Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill . It was interesting to hear the Conservative House leader talk about the planned deficit reduction and how the Conservatives were ahead by $7 billion. A good question that would be welcomed at some point for the government to answer is exactly how much of that deficit reduction was as a result of money that did not flow to approved programs and services. We have certainly heard from communities that money they expected to see or proposals they had submitted had not been funded, despite the government announcements. Therefore, it would be good for the House to know that.
This bill is the second act to implement budget 2013. It is another budget implementation bill that is about 300 pages. This legislation amends or repeals 70 pieces of legislation. Some of what it tackles is: it strips health and safety officers of their powers and puts nearly all of these powers in the hands of the minister; it significantly weakens the ability of employees to refuse to work in unsafe conditions; it moves to eliminate binding arbitration as a method to resolve disputes in the public service; and it guts Canada's most venerable scientific research institution, the National Research Council.
I want to thank our House leader, the member for , for raising the fact that once again the government has limited debate. This is the fourth attempt by the Conservatives to evade scrutiny by parliamentarians and the public. In the past we had Bill , Bill and Bill . Canadians deserve an opportunity to hear a detailed, thorough, in-depth study of such wide-ranging pieces of legislation, yet we have the limiting of the ability of the House to scrutinize the legislation. Why should we care about that?
In the past we saw the government bring forward legislation that had errors in it. Because of the complexity of the legislation and the length of time we had to review it, the government had to bring forward subsequent legislation to correct that.
This legislation is fixing something that happened due to a technical mistake in Bill , which would have doubled the taxation level of credit unions and caisse populaires. In September, tax experts discovered that the changes made in Bill C-60 would result in Quebec taxpayers being overburdened on dividends compared to taxpayers in other provinces.
Because I only have 10 minutes, I will focus on three particular aspects of the legislation.
First, the legislation would reduce the number of permanent members on the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.
Second, it would fix the mistakes with respect to the tax hike on credit unions.
Third, it would push ahead the Conservative plan on the $350 million tax hike on labour sponsored venture capital funds.
With respect to veterans, Bill would reduce the number of permanent members on the Veterans Review and Appeal Board from 28 to 25. What is disappointing is that it was an opportunity for the Conservatives to bring forward separate legislation that looked to improve the Conservative record on veterans affairs. We know the NDP has not always been happy with the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, but simply changing numbers will not improve the situation.
In my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, the veterans office has closed and veterans are now forced to go further afield in order to get the services they require.
Just so Canadians understand a bit about the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, of the 76,446 Canadian Forces' clients of Veterans Affairs Canada, 1,400 are totally and permanently disabled and 406 of them will not receive a pension or allowance from the Canadian Forces.
The plan proposed by the ombudsman is based on an actuarial analysis to accurately determine for the first time how current benefits neglect certain veterans and will continue to neglect them unless changes are made quickly. Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent has said that more than 400 of the most severely disabled veterans in Canada are not eligible for the Canadian Forces pension plan, while hundreds of other permanently disabled veterans could suffer the same fate and risk spending their retirement years at a lower standard of living than they had before the age of 65 due to sufficient income.
Certainly in my riding of we hear regularly from veterans and their families about their difficulties in accessing services, that they cannot get access to some services that they expected and that the money that is available simply does not respect and honour the service to our country that many veterans made.
I have spoken in the House previously about my father being a long-serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces and I am proud to say that I grew up on army bases from coast to coast.
I have a letter from a former member of the RCMP that talks about the assault on health care benefits for members of the armed forces and the RCMP. I will read a brief note from that because I think this is part of what the Veterans Appeal Board hears about the discrepancy and the difficulties in funding and whether a member is entitled to funding. The member said:
I have written...expressing my concern and profound disappointment with the fact that the government has arbitrarily decided to claw back so many necessary treatments after we risked our health and indeed our lives...I was assured that my health and the welfare of my family would be looked after. That sacred trust has been unabashedly broken.
While that in and of itself is repugnant, my greater fear is that once the members begin to see that their efforts in ensuring the safety of Canadians may actually result in huge costs to them, they will necessarily become more hesitant to engage in actions that risk their health and well being. This policy is short-sighted, unfair and contrary to Canadian values.
When we ask members of the armed forces or members of the RCMP to risk life and limb, we need to respect that when they come back to Canada or when they retire from the forces, they are treated in a fair and respectful manner. It would be incumbent upon the government to actually work with veterans and their families to ensure the services provided are adequate.
The second piece I will touch on is fixing the mistake on the credit unions' tax hike.
The bill introduces changes to fix a legislative error the Conservatives made by rushing the last omnibus budget bill through. Their mistake hiked taxes on credit unions to 28%, instead of the intended 15%.
I will read from the Credit Union Central of Manitoba remarks to a House of Commons standing committee on Bill . The reason I quote from that previous presentation is because it highlights the importance of credit unions in our communities. In my riding of we have a couple of different credit unions and they are very important in all of our communities, but in particular, in some of our smaller communities. The Credit Union Central of Manitoba said:
Many credit union branches are in communities that other financial institutions vacated because they were not deemed profitable enough. Our business model, paired with fair tax policy like the additional deduction, has made it both possible and attractive for credit unions to grow in places where our competitors have retreated.
It goes on to say that the removal in Bill of the additional deductions of credit unions would simply compound the impact of regulatory demands by requiring credit unions to pay a higher portion of their net income in federal tax and further reduce their ability to build capital, invest in new technology and stay competitive.
This was a brief that was presented when Bill was in the House for a reading and because we had limited time to debate that, there was not enough attention paid to that and other presentations on the impact of Bill C-60, so now we are amending that mistake.
It concludes its presentation by saying:
I would argue that this tax deduction has proven to be good public policy. If it were to remain in place it would continue to be good public policy because it will help credit unions provide effective competition in the financial services sector and assist with the federal government's stated desire to increase competition in this sector. It would also represent good public policy by helping maintain strong financial services in as many communities as possible and contribute to the sustainability of the many communities in rural Canada where credit unions are the only financial institution.
On the venture capital program, this has been a very successful program in British Columbia. There was an evaluation of the venture capital program and it indicated that not only did it contribute to job creation, but it also contributed to the fact that it helped grow companies which then went on to expand and become more successful companies.
Removing the supports for that program is unfortunate, particularly when the government continues to talk about the importance of job creation and supporting small business. Therefore, we would like to see the government reverse its decision on that.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for .
I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill regarding the implementation of budget 2013. Budget 2013 is full of good news and helpful measures for my community of Mississauga and, indeed, all Canadians.
I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the measures that are of great significance to my community, but before I do so, I believe it is important to note what is not in budget 2013. What is clearly missing from budget 2013 is new taxes. That is right; unlike Liberal budgets of the past and the dreams of the NDP, our government did not increase the tax burden on hard-working Canadians. In fact, our government has reduced the tax burden on working Canadians and job creators more than 150 times, reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in more than 50 years.
Our government is delivering more than $60 billion in tax relief to job-creating businesses. The federal general corporate income tax rate was reduced from 21% to 15% and the corporate surtax that represented an additional 1.12% was eliminated for all corporations. The small business tax rate, which is so important to the thousands of small business owners and their employees in Mississauga, was reduced from 12% to 11% and the amount of income eligible for this lower rate was increased to $500,000.
In fact, our strong record of tax relief has meant annual savings for a typical family of four of over $3,200. We have achieved this by cutting the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%; increasing the amount that Canadians can earn without paying tax; introducing pension income splitting for seniors; reducing the GST from 7% to 5% and putting an estimated $1,000 back into the pockets of an average family; introducing and enhancing the working income tax benefit; introducing the tax-free savings account, which is the most important personal savings vehicle since the RRSP; and increasing the age credit and the pension income credit. Overall, we have removed over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls.
As a lawyer engaged in advising businesses, I unfortunately witnessed thousands of jobs leave Canada during the 1990s and early 2000s due to very high personal and business tax rates compared to those in most other industrialized nations. For years, businesses chose to create jobs elsewhere and individual entrepreneurs and people with high technology skills chose to live in the United States because the unreasonably high tax rates in Canada made it difficult for them to operate a viable business.
Today, the combined federal and provincial corporate tax rates in Canada compare very favourably with those in jurisdictions such as the states of New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and California, places that we compete with every day for the creation of jobs. This is particularly the reason why our national unemployment rate is below that of the United States for the first time in 30 years and our job-creation record is the best in the G7. With our enviable fiscal situation, having the lowest net debt to GDP ratio in the G7, we are in a very good position to keep our taxes at low and reasonable levels while our counterparts in the United States and Europe will be forced to raise their taxes to reduce their deficits and debts.
When I first ran for office, people in my community said they did not believe that any politician would actually lower taxes. Our government, led by the and the , did exactly that, and they began reducing taxes immediately upon forming government in 2006. The Mississauga Board of Trade has told me it believes that our government's tax policies have helped its members' businesses survive the recession, recover, expand and hire new employees. These are some of the most important reasons that our economy is doing much better than our competitors in the United States and Europe and that Forbes magazine has declared that Canada is the best place in the world in which to do business. I am confident that our government's tax policies will help to ensure a bright economic future for all Canadians.
In addition to the good news about taxes, the indicated in his budget speech that Canada remains on track to balance the budget in 2015-16. This is very good news indeed. In addition to holding the line on government growth, budget 2013 includes more savings in government spending, totalling $2 billion by 2015-16 through numerous common sense improvements, including reducing wasteful departmental spending, reducing travel costs through the use of technology, continuing to control public service compensation and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit a select few.
As I mentioned earlier, Canada is leading the G7 in net debt to GDP ratio, and at the recent G20 conference in Russia, the showed real international leadership in committing to further reduce Canada's net debt to GDP ratio to 25% and encouraged other G20 nations to follow Canada's lead and make the same government spending reductions necessary to reduce their debt ratios as well.
In today's very competitive global marketplace, it is important that our manufacturers continually upgrade their productive machinery and equipment to make use of the most efficient and up-to-date technology. Utilizing the latest processes improves the quality and marketability of their products, reduces their costs of production and makes them more energy efficient.
Our government understands these realities of modern business. That is why I was very pleased to see that in budget 2013, our government is providing an additional $1.4 billion in tax relief to job creators through a two-year extension of the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for new machinery and equipment.
This is very good news, especially in light of the 's announcement of the comprehensive economic and trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. Our manufacturers now have very good reason to want to invest in new plants and machinery as they ramp up to take full advantage of the unprecedented access to the more than 500 million European consumers that the CETA agreement will provide to Canadian producers.
The extension of the accelerated capital cost allowance could not have come at a better time. Our government understands that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. More Canadians are employed in small businesses of less than 10 employees than in any other size of business.
Many of my neighbours in Mississauga are new Canadians. They have come to Canada from every nation in the world with skills, drive and ambition, strong work ethics and a determination to succeed. However, most new Canadians do not find work in the ranks of large industrial corporations. More often than not, they start their own small businesses and create work for other Canadians.
That is why I am happy to note that budget 2013 will extend and expand the temporary hiring credit for small businesses. An estimated 560,000 employers will benefit from this measure, and it is expected to save small businesses about $225 million in 2013.
I have been told by many small business owners that this has helped them to expand, and with the signing of the CETA agreement, these entrepreneurs will be able to meet the new opportunities created by opening European markets to our goods and services.
Investments in public infrastructure create jobs, drive economic growth and provide a high quality of life for families in Mississauga and every community across Canada. Mississauga and Peel region have benefited greatly from investments made by our government since 2006 in transit, roads, water treatment, a new celebration square, improvements to community centres, libraries and pools, a new instructional centre for University of Toronto Mississauga and a new Mississauga campus of Sheridan College, among dozens of other projects.
Mississauga and other municipalities have been asking for long-term predictable infrastructure funding. Budget 2013 delivers this certainty for the next 10 years by providing more than $53 billion in predictable infrastructure funding.
This represents the largest and longest federal investment in job-creating infrastructure in Canadian history, including a community improvement fund of $32.2 billion through gas tax fund payments and the GST rebate for municipalities to support community infrastructure projects that will improve the quality of life of Canadian families; a new building Canada fund of $14 billion to support major economic infrastructure projects; a renewed P3 Canada fund of $1.25 billion to build infrastructure projects faster through public private partnerships; and over $10 billion in investments in federal public infrastructure.
Canadians know that our Conservative government believes in keeping families strong. Budget 2013 contains several key measures to help Canadian families, including enhancing the adoption expense tax credit to better recognize the unique costs associated with adopting a child, and supporting palliative care services.
Canadian businesses succeed globally and are well poised to take advantage of the new opportunities created by unfettered access to the European market by continually innovating and commercializing new products and technologies. Our government is supporting them by improving support for Canada's aerospace industry by investing almost $1 billion in the strategic aerospace and defence initiative, which will benefit important Mississauga employers such as Pratt and Whitney Canada and Honeywell.
All of these measures and more will ensure the future economic prosperity and security and quality of life for the people of Mississauga and all Canadians. For these reasons, I am pleased to support Bill and encourage all hon. members to do likewise.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to add my comments to today's debate on Bill , a piece of legislation that would create jobs and economic growth in communities across our country, including my riding of Sault Ste. Marie. Indeed, today's legislation is part of our government's plan to create jobs and economic growth and to secure Canada's long-term prosperity for years to come.
As a matter of fact, since 2006, our government has been taking concrete action to ensure that Canada's economy remains strong. Unlike the high-tax New Democrats and Liberals, our Conservative government believes in keeping taxes low and leaving more money where it belongs: in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families and job-creating businesses. That is why since 2006 we have cut taxes over 160 times, reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years. Overall, our strong record of tax relief has helped remove over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls. That is not all. It has also meant savings for a typical Canadian family in 2013 totalling over $3,200.
How did we accomplish this? The answer is simple. We have cut taxes in every way government collects them: personal taxes, consumption taxes, business taxes, excise taxes, and more. This includes cutting the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%; increasing the amount Canadians can earn without paying tax; introducing pension income splitting for seniors; reducing the GST from 7% to 5%, putting an estimated $1,000 back in the pockets of an average family; introducing the tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since RRSPs; reducing the small-business tax rate from 12% to 11%; eliminating consumer tariffs on babies' clothes, sporting goods and exercise equipment. The list goes on.
It is measures such as these, which leave more money in the pockets of Canadians, that have helped Canada to emerge from the recession in one of the strongest positions among the developed world. In fact, since the depth of the recession, over one million net new jobs have been created, with most in high-wage industries. This is by far the strongest job creation record in the entire G7. Indeed, Canada's unemployment rate is at its lowest level since December 2008 and remains below that of the U.S., a phenomenon that has not been seen in nearly three decades. Contrary to what the opposition leaders may believe, Canada is on strong economic footing.
However, we are not the only ones who think so. Let us see what others are saying. Moody's report on Canada for 2013 states that thanks to its diversity and solid fundamentals, Canada's economy has weathered the post-global financial crisis period better than most of its peers.
According to Fitch Ratings:
Canada has a good track record of prudent fiscal management. Its fiscal credibility was boosted by the timely withdrawal of the fiscal stimulus implemented during the global financial crisis and the roadmap provided...to achieve a balanced federal government fiscal position by 2015/16. ...the consolidation path is realistic.
With reviews like these, it is no wonder Canada is one of the few countries in the world to boast a AAA credit rating from the three major credit rating agencies.
Let us talk a bit about support for job creators. Despite Canada's economic success, we cannot become complacent, and our government understands that. We have repeatedly said that Canada's economy is not immune to economic challenges beyond our borders. We have been and will continue to be impacted by the ongoing turbulence in the U.S. and Europe, among our most important trading partners. That is why the Canada–EU trade agreement is so significant. It will bring an additional $12 billion annually to the Canadian economy, creating 80,000 new jobs and opening up a market of 500 million consumers and a $17-trillion economy.
That is also why economic action plan 2013 focuses on positive initiatives to support job creation and economic growth while returning to balanced budgets, ensuring Canada's economic advantage remains strong today and into the future.
Today's legislation contains a number of measures to support job creation and economic growth. This includes extending and expanding the job hiring credit for small business, which would benefit an estimated 560,000 employers and provide an estimated $225 million in tax relief in 2013. Bill would also increase and index the lifetime capital gains exemption. This positive measure would increase the rewards of investing in small business by making it easier for owners to transfer their family business to the next generation of Canadians. Today's legislation would also expand the accelerated capital cost allowance to further encourage investments in clean energy generation.
That is not all. Our government is continuing to build on our sound economic position by freezing EI premium rates for the next three years. This action alone would leave $660 million in the pockets of job creators and workers in 2014 alone.
Despite what the opposition may have us believe, this tax relief would help support Canada's continued economic recovery and sustained, business-led, long-term growth. However, do not take my word for it. Let us hear what others have to say. Diane J. Brisebois, president and CEO of the Retail Council of Canada agrees. She says, “This freeze on premiums will mean more money for employers to invest in other important areas such as employment, training and infrastructure.”
Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the “announcement of an EI rate freeze is fantastic news for Canada’s entrepreneurs. This move will keep hundreds of millions of dollars in the pockets of employers and employees which can only be a positive for the Canadian economy.”
There is more. Joyce Reynolds, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association's executive-vice president of government affairs notes:
Payroll costs have a significant impact on overall labour costs. They are a barrier to hiring, particularly for inexperienced workers.... We are pleased the government is demonstrating commitment to youth...by holding the line on these profit-insensitive costs.
Unlike the opposition, our government understands that tax relief is important to Canadian families. I encourage the members opposite to vote in favour of this important measure, which would leave more money in the hands of Canadians.
Canada is leading the world in job creation, with more than one million net new jobs created since the depth of the recession. However, there is work yet to be done. That is why implementing Canada's economic action plan is so important. It is for that reason that I urge all members of the House, and especially the members opposite, to support these job creating measures.
Although, who are we kidding, we all know the opposition will be voting against these measures as they have time and time again. The only thing the NDP seems to support are risky spending schemes and forcing a $20 billion carbon tax on Canadian consumers and job creators. That is more than I can say for the Liberals, who unbelievably do not even have a plan for the economy. They have announced the plan will be released during election mode in 2015. That is unheard of.
It is clear, and Canadians know this, that when it comes to the economy, our Conservative government continues to be the right choice.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in the House to speak to the debate that is ongoing here and to talk about my riding and the economy in that part of our country.
First of all, I want to thank the people of Labrador for electing me as their member of Parliament and for allowing me the great privilege of representing them in the House of Commons of Canada. I also want to acknowledge and thank my colleagues within the Liberal Party and our leader of the Liberal Party for having such a dynamic vision for Canada, for being part of a team that is out there promoting the Liberal values and morals that are the foundation of our country.
I live in a very beautiful and vast region of this country. Even to this day, very few people know of its beauty and the value of its place in our country. It is known as “the land God gave to Cain”, which was coined by an explorer, Jacques Cartier, in 1534. It is a land known for its rugged beauty and distinct culture and as the resource energy house of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a vast landscape that has spiritual beliefs steeped very deep within its roots, and these roots are far-reaching and wide.
Let me give that statement a bit of context as I tell members about Labrador. Labrador's land mass is roughly 300,000 square kilometres. To look at it another way, we could fit the entire provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the island of Newfoundland within Labrador's borders. This is a good reason so many people call Labrador “the big land”. I do not have to tell my colleagues what it is like trying to travel through my riding when I have to cover that kind of distance over so many different communities, some that are completely isolated, others that are connected by road.
For thousands of years, the indigenous people, including the Innu and the Inuit, harvested the land and the sea for the sustenance and longevity of their communities without much involvement or interference from anyone, including governments. However, as time passed, and through the late 1700s and early 1800s, trading with European companies increased. We have heard a lot of talk about trade with Europe in recent days.
Even back in the 1800s, trading with European companies was starting to increase. More and more, the English and the French began to settle in Labrador, as well as missionaries, including the Church of England, the Methodists, the Moravians, and the Roman Catholics. All of those faiths shared a belief with the indigenous people. To this day, the Moravian and the Roman Catholic churches remain an important piece of modern-day aboriginal culture in many parts of my riding.
Labrador's history is indeed rich and indeed has been very challenging over the years. Labrador was under Quebec jurisdiction between 1774 and 1809, when it was returned to Newfoundland. Quebec disputed the decision until 1927, which is actually just less 100 years ago. It was the British Privy Council at that time that defined the western boundary of Labrador and deemed Labrador to be under the jurisdiction of Newfoundland. There was no vote. There was no referendum. In fact, at no time in our history did anyone ever ask the people of Labrador what they wanted.
That is how the evolution of the great riding I represent came to be today. The political drama of who was to own Labrador did not end there, however. In 1932, the then bankrupt Dominion of Newfoundland was embroiled in a political vote and scandal that saw the resignation of its prime minister, Sir Richard Squires, and the attempted sale of Labrador back to Canada. The deal to sell the big land fell through, and once again, without any input from Labradorians, Labrador was given back to Newfoundland.
As part of the youngest province in our great country, our history's future began to speed up with the onset of World War II. The Canadian Forces base in Goose Bay, now forever known as 5 Wing Goose Bay, was built in 1941. It was used by the United States and Canada during the war that saw thousands of military personnel change the landscape and identity of Labrador forever.
Central Labrador is now the hub of that region. It is where south meets north and west connects east. Labrador is home to roughly 30,000 people, with approximately two-thirds of them living in western and central Labrador. Western Labrador is where some of the largest and richest iron ore deposits in our country are. In fact, it has some of the largest deposits of iron ore in North America.
The natural resources available in Labrador have caught the world by storm. At no other time in history has there been so much international attention and interest in the region, from iron ore to nickel to hydro-electric power, not to mention the natural gas and oil that is being discovered off the Labrador coast. All of this development and exploration has had many effects on Labrador and on Labradorians, some of them positive and some of them negative.
What this progression has done for our province on the world stage is have a direct and undeniable effect not only in world markets but on the future of our aboriginal people.
Labrador is home to three distinct aboriginal cultures. This adds to the colourful tapestry of our history and our lineage. As I alluded to earlier, for thousands of years, the Inuit and Innu travelled throughout Labrador, hunting and fishing and later trading with Europe.
Today the indigenous people have made many positive strides in self-governance and preservation and promotion of their own culture. In 2005, the Labrador Inuit Association, the political advocacy group that represents the Inuit in Labrador transitioned to self-government with the formation of the Nunatsiavut government.
Now under the leadership of their president, Sarah Leo, the Nunatsiavut government has direct control over Labrador Inuit lands and has regional governance over five communities in northern Labrador. In fact, the impact of the Inuit in Labrador is far-reaching. In southern Labrador, there is evidence of Inuit settlements and documentation of English and French traders working with and engaging in social activities with the Inuit people.
Today, the NunatuKavut community council, which is led by former member of Parliament, Todd Russell, represents some 6,000 southern Labrador Inuit and continues to press the provincial and federal governments for their own land claims, self-government, and recognition. I will push for them, as well, under Canada's aboriginal self-governance model, because they deserve to be represented as part of the aboriginal Inuit population of Labrador.
We reference Canada as a multicultural country. Labrador being one of the most unique regions of this nation could be considered a multicultural body in its own right. Like the Inuit and Innu of Labrador, we have a deep spiritual and strong practical connection to the land and to the sea. The Innu first nations people, numbering over 2,200, are formally represented by the Innu Nation. They live mainly in two communities in Labrador: Sheshatshiu in central Labrador and Natuashish in the north coast of Labrador.
Since the formation of the Innu Nation, the Innu people have benefited greatly from many natural resource developments in the region, and like the NunatuKavut, the Innu Nation has land claim agreements and impact benefit agreements with both the provincial and federal governments.
The aboriginal peoples, along with the white settlers, who date back nearly 400 years in that area, and the Basque whalers who came from Spain over 1,500 years ago, are the people who chose Labrador as their home. They have all gifted us with their knowledge and colourful history and have shown Labrador respect, demanding only the best from those who govern and real attention from those who choose to be the decision-makers in their land.
This last year, Red Bay, which was the home of the early Basque settlers who came from the old country, was designated a world UNESCO district. I want to congratulate all those involved in making this happen for the community of Red Bay. It puts Labrador on the map of the world so that many people may learn who we really are, not just as Labradorians and Newfoundlanders but as Canadians.
Labrador is also home to Torngat Mountains National Park, which lies in the sacred lands of the Inuit and borders Ungava Bay in the north. I have had the opportunity to hike and camp in the Torngat Mountains. I have witnessed the melting of the glaciers and have seen first-hand the impact of modern-day industry on our environment. Those who defy that such things are happening are living in a land that will continue to suffer because of their attitude.
In my treks through the Torngat Mountains, I have had the opportunity to learn the trails of the early Inuit who crossed over from Labrador to Quebec, and yes, I have been to the highest peak in Labrador. The view from there is breathtaking, as it is from all across our country.
Today we are focused on two other famous Canadian landmarks that lie in the heart of my riding of Labrador: the Mealy Mountain national park, which is currently in the planning and implementation phases at Parks Canada; and Battle Harbour, the 17th century fishing village that represents our fishing industry and trade with Portugal, Spain, and France as well as the link for the Newfoundland floater fishery for more than 200 years.
Battle Harbour is currently designated a national historic site, yet it is run by a non-profit board that finds it difficult to continue without core funding. This historic piece of Canada is at risk without the financial support and recognition of Heritage Canada and the Canadian government.
We are a country that takes pride in who we are and in our history. Therefore, we should always make way to ensure that it is preserved and continues to tell the story of a great nation.
As rural Canadians and distinct aboriginal cultures, our challenges as a society are compounded. We have some of the largest developments and exports of minerals, such as iron ore, nickel, and copper, and the largest energy development project in history, on the Churchill River, with another development ongoing that will add 850 megawatts of clean energy to Canada's energy warehouse. We have a fishery with export and harvesting partnerships that we share with the Arctic and other foreign jurisdictions.
We have a tiny population of 30,000 people over 300,000 square miles, but we employ at least 3,000 or more people, other Canadians who fly in and out of Labrador, on a daily basis. We are very proud of our industrial record and of what we are able to contribute to this country from such a small group of people in a corner of rural Canada.
We are Labrador's resources. We are the second largest contributor to the GDP of Newfoundland and Labrador, next to oil and gas, but we lag far behind the rest of the province and country in infrastructure. I ask you why. How could a land of such abundance be lacking in so many ways?
In the 21st century, Labrador is only now being connected by highway. While the northern portion is not yet built and the southern portion is bad, gravel-top road, the Canadian government today that governs this country has not seen its way to designate the Trans-Labrador Highway as part of our Trans-Canada Highway system. This in itself shows the real disregard for our people who live in a rural and northern society of our country.
We are one of the most industrialized regions, contributing millions in tax dollars to the country. We have the largest exports of iron ore of anywhere in North America, yet we do not have cellphone coverage in most of our communities. We do not have broadband or even Internet access. Companies say that this is an investment for governments, for there is no return for them as a private company to build the infrastructure in these northern areas.
The government opposite talks about a break on roaming fees, which is all good, but what about those who have no place to roam in the digital age? What about all of those communities in the rural and northern areas that cannot connect? As Canadians, if we cannot connect, we cannot be full players in the 21st century in this country.
Earlier in my speech, I talked about 5 Wing Goose Bay, the Canadian military base in Labrador whose assets and geographic position make it the primary location for search and rescue and training for the north, including the Arctic regions. This base, 5 Wing Goose Bay, is a valuable Canadian asset that, if mandated appropriately, could be one of the major response bases for training the military and our Canadian Rangers and for search and rescue operations. It could be the staging area to launch our jurisdictional claims to sovereignty in the Arctic. I am asking the government opposite to stop using this military base as election bait and start using it to create real opportunities for the Canadians in this country.
The government opposite has been clouding 5 Wing Goose Bay with false promises, promising the moon but delivering darkness. Show people real respect, I say to the government opposite. Follow through on commitments. Start investing and measuring up to the expectations that it has left with people. They are people who work hard on the ground in the country every day.
I will not relent on this issue because I know the potential is there. If only the naysayers within government would remove their blinders and see the real opportunity that comes with a gift such as 5 Wing Goose Bay.
I could go on extensively on many of these issues. As the House knows, I have spent my life in Labrador. I am the proud daughter of a fisherman and of a mother who crafts from seal skin in a very elegant way. I am the granddaughter of an Inuit woman, and I know the significance of being in a culture that is dependent on the land and the sea for survival. I represent people who are strong supporters of this country and who have contributed so much in building the country we know today. We are northerners. We are rural people. We deserve the same benefits in this country as all other people.
I will work hard to ensure that the economy of these regions is recognized by the government opposite and ensure that these people get the investments they so deserve.
Mr. Speaker, I had a whole speech planned, and then when I was looking through this document, Dominion Coal Blocks jumped out at me on page 209.
To a lot of people here, the Dominion Coal Blocks probably do not mean a lot, but they are located in my area. I want to give a little history about them and discuss the importance of what is going to happen with the federal government and industry with regard to moving forward on things not only in my area but across Canada.
In 1905 the Dominion Coal Blocks, which are commonly referred to in my area as parcels 73 and 82, were part of lands that were received from the federal government in exchange for the subsidy to use for the construction of the Crowsnest railway, which is commonly referred to now as the Crow rate. The coal blocks were created because of the coal that was found in the Elk Valley back in 1898. As a result of that, this land has sat for the last 107 years more or less on its own, with a bit of forestry and a bit of top burden being used over the years.
The importance of these lands to Canada, British Columbia, and the Elk Valley became evident several years ago, in 2011, the year I was elected to Parliament. The importance of coal with respect to Canada's exports was highly regarded.
The federal government has decided to divest itself of the Dominion Coal Blocks. This is huge for Canada and for the export of metallurgical coal. I want to briefly explain why it is so important.
There are very few places in the world where one can find metallurgical coal, or steel-making coal, as it is referred to. One of the main places that it can be found in the world is in the very southeast corner of British Columbia, in a place called the Elk Valley.
We produce about 1% of the national GDP each year from the export of metallurgical coal, and as a result of that the Dominion Coal Blocks become very important.
The decision to consider selling a portion of the Dominion Coal Blocks is consistent with the government's commitment to effectively use public resources. Private sector ownership of the Dominion Coal Blocks could allow the property to reach its full economic potential and maximize its contribution to growth, jobs, and new investments in British Columbia and across Canada while generating revenues for taxpayers.
It is really important to understand that by selling the coal blocks, not only would we obtain the opportunity to give back to the taxpayers of Canada, but more importantly, we would get to do the three things that we promised we would do as a government: create jobs, grow the economy, and ensure that Canada's prosperity continues to move forward. The Dominion Coal Blocks would do just that.
At this point in time it has not been decided what the final sale price would be. This is very valuable land, with some of the richest metallurgical coal deposits in the world, and as a result of that, it would benefit all Canadians.
Proposals received from foreign buyers will be assessed through a standard bid evaluation process. This would ensure consistency with the new guidelines for state-owned enterprises under the Investment Canada Act announced in December 2012.
That again is very important, because we understand that investment in Canada has to be of a global nature. Most of the coal that we dig out of the ground in the southeast corner of British Columbia is exported to foreign countries to ensure that steel-making companies around the world can continue to provide their products for an ever-expanding opportunity worldwide.
The Dominion Coal Blocks are believed to contain globally significant deposits of metallurgical coal. There is an important distinction between the market for thermal coal and metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel. A lot of people get the two confused. Although thermal coal is of great importance. it is used for heating. Metallurgical coal is used for making steel.
It is important that the Dominion Coal Blocks be released by the federal government.
Coal remains a key input for the manufacture of high-quality steel. As a result, long-term price expectations for metallurgical coal remain relatively strong despite recent price volatility. It is very important to understand that coal prices, especially for metallurgical coal, have fluctuated since 2008. It used to be at $40 a tonne; it is now at $150 a tonne, and two years ago it hit a peak of $320 a tonne.
I would like say that I am splitting my time with the member for .
The great member for Kitchener Centre.
Mr. David Wilks: The great member for . I forgot to mention that.
Part of the Dominion Coal Blocks are of huge value, and they are centred in a great area. Right now, as we speak, Teck Resources has five coal mine operations in the Elk Valley. I would like to provide an understanding of what that means to Canada from the perspective of economics and job creation.
In the Elk Valley, a small community of 15,000 people, about 5,000 people are employed in the coal mines, all open pit. From that, there is a contract with CP Rail, the single largest contract with CP Rail in Canada. Thirty per cent of its gross comes from the Elk Valley. There are 15 dedicated coal trains that send coal from the Elk Valley to Roberts Bank in Vancouver, of which five go in and five come out every day. Each train is worth $2,295,000, which is equal to $11,475,000 a day for each of the five trains that are exiting the Elk Valley. With the Dominion Coal Blocks, it will only mean more for the small communities of the Elk Valley, but what it contributes to Canada and the province of British Columbia is vitally important not only for health care but for schooling and many other of the provincial responsibilities the federal government gives money to.
It is interesting to hear colleagues in British Columbia sometimes call coal the four-letter dirty word. The reality is that dirty word, as I said, is about 1% of the national GDP.
Aside from that, I want to explain that with specific regard to the Dominion Coal Blocks, first nations have been at the table right from the get-go. The Ktunaxa first nations have been there right from the get-go. They will be involved with the entire process and will have jobs in the coal industry, as they do now.
It is very important to understand that first nations are vitally important in my area of British Columbia. I believe they hold a strong, important value to the economic growth of the communities. I would like to applaud the Ktunaxa nation for being able to involve itself from the get-go.
One of the final things I want to say is that all resource development projects in British Columbia undergo a thorough environmental assessment process and face a high degree of regulatory oversight in order to manage and mitigate the environmental impacts. While the sale of the Dominion Coal Blocks would not be subject to an environmental assessment, any future development proposals would be subject to such an assessment.
I cannot say enough about the federal government divesting itself of the Dominion Coal Blocks. For the Elk Valley, it means 20, 30, or maybe even 100 more years of employment for the coal industry. Until we find a replacement for carbon, we will require metallurgical coal.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today in support of . This act would ensure that important provisions in budget 2013 would be implemented.
Before discussing the highlights of the bill, I want to mention the government's plan for balancing the budget and I also want to mention Canada's economic success. This government has an effective plan to balance the budget by 2015. It is a challenging task, but achievable. As with budget 2013, the bill would help the government to achieve financial sustainability.
World leaders, of course, are very interested in Canada as a result of our government's example and our economic success. Canada leads the G7 in job creation, in income growth and in keeping debt levels low. Canada is among the few countries in the world with an AAA credit rating.
The government's continued sound fiscal management will generate continued respect, but despite our strong financial performance, there are still challenges that we must face. The United States is experiencing ongoing difficulties. The European Union is continuing its long upward climb.
Last week's historic trade deal between Canada and the European Union shows our government's determination to seize international opportunities for Canada. The government must reduce its deficit so Canadians will be encouraged to do the same. We must practise what we preach.
The deficit was a justified response to the 2008-09 economic recession, but it must be temporary. By 2015, the government will balance the budget and will introduce legislation to encourage balanced budgets in the future. This will ensure that in normal economic times there will be concrete guidelines for returning to balance after any economic crisis.
With an aggressive debt to GDP target of 25% by the year 2021 and a plan in place, this government is on the right track. I am proud that the government, during and after the world's worst economic recession in almost 80 years, remains recognized around the world as an example for others to follow. I am very proud of the leadership of our and our .
The bill will deliver real solutions for Canadians and it reflects the goals of reducing the country's deficit and returning to balanced budgets. I want to highlight three aspects of the bill that I am particularly pleased with. I will elaborate on how the bill would support job creators, close tax loopholes and also respect taxpayer dollars.
Job creation is especially important to me as the representative for Kitchener Centre. BlackBerry, based in , has suffered losses over the past couple of years and some of my constituents are on the hunt for jobs that match their highly talented skills. We enjoy some business incubators which support start-up companies and these include the renowned Communitech and also programs at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, world-class leading centres of education.
As Canada's small business week wraps up tomorrow, I am grateful to say that this bill would extend the hiring credit for small business. This would benefit 560,000 job creators across Canada, and hundreds of those job creators are in my region of . With over one million jobs created since the depth of the global recession, this hiring credit would create even more places for the bright minds of Canada's future.
The bill would also freeze employment insurance rates for three years, leaving $660 million in the pockets of job creators and workers in 2014 alone. EI costs employees and employers hard-earned money. When I look at small businesses employing just two, three or four individuals, I see that this freeze will help owners to balance their books just as the government is balancing its books.
The government will also help the environment through the expansion of the accelerated capital cost allowance to include investments in clean energy generation. I was very pleased to see this. It adds to the government's existing investment for small business which is given through a small business financing program offered by Industry Canada and by loans offered by the Business Development Bank and by grants from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.
Achieving clean energy solutions is a priority. The challenge business owners face is to secure initial capital to develop those long-term solutions. Finding cost-efficient clean energy solutions is critically important for our future and developing those solutions takes extensive research.
As a long-time member of the environment committee, I am always looking for ways to ensure a sustainable future. Job creators will be encouraged to continue looking for clean energy generation through the accelerated capital cost allowance measure in this bill.
I am confident that Bill will benefit small businesses, start-ups and job creators in Kitchener Centre over the next number of years based on these new initiatives.
A second focus within this bill is closing tax loopholes and combatting tax evasion. I want to highlight the importance of these measures.
Hard-working taxpayers can be confident that the bill would ensure that everyone would pay their fair share of taxes. When everyone is paying their fair share, it keeps taxes low for Canadian families and creates incentives to invest in Canada.
The government will introduce new administrative monetary penalties and offences to deter the use, possession, sale and development of software designed to falsify records for the purpose of tax evasion.
Although this government will always keep taxes low, we insist that all citizens pay all of their required taxes. Heavier penalties will force wrongdoers to use proper software and pay what they owe.
The government will also close more tax loopholes related to money transfers to ensure that everyone pays their fair share. It has already introduced rules to prevent foreign affiliates from converting otherwise taxable surplus income into the form of loans. There is also an information reporting regime for tax avoidance transactions.
Finally, the government will extend in certain circumstances the time for the Canada Revenue Agency to reassess taxpayers who fail to report income from foreign property.
The third point that I will highlight are measures to respect taxpayer dollars through initiatives introduced in March, scheduled to be rolled out upon budget approval. For example, by modernizing the Canada student loans program with digital communication, the government will deliver efficient ways for students to pay down their debt quickly and to apply for loan approvals or extensions sooner.
Another timely measure in economic action plan 2013 are steps to prevent abuse of the temporary foreign worker program, abuses which concern my constituents. The program was created to fill acute labour needs when Canadians were not available. It was never intended to bring in temporary foreign workers to replace Canadian workers. The reforms brought forward in the spring budget stem from the government's ongoing review of this program.
The budget would increase the government's ability to revoke work permits, enabling immediate action against employers who did not comply with the rules. These changes would also require that employers using the temporary foreign workers program pay temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage for a job. These are common sense changes made to the program to remove unintended incentives to hire foreign workers. These reforms would ensure that Canadians would always be at the front of the hiring line.
Other measures will deliver important savings for Canadians. The fact is that many products needed to support families are consistently priced higher in Canada than in the United States. By removing tariffs on imported baby clothing and sports equipment, budget 2013 will ensure that difference is reduced.
We can all be pleased that budget implementation bill No. 2 delivers a solid plan for creating jobs and economic growth, all while keeping taxes low and still balancing the budget by 2015.
This bill is great news for my constituents in Kitchener Centre. I invite all members of the House to join me in supporting jobs, growth and long-term economic prosperity. I ask that members vote yes to this bill.
Mr. Speaker, before beginning, I would like to let you know that I will be sharing my time with my charming colleague from .
It is my privilege today to be able to speak to Bill . I am not privileged because of the quality of the bill, which still leaves something to be desired. I am privileged because so few parliamentarians will be able to debate this bill.
Just this morning, in fact, in the hours following its introduction in the House, the government imposed time allocation on Bill .
After forcing us to wait a whole month before resuming work by proroguing Parliament, the Conservatives decided to bring in a time allocation motion that prevents members of Parliament from speaking to this omnibus bill. The decided to move time allocation on the bill in order to fast-track the debate. However, this bill is not just a simple legislative bill.
By means of Bill , the Conservatives are trying for the fourth time in two years to escape the scrutiny of parliamentarians and the public. They are trying to get major changes through Parliament without sufficient study by Parliament, despite the fact that some of the amendments in Bill C-4 are meant to correct mistakes they made in their big rush to pass the last omnibus bill.
I will be voting against Bill both because of its content and because of the process used, which I feel is wrong. The New Democratic Party will not support the Conservatives in their attempt to avoid parliamentary oversight. The bill contains many extremely complicated measures that deserve to be studied a great deal more attentively.
The government before us today is worn out and negligent. The NDP refuses to play the Conservatives’ game. We must take Parliament and our institutions seriously and act accordingly.
Taking advantage of the introduction of Bill to amend through the back door a number of measures that are not even related to the budget shows a total lack of consideration for Canadians. The government is trying to make major changes secretly and without consulting those who will be affected by those changes.
I realize that the Conservatives are not really crusaders for consultation, but they should take the time to listen to what Canadians are saying. Canadians are giving serious consideration to what is currently happening on Parliament Hill. They are losing confidence in the political class, and the Conservatives are doing absolutely nothing to help them regain that confidence quickly. I am highly critical of the government’s lack of study and I am deeply worried about the consequences it may have for our country. It greatly undermines action by Parliament.
I would like to highlight a few examples to clarify my point, and I would like to start with the frontal attack on the rights of workers. For the , it must be absurd for the government to have to negotiate and deal with workers in good faith. Please let me explain.
First, the designation of essential services to Canadians would change with Bill . At present, workers and the government decide in tandem what an essential service is and what it is not. Now the government wants to make the decision about essential services on its own.
How does this affect workers? Well, it is a direct attack on the right to strike. Essential services are services that must be made available to Canadians during a strike. The repercussions of this decision are extremely serious.
With the proposed changes, unions cannot call a strike if public servants designated as essential by the government are involved. Who is designated as essential, though? This question has gone unanswered. I even tried to get an answer from my Conservative colleague opposite who just spoke, and he was very good at being evasive.
My colleague from tried to ask the about this in question period earlier today. He refused to answer. We heard absolutely nothing.
Another major change to workers' rights is the change in the definition of the word “danger”. A worker who does not feel safe in his workplace can inform a health and safety officer of his concerns. Bill changes the definition to imminent danger or serious danger. What do these new changes mean? What tangible effect will this have on our workers? These are valid questions.
Furthermore, workers will no longer contact their health and safety officers about these problems. Instead they will contact the minister's office. Will he work 24/7 to respond to workers in danger? Will it be more difficult for them to exercise their rights? Will there be more accidents in our workplaces? The official opposition is truly worried about the health and safety of Canadian workers.
What worries me the most is that these measures that I just spoke about, which affect the rights of workers, have absolutely nothing to do with a budget implementation bill. What are the Conservatives playing at?
In conclusion, I would like to briefly mention the direct attack that the Conservatives made on francophones throughout Canada. Once again, I will provide some explanation.
I would like to quote an article by Marie Vastel that was published in the October 24 issue of Le Devoir. It says:
When the government introduces any major legislation, it holds a briefing for MPs, senators and their assistants in order to explain that legislation. Usually, simultaneous translation is provided and officials then answer questions in both official languages.
However, such was not the case on Tuesday, when the briefing on the budget implementation bill that was introduced that same morning began in English only.
The government was giving a presentation on a bill that is over 300 pages long, the fourth mammoth bill that the Conservative government has introduced, and there was no simultaneous translation from English into French. It was an NDP member whose mother tongue is French who stood up during the government's briefing and asked for the French translation, saying that the bill was extremely complex, that it was over 300 pages long and that she did not understand the details. After she spoke up, there was some commotion. In the end, another English MP spoke up and said that someone would have to translate so that the member could understand. People left the room in protest and the government finally decided to postpone the briefing to Wednesday, which was yesterday. The briefing therefore began after Bill was introduced in the House.
The opposite never would have happened. There never would have been a briefing in French without simultaneous translation into English. That would never happen. Honestly, I am a bit surprised that it took so long for them to react. I cannot believe that this happened. Some MPs speak English, others speak French. Those are our two official languages, and this demonstrates a lack of respect, not only for the Quebec nation, but also for francophones across the country. I am extremely disappointed in the way Bill treats Canadians.
This bill touches on many areas; we could go on for days. This bill affects more than just workers' rights. The is given new powers, and I have yet to find the link between that and a budget implementation bill. It affects unions' venture capital funds. It addresses the mistake of increasing taxes on credit unions and so on. There are even changes to the Supreme Court. It makes no sense.
I want to say, once again, that I am extremely disappointed in how the Conservatives opposite are treating Canadians. I look forward to seeing how the voters will treat them in 2015.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill , which is of extreme importance to Canadians and Quebeckers.
We are living in critical times. It is time for us to have a productive debate here for Canadians. The situation is critical. I will explain why it is extremely important to discuss this bill without having a time limit imposed on us. Canadians need us today, and they expect us to take action because their indebtedness and that of young Canadians are at critical levels.
First of all, I want to say how disappointed I am with everything the government has done since its throne speech. Today is the first time I have had a chance to rise, and I am doing so under a guillotine. I know that the Conservatives will cite all kinds of reasons for that, in particular that this bill must be passed extremely quickly.
However, the situation is so serious that the government has no reason not to allow a fair and democratic debate in the House of Commons.
I really believed, but wrongly so, that the Conservatives would take the summer and the additional month to reflect and perhaps even consider the importance of democracy and respect for democracy. However, this bill shows that exactly the opposite is true.
This is the fourth omnibus bill. We know how the shouted and tore his shirt when he was in opposition and the Liberal government tried to introduce omnibus bills. Unfortunately, that was then and this is now, as they say.
This bill is 300 pages long and amends at least 70 statutes, some of which have absolutely nothing to do with the budget. We can already see the government’s bad intentions.
It is introducing a budget that, on the whole, attacks workers' rights, amends rules respecting the Supreme Court, and so on. There is not much about tax evasion or young people, for example. As for the government's new approach, it leaves something to be desired.
This is really a shame for democracy and for the Canadians and Quebeckers who are supposed to be represented here. This government's scandals and mismanagement are so unimaginable I no longer know where to turn. I do not even know where to start.
This is a failure. The government's economic plan is a failure. Instead of tackling household debt, it attacks workers' rights and the family itself. However, it is not focusing on the real problems. For example, the Conservatives are going to leave us with the biggest deficit in Canadian history.
It is unbelievable how the Conservatives can boast, but they offer nothing concrete. In 2015, Canadians will see how badly the Conservatives have mismanaged the economy. Canadians will see that the Conservatives have left them to deal with the biggest environmental, economic and social deficit in Canadian history. Canadians will have no trouble seeing that record because the figures prove it.
In addition, what is disturbing is that most of the measures in this budget are not budget measures. They amend the rules for appointing judges to the Supreme Court. Perhaps the just realized he had to correct his own mistakes.
I challenge any Conservative to rise in the House and show me how changing the rules for the Supreme Court will help Canadian families get out of record debt. Can any Conservative explain that to us? I would really like someone to do that. I can hear them laughing on the other side. I do not think this is funny.
Today, my colleague from moved a motion to remove the appointment of Supreme Court judges from the budget implementation bill.
I sincerely hope that the government will take this proposal to heart, because it is the kind of proposal that must be discussed. However, this should not be done within the framework of an omnibus bill, because these are things that involve our justice system, not our economic system.
The Conservatives never get tired of saying that Canadians know they cannot rely on the NDP to put their needs first and give middle-class Canadians a well-deserved break. However, the NDP’s view of the economy is one in which we maximize opportunities by drawing on Canada’s enormous advantages, in order to give Canadians the best in everything.
We have the best score on the budget, from sea to sea. This is a fact. It is as simple as that. My colleague has been shouting for a while now that I am being rhetorical, but it is a fact. The proof is in the figures. The NDP governments have the best scores in terms of budgets and finance.
An hon. member: Oh, oh!
Ms. Ève Péclet: I hear my colleague from Manitoba shouting at me.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to have some respect. I would like to be able to talk without being called names by my Conservative colleagues on the other side of the House. Thank you very much. I am entitled to respect when I am speaking. If they do not agree with what I am saying, that is all right, but I do not want them shouting at me when I am speaking.
The gap between rich and poor is growing. We are seeing an increase in the cost of living, because the Conservatives have forgotten about the middle class in all their budget measures.
We are seeing an increase in the cost of living, and incomes are lower than ever and they keep on dropping. Of course, if you are a highly paid executive, there is no problem. On the other hand, what is the government going to tell the people in the Toronto area, for instance, who cannot find stable employment? Will it tell them to take two or three jobs so they can make ends meet? No, that is not what a government should say.
In September, Statistics Canada announced that Canadian household debt had reached an all-time high of 166%. How is it that since 2006 the Conservatives have not been able to do anything to stop this increase?
This means that for every dollar a person has, he or she owes $1.66 on a loan or a credit card.
In 2008, our neighbours to the south in the United States learned the hard way just how seriously over-indebtedness could hurt their economy.
I think it is time to help Canadian families. Economists agree that Canadian household debt is a threat to Canada’s economy. Clearly, under the Conservatives, we are on the path to jumping in there with both feet.
The economic situation is even worse among young people, where the unemployment rate has reached 14%. This means that the next generation of workers will not be able to acquire the experience they need to replace the generation that went before.
Increased unemployment among young people early in their careers, and the precarious household debt situation—I think I have clearly described the critical situation to which I referred in my introduction and about which the government has refused to do anything.
In other words, they are in favour of justice and democracy, except when it does not suit their purposes.
We support various amendments in Bill that aim at reducing tax evasion. We support those amendments, but we are very concerned that the Conservatives are not paying serious attention to the issue of tax havens and the people and the companies that are not making a fair or just contribution to the Canadian economy.
As my colleague from mentioned, we have here a budget that is once again a direct attack on the rights of Canadians.
As I have one minute left, I would simply like to tell the Conservatives that although they say we just vote against everything, we are only waiting for them to invite us to work with them in providing Canadians with a budget that is fair and equitable and gives everyone an opportunity to participate in the Canadian economy, not only the people who are on their side, but all Canadians and all Quebeckers.