(for the Minister of Finance)
moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to begin debate on the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act. This act represents a key component of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.
Today's legislation represents an ambitious, substantive, and positive response to the economic challenges of today and the opportunities of tomorrow.
Indeed, the global economic recovery is challenged, as demonstrated by ongoing events in Europe and in the United States. While the roots of these global challenges are not from within our borders, they could nevertheless impact Canada. That is why our Conservative government has remained squarely focused on helping protect and grow Canada's economy to the greatest extent possible since the onset of the global economic turbulence.
In our initial response, Canada's economic action plan, we delivered $60 billion in extraordinary investments to support jobs and growth during the worst of the global recession. It was a plan that helped families and businesses deal with the short-term challenges, while also supporting Canada's long-term prosperity through, for instance, landmark infrastructure investments in roads, bridges, universities, colleges, and many more.
It was a plan that, according to countless independent observers, worked.
As BMO economist Doug Porter publicly declared, it was, “arguably one of the most successful stimulus programs in the industrialized world”.
Earlier this year, our Conservative government built on that record of accomplishments with the next phase of Canada's economic action plan: a low tax plan for jobs and growth.
The next phase seeks to foster positive conditions for long-term economic prosperity, while staying on track to return to balanced budgets, while helping Canadian families.
The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act represents a vital component of the next phase as it implements many of its key elements. For instance, the act would promote job creation and economic growth by: providing a temporary hiring credit for small business, to encourage additional hiring; expanding tax support for clean energy generation, to encourage green investments; extending the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors by one year to support Canada's mining sector; simplifying customs tariffs in order to facilitate trade and lower the administrative burden for businesses; extending the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for investments in productivity-improving machinery and equipment for Canada's manufacturing sector; and eliminating the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated employees in order to give older workers wishing to work the option to remain in the workforce.
The act would support communities from coast to coast to coast by: legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities; enhancing the wage earner protection program to cover more workers affected by employer bankruptcy or receivership; introducing a volunteer firefighters tax credit for volunteer firefighters; and increasing the ability of Canadians to give more confidently to legitimate charities, by helping combat fraud and other forms of abuse by illegitimate charities.
The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act would help families by: introducing a new family caregiver tax credit to assist caregivers of all types of infirm, dependent relatives; removing the limit on the amount of eligible expenses caregivers can claim for their financially dependent relatives under the medical expense tax credit; and introducing a new children's arts tax credit for programs associated with children's arts, cultural, recreational and developmental activities.
The act would invest in education and training by: forgiving loans for new doctors and nurses in underserved rural and remote areas; helping apprentices in the skilled trades, as well as workers in regulated professions, by making occupational trade and professional examination fees eligible for tuition tax credit; improving federal financial assistance for students; and making it easier to allocate registered education savings plan assets among siblings, without incurring tax penalties or forfeiting Canada education savings grants.
Finally, it would respect taxpayers by: phasing out the direct subsidy for political parties and closing numerous tax loopholes that allow a few businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax.
The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act includes so much more to help families, students, businesses, seniors, communities and obviously the economy and jobs. To keep Canada's economy on the right track, I am confident that Parliament will endorse today's legislation in a timely and overwhelming manner.
Before spotlighting a couple of the numerous and very positive measures in today's legislation, let me underline that, while indeed the global economy is in a period of turbulence and there are challenges that lie ahead, Canada has performed relatively well. Over the course of the debate on the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act, the opposition, NDP and Liberals, will attempt, in the starkest terms and with the greatest hyperbole, to talk down the Canadian economy with its non-stop negativity.
The NDP and Liberals will downplay the achievements of our businesses, our workers and our government that have in recent years made our economy stronger and more competitive. Carried by the weight of the heavy pessimism in their overstated rhetoric and tired talking points, the NDP and the Liberals will throw their collective hands up and claim that Canada has not been up to the challenges of the global economy.
That is where we on this side of the House must differ. As Winston Churchill once noted, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”. Without a doubt, our Conservative government has seen, and sought to capitalize on, the opportunities and global economic turbulence of recent years. Unlike the NDP and the Liberals, we have believed that Canada and Canadians could meet that challenge, especially with the support of our low tax pro-growth economic policies.
Let me say it once again for the opposition. The facts are indisputable. Canada is standing tall.
On economic growth, both the IMF and the OECD forecast that we will have among the strongest economic growth in the G7 in the years ahead.
On jobs, Canada has the strongest job creation record in the G7 with nearly 600,000 net new jobs created since July 2009, with over 80% of those being full-time jobs.
On our financial sector, the World Economic Forum has, for the fourth straight year, rated our banking system the best in the world.
On our fiscal situation, Canada has, and will continue to have, by far the lowest total government net debt to GDP ratio in the entire G7 based on IMF projections.
On fiscal and economic fundamentals, Canada's credit rating, unlike numerous other countries, has been affirmed as being the highest possible by major rating agencies. Indeed, Moody's recently renewed Canada's triple A credit rating, praising our “economic resiliency, very high government financial strength, and a low susceptibility to event risk”.
On our competitiveness, Forbes, the influential business magazine, ranked Canada as the best country in the world for business to grow and create jobs, largely due to our low tax plan for Canadian businesses.
The list goes on.
There is little wonder that The Economist and global leaders have singled out Canada's economy and our Conservative government's economic leadership for repeated praise. BMO economist, Doug Porter, testifying before the finance committee this last week, declared, “--compared to policy making in the rest of the world, Canada's economic policy-making has been exemplary. I don't think there has been a significant misstep in recent years”.
We recall the words of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron before this chamber:
In the last few years, Canada has got every major decision right. Look at the facts...Your economic leadership has helped the Canadian economy to weather the global storms far better than many of your international competitors.
As encouraging and positive as those facts and quotes may be, they should not serve as an invitation to rest on our laurels, especially in the light of the ongoing global economic turmoil in the EU and United States.
We all know resting on our laurels is no way to stay ahead. That is why, as I mentioned previously, our Conservative government remains focused on what matters to Canadians: creating jobs and promoting economic growth through the implementation of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan outlayed in today's legislation.
As I mentioned, the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act is a very substantive piece of legislation at over 640 pages. While there is no way I can spotlight each and every great measure in the bill, I would like to spotlight a couple of them, one of which garnered strong attention to date, and another that some have overlooked.
First, I would like to talk about a measure that has garnered pretty strong attention, that being the new volunteer firefighters tax credit and what it means for communities across Canada. Every day, without hesitation, volunteer men and women across Canada put their lives on the line to protect our families from harm.
Canada is incredibly fortunate to have volunteer firefighters across this country who are willing to put themselves at risk to protect the lives and the property of their fellow Canadians.
Our Conservative government is proud of these brave men and women who volunteer their time in the service of their and our communities.
While there is no way we can every truly repay them, we can show them we value all of the nearly 85,000 volunteer firefighters who keep our communities safe. That is why I am proud that we have proposed the volunteer firefighters tax credit in this legislation. It will help volunteer firefighters by providing them with a 15% non-refundable tax credit of $3,000.
Day after day, volunteer firefighters play a vital role in serving our communities. By helping these brave men and women, our government is working to make Canadian cities and towns safer.
I should note that this new tax credit has been received extremely positively. In fact, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs declared:
This measure will help with the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters across the country, which will in turn help protect Canadians and our communities.
The Charlottetown Guardian editorial remarked:
For all the time they devote to training and responding to fires in communities across the country, our volunteer firefighters deserve that much...it's a gesture of appreciation for the work our firefighters do for Canadians.
Second, and lastly, I would like to briefly talk about a measure that has not received a lot of attention: tax relief to help apprentices in the skilled trades and workers in regulated professions with the cost of occupational trade and professional examination fees.
As we all know, apprentices in the skilled trades must complete certification exams at the end of their apprenticeship to practice their trade. Likewise, students in fields like nursing, medicine, law and accounting are also required to complete examinations to practice their occupations.
Until now, the cost of these certification examinations were generally not eligible for tax relief. The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act will now make all occupational trade and professional examination fees eligible for the tuition tax credit where the examination is required to obtain a professional status, certification or licence in a trade recognized by federal or provincial law that allows the individual to practice that profession or trade within Canada.
Examples of eligible occupations, trades and professions include: architects, machinists, bakers, bricklayers, carpenters, chartered accountants, dental technicians, hair stylists, motor vehicle body repairers, welders and much more. In fact, it is estimated that more than 30,000 individuals would benefit just this year.
The new tax relief for certification examinations builds on other measures the government has introduced since 2006 for students and those helping to improve their own skills. This includes the apprenticeship incentive grant and the apprenticeship completion grant under which eligible apprentices could receive up to $4,000 which can be used to pay for tuition, travel, tools or other expenses.
I should also note that this new measure was also very well-received. Engineers Canada has applauded it and has stated:
“Making professional examination fees eligible for the Tuition Tax Credit...demonstrates a real commitment to fostering the highly-skilled, and qualified talent the country needs to compete....It will help in the pursuit of a strong, diverse, and modern economy.”
The Canadian Home Builders' Association stated that the measure would “target a very important issue--the shortage of skilled people in our industry”.
Those are two of the countless measures in the that are positive and should be supported unanimously by Parliament. The NDP and Liberal members have opposed the many positive measures that we have put forward in this legislation. Their constituents and I would be interested in hearing their explanations why.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to add a bit of reality to this debate following on the hon. member opposite.
Let me begin with a recent report published in Toronto, Canada's largest city. It is a report called “Vital Signs”. It documents the transformation that is taking place in many Canadian cities but especially in Canada's largest city.
The report talks about a dramatic reduction in quality of life which could affect almost half the population of the city over the next 10 to 15 years. It does offer some good news. It claims that the quality of life for Torontonians is improving when it comes to the environment. Toronto is a healthier city. Its crime rates are lower than ever before, which is significant. However, it indicates that there are huge challenges which range from affordable housing to public transit.
I want to share a significant point with the members opposite: the gap between the rich and the poor in Toronto and in many other cities is growing. As well, skilled immigrants are twice as likely to face unemployment than workers born in Canada and when skilled immigrants are hired they usually receive about half the annual salary of other workers. During the period of growth from 1998 to 2007, one-third of the income growth across Canada went to 1% of the wealthiest Canadians, those averaging incomes of more than $400,000 a year. The country is becoming increasingly divided and that is what is playing out in our largest city.
Child poverty rates have increased by more than 40% in one year. As a result of the lack of investment in urban transit and transit infrastructure, lower income residents in Toronto live in what is being called transit deserts. They spend an hour a day on average trying to get from one part of the city to another and spend a greater portion of their income trying to get there.
Canadians need governments for affordable housing, transit, social connections, to get to jobs and for opportunities. Journalist Royson James reported that just when they need it most, our civic institutions and governments are looking to withdraw from the field. In other words, governments are withdrawing money. I use that as an introduction to my remarks.
In spite of the member opposite's glowing report on Bill , this legislation represents what I assume are the government's best efforts to cope with Canada's current economic dilemma, but it is a disturbingly inadequate effort. I want to enter a few facts into this argument.
The government likes to pretend that we are in a recovery, but as this report indicates, two million Canadians would work if there were jobs available for them. The report makes it clear that talk of recovery not only is misleading but is dishonest when it comes to these Canadians who are unemployed or underemployed.
We have a continuing recession in the jobs market. Unemployment is far above what it was in the last recession. Job creation is well below what is needed just to maintain a steady employment. The government claims to have created 600,000 net new jobs, and it keeps repeating that number, but the facts clearly indicate otherwise.
We have seen the addition of barely 200,000 new jobs since before the recession in May 2008, but the labour force has grown by 450,000 since then. Therefore, we are short a quarter of a million jobs just to keep employment steady. This is nothing to brag about, but the government, instead, misleads Canadians rather than have an honest, open debate about where we need to go and how we put plans in place to get people back to work.
It is a fact that the job market is currently more fragile than it was before the October 2008 crisis. The unemployment rate has risen to 7.3%, while the number of part-time workers and the number of workers looking for full-time employment have increased very rapidly.
Quality, full-time jobs that allow families to make a living are very hard to find in many regions of the country.
Moreover, the actual unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers who have left the labour force and part-time workers who would like to be working full-time, was 11.1% in July 2011, a very significant increase over the July 2009 rate of 9.4%.
Youth employment really is a disaster in this country. It really is quite shocking. The fact is that at the high point in May 2008 before the recession, 2.6 million Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 had jobs, the participation rate was about 67.6% and the official unemployment rate about 11.9%. However, in August 2011, there were only 2.4 million 15 to 24-year-olds employed, the participation rate had fallen three percentage points and unemployment was at 14%.
This means there are almost 127,000 fewer jobs for 15 to 24-year-olds, 127,000 fewer jobs than before the recession. If we take the lower participation rate into account, in other words, a lot of people have just stopped looking, we would recognize that there are about 134,000 fewer jobs at the same participation rate.
Another fact is that the true measure of the jobs deficit for young people compared to May 2008 is about 260,000 jobs that were missing. Of course, another 85,000 young people have joined the labour force since May 2008, so there are even more young people looking for work. There are no net new jobs here, contrary to what the government says, just a gaping hole for young people to fall into and an enormous short and long-term loss to the economy.
The IMF recently predicted that Canada's unemployment rate will rise this year and in 2012 because our economy is growing far more slowly than anticipated.
In reality, real GDP growth of 2.5% annually is needed just to maintain the status quo, and growth has been much weaker since the start of the great recession.
It is a fact that economists everywhere have lowered their forecasts with regard to Canada's economic growth. Scotiabank economists have stated that we are facing a very real possibility that the Canadian economy could be the first to fall into a recession.
The BMO deputy chief economist has noted that even if Canada and the U.S. are able to avoid another recession, Ottawa will not achieve the rate of economic growth projected in the budget.
The budget was based on growth projections that are no longer realistic.
Another claim that the and the tend to make is that the economic fundamentals of the Canadian economy are great. Let us examine that.
An economy depends on four key economic drivers for growth: private business spending and investment, consumer spending, exports, and the public sector.
The government has pinned all of its hopes on the private sector, spending billions of public revenues on rolling back corporate taxes. The result: very little investment, very little job creation. In fact, Canadian corporations are sitting on $500 billion in cash rather than spend or invest it. Of that, $120 billion has come from the government's no strings attached corporate tax cuts. That is $120 billion.
It is a fact that the combined federal and Ontario corporate tax rates were slashed from 45% in 1999 to 30% in 2010. That is a drop of 15%. Over the same period, investment in machinery and equipment fell from just over 8% to just over 5% of the province's gross domestic product. Therefore, a measure designed to increase investment and productivity in machinery failed. In fact, investment fell even though taxes were cut and we were shovelling over $100 billion back into corporate profits.
So much for the claim that corporate income tax giveaways boost business investment and job creation. Worse still, the government's response, illogical as it seems, it to just stay the course and waste more money on further tax cuts. Brilliant.
Instead of patting itself on the back because we are doing relatively better than some very sick economies, the government must put in place policies that encourage private sector investment in our economy here at home over the long-term. This budget is full of temporary half measures when long-term strategic action is needed.
We all know what happened to the second economic driver, consumer spending. There is a growing inequality in the distribution of income in this country, and I just cited one study. This is an inequality the government does not seem to worry or care about, but it means that Canadians have had to borrow to spend on essentials, and borrow they have. Canadians have never been more indebted; an average household owes 150% of its income.
We cannot count on overstrapped consumers to get us out of this mess. Consumer spending is tapped out. That is not the solution.
This summer the IMF published a study on inequality. It found that the more equitably incomes are distributed, the longer and more stable are periods of economic growth. The more equality, the longer the periods of economic growth. Even so, this budget does nothing to address inequality in Canada.
As for exports, the third driver, the IMF projects that Canada's balance of payments, deficit, as a percentage of GDP is on its way to becoming one of the worst among advanced economies; worse than that of the U.S. and soon to be worse than Italy or Spain.
The IMF predicts that our current account deficit will reach almost 4% of GDP in 2012. That is a major negative on our economy. However, we would never hear the government mention this piece of bad news.
With business, consumers and exports on the sidelines as drivers of economic growth, that leaves only the public sector. Once again, the government is doing the illogical thing in pursuing austerity, cutting back public services and missing the opportunity of a lifetime to invest in Canada and Canadians.
The is accusing my party of recommending spending—according to him, that is why the European economies are bordering on ruin—without taking into account the role that private sector financial institutions, which are overenthusiastic, played in the impoverishment of our larger trading partners.
However, although the must be aware of it, he does not seem to understand the difference between investments and expenditures. The NDP is not talking about expenditures; it is talking about investments in targeted sectors to promote job creation and in infrastructure, including roads, bridges, public transit and high-speed Internet. We are talking about investing to train our workers so that they are productive in the new economy, investing in housing, and investing in our children's education.
I attended a meeting recently where a former deputy minister of finance called for a division on the government's books to help overcome the failure to distinguish between investments, investments that create assets and lead to significant returns in the economy, productivity, employment, competitiveness and the public purse, the difference between these investments and spending on things like the government's beloved gazebos and fake lakes that are of little economic value.
The fact is that the Toronto Board of Trade emphasizes that a strong infrastructure foundation is a top priority in ensuring economic competitiveness now and in the future.
In fact, the OECD has concluded that Toronto's lack of transportation infrastructure is the leading drag on the region's global competitiveness. Yet, the bill contains no new investments in infrastructure. It is really shocking.
The Conservatives often like to compare the government to a business, as though that were a good thing. However, rare is the business that would cast aside the opportunities available to the government, such as the availability of a qualified workforce, a desperate need for infrastructure across the country, infrastructure that would earn a generous return on investment, and capital available at a rate that is at an almost record low. In similar circumstances, any self-respecting business person would invest extensively, but not this government. The Conservatives do not know how to recognize a good deal.
What we get are missed opportunities to build a world competitive economy with infrastructure second to none to attract new capital investment and to give our homegrown industries a permanent advantage over our competitors, and public policies that would only make the recession and the labour market more severe.
The Conservatives call themselves economic managers. It is a cruel joke.
Here is a bill that they claim would address the problems our economy faces. It would fall so far short of what is needed, it is really embarrassing.
Mr. Flaherty admitted yesterday the Conservatives would maintain their do-nothing approach to the economy. The New--
Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my speech into two parts.
First, there are certain elements of this bill that we do not agree with, but I would also like to say that this budget is no longer adequate, it is no longer sufficient. What was perhaps sufficient 10 months ago is no longer sufficient because of the global economic crisis. As John Maynard Keynes said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” What he said makes sense. When the facts change, a rational response would be to change the action plan. And the facts have changed dramatically, as I will explain in a few minutes.
On the first aspect of things, there are five elements of the bill that we take some exception to. The first is the same issue that I mentioned in my question to the minister, that is to say that the tax credits are all non-refundable. What that means is that the benefits from these tax credits are specifically not given to lower income Canadians. Therefore, we have a tax credit for art, but if people are low income Canadians they cannot get any money for that.
We have a tax credit for home caregivers. If they have low incomes or they quit their jobs and do not have an income to look after an aging parent, they do not get any money. The same applies to low income volunteer firefighters.
We on this side of the House feel that it is unconscionable to have benefits where that explicitly and deliberately excluded those who need it the most, those with the lowest income, those who are most vulnerable. For that reason alone, the Liberal Party will vote against the bill. There are other things we do not like, but that is so unconscionable and so unacceptable that that alone is sufficient reason to oppose the bill.
The second point has to do with softwood lumber. The budget bill would increase export duties on softwood lumber in both Ontario and in Quebec. It would damage this industry. The government, in negotiating an agreement with the United States, actually gave a billion dollars to our forestry competitors, perhaps thinking that that would solve the problem. However, it did not solve the problem. The U.S. has come back and has won a legal decision. Therefore, it seems that this is yet another example of the Conservatives making Canadian forestry producers pay for their mismanagement of the softwood lumber file.
The third point is the hiring credit for small businesses. The government has grossly exaggerated the importance of this. First, it gives with one hand and takes back with another. The thousand dollars is taxable. It never told us that. Also, the size of the business has to be so small that 600,000 small businesses will not qualify. This is a trivial little thing. It is not a bad thing, it is just tiny, and it is dwarfed by the increase of 5.6% in employment insurance premiums, which the government will be imposing as of January 1 of next year.
A fourth point, and the second to last one, is the gas tax transfer. As was previously stated, it would l be made permanent at $2 billion but it is not indexed. I spoke with many mayors on this subject and if it is not indexed, with population growth and inflation, the real value of the money will go down steadily over time. I think it would have been much better if the government had indexed the fund to inflation or to GDP growth, or something of that nature.
Finally, there is the phasing out of the voting subsidies. We do acknowledge that the Conservatives ran the election with this as a part of their platform and they won, so we are not making a fight about them introducing it. However, I do think it is important to remember the history of this. The former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, removed the ability of large corporations to give money and, in return, he instituted this public subsidy. This is a system that I think is practised in much of the western world, so I do not think there is anything wrong with it. All I would suggest is that, in light of the removal of the subsidy, the government might give some consideration to increasing the maximum amount that individuals are allowed to contribute.
Those are five reasons.
Those are five reasons why we take some exception to this bill. But there is also the fact that the world has changed.
I ask members to think back 10 months to when this budget was presented. What was the state of the Canadian and the world economy? The stock market was going up nicely. It has now slumped to a bear market. Nobody was thinking about a European banking crisis. Nobody was thinking about Greece defaulting on its debt. Things seemed to be going quite fine in Europe.
Now we have this huge crisis in Europe, a crisis involving the risk of default in a number of countries as well as risk to major European banks.
The U.S. was recovering nicely, as I recall, 10 months ago, and now the U.S. economy has clearly stalled. Now we have seen the dysfunctional politics in the U.S. Congress over the debt ceiling issue. We may have a half-decent plan from President Obama, but the chances of the politicians south of the border agreeing to do anything seem remote. Our Canadian economy actually had negative growth in the second quarter, and, with all of these events around the world, it is at risk of stalling as well.
For these reasons, it makes eminently good sense to change policy when the circumstances change. That is what Keynes said, as I quoted earlier.
Let me quote from three people or institutions that are normally fiscally conservative but that agree with what I just said.
First of all, let us hear the new head of the IMF. Her central proposal to countries was to focus on balancing the books and reducing debt in the medium run, but in the short run to take measures to support jobs and the economy. That is the IMF talking--the IMF, which traditionally has a slash-and-burn attitude to countries in fiscal difficulties.
The second example is from Sherry Cooper, chief economist of the Bank of Montreal. Chief economists are normally fairly fiscally conservative. She blasted the government for taking action to cut the economy at a time of global crisis and economic weakness. She likened the government to Herbert Hoover, who in the 1930s made the Depression even more depressed by taking fiscally austere measures.
The third example is The Economist magazine, a bastion of the free market and fiscal prudence. It said something similar to the IMF, that countries should take actions in the short term to support the economy and jobs while dealing with the balanced budget with a credible medium-term plan.
These three—the IMF, the chief economist of the Bank of Montreal and The Economist—are normally fiscally conservative. But they all agree that now is not the right time for budget cuts and increases in employment insurance premiums. I think this government should be listening.
What I am saying is that now is not the time to go forward with these increases in employment insurance that the government is proposing to take. A 5.6% increase in employment insurance is not an appropriate policy at a time like this. These are job-killing tax hikes. Yes, at some moment in the future we may have to increase employment insurance premiums, but now is not the time.
Similarly, the government is proposing $4 billion of cuts through its strategic review.
We are not opposed in principle to finding savings in government. We did that. I was the chair of something we called the expenditure review committee in 2005. We found $11 billion of savings in government, but those were good economic times. We did not find savings of $11 billion at a time when the economy was very weak and at a time when the world was in economic crisis.
Timing is everything. I am saying that now is not the time to increase employment insurance premiums. Now is not the time to proceed with this $4 billion per year of cuts.
I might say, while on the subject of the strategic review and the cuts, that I think the government is making a fundamental mistake because it is not applying what I would call a regional lens. Canada has one of the most centralized bureaucracies in the western world, with a huge concentration in the national capital region. I know from experience that cuts of jobs in the regions are sometimes even more damaging, both in terms of the jobs and in terms of the services provided, than cuts in the national capital region.
I know as well that if the system here in Ottawa has to do cuts, it prefers to cut in the regions and not in Ottawa. I will give one example. I was recently in Prince Edward Island, which was about to lose 60 jobs in an employment insurance processing operation run by Services Canada. This was devastating not only to the small community, which would lose 60 jobs, but also to those applying for employment insurance, because no longer would they have real people nearby to whom they could speak. They would have to call some 1-800 number, and I was told many would have to wait for literally hours on the phone before anyone answered.
It is okay to do expenditure review to improve the efficiency of government. It is a good thing to do, but only under certain conditions.
First, we do not do it when the economy is super weak and already at risk of going into recession, as is the case today.
Second, when we do it, we do it sensitively. We apply a regional lens and we do not make cuts that hurt the most vulnerable in our society, which is what the Conservatives have tended to do.
To conclude, there are a number of reasons why we take exception to this bill. The Liberals will be voting against it.
The world has changed dramatically since the budget was introduced, and what was appropriate six months ago is no longer appropriate because of the economic crisis.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am pleased to speak to this bill regarding keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing, which is the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. It is a plan that will support Canada's economic recovery and promote job creation. It is a plan that will support communities and invest in education and training. It is a plan that will help Canadian families and respect their hard-earned tax dollars.
This bill is a low-tax plan for jobs and economic growth. It is a continuation of the prudent fiscal policy that has been at the foundation of our Conservative government's economic agenda. Our government is focused on what matters to Canadians: creating jobs and promoting economic growth.
While many governments in the developed world are dealing with turbulent financial problems and unsustainable debt crises, as was mentioned earlier today, Canada has become a leader on the international economic stage. We have the strongest job creation record in the G7. Nearly 600,000 net new jobs have been created since July 2009. We have a renewed AAA credit rating by Moody's. We will have, according to the International Monetary Fund, the strongest economic growth in the G7 over the next two years. Forbes, the influential business magazine, has ranked Canada as the best country in the world to do business.
These fundamentals will help us to create jobs and grow the economy as many Canadians want and would expect from us.
While this is indeed positive news for Canadian businesses and the Canadian economy, we must remain cognizant of the fragile economic situation in Europe and the United States. The Canadian economy is mutually connected with the economies of the world. We are not isolated from the potential economic problems that remain outside our borders. That is why we must stay the course and implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan so that we can continue the positive economic growth and job-creating agenda our government has spearheaded thus far. This new piece of legislation will promote Canadian job creation and economic growth.
With the introduction of the temporary hiring credit for small businesses, we are providing this one-time credit of up to $1,000 to encourage small businesses to expand their workforces and hire new skilled employees. All of the steps we have taken are to that end to ensure the economy continues to grow and ensure that the jobs are out there. This hiring credit is precisely what small businesses have been calling for and our Conservative government is delivering results. It will encourage small businesses to hire more workers, which will translate into employment insurance savings by lessening the burden on the EI system.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has declared this initiative as particularly important and went further to say that it will make it easier for small businesses to create jobs. Indeed, small businesses are the engine of job creation in this country. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture cheered it as well by saying that it welcomes the news for farm operations that are looking to expand.
Our Conservative government is also supporting the Canadian manufacturing sector. We are extending the accelerated capital cost allowance for two years so that companies can write off investment in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment. This will allow them to grow their businesses and procure top-of-the-line equipment that will bring them to the forefront of international technological innovation. They will do this at a time when it is needed most.
This legislation is also doing more to support local communities. We are legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund in order to provide predictable long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities. This is something municipalities have been calling for year after year. They want to know they have this source of funding to do the many projects that are necessary to provide the infrastructure for continued economic growth. We are ensuring that cities and towns support and invest in infrastructure priorities that are important to them.
Our Conservative government supports local input and local decision making. Making this investment permanent and annual will benefit towns and communities in my riding and, indeed, in the many ridings from coast to coast to coast.
Our Conservative government is also enhancing the wage earner protection program so that workers are covered and protected from employer bankruptcy and receivership. This is a program that has been very well received and utilized.
This legislation will also help families by way of the new family caregiver tax credit in the amount of $2,000 for caregivers of loved ones with infirmities, including for the first time, spouses, common-law partners and minor children.
We all know many people who are faced with the daily struggle of taking care of ill parents, spouses or children and need some additional help. These individuals also have to go to work. They have to pay their bills and send their children to college or university. Through the family caregiver tax credit, our Conservative government is committed to assisting and supporting these caring individuals who have sacrificed incredibly for the benefit of their family.
The Canadian Cancer Society has called this new tax credit:
...a good start in providing more support for all family caregivers.
We welcome the tax credit and other measures in the budget as a step in the right direction.
Our Conservative government also recognizes the economic benefits that come with investing in education and training. We are supporting universities, colleges, skills trades and apprenticeship programs.
The legislation forgives student loans for new doctors and nurses in underserved rural and remote areas. A portion of the federal component of their Canada student loans, $40,000 for doctors and $20,000 for nurses, will be forgiven so that these doctors and nurses can practise and support the rural communities of our country that need them the most.
It will not only assist students who are riddled with student debt, but it will ensure that rural and remote communities, communities that form a large part of my riding, get the adequate medical services they deserve and require. This measure has been very well received in my home province of Saskatchewan. Our premier has publicly applauded it by saying:
Doctors in rural Saskatchewan is a huge issue and one that we're dealing with in terms of training seats and expanding the number of countries from where we can attract foreign trained doctors and the physician recruitment agency. But help from the feds is a welcome thing.
This legislation also includes a tax credit for volunteer firefighters. That is why I have some difficulty with those who say they are not going to support the budget, because we are giving benefits to certain segments of society that require the help. How do those members say to those people that they are not going to support them with the benefits that they need at this time?
The credit for volunteer firefighters plays a critical role in their serving of their communities. They put themselves at risk for the safety of their neighbours and the protection of their communities. The least we could do is address their concern.
This legislation recognizes the importance of this life-saving work by establishing a new volunteer firefighters tax credit. This will be a 15% non-refundable tax credit on an amount of $3,000 for volunteer firefighters. This has been enthusiastically received. In the words of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs:
We were delighted with its proposal....This measure will help with the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters across the country, which will in turn help protect Canadians and our communities.
This is precisely the kind of thing we should be doing.
The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing bill helps support Canada's economic recovery. We must be prudent in the way that we approach and manage the Canadian economy so that we can continue on the path of positive growth while at the same time remaining cautiously aware of the potential economic troubles in other countries of the world.
Our Conservative government, through the economic action plan, has maintained steady control of the Canadian economy. Our plan is working and we must continue to stay the course and meet the needs of Canadians as they require from us as a responsible government.
Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to again stand in this House and speak on behalf of the constituents of Crowfoot to Bill .
The legislation that we are debating today introduces our 's key elements of the next phase of Canada's economic plan, a low-tax plan for jobs and growth.
My constituents of Crowfoot know that our Conservative government is focused on creating jobs and promoting economic growth. Under the leadership of our , Canada has the strongest economy and the strongest job growth record in the G7. We have created nearly 600,000 net new jobs since July 2009.
The International Monetary Fund, IMF, projects that Canada will continue to be among the nations with the strongest economy and the strongest economic growth in the G7 over the next two years.
However, Canada is not immune to the global economic turbulence. Bill provides our government with the means to stay the course and implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.
One of the features of Bill is a temporary hiring tax credit for small business. It would make it easier for small businesses to hire workers or enhance wages. This is precisely the kind of measure that Canadian workers need at this time. This would create new jobs and help save the jobs presently had by the workers across this country.
Hard-working, tax-paying Canadians raising their families need stable and predictable employment to see them through this difficult economic time. The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act would help support Canada's economic recovery.
I just want to touch on a couple of highlights of Bill .
First, it would expand tax support for clean energy generation to encourage green investments. According to what opposition members have said today, they will vote against that, the opportunity to enhance green investments and clean energy generation.
Second, the bill would extend the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors by one year to support Canada's mining sector.
I had the privilege in the past Parliament to chair the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and international Development. At that committee, we studied a number of bills, such as Bill and others. I know that the Canadian mining sector contributes over $300 billion to Canada's GDP each year and over 300,000 Canadians are employed in the mining industry.
The mining industry stimulates and supports economic growth, both in large urban centres and in remote rural communities, including numerous first nation communities across the country. However, again, the opposition members say that they will not support that.
Mining accounts for 19% of Canadian goods exports and $5.5 billion in taxes and royalties paid to the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The industry also generates considerable economic spin-off activity. There are more than 3,200 companies that provide the industry with services ranging from engineering consulting to drilling equipment. In addition, over half of the freight revenues of Canada's railroads are generated by mining.
Many Canadians are not aware of the large role that Canada's mining sector plays in our economy. However, it is important to nurture Canada's mining industry.
Bill also would simplify custom tariffs in order to facilitate trade and lower the administrative burden for all businesses.
Most Canadians do not know that Canada is a nation built by trade. We do more than $1 billion a day in trade flowing over the Canada-U.S. border. While many Canadians understand the important role of trade, they do not realize that trade just with the Americans amounts to $1.8 billion a day.
Since 2006, our Conservative government has been working diligently to boost Canada's access to markets, not just across the border with the neighbours closest to us, but all around the world, and we are having success.
I look in the House today and I see our who has been working hard at his desk here all afternoon. I commend him and our for the amount of work they have done around the world to open new markets and give, whether it is our agriculture sector or our manufacturing sector, the opportunity to market their goods in many of those countries. Yes, we are having success.
The agriculture producers, the farmers, who I represent work hard every day to take advantage of the opportunities that the and the government are providing. We could feed the world from where I come from in Alberta and from the west, so we welcome all customers, and that includes the new customers. The more the merrier. We pledge to fill all the orders that our and our can find for our agricultural sector.
The bill would extend the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for investments in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment for two years to support the manufacturing and processing sector. Bill would extend this well received measure from one of our previous budgets. Our has been fighting the effects in Canada of the global economic recession since 2009. Canada's manufacturing and processing base has been using this measure to create and save jobs. They still want this accelerated capital cost allowance and our Conservative government is glad to give it and to be in a position where we can allow it to continue.
We are eliminating the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated employees in order to give older workers the option of staying in the workplace. We know that Canadians are healthier and they are living longer than ever before in our history. In economically difficult times, older workers sometimes want to choose to stay working for another year or two and make some extra money for their families or for themselves in their retirement. This contributes to economic growth. Older workers have a great deal to contribute and our government is giving them the go-ahead. However, it sounds like the opposition will be voting against it.
There is a very important initiative in Bill for the constituents in my riding. The government would provide a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable, long term infrastructure funding for municipalities. Unlike the Liberal governments of the past, our government has returned gas tax revenues to jurisdictions where they were raised. We deliver these revenues to local jurisdictions earlier in the year than ever before so they can plan for the building in the summer season. This allows local governments to free up other funds in their budgets and get more accomplished through the calendar year.
In my riding of Crowfoot, we have many small county municipal governments and they rely on these funds. When I attend those council meetings, they let us know how much those funds are needed and appreciated. In some cases, the amounts of revenues in small villages or communities seem small but it makes projects possible and it allows small communities to grow when it spurs on local employment.
There are a number of other initiatives in Bill for creating and saving jobs and helping Canada's economy. Over the course of the debate on this bill, other speakers from this side of the House will detail some of these initiatives.
Bill , as already mentioned by the member for , introduces the volunteer firefighters tax credit for volunteer firefighters. When the opposition talks about tax credits for those who do not need it, well we are talking about the volunteer firefighters of my constituency.
The bill would increase the ability of Canadians to give more with confidence to legitimate charities by introducing a package of integrity measures designed to help combat fraud and other forms of abuse. I know that the people in my riding are very charity minded. My constituents are generous and engaged in many charitable projects. They appreciate this initiative to ensure their efforts are not in vain.
Bill has help for families. It introduces the new family caregiver tax credit to assist caregivers of all types to help with dependent relatives.
This is a good bill. I appreciate the number of opposition members who have been here to listen to the debate today.
When we are in opposition, it is not always about opposing. It is about standing up and supporting families in tough times in the economy. We would appreciate members' support.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill , An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget.
It is always interesting in a context to hear what the governing Conservatives have to say. The member who just spoke was quite interesting at the end. He said, “This is how we are going to get out of this economy”. I think he is quite right. We once had a balanced economy in Canada and the Conservatives have been taking us out of that balanced economy.
I believe what he was trying to say is that this is how we will get ourselves out of these economic problems. But in fact, what the Conservatives are doing with the Americans is a continuation of a series of mistakes that they have made in international trade over the years.
The North American Free Trade Agreement was supposed to set a certain standard for reciprocity. Instead, when the Americans came to rough times, they established for themselves buy America programs, which is a flagrant violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, the governing Conservatives have turned out to be a bunch of pushovers. They do not even stand up for what has already been signed that would have been in Canada's interests.
Last week, we had another example, with the Keystone pipeline. Instead of providing that we would apply the normal rules of sustainable developments, such as internalization of costs and polluter pay, they are going to export jobs without adding any value here. It hearkens back to a day when we used to export raw logs to the United States and then import furniture. That is the same kind of economy that they want us to have today. That is their lack of vision.
Governing is about vision. Governing is about establishing choices. We have heard them have a series of consultations over the past three years about pensions. We often hear them say that it is not fair that people in trade unions should have good pensions. It is what we call in French “le nivellement vers le bas”, we are going to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator instead of bringing everyone up.
A country as rich as Canada should not let people who have worked all their lives arrive at retirement age without a proper pension. Instead of removing the pensions, as they are now doing and fighting case by case to remove pensions as collective agreements come up for negotiation, we should, together, be fighting for a fair deal for all Canadians and a proper decent pension, because that is also part of sustainable development. Otherwise, the young generation of today is going to be stuck with that bill also.
The Conservatives, by their choices, are now leaving the largest environmental, economic and social debt in our history, and they are leaving it in the packsacks of the young people who are in university now and telling them that they do not have a choice, that they cannot do anything about it, and that is the only way things are going to be.
They have provided tens of billions of dollars in tax reductions to Canada's richest corporations, in particular, the chartered banks and the oil companies, and they have so little to show for it. They have this little piecemeal approach: they are going to announce this thing here and this thing there. Overall, their approach to the economy has been damaging.
What they have done, and it has been documented well by Statistics Canada, is the same mistake that has been done in other countries over the years. In Holland, in the 1960s, when large sources of gas were found off the coast, it was quite pleased. The Dutch said, “This is going to bring in a lot of money from other countries”. They were never so right. However, at the same time, the guilder went through the roof and their exports dropped because other countries could not afford to buy their products.
That is the same thing that we are doing now. We are bringing in an artificially high number of U.S. dollars into Canada. Why artificially high? Simply because we have never internalized the environmental costs; a basic principle of sustainable development.
By doing that, we have brought the Canadian dollar to heights that it has not seen in decades, and that has killed off our manufacturing sector. Just in Ontario, over 250,000 good paying manufacturing jobs have been killed by the choices of the Conservatives. In Canada, the total number is closer to 500,000 manufacturing jobs lost.
That is why we say that they have destabilized the balanced economy that Canada had built up since the second world war, with the different sectors: the primary sector, with our forests and our mines, the manufacturing and processing secondary sector, and of course an important service sector.
However, as those good paying manufacturing jobs are being killed off, not only are we leaving, because of the errors of the Conservatives, the biggest debt in our history, in terms of the ecology and the environment, we are also leaving year by year, now, the largest economic debt.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to be splitting my time with my friend and colleague, the member for .
That is the essential error that the Conservatives have committed since they came to power nigh six years ago. They have had nothing but concern for how quickly they could exploit the tar sands.
Let us not make the mistake of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. No one who realizes the importance of that industry in our economy would say we should ever shut it down outright. People who are calling for that are not thinking any further than the end of their noses. We cannot say we will stop an industry that represents such an important part of our GDP.
What we can do is apply basic principles of sustainable development to that industry. It would have a salutary effect on what we just described, in other words, this artificially high Canadian dollar because of the large number of U.S. greenbacks that we have taken in. That is artificially high, as I say, because we have not included the real costs. We are leaving the costs for cleaning up the soil, the water and the air to future generations. That is the environmental debt, and the tar sands is but one example.
When we realize that Keystone is but one of several pipelines that have been rapidly approved by the Conservatives, others would be the Alberta Clipper, Southern Lights, there are several that have been approved, each of those pipelines is exporting at the same time tens of thousands of jobs. We are in such a rush to get the raw bitumen into the pipeline that we do not even realize that all the processing, manufacturing and transformation will take place south of the border. They will be making more money and getting more jobs from our raw resources than we are ourselves.
That is a fundamental economic error that the current government is making and one that shows where the its priorities are. The concrete result of that is a little bill like Bill , where we have a sprinkling here and a sprinkling there. It is trying to show that there is some activity.
The real world is that an existing infrastructure, a federal obligation, a federal infrastructure like the Champlain Bridge in Montreal, we learned today, will now be a toll bridge. This is the same bridge that is used in an agglomeration of over four million people. It is not just important as part of the lifeblood of the island of Montreal and the greater Montreal area, it is extremely important for all of eastern Canada. When trucks come through from Toronto or points west going to the Maritimes, they all go through Montreal, through the island and over the Champlain Bridge. That infrastructure is a crucial economic infrastructure for all of Canada.
We found out today that because the Conservatives have given away tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money to the banks and the oil companies, hard-strapped families who have trouble making ends meet, who have trouble getting to the end of the month with what they have, will now have a new bill, a bill that will be slapped on them by the Conservatives because there is no money left. They will have to pay for something that was a public infrastructure that will become a private property. It will become for profit and the public will again be stuck with the bill. Again, the result of choices by the Conservatives.
This is a clear illustration of the errors committed by the Conservatives. They have been committing the same error for six years. The failure to apply basic principles of sustainable development has caused us to import an artificially high number of U.S. dollars. As a result, the value of the Canadian dollar has increased and it is more difficult for our manufacturing companies to export because our exports have become too expensive.
We are in the process of committing a well-documented error made in the Netherlands in the 1960s, when they discovered large gas deposits. The term “Dutch disease” is used to describe what happened.
The Conservatives preferred—it was their choice, their priority—to give tens of billions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations and the clear result of that is that families who are already unable to make ends meet are being taxed again in the form of a royalty that would be paid to the private partners who are going to build the new Champlain Bridge, when that infrastructure, which is vital to the economy in eastern Canada, is currently being used free of charge by the people who live on Montreal's south shore.
That is the Conservative approach at work. The Conservatives can stand up and pat themselves on the back and claim that their —just listen to what the Conservative member who spoke before me said—was voted the greatest minister. Get real. That does not exist.
We believe that the Conservatives have made serious mistakes in the choices they have made and their choices are having an adverse effect on the Canadian economy.
Mr. Speaker, this budget implementation bill we are debating is disappointing.
We need a budget that is creative, has foresight, and addresses not only the needs of today but the needs of the future. It is crucial that we build a sound budget that will help promote and create jobs today, and a budget that addresses the needs of our aging population and the fiscal challenges that poses.
With its continued focus on corporate tax cuts instead of job creation, this budget is not what Canadian families need right now, or ever. The Conservatives have no workable plan for fixing front-line health care, strengthening public pensions, rewarding businesses that create jobs, or introducing practical measures to take the strain off the family budget. The government's budget does not forward the initiative to lift every senior out of poverty.
I would like to remind the that my motion which passed unanimously in this House in June stated:
That, in the opinion of this House, ending seniors' poverty in Canada is fiscally feasible, and, therefore, the House calls on the government to take immediate steps to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement sufficiently to achieve that goal.
This budget implementation bill has failed to take that motion into account despite its unanimous passage. It seems that the government is only willing to pay lip service to democracy and the seniors struggling to make ends meet.
The government agenda is clear: go full steam ahead and cut $11 billion from programs and services Canadians rely on, underfund important programs, and continue to cater to big business with corporate tax cuts.
I wish to be clear. The money was readily available. We had the money to lift seniors out of poverty in the present and the money to address additional expenses the government will face in the future as our population continues to age. Instead of investing in Canada, the Conservatives chose to saddle the treasury and Canadians with corporate tax giveaways that will not guarantee one new job.
The Conservatives will continue with their corporate tax giveaways. On January 1, 2012, they will hand over an additional $2 billion to the most profitable corporations. Let me say that figure again, $2 billion.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer's mandate is to provide independent analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation's finances, the government's estimates, and trends in the Canadian economy. The Parliamentary Budget Officer's analysis found that the corporate tax cuts will cost the government $11.5 billion over three years, $11.5 billion with no guarantee of a single new job. Imagine the help to poor seniors and the supports for job creation $11.5 billion could achieve.
Jobs are a priority. They are a priority in my riding. London has the highest unemployment rate in Canada. It has been repeatedly hit with the downturn in the manufacturing sector, changes in the insurance industry, and of course, the collapse of the North American auto sector.
This budget does very little to help Londoners recover from all the job losses in our community. There are no specific measures to help the automotive sector, no plan to help families hit with rising costs due to the HST, and no changes to EI to help ease the burden on families struggling to find work. Over the next five years EI premiums will exceed benefits by $15 billion. We can afford to help unemployed workers and their families.
I know federal development Ontario has $20 million over the next two years to renew the eastern Ontario development program, but that money is spread all over the region. I worry that Londoners in southwestern Ontario will again get the short end of the stick.
I would like to add that Londoners are not the exception. Despite the Conservatives' claims around job creation, we have 300,000 more unemployed people since before the recession. I would point out that the overwhelming proportion of jobs created were part-time.
The number of involuntary part-time workers is now over 500,000. A person cannot raise a family on part-time work. A person cannot save for retirement on part-time work. A person cannot stimulate the economy on part-time work.
I repeat, the budget fails to make life more affordable for London families still struggling to recover from the effects of the recession.
The tax breaks to big business are a frightening precedent. It means a serious decrease in revenue for the federal government of close to $12 billion and will have profound ramifications in the future. This forfeited money is needed to address the decreasing tax base as more and more of our population become seniors and begin to retire. This presents a very real problem as the amount of revenue for the government decreases while demand for services continues to rise.
Those who are seniors today will not benefit as they should from the budget. The government heralds its increase to the guaranteed income supplement, yet that money is nowhere near enough. The budget provides $300 million per year for a small increase to the GIS: $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. This is less than half of what New Democrats asked for and it will not come close to pulling every Canadian senior out of poverty.
The government's solution to seniors' poverty and seniors' access to resources is to offer tax breaks and trumpet the new horizons program. Both fall far short of what we really need: investment in home care; investment in pharmacare; increased access to resources; appropriate and affordable housing; and investment in geriatric studies. Investments in our community and in our families are what we need, not corporate tax breaks.
Most seniors cannot afford to cash in on the promised tax breaks in the budget because they do not earn enough. I am not sure how to make this any clearer to the members sitting opposite. The people who are struggling the most--seniors, single mothers, those who have lost their jobs--are the people for whom the government should provide help. The government has an obligation to help. Tax credits are of little use to the unemployed, the working poor and those struggling on pensions. They do not have the money to spend to get the credit, or they do not pay enough in taxes to qualify.
The new horizons program is the only investment the government is making in our seniors. There is so much more and much smarter ways to invest tax dollars to ensure our seniors are lifted out of poverty, have access to resources available to them, and are able to choose where they want to live. Dignity in retirement should be a right, not a privilege.
Our actions now will have an impact on how we treat our seniors in the future. If we fail to invest and make plans for the aging population, it is our own retirement that will be in jeopardy. Future seniors will not have the choice to age in their homes, will not have access to the care that is required.
There are many low or no cost ways to address seniors' poverty and these can be found in the government's own reports. In 2005, the National Advisory Council on Aging published its report, “Aging in Poverty in Canada”. It made many recommendations.
It recommended that the federal government increase the guaranteed income supplement to at least the low income cutoffs recognized by Statistics Canada.
It recommended that the federal government continue to increase its efforts to reach the number of people eligible for old age security and Canada pension plan benefits but who fail to apply for them.
It recommended that the government make public the number of eligible seniors who have not applied for the various program benefits and allow full retroactive benefits, plus interest, when someone applies late under the Canada pension plan since it is a contribution-based program.
It recommended that the federal government cease suspending guaranteed income supplement, allowance and survivor allowance benefits when tax returns are filed late or when renewal forms are not submitted. It recommended that the federal government instead increase its efforts to encourage renewal by sending reminders over a six-month period before reducing monthly benefits by 10%.
It recommended that the federal government allow seniors to earn an income of 10% of the benefits received by the old age security program before reducing the guaranteed income supplement and the allowance.
It recommended that the federal government and other levels of government increase their financial investment in social housing for seniors. It recommended that governments need to ensure that accommodation rates for residents of long-term care establishments do not exceed current market prices for similar room and board services in the local community.
It recommended that the government must also ensure automatic and compulsory sharing of pension rights under the Canada pension plan, employer pension funds, and retirement savings plans following divorce or legal separation.
In conclusion, by investing in our seniors now and by investing in job creation for all Canadians, we will be helping not only today's seniors but the people of the future.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
As this is my first speech in the new Parliament, I am pleased to thank the smart voters of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke for once again allowing me the privilege of representing their interests in the Government of Canada. I pledge faithfully to represent their interests to the best of my ability.
I congratulate the for the leadership role he has played in the good governance of Canada, a skill that continues to be acknowledged by thoughtful Canadians and the international community.
I will also to take this moment to thank my family. My husband Jamie and daughters Chantal, Lauren, Ellyse and Amelia stood by me during the election, and I thank them for their love, support and patience.
I also thank the people who came out to campaign during the election. I owe them tremendous thanks from the bottom of my heart. I can assure them that their generosity will be remembered.
I wish also to take this opportunity to salute the women and men at CFB Petawawa, which is located in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. I gratefully acknowledge the support they have given me since I was first elected in the fall of 2000 and most recently in the last election. The message I receive from our military electors in every election in which I have been a candidate has been clear and short: “Keep fighting. We need you”. I thank them for their support and I will not let them down. I have their back.
The legislation we now have before us, keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act, is all about the people in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. They are those who make a living off the land, be it farming or forestry. Many of the traditional sources of employment, such as the working forest, are under severe stress, and I am here for them.
I have to pay special thanks to the and the for addressing the unique problems we have in our community with the forestry industry.
Unlike when I was first elected back in 2000, when there were only two MPs in the Conservative caucus to represent all of Ontario, today there is a large, strong and vibrant Ontario caucus. I look forward to working with my many new caucus colleagues to make sure the interests of Canadians, particularly in rural Ontario, always have a voice.
As the MP for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, a sprawling rural riding in the Upper Ottawa Valley in eastern Ontario, I depend on Valley residents and their common sense approach to life to guide me in Parliament.
I am in good company when it comes to taking this approach. Valley wisdom was recognized by the most electorally successful Conservative premier of Ontario, Leslie Frost, when he would recount his favourite story about a judge in the village of Killaloe objecting to the pleas of a big city lawyer in his courtroom. He stated, “What you say may be in all them books, all right, but it ain't the Law of Killaloe”. Too often today, with the rise of more government and the myriad laws and regulations that are the result of too much government, decisions lack the element of common sense Judge Dunlop was dispensing from his rural courtroom in Killaloe.
Canada's economic action plan, a plan that was approved by an absolute majority of voters in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, is imbued with the same common sense. For example, unlike the official opposition, we recognize the simple fact that companies do not pay taxes, people do. When taxes are raised on employers, they are forced to cut costs, which means layoffs. It also means that a business must pass on extra expenses to consumers before the customers are lost.
It is this common sense approach by our government that has resulted in the creation of nearly 600,000 new jobs since 2009. That is why we see measures like the one in the legislation before us today, which provides a temporary hiring credit for small businesses to encourage additional hiring. It extends the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for investments in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment for two years to support the economic sector.
The best social program is a job.
The law of Killaloe is about making difficult decisions on behalf of the people of Canada without forgetting who we are and where and how we live. I am pleased to share this story, as the and his family joined Valley residents in Killaloe for that Valley tradition, the farm pig roast, for Canada Day a couple of summers ago.
The understands the average Canadian, who works hard, pays taxes and plays by the rules. On May 2, the majority of voters in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke chose to elect a national, stable, majority Conservative government. We in the Conservative government believe that public policy should be driven by facts and evidence, not by ideology. Every step of the way, we will be introducing into this House policies supporting the facts, evidence and common sense.
The Conservative Party of Canada recognizes that in order to be an environmental world leader, we need to focus on clean air, clean water, clean land and clean energy. Nuclear is the key to any national emission reduction plan, and I have worked very hard to keep the Canadian neutron facility and the need for a new multi-purpose research reactor on the science agenda of this country.
In the 1990s, the old Liberal government cut the budget of AECL by 42%, and we saw the fallout of those cuts. AECL then made the decision that basic nuclear research should be discontinued at Chalk River Laboratories unless it supported the commercial division of AECL. The Auditor General observed AECL could not operate properly because the Liberal government refused to approve any business plan.
The 2006 federal election of the Conservative Party was a game changer for the good of Chalk River Laboratories, of AECL and of all the Upper Ottawa Valley. The restructuring of AECL has been a key component of our government's strategy for Canada to be a clean energy superpower, and the latest budget allocation of $405 million is evidence of our commitment to the environment and to the need to provide dependable economic sources of electricity for the Canadian consumer.
This support comes at a time when the current Ontario provincial government pursues a reckless policy of electricity rate hikes that will see the average ratepayer's electricity bill go from $1,700 to $4,000 a year to pay the $200,000 annual per-job subsidy that is hidden in the fine print of the so-called Green Energy Act. Unlike the opposition parties, our Conservative government is committed to affordable energy prices that allow seniors and other Canadians who are on fixed incomes to be able to afford to live in their own homes.
Support for Canada's military that was announced in last year's budget does not change. Construction of the new Chinook helicopter hangar at CFB Petawawa is proceeding as planned, as outlined in the government's Canada First defence strategy, and jobs have come along with that needed expansion. Petawawa is experiencing record growth and it is going into roads, sewer infrastructure, housing and all sorts of things that the incoming soldiers and support personnel are going to need with the new helicopter squadron.
The Town of Petawawa, like all municipalities in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, will benefit from the budget measure to legislate the annual $2 billion gas tax fund expenditure from the federal government to municipal infrastructure.
Our forestry sector will benefit from the $60 million announced in the budget to assist it to innovate and to tap into new opportunities abroad. Forestry has been a mainstay in the Upper Ottawa Valley for many generations, and I am committed to working with our local foresters to keep that employment base.
In addition to specific budget announcements, like AECL and the $20 million announced over two years for the eastern Ontario development program, there are a number of specific measures that are being used to help individuals. We will continue on with that after.
Madam Speaker, in her presentation, the hon. member for talked about some of the things that the folks in Killaloe think about. I look around my riding at some of the small villages like Landsdowne, Newboro, Maynard, Roebuck and other small villages and towns, and that is very much what the people in my riding think about, and they think about what we have done in this budget and the things they wanted to see in it.
I specifically want to talk about some of those things that are in the budget and some of those measures that are important to Leeds and Grenville.
I was very pleased when the introduced the budget back in June. It was what we campaigned on and what we promised we would present. We are following through on our commitments. I noted at the time that it was a good budget for Leeds and Grenville and that it reflected what I heard in my extensive prebudget consultations last winter.
The budget supports families, seniors, workers and job creators. We have weathered the economic downturn in great shape but our economy is still fragile and the budget concentrates on continuing the recovery.
As well, it is keeping the economy on track. One change in the budget is the accelerated deficit reduction plan. We would see the deficit being eliminated by 2014 instead 2015, which was another important issue to the folks in my riding. They understood the need for the deficit but they also wanted to see it eliminated as soon as possible.
Several of the measures from the budget that have already been implemented were important to my riding. These included renewed funding for the eastern Ontario development program with the expenditure of $20 million over the next two years. This has been an important program for . It was one of the key things that I heard during my prebudget consultations from municipal leaders and constituents. It will continue to be an important factor in further job creation in Leeds—Grenville.
I should note that the work that is undertaken by the community futures development programs in , the organizations that distribute the ODP funding. These folks live and work in the riding and they know the communities they serve. They do an excellent job of getting value for our money while growing our economy at the same time.
Two of the other important measures that have already been implemented are the top up for low income seniors who rely on the guaranteed income supplement, and the $400 million that are going to the restart of the home retrofit program, which will help people reduce energy costs in their homes.
My offices in Brockville and here in Ottawa received numerous calls about both of those programs as soon as they were announced.
We are here today to talk about the implementation of more measures from the budget, so I will spend the rest of my time talking about these.
Later this month, I will be attending an announcement in the city of Brockville where officials will gather to celebrate a new energy saving green initiative undertaken by the city. This initiative will save the city money through the use of renewable resources. It was partially funded by the gas tax fund. This will be the second major announcement about the use of this particular fund in that city in the past two years.
Two years ago, we helped celebrate the new street light program that was being undertaken in Brockville. The city was replacing all of its street lights with more energy efficient models using the gas tax fund. The budget implementation bill would make the fund permanent. It will provide predictable, long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities, such as Brockville, so they can tackle projects that will help them save money and save energy for the long term.
A second measure that is being implemented under the bill is the volunteer firefighters tax credit. I heard loud and clear from our volunteer firefighters in Leeds and Grenville that this was something they wanted to see. The day the budget was tabled in June, one of our local fire chiefs, whose department is all volunteers, spoke out about the need for this tax credit. It would help volunteers cover some of their ongoing costs and it is just a token of our appreciation for the work that they do on our behalf. Many folks do not understand that these volunteers have the same professional requirements as full-time, permanent firefighters, but our government understands that and this credit would help recognize that.
In 2006, our government introduced a children's fitness tax credit that was appreciated by the families in my riding whose children were involved in sporting activities. At the same time, I heard from many individuals and organizations that this benefit should be extended to children's artistic and cultural endeavours. These, too, cost families money.
I was pleased to see in the spring budget that our government committed to the same treatment for families for the cost of artistic, cultural, recreational and developmental activities. With this implementation bill, these families would see a 15% credit on up to $500 of eligible fees for these activities. Since June, I have spoken with a number of parents and organizers of children's arts activities who have expressed appreciation that we have listened to their suggestions.
Families today face greater pressures than ever before, with both parents working to make ends meet and growing families to care for, dealing with an infirm loved one is an added burden. Our introduction in this budget of a new family caregiver tax credit would help those families. This 15% non-refundable tax credit would provide tax relief for caregivers of all types of infirm, dependent relatives, including, for the first time, spouses, common-law partners and children.
As well, our government, in this bill, would be removing the limit on the amount of eligible expenses caregivers can claim under the medical expense tax credit in respect of financially dependent relatives.
I want to talk briefly about the government subsidies to federal political parties. This has been a big issue in my riding for a long time. Since our government took office, we have taken action to take the influence of money out of politics in this country. We eliminated large personal donations to parties and we have banned donations from corporations and unions, all to ensure reasonable accountability.
As folks in my riding like to point out, we also have a duty to use their tax money wisely and for the constructive good of the entire country, especially when they themselves are struggling to make ends meet.
That is why, in the campaign last spring and in the June budget, we promised to introduce legislation to gradually reduce the $2.04 per year per vote subsidy in 51-cent increments starting April 1, 2012 until it is completely eliminated by 2015-16. This would generate savings ramping up to $30 million by 2015-16.
We have always opposed direct taxpayer subsidies to political parties as we believe that political parties should rely primarily on their own supporters for their financing. Political parties can issue tax receipts to their supporters and they already receive a partial reimbursement of their election expenses. By gradually phasing out this subsidy that has been paid to parties, we will all have time to increase our fundraising activities to compensate where required.
Finally, I want to talk about the measures we are taking for job creation and economic growth. As I spoke with people in my riding during my prebudget consultations last winter, this was the area of greatest concern, an area where we can have a great deal of influence. My riding, more than most, I suspect, was especially hard hit in the past 15 years as manufacturers left. In many instances, long-time plants that had been around for generations closed their doors, sometimes without saying goodbye to the workers.
Slowly but surely, we are beginning to see a bit of a turnaround in some areas. Just yesterday, for example, in the local daily newspaper in Brockville, David Beatty, the CEO of one of the city's leading manufacturers, Canarm, was talking about his company's expansion in Brockville. The headline read “Canarm head sees return of manufacturing jobs.” He noted that over the next decade we will see an increase in manufacturing jobs returning to Canada. While it will take time, the pendulum will swing back, he indicated.
We have already seen some of this as high transportation costs and increased living standards in some of the economically emerging countries that have captured some of our former jobs have started to eat into the previously available profits.
While there is good news on the horizon, we must still provide a boost where we can to ensure that our businesses and industries are ready to take advantage of any and all opportunities.
We have taken many measures: providing a temporary hiring credit for small businesses to encourage additional hiring; expanding tax support for clean energy generation to encourage green investments; and simplifying customs and tariffs in order to facilitate trade and lower the administrative burden for businesses. Many in my riding often send their goods across the border.
Our government is focused on jobs and the economy. We have accomplished a great deal for Canadians over the past several years and we will continue. The implementation of this bill will add to our strengths.