The House resumed from April 7 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot tell you how disappointed I am with this bill. After all this time, one might think that we are accustomed to this kind of bill, which is so bad for Canadians, but I am not. Bill C-31 is a very important reminder of that reality.
I rise today to denounce the Conservative government's arbitrary tactics. Last Friday, the government introduced Bill . The problem is that this bill is another omnibus bill. It is over 360 pages long and includes a wide range of complex measures.
I would also like to remind any Canadians who are watching that we are debating this bill under a time allocation motion.
Once again, the Conservatives are trying to keep Canadians in the dark and make changes to many laws without any consultation or parliamentary oversight.
Among the laws affected or created by the many provisions, such as the Old Age Security Act and the Administrative Tribunals Act, there is the new bridge for the St. Lawrence act, regarding a bridge linking Montreal with the south shore.
It should be noted that the Champlain Bridge legislation is well hidden in the 360 pages, and for good reason: we can see right off the bat that the bridge will not be subject to the User Fees Act or the Bridges Act. These two laws that provide consumer protection and safety guarantees will not apply to the Champlain Bridge.
What that means is that safety and inspection provisions of the Bridges Act will not apply to the Champlain Bridge. In other words, it will not have to meet the same safety standards as other bridges. That is very alarming.
Who will be responsible for monitoring the safety of this bridge?
Furthermore, the new bridge for the St. Lawrence act will not require the holding of mandatory consultations on user fees established by a regulating authority. This means that the obligations to notify and consult people, justify the fees and create an independent advisory panel to address complaints will not apply to the Champlain Bridge. That is incredible.
In other words, the government is casually deciding to make taxpayers pay for using the new Champlain Bridge, but is taking away from them the means to have a say in the matter. This is confirmed in section 9, which states:
|9. Any owner of a vehicle using the bridge must pay any toll, fee or other charge that is applicable to the vehicle under this Act.
We do not yet know what the toll will be for vehicles, and it might be higher than other tolls because the User Fees Act will not apply.
The law that the government wants to impose is unfair and totally arbitrary. We are going to find ourselves in a situation where people are going to pay to use the new bridge, but would pay nothing if they used the Victoria Bridge, for example. Does the government not see that it is going to shift traffic with these measures?
That is really going to impact mobility in the region.
According to the Agence métropolitaine de transport, 200,000 people travel across this bridge each day. The toll will not only stifle Montreal's economic development, but it will also have an impact on household expenses. Since the Conservatives came to power, they have not stopped imposing taxes on households. They do not let up. The toll the government plans to levy proves once again that it is incapable of listening to Canadians and plans to keep making them pay.
The government talks about the need to get people involved in the bridge construction but has not given us any information about funding for the project. The government likes to boast that it is implementing a public-private partnership contract but has not told us how much it will contribute. There is a lack of transparency when it comes to this project.
The legislation governing the new bridge over the St. Lawrence is merely a reflection of the approach the Conservatives have been using since 2011, an arbitrary and abusive approach that is not in keeping with what the provinces want. To move our country forward, the federal government must work hand in hand with the provinces. On this issue in particular, the government should sit down with elected officials and discuss the progress on the new bridge, since Quebec's situation is special in that it has bridges that fall under federal jurisdiction.
In spite of this, the Conservatives are pretending to listen to what people want and are moving forward without consulting those who are directly involved. Given the urgent need for a new bridge, it is worrisome that the Conservative government is not listening to the Government of Quebec, the mayor of Montreal or the south shore mayors. The federal government should work with provincial and municipal partners, rather than arbitrarily imposing decisions on them.
That is why the NDP and members from the south shore—myself included—will not sit on the sidelines. My constituents and others who are affected by this toll are concerned. We live in a democratic country where the government is elected by the people. Right now, people are saying that they do not want this bill and they do not want this toll. The government needs to listen to them. It needs to listen to reason.
In closing, no other government has ever shown so much contempt for our parliamentary institutions and Canadians. This single bill is over 365 pages long and amends more than 40 laws, making it impossible for MPs to do their jobs properly.
It is obvious that our democracy is suffering. The work being done by parliamentarians in the House of Commons is also suffering. Instead of drafting a mammoth bill that is designed to push hundreds of changes through without in-depth study, the government should be taking care of the needs of Canadians.
There is nothing in this bill to help the 300,000 Canadians who have become unemployed since the recession find work or to replace the 400,000 manufacturing jobs that have been lost under this Conservative government.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to highlight today some of the key measures contained in Bill , economic action plan 2014 act, no. 1. I would like to preface my remarks by congratulating our former minister of finance for setting us firmly on the path to a balanced budget in 2015-16 and commending his successor, our current finance minister, for so quickly and capably stepping into his new shoes.
In economic action plan 2014, our Conservative government renews its commitment to Canadians by focusing on three priorities. Number one is returning to a balanced budget. Number two is promoting jobs and economic growth. Number three is supporting families and communities.
Economic action plan 2014 act no. 1 contains a number of important measures that are designed to foster job creation and economic growth; connect Canadian workers with available jobs; improve infrastructure, trade, and resource development in Canada; and support Canadian families and communities.
Obviously, in the time I have, I cannot hope to touch on all these subjects, no matter how briefly. I will, therefore, confine my remarks to highlighting a few of the key initiatives that underscore our government's commitment to Canadian families and communities.
As members know, the government has put in place a number of tax relief measures to help hard-working Canadians save money wherever they can. In fact, because of the actions taken by the Conservative government, Canadians now pay $3,400 a year less in taxes than they did during the final year of the previous Liberal government.
We introduced the volunteer firefighters' tax credit three years ago in recognition of the important contribution volunteer firefighters make to the security and safety of their fellow citizens and community members. In the same spirit, in economic action plan 2014, we announced a new search and rescue volunteers' tax credit for ground, air, and marine search and rescue volunteers. These brave men and women support the Canadian Coast Guard, police, and other agencies and are often the first on the scene in the event of a local emergency or natural disaster. Well-organized, well-trained, and well-equipped, search and rescue volunteers are an integral part of Canada's emergency response system.
Search and rescue volunteers dedicate their time and energy to ensure the safety and survival of their fellow citizens, often putting their own safety and even their lives at risk. The new tax credit is a sign of our recognition and appreciation for the important role they play and our commitment to improving the safety and security of all Canadians.
Individuals who perform at least 200 hours of service during a year would be able to claim a non-refundable tax credit on their personal income tax and benefit returns, starting in the 2014 tax year. The search and rescue volunteers' tax credit would provide up to $450 in tax savings for the eligible year. The hours volunteered for search and rescue could be combined with volunteer firefighter activities, so volunteers with at least 200 hours of combined eligible search and rescue and firefighting services in a year would be able to choose between claiming the volunteer firefighters' tax credit and the new search and rescue volunteers' tax credit.
In total, more than 100,000 dedicated volunteer firefighters and search and rescue members might benefit from these credits. Our Conservative government is proud to recognize their outstanding commitment and the difference they make to their communities.
The search and rescue volunteers' tax credit is just 1 of more than 20 tax measures contained in Bill . Economic action plan 2014 would build on previous tax relief measures the government has introduced to support Canadian families and improve their quality of life.
For example, we have included measures that would make adoption more affordable for Canadian families. We would increase the maximum amount they may claim for the adoption expense credit to $15,000 for the 2014 tax year. The amount would be indexed to inflation in future years. This is a fantastic new relief for prospective parents who are looking to provide a deserving child with a loving home.
Our Conservative government is also making sure that the tax system takes into account the health needs of Canadians and the change in nature of our health care system.
Through Bill , we would exempt acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors' professional services from the goods and services tax and harmonized sales tax. We would also expand the list of eligible expenses for the medical expense tax credit to include expenses incurred for service animals specifically trained to assist an individual in managing severe diabetes, as well as costs related to design of individual therapy plans for certain disorders and disabilities.
In the same vein, we have expanded the list of GST-HST-free medical and assistive devices to include prescription eyewear that electronically treats or corrects vision. Most importantly, we would remove the need for individuals to apply for the GST-HST credit. Starting with the 2014 tax year, the Canada Revenue Agency would automatically determine the credit each individual is entitled to receive. This would both simplify the process for taxpayers and improve administrative efficiency. In the case of eligible couples, the GST-HST credit would be paid to the individual whose return is assessed first. This is consistent with CRA's commitment to reduce red tape.
Finally, I would like to discuss our government's plan to correct a historic anomaly. The legislation we are debating today includes a proposal that would correct an irrelevant piece of legislation left over from the 1920s, a relic of the prohibition days. As it stands, the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act prohibits Canadians from taking beer or spirits across provincial borders, even for personal use. Through Bill , we would take action to remove this federal barrier, just as we did in 2012 in the case of transporting wine from one province to another for personal use. Indeed, while respecting provincial jurisdiction, our government wants to encourage and promote market competitiveness by eliminating provincial trade barriers when possible.
I wish to conclude today by saying I am proud of our government's record of achievement and our sound fiscal policies. We are on a track to balance the budget in 2015-2016, and at the same time that we are delivering on this commitment, we have cut taxes and removed more than one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls since 2006. In short, we have made Canada one of the best places in the world to live, work, and raise a family. Our government will stick to the priorities we have outlined in our economic action plan: supporting jobs and growth, supporting families in communities, balancing the budget, and reducing debt. These are the priorities of all Canadians.
I have barely scratched the surface of Bill today. I strongly encourage all members of the House to read economic action plan 2014 act no. 1 from cover to cover and give it the support it deserves.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this Conservative government bill, which could be described as another mammoth bill.
Obviously, my colleagues and I strongly oppose this bill, because of its contents, of course, but also because of the process, which is increasingly undemocratic. This bill shows real contempt not only for Canadians, but also for Parliament, and for MPs and committees. It is particularly appalling.
This bill does absolutely nothing to support job creation. In fact, there is unfortunately nothing really positive in this bill. It is too bad, because a budget implementation bill could be very constructive and do a lot for Canadians. The government and the official opposition could work together in Parliament. It is really sad that we have to see these kinds of bills. I almost feel jaded when I speak to this kind of mammoth bill, which the Conservatives are ramming down Canadians' throats without consulting them or the opposition, without consulting anyone, really. The Conservatives bulldoze their way through and impose their agenda on everyone.
The Conservatives want to make a large number of changes without properly examining them. They are spreading misinformation. I do not have the bill with me, which is unfortunate, because it would be worth showing just how huge it is. It is over 350 pages long and has 500 clauses. It amends dozens of laws. It contains many measures that were not even mentioned in the budget statement. As I just said, it is completely undemocratic. The committees are not being given the opportunity to properly examine the sections that concern them, which I see as highly problematic. The Conservatives are making unilateral decisions without consulting anyone.
As I was saying, there is nothing in this bill to help unemployed Canadians, and there are 300,000 more of them than before the recession. Nor is there anything to replace the 400,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector that have been lost under the Conservatives. Nor are the Conservatives renewing the job creation tax credit for small businesses, which really need it.
It is clear to me that small and medium-sized businesses in my riding are in desperate need of a helping hand. Let us not forget that SMEs are a major economic driver. They are responsible for at least 70% of Canadian jobs. That figure might not be exact, but it is a huge percentage anyway. It is nothing to sneeze at. Small businesses need help from the government so they can hire people and stay in business. That is all the more true in a recession.
There are also a lot of changes to rail safety and transparency. That comes as quite a surprise and makes no sense considering what happened this summer in Lac Mégantic, which is quite close to my riding. These changes would allow the government to amend or remove several rail safety regulations without notifying the public. Changes could relate to engineering standards, employee training, hours of work, maintenance and performance. Basically, people will not be informed when the Conservatives weaken safety measures, and experts will not be able to express their opinions to the minister before the changes take effect.
I talk about this often because giving more discretionary power to the minister really infuriates me. I do not know why the government is giving even more power to the minister. I do not understand. There are experts in every field, and the minister should consult them.
In many municipalities in my riding, the railway is located close to residential areas, and people are worried.
Shortly after the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, the member for , the transport critic, held a public consultation in my riding in October. The people told us that they were worried about safety standards and railway transportation in Canada. It makes absolutely no sense to weaken these standards.
This budget creates another problem for immigrants, who will now have to live in Canada for 20 years, instead of 10, before they are eligible for GIS, survivor or old age security benefits.
Family reunification is also being made much more difficult. This is a step in the wrong direction. In my riding, there are many refugee families that have moved to Canada, want to contribute to our country, and want to live and work here. It is unfortunate that these people, who make a major contribution to out country, have to wait and be separated from their family for a longer period of time.
Why should we make it more difficult for them to come here and why are we complicating the citizenship and family reunification process? Why are we depriving them of what they will need later? This deplorable measure demonstrates just how closed our country is becoming. I do not understand this because we are recognized as a welcoming country.
I have just mentioned a number of problems with this bill, but we also have solutions. The NDP likes to speak out, but we also like to suggest solutions. “Working Together” is still our motto.
The government needs to go back to the drawing board and come back to us with a decent budget. It would be great if the government invested in innovation, economic development and high quality jobs for the middle class. It would also be great if it developed a strategy for youth unemployment, since it is not right that the youth unemployment rate is so high.
We need to be proactive, but the government is not. Another solution would be to offer a credit to businesses when they hire and train young people. The government did not renew that credit for SMEs, even though it would make a lot of sense to do so.
Furthermore, the government could work with the provinces to address the skills shortage and to develop the labour market. It is not currently working with the provinces. Instead, it is dumping the problems on the provinces, which is not ideal. The government should also address the serious infrastructure deficit by cancelling the $5.8 billion in cuts to local infrastructure.
It would also be important to simplify the procedure for rural communities to request and receive funding for infrastructure projects, since the government is also dumping problems onto municipalities. What they actually need from the federal government is more help.
I see that I am out of time, so I would be pleased to take questions from my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to participate in the debate on Bill .
Our government has worked tirelessly to deliver effective change for Canadians and to put Canada back on the road to balanced budgets.
After consultations across the country, we have produced a plan that not only works for Canadians but that will also make sure that Canada is financially sustainable. Our hon. colleague, the former finance minister, tabled a budget just weeks ago. Since then, my office has seen an outpouring of support from constituents who value trade, security, and prudent economic management.
The world has been hit by repeated crises over the past few years. It is becoming harder for governments to maintain the trust of markets. We are no longer allowed to believe that we can escape the costs of financial recklessness and ineptitude. The budget implementation act before us holds many measures that will markedly improve the lives of Canadians.
Our government is working to ensure that Canadians can fill the skills gap to both provide vital services and ensure viable livelihoods. By increasing paid internships for young Canadians, the government will commit $55 million to help recent graduates find work in their fields. By getting graduates to work, Canada can make the most of its skilled labour force and provide opportunities for young Canadians to flourish.
At the same time, the government will ensure that older workers have opportunities to find new employment. As Canadians are living longer, we must face the unexpected challenges posed by longevity beyond one's financial plan. By investing $75 million in training for older workers, our government will make sure that all Canadians can find good, skilled jobs.
Help is not limited to the young and the old. Through the job-matching service, this Conservative government will grease the wheels of commerce and ensure that employers and employees can find their perfect matches.
With Canada's ever-increasing integration, not only into the world economy but between provinces, it is vital for the federal government to play a role in smoothing labour markets across the country. Never before have we seen the kind of mobility we see today, nor have we realized the promise that such mobility creates for families and communities. It is not enough to be looking for a job. We need to support those who are currently training for jobs that will fill much needed positions through the Canada job grant and the Canada apprentice loan. The federal government is investing in high-skill jobs that are currently going unfilled in many parts of the country. By ensuring that Canada has the skilled tradespeople it needs, our government is making sure that the economy can function smoothly. This budget is about embracing the future with skilled jobs, a thriving economy, and a balanced budget.
Through this budget, rural communities will stand to benefit from improved broadband access in rural and remote areas of the country. It is important that Canadians in rural areas, like parts of the British Columbia interior and northern B.C., have an acceptable degree of access to the Internet. Failing to update Canada's digital infrastructure could doom those outside of well-covered areas to technological backwardness and put them at a perpetual disadvantage.
Investments in science and technology, such as the government's $222 million grant to the TRIUMF physics laboratory at the University of British Columbia, promises to pay dividends not just in commercial terms but in academic, intellectual, and technological advances.
British Columbians and Canadians stand to profit immensely from the measures presented in this budget.
The budget implementation act goes further by continuing the good work of the red tape reduction action plan. This budget will make life easier for small and medium-sized business owners.
In too many areas of Canadian life and work, excessive red tape holds us back. The Conservatives have demonstrated a commitment to making Canada work in a way that benefits consumers, workers, and citizens by removing arbitrary and wasteful barriers to businesses.
There are also significant changes to the tax code. The tax code is not a subject that gets many people excited, but by eliminating over 800,000 payroll deduction remittances to the Canada Revenue Agency every year, this government will be helping over 50,000 small businesses lower costs imposed by bureaucracy.
Our government is always concerned about the security of Canadians. For any number of reasons, the lives and well-being of Canadians can be in danger, and it is a key role of government to offer solutions. By investing a further $25 million, we are aiming to reduce violence against aboriginal women and girls. This sector of our community is often the target of abuse above and beyond that faced by others,. They deserve a government that comes to their protection.
Our government will invest $11 million to upgrade the earthquake monitoring systems that protect the homes of my constituents in the Lower Mainland and in high-risk areas across the country.
Over one million net new jobs have been created since the recession ended in July 2009. During the crisis and afterward, our government has provided a steady hand at the tiller, ensuring that Canada's policies work toward stability, growth, and prosperity.
Our banking system has been ranked the most stable in the world for the sixth year running by the World Economic Forum. The numbers do not lie. The deficit will be a meagre $2.9 billion this year, with a $6.4 billion surplus coming next year. This is a momentous achievement. When the previous government balanced the books, it did so by raising taxes and slashing transfers to the provinces. Our government has none neither. In fact, we have done the compete opposite. Next year, our government will provide British Columbia with $4.17 billion through the Canada health transfer, an all-time high. Not only that, this is $1.3 billion more than under the previous Liberal government. That is a 49% increase.
As well, we have reduced the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years. Our strong record of tax relief has meant savings of nearly $3,400 for a typical family of four in 2014. Without raising taxes on Canadians or simply moving costs to other levels of government, the Conservatives have a credible plan for long-term fiscal success. The opposition has made it clear that it will raise taxes and then increase spending beyond even that. Therefore, I commend our Conservative government for such a thoughtful and solid document.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to cite a couple of problems with her overview.
She talks about the investment by the government in infrastructure, et cetera. We see at a time when we need critical support for infrastructure that it is actually pulling back. The last time we saw significant spending was when we pushed the government, after the financial crisis, to invest, and of course, before that, in 2005, when our leader at the time, Mr. Layton, convinced the government to, instead of corporate taxes, put money into infrastructure and into cities and to help out with post-secondary education.
By the way, that money continued in the budgets of the Conservative government in 2006 and 2007. It is important to note that.
I want to ask her this. When we have a crisis in job training, why is it that the government cannot figure out how to deal with foreign trained workers and actually train Canadians and young Canadians to give them opportunities? All we have gotten from the government are ads.
Even in the budget bill they have put in front of us, it is going to be loans for people to train. We actually need to fast-track them and get Red Seal people into the job market now, not just give them more loans, which leads to more debt.
Clearly, I think the government has failed, and I would disagree with the ideas she has put forward, because Canadians deserve better.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot really say I am pleased to rise today to speak to yet another omnibus budget bill, .
This is yet another omnibus bill that contains numerous measures from other bills. However, given House procedure, we will not be able to study it adequately.
This is following up on the February 11, 2014 budget. We really need to get used to using the new term for it. It is the “annual thick brochure”. It does not actually contain a budget any more, and I think Canadians ought to know that.
It is labelled “the economic action plan 2014, No. 1”, which means that we can expect another budget omnibus bill. It does not deal with the fact that Canada's debt under this administration has increased by $123 billion. It does not deal with the fact that part of the reason that debt has increased and that cuts are being made to the services that we care about is that we now have the lowest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world, approximately half that of the United States.
I want to turn to a myth that is so often repeated in this place, that all of the other parties always did omnibus budget bills. That is not just a myth; it is not true. The previous all-time high omnibus budget bill was in 2005 under the administration of former Prime Minister Paul Martin. In 2005, it topped 120 pages.
The howls from the opposition, now in government, were so loud that that bill had sections stripped out, and another provision that was to amend the Environmental Protection Act to allow regulation of greenhouse gases was removed altogether. That was due to the protest about 120 pages being too much in an omnibus budget bill.
The current administration is the all-time record holder, and not just that, as the Bruce Cockburn song said, “...the trouble with normal is it always gets worse”.
Now we are supposed to expect that we are going to get two omnibus budget bills every year: the first one, 400 pages; the second one, 400 pages. So the cumulative total, the bulk of all the legislation that goes through this place, is in the form of omnibus budget bills, which are so anti-democratic and an abuse of parliamentary process that it must be raised at every turn.
This particular omnibus budget bill, at 362 pages, Bill , has a lot of good things in it. There is no question that removing the GST from parking fees at hospitals and improving the tax treatment of adoptive families are good things. There are quite a few things in here that I would vote for, such as division 5, increasing the number of judges for Alberta and Quebec. These are all good things.
However, what of the things that deserve more study than they are going to get? That list is a very long one indeed. I turn our attention to 40 pages of this brick, pages 91 to 131, changes to the Hazardous Products Act and consequential amendments to other acts. These may all be, as described on the Health Canada website, good ideas, but they deserve study on their own. There are a lot of details we do not know.
This will bring into place the globally harmonized system to deal with workplace hazardous materials. It is very important that we study this properly. Certain sectors of our economy are currently exempt from the WHMIS provisions, including pesticides, consumer products, food, and drugs. A global system will bring these in, but we do not quite know how Canada will treat this and will not find out from the quick study we are allowed of an omnibus budget bill. There is 40 pages of this.
Another 30-plus pages is an entirely new act, the administrative tribunals support service of Canada act. It occurs in division 29 of Bill , and it brings in a single administrator, appointed politically, to take control of a huge number of administrative tribunals: the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Canada Industrial Relations Board, Competition Tribunal, Canadian International Trade Tribunal, Social Security Tribunal, and Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal. In the time I have, I cannot read out the names of all the tribunals that are suddenly whipped together under one act with one chief administrator. Far too few details are being provided about the purpose of this change. There is no purposes section under this new act; it is left to our imagination. I have to say, given the track record of this administration, given its attitude toward tribunals and officers of Parliament, the things that come to mind are not happy conclusions. This act's division 29 deserves separate treatment and adequate study.
On the changes to trademark, here we had an opportunity to do something to improve Canada's global competitive position by improving intellectual property rights to protect Canadian corporations abroad. The proposed changes to trademark are largely non-controversial, but why are they stuck in an omnibus budget bill? They have nothing to do with the budget.
Pages 207 to 259, over 50 pages of this monster bill, are all about trademark and coming into compliance with agreements from the Singapore and Madrid protocols. Why not have this as a proper study? Why not take the time to assess whether it is a good idea to reduce trademark protection from 15 years to 10 years?
I have been trying to reserve most of my time in this brief opportunity for the most egregious section of Bill , which is forcing through, with a limitation on debate that applies to all of Bill C-31, some potentially devastating changes to Canadians' rights found under something called the FATCA. This Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act is thrown into Bill , and I want to refer to the opinions of legal experts.
Some time ago, concerned about the FATCA, I did an access to information request and turned up a letter to Finance Canada from Canada's leading constitutional law expert, Professor Peter Hogg. He wrote to Finance Canada when the department it was in the early stages of working on this, and said that treating Canadians who might have some connection to the United States—not just those who might be born there, such as me, but who is no longer a U.S. citizen, or people who had parents born in the U.S., or once worked or studied there—differently than Canadians with no connection to the U.S. violates section 3 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in which we are entitled to equal treatment under the law as Canadian citizens.
However, it gets worse than that. Here I want to quote extensively from advice to Finance Canada from two very knowledgeable tax policy law experts: Professor Allison Christians, the H. Heward Stikeman Chair in the Law of Taxation at McGill University; and Professor Arthur Cockfield from Queens University.
Both professors conclude that right now it appears that the only reason the current Conservative administration feels it has accomplished anything with FATCA is that it has staved off punitive measures against our commercial banks by the United States. That is the Conservatives' sole rationale for a non-reciprocal agreement that will violate the privacy, and potentially the charter rights, of as many as one million Canadians. They have done it to avoid the U.S. bringing sanctions against them.
These knowledgeable experts say that this implementation act would unduly harm the privacy rights and interests of all Canadians, unduly raise compliance costs for all Canadian financial institutions and Canadian taxpayers, and unduly raise legal exposure for Canadian financial institutions due to the ongoing potential liability for mistakenly transferred personal financial information.
Bear in mind that this FATCA that we are being pressed to pass so quickly would require our banking institutions to decide for themselves whether someone appears to have some connection to the United States, and then they will turn over the personal banking information of that person without their knowledge to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. It would also provide potentially sensitive commercial information held by Canadian firms to the United States, which if improperly revealed could harm a firm's competitiveness. It would interfere with the cross-border mobility of Canadian workers to the United States. It would impede Canada's efforts to enforce its own tax laws. It would violate the spirit and potentially the letter of a number of Canadian laws.
The advice from these knowledgeable tax experts is clear and compelling. Since we have as a nation have now signed this IGA with the U.S., we have protected the commercial banking sector from these penalties, and so we have time to get it right. Here is their advice.
|| We recommend that the government explicitly address what gains have been achieved by Canada in accepting the IGA, if any exist other than the relief of economic sanctions. If relief of economic sanctions is the only impetus for Canada's acquiescence to U.S. demands, we recommend that the Canadian Government challenge the legality of such economic sanctions....
In other words, the U.S. has no right to impose sanctions on Canadian banks. It says it does. We should challenge it in international court. These experts say that we should stop the introduction of FATCA, ensure that it does not violate our charter rights, protect the privacy rights of Canadians, and not rush into this. I urge the House to pull FATCA out of Bill .
Mr. Speaker, it really is a shame that, once again, the Conservatives are pushing through yet another omnibus budget bill. Since 2011, the NDP in opposition has fought to break down government omnibus budgets brought to the House into manageable legislation so that members have the opportunity to consider and debate the new legislation that is being proposed and deliver better results for Canadians.
Omnibus bills have had a bad reputation on Parliament Hill for some time now. No one, other than the Conservatives, seems to really like them. I would like to share some strong words on omnibus bills from a member in the House of Commons from 1994. The member said:
||...in the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?
|| We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse?
Who said that? Let me tell members. This blast from the past is absolutely right, and I would introduce him to the if they were not already so close, as it was the himself who said this when he was the leader of the opposition.
Let us get back to the budget implementation bill that is before us. It is amazing that the budget implementation bill is over 350 pages long, has almost 500 clauses, would amend dozens of bills, and—this is the best part—includes a variety of measures that were never even mentioned in the budget speech by the Minister of Finance. One would think that measures in the budget implementation bill would also have actually been in the budget, but not so much this time.
I should give credit where credit is due. There are some parts of the bill that the NDP supports. For example, the government is using the budget implementation bill as an opportunity to rectify its previous attempt to levy the GST and HST on hospital parking, a leftover from budget 2013. This, however, does not make up for other measures included in the budget implementation bill or for Conservative attempts to ram this bill through the House.
The truth is that the budget implementation bill includes a large variety of complex measures that deserve thorough consideration and scrutiny. The tabling of such a large and wide-ranging bill in such a short timeframe undermines Parliament, because it denies individual MPs the ability to thoroughly study the bill and its implications. This is one of the most important jobs of an MP. It is one of the reasons the people of Scarborough—Rouge River sent me here to Ottawa.
Unfortunately, the budget implementation bill fails to provide solutions for issues that matter to Canadians and to my constituents in Scarborough—Rouge River, such as jobs and the economy, immigration and family reunification, safety, and retirement. I will talk about a few of those today.
Despite the cries from the Conservative benches that they are the best managers of the economy, the budget implementation bill would fail to help the leading drivers of our economy: the small and medium-sized businesses. We know that small and medium-sized businesses provide 70% of new jobs in the Canadian labour market. Unfortunately, the budget implementation bill would fail to renew the small business job creation tax credit first proposed by the NDP in 2011.
When 300,000 Canadians are struggling to find work, would we not want to make it easier for small businesses to hire more workers? Unfortunately, the budget implementation bill fails to do this and would fail to help these employers.
It would also fail the struggling Canadian worker. There is nothing in the budget or this bill to get the almost 300,000 unemployed back to work or to help replace the 400,000 manufacturing jobs that were lost under the 's watch.
The cruel joke is that while 300,000 unemployed Canadians are looking for work, the Conservatives have failed to stop abusing the temporary foreign worker program. The Conservatives promised two years ago to create a blacklist of employers who had broken the rules of the temporary foreign worker program. Today, two years later, there are still no names. Let me repeat that. There are no names on the list, despite Alberta, one province, identifying over 100 cases in which employers broke the rules, and that is just one province. We have ten provinces and three territories.
Why should Canadians take the Conservatives' promise to address the abuse of the temporary foreign program seriously? Why should we trust them now?
The truth is that there is not a lot of trust between Canadians and the government. Many Canadians who may have cast their vote for the Conservatives found out the hard way how flimsy that trust is when the government announced changes to the GIS and old age security. Many of my constituents in Scarborough—Rouge River are concerned about their livelihood and future with regard to these changes.
The budget implementation bill would stop payment of the guaranteed income supplement and the old age security survivor allowance to sponsored immigrants, even those who have lived in Canada for 10 years and even if they are still within the sponsorship period during which their families are financially responsible for them, which of course the Conservatives doubled from 10 years to 20 years just last year. This means that immigrants who arrived under the family reunification program may have to wait up to 20 years to be eligible for the guaranteed income supplement and survivor allowance. Does this seem fair to new Canadians? Let me repeat that so it is very clear. This bill would change the rules so that there would be no more guaranteed income supplement or old age security survivor allowance for sponsored immigrants during the entire sponsorship period, a waiting period of up to 20 years. That is unbelievable.
It is just as unbelievable as yesterday's announcement from the Transportation Safety Board that revealed that Canadian rail companies are not reporting all derailments. My constituents are very concerned about rail safety in our community. Scarborough—Rouge River is a densely populated community. Trains run through our community, and we have the large eastern Toronto rail yard right in the centre of our community. There is a great concern about our safety and our environment. These concerns have crossed the minds of many Canadians, not only my constituents of Scarborough—Rouge River but any Canadians who live by the rails.
This is what makes the Conservatives' unwillingness to open the omnibus budget implementation bill to allow independent study of all of the important parts so dangerous. The budget implementation act would allow the government to change and repeal a wide variety of railway safety regulations without informing the public. Those include the standards for engineering, worker training, hours of work, maintenance, and performance. Cabinet decisions changing safety requirements for the transport of dangerous goods would also be a secret, including changes to the classification of dangerous goods, the training and qualifications of inspectors, and rules regarding importation and transportation of these goods.
These changes would prevent the public from knowing when Conservatives weaken safety measures and would prevent experts from advising the minister before the changes would come into effect. It would not be a change that would make our railways and communities safer. Why are the Conservatives regressing on railway safety and trying to move the results of government decisions on railway safety behind closed doors?
This raises another, larger, question: why are the Conservatives against opening the door to transparency? We see it time and again. The Conservatives want to keep the changes to railway safety regulations closed. The Conservatives do not want to open this omnibus bill because they do not want members to tell them what Canadians really think. They do not want the 308 of us to tell them what Canadians think is really going on in the country.
However, the omnibus budget does not need to be opened for me to share what the New Democrats would like to do. We must invest in economic development and high-quality middle-class jobs. That is a priority for the NDP. We can do this by working with the private sector to help Canadian businesses strengthen, grow, and create jobs. We should continue to build on the existing job creation tax credit for small and medium-sized businesses to help the true drivers of our economy, the SMEs, to grow.
We need to make more jobs available to Canadians by stopping the abuse of the temporary foreign worker program. The Government of Canada should work with the provinces to improve monitoring. Employment and Skills Development Canada and Citizenship and Immigration must be able to deny employers' labour market opinions and withdraw work permits from employers who abuse the program. We should also set out a path for citizenship for temporary foreign workers to encourage skilled workers to stay in Canada and continue to contribute to the economy.
The government needs to fulfill its commitment to help Canadians save and invest for their retirement. The NDP will continue to fight for the immediate reversal of the federal government's plan to raise the retirement age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement to 67.
I could continue, but I do not want to give it all away. I would rather share it with my colleagues across the floor after we open up the omnibus budget bill. However, I fear that the Conservatives will not budge.
The Conservative government will continue to cry out otherwise, but Canadians recognize that this is just another omnibus budget bill designed to ram through the House hundreds of changes with as little study and as little oversight as possible, and that is just not fair. Canadians deserve better, and that is why the NDP is here to be the real eyes and ears for Canadians and to hold the government to account.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to economic action plan 2014 as Minister of Labour and Minister for the Status of Women.
To begin with, I take issue with the last comment by the member. Whether it be the working income tax benefit or numerous other opportunities for Canadians, there are over a million low-income Canadians who are no longer on the tax rolls. Therefore, I encourage the member opposite to please look at the facts. The facts are that low-income Canadians are actually way better off under this government. The former minister of finance did an outstanding job of making sure that they were protected.
Canada has weathered the economic storm very well, especially compared to other countries. Since our government introduced economic action plan 2009 to respond to the global recession, Canada has not only recovered all of its output and all of the jobs lost during the recession, but it has exceeded pre-recession levels. Over the last four years, employment has increased by over one million and is now approximately 590,000 above its pre-recession peak, giving Canada the strongest job growth record among G7 countries over the recovery.
Our economic performance has not gone unrecognized. Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development expect Canada to be among the strongest growing economies in the G7 over the years to come. As well, for the sixth year in a row, the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system as the world's soundest. Three major credit rating agencies have reaffirmed our top rating for Canada, and it is expected that Canada will maintain its triple-A rating in the year ahead.
Even before the global crisis, our government moved to lower taxes, reduce red tape and promote trade and innovation.
That said, there is still work to be done. That is why economic action plan 2014 continues our focus on the drivers of growth and job creation: innovation, investment, education, skills, and communities.
It marks the next chapter in our economic plan and leads us to a balanced budget by 2015.
Our plan also includes a number of initiatives to support Canadian individuals and families, Canadian students, and single parents.
We have introduced the new Canada loan program that provides apprentices and Red Seal trades with over $100 million in interest-free loans.
We are further supporting young Canadians entering the economy by investing $55 million to create paid internships for recent graduates in small and medium-sized businesses.
We are helping older workers get back to work by investing $75 million in a targeted initiative to support older workers who want to participate in the job market.
There are also a number of initiatives in economic action plan 2014 that pertain directly to my responsibilities as , such as, increasing support to Status of Women Canada to increase a mentorship program for women entrepreneurs; proposing that over the next number of months, the will consult on how to increase the number of women entering business, and succeeding and participating in business; and, providing an additional $40 million to the Canada's accelerator and incubator program to help entrepreneurs create new companies and realize the potential of their ideas, through intensive mentoring and other resources to make sure they are successful in creating jobs.
There are also a number of initiatives in the budget that will help address violence against women and girls, including indigenous women and girls, by promoting justice and the protection of the most vulnerable in our communities. These include the implementation of the Canadian victims bill of rights; $22 million, over two years, for the aboriginal justice strategy; $8.1 million, starting in 2016-17, with $1.3 million per year ongoing, to create a DNA-based missing persons index, something we have heard a significant amount about and I am delighted we are moving forward on; and, an additional $25 million to renew our efforts to directly address the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women.
As hon. members will recall, the Helping Families in Need Act passed in this House last year, providing support for parents of critically ill children. It also supports parents of children who are missing or have been killed as a result of a crime, one of the most terrifying and difficult experiences that a parent may go through.
As the previous minister of finance stated in his February budget, we are now enhancing our support for families. We are making access to sickness benefits through the employment insurance program more flexible for those receiving parents of critically ill children or compassionate care benefits. This builds on the enhancements for those who are receiving parental benefits introduced in the Helping Families in Need Act. This legislation means that parents will benefit from temporary income support while caring for their critically ill child. For employers, it means retaining valuable employees who otherwise may give up their jobs to take care of their child.
As a practising physician, I can attest that one of the most important components of making sure that a child becomes well is making sure that his or her parent is with him or her. As a government, we need to do all we can to support these families in that absolutely critical time of crisis. This means that for a couple of those children who were diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, their parents will be eligible for the 35 weeks of critically ill benefits, and they are entitled to and may receive more weeks than they had before.
To ensure that leave provisions match the compassionate care leave and leave related to critical illnesses that are fully engaged in employment insurance provisions, the Canada Labour Code will also be amended.
The federal income support for the parents of murdered and missing children grant allows recipients to interrupt these payments to get access to employment insurance sickness benefits as well. Currently, the Canada Labour Code does not explicitly provide job protection to federally regulated employees under these circumstances. These amendments will ensure that the code is fully aligned with that grant, allowing Canadian parents to grieve, to search for their child, or to be with their child if he or she is critically ill.
Other consequential changes are also being put in place to be consistent with the application of the code. All these amendments will come into force on the same day as the related amendments to the employment insurance act.
The adjustments to the Helping Families in Need legislation are the latest in a number of initiatives taken by the government to help Canadian parents balance work life and family responsibilities, in this case, in one of the most important roles they have, that of caring for their child.
This government has earned a strong and well-deserved reputation for wise economic management. In the lead-up to the global recession, we paid down over $37 billion in debt. Unlike other countries, when hard times came, Canada had the leeway and flexibility to navigate through the economic and financial storms that arose outside of our borders.
Canada's deficit has been reduced by two-thirds since 2009. This puts us well on our way toward our goal of a budget surplus of over $6 billion in 2015, even after taking into account the $3-billion annual adjustment of risk.
Balancing the budget and reducing debt will provide a host of benefits that will go beyond the bottom line. It frees up tax dollars that might otherwise be spent on interest costs. These can be used to lower taxes or invest in other priorities for Canadians.
It will strengthen our country’s ability to respond to longer-term challenges, such as population aging, and unexpected global economic shocks.
It would strengthen our country's ability to respond to long-term challenges, such as an aging population and unexpected global shocks. It would help to ensure fairness and equity for generations to come, by avoiding future tax increases and a reduction in services.
Good economic management requires tough decisions, a focus on priorities, and sound judgment. This has been the approach of our government from day one, and it continues in economic action plan 2014.
I sincerely hope that all hon. members will join us in giving the budget their full support.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill , the Conservatives' first bill to implement budget 2014. Yet again, it is another massive omnibus budget bill of over 350 pages and 500 separate clauses.
I will not be supporting this bill, because it fails to address the very real challenges faced by the middle class. Moreover, it does little to help Canadian youth find jobs at a time when there is persistently high youth unemployment and underemployment. Today, there are still 264,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than before the economic downturn.
The bill does little to help middle class parents and grandparents make ends meet and tackle record high levels of personal debt. Today, the average household owes a record $1.66 for every dollar of disposable income.
A few weeks ago, we had two weeks in our constituency offices, and 80% of my meetings were with people who are unemployed and looking for work. These were skilled people, engineers, lawyers, and Ph.D.s. There was one young man who had just graduated in nursing. Unfortunately, he could not afford the $500 for the exam. As a result, he could not work in the field for which he had studied so hard.
I cannot be clearer: people in my community have education, are skilled, and are desperate to work, but they cannot find jobs. Instead of the government putting new programs in place, support services are being cut in my Etobicoke North community. I have gone to the minister several times on this issue, for both settlement programs and job programs.
During those past two constituency weeks, we needed to get weekly food programs for five families. They did not ask for the help, but I realized the need when I reviewed their resumés and saw the last time they had worked and the number of family members they needed to feed.
Four individuals asked for counselling to deal with their depression as a result of not having a job, and one talked of suicide.
I will bring up one more case. A refugee woman, 18 weeks pregnant, bled through the night. She was afraid to go to the hospital because she could not afford the health care. Now she is afraid of getting an ultrasound because she cannot afford to pay for it.
The Conservatives' changes to Canadian society do not happen in a vacuum. They impact real Canadians who are hurting. The government needs to learn to see the hurt and to respond.
Our community is seeing real economic challenges. The government seems out of touch when it talks about this recovery as if it were a uniform recovery that is affecting and helping people in all regions of the country. The reality is that there are groups that are simply being left behind. A lot of families are struggling just to get by.
University graduates have come in to get help after being out of school and out of work for two years. Grandparents have come on behalf of their grandchildren—the first in the family to graduate from university and college—asking why they had fled their country of origin to come to Canada, the land of promise, so their children could have an education, but now that they have an education, they still do not have a job.
The people in my constituency need jobs. I have worked hard to get them jobs. In fact, I obtained funding for a completing the circle program, a $500,000 job program in our community. I personally review and edit resumés late into the night, sometimes doing two and three drafts. We get our people into jobs programs. We follow up with them to make sure their job searches are going in the right direction.
While they search, we help them with food, clothing, and whatever other supports they might need. We should all remember that we have seen a 31% increase in food bank usage since 2008.
At critical times, I have personally bought bedding, food, furniture, and medicine to help hurting Etobicoke North families. We had one lady come looking for help. She was in agony due to an ear infection that had raged for three weeks. She had pus and blood running down her face. The sad reality is that she could not afford antibiotics because she could not find a job.
I have MS patients who cannot take their drugs because they cannot work. How many more stories are there like theirs?
What I was looking for in the budget implementation bill, first and foremost, was real help for the people of Etobicoke North for jobs. Instead, we have over 350 pages with 500 separate clauses. Once again, my constituents are saddened by the fact that this is an omnibus bill with multiple sections that deserve full and proper hearings in committee and full parliamentary scrutiny.
Bill includes numerous measures that do not belong in a budget implementation bill; for example, rules about food safety, hazardous products, rail safety, and even the number of federal judges. The bill continues the Conservatives' battle against openness and transparency by weakening requirements to consult and inform Canadians about safety regulations and user fees. These changes have nothing to do with the implementation bill and are meant only to limit debate on important issues to Canadians. The Conservatives chose this anti-democratic route in order to adopt the bill's measures quickly and to avoid having them reviewed by Parliament.
The Conservatives have repeatedly abused Parliament by ramming through outrageous omnibus bills. For example, a few years ago the government introduced an 880-page omnibus bill, a grab bag of bills the government wanted to pass quickly. In fact, it was half the entire workload of Parliament from the previous year. As a result, the government was severely condemned for turning the legislative process into a farce.
More recently, the government introduced Bill , the 400-plus page omnibus budget implementation bill. Through the bill, the government sprung sweeping changes on our country, affecting everything from employment insurance, to environmental protection, to immigration, to old age security. None of these changes were in the Conservative platform. They were rushed into law by “an arrogant majority government that’s in a hurry to impose its agenda on the country”.
The government's actions reek of hypocrisy. In the 1990s, the right hon. member for criticized omnibus legislation, suggesting that the subject matter of such bills is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles and that dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent the views of their constituents on each part of the bill. The right hon. member is now using the very tactics he once denounced. It is a shame that he changed his tune when he was elected to the highest office in the land.
One newspaper previously stated that omnibus bills are:
||...political sleight-of-hand and message control, and it appears to be an accelerating trend. These shabby tactics keep Parliament in the dark, swamp MPs with so much legislation that they can’t absorb it all, and hobble scrutiny. This is not good, accountable, transparent government.
In this omnibus budget implementation bill, Bill , parliamentarians are being asked to consider measures including compassionate leave, expansion of the adoption expense tax credit, medical expense tax credits, and sickness benefits. We would actually be supportive of these measures as individual measures, but unfortunately these positive measures are being lumped together with some very unreasonable, harmful, and regressive measures that we cannot support.
Like the omnibus bills before it, Bill includes corrections to mistakes in previous budget bills.
For the people of Etobicoke North and for young people across Canada, Bill C-31 offers very little. My constituents and Canadians need better and deserve better.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pride today to rise here in my place and lend my voice to support Bill , an act to implement certain provisions of the federal budget that was brought down on February 11, 2014, here in this House.
I represent the great riding of York Centre. York Centre is a unique riding. We have 15 different ethnocultural groups that represent at least 5% of the population. People come from all over the world to the riding of York Centre, and they come for a variety of reasons. They are escaping persecution. They are escaping racism. Most importantly, they are coming to this great country of Canada to seek opportunity for themselves, but more importantly, for their children.
Recently I read about a poll taken around the world asking people where they would like to live. What was their number one country, given their choice? The number one answer given was “Canada”. We have read in the history books that 2,000 years ago, in the Roman Empire, the greatest thing one could say was “civis Romanus sum”, “I am a citizen of Rome”. Today, thanks to our and to the actions of our government, the proudest thing Canadians can say, no matter where they are, whether in Canada or around the world, is “I am a citizen of Canada”. That is why we have people wanting to come to Canada from every corner of the earth.
Let me just step back a bit. Canadians have no monopoly on brains and ingenuity and creativity. That exists around the world. This is, however, one of the very few countries around the world that offers opportunity, so people come here seeking that opportunity to get a better life for themselves and their children. That is what Canada is about. That is the most Canadian thing.
We are so fortunate under this government. We have had a plan since 2006, unlike the previous Liberal government, which for 13 years balanced the federal budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our society: seniors and children. It was actually quite an outrage.
What we have done is increase transfer payments to the provinces. We increased the GIS, at a record level of 25%, just before the last election. We now have the best-performing economy of any G7 country. It is a jobs-driven economy. We have created over one million net new jobs since the depth of the recession in July 2009. We are leading the G7.
In the month of January, we had a budgetary surplus of $2.9 billion and are on course to get a $6.5 billion budgetary surplus by the time our next budget comes down in 2015. We have done this by lowering taxes to record levels. We have lowered the corporate income tax to 15%, which has made Canada a huge investment opportunity and a destination for businesses to create jobs. We have negotiated nine free trade agreements, more than any Canadian government in history. We just closed negotiations on the Canada–Korea free trade agreement. Preceding that was the Canada–European Union free trade agreement. Trade means jobs, and this government knows that.
People in my riding tell me, when I go to door to door, which I do every weekend, that they have never had it better than under this government under the leadership of our current .
Our economy has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of any G7 economy, at 36%. The G7 average is 90%. Our second closest competitor is Germany, at just over 50%. We have the highest, strongest income growth of any G7 country, and we have recovered all of the business investment lost during the economic recession. The IMF, the OECD, and the World Economic Forum have said that Canada is the best place to do business. We have the strongest financial system in the world, exceeding Basel III.
We have the strongest fundamentals in place over the next 50 years to grow our economy substantially. That is what business looks for. We have frozen EI premiums. Businesses want stability to create jobs. They need to know that, and this government has done that.
All the credit rating agencies, from Standard & Poor's to Moody's, have reiterated our AAA credit rating. No other G7 country has benefited from such a credit rating as Canada has.
We have brought in a series of budgets since 2006 that are not Conservative budgets or ideologically driven budgets. These are Canadian budgets. These are budgets that are good for the people of Canada. We have job creation. We have an economy that will stimulate jobs and encourage investment, unlike the New Democrats, whose ideology gives them the answers before they even look at the evidence. That is why they do not bother to read bills that come before the House, because their ideology will give them the answer before they even need to read them.
We have lowered taxes on average Canadians. We have lowered the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%, putting a thousand extra dollars in the pockets of Canadians. We believe that Canadians know what to do with their money better than what governments can do with it. We have enhanced the working income tax benefit. Eight million Canadians have opened up tax-free savings accounts. We have reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11% and the general business tax from 21% to 15%, as I indicated earlier. We are increasing the age credit and the pension income credit. We have taken more than one million Canadians off the tax rolls. No other government in Canadian history has ever been able to achieve that.
Our current unemployment rate, with a record number of people who want jobs in Canada because our economy is doing so well, is below 7%. In the heyday of the Liberals, in the mid 1990s, in an economy that was doing extremely well around the world, the unemployment rate never fell below 7%. We, in a fragile economy, must be doing something right, and it is not me who is saying that. It is all the economic institutions around the world who are saying that Canada is the model of economic performance.
When I was in business before I got into politics, I did a lot of travelling. People would come up to me when I would travel. They were very curious about Canada's success story and why it was doing so well relative to all other economies around the world. Now that I have been in government, I can see why. We are the only party that consults. We have had a plan since 2006 based on consultations with the Canadian people. The people told us that their priorities were jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity, and that has been our focus since 2006.
The only part of government spending we have reduced is spending on the operations of government. We have not reduced transfer payments to either people or governments. We have reduced spending on government operations, and that is saving the taxpayers of Canada money.
The first thing we did when we got into government in 2006, which put us in a good position to weather the economic storm that was coming, was begin to pay down the national debt by $37 billion. That gave us the latitude in later years, when the economic recession hit, to have the manoeuvrability to run a short-term deficit. Because of our government's policies on job creation and lower taxes, we are now going to have a $6.5 billion budgetary surplus, the only G7 country to have a surplus, in 2015.
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to stand and speak to yet another 360-plus page omnibus budget bill. Yet again, as has been the case with the Conservative government, this bill is replete with law and policy reforms unrelated to or only minimally related to finance. This bill is more notable for what it excludes than what it offers to Canadians, but I will speak about that a little bit later.
Once again, it incorporates a myriad of legislative reforms belonging more appropriately, in a true, open, transparent, and democratic system, under separate stand-alone bills for policy initiatives with adequate opportunity for scrutiny and debate, not just by duly elected members of Parliament but also by Canadians who might be impacted these measures, and with referral to the appropriate committee for study.
It is regrettable that the Conservative government continues to table the type of budget implementation bills it does. There are some supportable measures in this bill, but the government just cannot resist putting in poison pills that my constituents absolutely cannot support.
However, I would credit the proposed action on a number of matters, which many have called for. One includes extending to 10 years the carry-forward period for specified donations of ecologically sensitive lands. That is a commendable measure.
Expanding the category of persons who may claim medical expenses to those suffering severely from diabetes is very important. In particular, our aboriginal communities are suffering immeasurably from this disease. It would be nice if the government also put in place measures so that they could afford healthy foods and that would help to address the symptoms and cause of diabetes.
Finally, the government is responding to a call by the Alberta attorney general and me to increase the number of appointments to the Court of Queen's Bench in Alberta. I am delighted that it has finally responded to that request, which has been outstanding for many years.
I am pleased that the Conservatives would extend at least a modicum or limited category of veterans' benefits, although they are still begrudging veterans the benefits they deserve from the period of 2006-13. It would have been nice if the government had moved forward and stopped the clawback and instead reimbursed and rewarded our veterans for the time served.
In addition, interest-free loans for apprenticeship training are most likely welcomed. Regrettably, absolutely nothing in this budget would trigger action by employers to offer more apprenticeships. It is nice that there would be money to borrow to participate in an apprenticeship, but we still have this longstanding failure by the corporations in this country, especially the major corporations, to make apprenticeships available.
Sadly, again, while the government persists in providing some measures that we have either long called for or would be happy to support on behalf of our constituents, there are many more matters of legislative concern in this bill.
For example, let us look at FATCA. This implements the Canada-U.S. intergovernmental agreement on the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA. Grave concerns have been expressed by many of my constituents about these measures. This is a bill that absolutely should have come independently to this place for open debate and to allow citizens with dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship to come forward and testify to the issues, and for legal experts to testify to the matter and provide advice and counsel to the government on how it might be implemented in a fairer and more advantageous way for Canadian citizens.
Regrettably, the government has thrown it in the middle of a budget bill and there will not be that opportunity.
Secondly, let us look at administrative tribunals. We know that the government has serious problems with parliamentary officers, whom it is trying to stifle. This measure is also of grave concern. Instead of providing administrative services to the many federal tribunals, the government is proposing to consolidate them all in one office. The senior administrator would be appointed by the government.
This raises serious concerns, because these are quasi-judicial bodies that are supposed to be completely independent of government. One merely needs to consider the actions taken by the government against our quasi-judicial tribunals.
Time after time, the government has refused to reveal information to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This raises the question: is this some kind of mechanism whereby the Conservatives will be able to control and try to constrain the wide array of quasi-judicial tribunals in this country? It is obviously a matter that legal experts would like to come in to discuss separately, but that is not going to happen because it is contained within a budget bill.
Third is railway safety. This one is absolutely stunning. Day after day, issues are raised in this place about the abject failure of the government to adequately govern railway safety. This is a serious issue for my constituency. We have rail tanker cars coming into the very busiest part of my riding. In fact, they are going to continue to come through, literally feet from condominiums.
What is the government doing? It just defies reason. It is passing, in a budget bill, a measure that is going to rescind a mandatory duty to notify the public of measures on rail safety, and it is rescinding the opportunity for the public to comment on rail safety measures. It defies logic.
In the case where these measures are actually environmentally related, where the measures might be put in place to protect the environment, by rescinding this, the government is actually violating the North American Agreement on Environmental Co-operation. In signing onto that agreement, Canada had undertaken to provide advance notice and opportunity to comment on any proposed law by government that might impact the environment.
No such notice was given of this law change coming forward. It is removing the opportunity for Canadian communities to have a say in rail safety. It defies logic that this would be in a budget bill.
Fourth is temporary foreign workers. The government is lauding the fact it is going to implement monetary penalties by regulation, where there is no opportunity for discussion. This is the government that, until it was pressured, did not even inform Canadians of corporations that are breaking the law on bringing in temporary foreign workers. Only because of pressure did it finally, this weekend, post some of those names. We are talking about major corporations that may be breaking the law regulating temporary foreign workers, and the government is going to issue a monetary penalty. It is not even asserting the powers it has right now, including the power to yank the permits for bringing in temporary foreign workers.
We look forward to the explanation by the government of why this would be in a budget bill. Obviously monetary penalties might be arguable. Normally these are brought forward in an amendment to the relevant statute.
Finally, I would like to speak to what is not in Bill . There are no measures to support the renewal of the small business job creation tax credit, which would definitely help small startups offering energy efficient retrofits, or clean energy firms. There were a number of such entities, all excited to get going in my city and my riding. Youth were interested in going around and meeting seniors in their homes, giving them an affordable audit and then referring them to people who could energy retrofit their homes.
It is not there. The government is not interested in helping people reduce their energy use and save money.
There is absolutely no renewal of the ecoENERGY home retrofit program, which was one of the all-time popular programs, over-subscribed because it was so popular. The government decided to get rid of it.
There is a total absence of any measures, fiscal or other, to address Canada's growing greenhouse gas emissions, despite the fact that 81% of Canadians believe there is solid evidence of climate change and 84% want Canada to show leadership. Of course, I guess the problem is that the government is supported by the 30% who do not believe in climate change.
I look forward, in response to questions, to sharing more information, including the fact there are zero measures to get major corporations to invest money in alternative energy in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things”.
So said Adam Smith, the Scottish economist. To put it in a way that many Canadians who know their history would understand, it is about peace, order, and good government. That is the basis of what we do in this place. That is what we seek to do with all legislation. That is the jurisdiction of the Canadian Parliament.
Listening to the debate going on today, talking about the budget implementation act, the economic action plan of the Government of Canada, I heard some hon. members talk about not quite recognizing the Canada in which they grew up in this budget, the government's economic action plan. Therefore, I thought perhaps a little bit of context might be useful for understanding where Canada has come from in our economic past: what is Canada's historic approach to dealing with economic issues, and what in the past has impacted us that affects us in this economic legislation?
I will deal with a few of the myths and also bring forward some of the economic data, not only from Canada but from around the world, to explain why the government has it right, why the government has done what it has done, and why concentrating on what I spoke of earlier—low taxes, peace, order, and good government—is what works best for Canada.
What many Canadians often do not understand, or do not necessarily remember, is that one of Canada's primary, original economic strategies was low taxes. I know that may be difficult for some members of the opposition to understand, growing up thinking the Trudeau era was the norm for Canadian economic policy. However, in the early part of Canada's history, one of the absolutely basic strategies for attracting immigrants, investment, et cetera, to Canada was not having income tax. We know that Prime Minister Borden introduced income tax during the First World War to pay for the expense of the war. However, what is often forgotten is that the Conservatives in that era—and for that matter the Liberals until the era of Laurier, when they began to think about it—were opposed to income tax. One of the reasons they opposed it was that they knew low taxes would attract talent to Canada. Immigration from Great Britain and the United States, specifically, is what they were looking for. Of course, keeping taxes lower than the United States was important to this strategy because, with the opportunities in the United States, immigrants had a choice between the two countries.
Canada was built very much on this concept of low tax, a solid currency, low administration, and a low regulatory approach to governance. This is something that is often forgotten in debates nowadays, when we start to think and reference back to the mid-1970s as the basis for beginning our economic history of Canada.
We see these historic principles that worked so well in the founding of our nation being carried forward in our government's fiscal and budgetary policy. Let us look at a few of these things, historically, that the government has done. We know of course about the 2% cut to the GST, going from 7% to 6% to 5%. It was a measure that helped all Canadians, low income, high income, working Canadians, and Canadians who are on fixed incomes, across the board. Of course we remember the pension splitting that the government brought in to provide income tax fairness to seniors.
If I may digress here for a moment, there has been some debate in the public about one of the upcoming provisions for one of the next budgets. That is the expanding of income splitting to families, particularly families with children under the age of 18. One of the criticisms of the government wanting to bring this policy forward is that it would give tax cuts to people who make a fair bit of money. That is, it would give tax cuts to people who pay taxes. I have news. Unless one pays taxes, one cannot have one's taxes cut. We want Canadians to pay taxes, because that is how we provide for our services in our country. Therefore, it is very good to have taxes cut.
Those who are most discriminated against under the current tax system will receive the most benefit under this tax provision, just as people who had pensions were the ones most likely to benefit from the change in the pension splitting provisions. Therefore, it should be remembered that this income splitting is not only good economic policy, but it is good social policy because it enhances the fairness of the tax system.
One of the most important things this government has done in these last few years is try to bring down and control the debt, the deficit in particular. Canadians may not remember this, but prior to 1975, Canadian debt tended to grow by 5% to 10% a year. Only in 1975 did our debt really begin to accelerate to 20% per year for slightly over a decade. It took many years after the follies of the Pierre Trudeau administration for us to begin to get a grip on our financial house here in Canada. That is one reason why I approve of the government's specific strategy of trying to get the deficit down to zero so that we can then begin to repay the debt we have built up.
All government spending is taxes. However, the question is this. Is it present taxes or future taxes with interest tacked on? That is why I feel it is important for all present Parliaments to do what they can to try to keep Canada's debt load low and eliminate the deficit now. In eras like World War I and World War II, there were situations where it was understandable to run a deficit. That is one of the most important things to note.
We have looked at the government's success in cutting taxes. Opposition critics are often fond of criticizing the cuts to corporate taxes. What they sometimes fail to note is that the share of corporate taxes presently tends to be almost identical, as a share of the GDP, to what it was when we had higher corporate taxes. For people who do not understand economics, that may seem a bit strange, but we need to understand that corporate taxes are merely one stage of the tax process. The profit of the corporation will eventually be taxed again at other levels later on. What corporations do when they see tax rates go up is reallocate capital, look for better places to invest, and cut back in other areas.
I was reading an interesting article that analyzed the effect of corporate taxes in the United States. It said that one of the biggest impacts of raising corporate taxes was wage pressure on workers. The lowering of corporate taxes has not hurt government finances and helps to put positive pressure on the salaries of workers.
There are a couple of other things for which I want to congratulate the government. While reading notes in preparation for this debate, I found this interesting. Departmental spending has gone down in three straight years. I offer my congratulations to the and all the ministers who worked on that. That is incredibly difficult to do. With growth in population, inflationary pressures, et cetera, to keep departmental spending down in three straight years is a spectacular achievement, because all government spending is taxation, as I said earlier. The question is whether it is present taxation or future taxation. Keeping government spending down is one of the most important things here.
As I have approximately one minute left, let me list a few of the positive things our government has done. One in particular that we should continue to push for and emphasize is our trade agreements—one of the absolute best things we have done in this Parliament—with the European Union, with many countries in Latin America, and increasingly by reaching out to Asia.
Everything I have talked to comes back to those basic points, which are peace, order, and good government. If we keep taxes low, keep the money sound, and keep the administration of government light, in the end we will have a prosperous country, a good economy, and happy citizens throughout our country.
Mr. Speaker, we have here another season, another Conservative budget, another mammoth bill, another omnibus bill, another undemocratic bill, another Trojan horse bill. It is another season in Parliament where the Conservatives have introduced another brick of a bill.
Will this brick of a bill build the foundation for a prosperous economy? No. Will this brick of a bill build the foundation for an economy of solidarity? No. Will this brick of a bill build the foundation for a democratic economy? No. Will this brick of a bill build the foundation for a green economy and strengthen environmental protections? No. Will this brick of a bill build an economy of innovation and creativity? No.
The content of Bill undermines all that Canadians are and all that they can accomplish. This budget undermines everything Canadians are striving for, namely, a fairer, greener and more prosperous society where no one is left behind.
When I meet people from my riding of LaSalle—Émard, I am meeting people who work hard. I travel with them on the bus and on the metro. They often have unstable jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. They pay all sorts of fees, and this government's planned tax cuts are irrelevant to them because everything else costs more.
When I am in my riding, I meet with seniors. They are also concerned because their rent is going up while their pension stays the same because of this government's blind stubbornness. Seniors are concerned because they too are having trouble making ends meet. I meet families who are working extremely hard to make sure that their children have a bright future but who are struggling with debt and instability. They are concerned because they too are struggling to make ends meet.
Canadians are bearing the burden of the Conservatives' successive irresponsible budget measures, and Bill will only add to that burden. I would like to quote an article from The Economist, which reads:
||...Canada’s finance minister...has repeatedly warned of the threat household debt poses to the economy.
|| Yet [the previous] budget did little to encourage business investment or exports to take the place of consumers in supporting growth. Rather, his focus was on eliminating the federal budget deficit—currently at 1.4% of GDP, low compared with most G7 economies—before the next general election in 2015. His plan, which relies on spending restraint and unusually high revenue growth, is seen by many as wishful thinking.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in its Alternative Federal Budget 2014: Striking a Better Balance, warns:
||...the growth that households contributed to the Canadian economy in the past year was entirely financed through household debt. Clearly this situation is not sustainable....
|| The real concern for Canada lies ahead, when mortgage rates do inevitably increase from their present historic lows. At that time, highly leveraged households, along with their consequent support for economy growth, will be seriously constrained.
In my riding, I see businesses closing and good jobs being lost. I see SMEs having difficulty covering their operating expenses or investing in growth and job creation. I see small businesses closing or struggling to survive.
Since the Conservatives came to power, the gap between the rich and the poor has grown faster than in other OECD countries.
We are also seeing the gap between large and small businesses growing. The Conservatives' policies for creating stable, well-paying jobs for all Canadians have quite simply failed.
In its Alternative Federal Budget 2014, the authors state:
|| The current federal government’s policy of spending public revenues on corporate tax breaks, intended to stimulate re-investment in the Canadian economy, has failed. Rather than creating jobs and spending money on Canadian-made infrastructure, corporations have hoarded their government-subsidized profits to the tune of $572 billion, raised top CEO wages to 171 times that of the average Canadian worker, and shifted their workforce into increasingly precarious jobs.
That is what comes of irresponsible austerity budgets and policies, these bricks that do nothing to build the foundation of a strong, solid, and prosperous Canadian economy.
I would also like to talk about a rather worrisome measure in the budget whose ramifications could have harmful consequences for Canadians. I am talking about the accord on the infamous Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, better known as FATCA, the American tax law on foreign accounts. A number of people have said that this accord might be inconsistent with Canadian privacy laws and that enforcing this law could be costly. Those costs would be borne by the financial institutions and by the Canada Revenue Agency. We can expect those costs to be passed on to consumers and taxpayers.
Our country needs leadership and a clear vision. The NDP has a number of proposals to build a lasting, supportive, prosperous economy for the future.
The NDP is proposing that the government make strategic investments in the Canadian economy, in innovative and productive industries, sectors where Canada has already proven itself. I want to speak specifically about sectors like the aerospace industry, a sector that is ignored in this budget but that is creating well-paying jobs in a value-added export industry.
If the government was willing to do so, it could also invest in the green technology industry, another sector that this government has ignored and neglected. Need I remind the House that protecting the environment is not inconsistent with responsible economic development? An NDP government would make strategic investments in the co-operative sector for a sustainable, democratic and 100% Canadian economy.
What I would like to see in this bill is a new partnership with the provinces and cities, instead of this government's paternalistic and controlling vision, especially when it comes to infrastructure. As a result, we would have vibrant cities and communities that would have the means to build safe and healthy places to live. We would have an environmental policy that would make Canada a leader in green technologies, energy conservation, electrification of transportation and waste reclamation. We would have a digital strategy in which revenue from spectrum auctions would be invested in infrastructure to provide high-speed Internet in all regions of Canada.
What I would like to see in this budget is a government that provides services that Canadians can count on.
These are proposals that would build the foundation of a solid economic structure, a sustainable, mutually supportive and prosperous economy focused on the future.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill the budget implementation act.
This bill will enact various measures that were outlined in the budget that was presented to the House last month. I am very happy that the government is moving forward expeditiously to put these measures in place to benefit all Canadians.
Today I will outline why I feel as though this bill will benefit residents in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, and indeed Canadians from coast to coast.
Before I begin, I want to take some time to congratulate the former minister of finance, a good friend of mine, the member for , on a job very well done. He was first elected to the House of Commons in 2006, after spending several years with the Ontario provincial government.
He has tirelessly represented the people of in his work here in Ottawa. The accolades that he has received internationally, and his recognition as the greatest finance minister in the world, truly demonstrate that he was certainly one of the greatest finance ministers that our country has ever had.
I wish him all the best in his retirement, and, again, commend him on a job well done.
Further to this, I would congratulate the member for on his recent appointment as and wish him all the best as he carries out his duties in this position. I am certain that he will carry out sound economic policies for Canadians in the years to come.
Before getting into the specific measures contained within Bill , I would like to respond to some of the opposition criticism that the bill has received. Bill has been widely criticized by some of my colleagues across the way as being an omnibus bill. It is often presented that the bill has a wide range of initiatives and will implement new measures in many different areas and many different sectors.
What I think is being misunderstood here is that the problems that are facing our economy are not simple and contained to a specific sector or field. There are a wide range of issues that we are presented with, and we therefore need a comprehensive plan to tackle these issues. That is why Bill will implement a wide sweeping plan that will ensure increased growth and continue our leading economic prosperity from the recession.
One of these measures that I am very pleased to see implemented is the new building Canada plan. I was pleased to see that recently the government announced that this fund was open for business and municipalities could begin their applications to secure funds for the upcoming construction season. A $53-billion plan for provincial, territorial, and municipal infrastructure will provide stable funding for a 10-year period, the longest in Canadian history.
I, and many of my colleagues on both sides of the House, have spent some time in municipal politics, and I believe we all understand the importance of stable infrastructure funding. This will ensure that municipalities have the funding they need to carry out projects that will help them to better provide important services to Canadians.
In my riding, the new building Canada plan has received substantial interest. Many municipalities are looking forward to taking advantage of this record level of funding for local projects.
In discussing the upcoming construction season, I think it is important to discuss the importance of government funding in relation to creating summer employment. I am sure that when communities are able to secure funding through the new building Canada plan, many jobs will be created in many different fields.
Our government has always supported job creation and training. This budget continues this record.
Through the Canada job grant, Canadians will get the skills they need to get in-demand jobs. An investment of $40 million, for up to 3,000 internships in high-demand fields, and $15 million, for up to 1,000 internships in small and medium sized businesses, will support further job creation.
Furthermore, pilot projects to expand the use of innovative approaches to training apprentices and the creation of the Canada apprenticeship loan will support training and employment through apprenticeships. The Canada apprenticeship loan will help apprentices registered in Red Seal trades to complete their training by providing access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year.
Therefore, I think it is very safe to say that this budget supports job creation and training and implements measures to address skills shortages and unemployment.
Continuing on with our commitment to improving Canadian infrastructure, this budget contains measures that would specifically address the needs of rural areas. I was very pleased to see that $305 million would be invested to extend and enhance broadband service for up to an additional 280,000 Canadians. In today's high-tech world, with reliance on services provided through the Internet, broadband service is very much needed in rural areas.
This is certainly a welcome announcement in my riding. On a personal basis, the area where I live is one without high speed Internet because of the topography. Hopefully, this initiative would allow companies to address spots like this and others, not just in my riding but across the country.
This budget would also support a strong and stable health care system. This year is significant in that the health accord would shift to the Canada health transfer, which would increase funding from $30.3 billion to $40 billion over the next 10 years.
Further to this, the budget would expand health-related tax relief by removing the GST and HST on more health care products and services to better reflect the health care needs of Canadians. Canadians are proud of their health care system, and this budget would continue to improve this already proven successful system.
My riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound is surrounded by the Great Lakes on three sides. The recreational fishing industry is a vital source of economic activity and tourism for several communities. This budget would make a significant amount of funding available that would support growth in these communities through the recreational fishing industry.
It should be noted that the recreational fishing industry provides about $8 billion in economic activity in this country and has become extremely important to many people in my riding.
The first way in which this budget would improve the recreational fishing industry is through support for small craft harbours. The budget would invest an additional $40 million to ensure that harbour facilities meet the needs of local fishermen.
Furthermore, I was very pleased to see that the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program was extended, through a $15-million investment. That program was originally put in place about a year ago. There was a lot of effort from a number of MPs from this side of the House. In particular, the member for , in Manitoba, put a lot of work into that. It is something that is very important to his riding, my riding, and many other ridings in the country.
Several groups in my riding have already received funding through this program, and the projects they intend to carry out will go a long way in establishing a secure recreational fishery. I am looking forward to seeing other sportsmen's associations and groups receiving funding through this program to support local fisheries. These people are true stewards of the environment, and they are committed to a healthy ecosystem. This funding would go a long way to creating a healthy environment and a strong recreational fishery.
In relation to getting out and enjoying nature, I was also very pleased to see that a $10-million investment would be made to improve and expand snowmobile and recreational trails. These trail systems provide a great deal of economic activity and are a great way for Canadians to see the countryside. The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, the National Trails Coalition, and other groups do a tremendous amount of work to maintain a very successful recreational trail system in Canada.
I can tell the House that with this program and the winter and we have had this year, we saw snowmobilers in my area coming in, renting motel rooms, and buying gas and meals. The tourism effect was great, and it went right into April this year.
With that, I am going to leave it, and I look forward to any questions.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise this afternoon to speak in support of our government's economic action plan 2014.
I am very pleased that our government is on track to a balanced budget in 2015, as we committed to in 2011. We are doing so responsibly, unlike the previous Liberal government, which balanced the budget on the backs of the provinces and hard-working Canadians. Our government, under the leadership of our and , will balance the budget while continuing to grow provincial transfers to record levels. For my province of Manitoba, federal transfers will total almost $3.4 billion in 2014-15. That is an increase of 24% from what it was under the previous Liberal government.
Under this government, we have cut taxes nearly 160 times, reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years. That will save the average Canadian family nearly $3,400 on its tax bill this year. We have also invested in job creation and training, business, innovation, and trade and have provided support for families and communities from coast to coast to coast. This government is dedicated to jobs and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
I would like to highlight how economic action plan 2014 will continue with our government's strong performance in job creation. As we all know, Canada has led the G7 in job growth, with over one million net new jobs since the economic recession in 2007, with over 85% of those jobs being full time. Simply put, Canada has outperformed every other G7 country and has experienced the strongest real per capita growth in the G7. This is because our government is serious about creating jobs and long-term prosperity for Canadians. This is why economic action plan 2014 focuses on initiatives to support job creation, investments in innovation and trade, and support for families and communities.
I am pleased to highlight the creation of the Canada apprentice loan through the expansion of the Canada student loan program. Costs associated with completing an apprenticeship can be significant, from tools to educational fees to living expenses. The financial strain on Canadians in apprenticeship programs, especially those with young families, can be challenging. This program would provide apprentices in Red Seal trades access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year. Our government is making it easier for Canadians to acquire the skills and abilities needed for a career in high-skill and in-demand jobs.
Through economic action plan 2014, this government also proposes to renew the targeted initiative for older workers program, investing $75 million over three years to assist older workers in vulnerable communities who have been affected by significant downsizing, closures, or high unemployment to reintegrate into the workforce. This would provide employers with experienced and talented staff, would benefit the economy, and would provide support and security for older Canadians who have experienced job loss.
Not only has our government invested in connecting older workers with jobs but we are also enhancing the job matching service and are modernizing the national job bank. Our government is committed to helping unemployed Canadians get back to work, giving them the first chance at available jobs. That is why the enhanced job matching service would provide modern and reliable tools for job seekers that would match their skill sets to available jobs. It would provide employers with the tools needed to look for qualified Canadian workers through timely access to job postings and consolidated labour market information.
Additionally, these initiatives would provide information to inform young people about fields of study that are relevant to the existing and forecasted demand for labour in particular occupations. This would help students make better choices about their education. Ensuring that students have the tools needed to better plan their routes to future employment is critical for a strong Canada.
A disability does not mean an inability. Unfortunately, Canadians with disabilities are too often under-represented in the workforce. Our government recognizes that employers accommodating persons with disabilities in the workplace is good for business and empowering to individuals, and it stimulates the economy. However, education and training are often required to overcome barriers, dispel stigmas and/or myths, and put action to words.
I would like to specifically highlight our government's $15 million contribution over three years to the ready, willing and able initiative of the Canadian Association for Community Living. Persons with intellectual disabilities and those with autism spectrum disorder face added and unique barriers to employment, yet we know that these individuals are not only eager to participate in the workforce but are capable of participation. This contribution to the Canadian Association for Community Living would expand existing activities to 20 community-based locations across Canada, which would support new jobs for Canadians with developmental disabilities.
In addition to connecting Canadians with jobs and training, our government has once again proven that support for business, innovation, and trade are top priorities. Canada has become an increasingly attractive place to invest and to grow a business. Recently, Canada moved to second place in Bloomberg's ranking of the most attractive countries for business investment. This is as a direct result of our government's sound economic policies under our .
In economic action plan 2014, we continue to strengthen the Canadian economy by cutting red tape for small and medium-sized businesses. This will save valuable time and money. For example, we have eliminated the requirement for 800,000 payroll remittances to CRA every year for 50,000 small and medium-sized businesses. These eliminations would help business expand and thrive.
In addition to cutting the regulatory burden on small and medium-sized businesses, we have made landmark investments in research and innovation by investing $1.5 billion in post-secondary research through the Canada first research excellence fund and by investing $46 million in new funding for the granting councils to support research and scientific advances in Canada.
Strong families and communities are the foundation of a prosperous and safe country. Our government recognizes this and in economic action plan 2014 continues our strong record of strengthening families and communities.
Families incur unique costs when they adopt a child, such as adoption agency fees and other legal costs. Our government recognizes these challenges. Therefore, we have enhanced tax relief by increasing the adoption expense tax credit to $15,000.
We are standing up for the victims of crime by giving victims a voice. We are giving hope by implementing the victims bill of rights and providing funding for a DNA-based missing persons data index. We have also renewed $25 million over five years to continue efforts to reduce violence against aboriginal women and girls.
Seniors do and will continue to have a very important role in communities across Canada. Through the enhancements to the new horizons for seniors program, the government will provide an additional $5 million in annual funding to organizations that raise awareness of elder abuse and that provide means for seniors to benefit from and contribute to the quality of life in their communities through social activities and active living.
Our government has also recognized that many Canadians make sacrifices to care for their family members. Therefore, we have launched the Canadian employers for caregivers action plan to engage with employers on cost-effective workplace solutions to help maximize caregivers' labour market participation.
Although Canada has experienced the highest economic growth in the G7 since the economic recession in 2007, the government recognizes that low-income families face constraints or have distinct housing needs that impede their participation in the housing market. Our government is committed to working with the provinces, territories, municipalities, and other stakeholders at the community level to ensure that low-income families and vulnerable Canadians have access to quality, affordable housing.
Additionally, this government has committed to ensuring that vulnerable Canadians who experience extended or repeated periods of homelessness have access to quality housing. Therefore, we have renewed the homelessness partnering strategy, as announced in last year's budget. We will continue to work with communities, provinces, territories, and the private and not-for-profit sectors to implement the housing first approach to homelessness.
I want to highlight how the budget and our government honours and respects the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. This budget introduces new measures to the existing measures in previous budgets to support the men and women who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces. We have expanded the funeral and burial program by providing over $800 million over three years to ensure that a veteran of modest means can have a dignified funeral and burial.
Finding meaningful work after leaving the Canadian Forces is a key factor in the successful transition back to civilian life. That is why this budget will make changes to the Public Service Employment Act and regulations to prioritize the hiring of veterans for federal public service employment opportunities.
To conclude, on this side of the House, our government is for all Canadians. From our youth to the elderly, business owners to apprentices, and young families to veterans, this government has invested in the prosperity, safety, and growth of all Canadians and their families. Through economic action plan 2014, we will continue to do so. I can only hope that the NDP and the Liberals will finally recognize this and support this budget.
Mr. Speaker, I want to start off by dealing with the budget implementation bill under three specific headings: general; what would happen to British Columbia, which is where I come from; and what it would do or not do for health.
The first thing I want to talk about is the budget in general.
I think this is the eighth budget tabled by a government that inherited a strong surplus of $15 billion. When it came into office in 2006, it inherited the 10 balanced budgets posted by the Liberal governments before it. However, we are now seeing the current Conservative government posting its seventh deficit budget. I want to show where we came from and where we are today to defuse the talk about how wonderful things are.
How wonderful things are is based on not going down in the 2008 global recession because we had some very strong economic pillars that had been left behind by the previous Liberal government. It was also because the strong regulatory measures that had been put on banks protected us from going the way of the international community. I might add that the Conservatives opposed these measures when they were put in place under the Liberal government, but they are now taking enormous credit for them.
We should be doing much better than we are now. We should not be talking about deficits or about how all of the strong indicators and the strong system that was left behind were frittered away by the current government with very poor fiscal management measures.
I remember when the Minister of Finance tabled the budget bill. Everyone said that it was such a boring budget, and he said that was a compliment. One might say that the budget's flaw was not that it was uninteresting but that it was unclear, uncaring, and unhelpful.
There were a lot of vague promises in the budget. There were a lot of self-congratulatory parts in which the Conservatives talked about how well they had done. As I said, they cannot really take credit for any of that.
There are some things I want to talk about specifically with reference to my province of British Columbia.
I suppose we must all feel very relieved that the government plans to fix the Trans-Canada Highway running through Glacier National Park. However, it is a small consolation for those who care about British Columbia's natural landscape, since the Conservatives are also responsible for cutting regulations that once guarded 30,000 lakes and rivers and for reducing the number of protected waterways nationwide to fewer than 200. So much for building a piece of the Trans-Canada Highway, when there has been an absolute reduction of all of the measures to protect the wonderful ecosystem in British Columbia.
On the Conservative government's idea of conservation, let us look at fisheries, which are a big deal for my province. The government plans to protect recreational fishing, which is a good thing, because about 80% of our commercial fishing is recreational in B.C. However, there is little in the way of safeguarding our province's ecosystems as a whole or putting in place measures that came through the Cohen commission to protect the B.C. salmon population. When people say we are having massive salmon runs in B.C. this year, it means that they do not understand this is something that happens occasionally. The overall protection of B.C. salmon is still a big question. I wonder why the government did not use this budget and the budget implementation bill to put in place some of the Cohen commission's recommendations.
We can talk about ensuring public safety, which is something the Conservative government loves to talk about.
We are thankful for all of the volunteers who have contributed to the safety and security of the people in this country and who help the vulnerable. In fact, people who offer a minimum of 200 hours of volunteer service for search and rescue will get a nice little tax credit, but the fact is that a lot of people who volunteer are semi-retired or not working full time, and that tax credit would do little to help them unless it is a refundable tax credit.
To continue on public safety, it is interesting that while we are thankful for the volunteers, there is a lack of concrete action to increase the number of Canadian Coast Guard professionals and improve safety measures for both workers and ordinary Canadian citizens following last year's abrupt closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.
The federal government is continuing its policy of soundly ignoring the professionals who work in maritime safety as well as the wishes of the Province of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver. It is also ignoring the petitions that I have tabled here almost every week from British Columbians who are asking for this search and rescue station in Kitsilano to be reopened at a cost of $70,000 a year. We are not talking about a lot of money here.
Those are the generic things I wanted to talk about.
I also want to talk about the fact that very little has been done in the budget to address the real challenges facing middle-class Canadians. It does not do very much to help Canadian youth find jobs at a time of consistently high youth unemployment and underemployment. Today there are still 264,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than before the downturn.
I want to go back in time to 1993. When the Liberal government came in, there was 24% youth unemployment. In three years, the Liberal government took steps to improve that and to give young people a chance at their first job. None of this has been happening.
There is very little to help middle-class parents and grandparents make ends meet and to tackle Canadians' record high levels of personal debt, which is now at $1.66 for every dollar of disposable income.
The new had an opportunity in the bill to chart a new democratic path that addressed some of these issues. Instead, what we see is another mammoth omnibus bill with everything but the kitchen sink in it, doing very little to deal with some of the issues we are talking about.
I want to congratulate the government on a couple of things it did do right in health care. It proposes to increase the support for service dogs to assist individuals with severe diabetes. That is very good. Also, there is the design of eligible individualized therapy plans. All of that is good.
However, what about post-traumatic stress disorder? Evidence now shows that persons with post-traumatic stress disorder benefit from having pets such as dogs. That has not been included. It was not included under veterans affairs, it was not included under defence, and it certainly was not included here among people who require dogs to help them work with their disabilities, mental or otherwise. I just wanted to point out some of the things the government had an opportunity to do and did not.
Also in relation to health, acupuncture and naturopathy would be exempt from GST-HST when practised by a qualified professional. That is very nice. There is the design of training plans for individuals with a disorder or disability. Some of these things are good, but they make one wonder about why there was this cherry-picking. Why is the government doing some things for some groups and not for others? We could look at issues like adding the GST-HST to parking that is provided by charities. I wonder why that happened? That was such a punitive little thing to do. It was not going to give the government a lot of money, but it did discriminate against the non-profit sector.
It is a puzzling budget, to say the least. The budget implementation bill does not deal with a lot of things that we think should have been there.
I also want to talk about something some of my constituents are complaining about a great deal, something that we very much oppose.
It is a fact that the government signed an agreement with the United States that will require U.S. citizens living in Canada to regularly file U.S. tax returns and report their property and income to the IRS. Also, Canadian banks must report to the IRS on accounts held by clients with U.S. citizenship. We are creating a problem here. As we heard from other people, this measure brings up concerns about privacy and sovereignty. Constitutional law experts have been saying that this agreement violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, yet no one was consulted.
It is interesting that the government goes ahead patting itself on the back but not having discussed it with anyone who should know and therefore making mistakes. I would be generous and kind and say it is with unintended consequences, although I wonder if the government even understands consequences.
There is a very important piece I want to wind up with. That is the transfer of payments. Transfer payments have now been changed on a unilateral formula that would impose a per capita payment on provinces. We need demographic data if we are going to look at helping provinces. Now we have provinces with higher levels of seniors than anywhere else getting less money under the new formula than they ever had. This is going to create a huge problem in the future for these provinces, and they are beginning to complain about it.