Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Omar Alghabra Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Omar Alghabra Profile
2019-06-19 17:09 [p.29415]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on the new NAFTA. Before I start, I would like to point out that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
Let me take the time to highlight, first and foremost, our government's record on international trade. Consecutive governments have talked about trade diversification and trade expansion, but most governments have failed. I acknowledge that the previous government, under Mr. Harper, had started some negotiations, but unfortunately, it was not able to close the deals. When it came to the free trade agreement CETA, while the Conservatives started the negotiations, they could not close the deal. When it came to the CPTPP, the Conservatives negotiated the previous agreement known as TPP, but it failed. It took our government's leadership and our Prime Minister's leadership to renegotiate it to include progressive, inclusive elements and revive it, improve it and ratify it.
Canada is a trading nation. One out of six Canadian jobs is related to trade. Our government has recognized the value of trade. However, we also know that it is really important to make sure that when we sign trade agreements, they are inclusive. We keep in mind our middle class, we keep in mind small and medium-size enterprises and we keep in mind gender equality. Those issues are not virtue signalling. Those issues are economic issues. Those issues benefit all Canadians. They help lift many people out of poverty and invite them into our labour force to ensure that everyone is benefiting from those free trade agreements.
I want to talk about how we were able to close the deal on CETA, sign it and ratify it here in the House of Commons. We were able to renegotiate and improve the previous agreement known as the TPP, the CPTPP, sign it and ratify it here in the House of Commons. In fact, we were one of the first countries to ratify the CPTPP. We were also able to renegotiate NAFTA, and now we are in the midst of the ratification process.
If we add all that up, that is 1.5 billion new customers for Canadian businesses and Canadian workers. Today Canada is the only member of the G7 that has a free trade agreement with all other G7 nations. These are not just any free trade agreements. They are fair, inclusive trade agreements that keep in mind the interests of all Canadians, particularly our middle class.
I also want to highlight our investment in expanding trade. Our government has put the largest investment into trade infrastructure and trade support systems in Canada's history. We have invested over $1.2 billion in expanding our trade corridors, including ports, roads and rail. We have invested in the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, which is our best asset. It is our Canadian businesses' and Canadian workers' best asset. It is Canada's global sales force. It is present in 160 countries around the world, promoting Canadian businesses and promoting Canadian interests, and we are proud to invest in it and to expand its presence around the world.
We are creating programs that support small and medium-sized businesses that are looking to expand and trade, because we know that small and medium-sized enterprises that trade pay better, are more resilient and are more profitable. It is in our best interest, if we want to continue to create more jobs, that we support small and medium-sized enterprises that export. Today only 14% of our SMEs trade, and we want to increase that number.
We have created programs such as CanExport that help small and medium-sized enterprises that are thinking about trade but are worried about the upfront costs. We are providing support to those SMEs all across our great country so that they are able to take advantage of those new markets that are available to them.
It does not end there. In 2018, foreign direct investment in Canada grew by 60%. Why? Canada is receiving an unprecedented level of foreign investment, because the rest of the world is noticing that Canada has access to an incredible array of markets. The U.S. market does not have the same access to foreign markets as Canada does.
International businesses are noticing. International investors are noticing. That is why we have seen a 60% increase in foreign trade investment. Direct investment from countries other than the U.S. has increased by 300%. Those investments bring jobs to our middle class. Those investments bring wealth to our businesses. This is good news for our country and good news for Canadians.
Let me take a moment to talk about NAFTA.
We had to renegotiate NAFTA when the current President of the United States campaigned on tearing up NAFTA. He told U.S. citizens that NAFTA needed to be torn up.
We started the negotiations with the new administration in good faith. We wanted to keep an open mind. NAFTA was over 20 years old, and it needed an overhaul. It was a tough negotiation process.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge how Canadians of all political stripes and Canadian businesses rallied around our government as we were in the midst of a tough negotiation with our partners.
However, many on the Conservative benches, and other Conservative voices, were asking us to capitulate. The Conservative Party loves to brag about Stephen Harper's record. Here is a direct quote from a memo written by Mr. Harper in 2017. He wrote, “it does not matter whether current American proposals are worse than what we have now.” He wanted us to capitulate, and he was encouraging people to put pressure on the Canadian government to capitulate.
My colleagues on the Conservative benches were asking questions in question period, and this is on the record. They were demanding that our government capitulate to U.S. demands. I am glad, and I am proud, that our Prime Minister, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, and our team did not capitulate. We stood firm for Canadian values. We stood firm for what made sense for Canadian businesses. We ended up with a great deal.
We did face a challenge with steel and aluminum tariffs, unjust and illegal steel and aluminum tariffs, but we hung in. We pushed and we advocated. At the time, my colleagues on the Conservative benches again asked us to drop our tariffs. They called them “dumb”. Our retaliatory tariffs worked, and we were able to negotiate the elimination of those tariffs with our partner, the United States.
My friends say that we were virtue-signalling. I would like to know from them what part of this new NAFTA is virtue-signalling. Is the new labour chapter virtue-signalling? Is the new chapter on the environment virtue-signalling? Is the new chapter on gender equity virtue-signalling? These inclusive chapters will benefit all Canadians and will raise their wages. They will make sure that we have more productive jobs for the middle class.
I am disappointed in the Conservatives. I am relieved that they will be voting for this agreement. It does not make sense to me, but still I am relieved that they will be voting for it. I ask them to join us and agree that those provisions and this deal are good for Canadians and good for middle-class Canadians.
View Dan Ruimy Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Dan Ruimy Profile
2019-06-14 12:34 [p.29137]
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today to the message from the Senate regarding Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. Once enacted, this bill will repeal the changes that the former Conservative government implemented when it gutted the Fisheries Act in 2012, and restore lost protections.
I would like to thank the Senate for its work on this bill, as well as the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, who is continuing the great work of the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs, who first introduced this bill when he was at Fisheries. Of course, we hope for his quick recovery.
I will be splitting my time with the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap.
Since I was elected, I heard this message loud and clear. As a new MP, the challenge to find sustainable solutions was daunting. After much consultation, I zeroed in on what I felt should be the starting point, the Fisheries Act, which, as I had been told by the people I work with, had been gutted over the years so that fish and fish habitat no longer had the strong protections that were once there.
For two and a half years, I worked with groups such as the Alouette River Management Society, the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society, the Katzie and Kwantlen first nations, streamkeepers, the cities of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, as well as people like Julie Porter, Ken Stewart, Jack Emberly, Greta, Cheryl, Lina, Sophie, Ross, Doug, and the list goes on.
These are not political or partisan people; they are folks who care deeply about their community. They all helped me to better understand the importance of these changes, and I thank them very much. Together, over the course of two years, we identified and discussed key pieces of legislation in the Fisheries Act that could be improved. I submitted my report to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, with recommendations on how we can further strengthen the Fisheries Act and restore some of the lost protections, and here we are today.
I would like to speak to the specific changes we are seeking through the motion. We will be accepting a majority of the amendments made by the Senate, including many that were moved by the government through Senator Harder, and we will be respectfully rejecting just three amendments.
The first amendment we are rejecting is an amendment that was made to the definition of fish habitat by Senator Poirier. In her amendment, the senator reduced the scope for the application of fish and fish habitat provisions by deleting “water frequented by fish” from the definition of fish habitat. By narrowing the scope of fish habitat, this amendment goes against the very objective of this bill to provide increased protections.
We are also amending an amendment by Senator Christmas so that the language used in relation to section 35 and aboriginal treaty rights is consistent with the rest of the bill. On this amendment, the minister has received support from Senator Christmas.
The other amendments we will be rejecting were made by Senator Wells, regarding habitat banking and collecting fees in lieu of offsets. These amendments were initially proposed by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, which has since written a letter to support the removal of the amendments, as significant consultations are required and it would be premature at this time to include the amendments.
This motion takes full consideration of the amendments made by the Senate, and I hope all members can join us in passing the bill.
Bill C-68 has many important components that Canadians across the country support. I would like to speak about the fish stocks provisions proposed in Bill C-68, which are aimed at strengthening Canada's fisheries management framework and rebuilding depleted stocks.
The fish stocks provisions would introduce legally binding commitments to implement measures to, first, manage our major fish stocks at or above levels necessary to promote their sustainability and, second, to develop and implement a rebuilding plan for a major fish stock if it becomes depleted. Maintaining stocks at healthy levels and rebuilding depleted stocks are essential to the long-term economic viability of our fishing communities and the health of our oceans.
That is why, in the fall economic statement, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $107.4 million over five years, starting this fiscal year, as well as $17.6 million per year ongoing to support the implementation of the fish stocks provisions.
This new funding will help accelerate the implementation of the fish stocks provisions for the major fish stocks in Canada. As many members are aware, a number of important fish stocks in Canadian waters have shown significant declines over the past couple of decades and some more recently. This new investment will enable the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to implement these strong legislative tools for all key stocks.
As robust science is the bedrock of our fishery management system, the largest share of the investment will go to science activities. We will make targeted investments to increase the number of at-sea science surveys, so we can better and more frequently assess the state of our fish stocks across a broad range of major fish stocks and marine areas.
As well, we will hire additional fisheries scientists to carry out these new survey activities, analyze the data from these at-sea surveys and prepare science advice for our fisheries managers through our world-class peer review process. As a result, we will be more effective at detecting changes in the health of fish stocks and provide more robust science advice to manage these stocks to achieve sustainability goals. We will also be able to develop a better understanding of the threats facing our depleted fish stocks, which will allow us to take a targeted approach in our rebuilding efforts.
This funding will enable external groups, including indigenous groups, academics, industry and non-government organizations, to participate in fisheries data collection and the scientific assessment of Canada's major fish stocks. Additional support will be provided to establish and enhance existing partnerships and help develop scientific and technical capacity within these external groups.
With this funding we will also make investments to increase the capacity in fisheries management to develop precautionary approach management measures and rebuilding plans to meet the fish stocks provisions in collaboration with indigenous groups and stakeholders. It will also enhance our capacity to carry out socio-economic analyses to better understand the potential impacts of proposed management measures and the costs and benefits of different management options that are aimed at rebuilding fish stocks.
Over the next five years, the government has committed to making the majority of the 181 major fish stocks subject to the fish stocks provisions. Canadians have told us that sustainable fisheries are a priority, and we agree. This investment is essential in order to prescribe the major stocks as quickly as possible to the protections offered by the fish stock provisions.
We are also developing a regulation to set out the required contents of rebuilding plans so that all the plans are comprehensive and consistent. Under the proposed regulation, a rebuilding plan must be developed and implemented within two years of the stock becoming depleted.
Our government believes it is our collective responsibility to exercise our stewardship of Canada's fisheries and their habitat in a practical, reasonable and sustainable manner. The proposed fish stocks provisions and other measures in the amended Fisheries Act restore protections for fish and fish habitat, and introduce modern safeguards while facilitating sustainable economic growth, job creation and resource development.
With these stronger legislative tools to help keep our fish stocks healthy, and the funding to support their implementation, Canada's seafood sector, which employs over 76,000 people and contributed a landed value of $3.4 billion in 2017, will have a brighter future.
It is no doubt that this bill will implement changes that Canadians have long been waiting for. These amendments will restore lost protections and ensure that our fisheries are sustainable for future generations. The Senate made a number of amendments, and while we cannot support all of them, I believe we have put forth a reasonable motion that I hope all members can support.
View Dean Allison Profile
View Dean Allison Profile
2019-06-11 11:44 [p.28892]
Madam Speaker, as has been mentioned before by my colleague from the NDP, I would caution the government to move prudently on this. We have already seen the Democrats not wanting to give Mr. Trump any kind of victory. Therefore, we have not seen a lot of co-operation from the U.S. If we get too far ahead of ourselves regarding ratification, that could be an issue. Therefore, I would echo the comments of my colleague from the NDP that as a result of the uncertainty we see in the U.S., we need to be cautious as we move forward with ratification.
The government's legislation aims to implement the Canada-United States agreement. The government is calling it by its acronym CUSMA. The bill would reaffirm key NAFTA provisions, but it would also introduce new conditions on Canadian trade and economic strategy.
Mexico and especially the United States are Canada's natural trading partners. A framework agreement that governs trade and other commercial issues between all three countries is essential.
I would like to state from the beginning that the Conservatives will support the speedy ratification of CUSMA's implementing legislation. However, having said that, it is also important to say that the deal and how it came to be is not without significant flaws.
In the beginning of negotiations, the Prime Minister pushed an agenda, including issues that were not on the radar of the Americans whatsoever. This nearly derailed the whole deal. It was very similar to what the Prime Minister did just months before negotiations of the trans-Pacific partnership with his erratic behaviour. The government pushed non-trade-related matters, which seemed to irritate the Americans, instead of seeking to find common ground on priorities and mutual interests.
As a result of taking that type of tactic to negotiations, the Americans negotiated most of the steel provisions with the Mexicans and then brought Canada in at the eleventh hour to deal with some of the remaining issues that had not been dealt with. We had an opportunity to be at the table with our most important and significant trading partner, but we were talking about issues the Americans did not want to talk about. As a result, they decided that since we did not want to talk about trade and NAFTA, they would talk to Mexico. We should think about the implications of that. We were not even at the table at the time the agreement came into effect. That speaks volumes to how the government handled this process.
As I said before, of course the Conservatives are going to support the bill. We reached out to stakeholders. I had a chance, like some of my colleagues, to talk to stakeholders across the country. They said that they needed certainty, that they needed a deal. There was no question about that. However, the concern is that the Liberal government talks about what a great deal it is, but that is definitely not the case as we move forward. What stakeholders and people have told us is that a deal is better than no deal. That is why Conservatives will be supporting the bill.
The government did not fight for our own interests. Let us think about that. It talked about the interests that were important to the Liberal Party and its political brand. The Liberals were focused on non-trade issues instead of worrying about the national interests of Canadians.
Let us consider auto manufacturing, agriculture and lumber. After four years, we still do not have a softwood lumber deal. I do not even know if the conversation has been brought up. Despite our many interests, which include auto manufacturing, agriculture, lumber and prescription drugs, the Prime Minister represents his own political interests. That should be very concerning for Canadians.
In addition, during the negotiations, the Americans decided to impose devastating steel and aluminum tariffs for close to a year. This was after months of them asking the Liberals to fix the loopholes that allowed steel dumping into the United States via Canada.
Now we have a bill before us that does not put safeguards in place. The Americans asked us to do this four years ago, but because the Liberals decided it was not important, we ended up with steel and aluminum tariffs. For years our manufacturing sector was under a bunch of uncertainty. We saw our jobs move to the states and a number of other things. Only now are the Liberals reacting. It it almost as though they created the crisis so they could point out they fixed it. That is what Canadians should really understand.
Canadian businesses and producers are still reeling after this very difficult period. The imposition of these very avoidable tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum have served to erode our competitiveness and have impacted thousands across the supply chain. The Liberals announced a $2-billion assistance package for the steel and aluminum sector, but almost none of this money has gone to the workers.
I talked to a number of businesses the other day. They said that before steel and aluminum tariffs were lifted, there was a big push from the government to get their applications in and it wanted to work with them. Then, all of a sudden, there was radio silence.
Are all those companies left holding the bag with respect to not having money and not having access or is the government going to follow through? It is easy to announce and reannounce programs. It is more difficult to ensure the money gets out the door. This is a huge issue. The reality is that these tariffs were avoidable. There was no reason for those steel and aluminum tariffs and the pain that our manufacturing sector has had to endure over the last couple of years.
Once again, the Liberals talk about all the money that has been collected, which I believe almost $2 billion. My point is that very few businesses have received any money. We studied this at committee for quite some time. Company after company said that the application process was difficult and that was hard to figure out how to make this thing work. They also said that they were not getting money. Once again, the announcement talked about the money, but the proof was whether the companies had the kind of help they required, and that was not the case.
This was all avoidable if the government had acted when the Americans asked it to close the loophole that allowed cheap and dumped steel to flood the American market, using Canada as a transit country.
The Liberals have lurched from crisis to crisis on trade and tariffs. They have been constantly out of step with Canadian workers and manufacturers. The government's negotiations of CUSMA also delivered no progress on buy American provisions with respect to government procurement.
Another issue we have not talked about is buy American. It is concerning for our Canadian manufacturers. Are they going to have the ability to access some of those things? It is a major blow to Canadian businesses and jobs across the country.
The Liberals also made concessions on the Canadian supply-managed agriculture sector, which the foreign affairs minister deemed to be key to our national interests. The Americans did not budge when it came to their use of agriculture subsidies. As a matter of fact, we have seen the subsidies grow over the last number of months.
The government and the Prime Minister also made key concessions on intellectual property, which will see provinces burdened with higher costs for biological drugs.
The government also restricted future trade deals, with unparalleled provisions granting Americans an indirect veto over Canadian trade partners. Think about this for one second. This is an issue of sovereignty. While the U.S. negotiates trade deals with China, basically it has told us that we need to get its permission if we want to move forward on any deal with China. This is huge. This was not discussed a whole lot in the general public, but has long-term consequences for our ability to do our job as Canadians and get our products to market.
I will give credit where credit is due. One of the major achievements was to preserve chapter 19, the dispute resolution provisions. The minister mentioned that. It is fair to say that it was a concern if we did not have an independent third party to look at some of our challenges. Therefore, I will give credit to the Liberals on that one, but that will probably be it right now. However, that was definitely important.
A trade deal is judged by what one has gained from the negotiations. In this deal, compared to previous versions, Canada lost a number of key sectors and gained absolutely nothing. However, the Liberals go on tour around the country like they are some kind of heroes and it makes no sense. They have lost ground from previous governments. We do not talk about it as a save, but it could have been a lot worse. However, to travel around the country and say somehow this is an amazing deal for Canadians is just not true.
It has been very clear from the beginning that the Liberal government was unprepared to renegotiate the NAFTA deal. When the negotiations started, the Liberals kept stumbling and in the end, they were forced to take a deal where they lost on many fronts.
As I mentioned earlier, we will support the bill because it is essential to provide our businesses and producers with certainty. We have heard that on the ground. They have also suffered enough under the government. The Liberals have mismanaged the economy and trade. They have created a lot of uncertainty as we move forward.
Another thing we need to point out is that last year the U.S. grew its economy by 3.2%. That was after a government shutdown for the first quarter. In 2018, when the government was shut down for a large part of the first quarter in which it only had 2% growth, it still was able to notch up growth of over 3.2%.
We need to compare our record with that. In the last quarter of 2018, we saw growth at 0.3%. This quarter it was 0.4%, which is not quite a third of that of the U.S. The U.S. economy is on fire right now and the best we can muster is a growth of 0.4%, with all the money we are spending and all the deficits we are creating. The comparative is important to understand.
In order to compete with the United States and Mexico, our business environment needs to be more competitive or else we are setting up our businesses to fail in the face of strong competition from our counterparts to the south.
How is Canada doing with respect to competitiveness? The government has managed to make things worse on this front as well.
Let us start with the most important mistake first, and that is the carbon tax. First, let us just get this out of the way in the beginning. The carbon tax is not an environmental plan; it is a tax plan. It will do nothing for the environment. The Liberals are fully aware of this and Canadians know it as well.
The Liberal carbon tax is not a plan to lower emissions. It is just another cash grab, which is hurting already overtaxed Canadians. Small businesses and their employers are already being overtaxed. The Liberals have increased CPP and EI premiums. They have increased personal income tax rates for entrepreneurs. They have made changes to the small business tax rate that will disqualify thousands of local businesses.
Dan Kelly, president of Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said:
Many small businesses want to take action on climate change, but the carbon tax is putting them further behind. In fact, 71 per cent have told us that the carbon tax makes it harder for them to make further investments to reduce their emissions.
Seventy-one per cent of small businesses have said that the carbon tax makes it harder for them to make further investments to reduce their emissions. What more proof does the government need, when the ill-advised carbon tax makes no impact on the environment and makes our businesses uncompetitive.
Last Friday, the Canadian Press reported that the average carbon tax rebate Canadians received in 2018 was significantly lower than the amount the Liberals had claimed they would receive. When announcing the carbon tax rebate program, the Liberals established the average payment would be $248 in New Brunswick, $307 in Ontario, $336 in Manitoba, and $598 in Saskatchewan. However, the actual average rebates have been much lower: $171 in New Brunswick, $203 in Ontario, $231 in Manitoba and $422 in Saskatchewan.
Like the Prime Minister himself, these carbon tax rebates are simply not as advertised. The Liberals continue to cover up the true costs of the carbon tax. They still have not told Canadians how much more it will cost them for everyday essentials, like groceries, gasoline and home heating.
With less money being returned to Canadians, they will have even less money in their pockets, thanks to the Prime Minister and his Liberal carbon tax. The Liberal carbon tax will go up, if he is re-elected in October. Environment Canada is already planning for $300 per tonne, which is 15 times more expensive than it is today.
Make no mistake, a Conservative government will scrap the carbon tax, leave more money in the pockets of Canadians, let them get ahead and allow our businesses to stay competitive.
How else is the government making Canada's business environment uncompetitive? It is a good question, because Canada recently fell to the lowest spot ever in competitiveness. Canada has fallen out of the top 10 in a ranking of the world's most competitive economies. We are now 13th. Let us think about that. In an age where we are competing with one of the largest and most successful economies in the world, the U.S., which is ranked at number three, not only are we not in the top 10 anymore, we have dropped to 13th.
Competitiveness drives our economy. It helps us to compete when we have deals and when we try to move our goods and services across the border. This will only continue to make it tougher for Canadians to succeed financially in the coming years.
As I mentioned, the United States is number three. We are trying to compete with the world's biggest economy and it is tough when we see it use tax reform and regulation reform. What we a doing is making it more difficult for Canada to compete as a country.
If we look at the other things that are going on right now, and some of the things we talk about when it comes to competitiveness, there is the whole issue of pipelines. We have tanker moratoriums and things like that.
Let us think about that. In a day and age when the U.S. is building more pipelines, we have bills like Bill C-69. I noticed in the paper this morning that six premiers have come together to say that if something is not done, this is going to create a potential national unity crisis. In terms of the investment that we have chased from this country, it is almost $100 billion in energy investment.
Let us look at the things we are doing. We have a country south of the border that is looking for ways to reduce regulation and red tape. We have a government here that is barely chugging along in terms of its GDP. As I said, it is 0.3% in the last quarter and 0.4% in this quarter. That is without the new rules in this legislation that is before the House right now.
If we look at bills like Bill C-69, which is to increase the regulatory reform when it comes to pipelines, and Bill C-48, where we are trying to get our goods to market around the world, this is one more thing that makes us uncompetitive as we move forward. One of the things we need to be on guard against is that as the U.S. and countries around the world are reducing and streamlining regulation, we are making these things more difficult.
We need to look at what we are doing as a country. Trade deals are important. The U.S. is extremely important as a partner. As I said before, stakeholders have told us that it is more important to have a bad deal in place, for certainty, than it is to have no deal at all. Therefore, as we move forward on these issues, one of the things we need to be talking about is not just the trade deals we have right now, but how we are going to become more competitive in the future.
Looking at the kind of money we are spending on deficits, the current government has racked up almost $80 billion in deficit spending, and yet we have very little to show for it when we start talking about GDP growth and some of these things. There was the tax on small businesses that we experienced two or three summers ago. How are these things helpful in terms of making us more competitive?
As I look at what is going on around the world, I believe we are heading in the wrong direction. I believe we should be doing much better, given the fact that the U.S. economy is on fire south of the border. Yes, we need to do other things, like work on how we can get our goods and services across interprovincial borders and a number of these things. However, one of the things we need to constantly work on is how we streamline to reduce the burdens that business owners have to deal with.
In looking at this bill before us today, we realize that it would create some certainty for some businesses. In the long term, the challenge will be how we deal with this issue in terms of competitiveness. How do we deal with the issue that we need to do a better job of getting our goods and services to market? How do we deal with the issues of trade infrastructure in this country?
When we were in government, we spent a number of dollars on trade infrastructure, as it was very important to us. We have not seen a whole lot of money go out the door in terms of infrastructure. There has been some talk about an infrastructure bank, and yet in the three or four years, there has been very little money flowing out the door. We have somewhere in the neighbourhood of almost $80 billion in deficit spending and we do not have a lot to show for it.
Sure, we have more programs, but at the end of the day, what do Canadians feel about that? I would say that Canadians are not feeling that they are any better off. As a matter of fact, we have seen it reported in the press that Canadians are feeling the pressure, in terms of what they have to take home at the end of every month.
As we move forward, these trade deals are important, but we have to continually focus on competitiveness here at home. We have to figure out ways that we can reduce taxes, reduce regulations and streamline the process, and then we can move in a direction that helps us to compete around the world. We have a great opportunity, with what is going on around the world right now, to attract the best and the brightest. I would encourage the government to continue to move in that direction. I can assure members that when we have the opportunity to form government in October, some of the things we are going to be looking at are how we become more competitive as a country and how we compete with the U.S. and other countries around the world.
In closing, the Conservatives will be supporting this deal. However, we have some concerns with how it was handled. We have concerns with some of the crises that were created that we believe did not need to happen. We will do our best to try to fix these things when we are elected with a strong, stable Conservative government in October of this year.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, the points that are being made by our Conservative colleagues in the context of this debate are very important. They are that Canadians want to get ahead. Maybe they are getting by, but they are struggling to get ahead.
Under the current government, that struggle is made more difficult by the piling on of new taxes and the clear promise that the direction that the Liberals are taking this country with uncontrolled spending, if it is not controlled in the near future, is going to lead to tax increases. We have to act now to replace this government with a government that will be committed to living within its means and to managed, prudent spending.
We have to act so that we do not go down the path that the Kathleen Wynne Liberals and the Rachel Notley New Democrats took their provinces, which then required a strong correction after the fact. Rather, the alternative is for us to replace the government now with a government that will make sure the wasteful spending stops and will cut taxes and provide tax relief in so many different areas.
I spoke as well about the issues around the media bailout. We have a government here that is giving hundreds of millions of dollars to media organizations. The Liberals say this is in defence of independent media, but in fact they are delivering those funds and setting definitions around who is and who is not media through a board that includes someone who is explicitly partisan and is planning on campaigning for the Liberals in the next election.
We hear from journalist after journalist, from leading commentators in Canadian politics, about how this policy and approach create a threat to the independence of the media. Those who believe in independent media, including those within the media, are strongly opposing this policy. Some of the corporate barons who own media companies are happy about this policy, but individual journalists who are responsible for covering our politics on a daily basis, the voices that Canadians read and trust, are overwhelmingly critical of this policy.
Let us oppose this budget and replace this government with a government that has a new fiscal approach that allows Canadians to get ahead, that cuts our taxes, that genuinely protects the independence of the media and that moves us forward in so many other domains.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam Vaughan Profile
2019-06-06 10:27 [p.28663]
Mr. Speaker, I keep hearing the Conservatives talk about the media platform we put together to support and protect local community newspapers and radio and television stations as some sort of massive cash transfer. The three pillars of the program are a tax credit to Canadians who subscribe online to print media. No dollars go to the media. The dollars actually go to Canadians. What does go to the media is an increase in subscription, something which is chosen by individual Canadians and not by anybody on any panel. Individual Canadians will make the choice of which media platforms to support and then get a tax credit for doing so. It is an incentive.
Also, we are setting up the capacity for independent media to set up charitable foundations to support independent journalism. There again the tax credit does not go to the media organization. Canadians have to donate through free will to a news organization, then they get a tax credit for doing it and the government costs that out as forgoing tax revenue.
The final piece of the puzzle is simply that if the media hires new journalists, new Canadians, give them jobs in the private sector, we provide the media with a tax credit for doing so. In other words, there is no dollar transfer to the media to buy opinion; there are dollar transfers to Canadians to choose and support Canadian media.
Why does the member not want those local media organizations to survive?
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, surely the member cannot be as unaware of the arguments that people have been making, including in the media, about the reality of the effects of this, at least as unaware as he may have been about the process that Bill C-81 followed in the House.
Eligible media organizations are precisely the hinge point in this issue. It is the government, through this panel, that will determine who should be considered eligible to access this funding and who should not. Yes, we are talking about something that involves a cost to government of $600 million.
Therefore, there is a cost, and it only applies to eligible media organizations. The member knows that who fits into that box and who does not will be decided by a panel that includes Unifor. I did not just make that up. It was not an invention of the opposition. Anybody who reads the papers or consults the independent media about which he speaks will know that the government has created this panel, it does in fact include Unifor and that many of the leading journalistic voices in the country have criticized it.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-06-06 10:30 [p.28664]
Mr. Speaker, I am enormously grateful that my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan chose to put some focus on the media bailout, because I was not able to get in on the debate when that was before the House squarely.
I voted against the Conservative motion last night. My vote might be considered to be support for the approach of the government in its entirety. Unfortunately, the Conservative motion included deleting tax treatment for energy efficient vehicles, probably inadvertently, in a series of amendments that were about the media bailout.
I am concerned about the media bailout. The media does need support. We need independent journalism. I would have been more impressed with a commitment that zero government dollars would go to advertising in digital platforms and would concentrate government advertising in the newspapers that were struggling.
I would also be more impressed if the group that was deciding who got the money did not include recipients of the funding. One reason I could not vote for the Conservative motion on its own was it singled out Unifor. Sun Media is sitting on it. The point, as made as journalist, Andrew Potter, is this. Why would the recipients of the funding form the group to decide who gets the funding?
Those are my concerns. The are not full-on opposition to the government's approach, but I would like to see it tweaked.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I guess we agree that it should be tweaked, but we might disagree about the degree of the tweaking.
The member makes an interesting point about looking at other members of the panel. In the context of our motion, our observation would be that the Unifor case is particularly egregious. Nobody else, in the context of that panel, has publicly tried to define itself as “the resistance” to not only a particular party, but to a particular individual who leads one of those parties. Obviously it is the tone and the rhetoric in explicit support of one party and in explicit opposition to another party.
It would be obviously inappropriate that anybody else in a government-appointed administrative role that was supposed to make these kinds of determinations would show such favouritism, such partisanship.
The member may have other points about other individuals on the panel, but it is quite clear that the case of Jerry Dias is particularly egregious in this context.
View Joël Lightbound Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Joël Lightbound Profile
2019-06-06 11:52 [p.28675]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the legislative changes made by Bill C-101.
To understand this bill, it is important to understand our government's values. Indeed, it is a good reflection of what we have been doing since our first day in office. Since day one, our government has been firmly on the side of Canadian workers. We have made investments in Canadians and in the economy, investments that have helped create over one million jobs across the country over the past three years. We are helping more workers access skills training so they can get and keep those jobs.
Furthermore, faced with global uncertainty, we have negotiated new trade agreements that will give Canadian workers and businesses access to two-thirds of the global economy. This represents billions of customers around the world. When the United States imposed unfair tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, we stood up for our workers. We refused to turn a blind eye or take a hands-off approach, as the Conservative members suggested. At the end of the day, the fact is that our plan worked. We managed to get the tariffs lifted, and we did so because we were thinking about our workers and Canada's interests.
That was a victory for workers and for the country, but we know we are not out of the woods yet. Despite everything we have done to help Canadian workers succeed, global forces beyond our control may continue to threaten that growth, so we must remain very vigilant. We have a duty to ensure that trade practices do not negatively impact the Canadian market by undermining our steel industry and jeopardizing thousands of good middle-class jobs. That is at the core of this bill, which builds on our previous work and strengthens our government's commitment to protecting Canadian workers and their jobs from potential threats like those.
We did not get to this point by accident. We have been listening closely to Canada's industries and workers, and they say that they want more reassurance. They want a government that is willing and able to act quickly when markets are distorted, so we are taking action.
The legislation we are debating today, Bill C-101, would amend the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act. Specifically, it would remove the two-year moratorium on the imposition of safeguard measures should provisional safeguards be found to be unwarranted.
Safeguards are actions taken by a government to restrict imports of a product temporarily to protect a specific domestic industry. Through this legislation, Canada would be able to respond quicky and appropriately to situations where a surge of imports harmed or could harm Canadian producers and workers.
I want to add that these amendments are intended to be temporary. Our government is proposing that the amendments be in effect only until June 2021. To take this action, further amendments to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act are necessary. They are included in this bill.
I want to assure hon. members that the conditions for the application of safeguards would remain unchanged. There are still bars to meet before any safeguard measures are put in place. This legislation would just help us evaluate and act on those standards faster.
I think that all honourable members can agree that these are very interesting and volatile times for international trade. The rules governing international trade and free trade are evolving, sometimes very quickly and often unpredictably. We cannot take anything for granted.
That is why our government has gone to great lengths to try to protect Canadian workers and ensure that Canada's businesses can compete on a level playing field. In fact, when things are unfair and the market distorted, Canadian jobs are at risk.
As the Prime Minister stated, Canada has always been a trading nation. However, we cannot allow this longstanding tradition of openness to threaten or harm Canadian businesses. In the case of the steel industry, we will not let Canada serve as a back door to other markets.
Canada already has the strictest enforcement regime to combat this practice, with 77 trade remedy measures in force for imports of steel and aluminum alone. Last year, we further strengthened the enforcement regime to prevent foreign exporters from avoiding tariffs.
Our enforcement framework includes Canada's trade remedy system, which helps preserve a fair and open trade climate for our producers. It protects Canadian businesses against the effects of foreign goods that are unfairly subsidized or that are sold in Canada at artificially low prices. We currently have trade remedies involving 13 steel products from 25 countries.
In budget 2017, our government went even further to strengthen and modernize our trade remedy system. In April 2018, we increased funding for the Canada Border Services Agency and Global Affairs Canada to keep trade enforcement working for Canadians. This bolstered our efforts to prevent the transshipment and diversion of unfairly priced foreign steel and aluminum into the North American market. The new funding started immediately and amounted to more than $30 million over five years and $6.8 million per year after that. It means more than 40 new officers to investigate trade-related complaints, including those related to steel and aluminum. It means more accurate data on imports so we can better monitor trade trends and better protect our industries and workers against unfair trade.
At the same time, our government made targeted and timely investments to support the Canadian steel and aluminum industry. This includes an investment of $2 billion to defend and protect the interests of the Canadian steel, aluminum and manufacturing industries and their workers. These investments will help companies expand into new markets, increase operational and environmental efficiencies or purchase new technology and equipment.
We know that strong, decisive trade action works, because we have seen it work. As I said earlier, when the United States imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, we stood up for our country's steel and aluminum workers, industries and the communities that rely on their businesses. We imposed reciprocal dollar-for-dollar countermeasures to encourage the full removal of the U.S. tariffs. Canada stood firm and did not back down. As members know, on Friday, May 17, we were proud to announce that these tariffs and countermeasures would be eliminated by the following week.
Therefore, there should be no doubt in the minds of any members here today that our government has protected and will continue to protect Canada's steel and aluminum workers, and all Canadians.
Their success is well earned.
Despite global uncertainty, Canadians created more than one million jobs since fall 2015. Last year, all job gains were in full-time positions. The rate of unemployment and poverty is at its lowest in more than 40 years and salaries are rising faster than the cost of living.
Moreover, employment gains are broadly spread out among groups that are often under-represented in the labour market, such as new immigrants, single mothers, indigenous peoples living off reserve and young Canadians who do not have a high school diploma. This is the type of progress that makes a real difference in the lives of Canadians from one end of the country to the other.
Nevertheless, the reversals in global trends are not the only threat to Canadian jobs. New technologies present both obstacles and opportunities to Canadians seeking to build a career. We are making investments and introducing policies to help workers succeed in the economy of the future. By helping more people gain new skills today, we are creating the necessary conditions for long-term prosperity in every sector of the economy, especially for Canadian workers. In fact, that is the spirit of the bill currently before the House.
The nature of work is changing around the world, and Canada is no exception. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, estimates that one in six jobs in Canada is at high risk of automation. This means that a number of workers could be forced to change jobs many times throughout their years in the workforce. Many others will have to learn new skills simply to keep their jobs in an ever-changing work environment.
The good news is that, through the new Canada training benefit in budget 2019, we are providing real support to the workers of today and tomorrow.
The Canada training benefit will provide a flexible option for Canadians to find the time and money needed to pursue training, improve their skills and build strong and lasting careers. It does that in a few ways.
First, budget 2019 proposes a new, non-taxable credit to help Canadians pay for a training course or program. Under this new Canada training credit, eligible workers between the ages of 25 and 64 will accumulate a credit balance of $250 each year, up to a lifetime limit of $5,000.
Second, a new employment insurance training support benefit would provide up to four weeks of income support to workers when they take time off to take a training course. It would replace regular earnings so that workers do not have to worry about taking some time off to upgrade their skills.
Third, in addition to these two aspects, the government is proposing that it consult the provinces and territories about amending the labour laws to ensure that workers can take time off work for training without worrying about losing their jobs. This would protect a worker's right to take leave for training and skills development.
Before I wrap up, I want to remind members that this bill is very much in keeping with what I consider to be the three main pillars of government policy.
When we took office in 2015, the Canadian economy was sluggish, and Canada was in a technical recession. In my opinion, Canadians elected us based on three main economic pillars, on which we have founded our achievements these last three years in office.
These pillars kick-started economic growth in Canada. I would define them in the following manner. First, we made major investments in infrastructure to ensure that people and goods can travel efficiently across the country; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; look after our waste water systems; protect the environment; and build modern and effective infrastructure from coast to coast. It goes without saying that these investments also stimulated growth. We are talking about a very ambitious, $180-billion plan over 12 years.
The second pillar was reducing inequality by giving more to those who need it most and giving the middle class some breathing room. The first thing we did was lower taxes for the middle class and raise taxes on the wealthiest one per cent. Simultaneously, we introduced the Canada child benefit, a social policy unlike any other in recent Canadian history. The CCB reduced poverty in this country by 20% in just three years and reduced child poverty dramatically.
Those are just two of a suite of measures targeting the middle class and the most vulnerable Canadians. Seniors, for example, are getting more because we increased the guaranteed income supplement by 10% when we took office. The goal is to reduce inequality. We on this side of the House believe that the more inclusive our prosperity, the stronger our growth and the better off Canada's economy will be. We know we are right about that because in 2017, Canada's growth was the strongest in the G7 and we are still at the head of the pack.
The second pillar was about reducing inequality through measures like taxation and the Canada child benefit. There is also social housing, which the federal government has been withdrawing from for years. Now this government is getting back into it. I could also mention how we helped seniors by rolling back the retirement age from 67 to 65. The Conservatives had raised it, plunging hundreds of thousands of seniors into poverty. Then there is the Canada child benefit, which is putting a lot more money back in families' pockets.
According to available data, which, incidentally, are from the OECD, not from partisan think tanks, the average Canadian family has $2,000 more in its pockets in 2019 than it did in 2015.
Furthermore, according to Statistics Canada, a renowned and completely impartial institution that everyone can be proud of, we have succeeded in reducing poverty in Canada by 20%. We achieved that in just three short years. We are not planning to stop there. As I said, one of the key pillars of our government's efforts and our economic strategy is to reduce inequality.
The last pillar is about maintaining Canada's competitive edge by investing in science, research and innovation. Budget 2018 contained some of the largest investments in science in Canada's history. We are also opening up access to international markets, as we did with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement, or CETA, and with the renegotiated NAFTA. Thanks to these kinds of measures, we are making sure we are here to protect our industries from the threats of today's interconnected economy.
I believe that Bill C-101 is entirely consistent with the government's ambition and action. It will promote growth and prosperity, while protecting our industries and workers to ensure that Canada succeeds.
To conclude, I want to reiterate our government's commitment to Canadian workers and to our industry. We will continue to carefully monitor the situation, with great vigilance, for distortions in global markets. Make no mistake, if it is determined that a surge of imports is harming or could harm our workers and producers, we want to be able to respond.
It is the right thing to do for our workers, and the right thing to do for our economy. That is why I urge all members to support this legislation so that it can pass without delay.
On that note, I would like to thank the NDP, the Bloc Québécois and the independent members who voted in favour of this ways and means motion. The Conservatives, on the other hand, will have to explain their position on this.
View Terry Sheehan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Terry Sheehan Profile
2019-06-06 13:16 [p.28687]
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to join my colleagues in saying how honoured and privileged I am to stand here, particularly on D-Day, when those who went before us paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our democracy so that we could have this important discussion today. There are a few vets left. One is tail gunner Dick Brown, from Sault Ste. Marie, whom I had the privilege and honour of speaking with on Friday, before he left on Sunday, to hear about his remarkable service. I want to thank him and all veterans, those who are living and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for what they did.
Today I stand to talk about the important proposed legislative changes that would amend the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act. The goal of this legislation is simple. It would temporarily remove the two-year moratorium on the imposition of safeguard measures for products that were recently subject to safeguards.
Before I go on, I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
The legislation would give the government the flexibility it needs to respond quickly and appropriately to situations where a substantial surge of imports could do harm to Canadian producers and workers. Together, these measures would give the government the tools it needs to stabilize Canada's steel market and, if needed, to further protect Canadian steelworkers and producers from global instability and surges in imports that could be harmful to Canada's economy.
Canada's steel and aluminum sector is an important part of our economy. It provides thousands of good middle-class jobs to people and communities across the country, including those in Sault Ste. Marie. Members have heard about its importance. It accounts for over 41% of Sault Ste. Marie's GDP. That is why, for those workers and those communities, our government has always taken strong action to stand up for these industries.
I remind people that in budget 2016, in black and white, we made changes to strengthen Canada's trade responses to dumped steel. Further, we consulted, and in 2017, we made more changes on market distortion, scoping, duty circumvention and union participation.
In 2018, we put more dollars into fighting dumped steel, and it is working. We put more money into our borders. We have specialized agents who work for the Canada Border Services Agency. They are forensic people who can fight and stop the dumping. We made changes that created one of the greatest strengthened trade regimes in the world.
During one of our meetings, either at the trade committee, the industry committee or the all-party steel caucus, I asked one of the people from the Canadian Steel Producers Association what would have happened if we had not put those in place, with what was happening with the section 232 tariffs. His remark was that, quite simply, the steel industry would have been devastated.
I am glad that from day one, just a couple of months after we were elected, we had the steelworkers' backs. Further strengthening happened when we stood firm and did not back down. I am proud to say that on May 17, when Canada and the U.S. announced that they would eliminate their tariffs and countermeasures within two days, it was the culmination of a lot of work we had undertaken over those years, in particular in the year before, when we announced dollar for dollar trade retaliation, not only on steel and aluminum but on a number of items.
I was in Washington recently with the trade committee. We took a team Canada approach. We had Conservatives, New Democrats and Liberals with us. We met with many people, and we could see in their body language how it was affecting them. Although we had a NAFTA in principle, we were not going to sign it until those tariffs were lifted. It worked quite well. Part of what we did to protect the steel market at the time, when the Americans announced their tariffs, was announce that we were imposing provisional steel safeguards for a period of 200 days to help stabilize the market and protect against surges of foreign steel into Canada.
On April 26, 2019, after the Canadian International Trade Tribunal found that final safeguards were warranted for heavy plate and stainless steel wire, the government announced its intent to enact safeguards on these products.
While we have been working hard, and continue to, to make our steel and aluminum industries even more successful, because they create good, well-paying middle-class jobs, we have also been focused on making sure that Canada has a solid system in place for addressing unfair trade. Therefore, we have effected a very important trade remedy system that provides recourse for Canadian producers harmed by unfair trade imports. Under this system, Canadian producers can request that duties be applied on dumped or subsidized goods sold in the Canadian marketplace.
I reiterate that since 2016, our government has taken several steps to modernize and strengthen Canada's trade remedy system to ensure that Canadian companies can compete on a level playing field with foreign exporters. This was informed by public consultation. Our government implemented a package of measures, which I have referred to, to strengthen the trade remedy system. It has been extremely effective.
Our government made legislative and regulatory changes to improve the trade remedy measures addressing the circumvention of duties, to better account for market and price distortions and to provide unions with the ability to participate in trade remedy proceedings. In fact, the president of Tenaris was here with Evraz steelworkers to provide testimony in a case. It was so effective that we won, and I thank the United Steelworkers for participating in that particular case.
We have been speaking today about the importance of the steel and aluminum industries. We have a very integrated market between the United States and Canada. It is perfect. We create steel and aluminum on both sides of the border that are put into the supply chain downstream for the auto, manufacturing and energy sectors. That is why we continue to look at how to diversify to new markets.
Last year, our government launched the export diversification strategy, which has the ambitious goal of growing Canada's overseas exports by 50% by 2025. We are investing more than $1 billion over the next six years to make this happen.
The strategy will focus on three components: investing in infrastructure to support trade; providing Canadian businesses with resources to execute their export plans; and enhancing trade services for Canadian exporters.
Let me very quickly touch on one component of the export diversification strategy: how we are helping Canadian businesses export and grow. While Canada has had success in gaining preferential access to key markets via trade deals, more needs to be done to ensure that Canadian firms take full advantage of international growth opportunities.
Last year, to put more resources directly in the hands of Canadian businesses seeking to develop export plans, build global partnerships or gain skills and training for global trade, the government announced investments of $198 million over six years. This includes $50 million over five years to support businesses, including in the steel, aluminum and manufacturing industries, in diversifying their exports, including with new export readiness grants. This funding is going to support CanExport and related funding programs. These are tools that are absolutely critical as we penetrate the new European and Asian markets. Our new agreements have created this opportunity.
In conclusion, the measures I have been speaking about clearly show that our government has been listening closely to the industries and unions most affected by trade disputes and global market distortions. It is clear that we need the flexibility to take necessary actions to protect Canadian industries and workers. Today's amendments would help do just that. Canadian workers and industries deserve a level playing field, and we have an opportunity before us today to make sure it gets done.
We will continue to stand up for our workers and our industries and do what is needed to preserve the fair and open trading environment they depend on. I urge all members to support this important legislation expeditiously. The steelworkers are counting on us.
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
2019-06-05 21:16 [p.28634]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of my caucus. I am sure that other members will have a chance to do the same, but I am deeply honoured to be taking part in the third reading debate on Bill C-97.
This bill has already been heavily scrutinized here in the House and at the Standing Committee on Finance, and its sheer size has provoked much debate. The bill is more than 400 pages long. It is yet another omnibus bill. Its content has also sparked debate. I would be remiss not to mention the content of the bill, as well as everything that the government left out. I am going to focus on the aspects of the bill that we consider most problematic, as well as the things that were completely left out of this last-chance budget.
It is 2019, and this is the government's last opportunity to deliver on its mandate and vision for the country. It is already June 2019. The latest budget was tabled in March, and this bill seeks to realize the vision outlined in budget 2019. This is the Liberal government's last bill, its last chance to turn its ideas and its vision for the nation into reality. It goes without saying that everything that was left out, everything that still has to be done and everything the Government of Canada is leaving unfinished will have to wait until later.
We will have to take the word of the Prime Minister, who, during the next election campaign, will try to convince Canadians that he will have time in the next four years to do what he did not have time to do in the past four years. We know full well that many promises have been broken over the past few years. Some were much bigger than others. Take electoral reform. Many Canadians remember quite clearly that this was a solemn promise. The Prime Minister repeated it almost daily during the election campaign. Nearly a year and a half later, he did not hesitate to break that promise, brushing it aside by saying that he changed his mind, that it was not a good idea after all, and that he would not be moving forward with electoral reform. This is a government that broke some of its signature promises, such as returning to a balanced budget. I know that my Conservative colleagues like to bring that up quite a bit.
Clearly, this government, which is nearing the end of its term, is suffering from a lack of credibility in terms of its campaign promises, and it will soon try to convince Canadians that it needs another term to complete what it did not have time to do in this last budget. Canadians are not stupid. They know what this Prime Minister's word is worth, because they have had four years to see him at work, to listen to him and to see what he had to offer Canadians. The people of Sherbrooke, Quebec and Canada will realize that his word is unfortunately not worth very much. This is the kind of thing that fuels cynicism among Canadians, and among my constituents back home in Sherbrooke. I often hear people say they are disappointed by politics and politicians. I am trying to get them interested in politics again, but when a government like this one, formed by the Liberal Party of Canada, breaks so many promises so shamelessly, it fuels cynicism about politics. That is why people will be so wary of any of the campaign promises made by the Prime Minister of Canada, and with good reason. We have to give them some credit. They will be right to doubt him, because the Prime Minister has broken so many of his promises during this last term.
This is a last-chance budget. Today we are debating the government's budgetary policy, its execution and its implementation. That is why, on our side of the House, we will ultimately have to vote against it. We will be forced to vote against Bill C-97 at third reading because it does not meet Canadians' needs. Clearly, on many issues, the government has not responded to the concrete problems Canadians are facing, and it is not about to do so over the next few months.
We will be voting against this budget, and we hope that many members will do so as well. We need to send the government a clear message. Its fiscal policy has not worked so far, and the rich are getting richer. We saw this recently. I will give just one example, that of KPMG. The accounting firm and its clients once again reached an out-of-court settlement after they were caught avoiding taxes using a scheme that was dubious and questionable, to say the least. It was certainly questioned by the Canada Revenue Agency.
The Canada Revenue Agency recently made a proposal to these clients. They were told to pay their taxes and the matter would be closed. They could move on once they paid their debt to society.
These people had a minimum of $300,000. For every file that KPMG opened, the client had to pay the firm at least $300,000 to put the scheme in place. In addition, the firm would take a cut of the tax savings that their clients realized with the Isle of Man scheme.
The scheme was revealed to the general public, so I will not repeat all the details. We know that the clients moved money abroad to a place with low taxes. They managed to avoid paying taxes by using all kinds of strategies, such as shell companies and fake directors. In its agreements with clients, this accounting firm demanded a cut of the tax savings. That is not something to be taken lightly. The firm promised tax savings and took a percentage off the top. This week, these clients signed a settlement with officials of the Canada Revenue Agency. With this settlement, they can put the matter behind them, close the books, pay the taxes, say goodbye and carry on as if nothing happened.
That is the message the Government of Canada decided to send all Canadians today. It conflicts with the standard messaging that the government and the Minister of National Revenue has been delivering up to now, about how the net is tightening, how tax cheats will pay, and how there never has been and never will be an amnesty. The Canada Revenue Agency and the minister even sent out photos showing people in handcuffs back when the KPMG scandal broke. She said that tax cheats would pay for their actions and that criminals would be put behind bars.
Today she is sending a different message. People who could afford to spend $300,000 on a scheme, plus a percentage of the money they saved on taxes, can afford to pay lawyers to get them off the hook with just a slap on the wrist.
Understandably, most Canadians, including most of the people of Sherbrooke, find that frustrating. They see rich people who can afford to pay the accounting firm and who have the means to defend themselves in court against charges relating to these borderline schemes getting off with a slap on the wrist, and my constituents find that frustrating in the extreme. I know my colleagues are frustrated too, but, unfortunately, the government decided to do nothing. Rather than do something, the government decided to follow in the Conservatives' footsteps and give preferential treatment to people who can afford to pay accounting firms, tax experts and lawyers to defend them against these charges and emerge virtually unscathed. Sure, they will pay the taxes they owe. It is the least they can do, but the government is signalling that they can keep doing this. The worst-case scenario is that they will end up in the Tax Court of Canada like the family from Vancouver and end up signing a settlement to close the books.
This sends the message that, under the current government, it is acceptable to engage in tax evasion and shady schemes. The government is turning a blind eye to all of that. That is the sort of behaviour that is perpetuated by the implementation of this budget and the government's budgetary fiscal policy.
We heard some powerful, compelling testimony in committee. The witnesses spoke to many parts of the bill, which is 400 pages long. This bill affects many laws and makes significant changes to many sectors of our economy. However, some provisions have nothing to do with the economy, but the government threw them all into the budget implementation bill anyway. It is therefore difficult for parliamentarians to speak to the bill as a whole.
We will soon have to vote on this 400-page bill. It will be a single vote, even though the bill makes many changes to many different laws. Earlier today, we voted on the amendments to this bill at report stage. We therefore had the opportunity to speak to many parts of the bill. At third reading, there will be just a single vote either for or against the bill as a whole. When the Liberal Party was on this side of the House, it spoke out against this practice. The Liberals criticized omnibus bills at every opportunity, because omnibus bills do not allow parliamentarians to vote on each measure or group of measures.
Since we have to cast a single vote on the bill as a whole, we need to consider the pros and cons of the bill. Today, it is clear that the cons outweigh the pros. Although we recognize that the bill contains some good measures, we have no choice but to vote against this budgetary policy.
The government has tried to make up for its blunders on several issues by presenting amendments in committee or at report stage. Earlier today, we debated the amendments that the government had proposed, with a royal recommendation, to change the bill. The government had to backpedal to fix things, particularly as regards the housing act.
The section on the housing act fell well short of what Canadians and housing experts had expected. The experts said that the right to housing is a fundamental human right, something the government refused to acknowledge in the first draft of the bill. It had to fix that, just like it had to fix other parts of the bill.
In committee, we tried to get the government to see reason on certain issues. We wanted it to provide a list pertaining to student loans as quickly as possible. In the bill, the government proposes starting to charge interest on student loans after six months. We tried to persuade it to just make student loans interest-free. It is not right to ask former students to pay interest on loans they took out to train for a career.
In committee we learned that this interest brought $700 million annually into the coffers of the consolidated revenue fund of Canada. That money funds the government's priorities when it could stay in the pockets of young people who just completed their studies and are entering the workforce. Those young people have to save money to get into the real estate market and invest in our economy in various ways. The government is currently taking $700 million out of the pockets of young workers who are fresh out of school, and putting that money in the consolidated revenue fund.
The government is giving former students a six-month relief period when it could have gone further by permanently eliminating interest on student loans and stopping government funding by students. The government rejected this proposal.
As far as worker health and safety is concerned, representatives from the Canadian Labour Congress told us in committee that the flexibilities of the Hazardous Products Act benefited industry to the detriment of the health of the workers who are exposed to these products in the short or long term. They could have accidents with these hazardous products. The government is easing the rules to give the chemical products industry a free pass, which jeopardizes the health and safety of Canadian workers. In committee, the government once again sided with industry and the major lobbies in this country to ensure that their profits keep going up every year.
Furthermore, a large number of witnesses spoke out against the changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Bill C-97 is, quite simply, anti-refugee. It creates two classes of refugees: those who enter Canada regularly and those who enter irregularly. The government is creating two parallel systems that it claims complement each other or are nearly identical.
The government could have simply turned to the Immigration and Refugee Board, which does a very good job and which needs more resources. Unfortunately, it decided to create two classes of refugees. One refugee even testified in committee that if the government's heartless bill had been in force, he might not be in Canada right now because he would have been sent back to his country, where he is in danger. Numerous experts called this a bad idea. That is why we are compelled to oppose the bill.
Now let's talk about pensions, which were not protected and which continue to be at the bottom of the order of creditor priority in the event of bankruptcy or insolvency. They could have had the courage to respond to the concerns heard at consultations. Most people said that the order of creditor priority had to be changed. The government decided to ignore all the experts' recommendations.
That was also the case for stock options. The economic update indicated that the government would address this situation, which is clearly problematic because it benefits the wealthy. It even says so in the budget document, but they decided to ignore the issue. In this budget, which is its last chance, the government decided to do nothing and wait until after the election to solve the problem, even though we know this government will be gone in October 2019.
The Liberals gave in to the pharmaceutical lobby on pharmacare. They gave them more time to rake in the biggest profits of the corporate world at the expense of taxpayers. They were given a free pass. The government is asking Canadians to trust it even though it broke many promises. It says that it will keep this one and that we must trust it, even if it has been saying so for 25 years.
As for oil companies, the Liberals continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry to the tune of billions of dollars every year. This budget would have been a good opportunity to put an end to that.
Also, household debt continues to rise. Canadians are within $200 of insolvency each and every month, and the government is doing nothing to fix that.
Furthermore, the media bailout has been the talk of Parliament Hill and elsewhere. The media just want tax fairness. Of course, they also need some assistance to meet certain challenges, but above all, they need tax fairness. The government needs to put an end to the double standard that is giving web giants a free ride when it comes to taxes. They are exempted from paying income tax and sales tax, and are raking in billions of dollars in ad revenues, while our local and national media can barely make ends meet and take in sufficient ad revenues.
This is a bad budget bill. The government missed out on its last opportunity to show some courage and make the right choices.
I can assure the House that Canadians will not give the Liberals another term, since they merely spew empty rhetoric and make lofty promises, and have not honoured their commitments over the past four years. Canadians will turn to an alternate serious and credible solution, like the NDP, so we can finally fix the problems facing our society in 2019.
View Candice Bergen Profile
View Candice Bergen Profile
2019-06-04 11:54 [p.28476]
Mr. Speaker, we currently have a very late night vote scheduled for this evening at 11:25 p.m. I know we are all planning on being back here for that vote, but I would like to propose a motion that I have circulated to the other parties, because I think we actually could move the voting to right after Oral Questions. It would probably better organize the business of the day. We sent it earlier.
I would like to propose that notwithstanding any standing or special order or usual practice of the House in relation to the business of the House today, the deferred recorded division on the opposition motion standing in the name of the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, currently scheduled for tonight at 11:25 p.m. be deferred anew to immediately following the time provided for Oral Questions later this day; and that at the conclusion of the consideration of the report stage of Bill C-97 an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures, or statements by members not seeking—
Some hon. members: No.
View Deepak Obhrai Profile
View Deepak Obhrai Profile
2019-06-04 11:57 [p.28476]
Mr. Speaker, I have been here for over 23 years, and I have always spoken to budget bills, whether the Conservatives were in opposition or on the government side. That is because a budget is what defines our economy; a budget is what defines where Canada's economy will move.
My colleagues on this side have highlighted, in very great detail, what is wrong with this budget bill put forward by the Liberal government. Let me start by saying certain things. I have been sitting here and listening to the Liberals when they get up. They like to attack us, calling out Mr. Harper's name all the time. The Liberal members have used Mr. Harper's name more than anybody I have ever heard. Somehow it is in their psyche that the former prime minister should be used to highlight their deficiencies.
Let me just show, using facts, why they are wrong. The international Institute for Management Development puts together a yearly world competitiveness ranking. Within one year, Canada has fallen three spots on the world competitiveness ranking, from 10th in 2018 to 13th this year. We are the lowest of the G7 countries. In 2018-19, the Liberals were in power. We fell from 10th to 13th.
Let me say this. In the same report, previously, from 2007 to 2015, Canada rose from 10th place to fifth place. That was under the Conservative government of former prime minister Harper. Let me repeat that for the Liberals who speak from their points. Under their regime we dropped in the ranking, going from 10th to 13th, the lowest of the G7 countries. During the period when we were in power under former prime minister Harper, which was 2007 to 2015, we rose from 10th place to fifth place. This is something they should take into account every time they talk about it.
When it comes to economic performance, government officials, business efficiency or infrastructure, the institute says we are not in the top five countries in this index. This is terrible management. Business investment in Canada under the Liberal government has fallen by an annualized rate of 10.9%. This is the second time it has fallen by over 10%. What a shame. This is the management record of the Liberal government.
The Liberal government seems totally oblivious to economic conditions. I come from Alberta. We have seen the devastating impact the government has had on my province. In my city of Calgary, the downtown is completely empty. Right now, businesses in the suburban area are suffering from tax hikes, because the downtown, which used to be the core economic sector in Calgary, has half its buildings empty. That is since the Liberals came into power. They had the opportunity to fix that.
The Liberals bought the Trans Mountain pipeline, but even if they started construction on it, what about Bill C-69, and what about Bill C-48, the tanker bill? Those bills are a direct attack on Alberta.
Albertans are now reeling from the disastrous management of the government. When the father of our current Prime Minister was there, that was the first time Alberta was suffering. I was there at that time. The government tried to seize the oil royalties. The finance minister was Marc Lalonde. It was a disastrous result. Since then, the Liberals have never recovered in Alberta. During the election of 2015, the current Prime Minister said that he would do business differently than his father in Alberta. Lo and behold, those sunny days are gone. This is something that, again, he has not fulfilled.
I am talking about Alberta and the energy sector. The energy sector benefits the whole country. It is not only Alberta's sector. It is British Columbia's, Quebec's, Ontario's, the Maritimes', everyone. It is one of our key sectors.
What is very important is that our companies have spent billions of dollars on clean technology. I will give one example. I was on the foreign affairs committee in the opposition. At that time, in the oil fields of Sudan, Talisman, a Canadian company, had a percentage of the operation in Sudan. All these NGOs that are based in western Canada found that it was easy to target a Canadian company, so they went after the Canadian company, accusing it of all kinds of crimes committed against the environment. The ultimate result was that Talisman sold its shares to China and to India. The next day, all the protests were over.
Has oil stopped? No, it has not. Whom will they target? They will target Canadians. Why will they target them? It is an easy way to do it for these environmentalists. All of a sudden, they disappeared. That shows that the targets of these environmentalists are where they are doing it right now.
I want to go on to another issue, which is the media outlets these guys are giving money to. I can tell members why it is going to be a problem. What about the ethnic media? There are a huge number of ethnic media in the country. Are the Liberals going to give money to the ethnic media, or are they only going to give money to the old Canadian media that are sitting here on the national scene? Are they the only ones who are going to benefit? This is a slippery slope. I will accuse them of discrimination if they do not give money to the ethnic media.
On the panel, there sits a guy who is absolutely anti-Conservative. He said the day before yesterday that he has a right to speak freely. Absolutely. We in the Conservative caucus warn their labour union that he is absolutely right that he can speak, but he is not going to sit on an independent panel and decide which media are going to get money. That goes against democracy. That goes against the principles of democracy. It puts all journalists under a cloud. These journalists had better wake up, because they are going to be under a cloud. Can we trust them when they are getting money from the government? Any time anyone else gets money, they oppose that. How can I believe that what these journalists are writing is unbiased? All indications are that the government is using the money it has to buy votes and to buy publicity. It is a slippery road. It is best not to get involved. The whole country has media, so it is easier for the Liberals not to do that.
In my conclusion, let me say clearly that this is an absolute economic disaster by the government.
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Randeep Sarai Profile
2019-06-04 12:37 [p.28481]
Mr. Speaker, when our government was elected in 2015, we promised Canadians that we would fight for the middle class. We have kept that promise. We have created over one million jobs since being elected and an overwhelming majority of those jobs are well-paying, full-time jobs.
Recently, Canada saw its lowest unemployment rate in over 40 years. Recent numbers also show that Canada saw a decrease in the number of people living in poverty, from 10.6% to 9.5%, between 2016 and 2017. That means over 900,000 people have been lifted out of poverty, including 300,000 children, over 150,000 seniors and many adults.
Since we were elected, we have seen a rise in the median after-tax income of Canadians, to $81,500. In Surrey Centre, our infrastructure investments are paying off, from the $125-million Simon Fraser sustainable energy and environmental engineering building, completed now with $45 million from the Government of Canada, to the $61-million brand new RCMP forensic lab that is about to open, to the over $900 million given for public transit funding to help renovate Surrey Centre SkyTrain stations, buy new energy-efficient buses and replace the 1976 expo-era SkyTrain cars with new comfortable and quiet cabins. Our plan is working.
The multiplier factor is evident everywhere. Dozens of new IT and health care innovators have opened up. Kwantlen Polytechnic University has built a new urban campus. The Fraser port is growing on a rapid scale and the city is firing on all cylinders. Our transit ridership is the highest in the world, and last year, ridership went up by over 15%.
I was 15 years old when I designed my first home, and by the time I was 16, I was designing homes as a business and for others. Beginning in 1991, I designed over 700 homes in a seven-year period, from the age of 16 to 23. Those were the years of opportunities that helped me launch my career and secure my livelihood. As I see the willingness of young people to work equally hard today, it upsets me to know that they are undoubtedly faced with more barriers to initiate and secure their housing dreams.
The average price for a detached home in greater Vancouver exceeds $1 million, while the average price of an apartment or condo is $660,000. These prices often take the prospect of buying a home off the table. In turn, many young people and families are compelled to rent instead of buy. For those who do rent, the prices have become incredibly high as well. Everyone needs a safe and affordable place to call home, but today, too many Canadians are being priced out of the housing market.
As the member for Surrey Centre, I am all too familiar with constituency concerns about housing insecurity, as well as the impact this insecurity has on the overall quality of life of my constituents. Whether they are young persons hoping to start their careers or a couple looking to start a family, buying a first home remains a challenge, with many young people believing that home ownership is increasingly becoming an unattainable goal in their lifetimes.
Recently, I held a round table in my riding of Surrey Centre with the Minister of Finance's former chief of staff and director of policy. Housing affordability, the stress test and mortgages were the three main points brought up by the Homebuilders Association Vancouver, mortgage associations, the construction industry, home builders, real estate trade organizations and other trade organizations throughout the Lower Mainland. The round table sparked positive conversations on how to mitigate pressure and make home ownership affordable and easier.
By listening to the needs of Canadians and encouraging dialogue, I am proud to say this government has continued its commitment to improving housing affordability in this country, and this is exemplified in budget 2019. The inclusion of the first-time homebuyer incentive will drastically change the housing prospects for current and prospective Surrey Centre residents.
The first-time homebuyer incentive targets young families who wish to enter the market and buy their first homes. This will help people like Karina, from my office, or Julian, who will be able to buy their first homes when this program is implemented. Those with a household income of less than $120,000 will be eligible to have a 10% reduction in their down payment with the help of CMHC.
In addition, the homebuyers plan helps with the down payment and costs associated with the purchase of a first home. Paying a lower down payment, new homebuyers will pay reduced monthly mortgage payments. The new homeowners, in turn, will require smaller loans and new homeowners will not be beholden to the CMHC for any kind of repayment until the place is sold.
This incentive is inclusive in its objective of making a new home affordable for all Canadians. This includes new Canadians, single parents and youth who could greatly benefit from this break and form of security.
Division 19 of the national housing strategy recognizes the importance of housing to the well-being of all persons in Canada, reflects the key principles of a human rights-based approach to housing and focuses on improving housing outcomes for those in greatest need.
In 2017, the government launched the rental construction financing initiative, which is a four-year program that provides low-cost loans for the construction of new rental housing for modest and middle-income Canadians. To provide more affordable rental options for middle-class Canadians, budget 2019 proposes an additional $10 billion over nine years in financing through the rental construction financing initiative, extending the program until 2027-28. With this increase, the program will support 42,500 new housing units across Canada, particularly in areas of low rental supply.
The government is also committed to working in partnership with the province and the municipality to ensure a tri-levelled affordable housing strategy for Surrey residents. In conjunction with British Columbia's affordable B.C. plan and Surrey's affordable housing strategy, the government's new homeowner incentive is a proactive measure to ensure that a future in Surrey is possible for young people and families.
In addition to the measures announced on March 15, 2019, the ministers of finance for Canada and British Columbia announced their intention to create an expert panel on housing supply. The panel will examine factors that currently limit housing supply and recommend the actions governments can take to ensure that together we are building better, more affordable and more inclusive communities.
These new incentives add to an already existing, ambitious national housing strategy that was released in 2017. Our government committed over $40 billion over the following decade to help Canadians from coast to coast to coast with housing affordability. This strategy considers the distinct housing needs of Canadians such as seniors, women and children fleeing domestic violence, indigenous people, persons with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans and young adults.
Our goal is to cut chronic homelessness in half, remove 530,000 families from housing need and invest in the construction of up to 100,000 new homes. However, our government knows that these changes cannot, unfortunately, take place overnight. This is why our government has introduced new measures in budget 2019 to help relieve the pressures on Canadians.
Throughout this government's time in office, we have taken significant steps forward in terms of backing the middle class, and budget 2019 is another step in the right direction. From achieving the lowest unemployment rate in years to instituting the first-time homebuyer incentive, we have shown that we want to invest in Canadians and their families. Additional projects that were established to actively help Canadians hoping to get into the housing market are the rental construction financing initiative and the national housing strategy.
We will continue working hard to ensure that for middle-class Canadians home ownership is not a pipe dream, but rather, an achievable goal.
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