The House resumed from November 2 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith has six and a half minutes left in her speech.
Mr. Speaker, to honour veterans, fallen soldiers, and peacekeepers who stood up for Canada, we gather on Remembrance Day to honour the service of the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country.
Nanaimo—Ladysmith's Legions, No. 256 Mt. Benson, and No. 10 Harewood, in Nanaimo; No. 257 Lantzville; No. 171 Ladysmith; the Gabriola Island Veterans Association; and Cedar Valley Memorial Gardens, all held powerful services to recognize Remembrance Day in Nanaimo—Ladysmith. I am grateful for their work. They are keeping veterans' stories alive, and we are grateful to them.
Veterans need parliamentarians to do our part to recognize and support those who have sacrificed for our country. There is clearly a debt owed, there is money in the till, and sincere and vital promises have been made. Every year, 3,000 veterans pass away, so let us get on with it and act to show that we truly support veterans.
There are eight things that parliamentarians can do to live up to that responsibility. Last year, this House unanimously passed a motion brought forward by my colleague, the member of Parliament for , recognizing Canada's covenant of moral, social, legal, and financial obligations to veterans.
Here are the eight ways that we could act on that unanimous commitment of this House:
One, instead of spending thousands of dollars fighting veterans in court, the Liberal government should halt the court proceedings against wounded veterans and spend that money instead to bring back veterans' pensions.
Second, because one in six vets experiences mental health or alcohol-related disorders, or have in this past year, and because half who have served in Afghanistan have suffered PTSD, depression, and anxiety, I call upon this Parliament to prioritize and support the mental health of military service men and women, veterans, first responders, retired and volunteer first responders, and their families.
Third, to make real change for vets and their families, we can defeat paternalistic legislation that blocks pension benefits for two groups: one, spouses of veterans, RCMP members, judges, and public sector workers who choose to marry after the age of 60; and, second, retired and disabled Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans.
The fix for this bill and the mental health one referred to previously are Bills , , and Motion No. 61, all from the member of Parliament for and the New Democrat critic for Veterans Affairs.
Fourth, to our shame, homelessness rates in Canada are shocking, with estimates that there might be as many as 1,300 veterans living on Canada's streets. Canada's national housing strategy must take action on veteran homelessness.
Fifth, the government should act on detox treatments for veterans exposed to chemical defoliants like Agent Orange. Medical treatment can cut dioxin levels such that veterans can return to work. It will not repair the damage, but it can help people function.
Six, we should relax the regulations on access to veterans hospitals, and ensure that veterans from World War II and the Korean War are able to access these beds when they require long-term care.
Seven, and I am very glad to say that this has already been done, the government will start covering the cost of medically prescribed cannabis extract products for police and military veterans being treated for PTSD. This was the subject of a petition that I sponsored, and I am very glad that the government listened to the many Canadians who supported this change.
Eighth, we can pass this bill to make Remembrance Day a holiday. Earlier versions of this bill to make Remembrance Day a holiday across the country were introduced by former New Democrat MPs Dan Harris, Chris Charlton, Nelson Riis, and veterans' advocate Peter Stoffer.
In my home province of British Columbia, November 11 is already a holiday. As a result, we see families coming together to recognize and celebrate Remembrance Day. When families remember together, they are able to teach their children about the sacrifices that the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for Canada have made.
For example, Ladysmith's Legion hosts an afternoon ceremony in the community of Cedar, at the Cedar Valley Memorial Gardens, where there are cadets, Guides, Scouts, and Beavers. It is lovely to see, and a great example of what happens when families honour and celebrate together.
Last month, on Remembrance Day, we recommitted to standing up for veterans and their families, so that every veteran has the care that our country owes them. Bureaucratic delays and disingenuous platitudes cannot define Canada's response to veterans, and just 2.5 of 23 Liberal promises have been fully implemented. Let us use our power as leaders and voters and support real change for veterans and their families.
On Remembrance Day and all days, we never forget; we forever honour.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased and proud to be here to support my colleague from 's bill. This bill would make Remembrance Day a legal holiday.
November has passed, and all of our communities have commemorated another November 11. I know how very proud all members of the House are of our veterans and serving military personnel. I know that we are just as proud of our students who are learning about the events of World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the war in Afghanistan. Some of them are learning for the first time about all the sacrifices made and the lives lost and disrupted here at home in our communities and our country.
I believe that November 11, the day we commemorate these tragic events every year, deserves the same legal status and the same recognition by Parliament as Canada Day and Victoria Day. That is why I am proud to be here to support my hon. colleague's bill.
This year, I was particularly pleased to attend something that happens every year in the only English school in my riding. It was an incredibly happy event, where students were proud to get up and deliver their interpretation of the events we commemorate every year. They were proud to be part of underlining and underscoring our history, proud to learn of the stories of the many Canadians who gave themselves to the defence of our values, our freedoms, our liberties, and proud to look at the military members who are serving today.
There was everyone from CF-18 pilots to bylaw officers, all of those who wake up every day and put on a uniform and defend the laws of Canada, the freedoms of Canada, and the values of Canada and Canadians.
When my colleague asked me if I were able and disposed to support his private member's bill, I was particularly pleased to think of the many people in , and the many people I know who reside in his riding and all over this country, who want to stand up every day and recognize the tragic events that we underscore and underline every year.
I was so proud to learn that the government is also going to support the key principle of this bill and give Remembrance Day legal status. It is important to emphasize that this does not in any way force the provinces or municipalities to do the same. It is a symbolic gesture, but a very powerful one, given that Parliament is giving Remembrance Day the same legal status as Canada Day and Victoria Day, in May.
I will not dwell on this any further. I hope my colleagues on all sides of the House will support my hon. colleague's bill, and I urge everyone to do so.
I would invite all Canadians to continue to make every effort to mark Remembrance Day with pride every year, as my constituents in Gatineau always do. I hope we can move quickly to pass this bill.
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
Indeed, if there is one thing that everyone in the House can agree on, it is the importance of recognizing the contribution of our veterans, the men and women who have fought for our country over the years. I am especially proud to rise today to speak to Bill sponsored by our colleague, the member for .
I would also like to commend the work of my colleague, the official opposition critic for veterans affairs, the member for . He is doing a fantastic job as our veterans affairs critic and on top of that his French is excellent. He spent the weekend in Quebec City speaking with members of associations and other people in the region, all in French. His hard work and his efforts to use both of Canada's official languages deserve recognition. I thank him for that.
Bill before us today is quite interesting and has quite a background. This is the seventh time this bill has been introduced in the House since 2004. This is therefore not the first time members of the House have the opportunity to speak to such a bill. Although interesting, some aspects of it need some improvement, or at least some clarification. That is more or less what I will be talking about today.
First, as I said at the outset, it is important to acknowledge the service of our veterans. Since Confederation, more than 110,000 Canadian soldiers have died in combat defending our freedoms. Canada is the free country we are so proud of today because of the sacrifices of these soldiers and their families, whose children were lost in battle to defend us on foreign soil. They fought abroad for Canada's freedom and the modern world we live in today.
The purpose of Bill is to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday and everything that entails. We absolutely must discuss this bill further in committee. Although this bill seeks to honour veterans, it does not have unanimous support as it is currently worded. In fact, the Royal Canadian Legion has concerns over the effects of this bill on the significance we place on Remembrance Day, and that is what I will be talking about.
We celebrate Remembrance Day on November 11 for a very simple reason. Historically, people have gathered together every year on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to mark Remembrance Day and pay tribute to all those who died while serving their country. This important day gives meaning to and allows us to express our gratitude for the sacrifices that were made by those who came before us.
However, not everyone has a day off for Remembrance Day. This day of commemoration is a holiday in some provinces but not in others. That is the case in Quebec, where Remembrance Day is not a statutory holiday for all workers. As a result, most of the time, Remembrance Day is not celebrated on November 11 but rather on the weekend before or after, so that more people can attend the commemoration ceremonies at the cenotaphs. They voluntarily attend these ceremonies and commemorate the service of our veterans.
The Royal Canadian Legion is the reason we have ceremonies in every region, even those without military bases. I would like to tell the House about the Legion. It was founded in 1926 when 15 veterans' organizations united. There were also a number of regimental associations representing former service members.
Despite all their efforts, none of them had much influence individually. They did not have the means to become an association that represented all veterans. That is why the Royal Canadian Legion was founded in 1926. I encourage anyone who wants to know more about the Legion to visit the organization's website, which is nicely set up and does a great job explaining its history. According to the website, initially, the principal objectives of the Legion were to provide a strong voice for veterans and advise the government on veterans' issues.
The Legion was founded after World War I, and it was very busy after World War II because of an influx of new demands. That war was a very hard one, and the Legion had to increase its efforts to help veterans and returned service members in addition to those who continued to serve their country abroad.
The Legion has changed a lot since then. We have the Legion to thank for a few special initiatives, including the two-minute wave of silence in 1999, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier initiative in 2000, and the declaration of 2005 as the Year of the Veteran. Those are just a few examples of what the Royal Canadian Legion has achieved.
For over 90 years, the Legion has been an advocate for veterans and has been providing financial assistance to active military personnel, veterans, and their families, whether they are members of the Legion or not. I think that is one of the things that explains why certain veterans associations and the Royal Canadian Legion do not necessarily agree with the objectives of the bill before us.
These days, a majority of the representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion are from civil society and not necessarily veterans. Some of them are family members, relatives, brothers, and sons of military personnel who have served their country, who have passed away or been wounded in combat. These people have decided to volunteer their time to help veterans.
I would like to talk about something that happened in my riding. This year, in Thetford Mines, we came close to not being able to mark Remembrance Day, Armistice Day. Unfortunately, the Royal Canadian Legion in our community had to close its doors after 70 years because of a lack of volunteers. Claude Nadeau, the president of the branch, worked hard to ensure that a ceremony was held every year. He put a lot of effort into bringing together veterans and serving members from our community.
However, since there are not very many veterans or serving members in Thetford Mines, it was becoming increasingly difficult to bring these people together for a ceremony. Our veterans from the last great war have almost all passed away now. We have one or two active members. These people were deeply saddened when they learned that there might not be a Remembrance Day ceremony. That is why, despite the fact that Branch 201 of the Royal Canadian Legion shut down, Mr. Nadeau and a few volunteers still organized a commemorative ceremony.
The same sort of thing happened in another town in my riding, Lac-Mégantic. For the first time in a long time, no Remembrance Day ceremony was held because of a lack of volunteers. If Canadians want an association that helps preserve the memory of our veterans, then they need to understand the essential role that civilians play in the Royal Canadian Legion.
We therefore need to take into consideration the Royal Canadian Legion's views of Bill . We need to listen to what it has to say and find out whether it thinks it is important to pass this bill to make Remembrance Day a legal or statutory holiday. By sending this bill to committee, we would give the Royal Canadian Legion the opportunity to express its views. We owe a great debt to our veterans and also to those who serve them, like the Royal Canadian Legion.
Madam Speaker, I am honoured to be able to speak today to Bill . This bill has been debated a number of times in the House.
On reading the bill we see that it seeks to give November 11 official status as Remembrance Day across Canada. However, it does not make Remembrance Day a full-fledged statutory holiday, but instead a legal holiday. The provinces regulate statutory holidays in their own jurisdictions and this bill does nothing to change that and that is too bad. We can continue to mark November 11, but it cannot become a statutory holiday through this bill because that would require provincial legislation. We therefore wonder what purpose this bill serves.
However, I am very pleased to speak to this subject today because my grandfather fought in World War II. He was in the navy. My great-uncle was in the army. When I was 14, he told me stories about the war. At that age, I did not appreciate the gravity of what he experienced. To him, these were pivotal moments.
Now, I am participating in the debate in the House and I am thinking about him. I shared some special times with my great-uncle. Unfortunately, my grandfather, who was in the navy, died when I was 3 years old. Therefore I was unable to learn more about what he went through during the Second World War. My great-uncle had the chance to share his experience with me, and it is with these memories in mind that I am speaking of him.
My father was in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 35 years. He worked to ensure that our country was safe. This is something I am proud of. Speaking in the House today, I think about my father, who watches me from time to time as well. We have had some good talks about what he experienced during his 35 years of service.
Today we are talking about all those who protect our country. These are men and women who put their lives on the line each and every day, who have given their all to keep us safe at home and to fight abroad.
It is important for me to commemorate Remembrance Day and to share it. I make it a priority to talk about it in schools. Over the past two or three years, students in my riding, Joliette, have been reviving a tradition that was disappearing: they have been making poppies, and their teachers have been explaining the symbolism of the poppy to them and the importance of remembering what happened. I often say that it is important to know and remember what happened so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past and so we can go forward.
I would also like to say a few words about the Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. I have had the pleasure of getting to know these people since becoming an MP, and they are like a second family. The Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian Legion offers extraordinary support and networking. Branch 209 was founded in 1947, but its current home was built in 1962 by the veterans themselves. Now the building is in need of repair and needs quite a few renovations. The veterans themselves are working on renovating it.
The branch has 150 members, and I am proud to say that the ladies' auxiliary has 130 members. It goes without saying that spouses of people in the armed forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are involved too. The whole family is involved, actually. When people go off on missions, their children and spouses worry. That is why members of the ladies' auxiliary are involved with the Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian legion. They do so much work in the community.
Some veterans are active in the Fonds de dotation Santé Jonquière, the Jonquière hospital's endowment fund, to help the hospital purchase new research equipment and other new machines. Some veterans have helped create scholarships for veterans. They also raise funds to help children pursue their studies, which I think is amazing.
Getting back to the main point of my speech, Remembrance Day, it is obvious that commemoration is important to veterans.
The Sunday prior to Remembrance Day, I attended a poppy celebration with some veterans. They have a ceremony, and it is quite an event. We also have poppy week, and all veterans participate. They go to shopping malls and schools to raise money to support veterans, including both retired and active military personnel. Unfortunately, many veterans require assistance at some point in their career.
For veterans, it is very important to remember. In the spring I had the opportunity to present a medal to a veteran. It was the highest honour a veteran can receive. Mr. Boivin, who is now 90 years old, had taken part in the Normandy landing. How incredible.
I felt quite moved and fortunate to present him with his medal and this honour. He said he did nothing more than his duty. I was proud to present him with his medal. All he cared about was serving our country and ensuring our safety, but also remembering what happened. Unfortunately, many of his comrades did not come back home with him. Mr. Boivin told me he lost members of his family. Those sad moments make him want to remember what happened all the more. That is to his credit because he and his wife have been on an emotional roller coaster over the years.
For some veterans at the Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, the war left physical scars. For some, the injuries changed their lives forever, hence the importance of the support they get at the Legion. The Legion not only helps the community, but it also enables veterans to help each other and that support is important.
In my opinion, November 11 has to be a time for gathering and remembrance, a time when we remember what veterans did for us.
I would like to come back to educating children. Our role as MPs involves sharing information with our young people and explaining to them what Remembrance Day is all about. Unfortunately, it seems to be losing its meaning as time goes by. Federal MPs are in a good position to go explain the purpose of Remembrance Day to students.
I will close by saying that I am a bit disappointed by this bill. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the bill makes Remembrance Day a legal holiday. Since statutory holidays fall under provincial jurisdiction, I am wondering how the bill will be implemented.
Of course, as I said before, the Bagotville military base is in my riding. It employs over 2,000 soldiers, and many veterans have also worked there. I am in regular contact with them, and I know that they think it is important for us to remember what they have done.
I am very proud to have had the opportunity to speak to Bill today.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the proposed bill.
I would like to thank the hon. member for for his initiative in bringing forward this very important private member's bill.
This bill would make Remembrance Day a national legal holiday. I would like to begin my comments on the importance of remembering and honouring the contributions of our veterans, as well as what it means to me personally.
Once again, as I have said many times in the House, Nova Scotia has the largest veteran population per capita in the country and my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook has up to 23%, who are either veterans who have served or who are in the military today. As everyone can understand, the people in my riding are extremely proud of the distinguished record and service to our country.
I hear about that service from veterans often, whether it be at legions, town halls, or even at grocery stores. They share many stories with me. These are compassionate, caring, and humble men and women who continue to serve their communities. They serve their communities as volunteers or hockey coaches, or they just lend a helping hand. I must say that I am extremely impressed when I see them out there and they have each other's backs. It is extremely impressive and a learning curve that I have had the opportunity to observe that much more in the last year.
It is of utmost importance that their service continues to be honoured for generations to come. This bill would ensure that Canadians from coast to coast to coast would have more opportunities to participate in and celebrate Remembrance Day across the country.
As a former educator, I can say that schools in Nova Scotia have done an exemplary job, year after year, in raising awareness through sharing some of the sacrifices that past generations have made. This is extremely important for people keep in their memories: to remember their service for decades past but also today and in the future. This bill would complement the good work that is being done in schools across this country.
When I talk about Remembrance Day, it is important to remind ourselves of the people we are honouring. I will provide some examples. A retired master corporal in my riding named Jon bravely served our country abroad, completing two tours in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2009, each for six months. He served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 2002 until 2012, 10 years, and was medically released in 2012 due to injuries sustained in the line of duty. We owe him a sincere debt of gratitude.
I also think about a sergeant I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with in the last year. His name is Rollie. Rollie served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1982 until 2002. He did tours in Germany and the former Yugoslavia in 1994 and 1995. Unfortunately, Rollie was diagnosed in 2000 with PTSD. This is a difficult condition that many veterans face when they return home from abroad. These occupational stress injuries make it especially difficult for veterans when they return to normal civilian life.
I am amazed by the contributions that veterans are making in our communities every day. Rollie is one of many who has become an advocate for the veterans community. He has been part of a group in Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook and works closely with others to advocate for a walk-in clinic that would support veterans with unique needs.
If we look at everything veterans accomplish during their careers in the Canadian Armed Forces and in their civilian lives, it is clear that they make a major contribution to the future of the country and the prosperity of our communities. That is another reason why we should make Remembrance Day a legal holiday in Canada.
On a more personal note, I would like to share the stories of the people I think about on November 11. I would like to begin with my father, who was unable to join the army for health reasons but who passed away on November 11.
I also think of members of my extended family who have contributed directly to the Canadian Armed Forces.
There is my Uncle Dan, who spent 26 years; my Uncle Wilfred who, in World War II, spent 25 years; and my Uncle Lubin who spent 12 years. There is also my godfather, Gérald Thériault, who was a sergeant in World War II.
Furthermore, there is now my cousin, Mark Thériault, who is with the Joint Task Force Atlantic, and another cousin, Brent Thériault, who is now with the infantry unit in Gagetown and who previously served in Poland and Afghanistan.
Recently, I have seen things come full circle where the grandson of my godfather, the late Gérald Thériault, and my godchild, is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces at 17 years of age. His name is Private Zachary Thériault.
What brings all these stories together is the fact that our men and women have served our country with distinction and with honour. That must never be forgotten.
Making Remembrance Day a national legal holiday would ensure that generations of Canadians have the opportunity to learn about the realities of war, about the distinguished service of veterans, and to better understand, for their children and their children's children.
I would like to, once again, thank the member for for his hard work in bringing forward this piece of legislation.
We must continue to remember the fallen who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may continue to hold the values and the institutions we hold so dearly.
Lest we forget.
Madam Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand today and speak to this particular bill, Bill .
It has been a real honour for me to serve on the Veterans Affairs committee and serve as deputy critic for Veterans Affairs, especially as a first-time member of Parliament, and to be a part of standing up for our veterans and making sure their needs are understood and met by this House, and understood by the Canadian population as a whole. Of course, this is basically a symbolic gesture, but it is important to do what we can to make sure that Remembrance Day is recognized and continues to be recognized throughout the years forward, even though so many of the veterans who were part of World War I and World War II are at an age that makes it very difficult for them to be able to attend and be part of the ceremonies. In Yorkton this year, it was just so overwhelming for me to see the veterans make the huge effort that it takes to be there and be part of that ceremony, and to stand even though it is so difficult to stand and make sure that this is not forgotten. Regardless of the approach that we take, the important thing is that we do remember.
The fact that it is at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month is very fitting. From our veterans and being part of different ceremonies, we start to realize how important these special traditions are to our veterans and to our armed forces as well. I recently attended the 64th field battery 10th field artillery regiment, Saint Barbara celebration in my home city of Yorkton with our reservists there. It was something to listen and to learn about why they take each of the steps they do during that celebration. It is all part of building up that community and making sure we value each other as reservists. That is one example where I say we need to make sure that, whatever approach we take as a legislature in our communities, the total focus is on valuing our veterans and keeping that in front of other generations as they come forward.
My grandson was born on November 11. It is a very special day to him, and he always says, “Grandma, the first half of the day is very sad”, and he talks about Remembrance Day and they always go to and are part of the services. He says, “And then the second half of the day is very happy”. I thought that was something that he is being taught the value of the individuals who stood up for Canada to keep it as the free country that it is today, and it is very much a part of his psyche. I thought that was very special.
I also had the opportunity as a new member of Parliament to attend the Battle of the Atlantic gala, and attend the ceremonies on Parliament Hill. Again, members of the regiments, the cadets, the reserves, and the navy were all there on time ready to start this event. It was so bitter cold outside. I was sitting out on the lawn waiting for this to start, and I was beyond cold. I think I was as cold as I have ever been in my life, and thinking, “I do not think I am going to make it”. Then I looked across the grounds, and there were 80- and 90-something year-old veterans sitting there waiting for the event to happen. It was pouring rain, but they were sitting there with their jackets on. They were not putting on their caps or carrying their umbrellas until the very last moment. They were choosing to sit there and persevere through the cold. When I put that together with the battle gala and saw the pictures, I saw that these elderly men were the same men who were so young on those ships getting the supplies across the Atlantic. Seeing the pictures of them caked in ice is what got me through the event, and just made me so proud in my heart to be a part of that particular celebration.
There are army cadet reviews, and opportunities when we go home to our riding to be a part of those celebrations as well.
It is really important that we do whatever we can to make sure we are recognizing everything our veterans have done for us. We have to make sure that within our school systems, they are learning about the different battles and the amazing things Canadians have done.
I just learned that our soldiers had to take on the Battle of Vimy Ridge after France had lost 200,000 men on that hill and Britain had lost 100,000. Our troops came together for the first time as Canadians from across the country, put their heads together, and devised what they would do. They ended up laying out the whole battlefield behind them to practice what was ahead of them. How did they do this? Our young aboriginal soldiers went out in the dead of night and basically mapped out the whole area. We were able to go forward and win that battle, starting at five in the morning and ending at noon.
We have so much to be proud of as Canadians because of our veterans and armed forces. I know that in Afghanistan, the question was asked of the Taliban, “Do you fear western forces?” They said, “No, except the Canadians”. That says so much about our armed forces.
That being said, it is very important that we do these things to celebrate, commemorate, and remember. We fall short if we do not do everything we can as legislators in this House and on the committee, which I am on, to make sure that we are truly caring for our armed forces when they transition to the veteran's life. We need to do whatever we can to make sure that the transition is as painless as possible and that they are recognized for what they have done. They sacrifice their families, their own choices, and their own decision-making to become part of the armed forces. They stand side by side and serve for us, then come back to the very difficult circumstance of transitioning to civilian life.
It is a pleasure to serve on that committee. There are many things we are working on with our report, and I am certainly hopeful that the government will do everything it can to look at the recommendations from us, and from the two ombudsmen, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to close that seam and deal with circumstances that have been left hanging for a very long time.
One of those is the issue of mefloquine and how it impacted our soldiers in Somalia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and other battlefields. There are a number of heartbreaking stories coming from veterans who have lived with the results of this and are not being recognized for having suffered from what this actually is. It is not just PTSD. It is a brain injury as well. Our government needs to recognize that this particular anti-malaria drug is not being used by the rest of the world.
We are falling behind in making some of the decisions that say to our veterans that they are important to us and that we will do whatever it takes to ensure that they are cared for in the way they should be.
We talk about caring about our veterans and about how much we want to recognize them but then do not do what needs to be done. This does not mean huge changes. It means simply putting things in place to ensure that veterans do not end up more ill after coming home because of the stress of getting settled in their new civilian lives.
One of the things we heard over and over again was about family life and how difficult it is for the other parent and the children to deal with the challenges of being an armed forces family and a veteran's family. We need to be there to support them in taking care of the soldier who has come home.
We need to tell our veterans that they really matter to us and that they matter to us every day of the year, from the moment they sign up with our forces right up to when they retire or have to quit because of an injury. We need to put real meat on these things. I am not making light of that at all. We need to commemorate what they have done for us.
There is another issue we are all facing right now, which is medical marijuana. Veterans are concerned about the fact that the government is considering legalizing marijuana for recreational use. They are concerned about how this would dumb down the importance of it as a medical prescription. I regularly hear stories about how this is replacing pharmaceuticals for so many veterans, with far fewer side effects, and about improvements in dealing with their pain so they can get on with their lives. It is not costing us anywhere near what it costs to have them on pharmaceuticals.
Those are just some issues that come to mind when I think about commemorating our veterans. We certainly want to do this. I am so proud to have a role as deputy critic, to be involved in specific instances in my riding, and to be part of making decisions that are good for them.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to support this bill, which would raise the profile of Remembrance Day and make it a national legal holiday on par with Canada Day and Victoria Day. When I think about the immense sacrifice that those we celebrate on Remembrance Day have made, this is absolutely the least we could do.
I would like to draw attention to two quick items. The first is the mental health crisis our emergency services personnel and our military are going through right now. At least 70 veterans have ended their lives by suicide since the end of the Afghanistan mission. If this legislation will help draw attention to that crisis, we will be better for having supported it.
In addition, the veterans who fought so bravely overseas fought for the freedom of the most vulnerable, but they also fought to protect certain key values: equality, democracy, and liberty. We should promote these values every day of our lives. When the last child in our community goes to bed without being hungry, when the last person is not discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, their religion, or the person they love, we will have lived up to the sacrifices these soldiers made by protecting the values they fought so bravely for.
If this legislation helps raise the profile of Remembrance Day one iota and draws attention to the mental health crisis our military faces or to the freedoms we need to live and breathe every day at home, or if it encourages young people to take part in Remembrance Day ceremonies in their communities, then I am pleased to support it. I urge all members of the House to do the same.
Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to give my right of reply with regard to the debate that has taken place on my private member's bill, Bill .
I want to thank all the members who participated in the debate on my private member's bill. I want to acknowledge the members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs I have served with who have presented their points of view on this bill. I am so pleased to have worked with them on that committee to make sure that we are continuing to honour the service of those brave men and women who have served our country, past and present, and that we are doing the right things to honour their service.
I think we can all agree on the importance of Remembrance Day in Canada. We also share the desire to ensure that we are appropriately honouring those brave Canadians in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
My bill is a modest measure that seeks to change the language in the Holidays Act to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday and to ensure that consistency of language is reflected in the act. This bill would ensure consistency with both Canada Day and Victoria Day in the Holidays Act and would elevate the status of Remembrance Day to put it on an equal footing with those other days.
Some have expressed that this provision would do more than that. Let me be clear that my bill, by adding the word “legal”, would not impact the Canada Labour Code, which establishes the policy on non-working days for holidays. Federally speaking, the day is already and will remain a federal paid non-working day.
Furthermore, and I want to be very clear on this point, it is up to each province and territory to determine whether Remembrance Day on November 11 is a statutory holiday or a day off in their jurisdiction. This is what determines whether there is no school and whether it is a public paid non-working day.
This bill does not and cannot make Remembrance Day a national holiday, because it is not within the purview of Parliament to do so. I am hoping that this bill may provide an occasion for the provinces and territories that do not already do so to determine whether Remembrance Day should indeed be a statutory holiday.
I note that some of my colleagues in the debate have mentioned that the bill would not make it a statutory holiday, and it cannot, but what it can do is elevate the day, put it on an equal footing, and hopefully provide an occasion for those jurisdictions that do not already do so to allow it to be a statutory day.
There are examples of other jurisdictions that do not mark the day as a so-called statutory holiday, but they mark the solemn occasion in other ways. For example, in my home province of Nova Scotia, it is separate from other statutory holidays, but it is kept in force under the Remembrance Day Act to ensure that people have time off to attend ceremonies. I would like to see this across the country, but of course, our Constitution requires that we respect the jurisdiction of provinces in this regard.
I want to address one issue that has been brought up by some who oppose the bill, which is the argument that students should be in school on November 11 to ensure that they are marking the day and reflecting on what November 11 at 11 a.m. means for our country. I respect their point of view. However, in my experience in Nova Scotia, and I believe in most places in Canada, it is far more meaningful for the students to learn the importance of Remembrance Day and the sacrifices of our forces in the days leading up to November 11.
Veterans come into the schools during Veterans' Week, and in addition to the teaching, there is also a remembrance service in schools, which veterans attend. Of course, if these were marked on November 11 at 11 a.m., veterans marking the occasion with the community could not attend those school services. However, if students had time off, they could mark November 11 in the community with veterans at their public ceremonies. We have seen increasing attendance, including by children and their families, in Nova Scotia.
I believe that all Canadians should be able to have the same experience and that all veterans should have the opportunity to be publicly appreciated for their service and remembered on November 11 at a collective experience with the whole community.
As I mentioned in my speech to begin this debate, proposed subsections 3(2) and 3(3) are not at all essential to my intent in raising the profile of Remembrance Day. Since I now recognize that those are problematic provisions, I support their removal at committee, and I will be asking the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for their removal if the bill is sent to it following a debate at second reading. We should therefore turn our minds to just proposed subsection 3(1) of this bill.
As my final words in this debate on Bill , while the bill of course is about November 11, I am sure that we all agree that we must show respect to our veterans and members of Canadian Forces throughout the year and honour them in our words and our deeds.
As we come into the holiday season, let us keep them and their families top of mind and always show them extra kindness and warmth for all that they do for our country.
The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
(Division No. 168)
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Fraser (West Nova)
Fraser (Central Nova)
Lauzon (Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation)
Massé (Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia)
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLeod (Northwest Territories)
Miller (Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs)
Sidhu (Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon)
Total: -- 163
Blaney (North Island—Powell River)
Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona)
Lauzon (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Masse (Windsor West)
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
McCauley (Edmonton West)
Total: -- 105
I declare the motion adopted.
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to ensure that I do not comment on the current or past presence of any member of Parliament, which I know is out of order. My point of order has to do with the future.
We noticed that today the has a meeting scheduled right at 2:15 p.m. The event is one of the only meetings he has today, and the meeting is here in Ottawa. We want to be able to help the Prime Minister accommodate his open and accountable government. In the message that he gave to his ministers he said that he thought it was important to be in Parliament to answer honestly and accurately. In order to help the do that, I would ask for unanimous consent of the House to move question period for today as follows: that notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, on Monday, December 5, 2016, members may make statements pursuant to Standing Order 31 at 4 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. and oral questions shall be taken up not later than 4:15 p.m. instead of 2:15 p.m. in order to help the Prime Minister, and the House shall proceed to the ordinary daily routine of business at 5:00 p.m. instead of 3:00 p.m., followed by government orders.
Does the hon. opposition House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The House resumed from December 2 consideration of Bill as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the time allocation motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to speak in the House, even if it is after the government has decided not very many members of Parliament should actually get that opportunity. That is what we are facing here again today. We are seeing a government that is very proud of the fact that 60 members of Parliament have spoken to this. Last time I checked, there were 336 members in the House of Commons currently, with two vacancies, so that is fewer than 20% of members of Parliament being afforded an opportunity to speak to the budget implementation act. The government has brought down the hammer. It has shut off debate. It does not want members of Parliament to speak in the House.
It is kind of funny. I just did the Liberals' MyDemocracy.ca survey where they ask things like, “Do you think members of Parliament should better represent their constituents or should they toe the party line?” We have seen their preference here today. Instead of representing their constituents, getting up and defending their own budget, they get up and defend cutting off debate in the House.
It is shameful but it is becoming a part of their routine business. They said, “Trust us. We will do things so much differently.” They talked about real change. The only real change is, after Friday, a single hour of debate on the budget implementation act at this stage, they brought in time allocation. For the people at home, that means they no longer want members of Parliament to be able to debate this.
It is no wonder the Liberals do not want Canadians and members of Parliament debating the bill, because it is about their economic performance. The budget implementation act speaks to their ineptitude, quite frankly, on the economy. That is what we are seeing day after day and time after time. Their economic plan, if we could even call it that, is not working.
Statistics Canada said on Friday that for the second month in a row all job gains were in part-time positions and noticed the jobless rate only fell because fewer people were seeking work. Some 8,700 full-time jobs were lost in November. Gluskin Sheff chief economist David Rosenberg said that the latest numbers were clearly a case of “nice headline, shame about the details”. In fact, full-time employment in Canada has not risen in almost a year and a half. What happened just a little over a year ago? This government took office. Since it has taken office, it has not created a single net full-time new job. It is outrageous.
The Liberals talk about how we need to get this passed so that they can deliver on their economic platform. We need to prevent that from happening as much as possible because it has been an unmitigated disaster. They have misled Canadians time after time, and their budget is the primary example of where they have done that.
I want to continue to quote from David Rosenberg. He said the Liberal economic performance is “in a word, pathetic and attests to a usually high level of uncertainty among the business community, writ large”.
There were 8,700 jobs lost just in November. That was in addition to the 100,000 jobs that have been lost in the energy sector since the government took office. Its plan, if we can call it that, is simply failing Canadians.
The budget, and the budget implementation act, is a litany of broken promises. The Liberals promised in the last campaign that they would have a $10-billion deficit and that it would be gone within the time of their mandate, that within four years there would be no deficit and we would be back to a balanced budget. One year later, it is now a $30-billion deficit, and there is no plan to ever get back to a balanced budget. That is the Liberal record. They no longer even pretend they are going to get back to a balanced budget. That is after our Conservative government left them with $2.9 billion in surplus, and over 1.3 million net new jobs was our record. In one year, they have blown through the entire contingency fund they had set aside in their first budget and they are three times more money in debt.
What does that mean? It means that future generations, our children and grandchildren, will pay higher taxes to pay that money back. Canadians know, when they borrow money, they have to pay it back. The government has said that it was just going to borrow a little bit. It was going to spur the economy on to create all kinds of jobs. It has not happened. It is a record of broken promises.
The Liberals also said that they would be cutting the small business tax rate for communities like mine in Chilliwack—Hope. Small and medium-sized enterprises in Chilliwack—Hope are the backbone of my community. Every major party in this place promised in the last election that we would cut the small business tax rate to 9% from 11%. Every single one of us here in the major recognized parties campaigned on cutting the small business tax rate to 9%.
What did we see? The Liberals got into power, and it said sorry to all the small business owners who create all of the jobs in this country, but they did not have the money for them. They had to spend it on other things. They are running a $30-billion deficit, but they cannot afford to keep their promise to them. Instead, they are going to raise their payroll taxes and make it more expensive for them to hire people. Not only were they not going to give them the break they promised, but they are going to make it more expensive.
It is no surprise, given the comments of the during the campaign when he said that small businesses were simply a way for rich Canadians to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. This is what the Liberal Party believes about small business in Canada, that they are simply avoiding taxes and avoiding their obligations to Canadians.
The Liberals are making life more expensive for the people in my riding by raising their taxes. They talk as well about how they are raising taxes on the wealthiest Canadians and cutting them for lowest-income Canadians, except they are doing nothing of the sort.
In my riding, the average income is $34,787 per year. Guess how much the average income earner in Chilliwack—Hope got from the Liberal tax cuts? It is zero. They do not make enough money to qualify for the Liberal tax cuts, because they kick in at $45,000 a year. Therefore, the person who actually makes the most money from the Liberal income tax cuts is someone making $199,000 a year. That might be who the Liberals represent, but in my riding, that is not who I represent. I represent middle and low-income Canadians who are looking for a break. They were promised a tax break from the current government and they got nothing.
Another group that has gotten nothing from the government is the natural resource sector. I was honoured to be named the natural resources critic, and it is a tough time for our natural resource industries. Right now in committee, we have been studying the mining industry. Mining company after mining company has come before the committee to say that a carbon tax will put more people out of work, and it may prevent projects from even starting. That is how serious this is.
The government has not adjusted its plan at all, given the surprising outcome in the United States where we now have president-elect Trump, who says he is going to cut corporate and business taxes. He has no intention of bringing in a carbon tax. Yet the Liberals continue on as though nothing has changed, as if it is still going to be Barack Obama in the White House in another month or so.
Things have changed. The landscape has dramatically shifted. If we do not adjust, we will continue to see massive outflows of capital from the natural resource sector to other jurisdictions. Businesses are going to leave this country, jobs are going to leave this country, and yet the government has done nothing except make it more expensive for businesses to operate in Canada. It is shameful. The 100,000 lost jobs in the energy sector that have happened since the current government took office will seem like the good old days if it continues down this path where people continue to look for lower-cost jurisdictions in which to operate.
Therefore, this is not a plan to get Canadians back to work. It is not a plan to make life more affordable for Canadians. It is a failed plan. It is a litany of broken promises. We on this side of the House will not support it.
Madam Speaker, I am surprised, and I am sure the member can help me understand, because he said that few people in his riding would be impacted. Let me remind him of what we have done for people in his riding.
When we cut taxes for nine million Canadians, is he saying to this House that there is no one in his riding who is going to benefit?
When we introduced the Canada child benefit, nine families out of 10 in this country are going to be better off. Is the member telling people watching at home that there is nobody in his riding who is going to benefit from the Canada child benefit?
We have increased the GIS top-up, and 900,000 seniors are going to be better off in Canada because of that. Is the member pretending that there are no seniors in his riding who will benefit?
For youth in our country, we have increased grants. I am sure there are students in the member's riding.
My question to the member is: Why does he not support measures that are going to help the same people who sent him to Ottawa?
Madam Speaker, of course, if he had been listening to my speech, he would note that the average income in my riding does not qualify for the so-called middle class tax cut of the government. They get nothing from it, and he wants to walk past that.
There has not been a single net new job created. The small businesses, as I said, that are counting on that tax cut that he promised when he was going door to door have got nothing from the government. The Liberals have broken that promise.
My constituents know that when a government comes in, it is expected to keep its promises, not break every single milestone that they promised they would deliver on within a few short months.
Madam Speaker, I have a question for my Conservative colleague and fellow British Columbian about perhaps not what is in this budget implementation act, which is of course under the guillotine of time allocation, which the Liberals said they would not use. Sorry, that was the 2015 Liberals. These are the different ones.
We have a lot of fundamental challenges in our economy. We can see the economic numbers that my friend points out and that they are universally accepted, that the economy is sputtering at best, and I am being complimentary, yet we have seen a government go out and borrow an extraordinary amount of money, much more so than it promised, and we are wondering where the results are.
There are a lot of incentives in our tax system for manufacturing and some other businesses, but not a lot for adding value to our natural resources. It seems to be remaining in forestry, oil, and other industries, raw resource extraction model is still in place. Are there any suggestions he might have to improve the state of the Canadian economy to change that particular conundrum?
Madam Speaker, I think under a Conservative government we certainly took steps to improve the tax regime for manufacturers, for natural resource industries to make sure that the accelerated capital cost allowance for LNG, for instance, in my province of British Columbia will be a big advantage.
I think there are always opportunities to incentivize the behaviours that we want to see in Canada, but we do not do that by raising taxes on small businesses. We do not do that by raising payroll taxes on small businesses, which is exactly what the government has done, which it promised it would not do.
I think Canadians are waking up to the fact that this is a government that breaks its promises.
Madam Speaker, I completely disagree with the hon. member's assumptions. Budget 2016 has been very positive for my province. One of the ridings that has benefited the most is Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, with $3.5 million for a new water treatment system in Gimli and $3 million for a new waste-water treatment facility in Selkirk.
Why does the opposition continue to vote against a budget that is so beneficial to the province of Manitoba, especially the rural municipalities?
Of course, Madam Speaker, we thank Stephen Harper for that infrastructure plan. It was the biggest and broadest in Canadian history, and we also thank the member of Parliament for , one of the finest members of Parliament in this House and certainly in Manitoba for getting the job done for his constituents.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the House today about Bill and to invite my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bill, which is a step forward for Canadian society and the country. As I said earlier, this bill will help families and all Canadians. Naturally, I encourage our colleagues to support it.
Our government made a solemn promise to Canadians. We promised to help members of the middle class who work hard every day and those who are working hard to join it. The government built its 2016 budget around them, and I am proud to speak in favour of that budget in the House today. I am particularly proud to speak in favour of the , which is before us today.
Our government has tabled a bold budget, one that considers all those who are supporting their families through their work and yet feel they still cannot catch up. Therefore the government is going to stimulate the economy through measures that foster the growth of the middle class, because when the economy is working for the middle class, the entire country is pushed into a cycle of growth. We listened to Canadians all over the country before tabling this budget, and what we heard is that they need a financial breather.
One of the budget’s primary measures is therefore an income tax reduction. Almost nine million Canadians have more money in their pockets thanks to one of our government’s very first measures. That measure has been to reduce income taxes for the middle class, putting them in a better position to save or invest in their own priorities.
Families are at the heart of the middle class. In this bold budget, we find a social innovation that directly affects families living in each of the constituencies represented here in the House. This innovation, called the Canada child benefit, came into effect last July 1. I will cite the numbers for the House, since they speak for themselves. Those who are watching us today know this very well. For each child under six years of age, a family can receive up to $6,400 a year, that is, $533 per month for each child.
For children between six and 17 years of age, the allowance is up to $5,400 per year, or a maximum of $450 per month for each child. This is an innovation because it is a direct investment in the country’s middle class. The Canada child benefit is producing results which can be felt all over the country, in each of our constituencies.
First of all, the Canada child benefit is much more generous than the previous benefit. For the families affected by this change, this represents close to an average of $2,300 for the 2016-17 benefit year. Next, it is simpler: families get a single payment every month. It is also tax-free, as the money received does not have to be partially refunded on the income tax return. It is also better targeted, since low- or medium-income families receive higher benefits, while families with very high incomes receive lower benefits than what they received under the previous system.
I am delighted to tell the House that the bill that we are debating today will only increase this benefit, and at the same time improve the lot of this country’s children and their families. There are also plans to index benefits to inflation starting on July 1, 2020, which means that benefits will rise with the cost of living.
In addition to helping Canadians, the bill also protects them as consumers, and that protection is tailored to their needs. This bill strengthens and modernizes the protection framework for consumers of financial products and services. We must also ensure that the financial system is adaptable. It met the challenge of the 2008 crisis and demonstrated its soundness to the world.
Traditional business models are nonetheless upset by technological innovations, new consumer demands, and new modes of consumption. Accordingly, the banking sector has to adapt.
What the bill proposes is to simplify and consolidate the current consumer provisions by grouping them under a single section of the Bank Act. It would introduce amendments to the Bank Act to improve consumer protection, that is, to guarantee better access to basic banking services, limit certain business practices, ensure that consumers have access to all the information they need to make informed decisions, ensure that complaints management is better organized, and finally, improve corporate governance and accountability.
Canada's government is showing leadership by taking this series of steps to strengthen financial protection for Canadians, wherever they may live in the country. This is a matter of maintaining public trust.
I have a little time left to talk about another important measure in this bill, specifically the legislation to combat international tax evasion and tax avoidance.
Our country already has measures to combat non-compliance with tax law. However it is important to fight tax evasion and tax avoidance in co-operation with other countries and international organizations.
This bill proposes the adoption of tools and procedures originating in the G20 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD.
First of all, there is country-by-country reporting. This is an instrument that will oblige big corporations to report their activities and the nature of those activities in each jurisdiction where they operate. This will enable the Canada Revenue Agency to have a global view of the activities of multinationals. The interest of this tool is that it can tax the profits of companies in the countries where those profits are made. This is then an initial measure to combat aggressive tax avoidance.
A second instrument provided in the bill applies to tax evasion. It was developed by the OECD and is called the Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information in Tax Matters. It will compel Canadian financial institutions to put mechanisms in place to identify all accounts held by non-resident Canadians. This information will have to be transmitted to the Canada Revenue Agency. The 100 or so countries and jurisdictions that have adopted this standard will also identify accounts held by foreign nationals, including Canadians. Next, a series of security mechanisms will be introduced to ensure that this information is exchanged among the standard’s signatories.
These measures constitute a step forward for compliance with tax obligations for all Canadians and all businesses established in Canada.
I encourage all members of the House to vote in favour of this bill because it will help every family in our country. There are people who expect this Parliament to take responsibility and pass this bill in order to help families in need in Canada.
Madam Speaker, when the Liberals refused to moved on their promise to lower the small business tax rate, I know a lot of small businesses owners across Canada felt a little betrayed. They really are the life blood of the Canadian economy.
Furthermore, we know that a lot of small business owners pay themselves quite a low salary just to make sure they can keep up with costs and so that their employees have a adequate standard of living.
Under the Liberals' tax measures, small business owners are not going to get the benefit of a small business tax rate reduction, but they are also going to miss out because they not pay themselves enough to qualify for the middle-income tax bracket.
I would like to hear the parliamentary secretary's response to those people who feel a double betrayal, those who work in small businesses and who were really hoping for a lot more.
Madam Speaker, what we did is very simple. We went across Canada to talk to thousands of Canadians about budget 2016. I went from Moncton to Yellowknife and met a number of small business owners. They told us to invest in the economy. That is what small business across this country wants, an economy that will work for the middle class. When it works for the middle class, it works for entire of this country. That is what small business wanted.
In addition, the first thing we did was to reduce taxes on the middle class, leaving more money in the pockets of people who can go to these small businesses and buy their goods and services. It is the same thing with the Canada child benefit. We put money in the pockets of Canadian families, so they can invest, save, and make sure their children will be better off.
Madam Speaker, during the campaign, the Liberals were very clear that they would run a modest deficit of about $10 billion. We know that has ballooned to well over $30 billion. In the House, my colleague has asked the minister many times when the government will return to a balanced budget. The minister has not been able to answer, so I am wondering if the would answer the question of when Canadians can expect the current government to return our spending to a balanced budget.
Madam Speaker, I am happy to respond to the member and to repeat that our priority is growth. It is about investing in Canadian families, because confident economies today invest in their people. That is exactly the choice we have made: to invest and grow our economy to generate inclusive growth that will benefit middle-class families across the nation.
The member well knows that our policies have not only been applauded in this country but also around the world. We have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7 and G20 countries. That obviously allows us to invest in the economy, and that is what we are going to continue to do—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
I would remind members that when a member has the floor, he deserves the respect that other members get when they ask questions.
The hon. member for .
Madam Speaker, I have a rather simple question for my colleague.
The four parties at the Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution denouncing Bill , since Quebec has consumer protection legislation. For example, in Quebec, an individual whose credit card has been stolen is liable for a maximum of $50 only. However, this bill gives the bank full discretion to claim the full amount that was stolen. Quebec has been operating this way for 40 years now.
As a member from Quebec, how can my colleague steamroll the very clear will of the Government of Quebec, here in the House of Commons?
Madam Speaker, I run into the member for regularly. I thank him for his question.
The answer is as simple as his question. We are working in the interest of Canadian consumers across the country, including those from Quebec. In Marcotte, the Supreme Court asked us to clarify our position on consumer protection. We not only clarified it, but we also modernized and simplified the legislation for the sole purpose of looking out for Canadian consumers. That is what the Supreme Court asked us to do and that is exactly what we did with this legislation.
Madam Speaker, it was only 13 months ago when I attended an orientation session for new members of Parliament here in Ottawa. There was a cameo appearance by the , which was very much appreciated by all of us. During that cameo appearance, he said that the role of opposition is to make government better. I fail to see how bringing time limitations on debate works toward that objective of making government better. However, I will do my best in the time I have to make some suggestions on how we can make this a better bill.
I want to start with the tax break for the middle class. In my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, when I tell people about the tax break for the middle class, which goes from $45,000 up to potentially $190,000, frankly, my constituents shake their heads. We put forward an amendment to try to bring it down to from $20,000 to $45,000, which was defeated in this House. I can assure members that the middle-class salary in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia is not $45,000 to $190,000.
With respect to small businesses, I am holding a series of sessions around the riding, meetings with small businesses, and bringing together a representative of the provincial and municipal governments, along with myself representing the federal government, to talk to small businesses about how we can help them get ahead. Interestingly, members will not find too much congruity between what small businesses at a meeting in Fernie had on their list and what is in the current bill from our friends across the floor.
I will read from their list of how to help small businesses.
With respect to payroll taxes, businesses want a clearer understanding of how they are being used. With respect to the temporary foreign worker program, the program is cumbersome and needs fixing. The $1,000 fee is too high, and there is no clear path to citizenship, so the turnover is high. They think there should be an increase in minimum wage. There is a need for subsidized affordable housing units. This is from small businesses.
Programs should be redesigned to be suitable for small businesses rather than just targeting medium-sized businesses and manufacturing. There is a real lack of support for small business programs. Youth employment programs should be expanded. A scientific development tax credit for sole proprietorships should be introduced, something which is not currently available. The digital technology adoption program should be redeveloped to include use by small businesses.
We need to recognize and rectify the reality of the digital divide in rural areas and small communities, which is a barrier to cloud-based systems, and redefine broadband to bring it to the level of modern requirements. Right now, the definition of “broadband” is too low in terms of speed.
Canada Post needs to reinstate more affordable shipping options, particularly for books. We have a book publisher in my riding. It can cost more to ship a book via Canada Post than the profit he makes on that book. Credit card fees are too high for small local businesses.
These are things coming right from small businesses, and, had they been included in this budget, it would have made it a much better budget for small businesses.
I want to turn now to helping people in real need. There are 15% of Canadian children who live in poverty. For aboriginal children, that number is 27%. In my home province of B.C., the rate of child poverty is even worse than the Canadian average, at 19.8%. The majority of these children have parents in paid work. If we think about that for a moment, one in every five children in British Columbia is living in poverty.
My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot had a recommendation for Bill that would help fix some of that, by bringing in the office of the commissioner for poverty reduction and proposing a national council for the promotion of social inclusion and elimination of poverty.
Approximately 35,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night in the year, and one in five household is is at risk of homelessness because they spend over 50% of their income to secure shelter. However, over the past 25 years, while the population of Canada has increased by 30%, national housing investment has decreased by 46%. We need a national housing strategy. I know the government has one on the books, but we need to see the details to know whether that will really help the groups that need it.
This morning I met with a group called Inclusion BC, and number one on their list is also affordable housing for people who are living with challenges. They want housing to be integrated so that people with challenges are part of a regular community and not set aside in special housing. Affordable housing for all Canadians is really important moving forward. We need to hear a little more about what is in the budget around that particular initiative.
As a former mayor, I can say how important having access to dollars for infrastructure is, particularly for smaller communities. I was mayor of a community of about 20,000 people. When we look at the current formula that was in place for many years, it was a one-third formula. The municipality had to come up with the first one-third, the provincial government the second one-third, and the federal government the third one-third. For small communities, coming up with that first one-third is a real challenge. I will give a quick example. In Cranbrook, if we wanted to raise $1 million through property taxes, every 1% increase in property tax equalled $200,000. To raise $1 million to meet our one-third was a 5% increase in property taxes. One is not very popular as a mayor with a 5% increase in property taxes to cover one project.
As the infrastructure project funding rolls out, we need to make sure that the federal government provides at least 50% of the infrastructure dollars and that the provinces continue to provide their 33 1/3%, reducing municipalities' input to a little over 16%.
Infrastructure funding needs to be long term, so that municipalities can plan. It should not just be one year at a time. We need to change the definition of infrastructure. Those of us who have worked for municipalities know that infrastructure is generally considered to be sewer, water, roads, and storm drains. We need to have dark fiber and high-speed Internet as a basic fundamental piece of infrastructure in all communities moving forward.
It is great to see some money in infrastructure, but how that money rolls out is important. In 2014, the Conservatives announced a multi-billion infrastructure program, and none of it made it to us in the municipalities that year, at least in rural areas. In the end, my Conservative colleague at the time, who was our member of Parliament, blamed the province for not getting on board and getting the money out. However, we need to make sure that the infrastructure dollars actually make it into communities.
I want to talk a bit about private sector involvement in infrastructure. We had one project in Cranbrook prior to when I became mayor, which was our recreational complex. It was a private-public partnership. That partnership went bad, and the city had to buy out the private partner. We ended up with about 15-year's worth of loans, locked in at 8% and higher, that we could not get out of, even though as a municipality we could borrow money at about 2% from a special fund in British Columbia. From Cranbrook's perspective, privatization of infrastructure does not work.
The thought of selling airports or bridges to reduce this $30 billion to $40-billion deficit is absolutely the wrong way to try to get a deficit under control. We do not sell assets in order to pay down debt.
Those are a few of the ways that the budget could be improved. There are some good things in the budget, but there are many ways to make it better. I hope that we can see a better future for poverty, for small businesses, and the way that infrastructure is handled in Canada, and, of course, in Kootenay—Columbia.
Madam Speaker, I suspect that the member across the way, as with many of the New Democratic members of Parliament, is having a difficult time with this piece of legislation, for the simple reason that it implements a good news budget that addresses many of the needs of Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it. It addresses the issue of poverty, whether it is poverty with seniors or with children, literally lifting thousands of Canadians out of poverty. This is all good news.
The member made reference to infrastructure. We have a record amount, billions of dollars going to Canada's infrastructure. Every region of this country is going to benefit by this budget in a profoundly positive way. Why does the member believe that the NDP members are going to be voting against what is likely to be the most progressive budget we have seen in decades?
Madam Speaker, as with many things in life, of course, the devil is in the details. What we would have liked to have seen is a better budget, for example, indexing of the Canada child benefit rather than waiting for five years to increase it. As inflation goes up over the next five years, the value of that contribution will decrease, bringing more people back down into poverty.
On infrastructure, as I said, it will depend on how the money rolls out and whether the government makes it easy for municipalities to access the money. We have a start that will benefit some Canadians, but in the end there are a number of improvements that would have made this budget much better.
Before we go to statements by members, I want to remind the member that he will have about three minutes left for questions and comments when the debate continues.
moved for leave to introduce Bill .
She said: Mr. Speaker, the government must make housing a priority. In the communities I represent and across Canada, we see a staggering need for proper housing at a reasonable cost. In Canada, people do not have the housing they need.
For this reason, I wish to table today . This bill would ensure that the right to housing is firmly recognized as law. This would redefine the way we frame a national housing strategy and finally allow us to adopt our international responsibilities regarding human rights. When housing needs are met, we as a society can grow much stronger and more prosperous.
I would like to thank the member for for working so hard on the issue of housing. I look forward to the debate, and I hope to see all members in this House support this bill.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
moved for leave to introduce Bill .
He said: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today in this House to table this bill, which would require the to conduct a review of drinking water standards in member countries of the OECD, and if appropriate, to make recommendations for amendments to our national guidelines here in Canada with respect to drinking water.
This bill is aimed at ensuring that our drinking water standards are the best in the developed world. It is a way for the federal government to have greater influence in the body that establishes national but provincially implemented drinking water standards in Canada.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 559 to 567 could be made orders for return, those returns would be tabled immediately.
The Speaker: Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Question No. 559--Mr. James Bezan
With regard to all fuel consumed by the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence: (a) for the period of January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2014, in total and broken down by the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Army, and also broken down by province and territory, (i) how much gasoline was consumed, (ii) how much money was spent on gasoline consumption, (iii) how much diesel fuel was consumed, (iv) how much money was spent on the consumption of diesel fuel, (v) how much jet fuel was consumed, (vi) how much money was spent on jet fuel consumption, (vii) how much natural gas was consumed, (viii) how much money was spent on natural gas consumption, (ix) how much propane was consumed, (x) how much money was spent on the consumption of propane, (xi) how much high-heat coal was consumed, (xii) how much money was spent on the consumption of high-heat coal, (xiii) how much low-heat coal was consumed, (xiv) how much money was spent on low-heat coal consumption; (b) for the period of January 1, 2015, to January 1, 2016, in total and broken down by the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Army, and also broken down by province and territory, (i) how much gasoline was consumed, (ii) how much money was spent on gasoline consumption, (iii) how much diesel fuel was consumed, (iv) how much money was spent of the consumption of diesel fuel, (v) how much jet fuel was consumed, (vi) how much money was spent on jet fuel consumption, (vii) how much natural gas was consumed, (viii) how much money was spent on natural gas consumption, (ix) how much propane was consumed, (x) how much money was spent on the consumption of propane, (xi) how much high-heat coal was consumed, (xii) how much money was spent on the consumption of high-heat coal, (xiii) how much low-heat coal was consumed, (xiv) how much money was spent on low-heat coal consumption; (c) for the period of January 2, 2016, to present, in total and broken down by the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Army, and also broken down by each province and territory, (i) how much gasoline was consumed, (ii) how much money was spent on gasoline consumption, (iii) how much diesel fuel was consumed, (iv) how much money was spent of the consumption of diesel fuel, (v) how much jet fuel was consumed, (vi) how much money was spent on jet fuel consumption, (vii) how much natural gas was consumed, (viii) how much money was spent on natural gas consumption, (ix) how much propane was consumed, (x) how much money was spent on the consumption of propane, (xi) how much high-heat coal was consumed, (xii) how much money was spent on the consumption of high-heat coal, (xiii) how much low-heat coal was consumed, (xiv) how much money was spent on low-heat coal consumption; (d) based on estimates for the 2017 fiscal year, what are the expected levels of consumption, in total and broken down by each province and territory, of (i) gasoline, (ii) diesel fuel, (iii) jet fuel, (iv) natural gas, (v) propane, (vi) high-heat coal, (vii) low-heat coal; and (e) based on estimates for the 2017 fiscal year, in total and broken down by the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Army, how much money is expected to spent, and also broken down by each province and territory, on the consumption of, (i) gasoline, (ii) diesel fuel, (iii) jet fuel, (iv) natural gas, (v) propane, (vi) high-heat coal, (vii) low-heat coal?
(Return tabled)Question No. 560--Mr. Colin Carrie
With regard to grants, contributions, or loan guarantees provided to firms by the government: (a) for each grant, contribution and loan, what is (i) the recipient’s name, (ii) location, (iii) date, (iv) value, (v) type, (vi) purpose, (vii) project number; and (b) for each item in (a), are there repayable contributions for each grant, contribution, or loan guarantee provided to firms since November 4, 2015, including, (i) SeaFort Capital, (ii) A. W. Leil Cranes and Equipment, (iii) Cooper Equipment Rentals Limited, (iv) Titanium Tubing Technology Limited, (v) Jardine Transport Limited, (vi) Mandeville Holdings Incorporated, (vii) Portland Holdings Incorporated?
(Return tabled)Question No. 561--Mr. Colin Carrie
With regard to contracts awarded to firms by the government: (a) for each contract, what is (i) the name of vendor, (ii) the date of contract, (iii) the summary or description of goods or services provided, (iv) the type of contract (competitive or sole-sourced); and (b) for each item in (a), what is the file or tracking number, broken down by department, agency, and crown corporation for each contract awarded to firms since November 4, 2015, including (i) SeaFort Capital, (ii) A. W. Leil Cranes and Equipment, (iii) Cooper Equipment Rentals Limited, (iv) Titanium Tubing Technology Limited, (v) Jardine Transport Limited, (vi) Mandeville Holdings Incorporated, (vii) Portland Holdings Incorporated?
(Return tabled)Question No. 562--Mr. Colin Carrie
With regard to the acquisition of land by government departments or agencies, since November 4, 2015, for each transaction: what is the (i) location of acquired land, (ii) amount paid, (iii) size of acquired land, (iv) file number, (v) date of transaction, (vi) reason for acquisition, (vii) owner of land prior to government acquisition?
(Return tabled)Question No. 563--Mr. Colin Carrie
With regard to the acquisition of buildings by government departments or agencies, since November 4, 2015, for each transaction: what is the (i) location of the building, (ii) amount paid, (iii) type of building, (iv) file number, (v) date of transaction, (vi) reason for acquisition, (vii) owner of building prior to government acquisition, (viii) government-wide object code?
(Return tabled)Question No. 564--Ms. Marilyn Gladu
With regard to management consulting contracts signed by the government since November 4, 2015, broken down by department, agency, and crown corporation: (a) what was the total amount spent; (b) for each contract, what was the (i) vendor name, (ii) amount, (iii) date, (iv) file number; (c) each time a management consultant was brought in, what was the desired outcome or goals; (d) how does the government measure whether or not such goals were met; (e) does the government have any recourse if such goals are not met; (f) for which contracts were the goals met; and (g) for which contracts were the goals not met?
(Return tabled)Question No. 565--Ms. Marilyn Gladu
With regard to expenditures made by the government since November 4, 2015, under government-wide object code 3259 (Miscellaneous expenditures not Elsewhere Classified): what are the details of each expenditure including (i) vendor name, (ii) amount, (iii) date, (iv) description of goods or services provided, (v) file number?
(Return tabled)Question No. 566--Ms. Marilyn Gladu
With regard to government expenditures on membership fees, broken down by department, agency and crown corporation, since November 4, 2015: (a) how much has been spent; (b) what are the details of each expenditure including name of organization or vendor, date of purchase, and amount spent?
(Return tabled)Question No. 567--Mr. Randall Garrison
With regard to Operation IMPACT, for each three month time period beginning in October 2014, and ending in October 2016, for both Canadian special forces troops and other Canadian military personnel: (a) how many were involved in the operation on the field; (b) how many were located in, and operated in, and supported the mission in each of Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, or any other country in the region; (c) what proportion was occupied by “training” Kurd forces; (d) what proportion was allocated to “advise and assist” Kurd forces on the frontlines in Iraq; (e) what proportion of their time was allocated to complete the “training” part of the mission; (f) what proportion of their time was allocated to complete the “advise and assist” part of the mission, where Canadian troops are sent to the frontlines to support and supervise Kurdish troops; (g) how many times were they involved in skirmishes or firefights involving ISIS forces in Iraq; (h) how many times did their position come under fire; (i) how many times did they have to fire their weapons at the enemy; (j) how many times did they assist in identifying targets for airstrikes; (k) how many spent more than 50% of their time fulfilling the “training” role; and (l) how many spent more than 50% of their time fulfilling the “advise and assist” role?
Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
The Speaker: Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The House resumed consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
The hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia has three minutes remaining in questions and comments.
Questions and comments. The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.
Mr. Speaker, in the last federal election, the NDP made a solid commitment to have balanced budgets. I wonder if the member could comment on whether he believes today that the NDP would have maintained a balanced budget. Does he feel that it would have been warranted to create any form of a deficit?
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for the question, because it gives me an opportunity to be more complete in my answer as to why Bill is not going to be supported.
First, the tax break for the middle class does not include the middle class in my riding, which starts at around $20,000. There is no national poverty strategy in the bill, which is really needed for Canada.
During the election, the Liberals promised to bring down the tax rate from 11% to 9% for small businesses. That never happened. There is no cap on credit card fees. Privatization of infrastructure is going to increase costs for Canadians. There is no indexing of the Canada child benefit. That is why we are not going to support Bill C-29.
Mr. Speaker, I keep hearing the Liberals talk about the middle-class tax cut, and I think what Canadians need to realize is that it is actually a middle-income tax break, that the people who receive the most benefits are those with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000 a year. That may be the Liberal middle class, but it is certainly not the middle class I represent, not when we have a median income in Canada of $31,000 a year.
I just want my hon. friend to talk a little bit about the situation of constituents in his riding and maybe some of the measures that could have been put in the budget to help the most disadvantaged members of our society, because I do not really see many measures in the Liberal budget that actually do that.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his hard work on behalf of his constituents.
As I said in my speech, when I talk to constituents in my riding and tell them that the middle-class tax break starts at $45,000 and potentially goes to almost $200,000, they just shake their heads, because that is not middle class in my riding at all. Of course, we put forward an amendment to bring that down to $20,000 so that people earning between $20,000 and $45,000 would be covered, but it was rejected by the government.
Also in my riding, poverty is an issue, as it is right across Canada. There is nothing in here that sets out a national strategy to deal with poverty.
On housing, there is hope, I suppose, but we need to see what is actually in the national housing strategy. Finding a home is the number one issue for people living in poverty.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the importance of culture and diversity in our country and to highlight some of the investments our government is making to ensure that we protect, preserve, and promote our country's cultural institutions and multicultural society.
Our culture, our ideas, songs, and stories give meaning to who we are as Canadians. Our culture and cultural products are the instruments that help us communicate with others and share different views, entertaining and informing us, all the while weaving together a shared sense of identity.
Culture is at the heart of every community across our country and around the world, and Canada is a testament to the ability to include and respect all cultures in one society. Perhaps we are uniquely poised to be welcoming and accepting due to the way our country was founded as distinct societies coming together to found one country. People from other parts of the world quickly joined, adding their cultures and traditions to the fabric of our country, weaving the ever-changing tapestry that is Canada.
Our government has a solemn duty to act as a steward of Canada's cultural institutions and an obligation to promote and foster the institutions, activities, and people that help our culture flourish, grow, and adapt to changing times and circumstances.
Our cultural mediums help us to exchange diverse ideas and experiences, and the conversations they invoke are the greatest celebrations of the diversity that is at the heart of Canadian culture. They also make a significant contribution to our economy.
Over the years, the number of companies and individuals involved in producing cultural products has grown dramatically. One of the companies that has always been at the heart of Canadian content is the CBC. There are some on the opposition benches who would like to see the CBC eliminated. Strikingly, they are some of the same members who seem most out of touch with what true Canadian values are. The CBC not only ensures that all Canadians have access to Canadian content, but that every Canadian can also access local content.
The reality is that in a country as vast as Canada, there will be areas where it does not make financial sense for profit-driven entities to produce local content. Every Canadian deserves to know what is going on in their area of the country, and to partake in the shared experience of cultural exchanges that build communities.
To that end, I am proud to say that our government has invested $675 million in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio Canada to disseminate and support world-class Canadian content and to provide Canadians with better access to programs and services in the digital era.
Since I know this question will be coming from my Conservative colleagues, I will address it now. Yes, I am aware that CBC/Radio Canada has asked for an additional $400 million from the government. The opposition has made great fanfare of this request, decrying it as just a cash grab. What they fail to mention, however, is that this request comes because CBC/Radio Canada wants to eliminate all ads.
I would like to ask those watching to think about what this means for our national broadcaster. Much like the BBC, our national broadcaster can give strong, stable, well-funded public broadcasts with the primary goal of serving the interests of domestic audiences and diverse communities in helping to promote Canadian content. Agree or disagree, this is an idea worth seriously considering, and I am happy the government is doing just that.
Although our cultural industries are a key part of the Canadian economy, our government also recognizes that culture and cultural products are more than just goods that can be bought and sold. Our stories, our songs, our symbols, and our sacred spaces can sometimes generate profits, but they are also precious because of their significance or the sense of belonging and understanding they induce.
Understanding the intrinsic value of our cultural spaces is very important to me. I am therefore very proud that our government has decided to invest in the spaces and institutions that serve as guardians of our cultural objects, including our national museums, our national historic sites, and our parks. Canada's national museums are important cultural institutions that play a vital role in preserving Canada's heritage and educating Canadians.
I am pleased to say that in budget 2016, our government provides up to $105.9 million over five years to our national museums, and up to $280.9 million over five years to support the infrastructure needs of three important Canadian cultural institutions: the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the National Arts Centre, and the National Gallery of Canada.
What is more, we are committed to allocating $168.2 million over two years to the Canada cultural spaces fund, as part of our investments in social infrastructure. Through initiatives like this one, budget 2016 will ensure that the community spaces that preserve, protect, present, and promote our culture, while entertaining and informing us, will be there for us and for our children in the future.
This process is critical not only to ensure that cultural artifacts from our past are protected but also to ensure that the innovators and artists of tomorrow have welcoming, well-funded spaces to help inspire them.
Artists are our country's storytellers. Regardless of the medium they use, our artists capture moments and ideas and weave them into the fabric of our individual and collective identities.
The weaving of this fabric of identity is especially important in a quickly changing and globalized world, as we work within the context of our ever-changing and diverse society to create a sense of what it means to be Canadian.
Fostering the development of the arts here at home is an important part of ensuring that those who have stories to tell are given the opportunity to weave their own contribution into this national fabric.
Encouraging this freedom of expression is fundamental to our understanding of ourselves and to ensuring that all voices have the opportunity to be heard in our democracy. However, if art is to flourish, artists need to be able to work in an environment in which their voices can be heard, regardless of how popular the sentiment they express is, and regardless of their viewpoint or background.
Ensuring equal access to the artistic world is why it is so fundamental that our government works to foster the development of the arts in Canada through grants, services, and awards to professional Canadian artists and arts organizations, as well as through scholarly awards.
In budget 2016, our government has committed to ensuring that avenues to expression are open to all Canadians through its investment of $550 million in the Canada Council for the Arts. Furthermore, our government has made commitments to the industries that support these artists, including a $22-million commitment to Telefilm Canada and a $13.5-million commitment to the National Film Board of Canada, as they work to ensure the cultural, commercial, and industrial success of Canada's audiovisual industry.
This funding will work in tandem with our commitment to work with other countries to realize new and creative artistic projects, a commitment demonstrated when the signed an audiovisual co-production treaty with the Republic of Ireland earlier this year.
Working through partnerships like this allows us to tell new stories and achieve new levels of creativity as we support each other in telling our country's stories.
In 2004, the British culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, commissioned a paper on the arts, which argued that the primary purpose of the arts is to communicate perceptions about the human condition that can't be communicated in any other way.
The arts are unique. They are able to help people interact with the world around them by helping them understand, work, and play in that world to enrich their experience by bringing feeling, beauty, and passion to their lives, and to provide a safe place where they can work to build their confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem.
Other efforts can only do some of these things. The arts do all three. That is why we must continue to support them.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my neighbour from Kitchener Centre for his work in his riding.
I do not think anyone in the House is denigrating the arts. However, we all know that whatever project we want to support, there has to be money to support it. When we are borrowing money on more money on more money to build up a deficit of $30 billion, adding $10 billion per year in interest costs alone over the next four years, this is a concern. Could my colleague comment on the costs of his proposals?
Also, there was a question that I asked the this morning, which we did not receive an answer to. It is found in the Order Paper today. It refers to Bill . Motion No. 1 by the member for proposes that one of the clauses of Bill be deleted. Could my colleague explain why a member of the government would move to delete a clause in a government bill?
Mr. Speaker, I also thank my hon. friend for the work he does in his riding. He has been a great mentor and adviser since I was elected, and so I want to thank him personally.
One of the things I did not get to in my remarks was the importance of the arts and culture community, not only in my riding, where it is very strong, but also in Canada. We know, from the latest analysis by the Conference Board of Canada, that the arts and culture community in Canada provides $84.6 billion worth of economic benefits to Canada. That represents 1.1 million jobs. Arts and culture are a very important part of the Canadian fabric, not only as an economic multiplier but also as a social multiplier that keeps us all together. Also, as a final statistic, the arts and culture community adds 7.4% to our collective GDP.
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech.
I know that it focused on culture, but since we are talking about Bill , I am honour bound to bring up another aspect of this bill, which is just as critical and which seems to be central to the government's plan, and that is infrastructure.
Of course, we have talked about the infrastructure bank, but right now the government is also undertaking initiatives that could potentially lead to the privatization of ports and airports. In fact, the government has already given mandates to Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley.
I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about the potential privatization of our ports and airports. I think he will agree with me that this infrastructure is key to our economic development. I would therefore like to know what he thinks about his government's idea to potentially privatize ports and airports.
Mr. Speaker, the only thing I can say is that if we look at the economic indicators in the world right now, we know that long-term bond rates are very low in parts of the world. We know that inflation is at 1%. We know the lower bond rate is close to 0%. This is the right time in our country's history to look at the infrastructure projects out there that are important not only for our communities but also for a nation-building exercise. After highlighting those statistics, I am sure that the hon. member would agree with me that now is the best time in our history to make sure that we make those infrastructure investments for the benefit of all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about the Liberal government's budget. It seems to me that we are stuck in a tax-and-spend cycle with the current Liberal government. Every time we turn around, it seems that the Liberals are finding another way to try to increase government spending, with no regard for Canadian taxpayers. Therefore, we see an increase in taxation, and the prospect for future generations of further increases in their taxation, as a result of large deficits and debt left behind by the government through all of this spending.
When the Liberal government released its fall economic update, it confirmed what we already knew. Liberals are spending so recklessly that they are going to have to borrow more money, and they have no plan to return to balanced budgets. I stand here today because on this side of the House we believe that fiscal responsibility, a framework for creating a strong economy, and a plan to create jobs and get Canadians back to work are what Canadians need and what they have asked for. We will continue to be the ones who stand up for the hard-working taxpayers of this country and hold the Liberal government accountable for its out-of-control spending.
In discussions I have had with constituents, through town halls and a survey prior to the introduction of the 2016 budget, along with a number of other methods that we conduct through the year, the one common link, the underlying concern that constituents had, was about ballooning deficits they were seeing from the Liberal government. This is simply not a solution to Canada's economic challenges. In fact, nearly every constituent who was surveyed indicated that a balanced federal budget was important, almost unanimously. This obviously comes in very stark contrast to what we see in the budget implementation act.
When it comes to broken promises, the Liberals ran on a campaign promise to cap deficits at $10 billion a year and return more to a balanced budget in 2019-20. That frankly was not good enough to begin with, but that was their promise. Instead, they are spending deficits of nearly three times that amount, almost $30 billion in borrowed money. This is in their first year alone. Through the budget implementation act that we have before us today, the Liberals will continue to run deficits, and with no explanation whatsoever about how or when they will return to a balance.
The Liberals may try to blame higher deficits on a weak economy or lower revenues, but it is very clear from the parliamentary budget officer and the Finance Canada “Fiscal Monitor” that Liberal spending is the real culprit. Hard-working Canadians across the country run their personal finances with fiscal restraint. They know that when they run out of money and keep spending, they are going to have an issue. Why does it seem like the Liberal government has such an issue with this concept? The budget is a steep deficit trajectory with no intention to return to balance and no clear plan to create jobs. That is pretty evident when they have not actually created a single net job since they were elected over a year ago. There is nothing to help get thousands of unemployed Canadians back to work. When it comes to managing an economy, there is no second chance. Clearly, Canadians are worse off today than they were a year ago.
The budget still offers no insights into how the government plans to create jobs. Unfortunately, the forecasting by the Liberals is not reliable either. When our previous government introduced a stimulus package in response to the global financial crisis, we used outside experts to vet our estimate of 220,000 jobs that would be created or maintained. The target was actually exceeded by 28,000 jobs.
In contrast, the parliamentary budget office reported in October that despite their out-of-control spending and their skyrocketing deficits, the Liberals have not created one net full-time job since they took office, not one; not a single job. The report also stated that the number of part-time jobs that were created in the last year is only half the average rate of job creation of the previous five years. All of them were part-time jobs.
Further, in comparison, while Canada's employment rate has been falling, rates in the U.S., G7, and OECD have risen. It is very clear that despite a year of reckless spending, the Liberal plan has done nothing to improve our economy. Instead of supporting real job creators, the Liberals are making it more expensive for companies to hire and raising taxes on the small businesses that employ 95% of Canadians.
For small businesses, the budget reneges on promises to lower the small business tax rate that were planned in the last Conservative budget, from 11% to 9%. Instead, the Liberals will hold the rate at 10.5% and have introduced new conditions around eligibility. I will get to those in a second.
It is not only that, but the budget did not renew the tax credit for El premiums paid by small business, and over $1 billion in new El expenditures points to higher premiums for all employers in the near future.
All of this drives away jobs and drives away investment. Now the Liberals are talking about a federal carbon tax, and we know what impact that will have on every Canadian family's budget. We know what it will mean for businesses and their costs. Again, it is further costs being added to families, further costs being added to businesses who are trying to employ Canadians.
Not only are the Liberals not creating jobs, but they are not even going to enable the private sector to do the job it wants to do, which is to create jobs. They are also saying to some small businesses that they are too small to be small businesses, so they are now going to be increasing their tax bills. For some of these small businesses we are talking about, when they deal with rules around active and passive income, they will see a tripling of their tax bills. This will put people out of business, and it will put more Canadians out of work.
I also want to touch on our natural resources industry and the workers it supports. The Liberals have imposed arbitrary, political, and unpredictable regulatory processes at a time when we urgently need to get our resources to new markets and when we should be supporting our natural resource workers. While unemployment in Alberta continues to climb, the Liberal government's budget fails to address support measures for our natural resource workers.
Skilled workers are struggling to provide for their families and are being forced to leave the province to seek better opportunities for employment. The number of unemployed Albertans has nearly doubled since the start of 2015. It went from 112,500 in January last year to 206,900 in August 2016, up 84.6%.
I see the signal you are giving me, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, I have so many points that I want to raise about the nature of this terrible budget that I will have to leave some of them out. Of course, we can thank the Liberal government for that as well. They have indicated that we are going to have a limited debate on this, so unfortunately there is no opportunity to raise all the points we would like to raise.
I want to touch on the point of infrastructure. I think I have already made it clear that the Liberals are completely oblivious to the needs of Alberta energy workers and getting them back to work. The budget certainly reflects that.
When we talk about the infrastructure program, the Liberals claim they are going to create this legacy of infrastructure. However, when we look at it, most of the claims are quite false, because it is in the so-called phase two of the plan where we will see most of the infrastructure. Most of these things will not even be realized for at least six years. Until then, the municipalities are basically out of luck.
The Liberals have taken a huge chunk of this fund and put it into an infrastructure bank, which means small communities across the country are out of luck because they do not have access to any of that We talk about them having to be massive projects of $100 million or more.
On top of all that, we have higher taxes. We keep hearing from the government how families are better off. I asked my constituents if they were better off. I went to their doors and asked them in a survey. Over and over again, what I heard was no, that they were worse off. The government has taken away some of their tax credits for income splitting, fitness, arts, education, textbooks, their ability to save through tax-free savings accounts, and that it is forcing new mandatory premiums increases on them for the Canada pension plan.
It goes on and on. Then, of course, the cherry on top is the carbon tax. We are not all looking forward to that one. My constituents are telling me that they are going to be worse off.
Not only is the government taxing Canadian families to death and putting them in huge deficit and debt situations so that their kids and grandkids will be taxed to death, but it is not doing anything to create jobs or to help businesses do the same. It is a terrible budget, and I speak in opposition to it today.
Mr. Speaker, I was amused to listen to the member's comments about how much the government has done in a short period. I wonder if the member could remind the House how many years it took for the Conservatives to cause all the damage they caused to this country. They caused quite a bit of damage and, after 10 years, they still had not finished everything they wanted to do.
Mr. Speaker, I am amazed to even hear that comment. We are talking about a government that took us through one of the most difficult economic times that the world has ever seen. Conservatives came out of it with a balanced budget, lowered taxes for Canadians, and somehow that was damage? I can understand why he might think that, because what we are seeing from the Liberals is the complete opposite. There are huge new deficits being created in a very short period of time, and there are massive new taxes being put on Canadians. That, to me, sounds like the real damage, but, of course, Liberals always have it all backward.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I obviously have some differences of opinion on issues, especially economics. However, there is one thing we actually agree on, which is that the Liberals made a lot of commitments on infrastructure during the election campaign and nothing has been done that was promised during the campaign.
Yes, they talked about the infrastructure bank, but they never explained how it would work. Now we find out that about 80% of that bank will be funded by the private sector, which will obviously have a large role to play in this. It was never mentioned during the campaign. Another thing that was never mentioned was the fact that the government would consider privatizing ports and airports.
I would like my colleague to comment on what should and should not be said during electoral campaigns. It seems that Liberals are under the misguided assumption that platforms count for nothing and are only to engage citizens.
Mr. Speaker, that is a great question. The answer is that when a party makes promises during an election campaign, it should keep those promises. We have definitely seen very little of that from the Liberal government. As the member said, that is the one thing we can certainly agree on, that it is not keeping any of its promises. It promised what I think was a terrible promise to begin with, which is that there would be a $10-billion deficit, but it certainly did not keep that promise. It has blown way past that already.
The member talked about infrastructure. The Liberals claim they are going to create all of these jobs with all this infrastructure, and that is why they need to run these deficits. Not only are they running this deficit and taxing Canadians, they are not even providing the promised infrastructure or the jobs. No jobs have been created, and the infrastructure is deferred until way into the future. What we are getting from the government is nothing but new taxes and a massive new debt. That is what we are getting from the government. That is going to be its legacy: taxes for us, our children and grandchildren, and a huge hole that it dug for the entire country. That is its legacy, and it is shameful.
Mr. Speaker, I know there are not many who talk to their constituents more than my colleague. I believe that he was previously voted as one of the hardest-working members of Parliament for his constituents.
I am curious about his thoughts. The many times that he has been at people's doors, has he heard that a carbon tax is the answer? Has he heard that infrastructure spending is actually creating jobs? I am not hearing that at the doors that I knock on. He lives in a different part of the province of Alberta, and I am curious if he is hearing something different than I am hearing.
Mr. Speaker, I can tell the member that I am certainly not hearing anything different from what he is hearing. There was recently a huge rally in my riding that was organized by citizens who are opposed to a carbon tax. There were probably thousands of people who showed up. I noticed that cars going by were honking their horns in support. People are hugely concerned. It is like being kicked while we are down. There are thousands of workers out of work, and while needing support and wanting something that offers them hope, the government offers a carbon tax, which would tax everything.
When I knock on doors, in addition to hearing concerns about this carbon tax, I hear about the measures that the government claims will somehow help middle-class Canadian families. I asked my constituents at their doors, and they said they are worse off. I also did a survey in which I asked constituents if they are better or worse off, and 65% of them said they are worse off under the current government. That was 65%.
Mr. Speaker, it has been exactly one year and a day since the Governor General of Canada delivered the Speech from the Throne, opening the 42nd Parliament, and setting in motion our government's plan to make real change happen throughout this country. When I look back over the past year, it is apparent that real change is happening across Canada from coast to coast to coast. It is the result of hope and hard work, values that continue to build our great nation, and it began with the faith and trust that Canadians put in our party.
I am proud to speak today to Bill , the budget implementation act, because the budget is the centrepiece of our government's plan for change. This budget represents the hopes and dreams of so many Canadians who believe in a better and brighter future, not only for each and every Canadian today but for generations to come, that they will inherit a greener planet and a world of opportunities.
In my riding of Scarborough North, which straddles the edge of the city of Toronto and the beginning of the Rouge Urban National Park, hard-working Canadians want to know that their government is hard at work for them. The hard-working father wants to know if public transit will be improved so that commuting to work downtown from Malvern does not take up two hours of his precious time each day. After working two long shifts, he can think of no greater joy than to be at home in time to tuck his three-year old into bed. The hard-working single mother wants to know that the federal government is committed to a national strategy on inclusive, sustainable, and affordable housing. After living with her two children in unsafe and overcrowded housing for many years, she has finally saved up enough money to carry a modest mortgage for a Habitat for Humanity townhouse unit currently under construction at the 140 Pinery Trail site. The hard-working Tamil immigrant family wants to know that their children will receive a good education and a fair chance to succeed. After fleeing the Sri Lankan civil war, there is nothing more important than to see their next generation live in a peaceful society, with the opportunities that the previous generation never had.
I feel humbled and privileged to represent the people of Scarborough North and to make sure that their priorities are heard here in Ottawa. I am proud to stand in support of Bill , which will help implement a budget that is making real change happen for Canadians, change that will result in new investments for much needed infrastructure, such as public transit and affordable housing, as well as clean water, and the expansion of trade and transport.
Now is the time to invest, while interest rates are low and Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest of any G7 country. Over the next decade, our government plans to invest over $180 billion in infrastructure, helping residents not only in Scarborough North but all across our country.
After raising taxes on the wealthiest 1% so that we could cut them for the middle class, this budget further helps Canadian families with the high cost of raising kids. Through the new Canada child benefit, nine out of 10 families will receive more money each month, lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.
This budget also ensures that post-secondary education is affordable and accessible, especially for students from low- and middle-income families.
This budget will help seniors. Through increased benefits, our elders will now have greater comfort and dignity in their retirement years.
This budget is there to support our veterans. For all that they have done to serve our country, Canada's veterans deserve respect and better access to government services.
These are just a few examples of how real change is happening all across Canada, and today we are continuing this theme with Bill .
Our government remains fully committed to growing the economy and strengthening the Canadian middle class. That is why certain provisions in this bill are designed to ensure tax fairness and a strong financial sector. Hard-working Canadians, like the people in my riding of Scarborough North, want a government that will uphold fairness for all taxpayers. The vast majority of Canadians work hard each and every day. They pay a fair share of taxes, hoping that in return the government provides the programs and services they need. However, there are some wealthy individuals who continue to abuse the system. That is precisely why this bill seeks to combat underground economic activity, close tax loopholes, and prevent tax evasion here in Canada and abroad.
When the rich elite benefit from unwarranted and unintended tax advantages, it is hard-working, everyday Canadians who have to pay the price. When wealthy individuals inappropriately use private corporations to reduce or defer taxes, for example, it is simply wrong that they are not paying their fair share.
That is why our government will ensure effective administration and enforcement of Canada's tax laws, making the necessary changes to improve the integrity and fairness of our tax system.
Hard-working Canadians also expect that our financial institutions remain strong. Banks are indeed where Canadians typically go to cash their paycheques, to deposit their retirement savings, and to take out their mortgages. We know that Canada's strong banking system is well-respected all around the world. The robustness of our large and diversified financial institutions was proven during and after the global financial crisis in 2008. That is why our government is strengthening Canada's financial sector, in order to support stable economic growth. By keeping our financial institutions robust, through a strong regulatory framework, our government will ensure that the needs of Canadians and Canadian businesses are met.
We are also making it clear that it is not the taxpayers but, instead, the shareholders and creditors of large banks who will be responsible for any risks taken by their respective institutions. That way, hard-working, everyday Canadians will not be left with the bill when economic turmoil hits.
It is evident that this budget implementation bill is there to provide both help and protection for Canadians. That is why I stand today in support of Bill , and all of its provisions.
We must continue to build Canada's economy because we all know that a strong economy starts with a strong middle class. There is no other national project more important at this time. When middle-class Canadians have more money in their pockets, it means they can feel confident to spend more, to save more, and to invest more. This grows the Canadian economy. It grows Canada's future. I cannot think of anything more crucial than creating opportunities for both today and tomorrow.
When I think about the hopes and dreams of hard-working Canadians in my riding of and, indeed, across Canada, I think about what it is we want to leave behind for our future generations. The choice is ours to look ahead and ensure that we work toward a future for our country that we can all be proud of. When we invest in the economy and build a stronger middle class, Canada becomes a country that works for everyone. That is why our government is laying the groundwork today for a strong and productive economy that will last for generations to come.
I will be voting in favour of Bill . I encourage all of my colleagues in this House to stand together with me for real change today and in the months, years, and decades ahead.
Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member. What he said actually sounded quite nice. However, in reality, taxes are increasing on Canadians. The rich, as he said, are not paying their fair share. The fact is Canadians are being overtaxed by the government.
My particular concern is for seniors. We have Canadian seniors who are living in poverty. We have heard from the government that it is increasing the guaranteed income supplement, the GIS. We applaud that. The fact is it should be more than what it is doing. It is minuscule and it should be more.
The government has also said that it has lowered the age for OAS back to 65. Again, we are supportive of that. However, that is all that it is doing. It is not doing anything else for seniors. Seniors are struggling.
And, now, the new carbon tax is a tax on everything: medicine, food, housing, heating.
Does the member support the grief that the government's policies are creating for Canadian seniors?
Mr. Speaker, indeed, we have raised taxes on the wealthiest 1% so that we can cut them for the middle class.
Specifically, for seniors, we are working hard to make sure that we provide the support that is needed. For low-income single seniors, we are increasing their GIS top-up benefit up to $947 each year. We have rolled the eligibility age for GIS and OAS benefits back from 67 to 65.
These measures, along with the investments that we are making into infrastructure, will help grow the economy; they will help create jobs; they will create a brighter future, not only for our seniors, but for each and every Canadian across this great country.
Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not doubt the sincerity of my colleague when he talks about families. When I talk with a lot of families in my riding, especially young ones with young children, the biggest issue they bring to my attention is the fact that there is a lack of affordable child care spaces. Even if a family member were to get a job, that job actually would not pay for the child care, so there is no upward mobility for families.
That being said, there was an attempt made at committee with the bill to bring the indexing of the child benefit to January 1, 2017. That amendment was rejected. It was ruled out of order, and I do not see any action coming from the government to fix this problem. As a result, families will have to wait for 2020 to see if the benefits actually keep pace with inflation.
Why is the member's government not indexing the benefit starting next year? Why is it forcing low-income families to wait until 2020?
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, when I speak with families in my riding of , they are happy because the new Canada child benefit is a better benefit. It gives more money to families. It gives families who need it the most the greatest benefit.
This program will lift 300,000 children out of poverty, starting with the benefits that began last July. For example, a family with a child who is under the age of six will receive up to $6,400 a year. For older children, they will receive $5,400. These families will benefit from that increased benefit, money they can use to help buy school supplies, to buy winter jackets, and to provide the things their children need to have a bright future, a good education and a good start to the day as they continue to grow and become Canadians who will eventually contribute back into our society.
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague had the chance just now to answer a question about the work we are doing for seniors and the work we are doing for families with young children.
Could he talk about how we are helping middle-class families through our investments in infrastructure, whether it is enhanced productivity in communities like the community he represents, and/or enhanced quality of life? Could he take a moment to explain how the government is working to improve both the economic situation and the quality of life for middle-class Canadians?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend and colleague for his incredible work on this file and for continuing to advocate for his community.
In fact, it is such a wonderful thing when we invest in infrastructure to build public transit, to build affordable housing, to make sure that bridges and roads are repaired, and to make sure that Canadians have the infrastructure they need. It will help create jobs, and those jobs will help grow the economy. It will create a brighter future for all Canadians and it will create the conditions for success that we need so desperately.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise to speak to the budget bill, but I do it with a heavy heart because I am concerned about the direction the government is taking. I want to talk about the government's record first, and I want to contrast the two records that we have seen in the House lately as well as over the past few years.
Take for instance the Conservative record, with a balanced budget in 2015. Contrast that today to the Liberal budget with a $30 billion deficit.
In terms of the economy, we saw a modest growth over the last number of years, and I will get to that with a little history lesson later, whereas we have seen no growth with the Liberal government in the past year. There has just been stagnation.
Speaking of employment, during the time of the great recession, the Conservative government saw the growth of 1.5 million new jobs, most of them full-time jobs. Members will notice that I did not say we created those jobs; far from it. Far be it from any one of us to say that we create jobs. The only jobs governments create are ones in the public sector. We are talking about jobs that were grown in the private sector. Contrast that to today's Liberal government, where we see no new jobs being created. Full-time jobs have been lost and the only added job numbers are part-time jobs.
I want to talk about deficits, but first of all I am going to give a little history lesson. I want to take members back to when the Conservative government was elected in 2006. Those were pretty good days. We saw something that we do not see a lot of now, and that is surpluses in government. During the years 2006, 2007, and partially into 2008, the Conservative government saw fit to tackle the deficit. It was not a great deficit, but any deficit is not a good thing. The Conservative government had the good sense to fight the deficit, to bring the deficit down.
Our Conservative government did that while at the same time lowering the GST by two points. We also lowered other areas of government revenue and paid down the deficit by $37 billion. Contrast that to the 2015 budget. When our Conservative government delivered the budget to the Liberals, we delivered it with the lowest tax rate in 50 years. The typical family was paying $7,000 less in taxes. It was the best record in the G7.
In 2015 the Liberals were elected. They told the electorate that they had a better way of doing things. Did Harper say? They said it was not true, and it almost sounded like a biblical story. The Liberals introduced a new concept of spending more, and they told folks that if they spent more money they could grow the economy. Canadians were used to lower taxes and lower deficits. They had been promised a balanced budget by the Conservatives and that is what they received, and the Liberals were introducing this whole new concept of spending money to improve our lives. This was suspect. The Liberals did say the deficit would be only $10 billion, but that modest deficit ballooned to $30 billion, and it did not stimulate the economy or create any new jobs; no new jobs, no growth.
I want to go back to the deficit and ask a simple question. Why would somebody go into a deficit position? I would suspect possibly Gerald Butts, the chief of staff and also the former chief of staff to Dalton McGuinty. There seems to be a pattern here. The Ontario government did the same thing. It said, if it spent more money, that it could do a lot of great things, that it could grow the economy.
It is interesting to note that the first trip was to Davos, Switzerland. It is an obscure little town in Europe, but it is the seat of the world banking system, which is interesting. These folks had heard that the was going to spend money and go into a deficit situation.
On his second trip, he made great friends with the President of the United States, Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama was well versed in that kind of ideology too. As a matter of fact, he doubled the deficit in the United States. It went up from $9 trillion to $18 trillion. I remember the first time we started talking about a trillion dollars, and I had to get my mind around that. I just know it is an awful lot of money. The went to Mr. Obama and they became great friends.
I have to give the Liberals credit. I went over their record on their candidates and team, and I just wanted to introduce myself to the team. However, I have never seen more doctors, more lawyers, more Ph.D.s, or Rhodes scholar. I feel a little intimated, because I am just a farm boy. I think we have more commoners on this side of the room.
I can tell members that I am just a farm boy who had some modest success in the auto industry. However, in 1993, I had a lesson in debt. The banks came around and they pulled my line of credit. It brought me to my knees, but it taught me a valuable lesson. I learned that I would never be indebted to a bank again.
Members can ask most business people if they would rather have a huge debt or no debt at all. I do not think there is a person in the House who would not say the latter. That lesson was something I needed to learn, because it helped me become a better businessman. Yet, the current government is telling us that debt is not a bad thing, and that we can borrow our way to success. I am here to tell members that it will not happen and it will not work.
Now, central banks are a whole different subject. Maybe I will have the opportunity to talk about central banks at some point. They know there is no better customer than a nation, especially a rich nation. Do members know why? It is because they will always pay their bills. They have a method of payment that is unequalled on the planet, and it is called taxes. They will just tax their citizens. Members should understand that there is no other means for a government, for a country, to raise revenue. It is just taxes.
Members might ask what about borrowing money. Well, that is just deferring the inevitable. Eventually, we are going to pay the piper, and banks know this. Banks know that they are always going to get their two points, whatever that is. The bank rate is at 3%, but they will get 5%. We like to say that if bank rates are at 0%, then that is a whole different discussion. I know that one day we are going to have that discussion, because it is a non-reality. However, if we assume that is the rate, banks will always get their 2%.
God help us if we ever go to traditional rates. Can members imagine, if we are paying at this point about $35 billion on an interest rate at 2%, if that were to spike to 4%, 6%, or 8%? Some of the younger folks here are surprised at 8%. I remember mortgages when we thought we were getting a real good deal when we paid 12.75%.
The Speaker is telling me I do not have much time left, but I do not think the current government has much time left either if the Liberals continue on this trajectory. If they continue this avenue of free spending and they continue to put this country, the people, and especially our children into a position where they are indebted and they can no longer pay that debt. I do not want to paint a picture that is unreal. Far be it from me to do that.
I will close by saying that the idea of spending money to get richer is foolhardy at best, and it is a mistake for the government to continue in that direction. I would ask that the Liberals look again at the direction they are going and reverse this terrible direction.
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could speak to the different kinds of debt. It is an unfortunate thing when we talk about debt to Canadians as just debt. There is capital infrastructure debt, operating expense debt that we might incur, and there are very different—
There is a rule that you can be in the House and you can vote in the House without a tie, but unfortunately, I am going to cut it off. I just noticed the hon. member does not have a tie, I am going to have to ask him to sit down. I am sure it was a great question.
The hon. member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative member’s presentation was an interesting one. He contrasted the previous government with the Liberal government. I can assure the House that the contrast is obvious with our Liberal government, since it is a government that is here for the regions. The member also spoke about the debt, in reference to what my colleague said earlier.
I would like to hear more from the member on how the Canada child benefit has improved the lives of 9 out of 10 families, on the fact that it has lifted 300,000 children out of poverty, with all of these new measures being tax free. I would like to hear his thoughts on how the Canada child benefit is making it easier for families to break the debt cycle.
Mr. Speaker, I have to be honest. I have kids with kids. They tell me it is neat to get that cheque. However, I remind them that they have to pay it back and their kids will have to pay it back too. Had the Liberal government been honest with the Canadian public and said it was going to really increase this but it would cost them, that it was not going to pay for it, but it was going to charge it, I wonder if Canadians would have had the same response.
I repeat, when it is Christmastime and mom and dad come home with piles and piles of presents, the kids will be delighted, but in the same breath if they tell the kids that they charged it and the kids will have to pay for it, it would really make for a crummy Christmas.
Mr. Speaker, my heart goes out to the member for . If he wants to borrow a tie, we have some very stylish ones in the NDP lobby.
I wanted to bring to the attention of my Conservative friend that, in March 2016, there was an advisory council on economic growth that was struck by the Liberal government and Michael Sabia was one of the members of this council. That was right around the same time that he appeared on March 3 before the Toronto Board of Trade and stated that:
|| For long term investors, infrastructure offers something that’s not easy to find today: stable, predictable returns in the 7 to 9 per cent range with a low risk of capital loss—exactly what we need to meet our clients’ long term needs.
When we hear the private investment industry making those kinds of claims, about 7% to 9% return on investment, where does my friend think those returns are going to come from and how do they compare with what the government could offer or what the government did promise with low interest rates?
Mr. Speaker, I wish I had more time. I think it was Nathan Hale who spoke about having another life to give, but I wish I had another hour to give; we could talk about those things, but the long and the short of it is this. I would be the first to say that I am not an economist, but I am a businessman. I would say there are a lot of folks here who are not economists and yet they have learned to balance their own chequebook. When we do those things, we know that what is coming in had better be equal to what is going out. We always like to make one a little more than the other. However, it is just common sense that we cannot spend our way to prosperity. There are times when governments have invested. We use that word so freely and everything seems to be an investment nowadays. Nevertheless when we go to the bank and we borrow money, we have made a loan and we have to pay back that loan.
The hon. member for Mount Royal is rising on a point of order.
The House resumed consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, today I take this opportunity to speak to Bill , the budget implementation act. This budget will have such a profound, progressive, and positive impact on the families, kids, students, and workers in my riding. It will make a tremendous difference in their lives.
However, by their nature, budget bills are largely collections of various budget-related matters, and many of these matters can be very technical in nature and mind-numbing, I would say. However, other parts of these bills pertain to matters of substantive policy, including the important policy choices made by governments. I will address you on the parts of this bill that pertain to the important policy decisions made by this government.
The first policy decision made by this government that I will speak to is the Canada child benefit. I refer to its indexing to inflation, the maximum benefit amounts, and the phase-out thresholds under the Canada child benefit beginning in the 2020-21 benefit year. This decision will keep the Canada child benefit up to date, effective, and relevant, regardless of any future inflation.
The Canada child benefit is a critical program for Canadians, now and into the future. Our Canada child benefit is responsible for lifting over 300,000 Canadian children above that poverty threshold. In a stroke, it reduced Canada's child poverty rate from 11% to 6%. It cut our child poverty rate nearly in half. That is outstanding. It is something that many of us have talked about for decades and never seen done. To see this happen before our eyes is truly amazing. This is the sort of societal-changing action we all entered into politics to effect.
Moving over 300,000 children out of dire need means nearly one-third of a million Canadian children will eat better, will be better clothed, will be better educated, and will benefit from the opportunities many other Canadian children can take for granted. These opportunities might include soccer lessons, music lessons, or science camps. Not only is this program, which this legislation underpins into the future, the right and decent thing to do, it is the clever thing to do.
Children raised out of poverty have better health outcomes. These better outcomes will save us untold billions of dollars in health costs in the future. Children not burdened by poverty get better educations. These better educated Canadians will result in a more productive Canadian economy in the future.
The increased productivity from this poverty-reduction program will contribute billions in extra Canadian economic growth and Canadian government revenues. Children not haunted by poverty have better life outcomes. They are less likely to suffer from debilitating social problems, such as crime and addiction. Reducing such social problems will not only prevent untold personal grief and tragedy but will save all levels of government more billions of dollars.
Poverty reduction might even have a surprising effect on our democratic system. There is some evidence that increased income increases the likelihood of voting. This makes intuitive sense. If we feel our society has cared about us and our children, we will tend to care more about our society. Therefore, we are likely making more engaged and better citizens with this measure.
It is no wonder that the Canada child benefit has been described as “one of the most ambitious social policies to be implemented in Canada in decades”. Bill supports this progressive and ambitious societal change.
Bill also makes post-secondary education more affordable for low and middle-income families. Further, it makes it easer to repay any student debt incurred to obtain that post-secondary education. These are yet more progressive and forward-thinking government measures to position Canadians and Canada for the future.
Successful world citizens in the future will not be working harder, but will be working smarter. It is our duty to ensure that Canadians are overrepresented in the future cohort of successful, highly educated world citizens. These budget measures are some of the ways we are fulfilling that duty.
The measures I have addressed so far relate to our duty to the youngest Canadians and future generations. The measures I now address concern our duty to the most vulnerable of our oldest Canadians, our seniors.
Currently, these vulnerable seniors—i.e., those couples receiving the guaranteed income supplement under the Old Age Security Act—are penalized when one or both of them become so ill that it requires the couple to split up for health reasons. While they are forced to incur the extra costs of living as two single people, they are not each entitled to the single-person supplement. Currently, they are restricted to the couple supplement only. The couple supplement is less than that for two single persons.
The amendment in the budget would correct that unfairness by allowing each involuntary single to claim that single-person supplement. This would recognize their increased costs, which are beyond their control.
CARP is a 300,000-member national, non-partisan, non-profit organization advocating for financial security and improved health care for Canadians as they age. It “applauds the government for the proposed amendment to the Old Age Security Act, contained within Bill C-29”, and our earlier increase in the guaranteed income supplement. While certainly wanting us to do more, CARP further states, “these amendments have our unconditional support”.
This measure is a part of our commitment to ensuring that Canadian seniors have a dignified, comfortable, and secure retirement.
The bill would also implement the part of the election platform that Canadians voted for last year regarding increases in infrastructure spending, some $180 billion over 12 years. Canada, like the rest of the world, has realized that monetary policy, including the low interest rates that we find ourselves with now, is no cure for sluggish growth. It cannot fix everything. These needed investments are not necessarily made because of the low interest rates. That is why, with government intervention, we are able to get some of that needed infrastructure built. We are in such a situation right now.
We also realize that there is an infrastructure deficit in Canada. Sewer systems, bridges, railroads, social housing, and rural high-speed Internet are but a few of the areas in which we must invest more. The timing is right for this infrastructure push right now. As the British magazine, The Economist, said on October 4, 2014, there are concrete benefits as a result, because “Public investments in infrastructure do the most good at times like the present”.
Municipal leaders, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, are raving about the leadership that we have taken on infrastructure and the improvements that will come to municipalities coast to coast to coast.
Our current prosperity did not come out of thin air. We have to realize this. It came out of investments and hard work. Canada's most iconic infrastructure investment was the “National Dream”, that is, the building of the transcontinental railway. That investment helped make Canada. It created untold wealth and knitted us together. It is a classic example of the far-sighted infrastructure investment that we need.
We must be equally far-sighted today. There is a myriad of new infrastructure opportunities that exist in public transit, local and regional airports, disaster mitigation, community energy systems, health care facilities, and I could go on and on.
Many societies around the world are confronting new tensions and perhaps even a questioning of the traditional bonds between citizens and their leaders. This legislation would address those strains by emphasizing the inclusive nature of our Canadian democracy.
I am concerned about the state of our democracy and the world's democracies. To that end, I allude to the broader positive societal impact of the measures to help Canadian children whose families are struggling.
I have also highlighted the long-term nation-building implications of infrastructure investment.
We are determined to ensure a strong economy based on a strong middle class. When middle-class Canadians have more money to save, invest, and grow the economy, everyone benefits. These benefits are not only economic, but democratic, social, and cultural.
I think about Canadian parents, who are struggling to join the middle class, and working hard. This bill is a concrete, monthly, and effective demonstration of Canadian societal concerns for them. I support this legislation wholeheartedly, and encourage everyone in this House to vote in favour of Bill .
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I would like to raise two things.
First, we know that our economy’s biggest job creators are small and medium-sized businesses, which generally create about 80% of new jobs. This is the case in Montreal, especially in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
During the election campaign, the Liberals promised to help small businesses to give them some breathing room. Unfortunately, in their first budget, there is no hint of this promised tax break for small businesses. I would like to hear my colleague’s comments on that.
Second, I heard my colleague’s concerns about infrastructure. In Montreal it is pretty catastrophic and there is a lot of catching up to do. Personally, I am deeply concerned to hear the government referring to privatization and the new infrastructure bank, which will attract a great deal of private capital. They will guarantee a return to provide for dividends.
Why will we guarantee this bank a return or a profit of 7% when we could borrow at an interest rate of 2%?
Mr. Speaker, small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. They are the engine. I have so many small businesses in my riding of .
I can tell the member that they have come to me. The Canada child benefit has made a difference to those businesses. That extra spending money that those families now have means they can buy that winter coat at this time of year, or put their kids in soccer or in music class, or provide more for their children. It is an investment, and that investment also moves in to those small and medium-sized businesses.
The same thing happened with our middle-class tax cut. That means more money in the hands of more people in the middle class, and being able to spend that money within the local economy, because these businesses are local, and they make such a difference. They are employers of many people in our community.
I say to the member that these are investments that will have a major impact on our small and medium-sized businesses.
Mr. Speaker, budget 2016 was very well received in Manitoba, both in the rural areas and in the city areas. In fact, in the riding of Provencher in the village of St-Pierre, we received $3 million for a lagoon expansion. In the city of Winnipeg, we received $55 million for transit improvements, something that is direly needed for Winnipeg.
I am wondering if the hon. member could speak to the importance of transit improvements in large urban centres and how so very important that is for the future of moving people, moving goods, and increasing productivity for cities.
Mr. Speaker, the member is so right. I want to thank him for all he does for his community and understanding the importance of those buses, trains, roads, that help move people and goods so that they can get to work a little quicker and get home a lot quicker and be able to spend more time with their families. There is also the productivity impact. I think of what that means to those businesses.
We talk about our carbon footprint and the reduction in the amount of emissions we have by having more people on buses and therefore better service. We also have a bigger uptake in terms of people using public transit. I often hear that if there were more buses, if there was better, more frequent service, more people would then use public transit.
That is happening right across the country, especially in the member's riding and in Manitoba. I know the type of impact that makes, especially for the middle-class working families and those working hard to reach the middle class.
The House resumed consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to take this opportunity to rise in this place to speak in support of this legislation and to discuss the international assistance provisions outlined in budget 2016, as well as provide some additional insight into the direction our government is taking with regard to Canada's international assistance overall.
In terms of new funding, budget 2016 allocated an additional $256 million over two years, 2016-17 and 2017-18, to the international assistance envelope, the IAE. The international assistance envelope is the Government of Canada's primary planning tool for managing official development assistance and for funding our international assistance activities. Though the majority of the resources in the IAE are programmed by Global Affairs Canada, it is truly a whole-of-government mechanism for implementing the government's international assistance agenda.
The budget 2016 infusion of new resources complements the significant steps we have taken to address key global challenges, including climate change, instability, and humanitarian crises in Iraq, Syria, and the surrounding region, as well as ongoing development challenges, particularly those facing women and girls.
In the last year, our government has committed $2.65 billion over five years to help developing countries tackle climate change, provided over $1.1 billion over three years in development and humanitarian assistance to address the needs of people affected by the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, and increased our contribution to The Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria by 20%, to $785 million from 2017 to 2019.
The international aid commitments that the government has recently made are a reflection of our desire to help implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
We have leveraged our significant commitments to encourage other donors to dig deeper. During the event hosted by our in Montreal last September, donors pledged over $12.9 billion over the next three years to the fifth Global Fund Replenishment Conference to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. This is a tremendous global commitment to end the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria once and for all.
Under the leadership of the , we launched a review of Canada’s international assistance, including development, peace, security and humanitarian aid.
This means that we are reviewing what we do, where we are targeting our efforts, our operating practices, and the partnerships we must forge to make our contribution.
At the core of our review is a commitment to refocus our assistance on the poorest and the most vulnerable, including in fragile states. We will channel our efforts on advancing the empowerment of women and girls as powerful agents of change. By investing in their social, economic, and political empowerment, we can promote dramatic and positive change in the lives of entire communities.
As a recent UNDP report highlighted, the future of the world will depend on us doing everything in our power to ignite the potential of a 10-year-old girl today. That commitment to a feminist and human rights-based approach will also be a catalyst for achieving all 17 goals of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
To ensure that we get this right, we consulted broadly and transparently with Canadian and international partners, seeking to build on areas of Canada's success, examine evidence and best practice, and strengthen the partnerships, mechanisms, and tools needed for improved delivery on the ground. More than 15,000 Canadian and international stakeholders in over 60 countries took the time to contribute to these consultations. I thank them for their thoughtful, engaging responses.
We know that the global development and security context has changed and Canada's international assistance needs to adapt to this new reality. In our response to crises in the Middle East, we are ensuring that our security, humanitarian, and development assistance is part of an integrated response in the region.
To move forward, the Government of Canada will need to forge new partnerships with Canadians, NGO partners, international organizations, research institutions, and the private sector to ensure that the best ideas and minds are brought together to develop innovative solutions to the most enduring problems. We will need to look beyond official development assistance and make use of different types of financial flows to overcome financing gaps.
Most important, we will continue to engage with stakeholders and local populations, including the poorest and the most vulnerable, to ensure that their voices are heard and form part of the decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods. In the coming months, we look forward to sharing our new international assistance vision that will support Canada's engagement on the world stage, thus contributing to a more stable and prosperous world for all.
I am pleased to be supporting this legislation to achieve those objectives.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her fine speech. Everyone in the House is quite aware of what is happening in other countries. That is all well and good, but what about Canadians who today are struggling to support themselves?
I would like the to tell me, above and beyond the ideals of helping others, why are we not starting at home?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
I believe that it is clear in the budget that we presented to the House that we are starting by helping Canadians. Take for example, the tax cut for the middle class; the Canada child benefit, which will help nine out of ten families and lift 300,000 children out of poverty; and our programs and strategies to increase the guaranteed income supplement for seniors. We are doing a lot for Canadians. As a party and as a government, we understand that we need to start here at home in Canada.
However, we also have global responsibilities. We are part of an international system. We have the responsibility to contribute to it to build a better future, not only here in Canada but also in other countries around the world.
Mr. Speaker, I would tend to disagree with the hon. member's last comments, that we are helping back home first. In Alberta, we have a massive jobs crisis that is occurring, we have a carbon tax implemented, and we have CPP increases on top of that.
As part of the member's speech, she indicated that she is helping young families. Could the member comment on how those initiatives would help young families, because, quite frankly, I do not think they would.
Mr. Speaker, I of course recognize the struggles that Alberta and the member's fellow Albertans are going through. Our government has been very clear in giving concrete assistance in terms of infrastructure dollars that are making an impact right now, in terms of approving the pipeline that will not only get our resources to market but will also help put many people in Alberta and across this country into well-paying, middle-class jobs.
In addition, I have spoken to many individuals in my community. The member questioned whether these measures would help young families. I can tell him that the Canada child benefit is having a real, meaningful, and tangible impact on the bottom line of families. It is helping them make ends meet. It is helping with the costs of raising children. It is really making a tangible difference in their lives. I am proud of the work that our government is doing to ensure that we are raising kids across this country out of poverty.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. parliamentary secretary appears to be misinformed about the jobs impact of Kinder Morgan. The National Energy Board refused to hear evidence on jobs and the economy. Unifor, the largest union representing the oil sands workers, wanted to make it clear to the National Energy Board that the expansion would come at the cost of all the jobs currently in the Chevron refinery in Burnaby, as it will likely close if Kinder Morgan is expanded. I would like the hon. parliamentary secretary to clarify the lack of information on which the government was operating.
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to creating an environment in which we can have well-paying, middle-class jobs. We know that infrastructure projects, whether social infrastructure such as housing o