The House resumed from October 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-4, A second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to debate this particular bill, another omnibus bill coming from the Conservative Party, which contains a number of very significant issues.
One of those issues deals with an act that is really only directed toward the constituency I represent, the Northwest Territories. It is called the amendments to the Mackenzie Gas Project Impacts Act, and the bill changes the conditions of a particular fund that was set up through the work of the previous Liberal government and then through the work of the Conservative government in 2006 to deal with potential impacts from the Mackenzie gas project, a project that was put forward by Imperial Oil and, throughout the last decade, went through environment assessment.
Support of most first nations groups along the Mackenzie Valley was achieved for this 1,200-kilometre-long pipeline with a collector field in the Mackenzie Delta. The Inuvialuit of that region also supported the project. We did go through a process by which this project achieved support.
Part of that support came because of the decision by the federal government, both Liberals and Conservatives at the time, to a provide socio-economic impact fund to the communities. This fund, which was established as a trust fund of $500 million, was to be divided among the communities, the regions, the aboriginal organizations that represented the regions down the Mackenzie Valley and in the Mackenzie Delta. The Dehcho region was to receive $150 million; the Gwich’in region, $82 million; the Tulita-Deline region, $61 million; the Inuvialuit $150 million; and the Kasho Gotine-Colville region, $57 million.
These sums were to be distributed over 10 years once the project had been approved and we had seen work going forward with the project, once the companies had initiated efforts to start the project. This money was clearly identified for socio-economic impacts over 10 years, so that the sums of money were to be used for projects designed and developed by the communities.
These communities up and down the Mackenzie Valley, in the Mackenzie Delta, went through an extensive process to identify what they saw were their concerns in developing this pipeline: how it would affect their communities, how their communities could alleviate some of the impacts of such a major project, a $16 billion project, being conducted in an area where there were mostly traditional communities in very much pristine wilderness.
We had a situation where these communities had gone into a two-year planning process and came up with detailed plans of how these dollars were to be spent. The government at the time, through an act of Parliament, set up an independent corporation that would manage these funds and ensure that the corporation would only provide contributions to regional organizations in respect of a project if the project mitigated the existing or anticipated socio-economic impacts on the communities in the Northwest Territories arising from the Mackenzie gas project. Quite clearly, this was designed solely for that purpose.
There was an independent body set up by the Conservative government through an act of Parliament to manage this money and ensure that it was managed in a correct and careful fashion, following the procedures that had been set up and the planning that had taken place in these communities over a period of two years, from 2006 to 2008. All of this work was accomplished and it was put in place.
That is the basic history of what has happened with it. Now, the Conservatives are talking about changing this project and the act to one where a minister, who is not designated in the act, will have the sole responsibility for issuing the funds for this rather large amount of money. We have a situation where the minister is not known. One of the significant differences in the bill is that in the previous bill, a corporation may only deal with this particular aspect when it is dealing with money, but now the new minister may designate the funds.
There is a subtle change in the way the legislation is put out, which I have some concerns about, because I represent the people who went through the two-year planning process to come up with the ideas that would be initiated. Those ideas were ones that spoke to culture, language, young people, the significant and important social impacts that the communities recognized would exist after taking on a major industrial project. It would forever change the landscape in their regions. It would forever change the economics and would put enormous social pressure on these communities.
What we have now is a move to a system that would have a Conservative minister handing out cheques for particular projects as he or she deems appropriate. This is a concern that I have. When we had the corporation in place, the corporation would have followed the directions that the communities had struck. It would have been an impartial body. We would have taken it away from the potential political interference that goes on with funds that are not clearly and carefully delegated to the right areas.
Did the government not learn anything from the Muskoka minister's gazebo scandal? Did it not learn anything about the importance of dealing with funds in a non-partial, careful fashion so that the precise purpose of what these funds are developed for is implemented?
We went through the process in the Northwest Territories. We established what these funds were to be used for in agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories and the federal government. These plans are in place. Where is the protection now for the work that people have done?
It is changing. Why is the government changing this? Where was the consultation with anyone in the Northwest Territories about this process? When did the government actually talk to people and say it wanted to take it out of the hands of an impartial corporation, which is very carefully configured to ensure that the dollars are spent in the way that the communities want, and put it into the hands of a minister who may or may decide to support projects, based on political considerations? Where was that consultation? How did that work? Where is the success of that?
What we have is a $500-million fund that has now been cut loose by the Government of Canada, by the Conservative Government of Canada, into the hands of a minister. It may or may not work in the way that is was designed to work.
This is a pattern that we can follow with the Conservative government. It started off with good intentions. It felt accountability was important when it started off. It recognized that it did not want to follow the Liberal pattern. Now it is back. What pattern is it following? It is back to the way the Liberals used to govern. It is back there now. This is just another indication. I really am sorry that this has happened.
I see that I only have five seconds left so I will take it up. Thank you.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to add my support for the swift passage of this important and necessary legislation. We on this side of the House have been very clear. We are focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity and the legislation shows how committed we are to this focus.
As the stated when he tabled Bill , “In the face of continued global economic uncertainty, it is essential that we remain squarely focused on keeping Canada’s economy strong”.
Rest assured the Canada Revenue Agency, CRA, is actively advancing this agenda. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, I know the agency is playing a leading role in implementing important initiatives from economic action plan 2013. These initiatives are helping to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. We need look no further than our determination to fix an issue that matters to all Canadian taxpayers: ensuring that everyone pays their fair share of the taxes they owe. We are doing so by closing tax loopholes in order to keep taxes as low for individuals and families as possible.
Since 2006 our government has cut taxes 150 times. As a result, the average family of four now enjoys over $3,200 in extra tax savings. The federal tax burden for all Canadians is the lowest it has been in 50 years. I listened to the opposition criticism of the bill. Those members can say just about anything they want in the House because they are protected by parliamentary privilege, but they cannot say that we do not have the lowest taxes in the past 50 years. It is a fact and it is time that the opposition applaud that fact.
However, like any responsible government there is always room to do more. That is why economic action plan 2013 announced measures to close tax loopholes and improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system. We owe it to hard-working Canadians who fulfill their tax commitments and understand that their contributions help to fund important government programs and services for their families. It is also critical to honest businesses that find it hard to compete with businesses that cheat on their taxes. When people cheat on their taxes, everyone loses.
Among the important changes we intend to address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules and fight international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. These efforts will close tax loopholes that were used by a few businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Broadening and protecting the tax base supports our government's effort to return to balanced budgets and responds to provincial governments' concerns about protecting provincial revenues on our shared tax base. Equally important is the fact that our budget would give Canadians confidence that the tax system is fair, providing incentives to work, save and invest in Canada.
Another area with a direct impact on Canadian taxpayers is our work to root out electronic suppression of sales software. In plain language it is often referred to as zapper software. What it boils down to is making it more and more difficult for people to cheat on their taxes and operate in the underground economy. While they, the tax cheats, pocket the money, honest taxpayers end up having to shoulder a greater tax burden because of this illegal activity.
All taxpayers, particularly businesses, are required to maintain adequate books and records for tax purposes. This includes maintaining accurate electronic data files. Unfortunately, some businesses use this zapper software to hide their sales figures so they can avoid paying the GST/HST and income taxes they owe on this revenue. This software selectively deletes or modifies sales from electronic cash registers and other point-of-sale and accounting systems. This undermines the competitiveness of businesses and offers an unfair advantage to those who fail to comply with Canada's tax laws.
Economic action plan 2013 sent a strong signal that we will no longer tolerate such activity. Bill C-4 includes new monetary penalties and criminal offences to discourage the possession, use or development of electronic suppression of sales software.
Anyone who attempts to avoid paying taxes by using electronic suppression of sales tax avoidance, which leaves an unfair burden on Canadian consumers and businesses that contribute their fair share, will now pay a steep price. Businesses caught using, owning, or buying electronic suppression of sales software will face a $5,000 penalty on their first infraction. This penalty rises to $50,000 for any subsequent infraction.
Anyone who develops, manufactures, offers for sale, or sells such software will face a $10,000 penalty on the first infraction and $100,000 for any subsequent infraction.
There is no question that our overarching goal is to put more money back in the hands of Canadians through reduced taxes. Our country's tax base is essential for providing necessary benefits, programs, and services that all Canadians depend on.
When everyone pays the taxes they owe, we can invest those tax dollars to help Canadian families and communities and our country's economy. For instance, economic action plan 2013 includes tax credits for small businesses that would enable them to create jobs for unemployed Canadians. This would generate increased wealth in their communities.
Bill introduces measures that would support Canada's job creators. It would extend and expand the hiring credit for small business for an additional year. More businesses than ever would be able to take advantage of this job creation tool.
It is especially noteworthy that the hiring credit would leave eligible business owners with up to $1,000 they could put back into their businesses. Eligible employers would receive the credit when they hired new employees or increased wages. New businesses created in 2012 might also be eligible. If business owners were eligible, they could get the credit automatically when they filed their T4 information returns.
This investment yields huge dividends. Based on the success of the existing initiative, we anticipate that 560,000 small businesses would benefit from this measure. If even 50% of those businesses used the hiring credit, this would allow them to reinvest $225 million back into the Canadian economy. Especially good news for businesses is that there would be no extra paperwork to fill out. That is because of another one of our priorities reflected in Bill , our commitment to reduce red tape at every opportunity.
Business owners and their associations have told us loud and clear that they are frustrated by the amount of paperwork they have to deal with from all levels of government. We have been listening to them.
Our government recognizes that too much red tape restricts innovation, productivity, and competitiveness. We understand that when Canadian businesses succeed, all Canadians benefit. That is why we have taken repeated steps to free up Canadian business owners from paperwork so that they can focus on growing their businesses and creating jobs. I am proud to say that there are now fewer regulations, and the cost of red tape has been reduced by $20 million annually.
We continue to make progress. Now certain essential forms that simply cannot be avoided are easier to process. For instance, the CRA recently launched its new online mail service for Canadian businesses, available through My Business Account, which streamlines their interactions with the agency. Canadian small businesses can now choose to receive notices of assessment and reassessment, as well as some letters for their corporate and GST/HST accounts, electronically.
CRA uses the same high level of security that financial institutions use to protect banking information, so businesses can use the new online service with peace of mind.
Our government's record speaks for itself. We are keeping taxes low, cutting red tape, and going after tax cheats like never before. No wonder Canada leads the G7 with more than one million net new jobs created since the depth of the global recession. With the adoption of Bill , we will be able to carry on this proud tradition of progress.
Mr. Speaker, Bill is a sad new piece of legislative art from the Conservatives. What a masterpiece.
Much like the three omnibus bills before it—Bill , Bill and Bill —this fourth bill includes some 70 legislative measures—why not—most of which have very little to do with the budget. The bill even creates two brand-new laws: the Mackenzie Gas Project Impacts Act and the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board Act.
With this bill, the Conservatives are trying once again to force major changes through Parliament, without letting us do our job.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has already pointed out numerous times that members of Parliament do not have access to the information they need to fulfill their critical role and improve our laws. He had to threaten to take the government to court for the Conservatives to finally bother to reveal their budget cut plan. However, here we are again with another omnibus bill.
The tabled budget 2013 in Parliament on March 21. The budget cuts thousands of public service jobs and makes cuts to program spending. The budget proposes a host of unwarranted economic austerity measures that do not help Canadians.
Bill to implement certain provisions of the budget undermines the health and safety protections in place for workers. It is a direct attack on public servants and labour unions. It causes irreparable damage to our research system and puts employment insurance firmly under the minister's control.
I am particularly concerned for the Canadian public and especially for the constituents in my riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and Dorval.
This bill removes from our health and safety officers the authority granted to them under the Canada Labour Code. It significantly weakens the ability of employees to refuse to work in dangerous conditions. It grants virtually all health and safety powers to the minister. This concentration of power in the hands of a minister is very dangerous, especially when we are dealing with a Conservative minister.
When the Conservatives attack the Canada Labour Code, they are attacking something that Canadians worked hard to build over the years to make their working conditions healthier and safer. This is the opposite of progress. This is a step backwards, just like everything else the Conservatives do. They should instead be seeking ways to protect Canadians from having to work in situations that expose them to unacceptable risks. They should protect workers.
I had the opportunity to study occupational health and safety in my university program. I took a course that required students to conduct workplace risk assessments. Therefore, I can say that centralizing everything is exactly the opposite of what companies do to identify risks in order to provide appropriate solutions concerning occupational health and safety.
For all these reasons, the NDP will certainly oppose this proposal, which affects the fundamental rights of workers in terms of occupational health and safety.
Bill would also make changes that would allow the minister to determine which services are essential in the public service, in such a way that he could well undermine collective bargaining rights.
We know that the Conservatives do not like unions. This is another attack. This is a direct violation of the social dialogue in the public service. By destabilizing the relationship between the negotiating parties, the government is giving itself the means to gag workers in the public service. It is restricting their right to challenge the deterioration of working conditions due to the unjustified cuts imposed by the Conservatives themselves. By slashing jobs, they are creating the conditions for conflict. They now want to ignore the consequences by preventing workers from expressing their frustration and their complaints.
However, some services seem to be less essential than others, particularly when objective scientific results contradict the Conservatives' vision and plans. They fired hundreds of scientists without considering the medium- or long-term consequences of their decision.
Now, Bill is taking aim at National Research Council Canada and dealing a final blow to our public research system. Well done.
As a final step in their attempt to systematically bleed the labour market dry on the pretense of flexibility, the Conservatives are using Bill to eliminate the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board and give the the power to manipulate rates.
Do the Conservatives want to turn their backs on federal responsibility in this area by dumping it onto the provinces or directly onto the public?
Bill also extends the $1,000 hiring tax credit for small business. I acknowledge that that is a step in the right direction, but it is nowhere near enough. The NDP is looking further ahead and proposing a $2,000 hiring tax credit that would not come out of the employment insurance fund and would help businesses hire and train young workers.
I want to keep talking about small businesses. The Conservatives are going ahead with their $350 million tax hike on labour-sponsored venture capital funds. However, it is well known that venture capital is essential for creating and developing businesses. Just listen to our entrepreneurs. Alain-Jacques Simard, CEO of TeraXion, a Quebec company that specializes in fibre optics, said that the Fonds de solidarité FTQ acted as a catalyst and that since its January 2010 investment, his company's sales have doubled. That is important to remember.
The Conservatives like to remind everybody that they were elected to lower taxes, but not for unions, apparently. That is very strange. Attacking a financing system does not make sense unless it is part of an agenda to do whatever it takes to undermine the economic influence of Canadian workers and unions.
Still on the subject of small businesses, Bill increases the lifetime capital gains exemption and indexes it. The NDP supports increasing the lifetime capital gains exemption because that will help small business owners. The NDP knows that small businesses create a lot of jobs. However, they create those jobs only in a climate of better economic and regulatory conditions. That is why the NDP would like to see tax incentives to help these businesses hire Canadians.
We can only have a productive debate on these proposals if the Conservatives allow it. The omnibus bill will not make that possible and suggests that the Conservatives are, sadly, not willing to debate. The Conservatives are showing their true colours by attacking workers, public servants, employment insurance and unions. They are not working for Canadian families.
Household debt has reached record levels and is now at 166% of household income. This means that people are spending five months' income every three months, putting them two more months in the hole every five months. The Conservatives have no plan to address the alarming youth unemployment rate.
Bill is out of touch with what is important to Canadian families. It is a dangerous step backward. This policy is designed to destroy gains made by the middle class. It will force workers and families to pay for services that they have already paid for through their taxes.
This bill, like all of its omnibus predecessors, is a policy instrument designed to systematically destroy the social relationships that Canadians have worked hard to build over the past few decades. It is an intolerable attack on the rights of Canadian workers and Canadian families. The NDP will not stand for it.
The NDP will not support the Conservatives' latest attempt to circumvent parliamentary democracy. We should have the opportunity to debate the many subjects covered in Bill separately and refer them for study by the relevant committee. The NDP is also opposed to budget 2013 and its implementation bills, including Bill , because they disregard the true priorities of Canadian families: creating good, well-paid jobs, ensuring retirement security, creating job opportunities for youth and creating more affordable living conditions for families.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure this morning to speak to the budget implementation issue.
I would like to highlight some items that are extremely important to all Canadians. Sometimes when we look at all the issues we forget the umbrella over which the budget was built.
Two and a half years ago, Canadians gave our government a mandate to create jobs, keep taxes low, and help make our streets and communities safer. In an uncertain and unstable world, our Conservative government has led us through tough economic times.
The results are clear. With one million net new jobs added since the recession, we lead the G7 on job creation and on the strength of our balance sheet. Canada now leads the G7 in job creation, in income growth, and in keeping debt levels low. We are the leader.
Canada is now among only a few countries in the world with an AAA credit rating. However, we know we need to do more. Canadians have a rare opportunity to build on our stable democracy, our sound finances, our expanding trade relationships, our strong communities, and our skilled workforce. This is Canada's moment, and it is our government's job to seize the moment for the benefit of all Canadians.
That is why the recent throne speech laid out three priorities for our government moving forward. Number one is to create jobs and opportunities for Canadians; number two is to support and protect Canadian families; number three is to put Canada first.
Our priorities are about making sure that Canada is leading the world so that Canadians who work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules can get ahead. Our work will be guided by our values: the belief in low taxes, small government, a thriving private sector that creates jobs for Canadians, protecting our communities from criminals and drug pushers, and believing that Canada is the best country on earth to live in.
In our throne speech, our government committed to pursuing free trade agreements, such as the Canada-EU free trade agreement. I am proud that our government has already delivered on this promise. One in five Canadian jobs depends on exports. Our prosperity hinges on opening new markets for Canadian goods, services, and investments. I congratulate our government for signing an agreement in principle of a comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union, an agreement that has the potential to create 80,000 new Canadian jobs. This is an historic win for Canada and means thousands of new jobs for Canadians and half a billion new customers for Canadian businesses.
Manitoba has much to gain from this 21st century. I am from Manitoba, and I am very proud because I know 40¢ on the dollar has been put forward from the federal government to keep Manitoba going. Now Manitoba, my province, has much to gain from this 21st century, gold-standard trade agreement. The elimination of 98% of all EU tariffs on the first day that the agreement comes into force will translate into increased profits and opportunities for Canadian businesses of all sizes in every part of the country. This historic agreement with the EU is a big win for workers, businesses, and families in Kildonan—St. Paul, Manitoba, and all through Canada. Throughout the province, hard-working people of Manitoba will benefit, especially in key sectors of the local economy, such as advanced manufacturing, construction services, and agriculture.
In addition to tariff elimination, CETA provides improved access to EU markets for Canadian goods and services; greater certainty, transparency, and protection for investments; and new opportunities in EU procurement markets.
An earlier joint study concluded that CETA could bring a 20% boost in bilateral trade and a $12 billion annual increase to Canada's economy. That is the equivalent of adding $1,000 to the average Canadian household income or 80,000 new jobs to the Canadian economy. That is amazing.
CETA is by far Canada's most ambitious trade initiative, broader and deeper in scope than the historic North American Free Trade Agreement known as NAFTA.
Economic action plan 2013 is something else that would strengthen this record with action in all areas that drive economic prosperity.
Today I would like to highlight some of the excellent measures that would benefit the hardworking families and individuals in Kildonan—St. Paul and in the province of Manitoba.
The act would implement key measures from economic action plan 2013 as well as certain previously announced tax measures to help create jobs, stimulate growth, and secure Canada's long-term prosperity.
Measures in economic action plan 2013 act no. 2 are aimed at spurring job creation and economic growth. These kinds of things include providing record transfer support for social and health services in Manitoba and a significant number of dollars to ensure that necessary programs are well funded, such as in schools and hospitals. In fact, in 2013-2014, the federal transfer support to Manitoba would be $643 million higher than it was under the former Liberal government.
We all remember that the former Liberal government slashed transfers for health care and education. I remember it well. Our Conservative government rejects that shameful practice and is protecting and growing transfers to help support the services Manitoba families depend on.
For Manitoba, total major transfers would total $3.4 billion in 2013. These would include almost $1.8 billion through equalization, an increase of $191 million, or almost 12%, since 2005-2006 under the former Liberal government; $1.1 billion through the Canada health transfer, an increase of $336 million, or almost 43%, since 2005-2006 under the former Liberal government; $443 million through the Canada social transfer, an increase of $109 million, or almost 33%, since 2005-2006 under the former Liberal government; and almost $7 million in total transfer protection. I remember this well, because I was an MLA at the time.
This is good news for Manitoba and a key assurance that our government is committed to the long-term prosperity of our province of Manitoba.
One area of the budget I would like to highlight is programs designed to help create jobs. These are very important programs. Our Conservative government would extend and expand the hiring credit for small business, which would benefit an estimated 560,000 employers.
Canada's small businesses are engines for job creation that boost economic growth. They represent 48% of the total labour force in the private sector and contribute approximately 30% to Canada's GDP. The federal government recognizes the important contribution made by small businesses all across the country and the challenges they face. This temporary credit would provide up to $1,000 against a small firm's increase in its 2013 employment insurance premiums over those paid in 2012 to employers with total EI premiums of $15,000 or less in 2012. This is very good news for Canadian businesses.
Other job creator initiatives would include increasing and indexing the lifetime capital gains exemption to make investing in small business more rewarding; expanding the accelerated capital cost allowance to further encourage investments in clean energy generation; and freezing employment insurance premium rates for three years, leaving $660 million in the pockets of job creators and workers in 2014 alone.
Another area of the budget implementation act I would like to highlight today is our Conservative government's efforts to control direct program spending with common sense proposals for making government more efficient and productive. This would include setting public service pay and benefits levels that are reasonable, responsible, and in the public interest.
There are so many other things, such as closing tax loopholes and the building Canada fund. The building Canada fund would provide $14 billion over ten years to support major economic infrastructure projects in Manitoba and all across Canada.
In this time of economic constraint, it is very important that people are working and that Canadians are able to live well and grow their families in prosperity, happiness, and safety. This is why Canada is a remarkable country under the leadership of our , Stephen Harper, and our government.
Mr. Speaker, before I get into the details of the bill and how it will benefit Canada, and specifically my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming, I would like to take a moment to give this House the context in which we consider this bill.
In early 2008, Canada was faced with the worst global economic downturn since the 1930s. However, thanks to the firm and responsible regulations that were put in place, Canada did not sink as low. This alone was not enough to keep Canada from following our neighbours. Our government saw investments dwindling, an unstable, unconfident marketplace, and millions of Canadians with their jobs at risk. Our government acted with resolve and initiative to introduce the economic action plan, which provided our economy with a $60-billion stimulus, including $12 billion in stimulus and $20 billion in tax relief.
Action plan after action plan, the government has continued to responsibly steer Canada through the global recession while simultaneously pushing taxes lower and removing barriers to trade and investment in Canada.
The ultimate result is that all Canadians can take pride that through our government's responsible and disciplined leadership, Canada has the best fiscal record in the G8. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is the absolute lowest. We are on the path to surplus. We hold a AAA credit rating. We have added over a million net new jobs to the economy, which has reduced unemployment lower than before the recession. Our markets remain responsibly regulated, stable, and dynamic.
However, our recovery is fragile and vulnerable to the actions of others. That is why Bill would have impact. Bill C-4 would project the government's low-tax, consumer, family-focused agenda into the future to ensure continued growth and long-term prosperity.
While Bill touches on all aspects of Canada's economy, I would like to highlight three areas of importance to my region and how Bill C-4 would help Nipissing—Timiskaming grow.
First, as we know, businesses are absolutely key to healthy communities. If the cost of business is too high, jobs will disappear. This is the plain truth, and it baffles me that the NDP and Liberals cannot comprehend it. Fundamentally, they believe that we can tax and spend ourselves out of every problem.
Nipissing—Timiskaming is home to many manufacturing companies. Aerospace and mining are major sectors for us. The accelerated capital cost allowance program introduced in Bill , which would be extended for two years, would allow companies in my region to invest in new machinery and equipment, expand their operations, and stimulate growth and job creation.
Economic action plan 2013 would proactively address continued job growth and skills shortages through the Canada job grant. It is an initiative that would help workers get $15,000 toward valuable skills training. Our government understands that it is not enough to create new jobs; we have to make sure that there are skilled Canadians to fill them.
This kind of long-term, experienced thinking is exactly why, under this government, Canada has prospered while other countries continue to flounder.
I know that in my region, students and graduates of Canadore College would particularly benefit from the Canada job grant. These very same students, many of whom go into the skilled trades, would also benefit from the changes we are making to how apprenticeship accreditation works. Four million dollars over three years would be allocated to harmonize requirements among the provinces and to examine assessments.
Aerospace, in particular, would benefit. Over $1 billion would be invested in the aerospace and space sectors. Nipissing—Timiskaming has a long and proud history in airways, and I am confident that it will play a key role in our government's plan to consolidate and improve our fifth-place standing in the world. Aerospace companies and services in my community employ hundreds of people and provide them with secure, good-paying jobs. This will only grow under our government.
Second, I would like to specifically talk about small businesses. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the towns and communities in Nipissing—Timiskaming. They, in particular, would benefit from Bill . Besides being able to take advantage of the Canada job grant, they would benefit from the hiring credit, which would freeze EI premiums, saving small businesses $1,000.
Small businesses, and in particular part-time farmers, would benefit from the increase to the lifetime capital gains exemption, which would increase by $50,000 to $800,000. Farmers would also benefit from the doubling of the restricted farm loss deduction, from $8,750 to $17,500.
Overall, thanks to the low-tax plan of our government, Bill and previous Conservative budgets, small businesses are paying $28,600 less in taxes. Canadians get it and Canadians got it in May 2011 when they sent the Conservative government to Ottawa with a majority. However, I will make it clear for my colleagues who remain a little confused that we have been cutting taxes and jobs have been created, one million net new jobs. Bills like Bill C-4 have cut taxes. Unemployment now is lower than before the recession. Our responsible long-term plan is working for Canada and Canadian families. I hope, after seven years, my colleagues will begin to understand that.
I want to touch on infrastructure. A major part of the original economic action plan, investment in infrastructure, underpins this budget and Canada's success. How would this be any different given our national history? In the infant stage of nationhood, it was the building of the transcontinental railroad that united Canada and set it on the path toward economic prosperity. The building Canada plan, the single largest infrastructure investment in our nation's history, will provide an additional $53 billion over several years to make sure our infrastructure is modern, safe and capable of helping us unlock more economic potential in our communities and from our resources. We cannot expect to grow without a firm base on which to stand. Infrastructure is that base.
Nipissing—Timiskaming has greatly benefited from infrastructure projects, particularly through FedNor. In particular, the airport, roads and community assets have been invested in. The expansion of the airport and upgrading of its services continue to make our region a more attractive place for continued investment in aerospace. Coupled with our government's aerospace prerogative, there is potential for real synergy. Investment in our roads and community infrastructure continues to open up the north and adds to our quality of life.
It is unfortunate that many of our neighbours suffered greatly, and continue to suffer, because of the global economic downturn. I as a Canadian am very grateful that our recession was not as impactful. Canadians recognize that our success is no accident. Canadians recognize that our continued economic leadership of the G8 is no accident. Canadians recognize that the government is not the answer, only a part of the solution. Our country has grown weary of the tax and spend promises of the Liberals and NDP, mostly because the money is never spent on the people, although it is they who are taxed.
Last, I want to draw to the attention of the House the fact that this government does not draft policy or budgets in a vacuum, but in a long-term, responsible and critical fashion. The effects of economic action plan 2013, Bill and future budgets, will greatly benefit from the recently announced Canada-European Union free trade agreement. The synergy is perfect. Bills like Bill C-4 help create a low-tax, investor-friendly market, while CETA removes barriers to trade and investment.
In conclusion, thanks to Bill and parallel government efforts, Canadians can continue to expect net job growth, world leadership in fiscal accountability and political stability, with an explicit focus on Canadian jobs, families and their pocketbooks. The government fully intends to seize Canada's moment for the benefit of all Canadians and I would urge my colleagues on the opposite side to support it. I look forward to questions from my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill . Unfortunately, this is another grab bag omnibus bill that has had its time for debate cut off, so some important issues in it will not be adequately aired. I will touch on several aspects of the bill and how they reflect some of the challenges and failures of the government.
I am going to start by pointing out that this budget implementation bill would do very little to address the key challenges being faced by middle-class Canadians as a result of rising costs and stagnant incomes. Bill would do little to create jobs.
The bill would increase taxes with respect to mining exploration. That is not very helpful. If taxes are increased on mining exploration, then much of the good work to encourage mining exploration and mining development would be undermined.
Vancouver is at the centre of the mining industry globally. Many people who live in the province of British Columbia and many people in my riding of Vancouver Quadra work in the mining industry. The British Columbia government has spent the last 10 or 12 years rebuilding that industry in our province.
In 2001, when the B.C. Liberal government was first elected, investment in mining exploration was down to about $25 million from the hundreds of millions of dollars of annual investment in the 1990s. Slowly and surely the provincial government built up the confidence of the mining industry until over $250 million a year was invested in British Columbia's mining exploration.
Our province spent so much effort in rebuilding this industry by respecting the industry and not adding to its tax burden. Did the consult with the British Columbia premier or the minister of energy and mines when he slapped a tax on this industry?
This is a failure by management, and it shows that the federal government does not understand that for jobs to be created and business opportunities to be provided, the business community needs to have certainty and transparency.
We have seen this kind of management failure in spades in the Conservative government in the area of military procurement. All of us would agree that the Canadian navy, air force and army need to replace billions of dollars worth of aging trucks, helicopters, ships, et cetera so our armed forces personnel have safe and effective equipment. Barely a week has past without yet another story of the Conservative government's incompetence with respect to military procurement.
I want to remind the House that the acquisition of F-35 joint strike fighters was restarted after reports by the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that the government knowingly misled Canadians on the program's cost. It was, in fact, keeping two sets of books. In 2010 the claimed the cost would be $9 billion for 65 fighters, but by 2012 the full cost was pegged at more than $46 billion.
That is just one example and there are many others, such as helicopters to replace the aging Sea Kings. In some cases, these Sea Kings are 30 years older than the very pilots who are flying them, so this is a safety issue. There have only been delays and uncertainty with respect to that project.
The acquisition of new army trucks has been ongoing since 2004. That has been restarted numerous times, but nothing is expected there.
The purchase of a new fleet of search and rescue aircraft has taken more than nine years. The government is still not ready to even accept bids.
There is also the issue around the Arctic offshore patrol ships. An independent reviewer said the cost was extraordinarily high for the design phase alone, but the government just plowed ahead, ignoring that point. There were plans to replace the outdated 50-year-old Lee-Enfield .303 rifles used by our Canadian Rangers in the Arctic; that procurement project has been cancelled with no reason given. It is a very flawed procurement process, unfortunately, potentially impacting the safety of our Canadian Armed Forces, and that is a management failure on the government's part.
I want to touch on another area in the bill, the employment insurance premiums. We support this aspect of the bill and we appreciate that after years of Liberal requests, the government has stopped increasing the tax on jobs, which is increasing the EI premiums, as they have been increased over the years, costing billions of dollars to businesses. We support that aspect, but the very fact that the government has been adding taxes to businesses and small businesses is a level of fiscal incompetence, because it shows the Conservatives are not understanding the impact of these taxes on jobs.
Under the current government, that kind of incompetence has been happening in the military budget as well. Under the Canada First defence strategy, a promised cornerstone was stable increases in funding. However, almost immediately, successive budgets were quietly reduced by billions of dollars, allowing up to $8 billion in funds to lapse or stay unspent. There has been essentially no new investment in national defence under the Conservative government, with two small exceptions, and since 2011, successive major budget cuts have been sending departments scrambling to protect the essential capacity and morale required for effective national defence. This is another case of saying one thing and doing another.
Canadians and Liberals are proud of the Canadian Forces, who serve Canada on her behalf without reservation. However, to do their jobs they need to be able to depend on what they are being told, and in fact the government has decreased armed forces personnel in the navy by 11% from its strength in 2004, yet it increased the number of civilian naval employees by 30% over that period. This is managerial incompetence.
The army has fared no better under the current government. Between 2011 and 2013 its budget has been slashed by 22%, yet its headquarters received an extra half a billion dollars in budget increases. We hear one thing, but we see another happening.
Most unfortunately, in this bill we have the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, a backlogged board that will see its number of members slashed so that there will be a further backlog. That ties in to the undermining of the armed forces that we have seen under the government whereby military members and their families are falling through the cracks of government bureaucracy.
As these national defence budgets that supposedly were to be increased have been slashed, the very programs that support military personnel affected by mental illness and injury have been cut. Thousands of Canadian Forces members are affected by mental health issues. They need help through the joint personnel support unit and through mental health professionals to help them get strong again and find alternatives within the armed forces where they can be successful, yet those very supports are not there.
The government must do so much better for our men and women in uniform, just as it must do much better for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to add my comments to this important debate that we are having on Bill today.
Our Conservative government, as we have said many times, is squarely focused on what matters most to Canadians, and that is economic growth and prosperity. We intend to do that by creating jobs across this country.
By implementing Canada's economic action plan, Canada has experienced one of the best economic performances among the G7 countries, both during the tough recession that we have had over the last few years and throughout the recovery that is taking place.
This morning we are discussing Bill , the economic action plan 2013. I want to take a few minutes to outline why the opposition should support this legislation.
Our economic action plan 2013 builds on the strong foundation that was laid last year in conjunction with the portfolio of initiatives that we have had since 2006, with affordable measures that would create jobs, promote growth across this country, and contribute to long-term prosperity. It would further unleash the potential of Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive and innovate in the modern economy so that they can begin to create prosperity and economic growth as well.
To me, that is what matters most in this country, while the opposition continues to talk about issues that Canadians do not seem to be concerned about. Our government will put forward legislation that matters from coast to coast to coast.
Here are a few of the facts that I think are important.
Canada has created over one million net new jobs, 90% of which are full-time, with nearly 80% in the private sector. I think that is something we should be extremely proud of. Our private sector is thriving to the point that it has created nearly 800,000 jobs since the depth of the global recession in July 2009.
Over this period, Canada has had the strongest job creation record in the entire G7. This is in tandem with the fact that our unemployment rate is at its lowest level in four years and is significantly lower than that of the United States. This is a phenomenon that we have not seen in nearly three decades.
For the fifth straight year, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world, and all the major credit rating agencies—Moody's, Fitch, Standard and Poor's—have once again affirmed our solid AAA credit rating.
The global economy remains fragile, with growth in major economies slower than expected and our major trading partners not in the enviable position that we find ourselves in. Of course, we are not immune to a global slowdown, and Bill is one way that our government continues to ensure growth in these fragile times.
Let us take a closer look at how Canada's economic action plan makes significant improvements that would benefit all Canadians, but before I go to that, I would like to note another sign of leadership: the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union.
While we are working in terms of a budget and economic action plan 2013, this government is not sitting still. We have gone around the world inking trade deals; the latest one is, of course, the agreement that we are going to be making with the European Union. This agreement alone, as members have heard, has the potential to add more than 80,000 new Canadian jobs. We expect that those jobs will be in all sectors.
I come from an agricultural area, and certainly the agriculture folks are very excited and happy about this. There will be opportunities to thrive in all sectors. There will be opportunities for them to move into new markets. We expect, as they have done so many times over the decades, that the agriculture folks will step up and take advantage of those opportunities and once again show the world-class leadership that they have shown in the past.
On this agreement, here is a little bit of what other people have to say about it.
John Manley, the president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, has said that “...the [comprehensive economic and trade agreement] will create jobs, spur investment and promote economic growth”, which is exactly what this government is trying to do.
Unlike the opposition, we understand the importance of free trade and that the pursuit of it is beneficial for Canada and for Canadians.
Our government's trade agenda has already made us one of the most open and globally engaged economies in the world. Since 2006, we have reached trade agreements with nine countries, and we are negotiating with many more. We have concluded foreign investment, promotion, and protection agreements with another 16 countries and are in active negotiations with others as well.
We are not done yet. We have also joined the trans-Pacific partnership negotiations. We are actively pursuing new trade and investment opportunities in large, dynamic, and growing economies, such as China, India, and Japan. Those initiatives reflect our belief that freer and more open trade is a key stimulus for global economy recovery, and I might add, for the development of human rights in some of the other countries as well.
Unlike the opposition, we know that by growing international trade and creating additional export opportunities for Canadian businesses, we will improve the standard of living for all Canadians. Free and open trade has long been a powerful engine for Canada's economy. Canadian businesses need access to key export markets in order to take advantage of new opportunities. Economic action plan 2013 builds on those measures through targeted actions that will help our manufacturers and businesses continue to succeed on the world stage.
We also believe in promoting job creation and keeping more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians. When disaster struck the world economy, our economic action plan navigated Canada through the worst recession in a generation while maintaining the lowest debt to GDP level in the G7. During the downturn, our economic action plan took the steps necessary to safeguard our economy and protected Canadian jobs. It made the largest and the longest federal investment in job creating infrastructure in Canadian history, and it controlled spending while maintaining growing transfers that support health care, education and retirement in those transfers to the provinces.
Unlike the previous Liberal government, we have not cut major transfers to Canadian families or other levels of government, particularly the health and social transfers, in order to balance the budget. We are also not going to engage in risky spending schemes or force a $21-billion carbon tax on Canadians or hike taxes on Canadian businesses, as the NDP has insisted is its economic strategy for this country. Instead, our government has set clear targets to bring our deficit down and to return to a balanced budget by 2015. Our government has been very clear that we are not going to raise taxes on Canadians to balance that budget and the new Parliamentary Budget Officer has confirmed our economic action plan will see Canada return to surplus before the next election.
The also recently reiterated our commitment to balancing the budget in 2015. Our plan is working. In the past two years we have already cut the deficit by more than half. Economic action plan 2013 will build on these efforts to reduce government spending by announcing an additional $1.7 billion in ongoing savings, including examining departmental spending to ensure that government operations are managed efficiently, making government operations more efficient by putting forward plans to control overall employee compensation expenses and enhancing the integrity of the tax system by closing tax loopholes.
I want to talk about public service pay and benefits. Our budget has stated that the Government of Canada's intent is to set public service pay and benefit levels that are reasonable, responsible and in the public interest. The Public Service Labour Relations Act will be amended to ensure that the public service is affordable and that it is modern and high performing, as taxpayers have expected. The proposed amendments will bring savings, will streamline practices and will bring them in line with other jurisdictions. We are glad to be able to sit at a bargaining table on behalf of the taxpayers where the rules are fair and balanced.
Overall, measures taken by our government since budget 2010 will result in total ongoing savings of roughly $14 billion.
I would like to talk about how this will impact my province of Saskatchewan. There are a number of things in this budget that are good for us. As everyone knows, we have a very strong economy in western Canada right now, particularly in Saskatchewan. It is the fastest growing province in the country. We have been able to work with the province in moving forward this economic vision for Canadians.
It is interesting that we finally shed ourselves of the NDP heritage we had in Saskatchewan, which held us back for so long. It is interesting that even as the world was going into recession, Saskatchewan has finally really begun to bloom. We have worked to keep taxes low from our perspective. We have worked to return to a balanced budget and the government in Saskatchewan has done a good job of managing its resources as well.
Things such as the community improvement fund where we have been able to contribute to infrastructure, the building Canada fund, where we have been able to work with the provinces has actually worked very well.
I see my time is almost up, so I want to say Canada is leading the world in job creation with more than one million net new jobs as I pointed out. At the same time we have created an environment that encourages new investment, growth and job creation, and one that ensures that Canada has the strongest fiscal position and the lowest business tax costs in the G7. We continue to work. In economic action plan 2013 we are committed to helping businesses grow and succeed further. We are committed to helping Canadians get the rewards from that. We will deliver high-quality jobs to them, economic growth and prosperity for the future.
Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to speak on Bill today. We have heard a lot of good conversations and the benefits of what Bill C-4 would do for our country.
What is the importance of the bill, some may ask. Over time and particularly over this summer, I was able to visit many of the businesses, farms and constituents in my riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. Just so that the viewers and you, Mr. Speaker, may have a handle on what Lambton—Kent—Middlesex is in terms of a constituency, it is a riding that is a little bigger than the province of Prince Edward Island. It is a very rural riding, made up of small communities. My largest urban area is made up of 14,000 people. The next largest urban area is somewhere around 12,500. It is made up of agriculture and small businesses within our towns and communities.
I travelled across the riding and met with businesses, individuals and people in agriculture with the main purpose of finding out what they thought about our budget and what we were doing for business. One of the things that they told us is that they trust our Conservative government to maintain a stable economy. That is actually the main purpose of budget 2013, and consequently, of the implementation bills that followed to support and grow our Canadian economy.
We can see how we are on track, for example, to balance the budget. It has been talked about a number of times. The annual financial report of the Government of Canada for fiscal year 2012-13 shows the continued downward track of Canada's annual deficit. In 2013, the deficit fell by $18.9 billion. The deficit was $26.3 billion in 2011-12. The new number now, quite honestly, is more than one-quarter less than previously determined, $7.14 billion, and down by nearly two-thirds from the $55.6 billion deficit recorded in 2009 and 2010.
These are big numbers, but I can tell the House that, big numbers or not, we remain committed to continuing this downward trend in our deficit.
We can also see the economic growth in the creation of jobs. We are leading the G7 with more than one million net new jobs having been created. These jobs were not created by the government. The government prefers an environment in which businesses create these jobs. Approximately 90% of those jobs are full-time and over 80% are in the private sector.
What does that actually mean to the businesses in my riding and ridings across this great country of Canada? It means that we are creating sustainable growth. We are not just pumping money into a system that may get lost again if the global economy turns. We are creating jobs for the long term. We are creating a stable economy. We want to stay focused. As the put it:
||...we are not immune from the challenges beyond our borders. We cannot afford to become complacent.
We will not do so.
We heard the measures in economic action plan 2013 no. 2 that are aimed at providing support for job creators being talked about before. They include the extension and expansion of the hiring credit for small businesses, which will benefit an estimated 560,000 employers. That is 560,000 employers. If only 50% of them tap into that hiring credit, it means a benefit to our small businesses of $225 million, should they use it.
The measures also include indexing the lifetime capital gains exemption to make investing in small businesses more rewarding. This is so important. It is moving from $500,000 to $750,000, but it is now indexed. That means that it is now indexed to keep up with the traffic that is in the economy.
The measures also include expanding the accelerated capital cost allowance to further encourage investments in small businesses, whether they are clean energy businesses or others.
A proposal in budget 2013, which many of the businesses in my riding are looking forward to seeing implemented, is the changes to the Employment Insurance Act. Freezing employment insurance premium rates for three years will leave approximately $660 million in the pockets of job-creators and workers in 2014 alone.
Sometimes we sort of wonder what these numbers mean. I remember the day we were talking about moving the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. Quite honestly, we are the only government that said we were going to do it and have actually done it. I used to get comments about how if someone buys jeans, it is only going to mean a few cents here and a dollar or so there.
In my riding, every 1% left $18 million in the pockets of people in Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. That 2% left $36 million in my rural riding of small towns and small businesses. We never want to underestimate. Sometimes when we say we are going to take these small steps, they seem small; however, they mean a great benefit to the people in our ridings.
Going back to employment insurance, we know this will put money back into the pockets of small businesses that are the cornerstone of many of our communities in rural areas. In turn, that means more money they can invest back in their business. It almost means job creation and economic prosperity for them, and then that rolls out. If it is good for them, it is good for the community; and it is obviously good for governments when they collect taxes.
These are only a few examples of what we are doing to ensure Canadians have available jobs for themselves and their children, and that benefits the Canadian economy.
We can also see our support for economic prosperity in the reduction of taxes. It is twofold, in closing the tax loopholes and combatting tax evasion. We are going to introduce new administrative monetary penalties and criminal offences to deter the use, possession, sale and development of electronic suppression of sales software designed to falsify records for the purpose of tax evasion.
Other members have had that discussion today. We know there are some difficulties. It is easier to say it than to actually implement it. However, we know that if we do not implement, then we will never move down the road. That is an important part of being able to deal with that suppression part.
We will be closing tax loopholes to make sure that everyone pays their fair share of taxes. On the other hand, the period during which Canada Revenue Agency can reassess a taxpayer who fails to report income from foreign property will be longer, to ensure that when the examinations happen they are exact, accurate and are carried out in a responsible manner.
Second, we always want to respect taxpayers' dollars, but we also want to give the benefit to some of our young people; so we will be modernizing the Canada student loan program and the temporary foreign worker program by expanding electronic service delivery.
In the short time I have left I want to talk about CETA and the importance that agreement has, not only in my riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex because of the small businesses and agriculture but for the economy. We know it is going to create about $12 billion annually and a 20% increase in bilateral trade. Out of that $12 billion, agriculture is going to gain the benefit of $1.3 billion. I am glad to take questions and move on that.
Canada is a leader around the world in terms of economic growth. On this side, we plan to keep it this way.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to talk about Bill and explain the opposition's interest both in its form and in its substance.
I should say that with respect to form, we have another omnibus bill that is a collection of dissimilar and disconnected measures. It is really another cat’s cradle designed to thwart democracy. We go from legislation relating to Canada’s coal reserves, to legislation about the right to opt out when it comes to the health and safety of federal employees.
We are really moving from department to department, whereas this is actually a budget bill. As a result, we might expect measures directly concerning the . That is not necessarily the way this government seems to want to operate, however.
With respect to the budget bill, the is dictating to the other ministers what action they should take. There is a flagrant disrespect for ministerial responsibilities. It leaves us puzzled, and shows to what extent the Conservative government is a centralizing one that intrudes in all areas in an inconsistent manner.
If I had just been appointed to cabinet, as some people were during the summer, I would like to be able myself to present the measures of concern to my department. It appears, however, that it does not bother the new ministers on the other side to have the dictating measures that are under their jurisdiction.
Canadians might well wonder how many nails this bill seeks to hammer into the coffin of democracy. After the prorogation, the gift packages from the Conservative government look once again like Pandora's box.
Is it really the purpose of a budget bill to add new legislation respecting labour relations? I think not. I would not like to be the and have someone tell me how to do my job.
I would now like to address the substance of the bill. The should rather focus on the financial priorities of Canadians. For example, in 1980, the ratio of household debt to personal disposable income was 66%. According to the figures for 2011, it has now risen to over 150%. This means that every household owes $1.50 for every dollar earned. People owe more than they are earning. It makes no sense. As a result, household debt is becoming an increasingly significant factor in the finances of many Canadian families, and the government is not taking concrete action in this area.
The data on employment are also revealing. In September, job numbers increased in Quebec. We have 15,000 more jobs, but they are part-time. The number of full-time jobs is decreasing. The Conservatives say they are creating jobs, and it is true. However, they are creating jobs that are part-time and offer no security, instead of preserving good, secure full-time jobs. I believe that should be a priority for this government.
The only thing that interests the Conservatives is job creation. They do not consider job security or the fact that these are part-time jobs as opposed to full-time jobs. Anyone at home knows that a part-time job is not equivalent to a full-time job. Anyway, I know it, and I think even the five-year-old girl next door knows it.
The Conservative member for referred indirectly to this increased vulnerability in the job market in the example he gave last Friday. The measures he read from his notes show that the government is not taking the necessary measures to deal appropriately with the lack of social housing in Canada. His short-term view is based on volunteer work in construction and reliance on charities, like Habitat for Humanity, to provide housing for Canadians. It is shameful that we cannot have social housing built by our own tradespeople who are looking for work.
My colleague from pointed out that the youth employment rate is double the rate for other groups. This indicates the ineffectiveness of the action taken to date by the government to enable young people to take their rightful place in the Canadian economy.
In order to develop the Canadian economy, we expect better than replacing a strong economy and proper training with services provided through charitable organizations set up by former U.S. presidents.
The median after-tax income of a family of two or more persons was $68,000 in 2011, virtually the same as in 2010. That was the fourth consecutive year in which there was no significant change in after-tax income. Factoring in inflation, this means that Canadian families got poorer.
However, as the Canadian Press noted and Le Devoir reported on September 12, "These statistics are taken from the controversial National Household Survey…, which replaced the long form census abolished by the Conservative government in 2010. As a result, comparisons with past figures are very hard to make, since the form has been changed and is no longer mandatory."
I therefore wonder whether the Conservatives' lack of scientific rigour might not throw off their economic compass when they come up with random measures that have no sound basis. Reliable data are required in order to put economic measures in place that provide real assistance to our youth. The long form questionnaire gave us those reliable figures before it was cancelled.
As regards the soundness of our economy, more than 4.5 million union members worked across Canada in 2012. That amounts to 32% of the total labour force. In addition, their weekly payroll of $4.59 billion represented 35.6% of the total national payroll.
That is why I want to emphasize the importance of unions in Canada. The Canadian Labour Congress included comments in a study it published to illustrate the real importance of the union advantage in 30 Canadian communities and in this country as a whole. That study showed that unionized workers earn $4.97 more an hour, on average, than non-unionized workers. That means that the union advantage adds $785.8 million a week to incomes across the country. That money is spent mainly in our local communities and therefore contributes to the Canadian economy.
The Conservatives' attacks on our unions are unfortunately ongoing, and the possibility that they may strip unionized Canadians of their bargaining powers only further undermines the equal justice measures that are being used to combat the growing inequalities in our society. This is another deceitful attempt by the Conservative government to shirk its responsibilities.
It is important to note that we would not have safe workplaces if it were not for the unions. The Conservatives will disrupt the fragile health and safety balance by stripping officers of their powers. This is dangerous. Need I recall the consequences of the self-regulation of the Canadian railway industry or the deregulation of food safety at the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food?
I also think we must reconsider a question that was raised by the member for . She asked what a clause on judicial appointments was doing in a budget. I have no idea, and I would add my voice to the general consternation at seeing that the budget implementation bill is once again interfering in other departments' matters and amending acts that have nothing to do with finance.
The has been here for several years, and he would have been able to manage that on his own. Instead, that task has been assigned to the . I do not understand. This makes no sense. Unless I am mistaken, I was not even an adult when the current first entered the House of Commons. He is therefore capable of managing his own files, but he is not doing so.
We have to ask ourselves some questions. What items have no place in a budget bill? There are hundreds of examples. As we can see, parliamentary oversight has no place in the process, and the department is being given free rein to centralize everything once more. The history of Conservative omnibus bills is repeating itself yet again.
Instead of reoffending, the Conservatives should learn from their mistakes. That is unfortunately not what they are doing.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to speak to BIA 2 and, more specific, to the government amendments to part II of the Canada Labour Code.
I want to be clear. The focus of our government and the purpose of these amendments is to improve the health and safety of Canadian workers. We have said it before and I will say it again, Canadians have been very clear that what they want are jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. We have listened to Canadians and delivered. Over one million net new jobs have been created since the beginning of the recession and we have the lowest debt to GDP ratio among the G7 countries.
We are all very proud of the very recent and historical trade agreement that was announced with the European Union, which will create an additional 80,000 jobs for Canadians.
In short, there is a lot of which we can be proud.
However, in order to improve upon this record and maximize Canada's economic potential, it is vital that we continue to work together to create safe, fair and productive workplaces.
The proposed BIA amendments to the Canada Labour Code are good examples of how we are streamlining operations to achieve better outcomes for workers, businesses and all Canadians. The result would be safer workplaces, which is something we all should be supporting.
A number of media sources and opposition members have misreported on these amendments. For the record, I want to ensure all Canadians no rights will be restricted or limited as a result of these proposed amendments. The right for a worker to refuse dangerous work remains absolute.
Workers and employers will continue to have access to recourse mechanisms if they disagree with a decision. Employers remain accountable for providing workplaces that are safe and healthy, whether the danger is imminent, serious or a future risk. There is no reduction or elimination of health and safety officers.
I want to underline again that our government is dedicated to creating safe, healthy, fair and productive working environments. A safe and healthy workplace is not only good for a business' competitiveness and productivity, it is good for workers, good for families and good for Canada.
The proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code are designed to improve the prevention of accidents and injuries to workers in the course of employment. They are based upon the principle that employers and employees are best placed to prevent injuries, identify health and safety issues and resolve them in an effective and timely manner. This is called the “internal responsibility system”. This means employers and employees are jointly responsible for the health and safety of all workers. However, since employers have the most control over working conditions, they have the greatest responsibility.
Employees are also responsible for ensuring their own health and safety. They are responsible for following procedures when handling equipment, hazardous substances and other materials, wearing protective clothing provided by the employer, complying with the employer's instructions concerning health and safety and reporting any possible hazards to their employer.
Employees have three fundamental rights: the right to know about hazards in the workplace; the right to participate in identifying work-related health and safety concerns; and the right to refuse dangerous work. All these rights will remain enshrined in the Canada Labour Code.
Our government's role is to support employees and employers in meeting their obligation and to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations. We are doing this by responding to complaints and incidents, conducting inspections and providing tools, information and assistance to employers to help them fulfill their responsibilities.
The numbers actually speak for themselves. Disabling injuries in federally-regulated industries have declined by 22%, from 2007 to 2011. In 2000, there were 2.51 disabling injuries per 100 workers, compared with 1.73 in 2011. However, there is always room to improve.
In Canada, occupational injuries and illness cost the economy about $19 billion a year and an average of 1,000 Canadian workers lose their lives every year. Health and safety is a priority for our government. That is why, again, we are introducing amendments that allow us to focus on critical issues affecting health and safety of workers in the workplace, respond to imminent or serious situations of danger in a more timely manner and reinforce the internal responsibility system.
There has been a lot of discussion about one important amendment, the definition of “danger”. We are clarifying the definition because more than 80% of refusals to work in the last 10 years have been determined to be situations of no danger, and that is even after appeals. That is really important and I want to repeat it because it is so important. Eighty per cent of refusals to work in the last 10 years have been determined to be situations of no danger after appeals.
These proposed amendments emphasize that requests should be dealt with in the workplace bringing together employers and employees who are best positioned to work co-operatively to identify health and safety hazards. It would ensure that health and safety officers use their time more effectively to enforce the regulations and to focus more on preventing workplace accidents through increased awareness, education and proactive interventions. These proposed changes would not lead to fewer health and safety officers but would ensure that their time is used more effectively to improve the enforcement of the regulations.
I want to go back in my history. As many people might know, I worked in a rural emergency room for a number of years and there are images that will remain seared in my mind forever. It was a fall day like this when, in the early morning, a gentleman went off to work. His wife got their three children up and fed them breakfast. The children went off to school and she was baking bread when we had to go over to tell her that her husband had been killed in a tragic workplace accident. I remember that day that Debbie's life changed forever. To be honest, this was a preventable accident.
I would like to contrast that situation where there could have perhaps been more intervention. It was a provincial example, but it speaks well to the issue at hand. There was also a well-reported issue in the media about a year ago regarding name tags. Certainly, it was a legitimate issue for employers and employees to maybe have a discussion about, but where do Canadians want their resources focused as taxpayers? Do they want to make sure Debbie and her children have their husband and father forever, or do they want us to intervene in what should be a simple, reasoned discussion between employers and employees? This, again, illustrates very effectively how we need to spend our time and resources.
I want to reassure my colleagues in the House and all Canadians that health and safety officers will be there to help when employers and employees cannot come to an agreement on a workplace hazard or how to resolve it. They will be there 24-7 to respond to urgent situations that require intervention. Again, I want to emphasize that these new amendments will not affect the investigative capacity of the labour program and will not lead to fewer health and safety officers, as it has been erroneously reported in the media. Health and safety officers have been, are, and will remain the key to enforcing the Canada Labour Code.
As the hon. has stated, the right of employees to refuse dangerous work remains absolute. The definition still provides protection from all hazards, imminent, serious or long term. Employees will continue to have the right to refuse all forms of dangerous work. Employers will still be responsible for ensuring their workplaces are safe and are required to take action if they are not. Employees and employers continue to have access to recourse mechanisms if they disagree with a decision. These proposed changes will not lead to fewer health and safety officers, but will ensure their time is used more effectively to improve the enforcement of occupational health and safety regulations.
Our government remains focused on the economy, jobs and long-term prosperity. A healthy and safe workplace goes absolutely hand in hand with those goals and we are continuing to move forward.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about Bill , which clearly is nothing more that a new assault on the Canadian economy. This bill does not provide anything new, but it takes away a great deal. It still benefits the same individuals and still penalizes the same people, namely Canadians.
The bill will allow the President of the Treasury Board, the minister responsible for building gazebos, to designate any public service as an essential service. Will building gazebos become an essential service for the federal government? One may wonder. Judging from what we know about the minister, the answer is yes.
The minister has again decided, for the 50th time, to impose a gag order on debate on this 300-page omnibus bill. The bill covers a wide range of topics, including the appointment of Supreme Court judges. However, it does not say anything about cutting the Senate’s budget. The Senate budget is not being restricted and I have to wonder why. The Conservatives want to do away with some senators, but they do not want to cut the institution’s budget.
Not one member opposite is able to tell me what is in these 300 pages. I will sum up the bill for them. It covers just about everything and anything. It is not an economic piece of legislation, but rather a Conservative and partisan bill. It attempts to hide the fact that the Conservatives are incapable of managing the economy properly. That is why they prefer to talk about gazebos and the appointment of judges. They are not focusing on real problems such as unemployment, household debt, tax evasion, large-scale offshoring, industry shutdowns, cuts to public services and especially the elimination of regulations aimed at protecting the public. It was not exactly a brilliant idea to have only one engineer working on a train instead of two. If members were to visit what is left of a small Quebec town, the residents could tell them more about that than I can.
There are 1.4 million people out of work today. At the height of the recession in 2008-09, there were 1.5 million unemployed Canadians. In five years, unemployment figures have dropped by only 100,000. The Conservatives say that they have created hundreds of thousands of jobs, which is a good thing, but they always forget to take into account the number of jobs that have been lost. Personally, I think that when you replace a job that pays $25 an hour with one that pays $15 an hour, that does not benefit the economy and it certainly does not benefit Canadian workers who see a smaller take-home pay. Household debt now stands at 163% of a family’s annual income. According to the OECD, Canada ranks first in terms of household debt. How encouraging and how very good for the economy. The Conservatives are proud of what they have done, but few of them are talking about this record.
I said that jobs paying $25 an hour were being replaced by jobs paying $15 an hour. The wages of only 20% of Canadians have risen over the past 35 years. Apart from the 1%, that is to say the friends of the Conservatives, the majority have had a slight increase. In fact, the real incomes of 80%, the vast majority of the population of Canada, have declined or been frozen. Is that what the Conservatives call economic progress? I call it Conservative economic policy. The corporate welfare bums are entitled to everything, and, in the meantime, we are entitled to the deficit, the bills and wage cuts.
Their employment insurance reform was also a botched job. They decided that the system was not working and that the minister alone would have authority over it. There is no longer any organization to oversee the tax rate. They have also put an end to tax credits for labour-sponsored funds, which were useful to us, and have replaced them with a $350 million tax.
For people who say and claim that they want what is good for taxpayers, we have seen better.
However, what is terrible is tax evasion. The Conservatives talk about this issue a lot but do nothing to address it. Here is a very simple example. They say we will discuss these issues. Certain individuals have told them to wake up because some people are in favour of and facilitate tax evasion. That is called white-collar crime, criminals in ties. Tax evasion is organized by bankers and firms of accountants and tax experts.
What penalties are imposed on those organizations? They do not talk about that. They say nothing. They talk, but at the same time they make sure not to bite the hand that feeds them. They always favour the people who finance their election campaigns, their friends—friends of the Conservatives—who are now the enemies of Canadians.
This bill also contains an item that is a bit odd. The Conservatives do not guarantee that we will control our main economic levers. They are no longer protecting our strategic industries. This is what they call being Canadian. They are so Canadian they say the fund that manages the Canada pension plan may now employ foreigners. I imagine they will recruit them from the American Tea Party. It will be ideologically quite similar.
The Conservatives like to tell us that they are here to protect us. I would rather be protected by a bogeyman than a Conservative. When it comes to food safety, the most serious meat recalls have happened since they have been in power. Allowing tainted meat through the system is not really protecting consumers.
The government has closed customs offices and cut the Canada Border Services Agency budget. In some places, people just have to stop their car, pick up the phone and declare that they are crossing the border, swearing that they do not have any illegal immigrants or cocaine in the car. People are being taken at their word. That sure sounds like secure border control.
Let us talk about cuts to transportation security offices. It is really wonderful. Do they realize that their deregulation led to the death of 50 people? That is just the beginning. The government doomed to repeat Walkerton over and over is the Conservative government.
About the cuts to the RCMP, again, really wonderful. For a government that claims to be tough on crime, I am sure that people in some luxurious mafia homes are on their knees begging God to keep the Conservatives in power for a long time to come. The mafia's best friend is the Conservative Party because it is making sure that the police do not have the means to punish these people.
They are the worst managers we have ever seen. Not only are they bad at it, but they use public advertising budgets to claim that they are good at it. The truth is that the only thing this government is good at is turning gold into lead and making sure that the benefits trickle down into their friends' pockets and that taxpayers foot the bill. Canadians are the only ones on the hook for the loss.
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise this afternoon to speak to Bill . This bill is very important for creating the necessary balance between the interests of the public, which the Government of Canada wants to protect, and the interests of public service unions.
I will talk a little bit about the sections relating to my portfolio. Certainly there are some changes to the Public Service Labour Relations Act, as my colleagues across the way and the union heads have cottoned on to. I think it is important to explain the context and why we believe that they are fair and reasonable.
If citizens were not informed and are now informed, these things are, in fact, not in the legislation now. Citizens I have talked to are quite surprised that these bits of the legislation we are changing are not, in fact, the law as we see it today. That is one of the things I think is the common sense of the people when it comes to these matters.
A lot has been made of changes to the designation of essential services. Let me just say this. Again, most citizens, if one had told them that the designation of essential services was a matter to be bargained with the bargaining agent, with the union, so that the government, as the employer and the protector of the public interest, had to bargain for the designation of essential public servants, would have been shocked. They would have been totally surprised by that. However, that is, in fact, the law as it now sits. There has to be a bargaining process the Government of Canada has to undergo to designate various individuals as essential.
Our position is very clear. It is not for negotiation to defend the public interest when it comes to health and safety and security issues. That is not in the public interest. This bill represents a very common-sense change that most Canadians would agree with.
How does it work? This has come up, and some have suggested that the details are not in the bill. The details are in the bill. It is very clear, under both the bill and the practice that is considered good faith bargaining, that the designation of public servants as essential has to occur before negotiations with the public sector union on a collective agreement have started.
Let me be clear. I cannot wake up one day after a bad bargaining session with the bargaining agent and say, “That is it; they are all going to be essential”. We cannot do that. It would be absurd. The designation has to occur before the bargaining takes place. Indeed, good practice is to sit down with the union heads and say that here is what we are proposing as essential employees, and what do they think? We would get their feedback and then proceed, in the public interest, with those designations.
Let me repeat the point that safety and security are not negotiable. The Conservative government, through this bill, intends to protect the safety and security of the public.
Let us talk about two-tier arbitration. This is another facet of the changes we are making to the Public Service Labour Relations Act, except in the case of essential services, where there is mandatory arbitration.
That is another point, by the way. To hear it from the unions, this designation of essential services means the end of bargaining as we know it and that they have been stripped of all of their bargaining rights. No. Part of bargaining, in some cases, is arbitration. Indeed, this is preserved under the legislation. I wanted to make that point clear and put it on the record, as well.
Two-tier arbitration is to make sure that the bargaining agent and the employer both have a say as to whether arbitration is going to be used, except in the case of essential services, when it would be used. That is an important change as well.
Let us look at arbitration factors. This is, again, common sense that most Canadians would agree with. The arbitrators have to look at recruitment and retention issues.
We cannot have an arbitrator who is not aware that in a particular bargaining unit there are 20 applications for every position, or maybe there are no applications because it is that tough a job. I think that is relevant information for the arbitrator and goes to the impact on the treasury of the demands of a particular union.
The arbitrator should also have regard to the economy. What is the state of the economy? This is critically important, because the amount of revenue that can be raised affects the bottom line of the government. The arbitrator should have regard to the economic policies of the government, because those are relevant. If we are in a period of tightening, that should be a relevant piece of information for the arbitrator.
Again, it is common sense. If most Canadians were asked and given these choices, they would say they were surprised that this was not the case right now.
Cost sharing on grievances is again common sense. If there is going to be a grievance process, those costs should be shared by both the union and the employer. The employer should not pay 100% of the cost. Quite apart from everything else, that arrangement only encourages those with spurious claims to grieve. Therefore, let us have some responsibility and some common sense by sharing the cost of the grievance procedure.
There was as well a compensation research bureau under the Public Service Labour Relations Board. Quite frankly, it was not very effective. My point of view, and the point of the view of the government, is that if there is research to be done on pay scales or positions on the impact of a bargaining agent's position or the government's position in a particular collective bargaining session, that should be borne by either the government or by the union, whichever of the two is making the point. It should not be borne by separate research that may or may not be accepted by the bargaining agents or by the government in any case. That is again common sense.
We are also proposing to eliminate double jeopardy for grievances. Currently we have a situation in which the grievor can forum shop: if she or he does not like one forum, the grievor can go to the next forum, and so on. Our commonsensical position is to pick a forum, have the adjudication at that forum—they do not lose any rights, because there is an adjudicative process—and at the end of the day, that decision has to be accepted by the government and by the union at the same time. I think that eliminates years and years of forum shopping whereby people who do not like a decision go to the next place. It does not help the employee and does not help the system generally.
Finally, I want to draw members' attention to another provision. This one would allow the bargainer, in this case the Government of Canada, to start the process of negotiation with the bargaining agent 12 months before the expiration of a contract.
Again, this is common sense. We have a lot of cases right now in which there is a lot of back pay that has to be added on, and the employees have a lot of uncertainty for a number of years because they are waiting for the process of bargaining to begin. Let us start the bargaining earlier. Let us get the collective agreements done earlier. That means less back pay, but it also means, on a go-forward basis, more certainty for the employee as to what her or his collective agreement is.
These are commonsensical changes to the Public Service Labour Relations Act. It follows on some of the other positions we have taken over the last few months. I know this is somewhat of a controversial concept, but how about explaining to employees what their job is, how their success is going to be measured, and then following up with that employee to see whether she or he is meeting those goals.
Again, it is common sense, which is not performed systematically across the whole public service. We are going to do it.
We are also going to look at absenteeism to make sure that we have the right policies in that area.
I will leave it at that. Bill is a well-intentioned bill that will do the job for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, before we recessed for the summer, the Auditor General pointed out that there was $3.1 billion unaccounted for by the Treasury Board. I listened to the speech by the very carefully, but my constituents have been asking me over the summer whether the $3.1 billion had been found or whether the had had an opportunity to locate it. I hope he will inform this House in the next day or two, or weeks, whether or not that $3.1 billion has been located.
I rise today on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North to talk about Bill , the budget implementation act. Bill C-4 is yet another omnibus bill proposed by the Conservatives. It comprises 300-odd pages and addresses over 70 different laws.
This is déjà vu all over again. It is like Groundhog Day. One would think that the Conservatives, after proroguing after the summer break, could come up with a new mandate, new ideas, to address the needs of Canadians and the families and individuals in my community, yet I do not see anything in the bill that addresses the real needs of Canadians: jobs, job security and well-paying jobs. That is not in the bill.
It looks as if the Conservatives never got out of the Ottawa bubble. If they had, they would see the long and growing lineups at the food banks. They would be looking at creating jobs for our young people. As members can see, the unemployment rate for young people is the highest among any age group. There is nothing in the bill that addresses the needs of our young people.
There is another crisis brewing in the Lower Mainland. Port Metro Vancouver is a major port that helps to facilitate trade. It helps move goods from the Prairies right across to the port. In the last week, I have seen the trucking industry having major issues at the port. It takes them a long time to either pick up or drop off the goods they need to transport. A crisis is looming. I urge the Conservative government to address this issue before our economy in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver area is damaged.
As members know, truckers provide a vital role in the movement of goods throughout this country. However, they are having difficulty in picking up and dropping off their goods from the port, and the wait times are very long. The government needs to address that in a way that will help with the movement of our goods.
As I said, there are many issues in Bill , which addresses over 70 different bills. I want to pick up on two issues that are important to my constituents of Surrey North.
One issue is that this is a missed opportunity for the Conservative government. As I read through Bill , the irony certainly strikes me that we are approaching Remembrance Day as we discuss the bill. The next couple of weeks should be dedicated to thanking Canadians in service and our veterans for their dedication to our country, including those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. At this time of the year we repeat the mantra, “Lest we forget”. However, the truth of the matter is that Bill C-4 demonstrates that the Conservatives have forgotten Canadian veterans. Here the Conservative government had an opportunity to make real changes, but Bill C-4 does not do that.
The 300-odd pages of the bill address a wide range of things, but they do not address what is needed for veterans. In Bill , there is one change to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, an institution that New Democrats have repeatedly demonstrated as biased, subjective and inefficient. The Conservatives can only think of one change to make, which is to reduce the number of permanent members on the board from 28 to 25.
It is no secret that veterans do not find support or reassurance in the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. In March I spoke in the House about one of my constituents, retired sergeant Fergus, who was having difficulty navigating the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. Since March, the Conservatives have had many opportunities to make changes to the VRAB, but they continue to forget about veterans.
Mr. Fergus is not alone in his plight. Many constituents have approached my office to seek help to navigate the board for disability claims. Members of the board are appointed primarily because of their political connections. They have little military or medical knowledge. These members have the responsibility of deciding the future of our veterans, but without contextual knowledge of their challenges, they often make decisions that are not based on evidence. Like the immigration system, the decision-making process of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board is lengthy. Long waits can leave veterans out in the cold.
I mean “out in the cold” literally. A veteran approached my office this summer who was at risk of being homeless after serving Canada bravely for years. It is clear that the Canadian government did not intend to serve my constituent, retired sergeant Lorenz. Although my office helped him navigate the application process, Mr. Lorenz is now at a standstill while he waits to see a psychologist to assess his mental health. He has to wait six months. He already knows that he has post-traumatic stress disorder, but he must wait six months before his application can continue. After he sacrificed so much for peace and freedom, it is shameful that Mr. Lorenz must wait this long to be awarded the benefits and support to which he is entitled.
I thank Mr. Fergus and Mr. Lorenz, and all the men and women who have bravely stood up for our country, for their service. I commit, along with my NDP colleagues, to continue to stand up for their rights around Remembrance Day and throughout the whole year.
The other area I want to talk about that is contained in the bill is the changes to the immigration act.
My constituency is very diverse. Many immigrants live in my community. It is clear to my constituents that Canada's immigration system is broken, especially with regard to family reunification. Family reunification is not a priority for the Conservative government. Recently, Canadians were appalled to hear a Conservative minister referring to family reunification as a burden to Canada. I am a product of that family reunification. The Conservatives have repeatedly undermined the importance and value of family, by making such claims. It is not only disrespectful but outright inhumane for a minister to assert this. Canada has always welcomed immigrants, fostered family bonds and provided opportunities for families to reconstruct their lives.
Every day my office receives many visits from victims who have fallen through the immigration system. I cannot provide specific cases here because it would take a long time and there are too many to list all of them. They are families who cannot be reunited at joyous occasions like weddings and birthdays, or daughters and sons who are not able to say goodbye to their dying parents in time because their temporary resident visas were refused for some obscure reason. Husbands and wives are separated for years before they can begin their lives together. Babies are born to first-time mothers who need the support of their far-away partner, and new fathers must wait months to meet their newborns.
This legislation basically would not address the needs of Canadians.
I am tired of seeing these omnibus bills come through the House. I am tired of seeing the Conservatives attempt to hide these changes that are made within the 300 pages.
This truly demonstrates that the Conservative government is out of touch with the needs of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on our government's actions vis-à-vis the budget. I will focus my comments on my home province of Manitoba as it is obviously a very broad topic. I would like Manitobans to know what is involved in the budget as far as their concerns.
First, Manitobans have to realize that we receive a significant amount of support from the federal government. In fact, transfers have increased to $3.4 billion in 2013-14. That is a huge sum of money and there has been an increase of about $62 billion in this last year, almost a 50% increase in transfers since the last Liberal government, across Canada. We are talking about major investments.
When it comes to Manitoba, of the $3.4 billion, $1.8 billion is through equalization, which is an increase of $191 million or almost 12% since 2005-06, $1.1 billion through the Canada health transfer, an increase of $336 million, or a 43% increase since the last Liberal government, and $443 million through the Canada social transfer. That is an increase of $109 million or almost 33% since the last Liberal government. Manitoba benefits greatly in general from the federal government.
Now I will talk about some other specific great initiatives in the budget that will help Manitobans.
The Canada jobs grant will be a way of transforming skills training by providing up to $15,000 per person in Manitoba with the combined support of the federal and provincial governments and the employer. It will bring the student, the employer, the funding and the job together. Therefore, up to 130,000 Canadians will benefit and many will benefit in Manitoba.
We are also be creating opportunities for apprenticeships, supporting the use of apprentices in federal construction and maintenance contracts in Manitoba, such as investments in affordable housing and under the building Canada plan, which I will speak about in a few minutes.
We will encourage students to study in high-demand fields, including the skilled trades, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The fact is that we will also invest $70 million to support an additional 5,000 paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates in Manitoba and across Canada.
We will extend support for Pathways to Education Canada to assist students from low-income communities in Manitoba and across Canada from dropping out of high school.
First nation youth is a priority for our government and is a great resource in the province of Manitoba. We will be providing $241 million to help first nation youth in Manitoba and across Canada to access skills and training they need to participate in large economic projects like those in the resource sector near their communities.
We also provide $10 million to grants, scholarships and bursaries to inspire and help first nation and Inuit students in Manitoba and across Canada.
This budget brings forward a landmark in infrastructure investments.
The new building Canada plan will invest $70 billion over 10 years. I was quite happy to be involved in the development of this plan with the former minister of transport before the last cabinet shuffle. We were able to consult stakeholders, meet with individuals, meet with municipalities, provinces, territories and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and we listened. They asked for stable, reliable funding for infrastructure. That is what they received.
We have created a new building Canada fund, which is, as I mentioned, $70 billion over 10 years. It is comprised of three main parts.
First, will be the community improvement fund of $32.2 billion over 10 years, which will include the federal gas tax fund, which is indexed, as well as the incremental GST rebate, to help municipalities in Manitoba and across Canada so they have stable, predictable funding to support community infrastructure projects.
Then we have the building Canada fund, which announces $14 billion over 10 years to support major new economic infrastructure projects in Manitoba and across Canada that have national or regional significance.
Finally, we have announced the renewal of the P3 Canada fund, which will continue to find innovative ways to build infrastructure projects faster through private-public partnerships in Manitoba and across Canada. It will enable us to have a vehicle to leverage private sector monies for the public good.
I wish I had more time because there are so many great initiatives in this budget.
We will be supporting the commercialization of research by small and medium-size enterprises. This will be an investment of $20 million in Manitoba and across Canada to access research and business development services. There are $37 million for post-secondary education in Manitoba and across Canada and $325 million for clean energy projects. We are supporting aerospace and defence projects, investing almost a billion dollars in the strategic aerospace and defence initiative. In my riding those beneficiaries could include Bristol Aerospace, Magellan, StandardAero and Boeing. We have the third largest aerospace industry in the country.
I wish I had more time because this is a good budget and I cannot name all of the great initiatives. However, it is good for Canada and good for Manitoba.
God keep our land glorious and free.
Mr. Speaker, boy, is there a lot of hot air this afternoon. I suspect it will continue as we go forward. It is clearly up to constituents or anyone who is watching to pay attention to which side of the House is in favour of this omnibus bill and where we all stand on the issues. One member stands up and brags about how wonderful it is, and the next one points out all of the mistakes and errors that are there. It must be quite comical for people who are watching at times.
I am glad to have a chance to speak briefly to the omnibus legislation that has been brought to the House. I say “briefly” because closure has been introduced again. This is the fourth bill that has been introduced since the House came back after prorogation, and we have had closure on each and every one of them. The Conservatives are clearly in a rush. I am not quite sure where, but we have to think about that as Canadians.
However, this continues to be the same pattern the government has followed previously. We have prorogation, then we have a budget, and then we will have prorogation and we will have another budget. It is the pattern of management of House business that continues to be a huge challenge in here, as to how House business is dealt with. As I said, it is an omnibus budget then prorogation and back to an omnibus bill and another prorogation. If at any point we try to go off of that particular calendar, then somewhere or another there will be another closure bill. It is a very sad reality when we talk about democracy in other countries, and democracy in our own country and our own House is being shortchanged every day with the kind of closure motions that are put down.
However, today we are not supposed to be here talking about the past because that should speak for itself for a lot of people who are looking. Let us look ahead a bit. Let us look past the government's mismanagement of the debt, past the Conservatives' meddling with Senate business, which has consumed everything going on in the House for several weeks now and clearly is going to continue on, and past the fact that the Conservatives continuously ignore the plights of middle-class Canadians. Today I will talk a bit about this budget.
This omnibus budget had its genesis somewhere deep within that 7,000 hollow words and empty platitudes of what was called a throne speech, a speech that some have called the longest and most incoherent piece of government rhetoric in living memory. It clearly was that, at least a half an hour too long. Indeed the spun quite a fiscal yarn into that throne speech, a tale that his continues into this omnibus budget.
As an example, the would have us believe that he saw the recession of 2008 looming on the horizon. This is really odd because in the campaign of 2008, the Prime Minister said the recession would never happen. He guaranteed Canadians would never have a recession, and attacked those warning Canadians to batten down the hatches as fearmongering. We saw where that went. Indeed, Canada could have been better prepared had the Prime Minister actually listened to those of us in the Liberal Party who were sounding the alarm. However, as usual, the Prime Minister listened only to himself or those in the PMO.
This budget is a continuation of this closed-minded and confused fiscal management theory that the Conservatives continue to put ahead. This budget is again projecting a significant deficit. Just so people do not forget, I remind them that seven years ago the current government, when it got into office, inherited a decade of balanced budgets, annual surpluses of $13 billion, declining debt, declining taxes, strong economic growth exceeding 3% annually, 3.5 million net new jobs and the most robust fiscal situation in the world. It was an ideal, perfect position for the Conservatives to come in. Despite all of that, the Conservative budget is another example of failures.
Besides dealing with the fiscal matters, such as the Supreme Court appointment process that has been completely bungled, this budget does little more than remind Canadians that the Conservatives have overspent by three times the rate of inflation. The Conservatives have eliminated the contingency reserves that Liberals had built into the federal budget process to protect Canadians against unexpected and adverse events. We have clearly very little protection built in anywhere today should there be a major problem for Canada. Most importantly, the Conservatives sent the surplus up in smoke and put Canada back into deep deficit long before, the key phrase being “long before”, the onset of the recession, which the 's economic wisdom said was never going to happen.
Now as ridiculous as that sounds, people just have to read the books and read the blues and they will see how it is. Despite all of that looming evidence, evidence that almost every Canadian detected ahead of time, the continued with his denials. Despite collapsing markets in the U.S. and the onset of American bank failures, the continued to blindly plunge ahead. Rather than positioning Canada for the recession in advance, the suggested that economic problems in other countries would be a good thing for Canada. Remember how he projected good buying opportunities when other countries were in trouble.
I am not sure if this was deceptive or just clueless. Canadians will be the ultimate judge of this ineptitude but this country was left vulnerable, and this budget is further proof of just how serious that exposure was.
This brings us back to the omnibus budget that is before us today. After six Conservative deficits and nearly $180 billion in new Conservative debt, the minister has the audacity to suggest that his debt-to-GDP target of 25% by the year 2021 is bold. Worse still is the extreme hypocrisy of a government that took Canada from its largest surplus in history to the largest deficit in history, promising balanced budget legislation. In my estimation, deficit spending should be viewed as a tax on future generations, and politicians who create deficits should be exposed as the tax hikers they truly are.
Remember, the government deficit is the difference between the amount of money the government spends and the amount it has the nerve to collect. It is odd to hear this particular promise from this particular 's mouth because in the past 17 years he is the only prime minister to permit a deficit. He is the only prime minister to hike the national debt. The real story here is that the omnibus bill is an admission of the Conservative government's failure and ineptitude as fiscal manager.
Let us not forget that it was the that promised to attain a debt-to-GDP target of 25% by the year 2012. When the Conservatives missed that target, they began planning and now they have made the same kind of promise again, only this time they are promising to do it by 2021.
Conservatives can promise and then re-promise the same things over, but the promises are not credible. This budget makes promises and commitments but the promises are not grounded in sound fiscal policies and they are certainly not in the best interests of the middle class. The Conservatives think they can slash their way to prosperity but the past seven years has proven they only dig a deeper hole. Sadly, this hole now contains the Conservative cuts to old age pensions, to health care plans and to environmental projects, but prosperity still eludes the government.
There is an old saying that suggests the first thing to do when someone finds themselves in a hole is to stop digging. Budget 2013 is nothing more than a shovel and will yield the same results as its predecessors, which were advanced under the failed Conservative fiscal ideology. In every year since 2010, economic growth in Canada has been slower than the year before. No prime minister has done worse since the days of R. B. Bennett. What Canada needs most, alongside strong, competent, honest government, is a concrete plan for greater sustained economic growth, focused on the middle class.
As the voice of the people of York West, I am truly saddened by the government's negligence and disregard for middle-class families, students, seniors and those working to make a living. Canadians are already being hurt by the fiscal policies of the government, and this omnibus bill is just another swipe at the middle class. I cannot support it. Clearly, it would be a good idea if the Conservatives did not support it either.