- MPndpMay 03, 2013 10:10 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for that very relevant question. I appreciate the work she has done on the file as our representative on the aboriginal affairs file.
The unemployment rate among aboriginal youth in my province and in many places across the country can be as high as 50% or 60%, four or five times higher than the already high unemployment rate for youth. There are communities in northern Manitoba where the unemployment rate is 85% to 90%. There is a vast pool of youth between 16 and 25 who, with an opportunity, could make a meaningful entrance into the workforce.
When I was head of the carpenters union, we did make an outreach effort specifically to go up and do some training in northern Manitoba because we had hydro dams going there. Believe me, a lot of the apprentices we signed in the aboriginal apprenticeship initiative found really satisfying careers in the construction industry. It is not a bad segue into the industrialized workforce, the construction and building trades.
It is hard work, and they are no strangers to hard work, growing up in the north. It is the high school kids from downtown Winnipeg who have a tough time getting into the construction industry, because it is hard work. These guys think it is easy money. For those who spent their life splitting wood and hauling fish nets in the wintertime, construction is easy money.
We are missing the boat by not matching the skills shortages that everybody knows about in the construction industry and the human resources surplus that is under our nose. Surely it is cheaper to train a kid from Pukatawagan than it is to fly them in from Lebanon or Southeast Asia or wherever these other temporary foreign workers are coming from. For God's sake, it is completely counterintuitive.
- MPndpMay 03, 2013 10:05 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
They are one step up from Simon Legree. They are slave drivers. They are human traffickers.
- MPndpMay 03, 2013 9:55 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to follow on the heels of the speech just made by the Minister of Labour, because it gives me the opportunity to point out to anyone listening, to the country in general, that this particular piece of legislation and the recent actions of that Minister of Labour constitute nothing less than a war on labour and the left. It is a war on fair wages and benefits, earned over a century of free collective bargaining and trade union rights. The minister has been systematically undermining the rights of workers to organize, the rights of workers to bargain collectively and the rights of workers sometimes to withhold their services, in fact, as is their right should collective bargaining reach an impasse.
We find it again in the most egregious assault on trade union rights in the post-war era. We find it again in the parameters of this document in which the Conservatives are interfering pre-emptively in the collective bargaining rights of crown corporations. They say that they will dictate the terms and conditions of those working people.
I do not think I need to remind you, Mr. Speaker, that a burgeoning, well-paid middle class is the greatest strength our economy has, and it can be traced directly to the advent and rise of the trade union movement, which bargained for fair wages and working conditions for working people all over North America. It was the United States of America's biggest folly and biggest mistake when it attacked trade unions in that country with its right-to-work legislation, with measures just like we are seeing from their neo-conservative counterparts in Canada. They diminished the rate of unionization in those right-to-work states, and correspondingly, wages and working conditions cascaded and tumbled to where a good job in Georgia or North Carolina these days pays $8, $10 or $12 an hour, with no benefits whatsoever.
If that is the direction the Conservatives want to go, I ask in whose interest it is to drive down the wages and working conditions of Canadians. Canadians do not need to elect a government to do that. There are market forces all over the place that seek to do that.
The Conservatives are interfering with the normal market forces, the natural market forces, that dictate that in a time of skills shortages, working people can command a better wage. That is the time they go to the bargaining table and say that our labour might have been worth only $20 an hour last year, when there was no work, but there is lots of work now. Now is the time when working people should be able to negotiate fair wages.
What are the Conservatives doing in my industry? One example found in Bill C-60 is the temporary foreign worker program. People forget that in the last omnibus budget bill, that minister eliminated the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. They hardly even noticed that. The construction fair wages act set minimum wages for non-union construction workers at something higher than the provincial minimum wage. She said that they got rid of that because hardly anyone works under it anyway.
Correspondingly, the Conservatives brought in the temporary foreign worker expedited 10-day guarantee. Labour brokers, labour pimps, from around the world are now bringing crews of construction workers to Canada under that program. They are being paid 15% less, and not less than the construction wage but less than the minimum wage in a province. How does any fair employer ever compete? How does any fair contractor ever win another job if its competition is using these labour pimps that have been facilitated by the minister to undermine the whole fair tendering process?
These are the unintended consequences, or maybe intended consequences, of the rash, irresponsible legislation we are seeing in these massive omnibus bills. There is no debate. There is never any time to debate any of these predictable consequences. We would have brought these things to the attention of the minister if these things ever could be debated fairly.
I was thinking earlier today of a poem by Allen Ginsberg called Howl. It begins, “I saw the best minds of my generation [rot]”. I watched the best aspects of our parliamentary democracy systematically undermined, assaulted and destroyed by the government. The Conservatives have this idea, like a lot of neo-conservative fundamentalists, that the end justifies the means, that they can throw away everything that is good and decent about our parliamentary democracy, because somehow God is on their side and they are going to drive this down people's throat, in spite of overwhelming evidence that it is the wrong way to go.
I saw a bumper sticker the last time I was in Washington that said, “At least the war on the middle class is going well”. That is what is happening here.
The Conservatives have this idea that they have to ratchet down the expectations of Canadian workers by ordering people back to work at Canada Post at a rate lower than what was negotiated with their employer, or by pre-empting job action at Air Canada by ordering people back to work before there was even a strike, or now, by stripping the collective bargaining ability from the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people who work in crown corporations.
In whose interest is it to drive down the wages of Canadian workers? Are they out of their minds? We can look south of the border at the predictable consequences. They have destroyed their middle class there. They have completely undermined fair wages.
I come from the building industry. I served an apprenticeship as a carpenter. I have indentured literally hundreds of apprentices in my experience as the head of the carpenters' union. We predicted skills shortages 40 or 50 years ago, for heaven's sake, given the predictable demographics of the baby boom. It was no surprise.
A temporary foreign worker program that saturates the market with cheap foreign labour is not a human resources strategy. It is the polar opposite. It is admitting defeat.
Let me give an example of some of the catastrophes in that program. I already brought it to the minister's attention years ago. Gold River Tahsis, on Vancouver Island, had a pulp and paper mill shut down. It was a terrible loss to the community. A company in China bought the pulp and paper mill, but it had to be dismantled and torn down. Eighty unemployed millwrights in the town of Gold River Tahsis could have used one more year's work to dismantle the pulp and paper mill. Instead, the company had to go to a labour broker, a labour pimp we call them, and bring in 80 people from South Asia to do it. We got the documents. We got a copy of the application. It asked if they had tried to find qualified Canadians. The response was “yes”. It asked why they did not hire qualified Canadians. The response was that the cost was too high.
That is what the contractor put in the documents that went to the minister's desk, and the Conservatives signed off and brought in these guys. All these local people in Gold River Tahsis were locked outside the gate looking in while a bunch of temporary foreign workers got the last few weeks of employment in their dying pulp mill. That is an atrocity.
The Winnipeg International Airport is another example. Again, I tried to go to the minister with this complaint. We have a couple of hundred unemployed carpenters in Manitoba. We are building a brand new airport that we are all proud of. Where does the construction crew come from to place all that concrete? They come from Lebanon. Their last job was in Latvia. They are a bunch of Lebanese workers being shopped around by these labour pimps who go around the world with their crews undermining the local conditions. There are hundreds of unemployed carpenters in Manitoba. It is skilled work doing elevated concrete ramps with all kinds of staging and scaffolding involved, and it goes to a bunch of Lebanese workers.
I have nothing against the good people of Lebanon, but they have no right to those Canadian jobs. If we need to open the doors to immigration, there would be no complaint from this side of the House, but those jobs should not be given away to temporary foreign workers.
God knows under what terms and conditions they were being paid. Believe me, the local contractors can never compete with someone who can get 40 people working at 15% less than the minimum wage. How does a fair contractor ever win another job?
The most recent example is the Women's Hospital in Winnipeg. That is going on right now. The labourers and carpenters are picketing that job as we speak, because temporary foreign workers are doing labour work. These are not even carpenters' jobs. They are construction labourers. The Conservatives cannot tell me that there is not some unemployed aboriginal kid in a northern Manitoba reserve, where the unemployment rate is 80% and 90%, who could not be trained and put on that job at $20 an hour to do construction labour.
No one has tried hard enough to place the skills shortages with the labour surpluses. It is a pathetic situation, absolutely pathetic.
Bill C-60 is full of 50-some odd pieces of legislation that we as members of Parliament, representing the people who elected us, will never have a chance to give proper scrutiny and oversight to. We are being denied that right by closure again. How many times have the Conservatives moved closure on a bill? All of them. It is an easy number. I do not need to even know the number.
Every single time they have a piece of legislation, they deny us the right to do due diligence, as is our obligation and duty as elected members of Parliament.
I am sick of it. I have watched it deteriorate, and in my 15 years as a member of Parliament, I have never seen it as bad as it is today. These guys are a disgrace.
- MPndpMay 03, 2013 9:05 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to present a petition signed by literally tens of thousands of Canadians who call upon Parliament to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known and that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial or occupational causes combined.
The petitioners call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all of its forms and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam Convention.
- MPndpMay 03, 2013 8:35 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are deluded if they think that the Auditor General was somehow congratulating them for doing a good job. The Auditor General lambasted them in the strongest language I have ever seen in an Auditor General's report.
If this $3.1-billion boondoggle was their only problem, it would be different, but we have a pattern developing here of ministers resigning, lives at risk in search and rescue mismanagement and unreported privacy violations of a million Canadians. It makes one wonder what this government is good at.
There is one thing it is good at: re-branding Government of Canada websites in Conservative Party colours to make it look like somehow there is no differences between the Conservative Party and the--
- MPndpMay 03, 2013 8:30 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, something to me feels like déjà vu all over again, because in 2002, it was the Conservatives who were going ballistic over the Liberal billion-dollar boondoggle, and it was the Liberals who were soft-selling the Auditor General's report.
Now remember this language: “The question raised by the Auditor General was [only] on the way we should report”.
It is the same old story from the same old parties. I put it to members that the only difference between the Liberals' mismanagement and the Conservatives' mismanagement is that they managed to lose three times the amount of money. The Conservatives, in those days, accused the Liberals of having a billion-dollar slush fund. In the absence of any information to the contrary, how do we know they have not created a $3-billion slush fund?
- MPndpApr 25, 2013 11:05 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, it seems that spring has sprung and love is in the air as last night we witnessed the two old-line parties caught in each other's warm embrace once again.
When the final vote for Bill S-7 came up, it was Liberal, Tory, same old story as the Liberals and Conservatives were seen voting hand-in-hand.
Together they voted through a law that allows secret hearings and incarcerations of up to one year without charge and conviction, provisions that have proven unnecessary in the past and provisions that represent a clear violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a piece of paper that some parties in this place should understand better.
We recognize that these springtime smells can be intoxicating, but that is no excuse for shirking one's responsibility to uphold both the letter and spirit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, even when it takes political courage to do so.
Canadians deserve a party that will fight to protect the sanctity of the charter in all circumstances and they will have a chance to choose that change when they vote NDP in the federal election of 2015.
- MPndpApr 23, 2013 1:15 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to comment on what was a very legitimate and serious question. In my view, the way the bill is being treated on this day in the aftermath of one of the greatest terrorism attacks in North American history and the undermining of another attempt at terrorism, trivializes and politicizes the issue and does a disservice to how serious it is an obligation of a government to keep its citizens safe.
If the government were serious about doing all it could to co-operatively work with Parliament to act in the best interests of Canadians, if we were in fact under siege or under attack, there should be a war cabinet attitude where the leader of the Conservative Party, the Prime Minister, would bring together the leaders of the other parties and work collaboratively to act in the best interests of Canadians, not to rehash this flawed legislation, especially through the back door of the other place where it has no business originating.
- MPndpApr 23, 2013 1:10 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I think my friend from Kings—Hants knows full well that much of the work that he cited as being worthwhile could be done by parliamentary committees if they were given the power, the authority and the resources that were promised to us in the Reform Party days when we used to have these conversations about giving meaningful work to committees and giving them meaningful resources to do it. We do not need a senate to have a comprehensive study on the situation of mental health in our country. I too have worked with senators on various projects, and again, that work could be done by elected members of Parliament.
I think the Senate is beyond reform. I used to think that everything that was wrong with the Senate could be fixed through Senate reform, through various changes we could make. I have given up on that idea. It has been abused so egregiously in recent years. It has been stacked and stuffed with hacks and flacks to the point where it is irredeemable. Having a two-tiered Senate is only going to compound the problem and make it worse.
- MPndpApr 23, 2013 1:00 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I am conflicted somewhat as I begin my remarks today in that I object profoundly to the fact that this bill is designated S-7 instead of C-7, or whatever number it may get when it is introduced properly by the democratically elected members of Parliament in Canada's parliamentary system. I have never seen, in my 15 years as a member of Parliament, such a proliferation of bills originating in the other place. It used to be a rare exception. I think you will be able to back me on this, Mr. Speaker. It was the exception, not the rule.
Let us remind ourselves and make a statement here and now, and I urge members of Parliament present to make a statement today, that we should not tolerate, or entertain, or debate, or accept bills that come from the undemocratic, unelected and, we believe, ineffectual and even embarrassing other place, the Senate of Canada.
My views on this have changed dramatically. I have known you a long time, Mr. Speaker, and I think we have had this conversation. I used to be one of the only New Democrats who I knew of who did not want to abolish the Senate, even though the original Regina Manifesto that was the guiding document of the founding of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the predecessor to my party, did. Article 9 of the Regina Manifesto was to abolish the unelected, undemocratic, ineffective, et cetera, Senate. We wanted to get rid of it back then because it was a repository for hacks and flacks and idiot nephews of some rich Liberals and Conservatives that they could not find another job for, a place-holding thing for a bunch of hacks and flacks. They wanted to get rid of it then, but I did not agree, only for one reason.
There was a time, a dark period in our history, where we lost party status and were down to nine members. The Conservative Party was down to two members. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, how wildly the pendulum swings in Canadian politics. In Brian Mulroney's second term, I believe it was, he had 202 members and by the time that term of office finished, it was down to 2. Our party did not fare that much better. We were down to nine. The difference was that the Conservative Party had two members of Parliament but 35 or 40 senators. It still had all kinds of resources, money and things it could do. Its caucus consisted of 30 or 40 people. Even though it only had two elected members, it had 35 unelected members in its caucus. The NDP had nine members of Parliament and no senators.
I thought to myself that it might be a good idea if we accepted some of the invitations to sit in the Senate. Why should there not be a New Democrat in the Senate? Some of my colleagues are objecting to my reasoning and the thought process that has brought me there. As I say, my thinking has changed once again because I have been so profoundly offended by the antics of the other place in recent years that I now fully and wholeheartedly believe and accept that the Senate cannot be repaired. It has to be abolished. A Triple-A Senate—
- MPndpMar 25, 2013 2:55 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by agreeing with my colleague about one thing, that since ancient times, the best way to communicate craft trade skills has been through the formal apprenticeship system. This has been true since the ancient Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, and is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago.
My question for the member is a pointed one and it builds from the labour market strategy, or the lack of one, and the EI system. He knows, as a former apprenticeship coordinator, that when people take their school component of their apprenticeship, they are not laid off by the employer, they are allowed to go and they are allowed to collect EI for that six weeks, or whatever it is, for their annual school component.
Why then is there a waiting period, as if they have been laid off? Why is there an interruption in their income maintenance when apprentices go to community college to do their six week trade component? Would the member not agree with me that if we are trying to encourage young people to go into the apprenticeable trades, there should be no interruption in income maintenance when they leave the job to go to school and then back to the job again?
- MPndpMar 25, 2013 1:55 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I notice my colleague spent much of his time giving rather lofty platitudes and some very nice history about his family's service in the armed forces, et cetera, but he was soft on details when it comes to one of the major concerns that we have about the budget, which is the jobs strategy the government has put forward.
I would like to correct one thing, remind him of another and then ask his opinion on a third.
First, if the Conservatives really wanted to do something for small business, they could have done something tangible in the budget. When the NDP took power in Manitoba in 1999, the tax-and-grab Conservatives were charging small businesses 11% in corporate tax. Subsequently, the NDP reduced that every year by 1% per year. I do not have to tell the Manitoba MPs in the House today—there are five of us here at least—that the small business tax in the socialist paradise of Manitoba is now zero.
If the Conservatives are serious about making a gesture to small business in the budget, it would not be to charge them more for labour market training, as they are contemplating, but to give them a real, tangible, take-home tax break—
- MPndpMar 19, 2013 7:05 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to our study on effectiveness of public-private partnerships in the delivery of government services.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.
- MPndpMar 18, 2013 12:00 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, Louis Riel was a hero, not a traitor, a father of Confederation, the founder of Manitoba and, many people say, the best member of Parliament that Provencher ever had.
In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling, will the Prime Minister or his designate assure this House and assure the descendants of the Métis of the Red River Settlement that the government will uphold the ruling of the court and respect the outstanding terms and conditions of the terms of union, and end and resolve once and for all 140 years of injustice to the Métis people of Manitoba?
- MPndpMar 06, 2013 2:35 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I would point out that it was always my understanding that a question of privilege had primacy over all other points raised in the House, and I believe that there are other people wishing to speak to the question of privilege I put forward today.
- MPndpMar 06, 2013 2:10 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of privilege. It is an unprecedented matter, and I believe it is a matter of extreme importance to the House of Commons.
Section 3 of the Canadian Bill of Rights states that:
the Minister of Justice shall...examine every regulation...and every Bill introduced in or presented to the House of Commons by a Minister of the Crown, in order to ascertain whether any of the provisions thereof are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of this Part and he shall report any such inconsistency to the House of Commons.
Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that:
the Minister shall...(a) examine the Bill in order to
- MPndpMar 06, 2013 1:15 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons we argue for more scrutiny, oversight and due diligence is the fact that the particular party and particular minister have a reputation now of launching bills that are half-baked and that have not been given the oversight and scrutiny they deserve.
I was here when the minister had to stand up and amend his own legislation because, even though he was warned all through the process of the legislation that certain elements offended the charter and were unconstitutional, et cetera, the Conservatives would not allow a single amendment. In fact, they have not allowed a single amendment to a single bill in the entire 41st Parliament. It is as if they have some of kind of monopoly on wisdom in this regard, but in actual fact, they make a lot of mistakes. I have a list here of some of the charter challenges on legislation from the government since 2007; two of them dealing with the RCMP and the Expenditure Restraint Act.
The Conservatives cannot tell me that they are not launching stuff into this House of Commons that may not have been vetted properly by the Department of Justice officials, as according to whistleblower Edgar Schmidt. In actual fact, bills arrive here in a state that should not be passed, that deserve to be analyzed further, criticized and scrutinized and have the merits of their arguments tested by legitimate debate in the House of Commons, the way God wanted it.
- MPndpFeb 28, 2013 10:55 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore for the tone and content of his remarks. I think he has summarized our objections to the bill in a very comprehensive way, from the heart and out of principle.
Given the nature and subject matter of the bill, I also want to recognize and pay tribute to my colleagues from London—Fanshawe, Churchill, Halifax, and the many others who are volunteering to be recognized today, with the notable exception of the member for Kings—Hants, for the contributions they have made to this important subject matter, which includes not only the serious issue of sexual harassment in the workplace but also the issue of restoring confidence and pride in our national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
For whatever reason, we know that the image of the RCMP has suffered in recent years as a result of unresolved allegations, investigations and complaints regarding the operations and functions of that workplace in the context of harassment and in the broader context of bullying, a word that has come up a number of times in comments by learned members in the House. Bullying has almost become a motif or theme throughout a great deal of the objections we have heard, and I think we cannot separate the two.
I am also proud of the opposition day motion that my colleague put forward, the motion regarding an anti-bullying policy or strategy for this country. It is a shame that the anti-bullying initiative was turned down, because the issue we are dealing with today could be quite appropriately dealt with in the context of that anti-bullying legislation.
The reason I wanted to compliment my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore is that he got to the root of the problem, which is that it is actually too late to be debating the merits of the bill now that it is at third reading.
We tried to amend the bill at committee stage. We supported the bill at second reading in the hopeful belief that there was an intention of co-operation by the government side members to accommodate some of the legitimate concerns we brought forward. The theme of the speech by my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore was with respect to an arrogance in this place, the likes of which we have never seen in the government, as it has refused to allow a single amendment to a single piece of legislation in the entire 41st Parliament.
I was a member of Parliament during the majority Liberal government. We were a small party, about the size the Liberals are now, and almost as irrelevant as the Liberals are now. However, we did have one member on each committee, just as the Liberals have now. I can say without any fear of contradiction that during the Liberal majority years, my colleagues and I used to get amendments through on pieces of legislation at committee. That is only reasonable, because in a Westminster parliamentary democracy there is an obligation on the ruling party to accommodate some of the legitimate issues brought forward by the majority of Canadians who did not vote for the majority party.
- MPndpFeb 27, 2013 2:05 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, it is important to correct the record because this is some of the great revisionist history of the Liberal Party. The Liberals still cannot believe they were thrown out of power. They are still mourning from the traumatic event here. They would have us believe that if we had just elected them one more time it would have been nirvana. It would have been Camelot. We would have a national daycare system and we would have a Kelowna accord.
However, in actual fact, every time the Liberals had a balanced budget and every time they did get a surplus, and there were seven or eight surpluses in a row, they gave it to their buddies on Bay Street in increasingly large corporate tax cuts. They were in a race with the Conservatives, a race to the bottom. They will not be happy until there are zero corporate taxes on the macro scale. Every single time they had an opportunity, instead of spending it on social programs and turning the tap back on that they had turned off to balance the budget, they chose to give it to their Bay Street buddies. Hypocrites.
- MPndpFeb 27, 2013 1:55 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to join this debate on Bill C-48.
I hope to use what little time I have to expand on the broader issue of how governments generate revenue, and the role of parliamentarians in being charged with the responsibility of the scrutiny, oversight and due diligence associated with generating revenue through taxation, and then, of course, the spending of that revenue. I do not suppose there is anything more important that MPs do than that. It is certainly the primary function and why our constituents give us their confidence to supervise the public purse.
At the outset, I was pleased to see that Bill C-48 deals with tax avoidance and tax evasion as well as a number of intricacies in the tax system itself.
Chartered accountants and virtually all of the tax lawyers and tax accountants advertise on their websites something called the “tax-motivated expatriation”. They call it that because it has a nicer ring than “sleazy tax-cheating loopholes”, which is what it is when tax avoidance and tax evasion allows one to be a tax fugitive by harbouring one's resources and taking advantage of what taxes buy in terms of a stable, safe community, with public services, policing and health care. It is putting one's money offshore to hide it from the prying eyes of the public and the taxman, and not paying one's fair share but getting the best of both worlds. I am glad that finally this Parliament is seized of the issue.
I was here years ago when the Liberals were in power. Ironically, they tore up a number of tax treaties with different tax havens. However, they left 11 in place, one of which, of course, was where the leader of the Liberal Party at the time, who became Prime Minister, had his 13 shadow company in tax havens, stashing his business away from the tax system, the very tax system that allowed him to live in a such a decent country. That kind of thing makes my blood boil. The tax-cheating loopholes through tax havens has always bothered me.
Another thing that has bugged me is that we focus so much on generating tax revenue, yet we overlook other obvious sources of bankrolling the social services we need. One that comes to mind is another Liberal invention, the corporate welfare program called “technology partnership loans”. Some who have been around here for a while will remember the TPLs, technology partnership loan system.
I did some research when we had been dealing with the paying back of student loans. During the estimates, we learned that the government had to write off $280 million, I think it was, in the supplementary estimates (C). However, 87% of all the money loaned in student loans is paid back, and 95% of all the individuals pay it back. The numbers are jigged because I guess some have larger loans, but 95% of all the people who borrow student loans pay back every penny they owe to that program. With the technology partnership loans under the Liberal government, it is entirely the opposite, with 5% being paid back and 95% outstanding.
When is a loan not a loan? Well, if one never pays it back, it is not a loan at all, but a gift, a handout. It is corporate welfare. It is dumping a wheelbarrow full of dough into somebody's business where one is obviously expecting some kind of a quid pro quo. Why we leave these outstanding technology partnership loans dangling there, I will never understand.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation just did a big report on this in its latest monthly magazine. Members can look it up to see exactly how much which companies borrowed, and how much, if any, they have paid back. It goes on page after page with these hugely profitable companies.
One of my complaints about across-the-board general tax cuts to business is simply this. Any kind of a tax cut to business should be tied to some kind of quid pro quo, a performance, a job creation, some benefit to the taxpayer other than just helping to subsidize the activities of that company, with the exception possibly of SMEs.
When the NDP government was elected in Manitoba, the small business tax rate was 11%. The Conservatives of the day were gouging small businesses mercilessly, to the point where they were staggering under the load. They were crippled by over-taxation in the province of Manitoba. When the NDP was elected, it systematically and annually reduced the small business tax as much as it could afford, 1% at a time. Every year it went down by 1%.
Could you guess, Mr. Speaker, perhaps with hand signals, what you think the small business taxation rate in the socialist paradise of Manitoba is today? Are you willing to hazard a guess, sir? It is a great big goose egg: zero. The small business tax in Manitoba is zero because there is ample empirical evidence to show that when a tax break is given to small businesses, they hire people, expand their businesses, invest in their companies and generate wealth in the community. We know that every dollar spent in the community is spent at least four times before it finds its natural state of repose in some rich man's pocket, which he then invests offshore in a tax haven.
The economic game is not supposed to be like some shady ring toss on a carnival midway. However, that is the way people feel sometimes when it is stacked so heavily against ordinary working people who are simply trying to earn a living, pay their taxes and get decent services.
I used one example with regard to the Liberal regime. I am a little hostile toward the Liberals right now; I was just having a fight with my colleague from Manitoba. I have to remind people that a lot of the time that I spent here was under a Liberal regime. The Liberals chose to balance the books by three things that are still timely and topical today. They cut $50 billion in social transfers to the provinces. That $50 billion gave them a start, cutting and hacking and slashing through every social program by which we define ourselves as Canadians, in the most ruthless and irresponsible way one can imagine.
Where do members think the Liberals got the second part? People forget there was a $40 billion surplus in the public pension plan and the final parting act by Marcel Masse, the Treasury Board president at the time, was to scoop every single penny out of the surplus of the public service pension plan and take it unto themselves. They were not allowed to, and they had to pass legislation to do it. That surplus should have at least been divided among the beneficiaries and contributors, but the Liberals scooped 100%.
Where did they get the third part for their budget balancing? They got it from the EI fund: $57 billion that was not theirs. They did not contribute a single penny to it. They scooped $57 billion out of the EI fund. Let me talk about the impact of the cuts to EI. They created a program where nobody qualified anymore, but everybody had to pay into it. An analysis was done, and their changes to EI in 1997 caused $20.8 million a year of federal money for my riding to be sucked right out of that riding, with all of the corresponding beneficial spending associated with that $20 million. It was like night and day. That is how to not balance a budget. We are talking about revenue, how to generate revenue and how governments get the money they need to provide the services they are obliged to provide. That is not something we want replicated.
When we talk about taxation, we need to talk about the redistribution of wealth. It is one of the ways to redistribute the great wealth of a great nation so that we all enjoy the benefits of living in this society. We forget some of the big picture issues when we drill down and analyze these increasingly complex tax documents. If we are guided by the underlying motif that it is a way to fair taxes, leading to good public services, it is not something to be lamented, and tax avoidance by tax fugitives in sleazy tax-cheating loopholes is not to be tolerated.
- MPndpFeb 27, 2013 12:30 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, the second petition I would like to table is signed by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and many residents in my constituency.
The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to restore our overseas development assistance to 0.7% of the GDP and to fully fund, in the spirit of global solidarity, the grant to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace of $49.2 million, as requested, over the next five years.
- MPndpFeb 27, 2013 12:20 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study of the supplementary estimates (C) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.
- MPndpFeb 13, 2013 12:05 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to salute the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the Province of Quebec for putting in place emergency measures to deal with the possibility of an invasion of zombies. I do not need to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that zombies do not recognize borders and that a zombie invasion in the United States could easily turn into a continent-wide pandemic if it is not contained.
On behalf of concerned Canadians everywhere, I want to ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Is he working with his American counterparts to develop an international zombie strategy so that a zombie invasion does not turn into a zombie apocalypse?
- MPndpFeb 05, 2013 11:50 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, Air Canada's CEO seems to view Canadians the way P.T. Barnum used to view circus-goers. He is thumbing his nose at the legislation that governs his airline. He treats our Minister of Transport like a doormat.
If government wants to stand up for law enforcement and victims, why does it not stand up for the 400 victims of Calin Rovinescu in my riding of Winnipeg Centre, in Montreal, in Mississauga and around the country? It could stand up and make Air Canada live by the law of the land.
- MPndpFeb 04, 2013 11:05 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Farewell to the lowly old penny, The most common of coins that we'll see, And once served us well, But most people will tell, It ain't what it once used to be. There's nothing a penny will buy anymore, Not a gum ball or small piece of candy, We don't even use the old fashioned fuse, Where the penny at least came in handy. Nope, the penny's a nuisance, It cost too much to make, They clutter our change purse, And they don't circulate. They build up in piles, And in old cookie jars, Under our beds, And in our desk drawers. You can't give them away, They cost more than they're worth, It's time to put them all out to pasture, Put them out to the curb. No, the penny is useless, But there's one thing I'd say, I hope they never start treating old MPs this way.
- MPndpNov 28, 2012 2:00 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my colleague's comment that the NDP put forward six what he considered to be reasonable amendments at the committee and not a single one was favoured with a supportive vote by my colleagues in the ruling Conservative Party. In fact, not a single amendment has ever been allowed to any piece of legislation in the 41st Parliament. Even at times when the Conservatives know full well that the amendments have merit, they act and behave as if they have some kind of monopoly on all wisdom, all knowledge and all good ideas. At times the minister has had to get up at report stage and introduce the very same things that they voted down at the committee stage. They must find that embarrassing, to be hoisted with their own petard in that way.
I am interested in the quote by the member for Saint Boniface. Does it not seem to be contradictory that she spoke in favour of the same principle that my colleague put forward in the amendment? Does my colleague have any explanation for such contradictory behaviour by the parliamentary secretary?
- MPndpNov 28, 2012 12:15 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present a petition signed by literally thousands of Canadians in support of Bill C-398. The petition was put forward by the Grandmothers Advocacy Network and it calls upon Parliament to pass, without amendment, Bill C-398 later today.
- MPndpNov 28, 2012 12:10 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study of the supplementary estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.
- MPndpNov 19, 2012 3:25 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
That is a good point, Mr. Speaker. The Conservatives unilaterally, arbitrarily, absolutely cancelled one of the most significant and important pieces of legislation to come out of the Commons in a decade, the climate change bill.
It was Jack Layton's bill. He actually gave it to that ungrateful guy from Thunder Bay North. He let that guy from Thunder Bay handle it because he was so pouty and it gave him something to do so it was not in Jack's name, but it was Jack Layton's bill.
It hurts me to this day to see the Conservatives trample all over five years work and committed improvements. Back in the days when Parliament used to work, we worked hard to make that good legislation. They abused their authority and, I argue, lost any right to enjoy any credibility of the Canadian people.
Imagine the Conservatives appointing their party president and the campaign manager. Hacks and flacks and bagmen is what it has come down to, doing purely partisan work. The Conservatives have long strayed from any credible, legitimate function and role. They are more a hindrance than a help. They are an obstacle to democracy. They do not enhance democracy in any way. They are a barrier to democracy. We should not be—
- MPndpNov 19, 2012 3:20 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Conservatives are running roughshod over everything that is good and decent about our parliamentary democracy. They are cutting a swath through tradition, precedent and so forth by asking the Senate to check their bills.
We in the House generate the legislation. The people of Canada elected us for the express purpose of generating legislation in this chamber. The Senate is allowed to check the spelling and make sure it does not offend the Constitution in any way and can send it back for a modest amendment if it sees fit. It does not get to write the legislation. That is not normal. I do not want the people of Canada to think that is normal or right, or that it can even serve the interests of Canadians.
The other piece of legislation that the Senate unilaterally and arbitrarily killed, which is why I believe the other chamber has lost any credibility whatsoever, is the drugs for Africa bill. The Stephen Lewis Foundation and the Grandmothers Advocacy Network to get generic drugs to Africa—
- MPndpNov 19, 2012 3:15 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for recognizing and acknowledging the fundamental problem I was trying to address in the limited time that I had.
The problem is that those guys are running roughshod over everything that is good and decent about our parliamentary democracy. In the one case, they are sliding legislation in from the Senate or through private members' business when the convention has it, and in fact our Westminster parliamentary democracy has it, that legislation originates in Parliament with the full scrutiny and oversight of the Canadian people subject to rigorous debate and subject to amendment to accommodate the legitimate concerns of the official opposition and the other opposition parties.
I do not care who one is, nobody has a monopoly on good ideas.
The Conservatives won a razor thin majority with 38% of the vote, of those who chose to vote. Some say that in fact they stole that election through election fraud and that they have no mandate to govern whatsoever. However, that is yet to be proven and I am not alleging anything of the sort.
Tradition dictates and in fact this fragile construct of our Westminster parliamentary democracy depends on the accommodation of legitimate concerns brought forward by the opposition through amendments to legislation. We brought 11 legitimate amendments to the table at committee. How many did the Conservatives allow? Not one. In fact, they have never allowed a single amendment to any legislation in the 41st Parliament.
- MPndpNov 19, 2012 3:10 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have read the bill that the government has named the safe food for Canadians act. I also took the time to read the Library of Parliament briefing notes that were made available in association with the bill for the assistance and guidance of the committee. I read the explanation of the bill through clause-by-clause analysis and also the House notes prepared by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Welland, who I should stop and recognize and pay tribute to for the work he has done in representing the interests of Canadians in the pursuit of true safe food for Canadians legislation. It might give them some comfort to know that there are committed advocates on the opposition benches who are seeking to address the lamentable situation of the food inspection regime in this country.
Having gone through those various stages of familiarizing myself with the bill, the first and most striking thing is something that has not come up at all in any of the speeches. I even listened to the rather vapid platitudes of the parliamentary secretary in the speech that he made regarding the bill, but no one has pointed out the elephant in the room and that is the front page, the cover of Bill S-11. Any member of Parliament in this place who considers himself or herself a true democrat, surely should be offended by the fact that we are standing here today at this late hour on Monday afternoon in Ottawa in the House of Commons, in the elected chamber, dealing with a piece of legislation that comes from the unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable chamber, the Senate of Canada.
No one elected senators to make legislation for Canadians. I argue they have no right to generate legislation from the other chamber. I argue that as members of Parliament if we had any dignity or self-respect, we would bar the legislation at the gates of the door here. We would ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to block them, to tie the doors and stop the introduction of pieces of legislation such as this into the chamber because it has no business being here. Senators have no right.
If there ever were any semblance of utility to that place, if we could even believe at any given time that there was some value to the Senate of Canada, they forfeited that in the last Parliament when they unilaterally and arbitrarily, I would argue, jettisoned two of the most worthy pieces of legislation I have ever had the honour to work on in this chamber. One of them was the only piece of climate change legislation in the Parliament of Canada, a western, developed nation with no position on climate change. Through five years of laborious negotiation and give-and-take, we passed a piece of climate legislation through the House—
- MPndpNov 19, 2012 11:15 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, for the past four years corporate tax revenues have actually been below where they were when the Conservatives took power. However, over the same four years, Conservatives collected $40 billion more in personal income tax. They shifted the burden so that individual Canadians now pay four times more in taxes than corporations do.
What has been the effect of the Conservative vision of the economy? According to the IMF, we have fallen behind the U.S. in growth. In fact, even Greece's economy is expected to grow faster than ours by 2015.
What is the Conservative response? Just make up stuff to attack the opposition. This was on display again last week when CTV journalist Don Martin aired a disgraceful clip of the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism being coached by a PMO flunkey on how to make stuff up about the NDP.
I say to my Conservative colleagues, do not let the PMO do their thinking and substitute fibs for facts. Cast off the shackles and show some dignity and self-respect. Why do—
- MPndpNov 19, 2012 10:20 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I want to build on the comments by my colleague for Burnaby—Douglas.
There is an outstanding hypocrisy associated with the bill. The Conservatives have this innocuous apple pie, motherhood kind of a bill that would give leave to some poor family whose child might be kidnapped. However, on the other hand, they have declared war on labour and the left with this unmitigated assault on trade union freedoms in Bill C-377.
The Conservatives have declared war on the Rand formula which gave us labour peace during the entire post war era for the last 50 years. Those guys want to declare war on labour and the left and yet they want us to think that they are all warm and fuzzy, motherhood and apple pie because they will give two weeks leave to somebody whose child is kidnapped.
- MPndpNov 06, 2012 11:30 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that notorious union buster Terrance Oakey is once again darkening the towels of the Prime Minister's Office. After successfully killing off the fair wages act, his next target is Bill C-377, the Conservatives' latest assault on labour.
Why are Conservatives letting the special interests of one well-connected Conservative lobbyist upset the labour peace in this country? If they do want to declare war on labour, why do they not do it through the front door instead of skulking around with a private member's bill like a bunch of cowards?
- MPndpNov 05, 2012 11:15 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, a recent report shows the Conservatives collected over $8 billion in government user fees last year alone. In fact, since 2000, user fees have more than doubled, while corporate taxes have been cut in half, shifting the tax burden once again onto the back of the beleaguered Canadian taxpayer.
They are not finished yet. Even though Canadians are still struggling from a devastating recession, the Conservatives are hitting them right in the pocketbook with a vast array of new taxes on everything under the sun. Passport fees have gone up, and so have fees for nautical charts and maps, fees imposed on new Canadians and even fees for international youth exchanges. Add it all together and it amounts to a great big fat Conservative tax grab.
Canadian taxpayers are sick of bankrolling the Conservatives' obsequious tithing to their corporate puppet masters. Gouging Canadians for exorbitant service fees is no way to balance the budget.
- MPndpNov 02, 2012 8:00 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is a modern-day hero and perhaps the best friend the Canadian taxpayer has. Those in government who undermine and insult him at every turn are not fit to breathe the same air as this great Canadian.
Villainy wears many masks, but none so treacherous as the mask of virtue. It was the culture of secrecy that allowed corruption to flourish in the bad years of the Liberal government. However, the Conservatives deceived Canadians by promising a brand new Camelot of transparency and accountability and then proceeded to make a mockery of any semblance of scrutiny, oversight or due diligence of government spending by ensuring that the efforts of the Parliamentary Budget Officer were thwarted and stymied at every turn.
Canadians have an absolute and constitutionally protected right to know what their government is doing with their money. History will remember Kevin Page as a great Canadian and an honourable public servant. The same cannot be said for those who would undermine, thwart and try to deter him from doing his job of protecting the Canadian taxpayer.
- MPndpOct 29, 2012 12:00 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by hundreds of people from the Sarnia—Lambton region who call upon the Government of Canada to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known. The petitioners point out that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial or occupational causes combined.
Therefore, the signatories from the Sarnia and Lambton area of the province of Ontario call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all of its forms, to ban the abstraction, production, sale and export of asbestos in all of its forms and to stop the importation of asbestos laden products from other countries.
- MPndpOct 29, 2012 11:10 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, so far this session, the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette has made only three statements in the House of Commons and he chose to squander all three of those making up stories about the NDP. He passed on the opportunity to boast about the successful 47th national Ukrainian festival held in his riding in Dauphin last August.
One would think the local MP might want to use one of his statements to congratulate the organizers and participants of the Manitoba summer games held in Swan River in his riding. Sadly, it was not meant to be.
Every time Conservative MPs squander their S. O. 31s, reading fabricated talking points prepared by the flying monkeys in short pants in the Prime Minister's Office, they fail their constituents.
I challenge the next speaker today to show some courage to stand and make a statement celebrating his or her beautiful riding or the achievements of his or her constituents instead of parroting what he or she knows to be falsehoods, fabrications and propaganda.
- MPndpOct 17, 2012 12:50 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by many residents of Manitoba and my riding of Winnipeg Centre, some of whom work at the ELA through the Freshwater Institute. They call upon the Government of Canada to reconsider the cancelling of the funding for the ELA, to recognize the importance of the ELA to the Government of Canada's mandate to study, preserve and protect Canada's aquatic ecosystems, reverse the decision to close the ELA research station and to continue to staff and provide financial services to the ELA at the current or higher level of commitment.
- MPndpOct 02, 2012 12:15 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, we have to reiterate that Canada is open for business and I am the first to agree. However, this is a democracy and the people have spoken through the polls and demonstrated enormous opposition to a Nexen takeover. It is irresponsible not to do an abundance of due diligence in such a controversial and precedent-setting deal, especially with our precious natural resources.
In what little time I had before question period, I pointed out the appalling situation of our manufacturing sector being gutted. As they watched and supervised over the hollowing out of our manufacturing sector, they said that their kids did not want to work in the needle trades in the garment industry anyway.
I used to have 43 garment manufacturers in my riding when I was first elected. There are three left, only one of which still produces anything. Everything else has been contracted to China. However, there was some comfort knowing that at least we have our natural resources, our birthright and natural heritage that we can develop in this country, some of which we should leave in the ground. I have never understood why we are in such a rush to give away all our natural resources at wholesale prices as fast as we possibly can. If a barrel of oil is worth $100 today, it might be worth $500 in 50 years from now. Who knows?
When we had Petro-Canada, that had to be sold because it was seen as socialism. However, now the members opposite favour inviting a communist dictatorship to own a piece of oil patch and give it away. Anyone with a chequebook apparently is allowed to buy up a piece of Canada.
Canada should be open for business; it should not be open for sale to anyone with a fat chequebook.
- MPndpOct 02, 2012 12:10 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, again I go back to the Conservative columnist Diane Francis, who has a fairly business friendly point of view quite often. She points out that one of the three reasons why Canada must reject this deal is the warning by CSIS against foreign buy-outs of strategic assets that may not be in our national interests and may also be an affront to our national security and long-range planning.
It just galls me that we are not having a national conversation on this subject. We should be consulting Canadians to see if this is what they want. The ad hoc consultation has taken place through polling by various organizations. Overwhelmingly, Canadians are at least apprehensive about this deal and in many cases vehemently against it. They deserve and I believe the government is obliged to have a thorough consultation and examination, with due diligence even beyond what it finds in the Investment Canada Act.
- MPndpOct 02, 2012 12:05 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my remarks by quoting some comments of a noted Canadian journalist. As sensitive as I am to the issue of plagiarism, I want to make sure that we give due credit to columnist Diane Francis and the Huffington Post. I do not quote Diane Francis often, as we disagree on some issues. However, in this case I believe she nails it.
Dealing with the Nexen deal and the CNOOC takeover, she states:
Canadians should be upset and insulted that China's biggest grab for control of a major resource company anywhere in the world is the $15-billion Nexen deal. Clearly, China is testing whether this Boy Scout of a nation will roll over.
She goes on to state:
This is just one of many reasons why Canada must reject this takeover. Another is a warning by CSIS against foreign buyouts of strategic assets, and yet another is that polls show public opposition to the deal.
The third reason she cites is that polls clearly show public opposition to the deal.
Those are three simple reasons for the three minutes that I have left.
Frankly, the third is perhaps the most salient. Canadians have been asked about this deal and have said flatly that they do not want the government to proceed with the deal at this time.
All we are asking in this motion today by the NDP is that there be thorough public consultations. Let us get the best minds in the country, pro and con, for and against, to sit down and discuss whether or not foreign takeovers by state-owned entities such as CNOOC are in the best interests of Canadians. Is that really too much to ask?
In my remarks before question period, I pointed out that the government got rid of the Canadian Wheat Board because it was too much like communism, even though it was just a bunch of prairie farmers acting together in their own best interests. I have heard Conservative members behind closed doors say, “We're going to get rid of that communism, them commie pinkos on the Prairies and their Canadian Wheat Board”. Yet they seem perfectly willing to have a genuine communist dictatorship take over a big piece of our birthright in the Canadian oil patch, that is, our natural resources.
With the one minute I have left, I voice a cautionary note here. It is not just CNOOC. Diane Francis also points out there are hundreds of other corporate appendages of China Inc. on a global acquisition frenzy, with a trillion dollars, gobbling up natural resources and paying premium prices for them, and sometimes wildly extravagant prices because they know the true value of these natural resources in the coming decades and century.
This is our children's birthright. This is a Canadian natural resource. Sinopec, Chinmetals, PetroChina, the China Investment Corporation, and even the city of Tsingtao are currently shopping for oil companies in Calgary. We really have to reflect on whether or not we want these state-owned enterprises to be able to operate in the same way that foreign investors operate.
We are not anti-investment. We believe Canada is open for business, but Canada is not for sale, and we will not allow—
- MPndpOct 02, 2012 10:50 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to enter this debate on the NDP's opposition day motion.
We should say at the outset, in case people are just tuning in now, that the terms of this motion are simply to insist on public consultation to examine in a fulsome way the takeover deal of Nexen. This is not a debate about whether we should or should not allow the deal to go through. I have my own personal views on that, but we should be clear that we are calling for the inclusion of the public and a full examination and full due diligence of this takeover deal. That is all this debate is about.
If there is one thing we want to make clear in the context of this debate, it is that Canada is open for business but that Canada is not for sale. That must be driven home. Believe me, if there were a full and true examination and consultation, the Conservative Party would have a heck of a job convincing Canadians that it is in their best interest to have a foreign nation state buy our birthright from under our feet and pay cash on the barrelhead for our future in the energy field.
The Chinese are on a global acquisition frenzy. That is not overstating things. It is predicted that over a trillion dollars will be disgorged from China to acquire natural resources, pulp and paper mills, and whatever energy and resources they possibly can.
Believe me, it is the high profile companies like the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, CNOOC, that are interested in buying Nexen. However, it is simply one of hundreds of Chinese corporate arms of China Inc. The audacity of China Inc. in this global acquisition frenzy is astounding. Other ones include Sinopec, Chinmetals, PetroChina, the China Investment Corporation, and thousands more unknown Chinese corporations owned by lower levels of the Chinese government, which are beginning to venture abroad, gobbling up assets.
We would be naive, irresponsible and crazy not to examine this motion in a full, comprehensive way and put in place guidelines and rules to respond to this global acquisition frenzy.
We are blessed in this country with an abundance of natural resources. It is our children's future, and how it is managed and developed is critical. Therefore, it is not audacious on the part of the NDP to be calling upon the government to open the door to a public debate and consultation. Let us hear from the best minds in the country, for and against this idea. Let us put it all out there and have a national conversation on whether we do or do not approve of this particular takeover.
We have to keep in mind that this is not any ordinary foreign takeover. Here I would point out as an aside the contradiction in the Conservative Party's speaking points today. I am the critic for the Canadian Wheat Board, and the prairie members of the Conservative caucus were insistent that the Canadian Wheat Board had to be abolished because we could not have that kind of communism on the prairies in our grain marketing. That is the word they used. Behind closed doors, the Conservative prairie members referred to the Canadian Wheat Board as communism. A bunch of prairie farmers, banding together to act in their own best interests to get the best price for their grain was communism and it had to stop.
Yet the conservatives see no problem with selling our birthright in the Canadian oil sands to true communists, in fact communists with a terrible human rights record. If the Conservatives cannot see a ridiculous contradictions in their own talking points on that, then they are even thicker than I thought.
Petro-Canada had to be sold because it smacked of socialism. Even if we had the temerity to keep some control over a tiny portion of the oil industry so that we would at least know if we are being gouged by big oil, no, that had to go because it smacked of socialism if the nation state of Canada actually owned a piece of the oil industry below its feet.
Yet the Conservatives speakers I have heard today apparently see no problem with China Inc. gobbling up our children's birthright in the oil sands. I am against the deal, but I am only one voice. We should be consulting all Canadians. There should be a referendum on this kind of question.
The Conservatives laugh but they will not be laughing for long. They are talking about putting limits on foreign ownership by state owned enterprises. What is to stop 20% being owned by CNOOC and another 20% being owned by one of China Inc.'s other hundreds and hundreds of subsidiaries? These are not democratically elected boards of directors. They are appointed by dictatorships to act in their own best interests. I wish them good luck in trying to instill the best interests of Canadians into the board of directors of a Communist Chinese company. I do not know how they can live with the glaring contradiction in their own arguments and talking points. It drives me crazy.
We have lost virtually all of our manufacturing jobs to China. I used to have 43 garment manufacturers in my riding. I have only been an MP for 15 years. When I was first elected, there were 43 garment manufacturers in my riding and some of them had 1,500 employees. It was a huge burgeoning industry. Do members know how many there are left? There are three and only one of them actually produces any clothing. The rest of the work is now in China.
We comforted ourselves by saying that our kids will not want to work in those industries anyway, so we will let the Chinese have the garment industry. We have natural resources that we will develop and our high tech industry. However, guess what? China also learned high tech pretty good and has those jobs too. What does that leave us with? It leave us with the oil patch, our natural resources. Now we are going to let the nation state of China come in and buy up our natural resources as well? I call it economic treason. I accuse anybody who considers allowing this deal of economic treason.
- MPndpOct 01, 2012 12:55 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Hochelaga for reminding members present of one important fact that seems to get lost in the debate around employment insurance, and she mentioned it early on in her speech, which is that it is not the government's money.
The EI fund, since 1990, has been comprised exclusively from contributions by employers and employees to provide income maintenance for those who are unfortunate enough to lose their jobs.
Where does the government even get off, making unilateral and arbitrary changes to eligibility, benefits and clawbacks, changes that it willy-nilly throws around, seemingly without much research and without much impact study. Where does it even have the right to do this without consulting the very people who pay for the fund?
- MPndpOct 01, 2012 9:40 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I would point out that successive federal governments have abused the EI system to such an extent that the NDP felt compelled to put forward an opposition day motion today to try to restore some semblance of order to at least some aspects of the EI fund.
When the Liberals were in power, they used the EI fund like some cash cow. There was $58 billion worth of excess revenue put in. They changed the rules so that nobody qualified anymore. Employers and employees dutifully paid into an insurance program that ceased to be an insurance program. It became another payroll tax that the government used to give tax breaks to its friends and to squander it on all kinds of purposes, anything but income maintenance. That was an outrage and had to stop.
I would ask the member to defend the Conservatives' inaction to correct what the Liberals have done. In fact, there are even fewer people eligible for EI now and less benefits.
Is this some kind of tough love, social-engineering program on the Conservatives' part to try to use the EI system to starve people into accepting jobs that are not suitable for them or that force them into moving across the country when temporary workers are needed right where they live?
- MPndpSep 27, 2012 7:05 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by many residents of my riding of Winnipeg Centre. They call upon the Government of Canada to save the Experimental Lakes Area, Canada's leading freshwater research station. Many of the signators actually work at the ELA and live in my riding. They are calling upon the government to recognize the importance of the ELA and the Government of Canada's mandate to study, preserve and protect its aquatic ecosystems, to reverse the decision to close the ELA research station and continue to staff and provide financial resources to the ELA at the current or higher level of commitment.
- MPndpSep 26, 2012 12:25 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by hundreds of constituents of my riding put together by the Grandmothers Advocacy Network.
The petitioners point out that millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa are dying of HIV-AIDS and that Canada's Access to Medicines Regime has been stalled and is not operative.
Therefore, they call upon Parliament to pass Bill C-398, which is currently before the House, to make necessary amendments to the Canada's Access to Medicines Regime to get drugs flowing to HIV-AIDS victims of sub-Saharan Africa.
- MPndpSep 19, 2012 12:00 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I know that you would be concerned to learn that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known. In fact, more Canadians now die from asbestos than from all other industrial causes combined, never mind the made in Canada epidemic that we have been exporting to third world countries and developing nations.
Putting a warning label on a sack of asbestos simply is not good enough. Why does the government not join the rest of the developed world and ban asbestos in all of its forms, ban the production, sale and export of this terrible carcinogen, as the World Trade Organization, the WHO and everyone else agrees should be done?
- MPndpSep 18, 2012 1:00 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I want to build on the comments or the line of questioning that I just witnessed from my colleagues with regard to the notion that so much of the legislation dealing with the criminal justice system that we have been dealing with in this 41st Parliament has really amounted to members of Parliament interfering with the discretionary judgment of the justice system, even up to and including prescribing sentences.
I am a carpenter by trade. I do not know enough about the criminal justice system to dictate what should be the sentence for certain crimes. That is why we appoint competent and capable people to the bench, so they can make that determination free of political interference.
While I am aware that the particular bill we have before us is perhaps not in that category, could the member speak to the folly associated with and perhaps, just as a precautionary tale for subsequent legislators, the danger of that kind of tampering and interference by political influences into the judiciary and the crossover of those three pillars of how we govern ourselves as a nation?
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