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View Catherine McKenna Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Catherine McKenna Profile
2019-06-12 16:19 [p.29007]
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wish to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabe peoples.
Today, I am pleased to address the chamber in support of our government's bill for better rules for the review of major projects, Bill C-69. The act would put in place better rules that would restore trust, protect the environment, advance reconciliation and would ensure that good projects could go ahead in a timely way.
I want to thank senators and members of Parliament for their careful consideration of this bill, in particular those senators who have worked productively to strengthen and improve the bill.
I would reserve special thanks for Senator Grant Mitchell, who has worked tirelessly as a sponsor of the bill throughout the Senate process.
Thousands of people across Canada have come forward to share their perspectives since January 2016. This is extremely important legislation, and I appreciate how engaged everyone has been.
Hundreds of major resource projects, worth an estimated $500 billion over the next decade, are possible across Canada, creating jobs from coast to coast to coast. It is imperative that we get this right.
These better rules are designed to protect our environment while restoring public trust in the process and improving investor confidence. These rules will also make the Canadian energy and resource sectors more competitive. They will build on Canada's strong economic growth and historic job numbers.
We are keeping our promise to Canadians, a promise we made in 2015 to fix our broken environmental impact assessment system.
In 2012, Stephen Harper's Conservative government gutted the rules for major projects, ignored science, trampled on indigenous rights and removed environmental protection. Those changes eroded public trust in how decisions were made and ultimately led to the polarization and paralysis we see today. It also ended up with us in court.
When good projects cannot get built because the process is in court, we have to admit the system is broken.
Our bill for better rules for the review of major projects, along with the amendments that we are proposing to accept, will change that. We will put in place better rules for major projects, like mines, pipelines and hydro projects, to protect our environment, improve investor confidence, strengthen our economy and create good, middle-class jobs.
Since we have formed government, we have worked very hard to restore public trust while providing certainty to business. Better rules are the key to rebuilding trust and confidence in how decisions about major projects are made. The amendments we are proposing to accept will enhance that effort.
Our bill for better rules reflect public input, respect indigenous rights, increase transparency and ensure that decisions are made by robust science, evidence and indigenous traditional knowledge.
The new impact assessment process will look at a project's potential impacts not just on our environment, but also its health, social and economic impacts over the long term, and the potential impacts to indigenous peoples.
We will also consider how projects are consistent with our environmental obligations and national climate plan. We will do proactive regional assessments to evaluate big picture issues and the cumulative effects of development. When making decisions, we will consider whether companies are using the best available technologies and practices to reduce impacts on the environment.
Project reviews will be completed through a more efficient and predictable process, with shorter legislated timelines that will lead to more timely decisions.
By increasing coordination with other jurisdictions, we will cut red tape and avoid duplication and delays.
Our goal is one project, one review.
We first introduced the bill after 14 months of consultations with provinces and territories, indigenous peoples, companies, environmental groups and Canadians across the country. We heard loud and clear that Canadians wanted a modern environmental and regulatory system that protected the environment, supported reconciliation with indigenous peoples, attracted investment and ensured that good projects go ahead in a timely way to create new jobs and economic opportunities for the middle class. We heard from investors and companies that they wanted a clear, predictable and timely process.
That is what our bill for better rules and the proposed amendments provide.
In January 2016, we introduced interim principles to guide how our government would review major projects until we could put better rules in place. We knew we could not keep approving projects under the Harper government's flawed rules, but we also knew that we could not put our economic development on hold for two years while we worked on new rules.
Our interim principles were the first step toward delivering on one of our high-priority platform commitments, which was to review and fix Canada's broken environmental assessment process and to restore confidence in how decisions about major resource projects were made.
Those interim principles made it clear that decisions would be based on robust science, evidence and indigenous traditional knowledge, that we would listen to the views of Canadians and communities that could be affected by proposed projects, that indigenous peoples would be consulted in a meaningful and respectful manner, that decisions would take into account the climate impacts of proposed projects and that no project already under review would be set back to the starting line.
Since we have formed government, we have worked very hard to restore public trust while providing certainty to business.
Today, we are putting before the House a bill that expands those interim principles into better rules.
This bill has gone through months of consultation and expert review. People across the country have provided input, including industry, academia, environmentalists and our indigenous, provincial and territorial partners. We held hundreds of meetings, received hundreds of written submissions and considered thousands of comments from individual Canadians.
Expert panels and parliamentary committees have conducted studies, heard witnesses and reviewed comments from the public. Senators themselves took the rare step of criss-crossing the country to hear a diversity of views on how to improve the broken system we inherited.
This bill has attracted attention across the country. Last September, someone hired a plane to fly over my office with a flag that read “Kill Bill C-69”. Then, in April, students in Quebec City gathered with signs that read “Go C-69”, decorated with hearts.
There are those who say this bill goes too far, and then there are those who say this bill does not go far enough. Our task as a government is to listen carefully to all voices and find a reasonable middle ground, moving us all forward together.
While we have been working hard to develop better rules, there has been a concerted misinformation campaign from the opposition. Members of the Conservative opposition have used this bill to stoke conflict, pitting one region against another, as if we are not one country, Canada, trying to build the best possible future for our kids and grandkids.
Conservatives in the House and the Senate want to replace environmental reviews with pipeline approvals. They want to replace legitimate public discussion with unilateral decisions. They do not want a better review process; they want to hand decisions over to oil lobbyists, ignore climate change and make the consideration of indigenous peoples' constitutional rights optional. Their goal has been to weaken the rules, and we all know where that road leads.
The opposition would pursue economic development at all costs and put the interests of oil lobbyists ahead of the interests of Canadians. That is exactly why we need better rules, ones designed to measure the impacts of major projects on all Canadians: environmental impacts, climate impacts, community impacts, economic impacts, impacts on indigenous peoples' rights, and impacts on Canada's reputation as a country where good projects can move ahead in a timely and transparent way that protects the environment and helps to build a better future for all Canadians.
The Senate has proposed 229 amendments to this bill. Of these, we are accepting 62 and amending 37, for a total of 99 amendments.
That leaves 130 amendments that we cannot accept, ones that would, for instance, make public consultation optional, remove consideration of a project's impacts on climate change, undermine the rule of law and make it more difficult for Canada to attract investment.
Here is a little parliamentary history for my colleagues. Going back to 1940, when the Library of Parliament began consistently indexing information, the highest number of Senate amendments ever concurred in by the House was 67, in 1946, to Bill No. 195, An Act respecting the Control of the Acquisition and Disposition of Foreign Currency and the Control of Transactions involving Foreign Currency or Non-Residents. In other words, this bill will be one for the history books.
I think it is fair to say that this has been a long and careful process and that we have worked diligently to create better rules. We thank the Senate for providing a variety of thoughtful improvements to the bill. We are accepting amendments that maintain the integrity of the bill and make it stronger.
For example, we are accepting amendments that increase the independence of the agency and minimize the potential for political interference. Instead of ministerial discretion on timelines, or who would be on a review panel, this power will be transferred to the agency.
We also support an amendment to make it clear that the minister cannot direct the head of the agency. We also support additional clarity on how the impact assessment agency will look at the environmental, health, economic and social factors to ensure that the focus is on the most significant issues.
We will make sure that the biggest projects with the biggest potential impacts are the ones requiring a federal impact assessment. We are supporting improvements to regional assessments and how we work with provinces to get to one project, one assessment.
These amendments would protect our environment and put sustainability at the heart of how we approach growing our economy and creating good, middle-class jobs. They would reduce the potential for political interference introduced by the Harper government's changes, and they would give companies and investors the certainty they need with a more timely process, clear timelines and transparent decisions. Together, these amendments would help to rebuild public trust, respect indigenous people's rights and protect our environment, while strengthening our economy and attracting investment to Canada.
We will be rejecting changes that weaken the act, including those that limit Canadians' access to the courts, increase political interference in decision-making, limit Canadians' input into the process, make it optional to consider how a project would affect Canada's ability to meet its environmental commitments, such as fighting climate change, and make it easy for future governments to ignore our constitutional duty to consult indigenous peoples, an approach that would land us exactly where we are today: in court.
The changes we are not accepting would take us backward, increase polarization and make it harder to get good projects built.
Conservatives want to keep the same system, the one that led to so many challenges, including with the Trans Mountain expansion, as an example. It is a system that weakened environmental protections, failed to properly consult indigenous peoples and limited public discussion. Canadians know that the environment and the economy go together, but these amendments would mean pursuing economic development at all costs. We cannot accept them, because they are, quite frankly, unacceptable to us and to Canadians.
Stephen Harper's approach put both the environment and the economy at risk. It failed to protect the environment. It destroyed the public trust. It paralyzed major projects. It is the system that created all the problems and polarization we see today.
Meanwhile, the current Leader of the Opposition has told oil lobbyists that he would kill this bill for better rules if he is elected. That is a recipe for economic risk, increased conflict and environmental damage. It is the same recipe that Stephen Harper tried. It did not work then and it will not work now.
As leading resource companies know, in the 21st century, we have to protect the environment and grow the economy at the same time. Canadians expect no less. It is not just the sustainable way forward; it is the smart way.
As I mentioned before, hundreds of major resource projects, worth an estimated $500 billion, are being planned across Canada. We want to see good projects get built. These are projects that grow our economy and represent tens of thousands of good, middle-class jobs.
Our government is committed to building a strong economy. One million jobs have been created since we took office, and unemployment is at historic lows. Last year, Canada's foreign direct investment grew by 60%.
The official opposition has been talking down Canada's economic success, stoking fear and uncertainty, an act that I remind members has real consequences for investment in Canadian companies. Meanwhile, our government has been working to attract and promote investment in Canada. We know that these better rules will provide investors with the certainty they need and will lead to more good jobs for Canadians.
In 2019, we cannot have a plan for the economy without having a plan for the environment. It is essential to be competitive and attract investment in today's world.
Investment in Canada is rising, and jobs are being created in Canada, in part because businesses want to invest in countries that see the future, countries that take sustainability seriously. Customers expect it. Our trading partners expect it. Canadians expect it.
Combined, the amendments we are accepting will produce better rules for major projects in Canada, rules that are clear, fair and predictable, with shorter legislated timelines and sustainability at their core. These rules will make sure that Canada remains a great place to live, to work and to invest.
To vote for the bill for better rules is to vote for strong environmental protection, transparent science- and evidence-based decision-making, predictable and timely reviews that create certainty for companies and for investors, recognition and respect for indigenous peoples' rights and knowledge and advancing reconciliation, less red tape and better coordination with provinces, a single agency that will provide consistent and efficient assessments, and a full package of measures that will protect our environment, support good, middle-class jobs and attract new investment to Canada.
With better rules, we will restore Canadians' trust in how decisions about major projects are made. We will restore investors' confidence in Canada as a great place to do business. We will restore our reputation as a country that knows we can fight climate change, protect the environment and respect indigenous rights, while growing the economy and creating good jobs.
We are so lucky to live in Canada. There is so much opportunity before us. Now is the time for all of us to reach out to investors around the world and say, “Canada is the place to invest. We have fair, predictable rules with legislated timelines.”
These better rules will make that possible. Any politician or company saying otherwise is, quite frankly, undermining the opportunity we have to attract investment. That is not in the interest of Canada and that is not in the interests of Canadians.
We are extremely lucky to live in Canada. Now is the time for all of us to reach out to investors around the world and tell them that Canada is the place to invest. In the 21st century, as leading resource companies know, we can protect the environment and grow the economy at the same time if we work together to make that happen.
Please join me in voting to pass the bill. We owe it to Canadians. We owe it to our economy. We owe it to our environment and we owe it to our kids and grandkids.
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2019-06-12 17:20 [p.29016]
Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I would say that it demonstrates his basic lack of knowledge on indigenous consultation and the impact of Bill C-69. Nothing in the legislation or Senate amendment package would change the current situation.
For decades, Canada has been a world leader in the incorporation of indigenous knowledge and expertise in project reviews and partnerships with indigenous communities, particularly of the top 10 major oil-producing regions in the world. Without a doubt, governments must improve their execution of their duties in this regard. However, the Prime Minister is wrong about this issue and Bill C-69.
The proposed Senate package and the specific amendments the Liberals rejected responded to the concerns of indigenous communities to elevate and amplify their locally impacted voices in early engagement and throughout the review process.
Mark Wittrup, vice-president of environmental and regulatory affairs at Clifton Associates, reinforces that point. He says that Bill C-69 “will create significant delays, missed opportunities and likely impact those that need that economic development the most: northern and Indigenous communities.”
The Liberals have caused uncertainty around resource development in the past three and a half years, with their imposition of layers of costs and red tape in policies like the carbon tax. Canada is the only country out of the top 10 oil producers in the world to adopt one.
The Liberals' new fuel standard is a reckless experiment, with severe cost consequences for refining, petrochemical processing, manufacturing and others. Then there is their unilateral imposition of the offshore drilling ban and unilateral prohibitions of activity on wide swathes of land. Their shipping ban, Bill C-48, is a direct attack on a specific industry, particularly damaging to a specific region of the country. It has already driven jobs, businesses and capital out of Canada at a nearly historic rate, resulting in a complete failure to build a single new inch of in-service pipeline.
The consequences of the Liberals' deliberate rejection of constructive suggestions from private sector proponents, economists, regulatory experts and various governments will be measured in more lost jobs, more cancelled projects, more missed contracts and more investment lost for a generation.
Energy companies are warning about the devastating impact on their workers and operations. This is in light of the oil and gas sector, which has already lost more than 100,000 jobs. It is likely closer to 200,000, if the statistics reflected employed individuals in the south. Over $100 billion in energy projects have been cancelled since 2015.
To put this in context, it is important to note that these numbers are the equivalent of losing the jobs created by the entire aerospace sector and almost all the auto sector. It is the equivalent of losing eight times the annual GDP generated by the aerospace sector and five times the GDP generated by the automotive sector.
If either of those two sectors were to face the same job losses and collapse in investment, we can bet, as there ought to be and has been, that there would be full attention and action from the federal government. However, the response to the devastation of the energy sector, of oil and gas workers and of their families has been empty rhetoric and platitudes, as well as a piling on of policies and laws, like Bill C-69, that are out right hostile and make things so much worse.
Concerns about Bill C-69 span sectors and regions.
A joint letter from the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Canadian Gas Association, the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, The Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. and the Petroleum Services Association of Canada says that Bill C-69 will:
lead to greater uncertainty in the assessment and review processes [because it] requires assessment and decisions based on broad public policy questions that are beyond the scope of individual projects. It introduces longer timelines, and vague criteria that will increase the risk of legal challenges.
This is what the private sector proponents are warning.
They also take issue with the fact that Bill C-69 “gives the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada broad discretionary powers, which could further increase uncertainty for major infrastructure projects.” It also “put[s] at risk the investment needed for Canada to create the jobs and government revenues that support our quality of life.”
Certain criteria are essential to attracting and retaining investment in Canada, such as certainty in regulations, permanence of regulations, certainty in the form of timelines, performance-based policies that ensure benefits to communities by tying incentives to performance-based measures, such as job creation, research and development, innovation and capital investment.
Those criteria were hallmarks of Canada's regulatory framework for decades, with the most rigorous assessment, comprehensive consultation, high standards and strongest environmental protections in the world. However, from the beginning of the consideration of Bill C-69, starting when the Liberals rushed the bill through the House a year and a half ago, proponents raised major concerns on each of these key elements. One of those elements is timelines.
Bill C-69, as it is going to be passed by the Liberals, would create a potential for a delay that would allow the Governor in Council to extend timelines without providing justification. There is no hard time cap for the overall process. The criteria for making such an extension will be defined in regulations. Even after the Liberals ram the bill through the House, there will still be uncertainty around timelines, which we developed after the fact.
Literally, therefore, the cabinet will be the only power to decide when to delay a project. That is clear further politicization of the process and introduces further uncertainty for proponents considering a new project. That is why so many of the Senate amendments are dearly needed. They introduce legislative maximum time frames, they remove the ability for Governor in Council to extend timelines indefinitely and force the Governor in Council to provide reasons for suspending timelines. Maximum timelines set in law reduce uncertainty for investors, because time is money.
The Liberals' rejection of the Senate amendments clearly shows their intention to return to open-ended timelines. According to their legislation, the federal cabinet can keep resetting the process, forcing proponents to go through the same stage multiple times. That is the definition of “death by delay” now being implemented in law by these Liberals, which is a term and a tactic that anti-resource activists call their campaigns to kill Canadian resource projects.
Bill C-69, without accepting the amendments from the Senate, would also grant a single minister the power to refuse to undertake an assessment at all. It would grant a single minister complete discretion regarding whether to designate a project under Bill C-69's lengthy and uncertain assessment process. That would result in considerable uncertainty for proponents, even where proposed projects would not be included on the project list. They simply could be added to it by a single minister, the Minister of Environment.
That sort of political uncertainty is unacceptable. Therefore, a single minister could kill a project by adding years of delay and hundreds of millions in additional costs. It does not really get any more political than that. This is why so many of the Senate amendments must be preserved to make this legislation workable.
That is, of course, related to one of the major concerns from industry, provinces and municipalities, and the Conservatives have been warning about it, which is the uncertainty around vague project criteria. As originally worded by the Liberals, who are again intending to ram through Bill C-69, it would increase the length and the uncertainty of regulatory and judicial processes that already pose significant challenges to a timely completion on major resource projects.
Regulatory reviews already require significant commitment and exceptional due diligence by proponents, communities, as should be the case, but they are often extremely complex, duplicative and expensive and sometimes result in deep divisions.
Clear and concise criteria that projects are measured against ensures predictability for all parties and that ensures approved projects can actually get built, instead of having to repeat key parts of the process or spending years in court defending in approval.
However, the Liberals' Bill C-69 would add numerous additional criteria that would not be within the direct control of the proponent and criteria that would be so vague that it would be difficult to determine what they even would involve precisely, never mind for proponents to be able to determine how to incorporate them or how to account for them in their project proposals.
The Senate amendments, while not even as concise as the Conservatives would make them, are a vast improvement over the original Liberal wording. They would remove broad political debates from the formal review process and focus the fact and evidence-based review on criteria that would be measurable, quantifiable and predictable.
The concern with the Liberals' criteria that they are proposing in Bill C-69 by rejecting all the Senate fixes is that they are requiring the panel conducting the review to make determinations on matters that are subjective, that relate to the subjective policy priorities of the government and are inherently political.
How can a project proponent proposing a physical project based on engineering realities and the technical, economic, environmental and safety merits of a specific project anticipate and account for the particular political objectives of the current government of any given day? The answer is that it cannot. That uncertainty will stop proponents from proposing big projects and crucial infrastructure in Canada.
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
2018-06-05 16:53 [p.20280]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-74 on behalf of the Government of Canada, as well as our government's planned investments to strengthen the middle class and maintain the strength and sustainable growth of the Canadian economy.
Budget 2018, entitled “Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class”, represents the next stage in our plan to invest in people and the communities where they live in order to provide the best opportunities for success to the middle class and all Canadians.
The bill we are talking about today, budget implementation act, 2018, No. 1, is the next step in the plan that our government launched over two years ago. When we took office, we jumped into action by helping develop a confident middle class that stimulates economic growth and that is currently benefiting from more opportunities for success than ever.
Giving Canadians the opportunity to reach their full potential is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the smart thing to do for our economy. The decision to invest in the middle class is the right decision. Targeted investments combined with the hard work of Canadians across the country have helped create good, well-paying jobs and will continue to strengthen the economy over the long term.
Before I go into some of the measures introduced in Bill C-74, it is always a good thing to step aside and take a holistic approach to what is going on in the Canadian economy. For example, if we look at the first quarter gross domestic product, we see some continuing good signs. As an economist, I love these terms. We had real final domestic demand rise by 2.1%, driven by a 10.9% increase in business investment.
Recently, off those numbers, the Bank of Canada governor, Stephen Poloz, commented on the signs of the economy of exports and business investment continuing to pick up. Despite the uncertainties in the global economy and the continuing NAFTA negotiations, business investments remain strong.
Those are great signs for our economy, but what does that really translate to? Quite simply, it translates to 600,000 new jobs, 600,000 people working today who were not working two and a half years ago. Those Canadians are our neighbours, our friends, our family. Also, 300,000 kids have been lifted out of poverty because of the Canada child benefit, which we introduced and which is arriving monthly, tax-free, to Canadian families, such as the families in my riding, Vaughan—Woodbridge. Those are great things that we are doing.
The A.T. Kearney foreign direct investment confidence index came out two weeks ago, making comments on what our plan for the economy is doing for Canada. Canada was ranked number two. I would like to read what the A.T. Kearney index said:
Canada moves up three spots to its highest ranking in the history of the Index. An update to the Investment Canada Act, a newly established Invest Canada agency, and new trade agreements [CETA, CPTPP, entering into negotiations with Mercosur] could be boosting investor optimism.
What does a boost in investment translate to? Very simply, it means jobs for middle-class Canadians in my riding, and coast to coast to coast. I am very proud of the measures introduced in Bill C-74.
One of them is the Canada child benefit. We have spoken about it quite a bit, and we should continue to do so. In my riding, Vaughan—Woodbridge, over $59 million was sent via the Canada child benefit to families in a one-year period. It assisted approximately 19,400 children. The number of payments was 10,900, with an average payment of $5,400.
We can throw lots of numbers out there, but behind them are Canadian families like the ones that reside in Vaughan—Woodbridge. These funds are being sent tax-free, not to millionaires but to real Canadian families, families that are working hard to pay their bills every day, assisting them to pay for their kids' sports, lunches, new clothes, and so forth, and maybe save for an RESP for when their children go to university.
I am so proud of the fact that our government indexed the Canada child benefit. What does that mean? Let me simply tell members.
For example, the Canada child benefit is an important government initiative aimed at making a positive change for the millions of Canadian families with children. Close to 3.3 million families with children are receiving more than $23 billion in annual Canada child benefit payments.
A single mom of two children aged five and eight with a net income of $35,000 in 2016 will have received $11,125 in tax-free Canada child benefit payments in the 2017-18 benefit year. Naturally, this $11,125 is absolutely tax free. That is $3,500 more than she would have received under the previous child benefit system.
This means that, for a family making $35,000, once the Canada child benefit is indexed, it would add up to almost $560 more per year. For families in Canada, $500 more a year is a lot of money, to pay for their kids' lunches and school clothes, to bring their son or daughter to a soccer game in the evening or to a soccer practice, and so forth. I am proud that our government has looked at this initiative. I am proud that our government has lifted 300,000 kids out of poverty because of this. I am proud that our government has indexed this. These are real, tangible measures that are assisting families from coast to coast to coast on an everyday basis, and our party should be proud of that.
I am proud to represent a riding, Vaughan—Woodbridge, within the city of Vaughan, that is one of the most entrepreneurial areas of the country. We have approximately 13,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in the city, and I meet with these folks regularly. We are also blessed to have many large organizations. We have Canadian Pacific's busiest intermodal facility in the country, a key barometer of trade and investment. We have Home Depot's eastern Canada distribution centre. We have the FedEx distribution centre for eastern Canada. We have UPS's distribution centre for all of eastern Canada. Again, UPS made that wonderful announcement of investing $500 million in the Canadian economy, creating thousands of additional jobs. We have a furniture maker, Decor-Rest, which employs 700 Canadians, competing globally against furniture makers both here in Canada and in the United States and Mexico, and winning in competing.
I am blessed to have all these entrepreneurs. I am also blessed to have a number of bakeries and great pastry shops, which I have talked about before, especially during Italian Heritage Month. I visit them and we talk about what makes these companies successful.
One big thing we have done, which is contained in Bill C-74, is the reduction in the small-business tax rate from 11% in 2015, which will eventually fall to 9%. We should be proud of that. For small businesses making $500,000 a year in active income, the savings would be $7,500. That can offset other increased input costs they may face. They can use those savings to invest in their businesses, or whatever they choose. That is something we need to applaud.
Looking at our corporate tax system in Canada, the combined federal corporate tax rate in the province of Ontario, roughly 12.9%, is one of the lowest small-business tax rates globally. We have seen that turn up in the job numbers, with 600,000 new jobs, most of them private sector jobs. That is a good barometer for the economy. That is why we have larger companies like CN or CP hiring. However, we also have small companies, because we know that small and medium-sized enterprises and businesses are the backbone of our economy.
That measure, introduced in Bill C-74, is something we should be very proud of. Cumulatively, that measure would result in approximately $3 billion in tax savings due to lower taxes for small and medium-sized enterprises in Canada through the 2022-23 period. This is a substantial reduction in taxes. When we brought in the tax cut for middle-class Canadians, people said, “Whom does it affect?” It affected nine million taxpayers. We brought in a multi-billion dollar tax cut that benefited millions of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and here we are doing the same thing for small businesses.
We also undertook extensive consultations with small businesses on how we could best work with them to grow their business, because we want to increase jobs and investment and achieve better productivity and a better standard of living for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
We also want to ensure that the businesses that benefit from that low small-business tax rate are the appropriate ones. We undertook a consultation and arrived at a point where we introduced measures where 97% of businesses remain unaffected. If people have an active business, they can continue to invest in it and continue to grow. That is wonderful. These are measures contained in Bill C-74. However, we also have what I think is a very prudent measure. If they have actually accumulated $3 million, $4 million, or $5 million in what is called passive income, which is a little technical to describe, something they can save for retirement or set aside and invest in a separate business, which may not be connected to their own business, that is great. They can continue to do that, and we are not going to change the tax structure within their passive investments. However, at a certain point they will no longer benefit from the small-business tax rate of 12.9%, and we will move them up to the 24% tax rate. It is a fair measure.
Canadians expect fairness and progressivity in their tax system. Canadians expect us to do a thoughtful job. When others take a risk, they should be rewarded, but at the same time they should understand that when they have done very well and have been able to set aside some monies within passive investments, they are also going to move up to the corporate tax rate, which is very competitive globally. Even with the United States' adoption of its recent tax reform, our corporate tax rate is very competitive with the U.S. tax rate, and we need to point that out.
There are a lot of good measures contained in Bill C-74, and I am very proud of them. Another one I would like to talk about is the Canada workers benefit. This is something a lot of low-income working Canadians are going to benefit from. There are a couple of measures that I think are very good and long-lasting, and they will proceed beyond this Parliament and many others.
One is working with CRA and undertaking automatic enrolment. Automatic enrolment means that those in society who do not have the means or access that many of us here enjoy are automatically enrolled to receive these benefits. According to the estimates, just this measure alone is going to lift 70,000 people out of poverty and provide additional benefits. Someone making $15,000, a student or a retiree, can receive up to nearly $500 more with the new Canada workers benefit. It is something I am very proud of. My progressive roots cheer this on. It is something that all Canadians can be very proud of.
We realize that some people, especially indigenous people living in northern and remote communities, have often faced barriers when it comes to accessing essential government services and federal benefits such as the Canada child benefit. With Bill C-74, our government will take steps to ensure that anyone who is eligible for support receives it.
Through Bill C-74, the government proposes to expand outreach efforts to all indigenous communities on reserves and in northern and remote areas, and to conduct pilot outreach projects for urban indigenous communities so that indigenous peoples have better access to a full range of federal social benefits, including the Canada child benefit.
Now I would like to talk about the Canada worker's benefit. Canadians working hard to join the middle class deserve to have their hard work rewarded with greater opportunities for success. We know that these Canadians are working to build a better life for themselves and their families. Low-income Canadians are sometimes working two or three jobs so that they can give themselves and their children a better chance at success.
That is why the government is proposing a new benefit in budget 2018 and in Bill C-74: the Canada workers benefit. This benefit builds on the former working income tax benefit and would put more money into the pockets of low-income workers. It would encourage more people to join and remain in the workforce by letting them take home more money while they work.
Through Bill C-74, the government would increase the overall support provided for the 2019 and subsequent taxation years. In particular, the government proposes to increase maximum benefits under the CWB by up to $170 in 2019, and increase the income level at which the benefit is entirely phased out. As a result, low-income workers earning $15,000 could receive up to almost $500 more from the CWB in 2019 than they could receive this year under the current working income tax benefit. That is $500 to invest in the things that are important to them, and to make ends meet.
The government is also proposing changes to improve access to the Canada workers benefit to allow the Canada Revenue Agency to calculate the CWB for anyone who has not claimed it starting in 2019.
Again, having the CRA automatically register people who are eligible for these programs and others is a large step forward for our tax system.
One thing I would like to comment on is the framework we have introduced for the pricing of carbon. We have done this in a very thoughtful and prudent manner. It is a backstop, and 85% of Canadians are covered by a form of carbon pricing system. The provinces are permitted to do what they wish with the revenues.
However, I agree with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. It was very disappointing that the NDP government in B.C. would move away from a revenue-neutral price on carbon. I am very disappointed. It speaks to fiscal foolishness. We need to allow provinces to do what they wish, but we need the provinces to be transparent. Our carbon pricing system is transparent. The funds flow back to the provinces and the provinces then decide how to allocate those funds, but they should also be transparent about it.
We have an opportunity in this world that we are moving into. Many countries have already adopted this pricing system, and many industries in the private sector, which I am a big champion of, have looked at this. We have companies all over the world, such as Daimler in Germany, FCA, Ford, or any automotive company, looking at adopting electric vehicles, at technology on clean tech, and at renewable energy. We have the system going on. We have this shift going on. We need to be a part of it.
However, this is not, as my Conservative colleagues are saying, scaring away investment. It is not. We saw it in the first quarter GDP numbers. Business investment in Canada is rising. We see that every day, whether it is Samsung announcing its AI facility in downtown Toronto, or Montreal being the gaming sector of North America when it comes to enterprise arts. We see it in Vancouver, with the clustering that is going on, and in the Kitchener—Waterloo area. We see it with many auto parts suppliers in Ontario, and then there is Toyota's announcement. Foreign direct investment in Canada is creating jobs. It created jobs yesterday, it is creating jobs today, and it will create jobs in the future, because we are making those conditions very strong.
Finally, when we talk about Canada's fiscal position, we maintain a AAA credit rating, which we have had for so long. It has been affirmed recently. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is declining. I would argue that we have the best fiscal position of any G7 country on any fiscal measure, and that is something we need to be proud of. It is something our government is proud of.
Therefore, when I hear the banter from the other side, I would love to sit down and chat with them and show them a couple of measures on the economy. These measures that show how well we are doing include the 600,000 new jobs we have created, the 40-year low in the unemployment rate, the increase in wages that Canadians are seeing from coast to coast to coast, and the infrastructure we are building in this country.
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2018-04-30 13:06 [p.18896]
Madam Speaker, today I will address the oil tanker moratorium act, and in particular, its impacts on indigenous peoples and communities that support responsible resource development.
Bill C-48 is not really about the protection of coastlines or marine ecology. It is actually only a ban on Canadian oil development and exports, on the oil sands, and on pipelines. It is an attack on the hundreds of thousands of energy workers across the country, on one industry, and on one product.
Bill C-48 specifically and only prohibits the on- and off-loading of tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude and persistent oils at ports or marine installations along B.C.'s north coast. It does not target any other vessels of comparable capacity carrying any other product, or vessels of any size, which have similar volumes of fuel on board to operate. It does not even enforce the 100-kilometre voluntary exclusion zone, in the region since 1985.
It only applies to one coast, not to any other Canadian coasts or ports where tankers of all products and from all countries travel regularly. Its intent is clearly to permanently prevent vital energy infrastructure in the region, denying any potential for oil exports to the Asia-Pacific from there, which could expand market access for Canada and reduce Canada's near complete dependence on the United States as a customer for Canadian oil.
Diversifying Canada's exports is crucial now, as the U.S. ramps up production to secure its own domestic supply and rapidly escalates its own crude oil exports after removing the 40-year ban. It is estimated that the U.S. will supply 80% of the world's growing global demand for oil in the next five years, while the Liberals force Canada's oil to remain mostly landlocked.
Bill C-48 is also all about politics. It was a predetermined and foregone conclusion for partisan purposes entirely. The Prime Minister instructed its imposition in mandate letters to ministers only 24 days after the 2015 election. Despite all the Liberal rhetoric about consultation, science, and evidence-based, objective decision-making founding policy and legislation, that is not enough time to undertake comprehensive community or indigenous consultations. That is not enough time for thorough safety and environmental assessments, with an analysis of best practices, gaps, and opportunities for improvement; comparison, contrast, and benchmarking against other countries; or local, regional, provincial, and national economic impact assessments and the consideration of consequences. That is because the motivation was actually a political calculation to hold NDP, Green, and left-wing votes for the Liberals in B.C, which helped them win in 2015.
However, Bill C-48, while confined to one geographical area, will have profound negative impacts for all of Canada, on confidence in Canadian energy investment and development overall, and on Canada's ability to be a global leader and contributor in energy regulation, production, technology, service, supply, expertise, and exports to the world.
Reaching tidewater in all directions for Canada's oil and gas should be a top priority for the Liberals, but their track record so far has been to eliminate the only two opportunities for stand-alone pipelines to tidewater in recent history in Canada.
One was the energy east pipeline, which was abandoned after a billion dollars invested and years of review before it could even make it out of the regulatory mess the Liberals created because they changed the rules and added a last-minute, double standard condition for downstream emissions that does not apply to foreign oil or to any other infrastructure in any other sector.
The other was the northern gateway pipeline, which was initiated in 2002 and had actually been approved, with 209 conditions, under the previous Conservative government, in 2014. After a Supreme Court ruling that there was insufficient indigenous consultation by the crown, the Liberals could have ordered additional months and scope for expanded consultation, just as they did with the Trans Mountain expansion application, which started in 2013 and was under way when they announced a complete overhaul for major Canadian energy projects in 2016. However, that option was not offered for northern gateway. Instead, the Prime Minister outright vetoed it, even though it was reviewed under the exact same process, with the exact same evidence, as the other projects the Liberals announced were approved the same day, including Trans Mountain and the Line 3 replacement.
The Liberal government's decision to kill the northern gateway was a massive blow for expanded market access for Canadian oil. It was obviously a loss for energy producers in northern Alberta, for workers in the industrial heartland and Bruderheim, which is where the northern gateway would have started, inside the western boundary of Lakeland, as well as for workers who would have constructed and then maintained the pipeline through operations across Alberta and B.C. It was a loss for potential oil terminal, refinery, and deep water port workers near Kitimat, never mind of billions of dollars in investment and revenue for all levels of government.
However, there is another aspect of that veto of the northern gateway that is just as devastating. Thirty-one first nations and Métis communities were partners with mutual benefit agreements, worth more than $2 billion, in northern gateway, including skills and labour development opportunities.
In Lakeland and around Alberta, indigenous peoples are very active in oil and gas across the value chain: in upstream exploration and production; in service, supply, and technology contracting; and in pipeline operations. They support pipelines because that infrastructure is as crucial to the lifeblood of their communities, for jobs, education, and social benefits, as anywhere else.
Elmer Ghostkeeper of the Buffalo Lake Métis Settlement in Lakeland said, “Equity was offered to aboriginal communities, and with the change in government that was all taken away.... We are very disappointed.” Ghostkeeper pointed out that 71% of the communities along the proposed right of way looked forward to taking part in construction and in the long-term benefits. All that was destroyed by the Prime Minister. They were not consulted about it.
Bill C-48 would put a nail in the coffin of the $7.9-billion northern gateway pipeline and all its employment and economic and social benefits for indigenous and all Canadians, now and in the future.
However, it gets even worse. The $16-billion Eagle Spirit pipeline project could be one of the biggest private infrastructure investments in Canadian history, with meaningful revenue generation, business, employment, education, training, capacity-building opportunities, and long-term economic self-sufficiency for indigenous communities. From Bruderheim to Grassy Point, the Eagle Spirit pipeline project is supported by 35 indigenous communities, every single one along the corridor. Its proponents have been working for six years to secure that support, even from communities that opposed northern gateway, and to exceed regulatory requirements, including exceptional environmental protection, land and marine management, and spill prevention and response.
In 2015, community leaders said what the project meant to them. On behalf of elders, Jack White said, “We like the fact that the Eagle Spirit project put the environment first. Many of our elders are in need and we want our legacy to our children to offer something more that gives them opportunities.”
Youth representative Corey Wesley said, “There are no opportunities for young people in our community. We want a better way of life with real jobs and business prospects so we too can offer our future kids more hope.”
Deputy mayor of the Lax Kw'alaams band and matriarch Helen Johnson said, “Eagle Spirit has widespread support in our community because it shows a real way forward for our members.”
Eagle Spirit's Chiefs Council says the tanker ban is a government action that would “harm our communities and deny our leaders the opportunity to create hope and a brighter future for their members“, which all Canadians take for granted. The Premier of Northwest Territories said almost the exact same thing about the impact on the people he represents of the Liberals' five-year ban on northern offshore oil and gas drilling.
The Prime Minister often says that the relationship with Canada's indigenous people is the most important to him. He says he wants “an opportunity to deliver true, meaningful and lasting reconciliation between Canada and First Nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit peoples”. However, for the second time, on a pipeline to tidewater, he is actively denying opportunities for dozens of indigenous communities. They say he did not consult them before he ordered the tanker ban.
The Eagle Spirit Chiefs Council says that the tanker ban and the creation of the concept of the Great Bear Rainforest were “promoted largely through the lobbying of foreign-financed ENGOs”. The Eagle Spirit chairman says, “they know nothing about our area, they know nothing about our regions. And they're telling us what we've got to do because it's in their financial interest to do so.” It is “without the consultation and consent of First Nations,” which are “opposed to government policy being made by foreigners when it impacts their ability to help out their own people.”
He says, “We don't need trust fund babies coming into our community...creating parks in our backyard when our people are literally starving”, with 90% unemployment.
I suggest that actual reconciliation involves employment and business opportunities, social welfare, and benefits through economic prosperity, like what is offered by Eagle Spirit, which would ensure environmental protection and benefits for all of Canada.
Eagle Spirit's chairman says, “This is an important issue for Canadians. If you look at what's happening with the oil industry, Canadians are losing $50 million a day. It's about $40 a barrel over four years in margin to the refineries in the U.S. What other country in the world would give away the value of these resources like that? It makes no sense, and it's harming people in northern Alberta and northern B.C. and the chiefs are going to do something about it.”
He is echoed by B.C. MLA and former Haisla chief councillor Ellis Ross, who says, “The more sickening thing for me is that these people who oppose development in Canada truly believe they win when they defeat a project.... Actually, you don't win. It's just that the United States buys the Canadian product at a discount and sells it on the international market.”
The tanker ban is a deliberate and dangerous roadblock to Canadian oil exports. It is detrimental to the livelihoods of Canadians everywhere. It would put very real limits on Canada's future and standard of living, with disproportionately harmful outcomes for certain communities and regions. The Liberals should withdraw it.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-04-30 13:37 [p.18901]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be joining the debate on this, but I think the bill has the wrong name. It is called the “oil tanker moratorium act” when it should basically be called the “pipeline moratorium act”. That is really what it is all about. It is not about cancelling the ability of tankers to move through a certain region of northern British Columbia. In fact, they will be able to move 100 kilometres off the coast, as they have been doing all along. It has put the last and final nail into the northern gateway project, and every single other potential pipeline project that might go through northern British Columbia.
There are a few points I will raise to add to this debate, including a letter I have from Prasad Panda, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, who is also the member for the provincial riding of Calgary-Foothills. In it, he notes a couple of discrepancies. He notes that Bill C-48 is a flawed piece of legislation, mainly because it contradicts the government's own free trade agreement that it signed.
There are two points that he makes in the letter. He writes that in that free trade agreement, article 301 states, “A Province shall not adopt or maintain any measure that restricts or prevents the movement of goods across provincial or territorial boundaries.” This is what the B.C. NDP is doing to try to kill off Kinder Morgan by harassing it through legal and regulatory means to try to put an end to that project. They are trying to end that and the hundreds of thousands of jobs in the energy sector, both in my hometown of Calgary, which depends on it, and also across Edmonton and a whole bunch of smaller communities across Alberta and Saskatchewan.
With regard to my second point, he writes, “The Government of Canada shall not adopt or maintain any measure that unduly restricts or prevents the movement of goods across provincial or territorial boundaries.” I think we can make a fine argument here that restricting tanker traffic off a coast like the northern British Columbia coast is that type of restriction on the movement through a territory that the British Columbia government claims as its own. It has a certain amount of environmental regulations that it can or it seems to want to apply. It is interesting that it only wants to apply it in the north, not in the south, when 95% of all tanker traffic happens to be in the southern part of British Columbia.
This particular member of the legislative assembly, a fine gentleman, wrote quite a long letter to the chair of the committee that reviewed this piece of legislation. He also brought to the attention of that committee that this ban, this supposed oil tanker moratorium on pipelines, would be like “banning ships from moving through the Welland Canal or using the port at Trois-Rivières”. It would be like “denying rail and truck access to the Michelin Tire factory in Pictou County”, like “detouring all the traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway and driving it down 92 Avenue in Port Kells”, like “taking traffic on Highway 400 and running [it] all down Weston Road in Toronto”, and like “stopping OC Transpo service to Kanata or GO service to Streetsville.” It would be the same principle. It is not science based, not evidence based; it is the random cutting off of the transportation of goods, people, and natural resources for political purposes.
There is absolutely no reason for it. As far as I know, there have been no spills in British Columbia. Members may want to correct me on that, but I do not know of any spills that have happened off the coast of British Columbia that would make it necessary for us to pass this particular piece of legislation.
I also note that in this legislation, the government is giving itself an exemption under clause 6 that basically states,
for the purpose of community or industry resupply or is otherwise in the public interest.
Therefore, if for any reason whatsoever the government believes it should provide an exemption for the import and movement of tanker traffic, it has a complete exemption. There is no real reporting standard there. All it would have to do is make a publication requirement that states,
the Minister must make it accessible to the public on the Internet or by any other means that he or she considers appropriate
I wonder what the minister will think is appropriate when the government provides the exemption. We can imagine how hard the advocates for communities, companies, and tanker companies will push the minister to provide them with particular exemptions and how sought after those will be.
I like Yiddish proverbs, and I have one. It states, “Heaven and hell can both be had in this world.” They can also be had through government policy and legislation. The principle is to protect the environment. That is the window dressing that the Liberals have put on this anti-pipeline bill. However, what they are actually doing when they repeat “the environment, energy, and natural resources”, two sides of the same coin, is only focusing on one part of this. That is their single focus on this point. It is is supposedly the environment, when we know, because of the details of this bill, it will do no such thing. Tanker traffic will simply be moved further to the west. It is not achieving any goals that the government has set for itself. There is no similar ban on any oil tanker traffic anywhere along Canada's other coasts.
Do those environments matter less? Do the beaches in Prince Edward Island matter less than those in northern British Columbia? Do the coasts matter less in Quebec? Do the coasts matter less in Ontario? I do not think that is the case, but I do not see tanker bans being imposed. I do not see pipeline bans being imposed. That is what leads me to say that this particular piece of legislation is all about northern gateway. It is to kill it off, and that is what the government intends to do through this particular piece of legislation.
The tankers that go through the southern part of British Columbia right now are in the 80,000 to 120,000 dead weight tonnage. If this were truly about tanker traffic, and there were worries about how many of these tankers are moving through a particular geographic region, then the regulatory process would be simplified to ensure the maximum size tankers could actually come through different channels as safely as possible.
If the government wanted to do it that way, it would ensure that ultra-large crude carriers, ULCCs, were able to navigate certain regions, doing so safely, with the necessary tugboats to pull them out in case they have security problems. It would not impose a random ban on geographic areas, pushing tankers further out into the ocean. That does not achieve any environmental goal I could easily name. It would also kill off economic jobs that northern gateway and other pipeline projects could provide in the future.
What it actually would do is sterilize an entire region of northern British Columbia from any type of development in the future. It would basically ensure that no company would ever propose a new pipeline project running through any of those communities, regardless of how many indigenous communities support it, regardless of how many of them are onside.
As the member for Lakeland has said, there are many indigenous communities that would depend on these energy and natural resource jobs of the future. Over 500 communities all across Canada depend either on energy or natural resources jobs.
When oil, natural gas, coal, or any type of mineral is extracted, it has to be moved to a market. It does no good to sit on a large pile here at home. It has to be moved to the buyer. That is done through a port, through the rail system, and through tankers. Those are the requirements of ensuring that the economy is looked after, and that is what the government is failing to do with Bill C-48.
This bill would kill off any future pipeline projects. It sends another chilling signal to the business community in Canada that we are not open for business. We have had the largest flight of capital from the natural resources sector over the past two and a half years. We are at the lowest level since 2010, and it just continues.
Energy east was killed off by the government. Northern gateway was killed off by the government. The government neglected Pacific Northwest LNG. It has neglected Alberta's energy sector. It has done everything possible to ensure that every single new piece of red tape would strangle the industry, and it has done a great job at it. This is one thing the government has been quite exceptional at, strangling the industry and putting tens of thousands of Alberta energy workers out of work permanently, with no reasonable expectation to return to work in the field of their speciality, in the field where they have spent years obtaining their education and working professionally.
Back home in Alberta, we have spent a generation trying to convince people to move to Alberta in the first place. British Columbia is beautiful, but we just wanted people to stop in Alberta and have a professional career with us. We spent a generation convincing people to move there, but we also spent a generation convincing young Albertans, men and women, that it was worth getting into the energy sector because there would be jobs well into the future and they could work anywhere internationally. They are not going to have that.
Bill C-48 is a nail in the coffin of every single future pipeline project. Every company that is even thinking about running a pipeline through northern British Columbia, or anywhere in fact, will think twice. All of their money could be lost, or there could be a random moratorium, a ban, or a cancellation of their project.
I cannot support this bill. It is another chilling signal to the business community and to energy workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia that the government is not on their side.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to the budget implementation act, 2016, No. 2.
For people who might be watching or listening, a brief summary of the process may be helpful in terms of why we are here and what we are debating.
In the spring, the Liberals presented their first budget. The actual implementation comes in two phases. There was Bill C-15, the Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1, which of course was passed last spring. Now we are implementing the next phase of the budget. It is known as the budget implementation act, 2016, No. 2. These are the technical measures to move the budget into law.
The Liberals always used to talk about the Conservatives and the omnibus nature of our legislation. I am not going to call this omnibus, although we can see that it has many different features. It is necessary, sometimes, to move a budget into law that impacts lots of different pieces of legislation. The Liberals called it omnibus. I just call it good governance and how a budget is actually put into action.
Part 1 is a number of income tax measures. Part 2 focuses on the goods and services tax, the harmonized sales tax, and some commitments made there. Part 3 focuses on the excise tax. Part 4 has a number of different pieces, including the Employment Insurance Act, the Old Age Security Act, the Canada Education Savings Act, the Canada Disability Savings Act, the Financial Consumer Protection Framework, the Royal Canadian Mint Act, and funds management, etcetera. What we can see is a broad piece of legislation impacting many acts of Parliament. It is not called omnibus. It really is just a government doing its business.
Before I talk about my concerns about this particular budget and the budget implementation bill, not all is bad. There are perhaps one or two features that I actually think are reasonable.
We all know of lower-income senior citizen couples who are perhaps separated. Perhaps one needs additional care and has to go into a home. Their benefits are still calculated as a couple. I think it is reasonable to say that if a couple is separated and someone has to go into a home, they now have double the living expenses, so the calculation of the GIS and OAS will not be impacted.
I want to note that there are one or two pieces that I think are reasonable.
More importantly, I think the budget is a disaster for Canada and overall is totally unsupportable.
I remember very fondly when I had the privilege of serving on the finance committee when Canada entered the global recession. The late hon. Jim Flaherty was our finance minister. He was also named the best finance minister in Canada.
It was a global crisis at the time. It was a catastrophe. We were very concerned. Leaders around the world had many sleepless nights because of the global recession. I can remember that the hon. Jim Flaherty came up with a plan. He articulated that plan to Canadians. He said what he was going to do over a number of years. Not only did he articulate the plan, he executed the plan, and he executed the plan in almost exactly the way he said he would when he first announced that we were going to have to take extraordinary measures to deal with the global recession.
It is important to say that it was a plan. It was articulated to Canadians, it was executed, and the results speak for themselves.
Up to about 2008-09, things were moving along very well. About $30 million or $40 million was paid back on the debt, then we were struck by the global recession.
The plan at the time was a number of years of deficit spending. The reason I am going over this is to contrast the current plan of the Liberals with the plan we had back then. It was deficit spending to deal with an extraordinary situation, but it was declining deficit spending, starting at approximately $55 billion, and over five years getting back to surplus. That was the plan. It was seen as short term. We needed an infusion to get the wheels going when the systems were failing around us.
Canada can be incredibly proud of having the stimulus. I would say to the Liberals that it was truly infrastructure stimulus. It got out the door fast. It was something that actually gave a jolt to the economy. We did not make mistakes and create deficits because of calculation errors.
Jim Flaherty also knew that once we opened the taps of government spending, it becomes incredibly difficult to turn those taps off. Any of us who lived through the 1990s, when we were in an absolutely horrendous position, realize that turning off those taps is very painful. It was very painful for the provinces. They saw health care transfers come down. There was a lot of pain and effort to get our finances back into a reasonable condition. That was a lesson we recognized.
The late hon. Jim Flaherty would have been incredibly proud to know that he achieved his plan. He did not live long enough to see the results. There are some lessons the Liberal government needs to take from that exercise.
It is also important to note that for 2015-16, the parliamentary budget officer recently confirmed that had it not been for the Liberal spending spree once it took office in October and November, we would have had a $2.9 billion surplus.
Different times require different remedies. Canada came through the global recession. None of our banks failed. We had a short-term stimulus for the economy, we had the best job creation record in the G7, and we moved into a bit of a steady state.
Yes, we have slow growth, but we are not in a recession. That is critical to remember. Slow growth is not a recession, and a different remedy is required economically. The Liberals seem to feel that it needs the kind of jolt we had during the global recession. We need a different remedy to deal with the slow-growth situation we are in, as opposed to the catastrophe we faced with the global recession.
I want to talk about how the Liberals believe they need to craft a budget. In the last year we heard that the budget would balance itself and the economy would grow from the heart out. Nothing could be further from the truth. The budget will not balance itself, and the economy is not going to grow from the heart out. It takes a lot of work and a lot of specific policies to ensure that the government does its part in creating an environment for the economy to grow, and balancing a budget requires some spending discipline. That is something we have not been seeing.
I talked about how we had a plan and that it was not a structural deficit but stimulus spending. It was roads and bridges and different investments that created short-term jobs.
What we are creating with the policies of this new government is a structural deficit that is growing and growing and is going to be more concerning as time goes on.
First, on the middle-class tax cut the Liberals so proudly talk about, they miscalculated by a couple of billion dollars. It was going to be revenue neutral. What the rich pay, the middle-class was going to benefit from, but they missed by a billion or two in the structural deficit.
It was a difficult decision to move the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67. Canadians are living longer, and that is what a lot of other countries are doing. A number of countries in the world have moved the eligibility age for old age security from 65 to 67, because times are different. People are living a lot longer. This was something that would create a sustainable structure for old age security. The Liberals have obliterated that. It is now back to age 65. They have not taken into account the huge structural deficit that will be created with that.
The Liberals talk very proudly about their child care benefit. However, they did not index it. They have learned from the parliamentary budget officer that in a few years it will not be as good as the program we had in place. Therefore, they are indexing it through this budget implementation act. However, the cost of indexing it is $4.2 billion over five years. We have not heard what they are doing to create that revenue, so that will also become part of this structural deficit.
During the election, the Liberals claimed they had to run a small deficit of $10 billion because we had a sluggish economy. It was $30 billion, give or take, when they presented the budget. We will see what the minister has to say next week about this whole economic forecast. I hope I can be optimistic, but I am worried about that $30 billion deficit increasing. What we have is a deficit that continues to grow. There is no plan to create a fiscal anchor to bring it back to balance. They speak of the debt-to-GDP ratio, but have no anchor. Rather, they have a horrific spending problem.
At the same time, the middle class appears to be the touchstone word that we hear from the Liberals. To be frank, instead of growing the middle class, the Liberals are breaking it. They are creating an environment that is very difficult for businesses to thrive in.
Another broken promise is with respect to small business, which is the foundation of our economy. It is critical for employment and the revenues that come into government. The Liberals made a promise, reversed it, and now the small business tax has gone up.
During the election, every party committed to a low small business tax, because we recognized that what the government did not take in, the businesses would put into growing their business and increasing their payroll. Therefore, we felt that supporting small business with low taxes would be fundamentally important for the economy. The Liberals backtracked on that promise.
The next thing the Liberals did to small business owners was cook up a deal with respect to the Canada pension plan. Not only has small business had its tax raised, but it will cost an additional $2,000 a year for every employee: $1,000 paid by the employer and $1,000 by the employee. That might not sound like a lot, but for a new business with 20 employees that is struggling to make payroll, $20,000 can make a huge difference as to what it does and how it deals with its business. A number of these measures are creating some significant issues for the middle class.
I need to make a quick comment with respect to rural communities. Again, rural communities are incredibly important. We do not have a softwood lumber agreement signed. We are concerned about these good-paying, middle-class jobs, which keep the fabric of our rural communities alive. It will be an especially important issue for British Columbia. There does not seem to be any concern at all for rural communities.
Today, our colleague who represents Vegreville, which is a small community of 1,000 people, made reference to the fact that 200 immigration jobs would be moved to Edmonton. That will potentially destroy that community. It will have a huge impact.
The minister justified that by suggesting there were economies of scale. It does not take much to recognize that the commercial rates in Edmonton are going to be a whole lot different from the commercial rates in a small town. I really doubt that the business model is going to have that much impact. In the meanwhile, what they are doing is destroying a small town, and those who choose to move to Edmonton, all of a sudden, are going to face huge challenges because housing prices are extremely different.
We have talked about the middle class. I really do not think the middle class is benefiting from this particular budget. We certainly know that our small businesses are not benefiting from the budget. We certainly know the additional complications that are being created around environmental assessment processes, which are really causing pause. I heard from an investor from Korea who was looking at making significant investments in our country, but who is now backing away. He was saying there's now no certainty, that they do not know what the environmental assessment process will look like and how the carbon tax will fit in. People are looking at Canada and saying that maybe their money would be better spent in another place.
What the government does not realize is that money is mobile and for people to invest in Canada, they need to have confidence in Canada, but the changing landscape with government processes is really creating some challenges. They need to have certainty. They need to know what the process is. They need to know how long the process is.
Yesterday, we had a pretty powerful discussion about the indigenous child welfare system. The fact was brought up that during the first 100 days in office, the Prime Minister committed to spending billions of dollars in other countries. I am not sure those billions are really creating a positive impact in Canada. I do agree that we need to do our part to help address some of the challenges facing other countries. However, when we have in Canada some aboriginal communities facing underfunding of their child welfare services, that is a problem.
In conclusion, the government has time to take pause. It is not too late. But please, before you create this structural deficit, those the government says it is helping, the children, are the ones who are going to have to pay it back.
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