|| That the House recognize that the government has mismanaged the economy in a way that is damaging Canadian industries and diminishing Canadians’ economic stability by: (a) failing to negotiate a deal on softwood lumber and instead offering a compensation package rather than creating sustainable jobs for Canadian forestry workers; (b) attempting to phase out Canada’s energy sector by implementing a job killing carbon tax, adding additional taxes to oil and gas companies, removing incentives for small firms to make new energy discoveries and neglecting the current Alberta jobs crisis; and (c) refusing to extend the current rail service agreements for farmers in Western Canada which will expire on August 1, 2017, which will result in transportation backlogs that will cost farmers billions of dollars in lost revenue.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to be able to rise here today, on Monday at noon, to talk about how the Liberal government continues to mismanage our economy.
Before I start, I would like to indicate that I will be splitting my time with my friend and colleague, the member for .
I thought it imperative that we table this motion today, before we head out on summer break later this month, to talk about how the Liberals seem to be incompetent when it comes to managing the important files to support our economy. In particular, they continue to mismanage our oil and gas sector. Critical infrastructure, such as transportation and rail service, has been completely forgotten by the Liberal government, and the resource industries, such as softwood lumber, agriculture, or our mining sector, have also been forgotten.
This is incredibly damaging to the people who live in communities in rural Canada who depend upon these sectors, yet the Liberals only seem to care about their own political pet projects. They have forgotten about rural Canada. They have forgotten about the important industries across this country, particularly in western Canada. We have to make sure that we shine a light on the Liberals' mismanagement of these files. We have to make sure Canadians understand that the Liberals are either incompetent when it comes to these serious files or they are callous and just do not care. To me, that is very disturbing.
The first part of the motion talks about the softwood lumber deal. I would like to remind everyone that, when we came to power under former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2006, we negotiated a softwood lumber agreement with the United States in three months. We then extended it in 2012 to take us right through until October 2016. That protected over 400,000 jobs across this country from coast to coast to coast, in every region, and it supported our businesses, jobs, and communities.
The Liberals have taken a laissez-faire attitude toward softwood. They allowed the agreement to expire in October 2016. They have failed to engage with the U.S. administration to protect Canadian jobs, protect access to the U.S. market, and also protect consumers in the United States who will ultimately pay higher prices. The jobs of Canadian forestry workers are in peril, and Canadian softwood lumber manufacturers and harvesters are seeing their businesses at risk, yet all we have seen from the Liberals is some EI reforms to help out those workers. That does not fix the problem.
The , who is responsible for the softwood lumber agreement with the United States, tweeted this morning that Canada and the United States are miles apart on coming to some sort of an agreement. It is completely unacceptable that we are not getting any resolution from the Liberals on this file. We cannot sit on the sidelines and wait while these jobs, businesses, and communities are in peril.
We have to make sure that the government gets focused. Today is its opportunity to commit to solving the softwood lumber deal, and to take a page from the Conservatives' playbook on how to do it.
Members will hear today from a lot of Conservative members of Parliament who want to see the Liberals try to solve some of these problems rather than sit on their hands. I know that our critics in the official opposition, and members of Parliament from the Conservative Party, will strongly encourage the government to find solutions, while at the same time will be pointing out, without hesitation, the flaws in the Liberals' approach and their callous decision-making process, which are leaving rural and western Canada and the resource industries at risk.
The second part of the motion talks about how the Liberals continue to damage the economy by going ahead with their complete drive to kill the oil and gas and energy sectors in this country.
The is married to a flawed policy, a regressive policy, called the carbon tax, and he is forcing it on the provinces and the territories. This carbon tax is going to hurt the most vulnerable in our society. It will increase the cost of doing business. The cost to farmers in particular for what they are going to have to pay extra for fuel, fertilizer, and other energy costs is going to be huge. Farming is an energy-intensive industry.
My son-in-law is a grain farmer. I come from a farming background. My brothers and my father and mother were all involved in agriculture, as am I. We will be hit the hardest. What will that do? It will not only reduce our bottom line but will increase the price of food. Not only will it increase the price of producing that food, it will increase the cost of transporting that food. Canada is a vast nation, and everything has to be put onto trucks or rail. It is all pulled by diesel. That will see some of the highest levels of carbon taxes of anything.
Low-income Canadians and those living on fixed incomes cannot afford a carbon tax. They have been completely ignored by the Liberal government. The Liberals like to claim that they have been able to bring the biggest tax cuts to the middle class, but that is a farce. It is a shell game, because with one hand they give, and with the other hand they taketh away.
For those Canadians making over $45,000 a year, the Liberals decreased income taxes by 1.5%. They then increased taxation through payroll taxes and CPP premiums by 2%. Middle-class Canadians are short a half per cent right now, and that does not include paying more for a carbon tax, which will impact everything they do, such as their home heating bills and the cost to commute. Public transit will go up, because it will cost more to put fuel in those vehicles.
The Liberals eliminated the tax credit for public transit, Mr. Speaker, again targeting low-income Canadians, students, and seniors. Those who depend on public transit are being completely thrown to the curb.
Under the bus.
They are being thrown under the bus, Mr. Speaker, as my friend from Durham just said, by the Liberals. That is not acceptable. It is callous and inconsiderate. The Liberals are hurting those who need every penny kept in their own pockets, but the pickpockets on the Liberal side just love to pull more revenue from Canadians through additional taxes.
The Liberals are also going after the gas and oil companies by putting in place things like a methane tax, again increasing the cost of doing business and not doing anything to change the story on climate change.
When fuel prices go up and energy costs rise, Canadians still have to buy their gas, their diesel, their electricity, and their home heating fuel. Higher prices do not reduce consumption rates. All they do is generate more dollars for the coffers of the Government of Canada and the provinces, and that is not appropriate. Doing that kills jobs.
There is a jobs crisis in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, provinces that depend on the oil and gas sector, and in western Manitoba and places in Ontario, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia, with the Hibernia oil fields and offshore drilling. Those jobs are being lost, yet those jobs support communities. When oil workers leave the field, who is going to be in those small businesses up and down Main Street, those pa and ma shops? If they have no one to come in to do business, how will they stay in business? If they are not able to sell their wares, sell their services, that is unacceptable.
Finally, the other issue I want to talk about today, and the House will hear in detail from my colleagues about this, is how the government's Bill , what the Liberals call the modernized transportation act, is the opposite of that. The bill would put shippers and grain farmers across Canada at risk.
For western grain farmers, August 1 is a new crop year. Those farmers will have more difficulty moving their grain when the current shippers service agreements expire August 1. It will be more difficult for them to get the new crop to market. The bill would put all the power back in the hands of the oligarchs at the railways.
I am looking forward to hearing all the arguments brought forward by my colleagues on today's important motion.
Mr. Speaker, for the last 18 months, the has talked about so-called sunny ways. Today is a sunny day, and we really appreciate the fact that summer is back in Canada.
Our comments today will focus primarily on the state of the Canadian economy and this government's performance over the past 18 months. What has it done to stimulate the economy and create jobs and wealth? In my speech today I will demonstrate that, unfortunately, this government has repeatedly stood in the way of those whom we Conservatives see as the backbone of the Canadian economy and economic growth, specifically, small and medium-sized businesses.
This government has made a number of poor decisions, but chief among them, of course, is the Liberal carbon tax. This is one of the worst things that could possibly be done to stimulate jobs and the economy. We all agree that we need to address the new challenge of climate change and that this presents wonderful opportunities for the Canadian economy to develop its green economy.
However, the worst thing this government could do is punish Canadian small business owners by imposing this $50-a-tonne tax on them because they are producers and therefore are bad. On top of that, the price will go up as time goes on. That is not the way to help businesses and the economy or to foster Canadian wealth. On the contrary, that will penalize workers and producers.
Earlier, I was listening to my colleague from , who is my MP when I am here in Ottawa.
Mr. Greg Fergus: A formidable MP.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: Mr. Speaker, he said that he was a formidable MP, and I agree that he is definitely formidable in stature. Earlier, he said that it was fantastic that more than half of the provinces were now on board with the Liberals. It is easy for people to get on board when they know that, sooner or later, a law will require them to do so anyway. That is the Liberal approach. Instead of doing what should have been done in Vancouver and working hand in hand with the provinces, the Liberals presented the provinces with their game plan and told them that it would be imposed on them in three years, with or without their consent. When the Liberals say that they are pleased that the provinces are on board, I believe it, because if they do not get on board, the Liberals will force them to do so. It is a bad approach.
The Liberal carbon tax undermines our business owners and punishes workers, producers, and creators of wealth, rather than helping companies reduce their environmental footprint and its impact on Canada's economy. In short, the Liberal government's number one bad decision is the creation of a carbon tax.
On another note, business owners are not happy about the extra payroll expenses related to the Canada pension plan. Last year, this government passed a bill to hike payroll taxes for all Canadian workers and businesses. In the end, it will cost Canadian workers an extra $1,000 a year. As for employers, it will cost them an extra $1,000 a year per employee. That is an extra $2,000 per worker, $1,000 from the worker and $1,000 from the employer. These extra costs make it challenging for our business owners. The government wants to create wealth, jobs, and vitality and then turns around and tells employers that they have to pay an extra $2,000 a year for every employee, including the tax charged to the employees themselves. That is not the right thing to do.
Same goes for the tax cuts. This government was elected on a promise to run a small $10-billion deficit, which has ballooned to a $30-billion deficit. The Liberals have broken their promises. They said we would return to a balanced budget in 2019, but now we know from the Department of Finance that we will have to wait until 2055.
The Liberals broke yet another tax-related promise. When they introduced their campaign platform, they promised to reduce the small business tax rate—which was at 11% then and subsequently dropped to 10.5%—to 9% to give our business people a boost, but they have not delivered on that promise, and the rate has not budged.
Add to that several tax credits that are no more. Earlier, my colleague from talked about the oil and gas development tax credits that this government axed, not to mention the tax credits designed to help create jobs and wealth, such as the investment and job creation credits.
So much for our business people, but what about the family tax credits that are no more? For example, what about the now-gone tax credit we created to help families purchase school and art supplies and sports equipment?
The most bizarre thing the Liberal government did was abolish the public transit tax credit. My friend, the member for , who uses public transit to get to Parliament, which I think is great, must be disappointed that his own government got rid of a tax credit that he and thousands of other Canadians were entitled to.
Had anyone told me three months ago that the Liberal government was going to axe the public transit tax credit, I would have said there was no way. This government goes on and on about how green it is, how much it cares about the environment, how much it supports workers. Well, that tax helped Canadian workers who polluted less by taking public transit. The truth is that the Liberal government just could not stand the fact that it was a Conservative initiative, so it decided to do away with it. That was not the right thing to do.
When it comes to businesses, the Liberal government has a habit of putting up roadblocks rather than helping them. These include the Liberal carbon tax, changes to the Canada pension plan, the tax cuts that we are still waiting for, and the cancellation of important tax credits to business owners.
In concrete numbers, exports have not increased. We are very concerned about this because exports create wealth in this country, and our domestic market is only 35 million citizens. Exporting is absolutely crucial. Unfortunately, over the past 18 months of this Liberal government, we have seen no increase in exports or investments for our businesses. This is not surprising when you look at all the tax increases on businesses and the cuts to the federal support our government had introduced through tax credits.
What worries all Canadians, and not just people in Quebec and British Columbia, is the softwood lumber issue. Everyone knows that softwood lumber is a natural resource that is very important to the Canadian economy. It contributes to growth in many regions of Canada, not just Quebec and British Columbia. All the other businesses across the country that work with softwood lumber for secondary wood processing also stand to gain when everything is going well.
For the past 18 months, the government has been dragging its feet when it comes to reaching an agreement with the United States that is good for both Americans and Canadians. The price of Canadian lumber is so much lower and its quality is so much higher than that of American lumber that it is affecting housing prices in the United States. This is a test of leadership. When a prime minister, a head of state, cares about an issue, he will tackle it head-on and resolve it.
That is what prime minister Stephen Harper did in 2006 when he met his American counterpart, President Bush, for the first time. The first thing they talked about was not the weather. They talked about subjects that had a direct impact on the Canadian economy. As a result, three months after that meeting, a softwood lumber agreement was signed under the leadership of prime minister Harper and President Bush.
When a prime minister shows leadership, we get results. When a prime minister takes every opportunity to get his picture taken instead of making decisions, we end up with nothing, even 18 months later.
I would like to remind members of the good old days of Brian Mulroney and President Reagan. Canadian history has seldom seen a time when the Canadian and American heads of state were so in tune with each other. The current and President Obama were very buddy-buddy, and that is great, but it did not produce any results. The Prime Minister should have taken advantage of that strong personal friendship with the American president. They had 12 months to do something about this problem, but the Prime Minister did nothing. He preferred to meet President Obama for a sandwich in a Montreal restaurant, which is all well and good, but it did not produce any results.
That is why, after 18 months under the Liberal government, the Canadian economy is unfortunately not as strong as it should be.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
I am pleased to help outline some of the NDP's thoughts and objections to the motion before us, which has all the thematic unity of a recipe for leftovers soup.
As is the case with leftovers soup, even if people find the totality of it distasteful, it does not always mean they do not like particular ingredients that were thrown into it. There are some good ingredients to this motion, but when taken together, unfortunately we feel we need to oppose it.
The aspect of the motion dealing with softwood lumber is an ingredient we think is a good one. It is right to draw attention to the fact that the government has simply failed to come up with a reasonable solution to the crisis in softwood lumber.
As one of my colleagues in the NDP has just pointed out, it is a little challenging in some ways to hear that criticism come from the Conservatives. They were in government when the agreement expired. They had 10 years. They could have come to another agreement on it, but they did not. They left it to the Liberals, who then made a big deal of their great relationship with the Obama administration and what this would mean for Canadian softwood lumber producers. The Liberals would be able to go ahead and get not just any deal but the best possible deal for producers. That agreement still has not materialized.
A compensation package has been announced, presumably which is a bad omen for Canadian producers who hoped to get a deal that would allow them, through their work, to provide for them and their families, and not have to do that through a government compensation package. I suppose if the Liberals are not going to get it together to get a deal, then that is the next best thing. We would hope, however, to have a government that fights to get that agreement so softwood lumber producers can get back on their feet.
Even the agreement that was in place before was not a great agreement. It was signed by the Harper government. Today Conservatives members want to draw the attention of people to that fact. The leverage the prime minister at the time had was that successive challenges by the United States to the Canadian softwood lumber regime at the WTO and NAFTA had failed. The WTO and NAFTA had supported the Canadian softwood lumber system. In fact, we were on the cusp of getting another decision by the WTO that experts thought would affirm the Canadian position.
Instead of getting to hear that ruling and the benefit that would accrue to Canadian producers by having that ruling on the books, the Harper government went off and cut a side deal. That deal left a billion dollars of the $5.4 billion, which were taken out of the pockets of Canadian producers, in the hands of the U.S. It had taken that money, and not rightfully. That is not just the NDP position; that is the opinion of NAFTA and WTO tribunals.
These are under agreements that we, frankly, do not always like. They were coming to the conclusion that Canada had been wronged by the United States, yet the rug was pulled out from under the feet of Canadian producers who wanted to get the money, which had been taken from them in unfair duties, back. The Harper government did not allow for that. It left a billion dollars of that money on the table.
The Harper government did it with another element of that story, which no one else seems to talk about today. It did it with a Liberal turned Conservative trade minister, David Emerson. Perhaps other parties in the House also want to explore that theme today. No only are the Liberals and Conservatives so close together on this issue, in their common failure to provide a lasting solution to softwood, even under the rubric of the WTO and NAFTA of which they were great supporters, but they felt comfortable using the same guy to negotiate for them on this file in the lead-up to and following the 2006 election.
With respect to this ingredient, we do need a lasting solution for Canadian softwood lumber producers, and it is incumbent on the government to deliver that. It has given us a lot of words, but not a lot of action. However, to hear that criticism coming from the Conservative Party, when it is pretty hard to distinguish the two on this file, is a little rich, too rich to soup me, that is for sure.
Grain is another aspect of this motion. It is quite different from softwood lumber, but nevertheless, here they are together. The issue there, as we started to discuss in questions and comments, is that the big crisis in grain transportation for western Canadian grain farmers occurred after the Canadian Wheat Board was abolished. Partly what we see here is Conservatives criticizing Liberals for failing to find a solution to a problem created by the Conservatives. They found a Band-Aid solution with legislation that is expiring soon, and the problem with the Liberal approach is that while they do suggest some solutions in Bill , the House has yet to pronounce on the adequacy of those provisions. The problem is that it is unlikely those provisions are going to be passed before the expiration of the interim or Band-Aid solution offered by the Conservative Party.
I will remain neutral on whether or not what the Liberals are proposing would provide a lasting solution, but what is clear is that there is going to be a gap between the Liberals' proposed solution and the Conservatives' Band-Aid solution. That puts grain farmers, particularly western Canadian farmers, in a tight spot that they ought not to be in, because we could see this problem coming from a long way off. The Liberals had extended the Conservative Band-Aid solution once before, so they knew when the deadline was coming. The fact that they have not been able to put in place a more lasting solution in time for what is essentially their own deadline is sad. Canadian grain farmers deserve better.
The last bit of the soup has to do with carbon pricing, and this is the ingredient that the NDP finds most objectionable. It is not about criticizing the Liberals' approach to carbon pricing, but it tries to say that any form of carbon pricing, the very principle of carbon pricing, cannot work with a functional, growing economy. That is a claim that we simply reject.
I watched as all but one Conservative member voted last week in favour of a motion for this Parliament to support the Paris climate agreement. The idea that we could go on with our current policies, as the Conservatives advocate, in further development of the Alberta oil sands and pipelines and not put any price on carbon is just not feasible. This aspect of the motion stands in contradiction to the position that they took only last week with respect to the Paris accord. Something has to change in terms of Canada's environmental policy if we are going to make good on our commitments under the Paris climate agreement. That much is clear.
When we get into the details, it does not take long before a lot of controversy is sparked, and there is certainly a lot of fair criticism that one can level at the government for its lack of concrete action.
For instance, if we are going to meet our Paris accord commitments, clearly we would need targets to get us there, but we do not have targets. We have the inadequate targets of the previous Stephen Harper government that the Liberals ran against, but the Liberals have not provided newer, more ambitious targets, so there is a clear problem in how we are going to get there.
In my view, part of the problem with the Liberals' carbon pricing plan is that they have given all the responsibility for implementation to the provinces, which means it may be implemented differently in different parts of the country. This situation raises the issue of equity between provinces, and Canadians living in some provinces may live under a different carbon pricing regime from Canadians living in other provinces. That is a real issue, and it is not one that the Liberals have managed to adequately address.
There is an equity issue as well in terms of people on low or fixed incomes being disproportionately affected by a carbon tax. Other governments, such as the NDP government in Alberta, have sought to address this issue by bringing in a rebate program for low-income people that operates along the same principles as our GST rebate. It is not an insurmountable problem and it is one we could address, except that the Liberal government's approach has been to divest itself of all responsibility for implementation and put it onto the provinces. Once again, whether people will be disproportionately affected by this tax will depend on whether they live under the NDP in Alberta or live under governments in other parts of the country.
There is a lot to talk about and there is a lot to criticize. It is very disappointing to read in international papers this weekend, for instance, about Angela Merkel looking for support within the G20, thinking she could count on our current to stand up to Donald Trump on climate, and finding that she cannot.
It flies in the face of the motion that the Liberals themselves presented in the House last week to affirm our commitment to the Paris accord, a motion that we all supported nearly unanimously. Now we see that the Liberals' actions do not meet their words. It is Kyoto all over again.
We need to do better, but I do not think this motion is about a good-faith attempt to solve that problem.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak, as my colleagues mentioned, to the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink motion today. I intend to give very brief remarks to the last matter, which has to do with the farmers in western Canada, but I will speak mainly to the second matter about Canada's energy sector.
On the matter of interswitching, this is a problem that the previous Conservative government did nothing to resolve in the long term. It just kept having temporary continuances. However, it did extend the interswitching distance, I think it was to 120 kilometres.
I have talked with the grain farmers of Canada, and with some of the growers in Alberta I know well, including Humphrey Banack. They said they would be pleased, if eventually this law is in place, to extend it to 1,200 kilometres, but are deeply disappointed that yet again the government is letting the August 1 deadline pass without any change. That means that the interswitching reverts to 30 kilometres. This is going to put our shippers at an extreme disadvantage, particularly those who are in the process of negotiating the shipping of their crop this fall.
Indeed, we support the fact that this should be expedited. We need the Liberal government to take measures to ensure this interim arrangement extends until this law is passed and in force.
The second matter is on the allegations by the Conservatives that the government is attempting to phase out Canada's energy sector by implementing what they call a job-killing carbon tax, adding additional taxes to oil and gas companies, removing incentives for small firms to make new energy discoveries, and neglecting the current jobs crisis in Alberta. What they are neglecting is the reality of the energy sector, not only in Alberta, not only in Canada, but across the world in fact. That is that most of the investment is shifting to the renewable energy efficiency sector. The Conservative Party absolutely refuses to understand that the energy sector includes more than oil and gas.
Contrary to what they assert, it is not the recent move by the Liberals to address climate change that is the problem; it is the complete failure of the previous government to address this global challenge in any credible way, or to take any measures to support the diversification of the economy. That includes in my province of Alberta, and including toward supporting the development, expansion, and deployment of renewable energy and job creation in the energy efficiency sector.
The Conservatives committed to reducing greenhouse gases, and then set targets. They then repeatedly promised to establish a regime to address the single largest and growing source of carbon emissions, the oil and gas sector. They proposed a cap-and-trade regime. They even issued a discussion paper on offsets. However, none of it ever materialized. They did, to give them credit, propose a shutdown of coal-fired power by 2050 unless the greenhouse gases were reduced, investing millions of taxpayer dollars in carbon capture and sequestration.
The Alberta companies completely backed away because of the high costs and questionable efficacy of the technology. However, that target did not address the growing health impacts of the coal-fired power sector, which are well documented by the Canadian Medical Association. To its credit, the NDP Government of Alberta has moved forward the date of decommissioning of coal-fired power. That was in response to these concerns over the health impacts associated with the toxic emissions from coal-fired power. The federal government eventually followed suit and has also moved forward the date.
Alberta has also announced regulations to reduce methane emissions, which this government again mirrored but has delayed. Conservatives did nothing about methane, despite the fact that methane emissions are far more powerful in causing climate change than carbon.
The Conservatives' tirades about the carbon tax are growing tiresome. Many of the provinces have already initiated programs to reduce greenhouse gases in their jurisdictions, including a carbon levy imposed years ago by the then Progressive Conservative Government of Alberta, and a carbon tax imposed by the Government of British Columbia. Contrary to the allegations by the Conservatives that addressing carbon kills a fossil fuel sector, we need only look to the booming sector in B.C. and Alberta. Instead, the Conservatives should be supporting calls by many for additional measures to the carbon tax by the federal government to actually address climate change.
Environment Canada is projecting that based on the policies it has in place, the country is on pace to miss its reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, pumping out at least 30% more than promised. That is based on the meagre Harper targets that it has continued to stick by.
In fact, there is a problem with the carbon tax. As many credible sources have pointed out, it is not sufficient on its own to deliver on the national reduction targets, let alone the commitments made in Paris.
While a number of nations have managed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, Canada's continue to increase. The government should start by expediting action on its promise to the G20 to phase out and rationalize inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. That has been recommended by Canada's Auditor General, who, in his 2017 spring report, criticized both the Department of Environment and Climate Change and Finance for failing to even complete a review of the perverse subsidies in place, let alone prescribing a plan and timeline to phase them out. This could go a long way to ensuring a more level playing field for investments in the renewable energy sector, and energy efficiencies.
Second, while the budget lists a myriad of measures to support deployment of renewables and increased energy efficiency, for the majority of those measures, any spending is defrayed over the next several elections. There has been almost zero allocated for it this year. The release of federal money supporting provincial and territorial initiatives under the bilateral agreements on green infrastructure and the low carbon economy fund are similarly postponed.
Why not restore the ecoENERGY retrofit program, as my colleague mentioned, to match provincial and municipal programs that would help reduce energy costs for small to medium-sized businesses, and help reduce the concern with the coming carbon tax?
It is also time to follow the United Kingdom model and infuse accountability into the climate program. As our party has been recommending since I was elected eight years ago, it is important to enact binding reduction targets and establish an independent commission to advise, monitor, and report.
The problem is that there is a list of initiatives that various ministers wander out to the public and industry to talk about, but there is no certainty of what they are moving forward on. The first glimpse that they might go forward with programs is that we saw this listing in the budget documents. However, when one turns to look at the budget document, one sees that in fact zero dollars are allocated this year. That includes programs to help isolated and northern communities get off diesel. That would be beneficial both to the health of the community and to reducing greenhouse gases. That is one small measure that is regrettably again delayed.
It is very important that we get off this rant about the carbon tax and instead come together to put pressure on the Liberal government for an extensive, encompassing program to meet not only its meagre targets, but targets it should be meeting for a fair contribution to the world reduction in greenhouse gases and its Paris targets.
It is not enough to send the around the world. She spends a lot of time meeting with members from the European Union and so forth. It is time for her to come home and start implementing some of these measures that will benefit Canadians, reduce their costs for energy, and move us toward a cleaner energy economy.
Mr. Speaker, I am so honoured to have so many hon. colleagues join us in the House today.
I have not taken the floor in some time and I am going to ask you, Mr. Speaker, and my colleagues on all sides of the aisle, for some indulgence today. I have every intention of speaking to the substantive motion before us, but before I do that, I have some matters of a personal nature that I have felt in my heart for some time and need to get out, and I am going to simply say them if the House would grant me that dispensation.
Let me first take the opportunity to introduce some of the most important people in my life, whom I have the pleasure of having in Ottawa today. They are my parents, Sandra and Anthony Chan; my brother, Dr. Kevin Chan; and of course my beloved wife, Jean Yip. Unfortunately, our three children Nathaniel, Ethan, and Theodore could not join us. The older two are currently in examinations, although Jean and I will be very pleased to welcome our youngest child Theo on Wednesday when he comes to Ottawa for his graduating field trip. We are very much looking forward to that.
First and foremost, it is a tremendous honour to serve as the member for Scarborough—Agincourt. All of us treasure the privilege that we have serving in this particular place. I am so grateful to my constituents of Scarborough—Agincourt for having given me a mandate twice to serve in this wonderful place.
While it is a very proud thing to serve as a member of Parliament, there is only one thing that makes me more proud, and that is to simply let my parents know my greater pride is reserved for being first and foremost their son, and being Kevin's brother, and most importantly, the spouse of my beloved wife, who has been there every step of the way. I simply could not ask for a better partner in life.
As I mentioned, one of the difficult things that often confronts us, and it is not unique to Canadians but obviously it is a challenge for those of us who serve in public office, is the sacrifices that are made by our families. If I have any failings to my children, such as having missed some of their important milestones, like recently missing Ethan's jazz concert at his school in order to perform my function here in the House of Commons, I ask them to forgive me, but I will explain the important reasons for why we do what we do.
The most important people in my life have taught me three important lessons, and they are the concepts of dedication, duty, and devotion.
On dedication, my parents, very much at an early age, instilled in both my younger brother and me the concept of doing our best. I have to say, and I would acknowledge, that I am one who has perhaps not achieved the same standard that my younger brother has achieved in terms of dedication. Dad has often reminded me that I often relied far too much on my talent and not enough on hard and diligent work, but I would like to think that was an important lesson that was imbued in both of us.
On the second point, of duty, the point I want to make here is that it was not necessarily done by way of word. It was done by way of practice, through the daily way in which my parents lived their lives.
Duty of course was paramount for them. I hope that Kevin and I have discharged our duty. I have the privilege of serving as a public office holder. My brother does it in a different way as a pediatrician, as a physician, who has travelled the planet to serve the least fortunate children in the world. I am very proud of the accomplishments he has made so far and the accomplishments he will achieve in the future on behalf of the most vulnerable children around the world.
Finally, my parents also taught us devotion. I also had another very important teacher in that, and that is my wife Jean. As many members know, I have been going through this challenge with my health for the last number of years. I simply could not have asked for a more devoted partner in life as I have walked through this journey. I will steal a line from a former prime minister of ours, the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, in referencing his partner Aline: “Without you, nothing.”
I wanted to get back to a more fundamental issue, one that has been raised a substantial number of times in the House, and that is how we comport ourselves.
I am not sure how many more times I will have the strength to get up and do a 20-minute speech in this place, but the point I want to impart to all of us is that I know we are all hon. members, I know members revere this place, and I would beg us to not only act as hon. members but to treat this institution honourably.
To that extent I want to make a shout-out to our colleague, the member for . This parliamentarian, who despite the fact we are not in the same party and despite the fact that we may disagree on some substantive issues quite vehemently, I consider to be a giant, not simply because she exhorts us to follow Standing Order 18, but more importantly, I have observed in her practice that she reveres this place. She is dedicated to her constituents. She practises, both here and in committee, the highest standard of practice that any parliamentarian could ask for. Despite strongly disagreeing, perhaps, with the position of the government of the day, she does so in a respectful tone. I would ask all of us to elevate our debate, to elevate our practice to that standard.
It is only through that practice, which I believe she so eloquently demonstrates, that Canadians will have confidence in this democratic institution that we all hold so dear. It is important that we do that.
The other thing that I wanted to speak broadly to is the practice of ditching what I call the “canned talking points”. I am not perfect. I know that sometimes it takes some practice. There are instances when it is necessary for us to have the guidance and assistance of our staff, the ministries, and of our opposition research. However, I do not think it gives Canadians confidence in our debates in this place when we formulaically repeat those debates. It is more important that we bring the experience of our constituents here and impose it upon the question of the day, and ask ourselves how we get better legislation and how we make better laws.
We can disagree strongly, and in fact we should. That is what democracy is about. However, we should not just use the formulaic talking points. It does not elevate this place. It does not give Canadians confidence in what democracy truly means.
The other thing I would simply ask all of our colleagues to consider is that while we debate and engage, what we are doing right now, when we listen, that we listen to one another, despite our strong differences. That is when democracy really happens. That is the challenge that is going on around the world right now. No one is listening. Everyone is just talking at once. We have to listen to each other. In so doing, we will make this place a stronger place.
I have some comments that I want to speak broadly to Canadians on before I get to the substantive issue that was introduced in the main motion by our friend from . I know that sometimes, for example, when we are about to enter question period, and I have to be honest, I am one who is beginning to find it challenging to watch. Maybe because I am on the government side. I have certainly participated with some glee at times on the opposition side, but I recognize that, and maybe my perspective has changed now that I have had a change of position in this place in the House, although I do not face the daily barrage, unlike members of the government.
I believe strongly that despite what we see in this place, what gives us strength is the fact that we can actually do it. We can actually engage in this process without fundamental rancour, without fundamental disagreement, and without violence. That is the difference, and that is why I so love this place. I would ask Canadians to give heart to their democracy, to treasure it and revere it. Of course, I would ask them to do the most basic thing, which is to cast their ballots. However, for me it is much more than that. I ask them for their civic engagement, regardless of what it actually may mean, whether it is coaching a soccer team or helping someone at a food bank. For me it can be even simpler than that.
It is the basic common civility we share with each other that is fundamental. It is thanking our Tim Hortons server. It is giving way to someone on the road. It is saying thanks. It is the small things we collectively do, from my perspective, that make a great society, and to me, that is ultimately what it means to be a Canadian. We are so privileged to live in this country, because we have these small acts of common decency and civility that make us what we are. I would ask members to carry on that tradition, because that is the foundation of what makes Canada great.
If I may quote the Constitution, it imbues peace, order, and good government. I would go to my friend from , who would appreciate that particular point. We have much to be proud of, and I would simply ask us to celebrate this incredible institution. By doing those small acts, we will continue to uphold our Canadian democracy and the values that bind us together.
I think it would be inappropriate if I did not speak to the substantive motion of the day, so with the remaining five minutes I have been afforded, I will briefly address the motion our friend from has put before us, because I may not have actually addressed it at all.
Let me simply say that I understand where the motion the member has brought forward comes from, but I profoundly disagree, and I disagree with it, respectfully, from the perspective of three quick criticisms.
First, I recognize that it attempts to provide a certain narrative that a particular party is good at managing the economy and a particular party is not so good at managing the economy, and it then tries to put piecemeal reasons why that is the case. I would first argue that it is difficult to evaluate the economic performance of a particular government after 18 months in any truly meaningful way, given the measures that have been taken.
I accept very much that we can attack certain measures the government has put in place. Whether one agrees or disagrees is obviously a point of reasonable debate, but I would argue that suggesting that what we have done would lead to some kind of profound economic catastrophe or failure at the present time is simply premature. I would argue that it would take some time yet to evaluate whether the policies of this government would lead to long-term, sustainable economic growth.
My second criticism is that there are a lot more complicated variables that go into issues of economic performance that this particular motion, in my respectful view, does not address. I would argue that there are broad parameters related to innovation and where the economy ought to go that are perhaps not captured in this motion.
The final point I would raise is to simply suggest that in some ways, this motion is somewhat nostalgic in terms of its viewpoint. It tends to look at our economy as a whole in terms of what it was or what it used to be as opposed to what it ought to be or where it ought to go. From my perspective, it does not address what I consider to be some of the much broader forces of global technological change this government is attempting to fundamentally address. We need to ask the critical questions in terms of where we need to ultimately go in positioning our national economy in moving things forward.
I would offer those points as quick criticisms of the substantive motion before the House today, but I thank the hon. member for for bringing it forward. It raises an important question about the direction of our economy. I would ask the hon. member to consider it from the perspective of our country as a whole as opposed to piecemeal. This motion, in some respects, has a propensity toward regionalizing, which I feel is an inappropriate approach when a government is attempting to address issues in the national economy.
Mr. Speaker, for once, I am without words in this place. We should probably rise after that eloquent advice and address from the member for , but I know he would want our parliamentary democracy and the wheels to continue. I would remind him, in a friendly way, that I was very much correct when I was in Vulcan.
I should add that I am splitting my time with the hon. member for .
With the current plan of the Liberal government, high taxes, high deficit, high debt, a war on resource-based jobs that are considered second-class, it would look like we are not en route to live long and prosper, as I joked with my friend from that day in Vulcan.
That underpins why we are debating this today. It is a very cogent motion from my good friend, the MP for , with a list of issues that show how in a year and a half our economy has been set back. In many ways the phrase “Canada is back” now means back into deficit, back into debt, back into higher Liberal taxes, back into cutting the military although suggesting at some magical point in the future the Liberals will put more money into it.
The member for has put in a number of items that we should be mindful of as we debate the economy.
The first is the deficit. We know when a government runs a deficit, that means one of two things. Either it will have to cut spending at some point in the future, cut programs, or it will have to raise taxes. Many economists look at deficits as deferred taxes.
When the was the leader of the third party, he said Canada was in a recession and they needed infrastructure jobs. Therefore, he promised he would run a modest deficit, never to exceed $10 billion. He broke that promise within three months of becoming prime minister. In fact, the Liberal government could only dream of deficits in the $10 billion range. The Liberals' last budget tabled a $28.5 billion deficit, while at the same time raising taxes.
Not only is the deficit a sign that there are more tax increases to come, the Liberal government set on an unparalleled course of raising taxes on families, on seniors by reducing the TFSA eligibility, on employers through the CPP payroll tax, through rolling back the planned reduction to small business. Now with the nationalized carbon tax, it has literally taxed every group and mode of economic activity.
As we joked recently about the Liberals' Saturday night budget tax, they are taxing beer, wine, and an Uber ride home. Therefore, on the so-called sharing economy, they are even taxing sharing. That I guess is sunny ways: broken promises on the deficit and taxes as far as the eye can see of all flavours and stripes.
I would remind the , who has been here for many years, what he said when he criticized the last government. He said:
|| Does the minister take satisfaction in that debt number? Why, in arriving at that sorry position, did his government put our country into deficit again, before the recession occurred? It was not because of the recession. It was before the recession. That is when they blew the fiscal framework.
Despite the third party leader's claims during the 2015 election, there was no recession. There was no need to run an even modest $10 billion deficit. However, with their reckless spending, the Liberals are running $28.5 billion in deficit, with no discernible impact on jobs from infrastructure and with capital in the resource economy and in manufacturing. Just a few weeks ago, we saw Procter & Gamble Brockville fleeing our country because of the high tax, high regulatory regime.
It is an astounding record. That is why my friend from Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman brought this to the floor of the House of Commons. The most important issue facing a family is whether there is a job for mom and dad if they want to work. Do they have that opportunity? They do not with the Liberal government, which has set out to have classes of jobs. IT and technology jobs seem to be acceptable to the government, yet resource-based jobs, softwood lumber jobs, or jobs in the fishing economy in Atlantic Canada somehow appear secondary to these cluster-based concepts it is going after.
Nothing shows this more than the most recent addition to our cabinet, the member for . Before getting into politics, she suggested we should close the oil sands, a comment that even the has let slip out from time to time. The government feels that the single largest contributor to our GDP, to the economy, to health care, to the programs we have, should be closed, like a turnkey solution, and maybe those people can get jobs in the so-called infrastructure bank, or the office towers of bureaucrats that the government is hiring. Maybe they can look at the 147 government programs on innovation to find a job that is acceptable to the government. Clearly getting one's hands dirty bringing product out of the ground and getting royalties for Canadians seems somehow secondary to the government.
I sat in the House when President Obama addressed us. The embarrassed us that day when he said that we were here to see a bromance in action. Frankly, I was embarrassed that our Prime Minister said that in the chamber while introducing the then President of the United States.
What did that bromance get us? President Obama cancelled Keystone XL. He would not finalize the softwood lumber agreement with his bromance dudeplomacy pal. He would not give us a good border deal. Bill gives the Americans a lot of benefit on Canadian soil and gives us nothing. It will not even remove the marijuana question from the preclearance screening to enter the United States at a time when the government is legalizing marijuana. It was a one-way deal. The Americans got everything and the Liberal government got a state dinner with seats for family and friends. That is not a win. That is not negotiating in our interests.
As my colleague from reminded the House, it was the Conservative government that negotiated a deal on softwood, that gave certainty to 1,100 workers, who are now likely going to lose their job in the next few months, and gave $300-plus million in economic activity, which is now lost. The Liberals have gone nowhere, even when they had this bromance with President Obama. When the had dinner with Mr. Obama in Montreal last week, I hope Mr. Obama picked up the cheque.
We literally have seen nothing from the government when it comes to the American relationship, which is an important one. Now the government, with its motions on the fly, and making up foreign and defence policies on the fly, seems to think its job is to be the global opposition leader to President Trump. Its job is to help Canada. Its job is to create jobs for families in western Canada, in southern Ontario, in Atlantic Canada, and in our north.
The has been all around the world, yet he has not been to Yukon. That is an embarrassment. It seems the government views resource jobs in our north and western Canada as second class. I was so proud that my first real job as a young person was working for TransCanada, inspecting the pipeline that runs through the Belleville to Ottawa area, which is the safest way to transit our resources to market. However, the government will poll an issue before it will determine what is in our country's best interest. It will ask foreign leaders what it should do. It will give our money to other countries' green programs, while our resource economy is hurting.
When I was in Calgary months ago, I was in line at McDonald's for a coffee and a mother behind us said to her sons, “You'll have to change your order because mommy lost her job and we're going to have to make some changes.” There have been thousands of stories like that in Alberta, and people have heard nothing from the Liberal government.
In fact, with its antithetical approach to our U.S. ally, we are going to increasingly be talking about multilateralism but are going to be closed off from economic, trade, security, and defence opportunities. This motion is reminding Canadians that the failures of the Liberal government on the economy are profound, and we need to turn it around.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the opposition day motion brought in by my colleague, the member for , which indicates that the government has been very ineffective with respect to the care and due diligence of this nation.
In particular, I want to say that damaging Canadian industries and diminishing Canadian economic stability, as he has pointed out in his motion, are certainly things that we care about every day in the House. We hear it from our constituents when we get back to our constituencies on weekends and during constituency weeks. It is certainly a situation that I have heard about quite regularly from my constituents.
My colleague, the member for , has just pointed out that there is a huge deficit in place in Canada although the Liberals talked about small deficits during the election campaign. They have outgrown that by $30 billion, which is about 30 times what the Liberals said they would have. That is terrible mismanagement. Our future generations are going to have to pay for that every day of their lives as they move forward, not to mention the fact that all of us in this chamber today will share in that burden as well.
There are three major areas of concern that the member has pointed out: the softwood lumber deal, the carbon tax, and in particular, the current rail service agreement with respect to rail transportation in the Prairies.
The member has talked at great length about the softwood lumber deal, so I do not need to say much more. Suffice it to say that thousands of jobs are dependent upon an agreement between Canada and the United States. With the tariff that has been put in place by the United States today, we clearly see that the government did not have an answer when it came up with about $870 million as payment to cover some of the costs that will be borne by our industry. We need to find long-term leadership with respect to this matter. These stopgap measures are not good enough. That is what we are seeing in the other areas too.
The carbon tax that the government has implemented or is forcing upon provinces is certainly something that is going to continue to put people out of jobs. There were 200,000 jobs lost in Alberta alone. There are jobs lost in my constituency. We have a very small oil industry in western Manitoba, most of which is in my constituency. People have been put out of work there as well. We are only seeing some stability back in that area because of the stability in the price of oil right now, as well as an upgrade in the American economy. There has been a bit of a boost there. That is giving us some stability right now in Canada. However, it is very nebulous as to how long that may continue and if it will be on a long-term basis.
The area that I want to speak about today is mainly the current rail service agreements that ensure that our farmers can get their products to market.
In the spring of 2014, through the winter of 2013, our government brought forward Bill , the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, with our transportation minister, at the time, and our agriculture minister. They did an exceptional job of putting a program in place that would allow farmers some protection with respect to the movement of grain. There were extenuating circumstances, for sure, that winter. At that period of time, we had some of the coldest weather we have ever had. However, we are used to that in Canada, particularly in western Canada, so that is not an excuse with respect to being able to get grain to port on time.
There were three or four areas that were very important in that whole venue with that act. One of them was allowing interswitching to move up from a 30-kilometre basis to 160 kilometres, which made it quite effective to have a bit of competition in the industry, which we do not have most times when we have two railroads with, basically, a duopoly with respect to being able to move grain in the Prairies.
Trucks can only move so much grain effectively and we do not have the processing plants to process all of the grain in the Prairies. In fact, at that particular time, about 50% of the grain in Canada was going for export. That is why we desperately need to have that kind of openness and a bit of protection against the movement of other products. We cannot just leave grain, because of the massive volumes of it alone, and because it is basically in a captive area. It has to be grown every year. It has to be moved and marketed, perhaps not all in one year, but it does have to be moved, and it is a perishable product in the long run.
That is why it is so important that we move forward for Canadian families and businesses on the Prairies and in Canada as a whole, because wheat contributes greatly to the gross domestic product of our nation. Millions of jobs in Canada depend on the shipment of grain in the agricultural industry.
The minister has brought forward Bill but there is great concern as to whether it will have any teeth and whether it will get passed before we rise in the House for the summer. I commend the minister for bringing it forward, but I would encourage him to talk to his colleagues and move forward with it. If the bill does not move forward there is going to be a huge gap in this whole area. Bill will take over again, and it dies on July 31. That would leave the huge gap I referred to earlier and farmers will go into the coming harvest without any type of rule or regulation in place that will allow for the convenience of knowing the conditions under which grain can be shipped for the coming year.
I referred to interswitching rights earlier. Long-haul interswitching could be utilized. It certainly allowed for competition within that 160-kilometre radius. Interswitching is a tool that we brought in with Bill . It is a much better rule than using competitive line rates, which have been in since the change in the Crow benefit in 1995. Competitive line rates, while sounding good, really were an ineffective way of providing the certainty that farmers and grain companies would have some competition. That is why the grain companies and the farm groups have joined together to lobby the government to put a stronger rate in place, a much stronger and more useable mechanism to use in that area.
A number of groups in Saskatchewan, and a growing chorus of western Canadian groups, have called for an extension of the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act that we had in Bill . I am calling on the government today to extend that again. It was extended once by the government but it needs to do it again. That will provide fairness and equity and predictability in regard to the movement of product into the fall.
The government is talking about proroguing the House. If the House is prorogued this summer or early in the fall, the legislation would die on the Order Paper and the government would have to start all over again. This would provide unpredictability in the industry for some extended time down the road. It would be the spring of 2018 at the earliest or the fall of 2018 before we would have any kind of predictable rules to carry on with the movement of grain products in western Canada and to get grain to port in the just-in-time fashion that is required today to meet the markets that we built up so extensively through the 40-some free trade agreements that the Harper government signed with our trading nations. Keeping markets open is one of the best things that a government can do in relation to our agricultural industry.
The government needs to also look at the coordination of the grain grading system between Canada and the United States because there is much grain movement back and forth. A lot of livestock goes back and forth. Having sat on the western standards committee of the Canadian Grain Commission for a number of years as a farm representative, I know how important access to the U.S. is.
There are other things that I would ask the to do. One of them is to get the on side to move forward with some of these areas as well. He is looking at removing deferred grain tickets, cash tickets, and that would not be helpful to farmers either. The Minister of Agriculture needs to move more quickly in regard to the PED virus in hogs and cleaning trucks in Manitoba.
There were nine cases last month, and there has still been no action on that to make sure we maintain a strong hog industry.
All of that fits into the transportation of product. We are talking about the transportation of grain, but the movement of livestock is part and parcel of the use of grain on the Prairies.
I look forward to any questions.