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Results: 1 - 15 of 33
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-12-03 12:48 [p.1675]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to contribute to the debate on Bill C-4. It is a very comprehensive piece of legislation and goes a long way toward keeping Canada at the level it has already achieved, not by Canada's standards but by international standards, which is the number one place to do business in the world.
That is remarkable. Canadians are not used to being number one. We are kind of modest people and have kept quiet about that, but the reality is that being number one in the world is no small task and did not happen by accident. It happened because of very deliberate actions. The actions we have taken over the last number of years since the great recession in 2008 have put us in this position, and our position is unique.
I go to Washington to deal with my counterparts in the U.S. legislative arm on a continuous basis, and they ask me all the time what it is that Canada has done. In fact, we have been dubbed by some people in America as “the miracle to the north”. They want to know what it is that Canada has done that has brought us to the position of being named by the IMF and the OECD as the number one place to do business in the world, the place with the greatest opportunity over the next number of years to do business.
Creating a million jobs since the recession is no small task. That is a very large number, and very significant. How did that happen? How is it that we rate number one?
The reality is that we have made, let us say, four broad strokes of fundamental change in direction from the direction that our opponents would have taken in Canada.
First, we lowered taxes. We did not increase them. In fact, we lowered them some 160 times, which I will talk about in a minute. Second, we shrank the size of government; third, we freed up the private sector; and, fourth, we have gone after international markets.
I will break those down, because they are rather significant if they are lumped together as a direction and formula for success. All of the G7 countries are looking at similar things to do, but they are having a difficult time doing them.
Let me begin by talking about shrinking the size of government.
Shrinking the size of government is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it is very difficult to do. We went through every department, making certain that if we could do something better as a government we would try to be more efficient in doing that, and we lowered the cost of doing business in Canada so it would put us on a track to make certain that we can compete in the world. It is worthy of note that before the recession, when this government got into power in 2006, we paid down some $37 billion going into the recession so that the debt to GDP ratio was considerably lower at that time. Since that time, we have grown so fast that our debt to GDP ratio has not been compromised. In fact, it is interesting to note that we were at 34.6% in GDP in 2012. Some people would say that is just a number, but let us look at Europe.
We just signed a free trade agreement with Europe. The number one driver of the economy in Europe, let us say, is Germany. Germany's debt to GDP ratio is 57.2%, but the average of the G7 is over 90%. We are almost three times less than the average in terms of debt to GDP ratio.
Are we in good stead? There is a reason for the OECD and the IMF to say that Canada is doing very well, and it is because we have been disciplined as government.
On top of that, when I speak with my counterparts in the United States and tell them that we are forecasting balanced books by 2015, they say they just fought a debt ceiling crisis in October and they are going to have to do it again early in the new year. They say the big debate is about how much more money they can borrow and have printed.
Canada is not printing money. We are creating jobs and opportunity for the private sector to create the prosperity that Canadians deserve and should have as a country, and we are actually achieving that.
This is considerably different from what our counterparts across the way would have done. In fact, the NDP has said that it would have brought in a carbon tax and increased taxes on everything from—
Hon. Greg Rickford: Soup to nuts.
Hon. Rob Merrifield: Yes, soup to nuts. I suppose we could say it that way. They would raise the taxes on absolutely everything.
As for the Liberals, if we want to know what a party is going to do, we should look at what it has done. When the Liberals were in power, they said they balanced the books. Yes, they did, on the backs of the provinces, health care, and social services. It is one thing to say we are going to balance the books; it is another thing to say we are going to balance the books by lowering taxes, not raising them, and by making certain that the transfers to the provinces are not impeded. In fact, we are increasing those transfers.
Let me talk about taxes for a second, because that aspect is rather significant. We have cut taxes over 160 different ways during that time period, providing an extra $3,200 per average family of four. People who had a job in 2008 and still have the same job now are paying that much less tax. That is very significant.
In the business sector, small- and medium-sized businesses are the ones that are really creating the jobs. We have lowered the taxes for them as well, from 12% down to 11%, but on the corporate taxes, we went from 28% over the years down to 15%. We even kept lowering those taxes during the recession. That takes a lot of leadership and a lot of understanding of what drives the economy.
Do members realize that with the taxes now at 15%, we are bringing in more corporate revenue to the federal government to deal with all the social services and all the issues that we have in lower-income brackets than we brought in at 28%? That is an amazing statistic, but it is very worthy of note in looking at what has actually happened with regard to lowering taxes.
We lowered the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. It is very significant. Everyone who buys anything in this country is realizing the benefit from that. This is no small feat.
What does the corporate tax being at 15% do to us? We are creating lots of growth because of the competitive advantage we have with our largest trading partner. The corporate tax rate in America is 35%. That is compared to 15%; no wonder businesses are coming back into Canada. We saw that the headquarters of Tim Hortons, as an example, went to the United States because of the tax advantage. Then they came back. Why? It is the same reason: the tax advantage.
Those are the kinds of things we are seeing right across the entire spectrum in the private sector.
I said that we shrank government. We lowered taxes, which is very significant. What else did we do? We freed up the private sector, and that sector is what is really creating the jobs. We brought in a piece of legislation saying that for major projects, it would be one project, one review, at two years maximum. Those are phenomenal opportunities for the private sector.
We have lowered the red tape some 20% to 30% right across the board. Can we do more? Yes, and we absolutely have to do more when it comes to freeing up the private sector. I have had American counterparts tell me that they can go in and do one-stop shopping for projects and get approval. It is not that they are compromising on the approval but that they are doing it in a more streamlined way. We have to do more than that because we are not there yet, but we have certainly come a long way.
Freeing up the private sector to capitalize on the opportunities that we have in some of our trade agreements becomes very significant. That is the fourth thing that we did. We not only freed up the private sector to compete, but then we went after international agreements so they could compete and capitalize on free trade agreements, such as the one we just signed with the European Union. It is the largest, most comprehensive free trade agreement ever signed between any two countries anywhere in the world.
Members may ask where that came from. Is NAFTA not the largest free trade agreement ever signed in the world? Well, it was at the time. Our opponents disagreed with that, and even today they disagree with NAFTA. It is amazing. That is so, even though it created 40 million jobs, and even though the GDP of the three countries of Mexico, the United States, and Canada, which were at $7.6 trillion at the time of signing, have gone to over $17 trillion today. That could not have been realized when they signed the agreement. No one would have forecast that kind of growth. Everyone just said that it was a good opportunity for more trade, but nobody would have put all the pieces together to say that collectively we would raise our GDP and raise opportunity and prosperity in our three countries to that degree.
I would suggest that the same thing will happen with the European free trade agreement. Europe actually imports some $2.3 trillion a year. It is amazing how much more we can capitalize on that.
This does not happen by accident. Pieces of legislation like this take real leadership. Real opportunity for Canadians is what we are looking for. We are saying that these will get us to success, and that is true.
Before closing my remarks, I want to say that our greatest threat in Canada and in this room should be looking at what happens when these principles are not followed. The United States has gone down from a AAA rating to a AA. Heaven forbid that it ever goes to an A rating, which would compromise it all because of a lack of leadership. We need to stay the course.
I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this piece of legislation.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-12-03 12:59 [p.1676]
Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting question coming from my colleague across the way. I do not know where she has been when we lowered taxes 160 different ways during the period of time since the recession.
I have been watching very closely. I have been in this House all that time. I have yet to see NDP members stand in their place to support the tax reductions that we have created in this country. It is the absolute reverse position that they have had in this House. They have never supported a reduction in tax.
We are not just talking about it; we have done it, in 160 different ways. That is not just lip service. That is actual action, and it is what we have done.
However, lowering taxes was not the only goal. The goal was to create jobs and opportunity for the private sector and the people of Canada, and that is what we have done. That is what this House should be very proud of.
Even if I were on the other side and knew I had to be in opposition, I would at least sit there, be quiet about it, and accept the thanks for putting Canada in the number one spot in the world.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-12-03 13:01 [p.1677]
Mr. Speaker, I would love to.
The member may be right on the specifics of the aerospace aspect, but I can say that supporting the auto sector going through the great recession and the kinds of problems that manufacturing had at that time is something every member of this House actually voted on and had the opportunity to vote on. We all voted for a piece of legislation that increased the opportunity of subsidizing our auto sector, a manufacturing sector. At that time, it was a significant number of dollars. I think it was around $8 billion.
I did not think we were ever going to get a nickel of that back, to be perfectly honest. It was one of my more difficult days in this place. I was wrong, thank goodness. The manufacturing jobs actually were sustained. The auto sector came through the recession fine and is doing better now than it was even before the recession.
Also, some of the trade agreements that we have in place will give opportunity for manufacturing around the world. We are going to be supporting manufacturing, and that is going to increase because of our low cost of doing business in Canada. We are starting to see us being able to compete with even some of the Asian countries when we look forward to manufacturing jobs. We have a great opportunity in this country because we provide conditions for the private sector to win and to compete internationally. When we do that, those businesses will grow Canada into the kind of prosperity that we deserve.
I do not believe we have even come close to reaching our potential, but we are headed in the right direction. As long as we keep going, we will stay number one in the world and surpass all expectations.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 19:33 [p.17281]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague on the other side just asked about the introduction of this piece of legislation. It actually started in 2008, with the rail freight service review. It was a two-year process. It was quite extensive and exhaustive, and there was enough guilt on the railway side as well as on the shippers' side when it comes to numbers to make it clear that something had to be done.
This measure was first introduced—in fact, I introduced it—in March in 2012, prior to the election, and then was picked up after the election, in December. This is a piece of legislation that has come a long way and has had lots of consultation.
My question for my hon. colleague is this. When the railway companies looked at this legislation initially, they fought against it, said they did not need it and said they would arrive at their service arrangements themselves. They said that it would drive negotiation away from the table. What I believe will happen is that it will drive both parties to the table, and if they cannot negotiate, it would be an arbitrated settlement. I wonder if my colleague would agree with me.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 21:55 [p.17299]
Mr. Speaker, I take great interest in the debate this evening, as well as a bit of pride, because this legislation is very close to me. I was in charge of the railways at the time when the rail freight service review was happening and on behalf of the government, I was able to introduce the announcement to initiate this legislation.
Here we are going into third reading, which is great not only for the House but for the country because all parties are indicating their support for the legislation. It is a great legislation for a lot of reasons.
I will start with why it is here and why we need the legislation. I would like to go back a bit and explain to the House and Canadians what the problem really was.
At the time when I was put in charge of railways, in western Canada the on-time delivery for CN's cars was about 52% to 55% for grain shipments. That is not a good performance. How could western Canadian farmers get their products from the combine to the port and off to international markets when they could only rely on the cars being there at the proper time 55% of the time?
As my hon. colleague from Wascana mentioned, during the review CN upped its game considerably. New management came into CN and really concentrated on trying to up its game at the time, and it did. It went from 55% to over 90% within about a year to a year and a half period. That was strictly because the spotlight was on it and it put full attention toward upping its service because the service review was taking place.
A lot of the shippers came to us and asked that we keep the review going and keep the spotlight on the industries and the railways so they would up the game. We encouraged them to continue to have service agreements with all their shippers. They committed to doing that and signed as many shipping service agreements as they possibly could. In fact, I know there were some in some of the industries, perhaps the coal industry, for over a decade, so there were some long-term agreements that were signed at that time.
This legislation does not really speak to the agreements. That is intentional because they are so diverse. Producers cars would have a completely different need and service agreement than would shipping of a coal, potash or forest industries. However, they all want service. Under this legislation, those agreements would be totally flexible because they could contain all kinds of penalties. We are not privy to what the agreements are. We do not need to know what they are. However, when the two parties come to an agreement, they need to have some kind of mechanism to do things.
The first is to ensure that whatever agreement they do reach is complied with. That is what this legislation does. It has penalties that would go to either a shipper or a railway depending on which one breaches the agreement.
The second is there for when an agreement cannot be reached. If negotiations between the shipper, the railway, and so forth are done to the best of their ability, whether in the forest, egg, coal or potash industry, whatever the commodity, yet they cannot come to an agreement, then they are really stuck. This legislation is a way for them to reach a final arbitrated settlement that would give them clarity as to what was fair in an agreement. That is what the industry and the shippers have asked for.
Instead of being held ransom and saying they cannot come up with an agreement because no one wants to negotiate, they are saying, with this legislation, that if they cannot come to an agreement, there will be an arbitrated settlement. It does not say who is going to win or lose in that arbitration. Rather it calls for that to happen. Because of that, there will be a better system all the way around. If we go through the rail service review data carefully, as did the committee and the government, there was a lot of blame on both the shipper and the railway sides.
Let us not pick winners or losers. Let us just fix it in the best interests of this country. That is what this House is all about. It is about designing a piece of legislation that will move the country along. We do not really care who wins or loses. We want it to be fair so that both win. Canada wins because we move product to shore and on to international markets, where the real win is for the railways, the shippers and the country. That is why this should be supported.
International trade is really our stimulus for the future. We just came through a tremendous economic recession that has challenged the world. It challenged North America. It challenged the United States, our largest trading partner. Last year we had $528 billion in trade. Three-way trade between Mexico, Canada and the United States is almost $1 trillion per year. That is a large number, when we start talking about trillions of dollars.
About 40 million jobs have been created in our country because of NAFTA. I love the map at the Canadian embassy in the United States. The map shows for each state the number of dollars traded with Canada and the number of jobs created in that state because of that trade. It is very effective information that our American cousins need to understand more directly. Canadians also need to understand it. The number of dollars traded and the number of jobs created in each province is also on that map. I would recommend it to anyone.
Why do I mention that? It is because one of every five jobs in Canada is created because of trade, because of exports. Sixty per cent of our GDP is from that trade. Is it growing or is it shrinking? The last statistics I saw show a 73% increase in trade internationally between now and 2025. That is a large number. Those countries that capitalize on that growth in trade are the ones that are going to win. I like the way we are positioned to capitalize on that. We are about to sign a European free trade agreement, which I hope will work. That is 500 million people and $17 trillion in GDP in that market that we will be able to capitalize on. Not only that, but when we go to the west coast, with the trans-Pacific partnership, we will be talking about 110 million people and GDP of $17.6 trillion.
These are tremendous opportunities, not only with respect to China and India but with the trans-Pacific partners. It will depend on what we have to offer those markets. We are also working on a bilateral trade agreement with Japan. We are working on more trade with China. China is a big player, particularly when it comes to railways and moving products to the west coast.
What do they want? They want two things: food security and energy security. Canada can provide both, and railways are a major part of that. Before railways and shippers start saying negative things about each other, why do both groups not look at the opportunity before us? Why do we not look at the opportunity before Canada? Never has the opportunity been greater to create a winning situation for Canadian industries. It might be products manufactured and moved back and forth by rail, as we do with United States when we move automobiles back and forth by rail. We can actually supply for the United States products coming from China through the port of Prince Rupert two and a half days faster than any other port on the west coast. It is two and a half days faster, because it comes through Prince Rupert and goes right down to Chicago to supply the largest economy in the world: the United States. It is because of our railways and our system.
People have been criticizing this piece of legislation and asking why we did not include shipments to the United States in this rail service agreement. I can say that the United States is looking very closely at this piece of legislation. Americans are wondering how it is working, what kind of support it is getting and if it is going to actually do the job. I believe that it will do the job. The Americans are very keen to look at it and perhaps even use it as a model for their country. When that happens, there will be a continuous system between Canada and the United States, which is our largest trading partner and always will be.
This is a great piece of legislation for many reasons. When we look at the international markets, it is indeed amazing.
The railways carry a tremendous amount of freight, about 240 million tonnes of freight. About 70% of the surface freight in this country is moved by rail. That includes the bulk commodities such as grains, minerals, forestry products, energy products and so on.
I was talking to a representative of CN last night. He was telling me that the number of cars they are ordering to supply energy to markets by rail is off the charts. That is happening because of the resistance to pipelines. Whether or not the pipelines come, there is no question that rail will play a big part in moving our energy products to shore and beyond.
It is very important that this piece of legislation work not only for the agriculture sector, for grains and seeds, but for the energy sector, mining, potash and so on. It is a great piece of legislation that would go a long way in making certain that we level the playing field.
My hon. colleague said that CN used to be one of the worst as far as providing service. I would tend to agree with him. Perhaps now the reverse is happening, and CP is having more of a struggle providing service than CN. That is hard to argue with, and it is probably true.
We have heard arguments from the president of CN. He is asking why we are bringing in this legislation. He says that it will halt negotiations and drive people away from the negotiating table. It would do just the opposite. It would drive people to the negotiating table, because if they did not get a service agreement, there would be a very quick arbitration process in place through this legislation that would actually make sure they got a deal. That is what the legislation is designed to do. That is why it would work so well.
Would it be used an awful lot? Probably not. I hope not. I hope it is never used. If we bring it in, the jig is up. There should be an arbitrated settlement. If there is not, somebody will do it for them. They will do it quickly, and it will not cost a lot of money. Once the process has been challenged, a precedent will be set. The rest will fall in line with it, and the service agreements will comply.
I do not believe that this piece of legislation will be used terribly much, but it needs to be there, because the manager of CN or CP may not always be the most friendly guy who always wants to do the right thing. When we bring in legislation, it is for a long period and it is in the best interests of the country. It has nothing to do with the personalities of the people who were there.
I remember the forest industry. We were within hours of finalizing an agreement with the forest sector of this country. We brought them to the table. We did everything we possibly could to get them over the line. We could not quite get there. We would get there now, because we would have a piece of legislation that would arbitrate it. I will not say who would win or lose in that arbitration, because I do not know, but I do know that there would be an arbitrated settlement and they would move on.
It is really important that cars are placed in yards at the appropriate time for product to move from where it is produced to the market. That is the number one thing we can do to create the kind of economy, jobs and prosperity this country needs to move forward.
A lot has been said about the penalties that would go to the government. That is because we do not want winners or losers to use this piece of legislation other than as a tool to make certain that services are provided at the appropriate time.
There could be all kinds of penalties within their service agreements if the parties agreed to them. If the agreements were not recognized and not realized, the penalties would be a tool to make sure the service agreement was complied with.
It is a very great day for me. This has been a long process. It is a process that has had a lot of consultation.
I have quotes here from the agricultural, forestry, coal, potash and mining industries that say that this is a very big step in changing the dynamic between the railways and the shippers. They feel that they have a government that will back them in an arbitrated settlement process that does not play one against the other. It is truly there to try to make certain that an agreement works for both and that the service is provided in an appropriate way. Predictable service is something we cannot talk enough about. Unpredictable service is the number one thing that will retard the opportunity for shippers to be prosperous and get their products to market.
I want to commend the standing committee on transport. It worked very hard over a number of years to make this happen. The Minister of Transport has picked this ball up and has pushed it very hard. He has worked very hard to bring this to where it is tonight.
Tonight is a wonderful evening. Think about it. When was the last time we had a substantive piece of legislation such as this that was agreed upon by everyone in the House? I can think back a long time. I know that there have been frivolous pieces of legislation that perhaps have had unanimous consent, but there have not been major pieces of legislation like this that are paradigm shifters that would change the dynamic. It is probably the most significant piece of legislation to come between shippers and railways in 50 years or more, so this is a very significant evening. It is a significant piece of legislation.
I am very proud to be lending my voice to it, and I look forward to the vote, which I hope will happen tomorrow. We will move it into the Senate and on to royal assent very quickly.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:13 [p.17301]
Mr. Speaker, he is asking if the penalties are large enough to force compliance. It is $100,000 for every car that is not there on time, which is a fairly significant penalty. If it is not, we might have to go back and raise it.
I believe that it is significant enough. There is no one I know in the railway industry who would say that they would just pay the $100,000 and forget to bring the cars. I do not believe the railways will play that card. If that happens, there is an opportunity to go back and address it, but I would not do it at this stage of the game.
What is done for one is the same for the other. The penalty can be for the shipper as well as the railway. It is fair to say that it is a fairly significant penalty for every violation under this act. I do not expect that it is going to happen, but there are all kinds of tools to address it if it does happen.
There is an opening up of the entire railway act coming in 2015-16, so I do not believe that the railways are going to play silly with this piece of legislation. They will try to comply, because it is in their best interests to do so. It is in their best interest to make certain that they have the cars there appropriately and that the service agreements are fair for both. The shippers have to win for the railways to win, and the railways have to win for the shippers to win. If both win—
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:16 [p.17302]
Mr. Speaker, the bill is not designed to get into the service agreement.
It used to be that when a shipper ordered a car from CN and it did not show up, it was no big deal. There was no penalty, nothing. If a shipper had trouble with weather or unforeseen circumstances and the car could not be loaded fast enough and moved out, then CN or CP could ding the shipper significantly, without any recourse.
This piece of legislation does not talk about what is in the service agreement, so if someone wants compensation for lack of service then it should be put in the agreement. All we are saying is that if the agreement is not complied with, the penalties will apply. There needs to be a tool to make sure that whatever is agreed upon is actually complied with, and that is what this legislation would do. Complying with the agreement should not be a winner or loser within the agreement to use as a tool. If someone wants compensation, it should be put in the agreement.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:18 [p.17302]
Mr. Speaker, our trade with the United States is a great success story. I always say that we do not really trade with the United States; we build things together with the United States. Our supply chains are intricately linked. It does not matter if it is the forestry sector, the beef sector, the auto sector, or many other sectors, we do things together.
When I talk to my colleagues in the United States Congress, I tell them it does not matter whether they go after international markets and sell products to China or Japan, or that we do. The United States ambassador says that for every dollar that Canada trades with Japan, 25¢ of that goes to America because our supply system is intricately linked. We need to collectively go after those international markets because of the productivity gain that we will create. Both the United States and Canada will capitalize on those growing international markets in a much better way.
By 2050, there are supposed to be an extra three billion people in the world, and two billion of them will move from poverty to middle class during that time period. They will need energy, food and all of the things we produce in Canada and the United States. Those are the markets we need to go after.
Thinning the border, creating the productivity gains by having a good railway system between Canada and the United States, is absolutely essential in ensuring that we capitalize on those markets. We are the most productive in the world. Canada has great systems. We have some of the best food. We produce some of the best things, whether it is our automobiles and so on.
Canada and the United States are great allies and partners. We do a lot of back and forth trade—
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:20 [p.17302]
Mr. Speaker, if the president of CN, Claude Mongeau, had impact on the minister, the bill would not be here. I have sat down with him a number of times, and he said we should not do it. He gave me all kinds of reasons why it would be a terrible piece of legislation. The railways are not really excited about this.
My argument to him was that if the railways do not want the bill, then they should have service agreements, and if they do not want service agreements, then they need the bill to be able to get them over the line. I would suggest that there is no impact there.
This is not a piece of legislation that either of the railways is excited about or interested in. They see the rationale behind the legislation. They are not supportive of the bill, but they are not saying anything very negative about it either.
Any time that both sides do not agree 100% on a bill, then that bill is usually striking the right note and balance. I think we have that here.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:22 [p.17303]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. The creation of jobs and the growing of our economy is absolutely critical, and the railways play a major role in that.
As a government, we have been able to put a significant number of dollars into infrastructure to make certain that the gateway project on the west coast, the corridor project to the south, and the eastern project corridor to the east capitalize on those international markets. The infrastructure that is built there would not only creates jobs, but it would also create an infrastructure that would create jobs because of the kind of trade we are expecting.
We are a blessed country in so many ways and have so much opportunity, especially as we see this massively growing international trading relationship around the world. Healthy railways lend themselves to the success of our country and the kinds of job opportunities we will have for the future.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-02 17:15 [p.16241]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Burlington.
It is very interesting. I have listened to the debates this afternoon and opposition members have been arguing about the rationale as to why they cannot support Bill C-60, our economic action plan.
I would like to give them a few examples of reasons why they should support it. It is rather important legislation that continues a growth pattern that we have started on as a government.
We have come out of the recession as number one in the world, which is really rare for Canada as it has never been there before. It is exciting to see the numbers of jobs that have been created and the opportunity that we have as far as growth as we move forward.
Maybe I will close with some of the optimistic things that we can talk about within our country, but this legislation builds on that. Just for one reason alone, if the opposition is looking at something it could support, it certainly could support our veterans. This legislation would give a very nice benefit to our vets. For that reason alone, the opposition should support it.
Then again, it should also be supporting what the legislation does with regards to going after tax evaders, something that has not happened for many years. Just in fairness, as Canadians, and for no other reason, the opposition should support it to ensure everyone pays their fair share of taxes and to deal with those who cheat.
When it comes to the indexing of the gas tax, I heard the opposition say that the number one problem in municipalities was housing. I would beg to differ. The number one problem in municipalities, as we have heard right across the country from coast to coast to coast, is infrastructure. The legislation deals with $53 billion of infrastructure over a 10-year period, the most aggressive infrastructure plan that we have ever laid out as a country. For that reason alone, the opposition should support the legislation.
We would be lowering taxes and providing flow-through shares for mining and keeping that industry going. The accelerated capital cost allowance creates a tremendous amount of opportunity in manufacturing and opportunity for job growth and industry growth for many years to come. This is a great benefit in the legislation. The opposition should be supporting it because of that, or because of the hiring tax credit that has been continued for small businesses, which is a real benefit that it should be supporting. Even the capital gains exemption has gone up for lifetime capital gains for individuals. This is should be supported.
For those reasons alone, and I could go on about many other reasons, the opposition should support the bill. Instead, we hear a lot of negativity and some things that are negative have nothing to do with the legislation as far as arguments go. I guess I should not be alarmed about that, because when the opposition runs out of manufactured reasons for not supporting it, it comes up with reasons that are not even in the bill.
I would like to spend my time on the number one issue in my riding, which is the lack of labour. It is different from what I heard from the hon. member from Toronto, who suggested the number one problem was unemployment.
I have the opposite problem in my riding, which is a good thing in some ways, but in other ways it is not. The temporary foreign worker program was there to address it in the last election. When the people of my riding discerned whether I was the right person to vote for, the number one issue they came forward with was a lack of labour. The importance of the temporary foreign worker program was to deal with the kinds of reduction and the ability for corporations and industries to grow and create the kinds of opportunity for our region and our country.
However, the temporary foreign worker program was something we said we would take a look at, to see if we could find ways to make that program work even more effectively. Guess what? We did. We made the program work even more effectively and efficiently. However, there is a bit of a problem with the temporary foreign worker program and this legislation addresses that.
In my riding, unemployment is zero. The real objective of the temporary foreign worker program is that it does not take away jobs from Canadians, but helps complement the workforce where there are no Canadians to fill those jobs.
Even where unemployment is virtually zero or very close to it, there are people in the system who have abused the program, even in my riding. This needs to be addressed. In this piece of legislation, we are going after those individuals, tweaking the program and will be consulting on this program in the future to make it better so that it actually deals with what it was intended to do, which was complement and not replace Canadian workers.
There are seven ways that this piece of legislation lays out how it is going to be changed. The first one would come into effect immediately and it is with respect to the pay differential, which was brought in about a year or a year and a half ago and was not being used. Only about 5% of those using the program even bothered with it. Let us get rid of the compromised price of 15% for skilled workers or 5% for lower-skilled workers on the differential of what those individuals are being paid. That we got rid of in this piece of legislation.
We are going to temporarily suspend in this piece of legislation the accelerated labour market opinion process, which was something they were asking for. In my riding, people needed it. We are not going to cancel it in this legislation, just suspend it while we take a breather, do some consultation and look at how we build on this program to make it even better.
The third thing in this piece of legislation on the program is to make sure it has the power to deal with those who abuse the process in the sense of being able to take away, revoke or suspend the labour market opinion process, the work permit as well as the LMO. This is something we need if we are going to be able to deal with those who refuse to see it as a program to complement Canadian workers and use it to replace Canadian workers, which we are seeing even in an area such as ours.
The fourth change to the temporary foreign worker program in this piece of legislation is to make sure we stop outsourcing. The program was never intended to replace the Canadian workforce and to have people work outside our country is a total abuse. This piece of legislation deals with that as well. That is another reason for certain that the opposition should be supporting it.
The fifth reason is that we want to make certain there is a plan in place for corporations that get LMOs and use temporary foreign workers to replace them long term with the Canadian workforce. That may be the most difficult one in my riding to comply with, so we are going to go through a process of consultation on that.
The sixth thing is to make sure that the fund is self-funded. There is no way that the taxpayer should be supporting this fund. The employer should be doing that.
The seventh thing is to make sure that English and French are the only mandatory languages necessary for foreign workers.
Those are the seven changes. The agricultural community and the agriculture workforce are exempt from most of these, except that if people abuse the system, the work permits will be revoked.
These are wonderful changes to the program, but it is in a process of consultation. It is one of the most important pieces in this bill that will impact all of Canada, but particularly my riding.
We have a wonderful experience in Canada. When we were coming through the recession, my colleagues in America went green with envy. They call Canada the miracle to the north because of the jobs created, the lower taxes, how we are freeing up the private sector to grow, capitalizing on international markets and moving to balanced books. For that, we should be very excited as Canadians. We have a great story to tell. We are doing some wonderful things not only in this budget, but in past budgets. This complements past ones. All members should think soberly about that and support this piece of legislation.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-02 17:26 [p.16243]
Mr. Speaker, it is an absolutely wonderful story that we have with regard to investments in Canada, and for those who come to this country to invest and create opportunities for employment in manufacturing, as well as the opportunity in the long run for Canadians on investments. This is one of the first times in the history of our country that we actually have the floodgates wide open because it is all about confidence. People are going to invest in this country because of the confidence that is here that they would actually be making money.
In fact, I was talking to a group this morning from chemical corporations in this country that are dealing with investments. They are looking at infrastructure builds of $5 billion over the next five years. They are saying that they have corporations all over the world, but the corporations that are making the most money are really Canadian corporations. Why? It is because of the competitive advantage that we are giving them. We are working to make certain that we have the opportunities for Canadians to be able to develop manufacturing jobs and good jobs in the long run. These are one small example of the kinds of investments that are coming into this country.
When it comes to Canada Post, CBC and other crown corporations, they are arm's-length from government, but we want to make sure that they are sustainable in the long run. We have to work and be responsible to Canadians and to the public we represent by making sure that these crown corporations move in that direction. That is where I believe this piece of legislation will take us.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-02 17:28 [p.16243]
Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ with my hon. colleague: it is absolutely new. It is indexed gas tax funds, which is brand new, plus $14 billion in larger projects. I do not have the numbers in front of me, but collectively it is $53 billion in 10-year, long-term, stable funding.
This is exactly what the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been asking for across Canada. This is what it is getting in this piece of legislation. It is the most excited. When I talk to mayors and reeves in municipalities across my riding, they are absolutely ecstatic about this bill. They want it passed because they then can make some long-term plans for solid infrastructure that will build this country a long way into the future.
My hon. colleague should support this piece of legislation if for no other reason than the infrastructure alone.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2012-11-07 16:04 [p.12066]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to share my comments on a bill that should have been passed two and a half years ago. We are in the eleventh hour of debate on this bill, which is certainly not being rammed through. It should have been passed long ago.
We are a trading nation, as most members of the House and Canadians know. It is something to see the magnitude of trade that we do in Canada as we look at what has happened over our history. Eighty-five per cent of our trade has been with our southern neighbour, the United States.
Here I want to take the opportunity to congratulate President Obama for his win last evening and the people of Michigan for their decision to allow the new bridge to be built between Windsor and Detroit. The existing bridge is the largest trading bridge anywhere in the world. At times there is $2 billion a day in trade going across that bridge, so it is very important that a new bridge be built.
As I said, about 85% of our international trade has been with the United States, whereas last year it was about 73%. We are becoming less dependent on the United States and more dependent on other markets, such as the one we are debating under this piece of legislation, Panama's.
It is impressive to see the number of jobs created because of our international trade. One in every five Canadian jobs is generated through exports and 63% of our country's annual GDP is created because of international trade. Therefore, it is very important that we get this piece of legislation through. Panama is the hub of the Americas and a very important logistical platform for us to trade with in Central America.
This is a continuation of an agenda that our government has had since coming into office. We have signed nine different free trade agreements, including with countries such as Colombia, Jordan, Peru and Honduras; and with the European Free Trade Association, including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. This is long overdue. We are very aggressively pursuing other countries with regard to free trade agreements, seen in the Canada-European Union free trade agreement, for example. We look forward to the final text perhaps being out before year end.
I was with the trade committee in Japan last week and was very encouraged by what we heard regarding a bilateral trade agreement with Japan, the world's third largest economy.
When we add all of these up and see exactly what we are doing, the possibilities of moving forward on our trade agenda are very encouraging.
Just to look at what we have done with NAFTA and the United States, since NAFTA was signed some 18 or so years ago, that agreement has created about 40 million jobs. The GDP of the three countries was a little over $7 trillion at the time of signing and is now over $17 trillion now. Between the three countries, we are now trading almost $1 trillion a year. It is very significant.
Canadians realize the importance of a trade agenda. What I cannot understand is where the opposition is at with regard to our trade agenda. Even today, opposition members say that they do not like and would get rid of the NAFTA agreement. They say they would never support it and never have supported it. It does not matter what kind of logic we use or what kind of math we put in front of them to show them the benefits of it, they disagree with it. This is something that I absolutely do not understand.
The opposition members have disagreed with all of the nine free trade agreements our government has signed, except maybe the one with Jordan, which they could not come to a decision on. They had to sit on their hands because they did not want to show that they were somewhat supportive of that agreement. When we look at the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, I would suggest that it is much more beneficial even than the agreement with Jordan. Yet the opposition filibusters and accuses the government of trying to ram it through.
There has been a lot of debate on the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, and it is amazing what is in that piece of legislation and what it will do for our agriculture sector. Agriculture is near and dear to my heart, as we farm about 3,000 acres of canola and wheat. It is important for us to understand the size of agriculture in Canada. The agrifood sector actually generates 8% of our GDP. It creates one in eight jobs in this country. That is 2.2 million jobs in Canada created because of agriculture. There is some $41 billion created because of trade in our agricultural products in international markets. Almost half of our total agricultural production in this country goes to international trade. Indeed, we are sixth largest exporter of agricultural products in the world.
It is very important that we make sure that we capture as many possible markets as we can for our agricultural products. Panama is the second largest market for agricultural products in Central America. This piece of legislation would allow agriculture not only to be enhanced but also for it to be done in a tariff-free way. How many tariffs are there? On the signing and implementation of this piece of legislation, 78% of Canadian agricultural exports to Panama would be tariff-free .
What are those products? The 20% tariff on frozen french fries, which help Prince Edward Island and Atlantic Canadians, would be eliminated. How about the pulse crops of the Prairies? There is a 15% tariff on those that would be eliminated immediately upon signing of this agreement. How about malt exporters, the barley growers of this country? The 10% tariff applying to them would be eliminated upon signing of this agreement.
By the way, the opposition disagrees with our getting rid of these tariffs and has fought this for two and a half years in the House. That is absolutely ridiculous when we see the benefits to these areas.
How about our beef sector, which has been plagued by the BSE crisis and all kinds of problems, including its exports to different countries around the world being shut down as a result? The producers have gone through a very difficult time. The tariff they face in the Panamanian region is 25% to 30%. That would be eliminated.
I was in Japan last week with the trade committee, where we were excited about the opening up of the export of our beef, from beef aged 21 months to beef aged 30 months now. However, Japan is another market that has been hurt because of the delays by the opposition with regard to this piece of legislation.
The tariff that really bothers me the most is the 60% to 70% tariff on our hog industry. It is amazing to see that kind of tariff placed on our hogs. That so important to us because our largest competitor in that market is the United States, which signed a free trade agreement with Panama on October 31. If we do not get our free trade agreement with Panama through the House, we will lose our competitive edge and never get it back. It is absolutely critical that we make sure that we stop playing around in the House and start doing what is right for Canadians. The opposition should get onboard.
There has been two and half years of filibustering in the House, two and a half years of wasted time and opportunity for us to be able to capitalize on the great infrastructure of the Panama Canal, as well as the opportunities for our agriculture sector and many others. The opposition says we are fast-tracking this by bringing in time allocation. I understand the NDP, because that is just their ideological bent and where they are at. They are what they are. However, two days ago we had the Liberals opposing our closure motion on this legislation. I find that really hard to understand.
Not only has the United States signed an agreement with Panama, but the European Union is also expected to sign an agreement, perhaps by the end of this year. Then we will lose a competitive edge with Europe as well.
It is absolutely amazing when we see what the opposition is doing with regard to this piece of legislation and the free trade agreements we have reached with nine different countries around the world and have been promoting. I just do not understand it.
I will quote the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who was the vice-chair of the trade committee at one time. He said that when it comes to trade agreements, they are “job-destroying”. I do not understand where he gets that math. How can he possibly get there?
There is only one thing that we heard with regard to trade in the NDP's platform and that was a $21 billion cap and trade carbon tax. That is what the opposition is promoting, instead of the positive trade we will experience when we pass this piece of legislation. I encourage the House to get on with this. The next two hours cannot go fast enough.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2012-11-07 16:15 [p.12067]
We have heard for two and a half years that the reason the New Democrats are saying no to this is because of a tax haven in Panama. It was on a grey list, and it has moved from a grey list to a white list. My hon. colleague knows this. We heard it in testimony at the committee. He heard from the finance department that this is working and that there is a change with Panama. Panama has come a long way.
We could take two approaches. One approach is as we did with Jordan, where we sign an agreement to try to improve the labour situation and some of the corruption we potentially see in some of these countries. Or, we could just step aside and wait until they have their house completely in order. Our approach is to go in, engage and be able to bring them into a place that is much more positive. That is exactly where Panama is. It has gone from a grey list to a white list, and it is improving.
The hon. colleague knows full well that this is going to be worked out in this legislation, and that is the fact. The hon. colleague, if he were absolutely true to himself and to this House, would admit it.
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