction in any way. It is a museum that does its job very well.
     I am the member for Gatineau, and this museum is in the riding of Hull-Aylmer. There are many problems with these changes and many questions to be asked. When someone is laying it on so thickly and involving the mayors, we must pay attention. The mayors may be happy to hear an announcement of $25 million, but that does not mean they will not have the same questions as their constituents and wonder what this change of mission and orientation really mean.
     My problem is that the minister is telling us that yet another time allocation motion is necessary. I have finally understood, because his parliamentary secretary has told us, basically, that it is because they do not want to hear what we have to say. Hooray for democracy. I am outraged. Even Preston Manning would change sides because, if ever there was someone who believed in freedom of expression, it was him.
     I would like to ask the minister this question.
     The Museum of Civilization is a beautiful thing. Still, in this context, I wonder if the minister could give us a little update on the Science and Technology Museum, which was supposed to get a new location in Hull because it needs more space.
     When one believes in museums, one does not create them piecemeal.
    Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member says is very interesting.
    We have already created the new Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg and the new Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax. Now we are creating a new Canadian Museum of History. She says she does not want that one, but she wants another one, the Science and Technology Museum. Really. What more can we do? We are creating three new museums but the NDP says those are not the ones they want. We are doing our best.
    In a time of economic crisis, ours is the only G8 government that has increased its investments in national museums funding. Moreover, we are creating a new museum that is certainly very important for all of Canada.

  (1525)  

[English]

    I agree with her. I agree with the beginning of what she said, that the Museum of Civilization is not falling apart and it is not in a crisis. It is true. I have never said that. However, what we ought to do is take advantage of this opportunity as we head toward our sesquicentennial and build a pan-Canadian network, which starts with a jewel here in the national capital, and bind all our museums across the country together.
    Nobody can argue that the Toronto Star is a broadsheet for the Conservative movement, but here is what it said about the creation of this museum. It stated:
    It was welcome to hear...[the government] announce...rebrand the Canadian Museum of Civilization...as the Canadian Museum of History.
    It said that Canada's history should be celebrated in this revamped museum and that this is a good effort.
    This is what we are trying to do, work with other people. The member spoke of the importance of working with others, and I agree. That is why, before we tabled this legislation, I reached out to my critic opposite, to the leader of the Green Party and to the member of the Liberal Party to get their support for this.
    We have tried to approach this the same way we approached Pier 21 and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. We had quick debate, everybody saw the big picture, we worked together and we got it done. We are going to get it done on this museum as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a high regard for this minister in his sincere appreciation for the arts and his hard work for the arts. That has been clear to me many times.
    I am scratching my head over this bill; I am undecided about it. So after those kudos to the minister, I really do want to learn more and hear more about this particular bill, because I am not yet persuaded that it is the right direction to go. I do not really understand the motivation. While I trust him, I am not sure that the bigger picture is healthy here.
    I also just want to go on record as once again saying that the unbelievable number of closures on debates in this House just has to stop.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the kind words, and I do hope he will be persuaded in the end to support this legislation and to move forward.
    Just so he is clear, this legislation is a short bill, not a tough read, but of course the consequences of things are not always measured by the size of a piece of legislation. The new mandate of the museum would be very simple and clear. It says that the purpose of the museum would be to:
...enhance Canadians' knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experiences, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada's history and identity, and also to enhance their awareness of world history and cultures.
    That is a pretty simple mandate. There is nothing ideological about that; it is pretty straightforward. If my colleague wants to sit down and chat with me, I would be more than glad. The more members of Parliament who support this bill the better. We want this to be something that all people can get behind and support, and we want to move forward with it. I would be glad to give him a briefing.
    I know the people of Thunder Bay have some great cultural institutions as well, for which I know my colleague has been a great champion. They would certainly benefit from the opportunity to access the 3.5 million items that are in the collection of the soon-to-be, hopefully, Canadian museum of history. There are 3.5 million items in the collection, 90% of which are sitting in storage, not accessed. We want the museums in his riding and mine and others across the country to develop their own narratives about Canadian history, access this collection and share Canada's history with all Canadians, not just have it all here in the national capital.
    Mr. Speaker, I have more of a comment than a question. I may have a question tonight when we get into the debate about the bill itself, but the comment is as follows.
    I was reading this morning that during his leadership, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent got into trouble on the pipeline debate when the government invoked closure for the first time in that particular Parliament and that, in part, it led to the defeat of his government later on.
    I remember that when the previous Liberal governments also introduced closure, at some point I voted against such measures because I thought it was not appropriate and was against the spirit of democracy and this House, especially when there was no strong, valid reason and urgency to do so.
    Now we are in the 41st Parliament, and I cannot recall which significant legislation we have been able to deal with without closure. That is a terrible way of conducting oneself and one's government in any Parliament in this country.

  (1530)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a fair comment. Obviously, we will have a vote shortly on this matter, and if my colleague wants to vote against closure that is certainly his prerogative.
    However, as he also mentioned, previous Liberal governments and New Democratic governments on the provincial side use the tools at their disposal to move the country forward in a way they think helps.
    I am here to advocate on behalf of the museum because I think it is good, and I think my hon. colleague from the national capital would see the benefit of creating a great new institution in the national capital.
    As well, the Canadian Museum of Civilization has not been updated since 1980. The Canada Hall, which is supposed to be the narrative of Canada's history, does not include aboriginal Canadians, which is kind of a problem. There is a stern, short and inadequate reflection on Acadian Canadians and their facts throughout Canada's history and what they have experienced. There are a number of areas in the museum that need to be updated.
    This is not just a change in mandate and name but also an investment of $25 million into not only this museum but this pan-Canadian network.
    Therefore, I think it would be good for my hon. colleague. He can express his views certainly on the approach of the government when it comes to taking action, but I think the action itself is something that should have broad-based support, including from the hon. colleague.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am seeking some clarification.
    I think the debate at this time is supposed to address the time allocation motion, which is a procedural issue, but for several days I have been observing the Conservative benches. They are using their time to talk about the bill as if this 30-minute period were available for advertising.
    In addition, if I add them up, we have debated at least four time allocation motions in barely a week. In the end, that takes away two hours of debate on bills we could have been discussing. Instead, the government wants to discuss procedure. However, it does not do that, because it uses the time for a great big infomercial.
    My question is simple. Can we return to the House's ordinary procedures and only use time allocation measures when there is an exceptional, well-justified situation?
    As it stands, I would hazard a guess that if we could fine the Conservatives every time they employed such motions, the deficit problem would soon disappear.
    Mr. Speaker, I understand the concerns voiced by my colleague.
    It is true that every time I have an opportunity to speak about the history of Canada, its importance and the importance of this institution, I do so. I take each and every opportunity to do so.
    I am sure that the procedures of the House of Commons will be discussed at length. However, the history of Canada and its heritage are subjects that I care about, and I believe it is very important to talk about them. I am pleased with, and proud of, this bill. I hope that we will enjoy the support of those members who agree with the bill.
    Moreover, I would like to stress that this bill was introduced on October 12, 2012. However, on October 11, 2012, before the bill was tabled, the NDP voiced its disapproval, even before they read the museum's new mandate.
    If the NDP wishes to show at least a modicum of respect for the institution of the House of Commons and its procedures, it should ensure that it studies bills before making known its position.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier who talked about time allocation. When we discuss issues in this bill, there is a lot of subtext and the subtext pertains to stuff that is under the legislation, such as the issue of sharing material across the country that would be normally of the Museum of Civilization or, in this case, the Canadian museum of history.
    A lot of members from different parts of the country would like to understand how this will work and have the ability to question that in the House. Naturally, we can follow up with the bureaucrats and that sort of deal, like we normally do as parliamentarians, but we certainly cannot do that now because the legislation has not passed yet. I am not saying that this debate should go on forever, but I would certainly like a bit more information as to how this is going to be implemented. I am sure the minister, who seems to be quite sincere about it, would do it.
    One of the questions I have is about the motion that was brought to the House studying Canadian history, which was alarming in the fact that it was very prescriptive in what it would do, very narrow in certain areas. It certainly caused concern. We also heard what the parliamentary secretary said earlier. I do not know why the government would do that within the context of the committee and disrupt a lot of stuff, because now we have the same sort of questions on the museum, which we would like to have answered.

  (1535)  

    Mr. Speaker, let me touch on the one subject he raised while we have the time. I am, again, pleased to talk to my colleague outside the House, and we will have a discussion at committee as well.
    Specifically on the issue he raised, I know, not to betray a private conversation, it is one that he is particularly interested, which is the sharing of collections between museums. This is not something that is prescribed in legislation. It is not the place to do it. Those partnerships are found in the memorandums of understanding between the national museum and the regional museums. One of those has been signed. We have others that are lined up, prepared to be signed in the future, such as the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, a fantastic institution. It has signed an MOU with the national museum.
    Conspiracy theorists would argue that the government has tried to create an institution to tell its own narrative. No. The point is section 27(1) of the Museums Act makes it clear the government cannot prescribe the narrative in any museum in the country, as it should be. The MOUs that are signed between the museum and the regional museums is for them to decide, devoid of politics and politicians saying that certain things should or should not be shared with other museums. Therefore, they can decide their own narratives, they sign the MOUs and they work on this partnership.
    When we take this legislation to committee, I know the president of the museum, Mark O'Neill, will be brought in. He has already done exhaustive research on this subject matter, reached out to museums all across the country, signed an MOU already. We have more that are lined up to be signed. The process, members will find, not only from the national perspective but from the perspective of local regions' museums, has been one of openness and sharing with them the collections they find most useful for the decisions they want to make locally.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have no problem with the manner in which the operation is being carried out and the way future projects are being described. The level of collaboration with other museums is also very positive. However, I have a huge problem with the fact that this is the 36th gag order on a bill and that the minister has the nerve to ask us to trust him.
    With all the abuses in the campaigns and the way this government goes about doing things, which is true to form but, to say the very least, does not enjoy popular support, everyone agrees that the Conservatives have gone too far and, today, we are being asked to trust them, yet once again, the right to speak on this subject is being denied us. How dare the Conservatives say that they have properly consulted Canadians when, as we were discussing Canada's 150th anniversary in committee, they clearly stated that the public needed to get on board with this project? We know full well that your plans were made ahead of time.
    Here is what I would like to know. You talk of respect, when last week, as I delivered my speech—