That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 253.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 254.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 255.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 256.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 257.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 258.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 259.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 260.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 313.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 378.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 379.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 380.
That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 381.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleagues for their speeches on the amendments. Since this latest omnibus bill is over 460 pages long, we hoped to improve even a small part of this very complex and problematic bill.
Since getting their majority in the House, the Conservatives have introduced close to 2,200 pages of omnibus budgets, but they have agreed to just one single amendment proposed by the opposition. That is incredible.
This omnibus bill alone will amend a huge number of Canadian laws. The incredible thing is that this omnibus bill will fix a problem created by the last omnibus bill, which fixed a problem created by the omnibus bill before that. That is the kind of government the Conservatives are now running. It is bad for our economy and our country.
In this 460-page omnibus bill, there are many corrections to the previous massive omnibus bill, which fixed previous omnibus bills, because the Conservatives got it wrong and accepted no amendments. The Conservatives think this is a good way to manage the Canadian economy and to govern Canada.
This is a process that has failed Canadians. We see it creating conflict and uncertainty. We see it creating bad economic conditions that I will go into in a minute. It is a problem because it is using the power that a majority government has completely irresponsibly. There are a myriad of quotes from Conservatives who are now in cabinet who used to decry the Liberals when they used this exact same technique, ramming together all sorts of different laws that had nothing whatsoever to do with the budget into one package, one Trojan Horse bill. That is also true in this case.
The Conservatives called it anti-democratic and unfair. For once, they were right. However, if it was right in opposition, then it must be even more right when forming government, because the power that a majority government has to affect our country and our laws is a power that must be used responsibly, as opposed to the abuse of power that we see again with this bill, Bill .
To put this into context, which is important with any budget implementation act, under the Conservatives' watch more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in this country. Consumer debt is at an historic high for Canadians. Canadians owe more money now than they ever have in our history. We have seen a persistently high youth unemployment rate in this country, usually double that of the unemployment rate broadly.
We have also seen consistency of long-term unemployment, which refers to Canadians who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. It is at the same level as its worst level during the recession. There were Canadians who were finding it harder and harder to get back to work during the worst times of the last global recession, and the same is true now. Twenty per cent of the jobless in Canada are made up of the long-term unemployed. I will leave talking about the unemployed until later. It is something that Conservatives are often chagrined to hear.
In this bill, their feature item is oil. In the midst of global uncertainty and with oil prices falling below $70 a barrel, dropping almost 40% this year alone, we see no plan B from the government. Plan A is oil, plan B is oil, and plan C is oil. When oil drops below $70, federal and provincial government revenues go off, but any hope for job creation also goes off because that is the only plan the Conservatives seem to know and have.
It was in previous omnibus bills that the Conservatives tried to put truth to the idea of what the said back in 2006, which was that Canada would become an energy superpower. They would bulldoze their way through the countryside, laying pipeline down everywhere and exporting all that oil to market. They made changes in Canadian law through these omnibus bills to attempt to achieve that goal.
What have we seen but uncertainty and conflict? When pushed against the wall and forced to accept something without debate or input or any decent consultation, Canadians resist. They say they want fairness. They want their government to play an equal role in the economy and not favour one side over another.
Canadians want to see the $1.3 billion subsidy to the oil sands, a direct subsidy to some of the richest companies on the planet, come to an end. They want to see an alternative. They want to see some options. They want to see plan B. They want to know we can have a green economy. Despite a complete lack of effort from the federal government and another failed opportunity in this budget implementation act, we see the clean tech sector growing by leaps and bounds. It is up 37% in just a few years, and $25 billion has gone into the green energy sector in the last five years. That is greater than what has gone into the oil sands in northern Alberta.
Do members ever hear the Conservatives talk about that? Do members ever hear them talk about the great success of the green energy movement in Canada, the clean technology industry's high-paying and high-quality jobs? No. They blow all their capital on one industry alone. It is always wise to have a little diversity in an ecosystem and also in an economy. With Conservatives, we have seen all the eggs put into one basket, with no plan B.
As China's economy weakens, as Europe remains fragile and some European countries enter a recession, as some American indicators are showing weakness even as America rebounds, the Governor of the Bank of Canada said we may have a 0% or near flat recovery in the jobs sector, and in the midst of all that uncertainty and in the face of all that difficulty, the Conservatives bring forward an omnibus bill. In 460 pages, their one economic initiative to help Canadians get back to work is an EI jobs scheme that does not work. It is a $550 million raid on the employment insurance fund, which even Conservatives admit does not belong to the government. More than half a billion dollars is ripped out of the EI fund in this omnibus bill.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer, who has done the only credible analysis of this scheme, says it will create an astounding 800 jobs. He said each job created by this EI raid will cost upwards of $550,000.
I have had a number of constituents write me. They want to know where they can apply for these $500-million-per-year jobs. They wonder why the government is promoting such a program.
We know that far too high a number of Canadians who fall out of work cannot even access employment insurance. That is the worst kind of insurance there is. It is something one pays into but can never draw from. The reason they cannot access it is that the Conservatives, and the Liberals before them, kept rigging and changing the rules so that fewer people, particularly women and low-income Canadians, could actually access employment insurance. It is a scam, a scheme, and that is why it is put forward in this bill rather than as a stand-alone piece of legislation that members could actually debate here in this House.
When we asked the government for its analysis of its scheme, its $550 million EI raid, we heard that the government had done no analysis at all. We asked the finance officials and the minister himself, who came before the committee. We said he was about to rip off the EI fund for $550 million to create these jobs, but had he done an analysis? He said they had not. They had outsourced it to a lobby group, the CFIB.
However, even the CFIB has said time and again that this employment scheme will not necessarily create the jobs the government hopes for. We see this as a failure of process and a failure of integrity.
Just today in the stock market, the TSX is quoted as saying:
The Toronto stock market deepened its decline on Monday as concerns about the Chinese economy, and discouraging signs from early U.S. holiday sales.... ...the mining and metals sector fell, while energy stocks tumbled.
In the face of all this, we would expect the government, with the powers of a majority government, to take the opportunity here in the House of Commons to do something about our weakened economy, to do something to help the green energy sector, to do something to help Canadians get back to work. We wonder when Conservatives are actually going to do something, drop the ideology, pay attention, and face reality in our economy.
We need to help Canadians get back to work. We need to restore those well-paying manufacturing jobs. We need to do more than what is in this bill.
We have attempted, through our amendments, to make something good out of something bad. My concern, my suspicion, my reality is that Conservatives will do what they have always done, which is ignore the evidence in front of them. They will take an ideological stance and say that they know best. However, the numbers tell the truth. They do not.
Conservatives are failing Canadians and they are failing the Canadian economy.
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I heard a question in the member's comments.
There is actually a significant change in the argument we have heard from the Conservatives. If members remember, initially the said that this was going to create 25,000 jobs, or person years. They changed the metrics a little bit.
The initiative to take $550 million out of the employment insurance fund, money that does not belong to the government, was to create jobs. That was the headline. That was the news. That is what the minister was saying. However, when we asked for any analysis, when we asked them to defend this argument, they had nothing. What they had were a couple of quotes from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Dan Kelly, who is the head of that organization, said:
On a firm-by-firm basis, I think that's quite right. You are not going to pay for a full job through an EI hiring credit.
It is not a huge amount of money. This is not a scheme that will create the jobs the government claims. In a time of economic weakness, in a time of global uncertainty, to take $550 million out of the EI fund and not create any jobs out of it seems like a failed opportunity. To not allow people who paid into the fund, because it is not just the employers, it is the employees, to actually access employment insurance, especially if they have lost their jobs, as 400,000 of them just in the manufacturing sector have, seems cruel. It seems bad for the economy.
If the Conservatives are now saying that maybe it will maintain a few jobs, that is a completely different argument than the one the used. They will have to get their arguments straight. The Conservatives certainly do not have any evidence to back up that this is what they claimed initially.
This will not do what it says, and that is a failure of any intelligence from the government.
Mr. Speaker, since I was not able to get to the floor when my hon. colleague, the member for , was speaking, I want to thank him for his remarks.
I am pleased to hear the official opposition turning a light on the question of the economics of this country and what is generally considered an unquestioned benefit of developing the oil sands.
There are, of course, benefits economically to developing the oil sands, but there are huge economic risks in putting all our eggs in the bitumen basket. I appreciated my friend, the member for , asking, “What is plan B?” It does not seem to me that the current administration has a plan B.
Although it is not the subject or the pith and substance of the bill before us, I want to underline that it is important that we not just examine what is wrong with putting all our eggs in the bitumen basket from the point of view of the threat to British Columbia's wilderness of these ill-advised, risky pipeline schemes and the risk to our coastline of putting bitumen mixed with toxic fossil fuel condensates, called diluents, and calling it “dilbit” and shipping it to refineries overseas.
This whole project is a decision that Canada is better off when we take a resource from northern Albert and do not process it in Canada but put it in pipelines to ship to other places, without any consideration of the climate impact and without any consideration of the environmental threats. The failure to even examine whether the economics line up is astounding, and I am pleased to hear another member raise that issue in this place.
However, I want to address the bill itself.
As we know, it is an omnibus budget bill. It is, again, over 400 pages long. It is the kind of abuse of Parliament that really constitutes a daily contempt of democratic process in this place.
Here is a bill that covers everything from aerodrome regulation to getting rid of the Canadian Polar Commission and replacing it with the Cambridge Bay research station, which is now called the CHARS.
There are sections of the bill that deal with patent legislation. We are told by experts in patents that they are not properly thought through and will cause real problems.
There are changes in social assistance that appear to be targeting the most vulnerable in our society. I want speak more to this issue and the way this piece of legislation would affect refugees.
There are changes in the way the Chief Public Health Officer is allowed to run the department.
These are very profound changes.
Before getting into the details of the individual changes, I want to make the point again that making changes in myriad, unrelated sections, most of them non-budgetary, is an offence to parliamentary process. I have raised this point in points of order, Mr. Speaker, and take your explanation that it is up to the House itself to set some parameters around omnibus budget bills.
However, it must be said again that up until the current Privy Council and , we have never had omnibus budget bills topping each other each year. There is a spring budget bill and a fall budget bill, so we have had about 900 pages of legislation in 2012, 2013, and 2014 in these omnibus forms. The contempt is compounded, because none of these have been adequately studied. Most of them go through the finance committee, which finds itself trying to deal with questions about high Arctic polar research and how aerodromes should be run. One piece of the legislation should properly be before the transport committee. Another piece of the legislation should properly be before the environment committee, but no, they are all bundled up and stuffed down the throat of the finance committee.
On top of having them in omnibus form, we also have time allocation, so there is not the time to bring in the witnesses who could explain all the provisions and how the bill would affect myriad areas of public policy. That is offensive.
On top of that, we had in this place independent motions from 20 different committees, which were, amazingly, what a coincidence, identical motions last fall. They were for the purpose of limiting the rights of members of Parliament from smaller parties, such as me in my own role as leader of the Green Party or colleagues who sit as independents or the newly formed Forces et Démocratie or the Bloc Québécois. Our opportunities to debate and to present substantive amendments at report stage have been eliminated by, I have to say, the Machiavellian expedience of 20 different motions in 20 different legislative committees that created the bogus “opportunity”, which I put in quotes, for members such as me to present amendments at each of those committees.
Some of these committees meet at the same time. I will not go into the details of how coercive, difficult, and unfair this measure has been. Never in the history of Canada has a majority party gone to such lengths to shut down individual members of Parliament.
I would like to turn to the aspects of this bill that are the most egregious.
I am very concerned about the change in the management of the Chief Public Health Officer. The bill changes his role from being the person responsible for his department to being subservient to a president of the organization, and no longer a deputy minister. The Public Health Agency is a relatively new institution in the history of this Parliament, but is an important office. When we face public health threats we need to know that our Chief Public Health Officer will not risk being told, “We would rather you not talk about that now. We want to keep that under wraps for a while.” That is a dangerous road to go down and it is being accomplished in this omnibus budget bill.
I am also concerned about the changes that have been made to the provisions that deal with the ways in which the federal government transfers money to provinces and the requirements around those transfers, changes that were almost under the radar screen before people noticed them because they were not trumpeted. In the past, social assistance transfers did not have residency requirements and there were provisions to make sure that the most needy would always be able to get social assistance. The changes that are being made in clauses 172 and 173 of Bill would make it much harder for refugees to gain that desperate assistance, despite refugees being the most vulnerable people in our society who get here with just the clothes on their backs. This does not accomplish it in one fell swoop, but is the first step in allowing a province to decide that a refugee claimant would not be able to get social assistance. It opens the door to the provinces to make those kinds of changes.
There are also changes to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. These changes do not affect questions of justice, fairness, and equity in our society but would make the whole area of patent law much less certain and much more confusing. Amendments were recommended by experts in patent law, but as with all opposition amendments, they were ignored and voted down at committee.
The piece of legislation that creates the Canadian high Arctic research station at the same time also eliminates what was previously the Canadian polar research station and the Canadian polar research commission. It is not at all clear how the two would merge. This bill repeals the polar research station. Of course, it must be noted that the current Canadian high Arctic research station facility, which is in the front window as the current administration's commitment to science and is being built in Cambridge Bay in the 's riding, is designed not to do any research on climate or ozone. It is specifically focused on research for resource development in the Arctic. It certainly is to be commended for highlighting the important and essential role of indigenous and traditional knowledge going forward. However, it is hardly appropriate in this day and age to focus so much research money in the Arctic and ignore climate, ozone, and the toxins that concentrate in the body fat of the wildlife that people of the north rely on for country food.
Let me sum up. These omnibus budget bills year after year are unbelievable. There was an omnibus bill in the spring and another in the fall. Each one made significant changes to a number of other Canadian laws without allowing enough opportunities for speeches or enough time to study or debate these major changes.
It is an offence to this place that we continually have omnibus budget bills forced down our throats and done so quickly with time allocation.
Once more, as a member of Parliament, I protest against these offensive measures, which strike at the heart of the role of parliamentarians.
Mr. Speaker, today I wish to speak to Bill and about families.
The week after the events of October 22, my wife Judy and my daughter Megan and our then 10-month-old grandson came to Ottawa to be with Dad. Like many of us, I underestimated the effect that day had on our friends and our loved ones. Touring this building together, watching my grandson sit where you are sitting, Mr. Speaker, brought home how important our families really are.
Our new family friendly tax measures would make it easier for all kids to get involved in the many exciting opportunities that exist in their communities. For that, as community representatives, we should all be proud. This is the reason that economic action plan 2014 has my backing. It is a tremendous support for Canadian families. This bill would put more money back into the pockets of Canadian families, and work on improving the fairness and integrity of our tax system by closing loopholes and strengthening tax enforcement to ensure that all Canadians, not just a select few, have lower and fairer taxes. Under this plan, every family with children would have money put back into their pockets so they can spend their money on their priorities.
These latest tax cuts and benefits would see an average Canadian family save close to $1,140 in 2015. All in all, these savings represent close to $27 billion returned to the pockets of Canadian families over the next five years. These latest tax cuts and benefits include the introduction of a family tax cut, an increase and expansion of the universal childcare benefit, an increase in the childcare expense deduction limits, and a doubling of the children's fitness tax credit, as well as making it refundable.
The new family tax cut is a federal tax credit that would allow a higher-income spouse to transfer up to $50,000 of taxable income to a spouse in a lower tax bracket. This credit would provide tax—
I remember when my kids were young and we took them to everything. People would say that I must put in thousands of miles just driving my own and neighbouring kids to sports and community events. At the time, it never really dawned on me. After all, there was the excitement of watching my son Devin score the first touchdown for our new football team on the same field where my youngest brother had scored the last touchdown 20 years earlier before that team had folded; or the excitement of watching our daughter, after being fouled at the buzzer during the very first game for the Elnora junior high basketball team, then sink both foul shots to first tie and then win the game. I have seen NBA players who cannot do that. The coaching, watching my kids and their teammates competing at regional and provincial levels in all types of sports, performing in plays and pageants, and even working on the farm together are memories of a family that worked, played, and laughed together. What about all those miles? I have always said I would much sooner drive my kids around than drive around looking for my kids.
Mr. Speaker, I know that making the children's fitness tax credit refundable and these types of things that we have done certainly will help families. The critical part is to ensure we do all we can to help families so they can be part of the community and enhance it. Encouragement is required for such a thing.
Again, we have made changes, which include an increase in the adoption expense tax credit to help with the high cost associated with adopting children. There is also the medical expense tax credit to help with the cost associated with things such as service animals, specialized therapy and plans to help individuals cope with the effects of a disorder or disability. These are the types of things our government is doing. However, we hear the opposition bring in these obscure arguments and suggest that we are trying, in some way, to stifle debate.
This is good news. We are talking about a lot of great things. To have these opportunities for children and for families, and to show the great care we have for them, is something of which we should all be proud.
To speak to budget implementation acts, we have continuously cut taxes. Since 2006, we have cut taxes over 179 times in every way that government collects them, whether it is through personal tax, consumption tax, business tax, excise tax and much more. We know what the reduction of the GST, from 7% to 6% to 5%, has done. That in itself has put another $1,000 back into the average Canadian family. We cut personal income tax to 15% and have steadily lowered the general business tax rate from 21% to 15%, as well as the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%. This allows the economy to stay strong.
All we have to do is look at Canada from the perspective of other places in the world. They look at us and wonder how we could get it so right when the rest of them have been struggling. The reason is the whole concept of having a reduction in taxes. The reason for that is because it puts the money into the hands of individuals, and they know how to spend their money much better than governments do.
Also, we have the tax-free savings account, which has become the most important personal savings tool since RRSPs, and we know how significant they are.
We can continue to speak about the ways in which, over the years, and in this budget implementation act as well, we have been able to reduce taxes and put more money into the hands of individuals.
As can be seen, this government has clearly taken steps to make life more affordable for Canadian families, again, by creating family tax cuts along with the previous tax cuts and credits. Canadian families will be able to spend their hard-earned money on the things they believe are in the best interest of their families.
I would ask all members in the House join me in supporting Canadian families by ensuring the passage of this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I was told that technical briefings are something on which we should present information to the House. I am pleased to do that because I was at those briefings, and quite frankly, some things I heard shocked me.
Most important, with respect to the changes in this bill around the ports, not a single port authority across the country was consulted. Not a single municipality across the country was consulted about the changes that are contemplated in this bill. In fact, there was no public consultation. It was simply a change that was foisted upon the House as part of an omnibus bill. It is a practice that has been described as too frequent, too complicated, and unnecessary in the promotion of democracy by Professor Peter Russell of the University of Toronto, who is an expert in parliamentary procedure.
The reality here is quite something. Ports are now being given the power to expand their letters patent arbitrarily and unilaterally by simply acquiring property. When they do that, those lands are then exempt from local zoning conditions. No municipality was consulted and no cost-benefit analysis was done around what this does to local tax bases or the costs of operating the ports.
Further to all of that, we now see in the city of Toronto that the port authority is seeking to regulate zoning permissions right across the city. It can unilaterally down-zone property, acquire it and then rezone it. That is a scam. There was no consultation and not a single conversation.
It does not get much better when one starts to look at changes to aerodromes, which are under division 2 of part 4 of this bill. Instead of having a public process where there are public boards and public conversations about the behaviour of aerodromes and airports in this country, now all the decision making would be concentrated inside the minister's office, not even in the House of Commons.
Again, were municipalities or airport authorities consulted? What we heard in the technical briefings is that they were not. It was simply something dreamed up on the other side of the House. This is the public process that omnibus bills give us: a concentration of power in the hands of a few, often unelected, and a complete departure from debate in the House, let alone public scrutiny and consultations. The government members may talk a good game about public consultation, but the only people they really talk to are each other.
On aerodromes, significant concerns are being raised by pilots right across the country. This is from the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, who oppose this bill but were never consulted about it, the very people who use the airports:
We are concerned about the manner in which the Act amendment was developed, without consultation, how far the power of the Minister would extend and the one-sided nature of imposing consultation requirements and prohibitions on aerodromes when no such Aeronautics Act consultation requirements or prohibitions exist....
The government is making up legislation, but what is worse is that this bill was introduced as simply housekeeping, a few enabling pieces of legislation to get a budget bill through. This was never in any other legislation. It was never proposed, presented, nor debated in any part of this country. It simply showed up in a committee one afternoon and got into a press release, and then we are supposed to swallow it whole as part of an omnibus bill. That is unacceptable behaviour, and it is wrong.
There is another serious issue that changes to aerodromes deal with, which is the impact on local communities. Many defunct aerodromes are now being used as landfill sites, effectively. When construction happens in one part of the country, the land gets hauled to another part of Canada and dumped, without rules or regulations, because that is allowed. There is no public consultation, rule, or regulation about that.
As a result, the power now resides with the minister, not the House of Commons. Decisions are being made in this House today as we debate this that will have far-reaching impacts in every corner of this country. We cannot and will not support that. Those are the kinds of arbitrary rules that bring all the actions of this House into question.
Turning to public health, not only does the government want no consultation with the public on other items, but on public health it is trying to bury scientific evidence, which is a really disturbing pattern of behaviour. A government appointee, who needs to have no scientific or medical expertise but who is simply a political functionary, is being dropped in on a public health department. The medical advice we need to deal with things like SARS—and God help us if ebola ever arrived here—and the power of the chief medical officer of health to act unilaterally within a federal department when an emergency prescribes is being lost to someone without any medical expertise.
If we take a look at the history of what chief medical officers of health have done in this country, we will find that public works departments—not just of cities and provinces, but also of the country—are a direct result of medical advice and scientific evidence being presented to decision makers. From that, public policy flows.
What are we doing? We are burying that expertise in a bill that purports to be a budget bill but is quite clearly another attack on science and evidence by the Conservative government. It is unacceptable.
The other issue we are dealing with is the employment insurance changes that are forecast in this bill. They are changes that have been denounced by virtually every significant economist in the country. When we went to the technical briefing and asked staff from that department where this idea came from, they had no idea. In the evidence that they produced as part of this debate, when they were asked directly what studies they had done to verify the claims being made by the government, they said not a single study was requested or done. In other words, the numbers come from a source outside of the government.
Where did these numbers come from? When we went to committee, what we found out is that the numbers came from the very lobbyists that asked for the cut. They are not verified. There was no due diligence. We are spending $550 million on a whim, on a promise from vested interests, on some conversation that happened in the back rooms of some ministerial office.
When the party across the way asks for us to go to committee and listen, which we do, and asks us to attend technical briefings and focus in on the evidence that is presented, the evidence is that there is no evidence, yet the policy emerges out of the back rooms as if it is somehow well thought through.
When the Parliamentary Budget Office does report on these topics, what do we get? We get a complete contradiction of the numbers that are presented by the ministers. It is not 500 or 1,000 jobs; it is 800 jobs. It is 800 jobs at a cost of $550 million. On the same legislation, which would freeze premiums, the Parliamentary Budget Office's evidence, which was presented in committee, is very clear. This act would cost the economy 10,000 jobs. That means there would be a net loss. We would be cutting taxes, but we would be cutting employment at the same time and leaving Canadians in a very bad spot.
The information that has perhaps not reached the Conservative benches is very simple. When 10,000 people lose jobs, tax cuts do not help. When 10,000 people lose their jobs, families are negatively affected. The Conservatives can hand out all of the tax cuts they want for kids in sports programs, but if parents are not working, kids are not playing. It is that simple.
That is the evidence that is presented as part of this discourse, yet that evidence never seems to reach the backbenches on the other side, and it certainly does not reach the talking points of the ministers involved.
The final and most horrific part of this bill is the private member's bill, which is not a budget bill. It is political discourse. It is rhetoric that has slipped its way into this omnibus bill. The Conservatives were not confident enough to present it as government policy. They put it in place and then they slipped it into an omnibus bill, hoping that no one would notice, but of course, we all noticed. The reason we noticed is that this notion of denying social assistance to refugees is morally bankrupt. It is wrong.
When we went to the technical briefing and asked the staff of the department if they had consulted with anybody, the answer was no. Did anybody comment? It comes back that one province spoke up. That one province, the province I reside in and Parliament resides in, the Government of Ontario, said not to do this. What was the government's response? It did it.
For all of those reasons, this bill cannot be supported. It must not be supported. If the Conservatives were serious about what they heard in committee, they would withdraw it.
Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I am pleased to inform Canadians about how our Conservative government is successfully implementing the initiatives in our economic action plan to promote jobs and growth and support families and communities. Our initiatives, which are part of Canada's economic action plan, greatly benefit families in rural regions, such as my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.
One of the important requirements of municipalities that is being met by our federal Conservative government is the provision of long-term predictable funding for infrastructure. I am very proud of our government, as it has delivered a new Building Canada plan to help finance the construction, rehabilitation, and enhancement of infrastructure across my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. As the people in my riding know, they have been abandoned by the Liberal Party of Ontario. Unlike the Province of Ontario, which discriminates against rural Ontario by withholding provincial gas tax revenues, our federal government returns gas tax revenues to the municipalities to do the needed infrastructure upgrades and take the pressure off the property tax base, which, along with the high electricity energy prices, is forcing people on fixed incomes, like seniors, out of their homes.
Through the now-permanent and indexed federal gas tax fund, last year communities in my riding made needed infrastructure repairs. Communities like the Township of McNab/Braeside received almost $221,000 for road reconstruction. Madawaska Valley received approximately $134,000 to reconstruct Tamarack Road; and the Township of Laurentian Valley received almost $600,000 in federal gas taxes to resurface or reconstruct five roads in 2013: Ema Street, Spruce Street West, Whispering Pines Crescent, Vaudry Drive, and B-Line Road. North Algona Wilberforce received over $98,000 to begin work on Marsh Road, to resurface Snodrifters Road, and to construct a dry storage shed for salt.
The Township of Admaston/Bromley received $83,000 to resurface South McNaughton Road. The City of Pembroke received almost $860,000 to reconstruct the Pembroke Street Bridge, as part of an ongoing federal contribution since 2011 to fix various streets and replace water and sewer lines, amounting to over $1.7 million. The County of Renfrew received $2.5 million for road resurfacing and rehabilitation. The Town of Renfrew received $250,000 in federal gas tax dollars to rehabilitate Queen Street. In 2013, Petawawa received almost $0.5 million for Herman Street, with a cumulative federal gas tax fund total for that project amounting to almost $1 million.
The Township of Whitewater Region received $378,000 to resurface Pleasant Valley Road and Rapid Road and Bromley Line Road to the end. The Town of Arnprior received $360,000 for roadwork; and the Township of Bonnechere Valley received over $93,000 to reconstruct and put a new surface on Crimson Maple Road.
The Town of Deep River received $96,000 for work at the W.B. Lewis Public Library parking lot and sidewalk. The Township of Killaloe-Hagarty-Richards received over $24,000 for sidewalks, and $150,000 for roads and culverts. Horton Township received $40,000 for roads. The United Townships of Head, Clara, and Maria received $23,000 for HVAC improvements.
Greater Madawaska received over $84,000 to pay down debt on a waste management project started in 2005, for a cumulative total of over $400,000, and other federal funding of $225,000 for a total project cost of $1.2 million. The Township of Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan received over $180,000 to resurface a 2-kilometre section of the Jewellville Road and a 3.5-kilometre section of the Addington Road. The Township of South Algonquin received $226,000 to do Hay Lake Road repairs, and to repair Maple Drive, Galeairy Lake, and Algonquin Street.
In total, in 2013, $6.9 million flowed to my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, generating over $20 million in municipal construction activity.
I remind municipalities, particularly municipalities in Ontario, that the backroom advisers in Toronto who devised the policy to discriminate against rural municipalities and only pay out the provincial gas tax revenues to urban communities have surrounded the inexperienced leader of the Liberal Party here in Ottawa. They want federal gas tax dollars to pay for failed social experiments, like the industrial wind turbines that no community wants, and have cancelled the gas plants.
They refer to the industrial wind turbine white elephants as a green initiative to save the environment. In fact, the Liberal Party in Ontario is being sued for $653 million for manipulating the so-called Green Energy Act by using “political favouritism, cronyism and local preference”, according to the court filing. Compare and contrast that with the long-term predictable funding associated with the way our federal Conservative government manages federal gas tax funds to municipalities.
Just ask the president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, AMO, what he thinks of federal municipal partnerships. He said we are open, honest, and transparent.
Moreover, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has acknowledged that our tax relief has successfully targeted low and middle-income families. He said, “Cumulative tax changes since 2005”, which is when our government took office, “have been progressive overall and most greatly impact low-middle income earners (households earning between $12,200 and $23,300), effectively resulting in a 4.0 per cent increase in after-tax income.”
The federal tax burden is at its lowest rate in 50 years. We have removed more than one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls entirely. The average family of four will save nearly $3,400 this year, and a small business with revenues of around $0.5 million now saves over $28,000 in taxes, thanks to our low-tax plan.
It is clear that Canada has become an international success story, but Canada is not immune from economic challenges beyond our borders. Those challenges include foreign dirty money funnelled to special interest groups to implement policies that would kill jobs in our forestry and energy sectors. Our government is clear that as long as Canadians are looking for jobs, we will not pursue policies, particularly ones based on junk science, that will put ordinary working Canadians out of their homes and out of work.
With that, I will now turn to the measures in today's legislation that would build on our success and ensure that we would continue to keep Canada on track for job creation and balanced budgets. First, Bill reaffirms the government's commitment to making our tax system simpler and fairer. It closes tax loopholes and strengthens tax enforcement to ensure that taxes are low for all taxpayers, not only a select few. Allow me to highlight some of the measures we have taken to improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system.
I would like to close my initial comments by saying that for the first time, according to The New York Times, middle-income Canadians are better off than Americans. That is something Canadians can be very proud of. I urge my parliamentary colleagues to support their country by voting in favour of all the good measures contained in Bill .
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-43. I have heard some members talking about the content of this bill, unlike the last two Conservative members who rose, namely, the member for and the member for . They spoke about everything but Bill C-43 in their remarks.
This bill is 460 pages long and contains 401 clauses. Part 4 alone, which deals with measures other than budgetary measures, has 31 divisions. I therefore cannot believe that these members were unable to choose some part of the bill to debate in the House. I find that unfortunate. In my opinion, it clearly shows that very few Conservative members read the bill and understand its scope, magnitude and impact.
I would like to draw attention to something that the member for said when members rose on points of order. He said that we should listen to what is happening and attend the technical briefing. I was at the briefing, and I know that the member for and the member for were also in attendance. A number of opposition members were there and yet I saw only one Conservative member.
The questions we ask and the concerns we raise often come directly from things we learned about during the technical briefing, including the issue of allowing the provinces to impose a residency requirement on refugee claimants before they can receive social assistance. We asked the officials questions about this during the technical briefing. We learned that none of the provinces asked for this. In fact, the provinces are perplexed and wonder why the government is going in this direction, especially after being rebuked by the Federal Court on the issue of health care for refugee claimants.
When there is so much stuffed into one budget implementation bill, why are members talking about everything but the budget bill?
As I did at second reading, I get a kick out of asking the different MPs questions about specific aspects of this bill. It is obvious from their answers that they have not read the bill. For example, when I ask them to talk to me about the consequences of changing the electoral process in the Northwest Territories, they have no idea what I am referring to. This is included in the bill, but the members look at me like I am speaking a foreign language.
This bill raises a number of concerns. My colleague from raised a very troubling issue having to do with the small business tax credit. In fact, the businesses are being given more of a premium holiday than a tax credit. Businesses that pay less than $15,000 in employment insurance benefits will receive a partial premium holiday with no strings attached. It is clear, as many have mentioned already, that this measure will lead to a tax loss of $550 million for the government. The government is giving up more than half a billion dollars without any guarantee that a significant number of jobs will be created.
This measure will cost more than half a billion dollars and will come directly out of the employment insurance fund. It seems to me that at the very least, the Department of Finance should do an impact assessment of such a measure. However, every official, the minister and everyone who could tell us about this said that no such study was done.
What kind of governance do we get with this government, which implements measures without even doing an impact assessment? That runs counter to common sense and also to the principles of good governance. No private company that does business with a vendor would accept an assessment that considers only what is to the vendor's advantage or what is in the vendor's own interest. However, the government voluntarily had another party do the economic and job creation analysis for a major item in this budget without doing its own analysis. The government relinquished its responsibility for promoting sound fiscal and economic policies.
I am still waiting for a clear and sensible explanation. How will this measure, which will cost $550 million, or about $700,000 per job, really create jobs when the Parliamentary Budget Officer has clearly said that it would create at most only 800 new jobs over a two-year period?
This is not just about giving money back to small businesses. We must not forget that this money comes from the employment insurance fund. If the fund posts a surplus in coming years, it will be because of higher contributions imposed on employers and employees, and also because of the restricted access to employment insurance. Since 2006, under this government, the number of contributors eligible for employment insurance benefits decreased from 43% to less than 37%.
Therefore, this money that we are giving back to small businesses comes from the pockets of employees who paid employment insurance premiums, but cannot themselves obtain benefits because of more restricted access to the employment insurance program. This restriction affects our regions in eastern Quebec and the region of the member for , among others. New Brunswick depends to a great extent on seasonal work, as does my region of the Lower St. Lawrence and my riding of Rimouski—Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.
The range of measures in Bill C-43 make no sense. I have asked a few questions about this. I proposed that we let the provinces impose a residency requirement. This is not a matter of respecting the provinces' rights. The provinces receive a transfer from the federal government specifically to finance social assistance. Basic minimum standards were established; these standards, on which the federal and provincial governments agreed, state that a residency requirement cannot be imposed on someone who is applying for social assistance. The system is universal, which means that if someone paid taxes in Saskatchewan and moves to Ontario, they cannot be denied social assistance because they paid taxes in one province and moved to another.
Refugee claimants are among the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable. While their claim is being processed, they have no other opportunities to earn an income to support themselves and their family. They cannot work. If their social assistance is eliminated, what will they do while they are waiting for their refugee claim to be processed? They will have to go to soup kitchens and sleep in shelters. That is not an ideal situation.
With respect to health care for refugee claimants, for which the government was rather harshly admonished by the court, this is, once again, a measure that is solely designed to discourage refugee claimants who are living in precarious situations and whose lives are often in danger in their home country, and who no longer see Canada as a haven.
I could point to plenty of other measures. I talked about Part 4, which includes 31 extremely complex measures, most having nothing to do with the budget process. It is clear to me that this government is drifting farther and farther from good governance principles. It is forcing opposition members to oppose budgets, which we will do at report stage and at third reading.
This government has no idea how to govern democratically or even how to use the opposition properly to improve its bills. We found at least five or six measures that exist solely to correct errors that we frequently pointed out during studies of previous budget bills. The opposition's role is not just to oppose. It is also supposed to point out shortcomings in the government's bills.
This government, however, has no respect for the process or parliamentary traditions. Bill C-43 makes it clear that the government has no respect for the budget process.
For all of these reasons, we will proudly oppose Bill C-43 at report stage as well as at third reading.
Mr. Speaker, I am certainly honoured to be here today to speak to a couple of the key features of the 2014 budget and economic action plan.
For Canadian families, this year's budget demonstrates the fulfillment of a promise made by this government to return the Canadian economy back to balanced books and surplus. Currently, this government is right on track to do so. In my limited time here today, I want to give an overview of how this year's budget would meet such a promise through creating jobs, investing in research and development, and supporting Canadian families.
Let us first talk about jobs.
Since taking office in 2006, this government has made it a central priority to address what has been on the minds of Canadians from coast to coast to coast: the creation of jobs. Since the economic recession, Canada has recovered more than all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the global recession. The Canadian economy has posted one of the strongest job creation records in the G7, with nearly 1.2 million jobs created since July 2009. Over 80% of the jobs created since that time are full-time positions, nearly 80% are in the private sector, and over 65% are in high-wage industries.
When I have a chance to travel on parliamentary business, I see that colleagues from all over the world are obviously impressed with the kind of record that we have and that we have created, and they want to know how we do it. If we just look at the numbers we heard last month, we see that in October we had an increase of almost 43,000 jobs, which dropped our unemployment rate to 6.5%, the lowest since 2008.
This government has created an environment in which businesses can flourish, and almost 182,000 jobs have been created in the past years. That is a pretty impressive record by any stretch of the imagination. When it comes to other G7 countries, most countries can only wish to have the kind of record that we have.
One way in which this government has been able to create this substantial accomplishment is through strengthening the investment, training, and employment opportunities available to our young people here in Canada. When it comes to training young people to develop the skills necessary for key growth industries in Canada, this government has taken seriously the demand put forth by employers to gain an increased role in training decisions and to gain the support needed to train new employees with minimal red tape.
Several programs supported within this budget, such as the Canada summer jobs program, the Canada job grant, and the Canada apprenticeship loan, have provided funding to not-for-profits, the public sector, and small-business employers to create a great number of job opportunities for young people.
I had a chance to meet a number of these individuals in my riding. It is always interesting to see them. For example, I think of the Jordan Historical Museum and having the chance to talk to the two young ladies who were there last year who were given an opportunity. The field that they would like to go into in some capacity is museums, whether as curators or being involved in exhibits, et cetera. Because of the money that the Canada summer jobs program provided, these two ladies had a chance to see first-hand what was going on, to experience this work in the field, whereas otherwise they might not have been able to have that opportunity. That is just one small example that I think has very practical applications.
By developing an accessible path for students to transition out of full-time studies into job sectors that they are passionate about—and I can assure members that these two ladies were very passionate about their jobs with the museum—this year's budget looks to continue the strong legacy established by these programs in helping move forward the aspirations of Canadian employers and students alike.
Since it began in 2007 and through to 2013, the Canada summer jobs program has helped over 260,000 students, while the Canada job grant and the apprentice program have allowed for an investment of over $50 million in up to 4,000 internships in both high-demand and small- and medium-sized business sectors. These initiatives all make Canada's labour force more competitive and shape a path toward enhanced national prosperity and growth.
As a member of the Red Tape Reduction Commission, I am pleased to say this government is now implementing another one of our recommendations. We are cutting the administrative burden on more than 50,000 employers by reducing the maximum number of required payments on account of source deductions.
The 2014 economic action plan proposes to continue supporting the elimination of unnecessary barriers for employers and the creation of important programs like these, which put more money back into the pockets of hard-working Canadians.
Youth employment strategy, or its short form, YES, is another program with strong results supported in this year's budget. YES provides skills development and work experience for youth at risk, summer students, and recent post-secondary graduates.
Economic action plan 2014 announces that our government will improve the youth employment strategy to align it with the evolving realities of the job market. This process would also ensure federal investments in youth employment provide young Canadians with real-life work experience in high-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and skilled trades. Creating these jobs for students benefits not only youth and employers but local economies as well. That is why our government will continue to support programs in this year's budget that help connect young Canadians with available jobs.
Let me talk a little now about research and development and the Internet. Investing in employment opportunities is only one part of how the budget proposes to continue to move the Canadian economy forward. The other half of its strategy is that it is investing in the promise of new inventions, new ideas, and new minds. It is these important features that currently give Canada an economic edge over its international competitors.
Our government has helped foster these innovations and discoveries by funding research and development projects throughout the country. In 2014, we continue the trend of increasing annual research and development funding, with the total spending now at $1.6 billion over 5 years.
We have long recognized that the development of new ideas and new products is key to Canada's future prosperity. It fuels the growth of small and large businesses and drives productivity improvements that raise the standard of living of Canadians.
Improvements to technology and infrastructure, such as our connecting Canadians program, deliver on the government's commitment in economic action plan 2014 to invest in programs that benefit all Canadians. Bringing high-speed Internet to an additional 280,000 Canadian households in rural and remote regions of the country, this program is ensuring that Canadians are equipped with the skills, tools, and opportunities needed to be competitive and thrive in the 21st century.
It is because of programs like these that Canada remains the G7 leader in research and development expenditures in the higher education sector as a share of the economy. Our universities are recognized internationally for providing a world-class education. We must continue this legacy by investing in the intellectual and social capital that culminates in our places of post-secondary and higher learning.
Through our economic action plan 2014, we will continue this legacy through creating funds to support research, academic excellence, and higher learning. Prime examples of the investments the budget makes in the brightest minds of tomorrow are the Canada first research excellence fund and the venture capital action plan. These initiatives help Canadian post-secondary research institutions leverage their key strengths to the benefit of all Canadians. Within the next decade, the Canada first research excellence fund will provide an additional $1.5 billion to advance the global research leadership of Canadian institutions.
The venture capital action plan aims to make significant resources available to support Canada's booming venture capital industry, including the allocation of $400 million to help increase private sector investments in early stage risk capital.
Complementing the investment in research and innovation, I want to conclude my time today by focusing on what the budget aims to do for Canadian families.
In my riding of Niagara West—Glanbrook, families are very important. There is no higher calling for a government than ensuring that every Canadian family with children will have more money in their pockets to spend on their priorities. The family tax cut, a federal tax credit, will provide tax relief by allowing higher-income spouses to transfer up to $50,000 of taxable income to a spouse in a lower tax bracket.
Increasing the universal child care benefit for children under age six, doubling the children's fitness tax credit, and increasing the child care expense deduction dollar limits all represent measures that make important priorities, like child care and after-school sports, more affordable for parents.
Simply put, these measures put hard-working Canadian families and their children first. Whether it is creating jobs, investing in young people, research and development, or supporting Canadian families, our government is displaying strong leadership and taking important steps in moving this economy and nation forward. The budget benefits Canadians nationwide and puts in place initiatives that cultivate growth and prosperity.
Mr. Speaker, it is for this reason that I am honoured to stand before you today and put forward my support for the implementation of this year's budget.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today and speak on Bill .
The title of the bill is rather misleading as it describes a bill to implement the budget and other measures, which is exactly what I want to start with: the process that got us to this place today. This is yet another omnibus budget bill. It is a bill that would actually do much more than what Canadians might think a budget would do.
A budget would be about economic priorities, fiscal matters, and the like. However, yet again, the bill before us is 460 pages in length with 400 clauses and would do so much more than deal with budget measures. It is misleading, in fact, to call it a budget implementation bill when it deals with matters that have nothing in the world to do with budget. Of course, that is the pattern of the Conservatives. This is number five on a long list of budget bills.
I have the honour of representing Victoria, and I sit on the finance committee where, frequently, we deal with matters that have absolutely nothing to do with finance. I have a little trouble back in the riding explaining what I am doing talking about those measures, but that, I guess, is just the way it is. However, I also have difficulty explaining why amendments are proposed and uniformly voted down by the Conservatives, even when those amendments are self-evident improvements to a bill in specific matters.
Having spoken about the failed process, the anti-democratic process that led us to this place, I would like to talk about the substance. I will speak about the things we would support and oppose in the bill, and the things that are glaringly obvious by omission in the bill.
It must be said that there are things that are supportable in the bill. One that comes to mind initially is the NDP's long-standing proposal to deal with the pay-to-pay problem. Seniors in my riding of Victoria constantly complain about paying more for a telecommunications bill if they get it on paper rather than online. They do not have a computer and they do not want to do that. Well, the government, in its typical way, went halfway. The Conservatives went along with the pay-to-pay provisions vis-à-vis broadcasting enterprises and telcos, but I guess the banks had a better lobby, because glaringly obvious in omission is anything to do with bank fees. I guess that is because the banks had a better lobby than telcos, or perhaps there were disputes elsewhere with that sector of the economy. However, at least the Conservatives went halfway, and we give them credit for that half measure.
Second, there were measures to improve the clarity and integrity of the tax code, which is something New Democrats had been proposing for a long time. However, so much more needs to be done about tax evasion, and I will talk about that in just a moment.
There are other issues, such as the implementation of a DNA data code to help solve the crisis in missing aboriginal women and girls. This is a long-standing proposal that the government has now recognized, and we accept that.
Last, there is the backlog on appeals to the Social Security Tribunal. This will be addressed by allowing more members to be appointed, which, again, is something that has been sought by the NDP for many years.
I said that I would talk about what was missing from the bill. There is $7.8 billion a year that is missing, and that could be available to Canadians if the government were serious about the issue of tax havens. It has been a passion of mine to try to get the government to take this seriously.
However, $7.8 billion is an estimate, and it can only be an estimate. Contrary to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's attempts, our attempts, and the Senate's attempts to get the government to actually measure the tax gap, as our friends in the U.K., France, and the United States have been doing for years, the current Conservative government somehow thinks it is a waste of time and cannot be bothered.
If we do not measure something, how can we manage it? Is that not public administration 101? However, the government refuses, and so I can only give an estimate, which can be accused of being high or low, but it is a big number.
Corporate tax avoidance, in particular, is a global epidemic. Even though Canada is proud, and the Conservatives are, of having the lowest corporate tax rate in the G7, we still have corporations that send their money abroad.
An example is tax shifting or transfer pricing. In order to pay even less tax, those companies that have the lowest corporate tax rates in the G7 still have their favourite trick. What is that? They sell a patent to an offshore subsidiary. Then they charge themselves licensing fees for the use of the same patent. That is a good trick.
Other countries have closed that loophole. We do not seem to care.
I have introduced Bill , which would address the economic substance and require that there actually be economic substance before those paper transactions are allowed, costing the Canadian treasury billions of dollars because the government simply does not want to take the time to go after corporate friends on Bay Street.
Bill would do what Dr. Robert McMechan wrote about in his book Economic Substance and Tax Avoidance: An International Perspective. Dr. McMechan, who really helped in drafting Bill C-621, pointed out in his doctoral thesis at Osgoode Law School, having been a practitioner with the Department of Justice and doing tax litigation for many years, that the government could close this loophole if the courts could get back on track with looking at the economic substance of transactions rather than whether or not they appear to be okay on paper. That is something like going after the general anti-avoidance rules vis-à-vis corporate tax avoidance.
That is what my very short bill, Bill , would do. It would basically put Canada on track, as Dr. McMechan points out, as regards our other allies whose courts seem to have stuck to economic substance. Ours, I am afraid, have gone off the rails.
There is a lot of money we are not going after. A few years ago the Conservatives, faced with 106 Canadians with secret bank accounts totalling over $100 million in Liechtenstein, did nothing. How many have been charged? How many have they gone after? Apparently they have gone after none.
Compare our woeful record of doing little to go after tax evaders with Australia's Project Wickenby or the action going on in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom to go after tax avoiders. Canadians should be ashamed of their government's performance.
Back in September, somebody from inside the department wrote us and said the minister announced that the elimination of a host of senior tax office positions at the local level, including in the international and aggressive tax planning programs. Seventy individuals, with over 1,000 years of cumulative specialized expertise in going after these intricate, complicated corporate transactions, were gone. Fifty people in CRA alone lost their jobs. That is the priority of the Conservatives in going after what could have been an enormous source of revenue. That is missing in this budget.
I have talked about what we like in this budget and what is absolutely missing. In terms of things that ought not to be in a budget but that need to be done is more action on youth unemployment and on homelessness. Homelessness is a crisis in my community of Victoria. I attended a lecture by Dr. Gaetz of York University, who pointed out that homelessness costs the Canadian economy $7 billion per year if we take into account social services, health care, corrections, and interaction with law enforcement. That is an enormous number. If investments were made to deal with that, the return on the investment—language the Conservatives would apparently like—would be enormous. For example, for the hardest to house, for every $10 we invest in Housing First initiatives to address homelessness, $22 would be achieved through offset costs.
There is a crisis in affordable housing. We are not using the income tax system to incent the creation of affordable, low-cost rental housing in communities. We have lots of condos, but we do not have housing for those people who are living hand to mouth in our communities and who are themselves just a few steps away from being homeless.
In conclusion, it is politics 011 that a budget reflects the priorities of a government. The government's priorities do not deal with the crises of unemployment and homelessness, nor fairness and equity, nor does it provide income for Canadians by actually going after money in tax havens in a more aggressive way, as so many of our allies have done.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of our government's economic action plan for 2014, a plan that contains many measures that will benefit the constituents in my riding of and indeed all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It is a plan that promises to help foster economic growth, to create jobs, and to reduce taxes.
Today I would like to focus my remarks on how our government plans to provide more flexibility to the provinces and territories on the design of their social assistance programs.
Social assistance payments are the jurisdiction of provincial and territorial governments. Through the Canada social transfer, the Government of Canada will transfer more than $12 billion to provinces and territories this year in support of post-secondary education, social assistance, and social services as well as early childhood development, early learning, and child care.
As part of Bill , our government proposes an amendment to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act that would give provinces and territories the flexibility to introduce a minimum period of residence before most foreign nationals could access social assistance in their jurisdictions.
While provinces and territories are responsible for determining eligibility for social assistance, if they decide to impose a minimum residency requirement, they currently risk a reduction in their Canada social transfer payments. With our proposed changes, provinces and territories would no longer be penalized should they choose to establish a minimum waiting period.
On this side of the House, we respect provincial and territorial jurisdiction. That is why we are proposing to allow provinces and territories to make all the decisions surrounding social services. These changes would allow provinces and territories to introduce a residency requirement for most temporary foreign nationals.
As is currently the case, Canadian citizens and permanent residents would not be subject to these provisions. Those who have been determined to be in genuine need of protection would also be excluded from this provision. I remind this House that temporary residents include temporary foreign workers, international students, and visitors.
To obtain a visitor visa or a study or work permit, all foreign nationals must demonstrate that they can support themselves and their dependents financially for the duration of their stay. However, temporary residents are just that. They are here on a temporary basis to study, to work, or to visit Canada as tourists. Our proposed amendment is in line with this requirement in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
What we are proposing in the bill is simply to give provinces and territories the flexibility to establish their own timelines, should they choose, before granting residents access to their social assistance programs.
In addition to Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and protected persons, victims of human trafficking who hold temporary resident permits would also be excluded. That is because our government is committed to protecting vulnerable migrants who find themselves in abusive or exploitive situations. We are simply removing the risk of a penalty if provinces and territories choose to introduce a minimum period of residence before foreign nationals can access our country's very generous social assistance programs.
It is important to note that it is up to each province and territory to determine eligibility for social assistance benefits. This also means that should they choose to introduce a residency requirement, the provinces and territories would determine the length of the residency period. This bill would not change the terms and conditions under which residents access welfare or other social programs. It would simply provide more flexibility to the provinces and territories.
At the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, we had the opportunity to hear from various stakeholders on this very topic. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation was very supportive of these changes. This is what it had to say:
We merely believe that, as the level of government responsible for the delivery of social services, the provinces are also the appropriate level of government to retain the power to make such a decision without the risk of fiscal penalty from Ottawa.
As well, Mr. Bissett, from the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, commented on how logical these changes truly are. He said:
It seems logical to me that the federal government should live up to its principles of allowing the provinces to carry out their functions without interference. This is an anachronism that exists in the law and I think it should be changed. Remember that there's no compulsion whatsoever on the provinces to make changes. It's removing a penalty and allowing them, if they wish, to impose residency requirements on individuals.
When we heard from government officials, they were able to share some past experiences with the Canada social transfer. We learned that the 1995 federal budget announced that residency requirements for social assistance, a condition for federal cost-sharing of social assistance expenditures under the Canada assistance plan, would continue to be prohibited under the Canada health and social transfer, which replaced the CAP. The prohibition remains in the CST today.
In November 1995, British Columbia introduced a three-month residency requirement for collecting social assistance for those who arrived from other provinces and countries, which was in violation of the prohibition under the Canada assistance plan. The federal human resources minister withheld CAP transfer payments accordingly, ultimately imposing a penalty of $20 million on the province, which reflected the actual savings to the province achieved by the residency requirements. British Columbia eventually removed the residency requirement.
We are proposing to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to ensure that this does not happen again. In short, our government respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction. As social assistance is their jurisdiction, it is entirely reasonable that they have the authority to establish their own rules for these social programs.
While I am delighted that I had the opportunity to focus on the proposed amendments to the FPFAA, I wish I had more time to discuss other provisions contained in the economic action plan 2014 act, no. 2, such as the new small business job credit that would support job creation; the doubling of the children's fitness tax credit to $1,000, which would now be refundable; the elimination of the graduated rate of taxation for trusts and certain estates; and the extension of the existing tax credit for interest paid on government-sponsored student loans to interest paid on a Canada apprentice loan.
These are all important measures that would benefit not only my constituents in Richmond Hill but all Ontarians and indeed all Canadians in every province and every territory in this country.
The fact is that Canadians trust this Conservative government to support jobs and promote economic growth for families and communities and to return to balance budgets by 2015.
I hope all hon. members in this House will support economic action plan 2014 act, no. 2 by voting for the budget implementation act.
Mr. Speaker, here we are again standing in the House and talking about another omnibus budget bill designed to ram through hundreds of changes with little study or oversight, and without consultation and, I would say, without the consent of Canadians. Canadians do not trust the Conservative government any more, thanks to draconian bills, secret cabinet meetings, the muzzling of scientists, and the continual stifling of our democracy.
These policies are anything but transparent, as the Conservatives had promised when they were first elected. I am sure that we remember the first Conservative bill, the Federal Accountability Act. Accountability is dead because we have before us Bill , another long bill, in this case consisting 460 pages, with 400 clauses, and dozens of amendments to acts that include a variety of measures that were never mentioned in the budget speech.
The point of electing MPs from across the country and from a variety of political parties is to ensure that there is oversight and democratic governance. These omnibus budget bills mock the very principles that Canadians hold dear. It behooves the government to allow MPs to take the time to study the bill to ensure that due diligence and oversight are respected. After all, does oversight not remain the cornerstone of our democratic system?
It is not just New Democrats calling for oversight. In 2002, the OECD report entitled, “Best Practices for Budget Transparency”, stated that draft budgets should be submitted to Parliament no less than three months prior to the start of the fiscal year. It also noted that budgets should include a detailed commentary on each revenue and expenditure program, comparative information on actual revenue and expenditure during the past year, and an updated forecast for the current year should also be provided for each program. None of these practices are currently followed in Canada. If these guidelines were followed, I believe we would have a much more democratic process, one that we could all be proud of and follow with security.
Sadly, as I have said, I am afraid democracy will once again get the short end of the stick and this bill will be rammed through the House. The government has the numbers and has consistently rejected NDP amendments and failed to listen to Canadians. The quick passing of omnibus bills is problematic. There are many issues in this particular bill that absolutely must be addressed and weighed by parliamentarians. Tragically, the bill in front of us is an overt and outright attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, particularly unemployed Canadians, who will not be helped by the implementation of the so-called job credit.
This proposal has already been panned by experts like the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who called it wasteful and extraordinarily expensive. Mike Moffatt from the Ivey school of business at the University of Western Ontario said that “the proposed ‘Small Business Job Credit’ has major structural flaws that, in many cases, give firms an incentive to fire workers and cut salaries”. He went on to say:
The way this...system is designed is that the maximum benefit a company can receive from firing a worker and going under the $15,000 threshold far exceeds the maximum benefit a small business can receive from hiring an additional workers.
As we know, this measure will take $550 million from the EI fund. It should have been subjected to serious scrutiny by the government, but, as we have come to expect, the Conservatives ignored analysis by the Parliamentary Budget Officer and never sought detailed analysis of the real job impacts from the Department of Finance. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that the program would create about 800 jobs, maximum, despite its enormous price. As I mentioned, economists such as Mike Moffatt have written that the proposal actually gives employers a greater incentive to fire workers than hire them.
I cannot in good conscience support a bill that would actually give employers a reason to fire employees instead of permanently hire them. That is exactly what Bill would do. Quite literally, it attacks the unemployed and the very vulnerable people that this country has promised to protect.
The provisions in this budget implementation act would allow provinces to impose residency requirements on people without permanent status and would deny refugee claimants and those without permanent status in Canada the ability to obtain the most basic social assistance. After the Conservative cuts to refugee health, which are just beyond the pale, the current government continues to attack some of the most vulnerable people in Canada in the name of saving a few dollars. It is absolutely unconscionable.
Let us not forget that the Conservatives are promising a false balanced budget. To get to their so-called balance, they are cutting provincial health transfers by $36 billion. That smacks of the missing EI funds that we saw not very long ago, and all of this would have a very negative impact on Canadians.
This bill also includes an amendment to the Aeronautics Act that would allow the to prohibit any development of or change to an aerodrome in Canada that he or she feels is not in the public interest. That means that any airport of any size anywhere in Canada would be subject to a veto by the Minister of Transport. I must say that I do not have a great deal of faith in these ministers. I have constituents who are very angry about this and rightly so. This is yet another attempt by the Conservatives to centralize more power in the hands of the and cabinet, and it is the absolute antithesis of democracy.
I am happy to say that there are a few aspects of the bill that have some positive implications.
It is good, for example, to see that the NDP's long-standing proposal to end pay-to-pay billing by telecommunications and broadcasting companies is in the bill. We will have to see if it actually goes anywhere. I have heard many complaints from seniors from across the country about this unfair charge to receive a paper bill, and I am pleased that the change was included. However, the change falls short and fails to live up to the promise the Conservatives made to end unfair gouging by the banks. Like so much the current government does, it is just another half measure.
The bill also includes measures to address a major appeals backlog at the Social Security Tribunal by allowing for more tribunal members. I am pleased to see this. The backlog is absolutely unacceptable. It has hurt a lot of very vulnerable people—I have heard the stories—and I am hopeful that the backlog will be tackled. However, there would not have been a backlog if the government had not decimated the tribunal in the first place.
I wish I had more positive things to say about Bill , but I am afraid I do not.
There are a lot of good things that the government could have done with this bill, things that would have helped Canadians find jobs and make life more affordable. Those are things like a pan-Canadian childcare program that would ensure that families had access to quality childcare at $15 a day. That is the kind of thing that boosts a community, helps families, and sparks the economy.
The government could also develop a strategy to deal with persistent youth unemployment. It could implement a youth hiring and training credit. The Conservatives did not do it, and unfortunately the youth of this country are going to suffer as a result.
They could have phased out the billion-dollar subsidies for the oil and gas sector. Imagine having a billion dollars to invest in the security of our seniors and in job creation for our youth. Imagine that money redirected into health care.
I am very sorry to say that none of those things have been addressed by the government. The Conservatives could have done some good, finally. They chose not to, and I am very sorry about that.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour for me to stand in the House in support of Bill , the economic action plan, 2014, the second budget implementation act.
I represent the great constituency of Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette. It is a natural resources and agricultural constituency, and my remarks will be focusing on those sectors.
First, I would like to talk about Canada's overall economy, which is doing extraordinarily well in a tough and difficult world economy. Our unemployment rate is at 6.5%, and 1.2 million net new jobs have been created since July 2009.
There have been 180 tax cuts. GST has gone from 7% to 6% to 5% under our watch. A family of four, right now, saves $3,400 per year, money in their pockets.
The previous speaker implied that if a dollar did not go to the government, it was not a good dollar. We believe the more dollars that families have in their pockets, the better off they are and the better off we are as a country.
Our budget is on track to be balanced, the first in the G7 to do so. At 39%, our debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest in the G20. By contrast, Japan and Italy have debt-to-GDP ratios over 100%. Our economy is on track to grow, thrive and indeed survive in a very tough world. Bloomberg rates Canada as simply the best place to do business.
My constituency has many small businesses in it. I want to focus for a minute on the small business job credit. This credit would lower small business payroll taxes by 15% for the next two years. It would result in savings of approximately $550 million to small businesses over those years. Again, in my constituency, the small business sector is very significant, and this job credit is very important.
We have frozen EI premiums to provide certainty and flexibility for small businesses. We are cutting red tape. We have reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%. We have increased the small business limit to $500,000. The results are clear.
A typical small business, with $500,000 of taxable income, is seeing savings of approximately $28,600. In total, small businesses have seen their taxes reduced by 34% since 2006.
This bill also ends pay-to-pay billing, giving the Business Development Bank of Canada more flexibility to help small and medium-sized enterprises. Intellectual property has been modernized. More power has been given to the CRTC to encourage compliance in the telecom industry.
I would like to focus on the budget dealing with the environment.
I happen to have the honour of serving on the environment committee. My chair is sitting right in front of me, the member for , and my able chair from the fisheries committee is also here, the member for . Both are vying strongly for chair of the year.
I am making light of that right now, but fisheries and the environment are very near and dear to my heart. When one looks at the government's environmental record, it is clearly second to none. We do not simply just talk about the environment. We actually do concrete, on-the-ground environmental projects and remediation. For example, we are protecting Canada's national parks by providing over $390 million to make improvements to highways, bridges and dams located in our parks.
I happen to have one of Canada's most beautiful national parks, Riding Mountain National Park, right smack dab in the middle of my constituency. My constituents are very much looking forward to the improvements that this fund will bring.
We are also, and this is a project that is near and dear to my heart as well, supporting conservation by investing an additional $15 million in the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program to further support projects that support the conservation of recreational fisheries habitats. The results from this program have simply been overwhelming. When this first round of funding is spent, there will be almost 400 fisheries conservation projects conducted and completed right across the country. We are talking about 2,000 kilometres of shoreline and 2.4 million square metres of stream habitat restored and conserved.
Again, what makes this program so successful, and this is how Conservatives deal with the environment, is that for every dollar that we spend on the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, an additional $2.25 is spent by outside groups as partnerships.
This is a remarkable achievement not by the government alone, but by those hundreds of fisheries conservation groups and anglers groups right across the country from coast to coast to coast. The kinds of projects that have been done, like in the Maritimes, in Ontario, in Quebec and in British Columbia, again, are by local people doing local projects, helping their local environments. That is the way we do environmental conservation, and the results speak for themselves.
We are improving and expanding Canada's snowmobile and recreational trails by investing $10 million to improve trails across the country. We are encouraging the donations of ecologically sensitive land by making tax relief for such donations more generous and flexible. We are supporting family oriented conservation by providing $3 million to allow the Earth Rangers Foundation to expand its ongoing work with young people.
All this builds on our government's strong record of environmental conservation and protection, and our commitment to the national conservation plan.
Canada should be very proud of the national conservation plan. Not only are we creating more parks throughout the country, we have allocated $50 million for wetland conservation, something that is near and dear to my heart; $50 million would go for on-farm conservation initiatives; and $100 million will be spent under the national areas conservation plan, preserving and protecting Canada's fragile land on what we refer to as the “southern working landscape”.
In total, in terms of environmental conservation, real on-the-ground work, the results have been nothing short of remarkable.
Agriculture, which again is very important in my constituency, is the dominant economic activity of my constituents. Family farms are throughout my constituency and across the rural areas of Canada. Family farms are, quite simply, the backbone of country. For generations, our farmers have fed Canadians and the world, while providing jobs and opportunities across Canada. That is why economic action plan 2014 includes a number of measures to support Canada's farmers, as well as new innovations in agriculture, such as expanding tax deferral for livestock that are kept for breeding when sold due to drought or excess moisture, something that is very important. Again, as many in the House will know, Manitoba experienced severe floods in the last couple of years and my cattle producers, in particular, welcome this initiative.
We are supporting innovation and competitiveness in the agriculture sector by modernizing the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, including farmers' privilege, which allows farmers to save, condition and reuse seeds for planting on their own farms.
We will be introducing a new pilot price insurance program to provide cattle and hog producers in western Canada with insurance against unexpected price declines within a production cycle. Again, this will build on our record of supporting Canadian farmers and the agricultural sector since 2006.
Our track record is over $11 billion, including provincial and territorial contributions to farmers through business risk management programs; over $3 billion, including provincial and territorial contributions toward investments in innovation, competitiveness and market development; $500 million to establish the AgriFlexibility fund; $370 million to the hog industry to support debt restructuring to help sustain the industry through some very difficult times; nearly $350 million to help western grain farmers cover the costs of adjusting to operating in an open market; and $50 million to support increased slaughter capacity.
I am very proud to speak in favour of Bill .
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the government budget implementation act at report stage.
Once again, this is another omnibus budget bill that legislates on far-ranging and diverse matters that have very little to do with an actual budget, and as such, many of the measures in this piece of legislation are ones that are not appropriate for review or voting at the House of Commons finance committee. They should be at committees more specific to their actual subjects.
However, despite its diverse content, one thing is true thematically throughout this bill: the Conservative government is imposing a regressive public policy agenda on Canadians. It is ignoring the needs of Canada's struggling middle class. It is ignoring the challenges faced by young Canadians, many of whom are facing significant challenges in the workforce, as we have a very soft jobs situation for young Canadians. As well, in terms of the long-term unemployed, the number of Canadians who are unemployed for over a year has actually doubled from 2008 till now. In fact, the government brings forward a measure in this budget implementation bill that actually creates a perverse incentive for employers to fire workers.
Overall, this is a continued attack on the social fabric of Canadian society, but it is also weakening the economic foundation of the country.
I want to talk about a few specific measures in this legislation and how I think we could do better.
First is the government's so-called small business job credit. The admitted to the finance committee that his department did no economic analysis on this measure, zero, before committing over half a billion dollars of taxpayers' money. At the finance committee we heard from experts who testified that this tax credit has a serious design flaw in that it would create a perverse disincentive for employers to lay off workers or reduce hours of work in order to qualify for the tax savings. We have heard from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that this measure would create only 800 jobs over two years, at a cost of $700,000 per job. That is fiscally irresponsible. It is ludicrous from a public policy perspective. It is highly ineffective and very expensive. It is a failed public policy experiment. There are better ways to spend half a billion tax dollars, and there are better ways and better measures that would do more to strengthen the economy and create jobs cost-effectively.
The Liberal proposal that we have offered would work because it would only benefit employers who actually increased employment. Instead of proceeding with this flawed small business Conservative job credit, the government could adopt the Liberal plan, which would create a two-year EI premium holiday for businesses that actually grow and add to their payroll. This measure would be directly tied to job creation. It would be an incentive for employers to hire. It would be better for employers who want to grow their businesses and better for unemployed workers who want a job. The Liberal plan has been endorsed by the CFIB, the Canadian restaurant association, and the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.
This omnibus bill does a disservice to unemployed Canadians, but it is actually even worse for another group of vulnerable Canadians: refugee claimants. Under Bill , their access to social assistance would be jeopardized. Bill C-43 is just the latest instalment in the government's ongoing attack on refugees.
First the Conservatives tried to removed access to basic health care for refugee claimants, but the courts quashed the Conservative government's policy. They called it “cruel and unusual”. Now the Conservatives are trying to remove what little source of income refugee claimants have.
Refugee claimants have to wait for a work permit from the federal government before they can work legally in Canada. If they do not have a permit, they must rely on social assistance to survive. Now, however, the government would make it possible for provincial governments to impose residency requirements as an obstacle for obtaining social assistance.
None of the provinces requested this authority. In fact, the government has only talked to the Ontario government, and the Ontario government does not support it. It did not ask for it, yet the Conservative government wants to proceed with this measure regardless. If a province does make use of the authority, the burden of feeding and sheltering the refugee claimants would fall upon charitable organizations, which are already stretched too thinly in our communities.
Refugees are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Frankly, it is mean-spirited that the Conservative government has chosen to pick on them, first by trying to eliminate their health care services and now by attacking their ability to support themselves. Let us keep in mind that we are not talking about just the adult claimants but about their children as well. The children of these refugee claimants are being victimized by the Conservative government's mean-spiritedness and short-sightedness. We would reverse this punitive measure against asylum seekers.
It is not only the health of refugees that the government has played fast and loose with; it has put all Canadians at risk with the demotion of the Chief Public Health Officer and the reduction in his ability to promote and effect needed change. At the finance committee, we heard from experts who told us that the Public Health Agency of Canada was created in response to Canada's experience with the SARS epidemic. They told us that the Chief Public Health Officer was deliberately made a deputy head at that time so that he or she would have the necessary power and autonomy to work with the provinces and the ability to speak truth to power and effect change.
The omnibus would undo some of that good work. It would demote the Chief Public Health Officer and reduce his authority and ability to effect change. We think this is an unhealthy move. We also think that it is very much in keeping with the government's ongoing disrespect for, and attack on, the scientific community. There was a time when governments were guided by evidence-based decision-making; this government seems to be guided by decision-based evidence-making.
It is not just the Conservative policies that are wrong-headed, but also the process that leads to these policies. In many areas of Bill , the government has ignored key stakeholders affected by the policies. When the government changed the rules applicable to aerodromes, it gave the minister overly broad powers and failed to consult the aviation groups that are affected. When the government changed the definition of “international shipping” to exempt cable laying, it failed to work with the only Canadian company that does cable laying, thereby jeopardizing its business and jobs. It showed contempt for the public by implementing new and possibly harmful policies without consulting the constituencies and stakeholders that had the most to lose as a result of these policies. That is not just undemocratic by nature; it also leads to bad public policy and to mistakes.
Another aspect of the process that troubles us is the use of an omnibus bill to effect changes to policies that have, as I said earlier, no relationship whatsoever to the budget. What do the bill's measures on aerodromes and the Chief Public Health Officer have to do with the fiscal framework? Nothing. Why should they be reviewed and voted on by the finance committee, instead of by individual committees that have the expertise to deal with them?
I can assure members that a Liberal government would follow a very different course in terms of both process and policy. The public's top priority is economic growth and job creation. This requires more than simply expensive advertising of non-existent or unimproved programs. The Conservatives' proposed measure on income splitting would only benefit 15% of the wealthiest Canadians. We agree with the late Jim Flaherty, who said:
I think income-splitting needs a long, hard analytical look … to see who it affects and to what degree, because I’m not sure that overall, it benefits our society.
A Liberal government will pursue an agenda of jobs, growth, and investments that benefits all of society.
Mr. Speaker, once again it is my honour to speak today to the second budget implementation bill. When a young person from my riding who was doing their master's called me to ask about the budget process, it gave me a chance to review it.
As members know, the budget is presented in the spring. For members of Parliament who do not know, there is no deadline for when a government presents a budget. There is no legislative requirement to bring a budget forward at any particular time. However, we do it by tradition. Every spring the budget comes forward. It is basically a policy document. It is not an actual piece of legislation that we are able to implement without implementation bills. Therefore, a ways and means motion is brought forward for tax purposes and so are a number of bills to allow for the implementation of the policy issues that are highlighted in the budget.
That is what we are doing today. The tradition is to bring forth an implementation bill in the spring after the budget is tabled and before the House rises for the summer, and then another in the fall, which was done on December 1. Although it would be more ideal to do this a bit faster, the reason the budget is broken into two and requires two implementation bills is that not everything can be implemented as quickly as possible. There is a lot of legal legislation that is required to be developed from the budget. That is why our officials are able to do a big chunk of it at the beginning of the year and then the second portion in the second half of the year to have it in place for the upcoming fiscal year, which in this country and for this government commences on April 1.
That is the implementation bill process, which is why we are here today. I want to congratulate the finance committee for its work in breaking that out. As far as know, it is only since we have been in government that implementation bills have been broken down and sent to different committees for review. I happen to be the chair of the justice committee and there are no justice issues in this implementation bill, so we did not have anything sent to our committee, but I had the opportunity to sit on the industry committee while it reviewed some of what is in this implementation bill. I enjoyed the discussion. We had great witnesses come forward to talk about the different measures in the bill that would affect industry. There was an opportunity for all parties to ask questions and hear comments on what we are doing in this bill.
It is still a finance bill and a matter of confidence, so it is important that the finance committee reviews it at the end. Then it comes back to the House for third reading, which is what has happened. However, there is nothing wrong with the process that we have. We have had a lot of complaints about the process, but we as a government have added layers to that process so there would be more opportunity for input from all parts of the House.
I have heard complaints about the fact we cannot change anything, yet we were unable to change anything before. It is a confidence bill. If members want to go to an election over it, they can move an amendment, and if it wins, we would go to an election on it. However, that is not what happened.
: Let's go, let's go.
Mr. Mike Wallace: Mr. Speaker, the third party likes to yell about going to an election. Its members hold their collective breath every time their leader is at a microphone, because they have no idea what will be said. If they want to go to an election right now, holding their breath for 60 days, because that is how long it would take, they can hold their breath.
: He takes our breath away.
Mr. Mike Wallace: Mr. Speaker, I would like to see the Liberals hold their breath. If they like third place in the House, we can go to an election tomorrow because that is where they will be.
However, the purpose of today is this budget implementation bill, which I am personally excited about as a member of Parliament. When I was first elected to the House I had the opportunity to meet with a former member, Gary Lunn, who had brought forward the concept of a missing persons index for the country. Just for the benefit of members, there are missing persons indexes in every province. However, if we had an individual in our family, perhaps a daughter, a mother, or any family member who has been missing longer than the length of time the police allocate for finding a runaway, or a person who is truly missing and he or she has not been located, then we would have to do the legwork of going from province to province to look through their missing persons index to see if we are able to make contact.
Mr. Lunn told me about the bill for a national missing persons index that he tried to get through the House as an opposition member. He then became a cabinet minister as we formed government and asked me to take up the cause of having that implemented, which I did. I was very new and early on the list for a private member's bill. I did a lot of research on the issue, presented it as a private member's bill, and discovered that I needed to learn the process of this place. The process and rules played an important role.
It got through second reading and the government said it needed a royal recommendation because it was going to cost money. Through the research done on my bill, it was evident that it would have cost money, and I did not understand at the time that if a private member's bill is going to cost taxpayers money, it really should be a government bill and cannot be a private member's bill. There was some discussion about what could be done in terms of lowering taxes—
Mr. Speaker, we are now at report stage on this Conservative beast. I am not referring to my colleagues opposite, but to this massive bill that has over 460 clauses and 400 pages that we are now debating.
I am following a rather dull speech by the member for , during which he spent most of his time trying—and failing—to prove the merits of the process. This bill is all over the map and deals with all kinds of subjects. He could have at least focused on one concrete issue affecting Canadians and then defended the merits of that measure. He also could have taken two or three of the measures. It was his choice. I do not think anyone will be surprised to hear that I will be focusing on a very specific part of the bill in order to address the expectations and, especially, the concerns and misgivings of my constituents in .
I will talk about the process that the member for spoke about. The summary of Bill C-43 spans seven or eight pages. As I said, it is all over the map.
The member for spoke about the fact that the parts of the bill had been sent to different committees to be studied, including the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, of which I am a member. That was one of the very few accurate things he said.
This process became a farce, as we were forced to deal with some aspects in the bill that were unfortunately attached with no chance of amendment. This would have been possible if the government had shown some courage and introduced separate bills . However, the members on the government side do not have that courage. Instead, the witnesses, from all backgrounds, all lined up to talk about two or three items making amendments to two or three different acts.
I will focus on the summary and say that at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, we practically wasted our time on division 1 of part 4, which amends the Industrial Design Act and the Patent Act; division 6 of part 4, which amends the Radiocommunication Act and division 9 of part 9, which amends the Investment Canada Act; division 10 of part 4, which amends the Broadcasting Act; division 11 of part 4, which amends the Telecommunications Act; and, finally, division 12 of part 4, which amends the Business Development Bank of Canada Act.
For the benefit of the House, and to do justice to the testimony provided by the experts who came, I must say that a number of our witnesses deplored the fact that we were unable to conduct separate studies, under better conditions, of the bills being amended by this omnibus beast, which is rearing its ugly head yet again.
I would add that over two years ago, I hung a poster on my office wall that provides a profile of the health of the people in the greater Quebec City area. This health profile is divided by different sectors of the city. Obviously, I have before me the part that is in red, red like a danger zone warning, which has to do with the population of .
According to the data from this health profile, that part of the population is living in socio-economic and environmental conditions that lead to a greater prevalence of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
It is striking; the differences can be as much as twofold. There are difference in terms of life expectancy as well, which is six, seven or eight years less for those living in Quebec City's lower town and who are affected by the dust coming from the Port of Québec.
I was leading up to that point so that I can talk once again about the contamination coming from Arrimage Québec, which operates within the boundaries of the Port of Québec. This concerns one section of the beast, although I am not sure if it is the scales, feet or claws. I am talking about division 16 of part 4, which amends the Canada Marine Act.
Contrary to what the member for said, it is ironic that this part, which really should have been studied by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, was referred to the Standing Committee on Finance. The committee concerned was unable to comment on the amendments.
There is no denying it: we gained some insight into the government's intentions and the scope of the amendments. The government is resorting to one of its bad habits, and that is ignoring a legislative review conducted in the light of day. The government prefers the shady path of measures adopted through regulation, in the offices of ministers, which can then take everyone by surprise. We are ultimately presented with a fait accompli.
Clearly, as I pointed out, Conservative government members have no courage. They have been demonstrating this for the past nine years, and now we have further proof.
One of the witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance, the president of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, Ms. Zatylny, talked about the amendments to section 64, among others. Those amendments will allow the government to use the regulatory process in order to potentially make provincial laws and regulations apply to port activities in certain parts of the country. This could also be done in some other specific circumstances. Some witnesses confirmed that it could be linked to some liquefied natural gas terminal projects on the west coast, in British Columbia. The government is making legislative changes that will have an impact across Canada, in order to propose a solution or a possible solution to a problem that is actually quite local. Ms. Zatylny stated:
[The amendments will help...] by giving the federal government the ability to enact regulations that will provide additional safety and environmental protection measures.
This has yet to be seen, for this issue is very important, and despite her claims, Ms. Zatylny's comments were in part contradicted by Joyce Henry, a director general at Transport Canada. Indeed, Ms. Henry said that, in any case, federal laws apply as they are at present, and there are no changes in that regard. She hopes to incorporate provincial laws and regulations in the form of regulations under the Canada Marine Act. That is unfortunate.
I talked about the measures that have nothing to do with the budget. During testimony at the Standing Committee on Finance, Ms. Zatylny also shared her concerns regarding financial support for ports to help their development and upgrade their facilities, and this bill does absolutely nothing to address those concerns.
It really is unfortunate, because the Building Canada program will not provide enough funding to meet the serious investment challenges facing Canada's 18 port authorities.
Mr. Speaker, with economic action 2014, our government continues to demonstrate the importance of a strong public financial system for creating jobs, growth, and opportunities for all Canadians. We are on track to balance the budget without raising taxes. In fact, we have reduced taxes, and we have done it while protecting the programs and services Canadians count on.
Economic action plan 2014 projects that the deficit for this fiscal year will decline to $2.9 billion, and a surplus of $6.4 billion is expected next year, as promised. Our plan before the House, through Bill , would build on our record of achievement since 2006, with positive measures to grow the economy, support employment, and support Canadians.
Budget 2014 has broad components that would benefit every segment of our society, but the two I will touch on are Canadian seniors and Canadian farmers. Both of those are major demographics in my riding in southern Alberta. I will start by talking about our support for seniors.
Our Conservative government recognizes that Canada's seniors helped build our country and make it great. That is why economic action plan 2014 would introduce new measures to improve the quality of life for Canada's seniors, including enhancing the new horizons for seniors program by increasing funding by an additional $5 million a year. Seniors organizations within my riding have reaped the benefits of this program that ensures access to lifelong learning and upgrades to facilities used by seniors.
We would also launch the Canadian employers for caregivers action plan to work with employers so that caregivers could maximize their participation in the workforce while also providing care for their loved ones.
We would expand the targeted initiative for older workers by investing $75 million to help unemployed older workers put their talents and experience back to work. We would protect seniors using financial services by requiring enhanced disclosure by banks of the costs and benefits of using power of attorney and joint accounts and would require more staff training related to services used by seniors. This would build on our government's strong record of supporting Canadian seniors.
Since 2006, about $2.8 billion in annual tax relief has been provided to seniors and pensioners, including the introduction of pension income splitting. Seniors have told me that it has saved them taxes every year. They are very appreciative of this tax break. It helps them meet their day-to-day expenses and helps them overcome some of the barriers from fixed incomes. We hear that reported in our office almost every day.
It is interesting to note that in 2006, when we introduced income splitting for seniors, there was not a cry that it only applied to seniors. Most people today recognize that our income splitting for families is just another measure, not a measure intended to cover all bases.
We would also increase the age credit amount by $2,000. We would double the pension income credit to $2,000 and would increase the amount that guaranteed income supplemented seniors could earn through employment, without any reduction in their GIS benefits, from $500 to $3,500. A single pensioner, for example, earning $3,500, would now be able to keep up to an additional $1,500 in annual GIS benefits.
We would increase the age limit for RRSP to RRIF conversions to 71 from 69.
I will stop here and continue after question period.