Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Bill C-43 explicitly excludes cable laying from the preferential tax treatment that applies to international shipping activities. The committee heard from Canada's only international cable laying company, International Telecom. They told us that this provision in Bill C-43 is inconsistent with how other developed countries tax cable laying and would put Canadian jobs at risk.
The government, in our view, failed to make a compelling case on why cable laying should be excluded from the definition of, in this case, “international shipping”. As such, we are proposing an amendment that supports the status quo and opposes this change. This amendment both removes cable laying from the list of exceptions to international shipping, and for greater clarity explicitly includes cable laying as part of international shipping.
We prefer our amendment to the NDP amendment, as our amendment provides greater clarity that cable laying is, in fact, a recognized activity that is connected to international shipping.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
My understanding is that, in the countries that do include cable laying as part of international shipping, from a competitive perspective, some of the companies that are active in this space are resident in those countries.
Therefore, there would be a disproportionate impact on Canadian jobs in this sector. Have you done an analysis of the competitive environment in terms of the companies resident in those countries in this sector with which Canadian companies would need to compete?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
Given that material, Mr. Chair, in terms of whether our amendment would effectively help preserve the status quo, until we have more information on what the impact on Canadian jobs would be, and given that we've heard from only one witness who was pretty clear that this would put Canadian jobs at risk, I think it makes sense at this point to effectively remove cable laying from the list of exceptions to international shipping.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
This clause would add GST or HST to certain non-profit health care facilities on their non-health care operation. An example the government has given us is a seniors' residential complex operated by a non-profit health care facility. Under clause 96, the residential services would be subject to HST or GST.
The government argues that this clause simply matches the existing law, in which case it is redundant and will have no effect.
But if, on the other hand, clause 96 is to have an effect, that effect will be to raise the cost of living or reduce services for seniors who live in these residential complexes. Alternatively, the non-profit health care operator could absorb the GST or HST, which would mean they would have to cut services elsewhere.
We can't support this clause, which at best is redundant and at worst will raise costs or cut services to seniors.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
On the scope of clauses 143 and 144, we've heard from a number of Canadians who've made a case that we need stronger federal regulation around aerodromes, particularly when it comes to environmental standards around landfills, but it's clear that we need better and clearer rules regarding the development of aerodromes.
Unfortunately, this division isn't a serious attempt at strengthening the law. In fact, the Canadian Bar Association identified some problems with this. I'll quote from their brief:
The amendments to the Aeronautics Act in Bill C-43 present regulatory and legal problems concerning the exercise and scope of the Minister’s powers. The additional powers are overly broad and do not take into account the everyday operation of aerodromes. In addition, it is unclear whether the exercise of the Minister’s power to prohibit the development or expansion of an aerodrome is reviewable....The proposed amendments allow the Minister to get into the minutiae of the operation of the vast number of aerodromes in Canada (approximately 3500). The operation of an aerodrome changes daily, if not hourly or moment-to-moment. Providing the Minister with such power may cause administrative difficulties from a legal and regulatory perspective.
This division gives the minister sweeping powers. The government says it's doing this so that it can insist on public consultation, but the irony is that these measures were put forward without public consultation.
Finally, not that this really matters under the current regime, these measures don't belong in a budget bill and don't really belong in finance committee deliberations.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Hon. Scott Brison: It seems rather quaint to say that at this point.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
I agree with what Mr. Cullen said. The government is continuing what seems to be an ideological or political attack on refugee claimants. The courts pushed back, and the government continues to fight on the refusal to provide basic health care services for refugee claimants.
Refugee claimants are not guaranteed a work permit from the government, so if they don't have a work permit, they are going to rely on social assistance to survive, at least in the short term. Removing access to social assistance would be catastrophic to refugees and to their families. I think that when we had witnesses before the committee.... It's important to realize that the children of these refugees will be potentially victimized by this. I think these are among the most vulnerable people we have in Canada—refugees, but particularly children of refugees who are denied social assistance.
I think the government has not made a compelling case as to why these changes are necessary, attractive, or positive, or what the arguments would be. It is not clear. The provinces certainly have not requested them. Therefore, as Liberals we stand very much opposed to the proposed changes.
View Ted Hsu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
This amendment to clause 187 requires the minister to publish aggregate data about the national security review process. Again, this is a recommendation by the Canadian Bar Association.
View Ted Hsu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My remarks will be brief, but we want to say that the minister admitted to this committee that his department did no economic analysis of this measure before committing more than half a billion dollars of taxpayers' money. We've heard from experts who point out that this tax credit has a design flaw. There is a very strange marginal tax rate near the limit at which this credit comes in, so there is a perverse incentive for employers who are near this limit to fire workers or reduce their hours or to not extend hours or to not give raises in order to qualify for the tax credit.
We've heard from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who says that this so-called job credit will create only 800 jobs over two years at a cost of almost $700,000 per job. I can give you lots of examples of where we could create jobs for much less, so clearly this is not a very good job-creation measure.
There are better ways to spend more than half a billion dollars of taxpayers' money. There are other tax measures or investments that can do more to strengthen the economy, to create jobs, and to provide taxpayers with a better bang for their buck.
View Ted Hsu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I just wanted to say that what happens in the finance committee and what goes on the record is very important. I want to say just for the record—and I think some day this will appear in an economics 101 textbook—that economic decisions are made on the margin. The marginal tax rate in what the Conservative Party is trying to do here does something very strange at the $15,000 limit for the small business hiring credit. It's my belief that students of economics in the future will read this in their textbooks and be amazed at the arguments that were made about this.
Economic decisions are made at the margin. That's a principle that I think students learn at the very beginning of their economics studies, and it's something that this government is not paying attention to.
Thank you.
View Ted Hsu Profile
Lib. (ON)
We will be supporting this clause, but I just want to say to my constituents in Kingston and the Islands that this is fixing a problem that has caused delays for them over the last couple of years and hopefully this will fix it.
View Ted Hsu Profile
Lib. (ON)
This committee has heard from experts who have told us how the Public Health Agency of Canada was created in response to Canada's experience with the SARS epidemic. These experts told us how the decision to make the chief public health officer a deputy head was a deliberate decision, so that he or she would have the necessary power and autonomy to work with the provinces to speak truth to power and effect change.
This division of Bill C-43 undoes some of that good work. It demotes the chief public health officer and reduces his or her authority, and ability to effect change. The Liberal Party believes that's a step in the wrong direction.
View Ted Hsu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Perhaps I will make some general remarks about division 24, if that's okay, at the beginning here.
The Liberal Party generally supports the measures in division 24, except that Bill C-43, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, includes some new fees to pay for this new compliance regime, and it exempts these fees from the accountability measures in the User Fees Act.
We don't think that exemption is justified. In fact, given the Conservative record, we need to strengthen accountability measures for user fees, not weaken them. Under the Conservative government, processing times for economic immigrants has gone up between 19% and 113% since 2007, depending on the different streams of federal skilled workers. We're concerned that the same thing could happen with processing times under the new temporary foreign worker regime. The government needs strong accountability measures to ensure that it provides timely service in exchange for charging the fee.
In the words of the Canadian Bar Association, “Exempting these fees from the User Fees Act invites the imposition of fees without accountability.”
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