Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2018-06-05 15:41 [p.20270]
Mr. Speaker, fighting against the spruce budworm, a pest causing major problems for our forestry industry, is a good thing. The problem is that the funding announced in the last budget and in the budget implementation bill, if I am not mistaken, is exclusively for the Maritimes, even though the area affected by this pest in Quebec is bigger than the entire province of New Brunswick.
Why is all the help going to the Maritimes? Could this be a gift for the Irvings?
Where is Quebec in all this and in the budget?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2018-06-05 20:15 [p.20307]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for sharing his time with me and giving me this opportunity to speak on behalf of the Groupe parlementaire québécois.
Unfortunatley, Bill C-74 is another mammoth bill that is being debated under another time allocation motion.
The government is blaming the opposition for opposing this bill, claiming that this is what forced it to use time allocation. However, blaming the opposition for doing its job as the opposition is like blaming the Canada Revenue Agency for collecting taxes from people or blaming meteorologists for forecasting rain.
Of course we oppose bad policies. Would the government have me believe that it did not expect us to ask questions and that it did not fully expect us to oppose certain aspects of this bill?
This is ridiculous. Here we are with only 10 minutes to discuss an immense omnibus bill that is 560 pages long.
I will therefore try to be as brief as possible and get right to the point: this budget does not address the needs of Quebeckers; it is as simple as that.
As I said at second reading, there is not much for Quebeckers in this budget, apart from a handful of minor measures that will give the minister a chance to strut all over Canada just before the election. Targeted announcements pay off in swing ridings during elections, as we know. We are seeing that right now in the Chicoutimi by-election. Journalist David Akin said that in his entire career, he had never seen so much money and so many announcements being lavished on a single riding.
They are desperate to win this by-election at any cost. They have some nerve. Our Liberal colleagues are lucky that they do not have to pay for their own gas. Otherwise, they would think twice before taking a limousine hundreds of kilometres to make a $10,000 announcement.
In Bill C-74, we see a $75-million gift to the Irvings to fight the spruce budworm. This is a perfect example. The spruce budworm is also a problem in Quebec. In fact, the infested area in Quebec is bigger than the entire province of New Brunswick, yet Quebec is not getting a single cent. Every penny is going to help the Irvings. That sums this budget up perfectly. This is not a budget for Quebec. It is, first and foremost, a budget for the Liberal Party. It is clear that this old party will never change.
Do not get me wrong, it is not all negative. For example, the Canada workers benefit is interesting. It will help out low-income workers. The small business tax cut from 10.5% to 9% is another good measure.
As hon. members know, Quebec's economy relies heavily on small business owners. Quebec is known for its creativity. With our good ideas we are able to develop businesses that can penetrate markets all around the world. Lowering the small business tax rate will give our businesses the boost they need to create our flagships of tomorrow.
However, the context in which this was announced raised some eyebrows. The Minister of Finance was criticized from all sides for the tax reform he announced last summer. Then out of nowhere he announced the tax cut in order to save face for the government, but at the end of the day it is still a good measure and the tax reform was largely abandoned.
The government kept the proposal to restrict the use of passive income, but it diluted the proposal so much that the reform will not do much. Instead of going after our farmers and small businesses, the government could have gone after the massive problems with its tax reform. I should also mention that there is nothing in the budget to address tax havens.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, we lose at least $9 billion a year in revenue to tax havens.
It is not complicated. If we recovered just a fraction of this amount, we would have some serious breathing room to balance our budget. Bay Street would obviously be angry, which would not fly with the current government, but it would be fair to the people and businesses here that pay their taxes.
The government should be closing loopholes instead of creating more tax havens by signing information sharing agreements with countries that do not have tax return obligations.
Once again, Quebec is demanding that it be able to collect all taxes, but the Prime Minister thumbed his nose at Quebec's unanimous motion, showing his arrogance yet again.
I do not think that any party in power in Quebec would turn its nose up at billions of dollars hidden in tax havens, unlike the Liberals, who are creating more loopholes. The same goes for Netflix, an American multinational corporation.
Quebec and Canadian companies that provide a similar service must charge sales tax, but the government is doing everything it can to exempt Netflix and other U.S. giants from this requirement. That is completely unfair. It is offering a competitive advantage to foreign businesses to the detriment of our own. That must change.
Speaking of handouts to foreign businesses, let us talk about the environment and Trans Mountain. The government just gave a $4.5-billion gift to a U.S. company to develop a pipeline that British Columbia opposes.
The 2015 Liberal platform had this to say about environmental projects:
Canadians must be able to trust that government...will respect the rights of those most affected [by these resource-based projects]...While governments grant permits for resource development, only communities can grant permission.
The government just reversed its position. This budget is more of the same on the environment: a lot of talk and not too many concrete measures. It is simply disappointing.
Quebec is asking for help with the electrification of transportation, but there is nothing for that in the budget. This corner of the House has asked for this funding several times.
Time is running out so I will start to wrap up. This budget is above all for Liberals. It sprinkles around some tax breaks in order to win elections. The government still has not resolved the problem of health transfers that are below the acceptable minimum threshold. While the Liberal Party is playing Monopoly with our money, Quebec is confronted with real problems every year because of a significant increase in health care costs.
I would like the government to start listening instead of always being so arrogant, as we saw with the single tax return and the migrant crisis. On our side, we are going to continue tirelessly defending the interests of our people, Quebeckers.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2018-06-05 20:23 [p.20308]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. It is good to use concrete examples and to apply them in a budgetary context.
I thank my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services for their visit in my riding yesterday to see the community of Manawan. It was an opportunity for us to cut the ribbon on some lovely new housing for the Atikamekw of Manawan First Nation. There was a good financial contribution from the federal government for these housing units. I welcome this good news.
At the same time, my colleagues were able to see all the needs. The crown has committed to providing the same service level to indigenous communities across the country as is provided to other Canadians. We were able to see that it is not the case. There are still huge housing needs. The timing is good since, in previous budgets, important announcements were made regarding indigenous infrastructure. The money has barely been spent if at all. We must therefore make sure that amounts which were announced for infrastructure are indeed allocated, in order to improve indigenous peoples' quality of life in Canada.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2018-06-05 20:26 [p.20308]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I would like to correct one thing. Quebec does not import oil from Saudi Arabia. Our imports vary each year, but come primarily from the United States as well as England and Norway, as far as I know. We have also imported a great deal of oil from the west since the reversal of Enbridge pipeline 9B. That is the situation.
Like the Conservatives, we condemn the purchase by the federal government with public money of Trans Mountain and the Enbridge line. We believe that it is a bad decision. That is all we agree on, however. We are more supportive of a greener economy and decisions that lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. With respect to the international community, we support the COP21 Paris Agreement. According to our analysis, which is consistent with scientific studies, in order to comply with this agreement we must stop all new development of the oil sands, which, I would remind members, is extremely polluting. Furthermore, new pipelines are used not just to move existing oil at a good price, but also to extract more. This will prevent us from honouring the commitments we made in Paris.
We prefer to develop other energy sources and to start by reducing energy consumption in the 21st century. This works out well because Quebec has everything it needs to develop its renewable energy and is a world leader in the area. Economic development choices, however, are more focused on the oil sands than on the economy of the future. For that reason we rise in the House to defend the environment.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2018-06-01 12:55 [p.20087]
Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie on his speech.
Sustainable development is not an easy thing to achieve in our oil-driven country. Sustainable development means linking economic growth to environmental considerations.
I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on the Liberals' vision of sustainable development, which I think the Prime Minister has made clear. He said that to help the environment, the Liberals plan to build more pipelines and further develop the oil sands, generating revenue that they will use to set environmental standards and fight climate change.
Does my colleague think this reasoning holds water?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2018-05-31 16:33 [p.20003]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague to speak about his reaction to the budget implementation bill, as it concerns the demands of Quebeckers.
The forestry industry needs help, for example, with the spruce budworm. The budget and this bill mention around $75 million to fight this pest. However, when we take a close look at this document, we see that most of this money is going to the Maritimes. Is this a gift to the Irving family from the Liberals? We have to wonder. There is not one cent for Quebec even though the infestation has affected an area in Quebec that is larger than all of New Brunswick. That says a lot.
One thing Quebec has been calling for for a long time is to increase transfers for health care, social services, and education. That is what Quebeckers want, and that is what the provincial government and all the members of Quebec's National Assembly want. However, once again, no money was set aside for that in the last budget. I am also reminded of Davie shipyard, which employs hundreds of workers near my colleague's riding. The announcements about Davie are still vague. It may get a few crumbs later, but we are talking about a multi-billion-dollar project to renew the Canadian fleet over the next few years. That work is again mostly concentrated in Nova Scotia, in the Maritimes, even though there are 40 or so Liberal MPs from Quebec. I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on this subject.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2018-05-31 17:19 [p.20010]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague if he agrees with me about one of the major shortcomings in this bill, with its many hundreds of pages, and in the previous one. I am talking about strengthening tools to better combat the use of tax havens.
Fraudsters are doing things that are against the law, and not enough investigations are being carried out or charges being laid. The big problem is the legal use of tax havens. Because of two regulations in section 5907 of the Income Tax Regulations, multinationals and big corporations can transfer their money to tax havens to dodge their tax obligations and pay no tax in Canada.
My colleague talks about the cost of living going up because of rising taxes. Meanwhile, those who have the means to contribute more use tax havens to avoid doing so. There is nothing about this in the last budget or the budget implementation bill.
Shouldn't the Liberal government be doing something about it?
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2018-05-23 16:14 [p.19535]
Madam Speaker, when this government first took office, it promised to reform the Canada Elections Act. However, what we have here are amendments that seek to modernize the act but that really only make minor changes to it.
The minister said that the bill covers 85% of the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations, but the real problem with this bill is what is being left out.
During our debates and hearings on the so-called electoral reform that the government promised to make, a renowned and respected former chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, said that, in the interest of fairness, the government should immediately reinstate the per-vote subsidy.
The government claims to want to do things differently, so why then is that not included in the minister's bill?
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2018-05-23 17:12 [p.19539]
Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening, in spite of the shameful time allocation motion, to speak to the elections modernization act at second reading. I think that the “elections modernization” part of the title is a bit much, since one of the main changes is to restore the voter card as a valid piece of ID. I will get back to this point.
I want to start by saying that it is shameful that the government has resorted to a gag order on this matter. In a former life, I sat in another Parliament, the Quebec National Assembly, which unfortunately uses the British system. Never would a government take advantage of its parliamentary majority to change election laws. In 1999, a change was made regarding voter ID. I want to inform my colleagues in the House that this does not enhance the integrity of the vote. The government will not make it easier to vote by simply considering the voter card as a valid form of ID. My colleagues can Google what happened in Quebec in 1998. An organized identity-fraud system was uncovered as part of the Berardinucci case. The court issued two rulings, and since then, voters in Quebec have been required to produce a piece of photo ID to vote.
During the last election, Quebec had no problems with voter identification. Voters in municipal, provincial, and federal elections have no problem showing ID. However, voting is a sacred act in a democracy, and we should not make it too easy. I am hearing talk about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but voting is not a freedom. Voting comes with a duty, the duty to prove eligibility to vote.
The minister wants us to hurry up. She says this bill will go to committee, where it will be improved. That is not at all the experience I have had with clause-by-clause studies of bills in committee after second reading. What we actually hear is, “Talk all you want, sweetheart, but when your speaking time is up, we will use our parliamentary majority to do whatever we want.” The government votes down amendments and does not improve bills.
In my opinion, on an issue as important as voting rights and election laws, this government should not procrastinate and wait until the last second to try to change a few things in hopes of not looking stupid. When they first came into office, we were facing a major reform to the Canada Elections Act. We even hoped to change the voting system. Anything was possible. What we heard from Canadians can never be taken away from us. That special committee's report went into the trash. It was called a special committee because it was open to all parliamentarians, even those who did not belong to a recognized parliamentary group in the House.
In the debate on changes to the Elections Act, the next logical step would have been to give independent MPs the right to speak and even to vote in that committee. Now the minister wants us to hurry up. I would encourage her colleagues to slow down instead.
People told us that they were fed up with the party line, that the party line was one of the reasons they were so cynical. Government is all about executive power. It is all about cabinet. MPs who want to be ministers are more interested in doing the executive's bidding than honouring their mandate as parliamentarians here in the House. We are legislators, not ministers. We belong to the legislative branch and we represent the people. In a Parliament like ours, legislative power is the foundation of democracy. When my colleagues on the government side exist solely to rubber-stamp whatever the Prime Minister and the ministers tell them to, they are not doing their job. That is why voters do not bother to vote.
It is utter nonsense to say that people will not vote because it is too difficult or because the identification requirement prevents them from voting. During the hearings on electoral reform we held for months, people told us what keeps them from voting. For example, they say that their riding has been red since their great-grandfather's time and that this will not change, or that the riding has been blue since their great-grandmother's time, and this will not change. They are being stripped of their power of representation, and this is why democracy is suffering.
They told us that they want their vote to count. The current government not only proved unable to keep its promise to bring in a new voting system that represents the plurality of representation and ensures that every vote counts, but also went to great lengths to prevent all votes from actually counting, as they would if voters could finance the political parties they believe in through the votes they cast. Voters would then vote in accordance with their beliefs instead of voting strategically.
I have certainly spent a lot of time in my political life criticizing Jean Chrétien, but at least his legacy in politics and in this House was to give voters the ability to vote with conviction because he allowed their vote to finance a political party. That party might not get an MP elected, but that system gave the party the same chance right out of the gate to have its voice heard on an equal footing, in a democratic society, in the democratic debate that is an election. This also enabled the party to have the necessary funding between elections to promote its views.
To me that is democracy in a nutshell, but it is nowhere to be found in a bill that claims to limit spending. It does not even limit the government's pre-election spending. We have fixed-date elections and the government continues to make announcements, to use taxpayers' money to pay for its ads.
Under these circumstances, it is clear that we will be voting against the bill.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2018-05-23 17:24 [p.19540]
Madam Speaker, as I already said, the problem with this bill is what it leaves out. It contains some interesting things, but they are cosmetic.
However, we must be consistent. If there is a fixed-date election and that leads people to spend a lot of money in the pre-election period, and we need to limit that, that is a very good thing.
If they claim that because there is a fixed-date election, spending during the pre-election period must be limited, why was government advertising left out? Why did they not include government ads? Why was a limit not placed on that as well?
The government recognizes that when we did not have fixed-date elections, the government in power could make whatever announcements it wanted. It was the Prime Minister who decided whether to announce an election or not. We could not assume that the government was making a lot of announcements because an election was coming. We could not assume that, but we could have our doubts.
We now have fixed-date elections and we want to limit spending in the pre-election period. There is still a lot of work to be done with respect to third parties.
I challenge the members opposite, who will be sitting on the committee, to let the bill be improved by the opposition's amendments just for the fun of it. I cannot wait to see what they will do.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2018-05-23 17:27 [p.19541]
Mr. Speaker, that is more of a comment than a question, but I completely agree with my colleague.
The problem is that the Liberals decided to move a time allocation motion and curtail debate. What is more, in committee, the Liberals reject the opposition parties' amendments. They decide not to make any amendments and not to improve bills, and they can do that because they have a majority. That is why parliamentarians are so angry to see the Liberals, who promised to do politics differently, using the same approach that they criticized the previous government for using. It is the same old story.
It seems to me that the least the Liberals could have done was to show even the slightest willingness to undertake a reform.
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