- MPconMar 13, 2015 8:50 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, we have already reformed the program to ensure that Canadians come first for Canadian jobs. These changes include requiring the employer to prove that no Canadian will lose either a job or hours of work if a temporary foreign worker is brought in. We put limits on the percentage of positions that can be filled by temporary foreign workers. We will continue in this direction.
- MPconMar 13, 2015 8:45 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, we have formed the program to ensure that Canadians come first for Canadian jobs. We have required that employers sign an attestation that no Canadian will be either put out of work or out of hours if a temporary foreign worker is hired. We have required employers do extra outreach to hire underemployed groups within the Canadian labour force, such as aboriginals, new Canadians and young Canadians. We have brought in tough new fines and even jail time for those who break these and other rules.
We are working hard to create more jobs through lower taxes and ensuring Canadians come first for those jobs.
- MPconMar 13, 2015 8:40 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the reason we created the enabling accessibility fund is to help people with disabilities have the same access to community centres, churches, synagogues, mosques, and recreational centres every other Canadian enjoys, and that is why we have been proud to fund wheelchair ramps, special elevators, and a whole host of other projects that help disabled people across the country.
We have also brought in the registered disability savings fund so that parents can set aside money for their disabled children's futures, and I am happy to say that both of those programs have been an enormous success.
- MPconMar 13, 2015 8:35 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the application was rejected after both an internal and an external review. We have to decide between projects all the time.
What the New Democrats have just confirmed is that they believe that Patrick Brazeau should be in charge of grants and contributions. Maybe that is how they would run their government if they ever had the terrifying prospect of coming anywhere near taxpayers' money, but Canadians will never allow the NDP or the Liberals to do that, because they know that they will only pay more taxes and face more debt if that were to ever happen.
- MPconMar 13, 2015 8:25 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the New Democrats and Liberals propose one job measure, and that is their tax increases. They believe that the only way to create jobs is to, in their words, increase taxes on families and on job creators.
We have the opposite approach. We have a low-tax plan for jobs and growth. It has created 1.2 million net new jobs; 85% of them are full-time, 80% are in the private sector, and two-thirds are in high-wage industries. We will continue to ensure taxes go down so that job creation goes up.
- MPconMar 12, 2015 12:00 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question. We certainly should be working to improve quality of life for people with disabilities and mobility issues.
That is why we created the fund to help community groups do renovations, and that is also why we created the registered disability savings plan for families with a child with a disability.
I am certainly available to work with the hon. member to improve these initiatives, and I thank her once again for her question.
- MPconMar 12, 2015 11:30 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, it is disappointing that the NDP is siding with Patrick Brazeau to try to break the rules, but it is not surprising that the NDP would have to raise taxes to pay for this kind of irresponsible spending decision.
The NDP would say yes to anything just because someone lobbied for it. On this side, we make investments that are justifiable after we go through evaluations. That is why we have been able to balance the budget and cut taxes for Canadians. We will keep doing that.
- MPconMar 12, 2015 11:20 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has done the right thing in apologizing. Now there is an opportunity for the Liberal leader to stand in the House and apologize.
Let me quote B'nai Brith, one of Canada's leading Jewish organizations, “[The] Liberal leader['s]...comparison of Canada’s current immigration policy to that of the 1940’s which saw Jews barred from the country is wholly inappropriate”. B'nai Brith went on to call those comments divisive.
The Liberal leader has an opportunity to make right all of the wrongs that he carried out in that speech, and I invite him to stand now and apologize.
- MPconMar 11, 2015 12:10 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, of course we are working to improve the quality of life of those with disabilities. That is why we created the fund so that families can save money for their disabled child's future. That is also why we created flexible programs like the child benefit so that parents with a disabled child can use it as they see fit.
- MPconMar 11, 2015 12:00 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the kind of question—
- MPconMar 11, 2015 11:45 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, as I said a few days ago, the member immediately realized that his comments were unacceptable and apologized for them.
- MPconMar 11, 2015 11:40 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, internal and external assessments determined that the organization in question was not eligible for the requested subsidy, regardless of the lobbying done by Patrick Brazeau.
We respect the taxpayers' money. We control spending so we can keep taxes low, reduce them and balance the budget.
This is another example of why the NDP and the Liberals will have to raise taxes because they spend money irresponsibly. We will prevent them from doing so.
- MPconMar 11, 2015 11:35 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, an external and internal assessment showed that the Centre Jean Bosco did not merit a grant of this nature. The NDP, of course, would fund anything even if there are objective assessments that demonstrate that the recipient was not meriting the dollars in question.
It is no wonder that the NDP and the Liberals would have to raise taxes. They would fund absolutely every request, even those that do not qualify.
- MPconMar 10, 2015 9:30 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, that is not true. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said that our tax cuts have helped all Canadians, particularly middle-class Canadians and Canadians living below the poverty line. Even proportionately, middle-class families and people living in poverty are the ones who have benefited from our tax cuts. Lowering taxes will give the average family approximately $3,400.
Let us talk about job creators: companies. We are lowering their employment insurance premiums. The New Democrats and the Liberals want to create a 45-day work year, where someone could receive employment insurance benefits for an entire year after working for 45 days. That would increase the cost of the program by over $4 billion and raise taxes for small and medium-sized businesses.
This proposal would kill jobs, and that is why we are rejecting it.
- MPconMar 10, 2015 9:25 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the best way to improve families' income and quality of life is to reduce the taxes they are paying. That will give them more income. However, the New Democrats and the Liberals want to raise taxes. That will lower the income of middle-class families and families living below the poverty line.
What we are doing has a direct impact. The New Democrats do not even realize that 90% of workplaces fall under provincial jurisdiction. Our Parliament does not control minimum wage. However, what we can control is taxes. Our government is lowering taxes so that people who are working hard to improve their lives and their children's lives benefit. We will continue to do that.
- MPconMar 10, 2015 9:20 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, I will tell the member how it is going to help. A family with a single income of $60,000 will save $1,600 from our family tax cut, which is income splitting and an increased universal child care benefit. That is how it is going to help. It is going to put $1,600 back in that family's pockets. The NDP and the Liberals, the two high-tax parties, will take $1,600 away from that family. That money is now already in the family's pockets. It applied for the 2014 tax year.
Therefore, when the high-tax parties tell us that they are going to be cancelling a future benefit, they are misleading Canadians. In fact, they will be retroactively raising taxes on middle-class families if they get the chance to take office. I am talking here about a family that earns $60,000 and the NDP wants to take $1,600 out of that family's pockets. That is a pay cut for middle-class families and is the reason why Canadians will reject these high-tax parties and re-elect a low-tax government.
- MPconMar 10, 2015 9:00 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address this House on the aspirations of working-class families and building an economy where people who are struggling move into the middle class, and the middle class gets ahead.
Members of the high-tax parties believe that governments must run the lives and spend the money of struggling families, that they can reduce poverty by taking money from working families and spending it for them. Conservatives believe that the best social safety net is a strong family and that the best anti-poverty plan is a good job. That is why our low-tax plan helps families and creates jobs.
Members of the high-tax parties here today will tell us that they are more generous. The truth is that they are more generous with other people's money. They like to spend it on themselves. However, wealthy union bosses, well-paid lobbyists and lawyers who charge hundreds of dollars an hour to do so-called advocacy litigation have nothing to do with social justice. Despite all the high-minded rhetoric of the high-tax parties, the evidence is in. It shows that two things have happened since our government has taken office: one, families are moving out of poverty and into the middle class; and two, the middle class is getting ahead. In fact, it is ahead of any other middle class in any other country in the world.
Here are the facts. Between 2005 and 2011, during which time our government has been in office, take-home pay among low-income families is up by 14% after tax and inflation. Even Andrew Coyne, who endorsed the Liberals, wrote:
In 2011, the latest year for which StatsCan has figures, the proportion of the population living on low income—that is, with incomes below the agency’s Low Income Cut-off (LICO)--fell to its lowest level … well, ever. At just 8.8%, it beat the previous record of 9.0%, set in 2010. As recently as 1996, it was at 15.2%.
We have gone from 15.2% of families living in poverty to 8.8%, a cut of almost half in just two decades from when the Liberals were in power until we took office. That is an extraordinary phenomenon and there are other statistics to support that it is a sweeping phenomenon and not an isolated statistic.
Let me go on. Throughout the world, while the global recession came about between 2008 and roughly 2011, one would expect that child poverty would go up. Millions lose their jobs and have lower incomes and as a result more children are living below the line, but not in Canada. In fact, in Canada child poverty actually dropped by 180,000 children between 2008 and 2011. Was this the result of some expensive new government program? No, the evidence is clear that we reduced poverty by putting money back in the pockets of families.
David Morley of UNICEF said, “If Canada is faring better than other western democracies, it is due to measures that are favourable to families, like tax credits, fiscal measures and benefits that have been maintained or put in place to counter the effects of the global crisis.”
It is not hard to understand why. Let us look at the universal child-care benefit. Over 13 years, the Liberals spent billions of dollars trying to set up a government-run daycare program. Bureaucracies, government-funded lobbyists and researchers got all kinds of money, but in the end it did not create a single, solitary daycare space. The Liberals and the New Democrats, high in the ivory tower looking down, think modest families cannot be trusted to make their own decisions, that we need a bureaucracy to control every aspect of their lives and all of their money. I am proud to say we cancelled the Liberal bureaucracy. We divided up the savings and sent it to parents in cheques in the amount of $1,200 per child under the age of six. We called it the universal child care benefit.
I asked my officials what the impact is of this benefit on poverty. Very methodically they gave me an answer. First, we use the low-income cut-off lines, which take after-tax incomes of all families with children to determine how many are low-income. Second, we did the very same comparison but based on what a family's after-tax income would have been without the universal child care benefit. The answer showed that there are 41,000 kids whose families would be beneath the poverty line without the universal child care benefit, but are above it because that benefit exists.
That was not all. We increased the amount of money that families can earn before they start paying taxes and removed one million Canadians from the tax rolls altogether. Let me quote the Parliamentary Budget Officer on our tax reductions, because there has been a lot of misinformation about who benefits from those tax reductions. Let me quote his report:
In total, cumulative changes have reduced federal tax revenue by $30 billion, or 12 per cent. These changes have been progressive, overall. Low and middle income earners have benefited more, in relative terms, than higher income earners.
The report also points out that the highest 10% of income earners benefited the least with after tax gains of just 1.4%. The $30 billion in annual tax cuts sounds like an incomprehensibly large amount of money. It is; that is a lot of tax cuts. Let me say what it means for an average family. We have a country with 35 million people. Divide $30 billion by 35 million, we get $850 per person, per man, woman and child, in lower taxes. For a family of four that is $3,400. That might not sound like a lot of money to wealthy limousine Liberals or champagne socialists, but the reality is to an average family working hard to make ends meet and get ahead, that $3,400 can make the difference. That is why we are going to continue to reduce taxes for Canadian families.
I should emphasize that with regard to the $850 per person in tax relief that happens every year under our government, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said specifically that the money went disproportionately to low- and middle-income earners.
The reality is that when we put money back in the pockets of everyday people, they do the right thing with it. They lift themselves up and they do the same for their children. They give their kids a better start in life. We have to believe in families and in workers and in small business owners to trust them to keep their own money. We on this side of the House believe in Canadians and we trust them to keep their earnings.
It is not just the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report or data from StatsCan that shows we are getting better off in Canada, in fact even the liberal-leaning New York Times wrote, “Life in Canada, Home of the World's Most Affluent Middle Class”. It also compared the years when the Liberal Party was in power and found that after-tax middle-class incomes in Canada, substantially behind in 2000, now appear to be higher than in the United States.
Overall, since taking office, personal income taxes are down by 10% and take-home pay is up by 10%, on average across income levels. In fact, the lower quartile of income earners have actually benefited more than all others across the spectrum. The median net worth of Canadian families is up by 24% since 2005 when the Liberals were in power.
That brings me to the question before the House on the family tax cut and benefits that we recently instituted. I just finished talking about everything we have done in the past nine years. Now let us talk about the present.
In the fall, our Minister of Finance introduced the family tax cut and benefits for families, which did three things.
First, it allowed couples to split their income to save up $2,000 on their taxes. Therefore, if one spouse earns more than the other, the higher income earning spouse can give enough to the lower spouse to equalize that, which will reduce their tax burden and allow them to keep more of their money. This allows families to make choices about how they raise their children.
Second, we increased the universal child care benefit from $1,200 to $1,900 per preschool child, that great poverty-fighting, middle-class supporting benefit that I discussed earlier. We also extended it for children under the age of 18. Any child who is over the age of 6 and under 18 will be eligible for up to $720 per year.
Finally, we increased the daycare tax credit by $1,000 so families that put their kids in a local community daycare could claim more of those costs on their taxes.
What does this mean for a family? Let me provide a few scenarios.
For families with incomes of $95,000 and $25,000 with two kids, one under 6 and one between 6 to 17, the net federal benefit for the 2015 tax year as a result of these new tax breaks is $2,835.
Families where both mom and dad each earn $60,000, with two kids, one under the age of six and the other in the adolescent years, would save $875.
A single income couple making $60,000 with one parent in the home and two kids would have a $1,605 benefit.
The net benefit for a single parent with a modest income of $45,000 and a child under the age of six the net benefit for the 2015 tax year as a result of these new breaks we have brought in for families will be $402.
In fact, every family with kids is better off as a result of the family tax cut and benefits.
Through this motion today, the high-tax opposition parties have announced that if they ever get the chance to take office, they will take that money away. They will reach their hands into the pockets of hard-working families and take away these hard won gains. We will not let them.
As I said at the outset, the best social safety net is a strong family. That is why we are helping families with the family tax cut and benefits.
The best anti-poverty plan is a good job. That is why we have a low tax plan that creates jobs. It has created 1.2 million net new jobs, 85% of which are full time, 80% in the private sector, and two-thirds in high wage industries. That is the best relative job-creation record in the G7.
Let me quote the International Monetary Fund, which said:
Over the past several years, Canada has taken numerous steps to reduce the economy’s vulnerabilities through policies designed to keep financial institutions and the financial system as a whole safer.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer said, “The current system of taxes and transfers serves to increasingly equalize income as inequality increases”.
These improvements allow for a stable and strong economy that creates more jobs for Canadians.
Our job creation plan is widespread and sensible. It includes trade, tax cuts and training.
Let me talk for a moment about training. As we were growing up, we were told that the only way we could be a success was to go to university. University is great. I had the honour to attend the University of Calgary. However, there are also honourable and prosperous lives to be had in the trades. We wanted to reorient our training program to fill the one million skilled job vacancies that we expect will appear in Canada over the next decade.
We need more plumbers, electricians, carpenters, stonemasons, and I could name many more. Our government created the apprenticeship grants, which help those families that want to give their children a chance to learn these great trades so they can go on to high salaries and incomes in high demand fields.
I am thinking now of those families with working class backgrounds that struggle to get by. People know the types I am speaking of, those who scrimp and save and set aside every penny they can so their 18 and 19 year olds can go to college and get a certificate to practise in the trades. Some of them just do not quite make it. That is why we brought in this grant, so these families with these young people could get their shot. They can get their opportunity to make a good life and have a better future, literally building our country.
This year we went beyond the apprenticeship grant and brought in the apprenticeship loan. For those young people who do not quite have enough money to retool their skills, we will now give them an interest-free loan while they study so they build those skills and ultimately build a better life for themselves.
Already it is working. Half a million young people have benefited from our apprenticeship grants. Even though we just announced the loan at the beginning of January, we already have 2,000 young people who are benefiting from those loans. This is just the beginning.
We are going to reorient our economy. We are going to give the proper esteem to these important trades jobs, because trades are just as a good as professions, college is just as good as university, and a good blue collar job is just as beneficial to the Canadian economy as a white collar job. Working class Canadians deserve that respect, and they also deserve the same benefits and help as everyone else. We are going to ensure that they get it.
There is a difference between the high tax parties and our low tax government. The high tax parties are for union bosses; we are for workers. The high tax parties want to spend millions on a new office headed by a “children's commissioner”. We believe there are already eight million children's commissioners across country whose names are mom and dad.
The high tax parties want to turn workers against business owners; we want to turn workers into business owners. They want to make the rich poorer; we want to make the poor rich. They believe in a hand out; we believe in a hand up. They want a government that stands in the way; we want a government that stands by people's side.
We are going to continue to work to keep Canadians working. We have come so far. Working and middle-class families have made so much progress over the last 10 years. However, our work is not done. There is still more to do.
We need to put yet more money in the pockets of middle-class families so they can spend in their communities, start small businesses and save for their futures. We need to create yet more jobs; 1.2 million jobs is a lot but it still is not enough. We need more.
We are going to ensure that people have the skills they need for the jobs of today, and we are going to continue with our agenda of trade, training and tax cuts to take our country forward so families can secure and build on the gains they have already won, and build the dreams they envision for themselves.
- MPconMar 09, 2015 12:05 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the allocation of staff is being timed to coincide with the peak seasons around summer and winter.
I can say now that we have increased efficiency in processing EI claims by 42% over the last 10 years. Two-thirds of claims are now wholly or partially automated, and the majority of claimants are now paid within 28 days of being approved for the claim.
However, our broader plan is to get as many Canadians back to work as possible. About 1.2 million net new jobs have resulted from our low-tax plan, and going forward we will ensure that taxes stay low so that we can create more jobs. We will not increase taxes, as the Liberals suggest.
- MPconMar 09, 2015 11:40 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the member immediately recognized that the comments were unacceptable. He apologized.
We speak about the broader job market. The reality is we have a good-news story that there are 1.2 million net new jobs: 85% full-time, 80% in the private sector, two-thirds in high-wage industries. Incomes are up, taxes are down. We are moving in the right direction.
- MPconMar 09, 2015 11:35 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the facts show the opposite. The median net income of Canadian families has increased by 44% from 2005 values, when the Liberals were in power. Disposable income after tax and inflation has risen by 10% across all income levels since 2006, most of all among the poorest families.
We have achieved this by lowering taxes and implementing the universal child care benefit. The NDP wants to raise taxes and claw back all of those benefits. We will not let them do so.
- MPconMar 09, 2015 11:30 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, we have already acknowledged that there were problems with the program. That is why we made adjustments. We proposed financial penalties and even prison terms for anyone who abuses the temporary foreign worker program.
We encourage employers to hire Canadians before hiring foreign workers. We have limited the percentage of foreign workers in a given workplace. We will continue to work on fixing the problems.
- MPconMar 09, 2015 11:25 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, here is what the New York Times actually said about the middle class in Canada, “Life in Canada, Home of the World’s Most Affluent Middle Class”.
The article then compares the Liberal era, actually, saying, “After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States”.
We have the wealthiest middle-class in the world. Its net worth has gone up by approximately 40%, and take-home pay, after taxes, after inflation, is up 10%. The middle class is better off with us.
- MPconMar 09, 2015 11:20 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, first, of the 1.2 million new jobs created, 85% are full time, 80% are in the private sector and approximately two-thirds are in high-wage industries.
We are reducing taxes not only for families but also for the companies that hire workers.
The Liberal Party believes that the budget will balance itself, but that is not true, just as it is not true for families' budgets either. Given the opportunity, the Liberals would raise taxes, which would be harmful to families and employment.
- MPconFeb 26, 2015 11:35 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, these are very difficult cases. We are talking about the Canada pension plan disability program.
The fact is that we have a plan in place now to address the backlog by using specialists within the department in order to resolve as many of the outstanding appeals as humanly possible. That will reduce the number of cases that have to go before the tribunal. In so reducing the cases, we believe we can eliminate the backlog by the end of the summer.
As I said earlier, my officials indicate that we are on track to achieve that goal.
- MPconFeb 26, 2015 11:30 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, we acknowledge that the waiting list is unacceptable.
That is why my predecessor ordered his departmental officials, his experts, to look at every case in appeal right now, in order to resolve them before they even make it to the tribunal. That will enable us to settle them much more quickly.
Our goal is to eliminate the long-term wait list before the end of the summer. I spoke to my departmental officials last week. They told me that they were on track to accomplish this goal.
- MPconFeb 25, 2015 12:05 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, we provide funding to businesses to train young workers in all sectors, and hundreds of thousands of young people have already benefited.
However, I can assure my hon. colleague that tax hike plans like those put forward by his party and the Liberal Party will hurt not only workers, but also the small and medium-sized businesses that hire them. We are cutting taxes for small and medium-sized businesses to create jobs and hope.
- MPconFeb 24, 2015 11:45 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals and the New Democrats want to let people vote without showing identification. We think it is reasonable to ask people to show ID to identify themselves when voting in an election.
Fortunately, surveys show that 87% of Canadians agree with us. Our position is reasonable, and we believe that we will win in court.
- MPconFeb 23, 2015 12:00 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, our government is obviously working on improving the quality of life of all people in the national capital region. I have the honour to represent the Ottawa side, but I would be quite honoured to work with the hon. member and other members of the House to help the people on the other side of the river.
We have a great country and we can work together to improve it.
- MPconFeb 23, 2015 11:50 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, we obviously sympathize with those families who are suffering through this difficult time, but the member's question contained a clear falsehood. He said there has been no help. In fact, we have already hosted over 1,500 Target employees for information sessions on the benefits they can receive through our generous employment insurance system, on the training that is available to help them retool for new jobs, and on the jobs that are already available and vacant looking for workers at this very time.
The last thing these families and the businesses that might hire them need is higher taxes and irresponsible government spending, which is all the NDP has to offer.
- MPconFeb 23, 2015 11:25 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has it wrong, but that is not surprising coming from a party whose leader thinks that budgets balance themselves.
Obviously, we have a plan not just to balance the budget, but also to create jobs. We have already created 1.2 million net new jobs through our tax cuts.
The Liberals want to increase taxes for the middle class. It is clear that that will kill jobs, and we are going to stop them from doing that.
- MPconFeb 20, 2015 9:05 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the Fair Elections Act requires all voters to show identification before voting.
As I recall, the Bloc Québécois opposed that requirement and the bill. It is interesting that the member wants people to show their faces without a piece of identification that can be used to confirm who they are. The Bloc Québécois really should start reading and thinking about its own contradictions.
- MPconFeb 20, 2015 8:25 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the family tax cuts apply to families at all income levels, and the Liberal plan to reverse it would raise taxes on working and low-income families. That would kill jobs. It would imperil our economy and it would drive up poverty.
The fact is that under the low tax plan we introduced, 180,000 children were lifted out of poverty during the recession, according to UNICEF. That shows that when we put our dollars directly into the pockets of mum and dad, they always do the right thing. They always lift themselves up and bring their children with them.
- MPconFeb 19, 2015 11:35 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the hope is that many of them would not have to get to the tribunal at all, because they could be settled before they even go there.
However, for those whom we fail to reach a settlement with, they would continue to have the right to go through the general, and, if necessary, the appeal, division of this quasi-judicial body that is the tribunal. All the rights they currently have would be upheld; the only difference is that we are working with experts in the department to settle these cases as quickly as possible, where possible.
- MPconFeb 19, 2015 11:30 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the member does not accurately describe the plan that we are implementing to eliminate the backlog. The plan is for experts within the department to take a second look at the cases that are currently under appeal to ascertain if there is new information that might help us settle those cases. When these are settled, then they will not need to go before the tribunal, which would save time. Our goal is to eliminate that backlog by the summer. I spoke to my officials this week on this very subject and they confirmed that we are on track to achieve that goal.
- MPconFeb 19, 2015 11:20 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, we agree that the backlog is unacceptable. That is why my predecessor put in place a practical plan to eliminate that backlog by this summer. We are using experts within the department to review all of the cases that are under appeal to see if we can settle as many of them as humanly possible so they do not even have to go before the tribunal at all.
I met with my officials this week and have confirmed that they are on track to achieving our goal.
- MPconFeb 18, 2015 11:35 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the only plan the NDP has is to raise job-killing taxes on workers and the businesses that employ them.
On the question of EI, the majority of eligible applicants receive their benefits within 28 days. However, the New Democrats are trying to distract from their irresponsible 45-day work-year plan, which would cost Canadian taxpayers $4 billion in job-killing payroll taxes.
On this side of the House, we will reduce taxes to create more jobs.
- MPconFeb 17, 2015 11:30 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member illustrates the distinction between the two sides of the House. On that side, they believe in increasing taxes, increasing the burden on families and employers so that politicians and bureaucrats can hoard all the money for themselves.
On this side of the House, we believe in reducing taxes, which has created 1.2 million net new jobs. We have lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, including during the recession, and Canadians are better off. Our job record is the best out of all the G7 countries. Low taxes work.
- MPconFeb 16, 2015 12:00 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking the Prime Minister, my constituents, and all Canadians for the opportunity they have given me to serve the public in my new role.
Our system is very generous to the unemployed. We are working to provide them the benefits to which they are entitled. We are in the process of reducing the waiting period for receiving benefits, and we will continue to do so.
- MPconFeb 04, 2015 11:50 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada's position.
The purpose of this bill is to ensure that everyone who votes is a citizen. It requires people to show identification before voting. That applies to Canadians living here in Canada, and once the House of Commons passes this bill, it will apply to all Canadians living abroad.
- MPconFeb 03, 2015 3:40 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on getting this far with a bill this ambitious. It has been a great pleasure working with him as the minister responsible for the subject material. The product he has put together, in combination with the committee, which also deserves congratulations, is commendable.
In particular, the member was criticized for trying to impose by law rules on parties and caucuses, but he retorted that the law already imposed a rule that gave leaders a legal veto over candidacies. That provision, paragraph 67(4)(c), came into effect in 1970.
The member is known for his knowledge of parliamentary history. The Prime Minister has said that he is prepared to support the repeal of that section, in other words, to remove his own legal veto over party candidacies. To the hon. member's knowledge, is he the first sitting prime minister to support the removal of the legal veto for party leaders?
- MPconFeb 03, 2015 8:05 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for showing me such mercy, given the state of my health today.
On the first question of the timelines, I did think about this quite a lot, because the member is right that ballots would have to travel to the voter and then be returned. One thing I would correct is to say that the application would not have to travel by mail. It could be done online. Therefore, the Canadian citizen voting, say from Abu Dhabi or Beijing, or some other location that is hard to reach, could actually provide a scanned document and email the identification and have the ballot mailed very quickly.
Canadian residents who happen to be around the world use that process right now. They do so with success. In my time I have never encountered a snowbird, for example, who said they wanted to vote but that there just was not enough time for the mail to go back and forth and so they did not get their vote counted. Therefore, I think if it works for Canadian residents who are visiting abroad, it should work for Canadian non-residents abroad. It basically would create one system for all electors who happen to be outside of Canadian borders, whether they are resident here or not.
- MPconFeb 03, 2015 8:00 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, on the first question about the list of eligible ID that voters abroad could use to prove who they are and where they last lived in Canada, the bill's intent is to see that the list of eligible ID produced by the CEO of Elections Canada would apply to voters abroad just as it does to those here at home. I do not have the section he refers to in front of me, but I would be happy to look at it and go over the specific wording. However, that is the intention of the bill. It is a very exhaustive list with about 39 different forms of ID. The bill requires that the ID be of Canadian origin. In fact, it would have to be of Canadian original to prove someone's past residence. One would not have a foreign driver's licence showing where one lived when in Canada, so it would be impossible to use a foreign ID to provide that information.
On the question of providing attestations, for example for snowbirds, the rules would basically not change a whole lot. The major change is that the person would have to provide proof of citizenship. For snowbirds, or someone who is vacationing abroad, that is pretty straightforward, because they would not leave the country without their passport, or else they would have a lot of trouble getting back in. A NEXUS card would apply as well, but proof of citizenship is a pretty straightforward requirement for someone who is vacationing outside the country, that is, if they ever want to come home.
The member's final question was whether or not a ballot mailed to someone's home, from which they had moved long ago, might be returned by someone who is not eligible to vote. When ballots are sent out and go to the wrong person because the address of someone changed long ago, we do not really know what will become of the ballot. I am not pointing to this example as evidence of an enormous crisis, but I think the member would agree that it is an administrative problem if we send ballots to people who are not citizens and just happen to reside in the former residence of a Canadian.
- MPconFeb 03, 2015 7:45 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
moved that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the occasion to address the House today on the citizen voting act.
The citizen voting act has three principal objectives. The first is to help prevent non-citizens from voting in federal elections. The second is to require voters living abroad to provide proof of identity, past residence, and citizenship. The third is to create one set of rules for all Canadians voting from outside the country.
To start with the background that led us to this legislation, I would bring members' attention to the Ontario Superior Court ruling in Frank et al. v. Attorney General of Canada. In this case, the court struck down the law that had been in place preventing citizens from voting if they had been out of the country for more than five consecutive years or have no intention of returning. Estimates show that the reading could lead to 1.4 million new eligible voters and an outdated system to administer their votes.
I will now work through some of the individual problems that exist within the status quo and how the bill seeks to address them one by one.
The first problem is that an estimated 40,000 non-citizens are on the voters list. Elections Canada has brought this number to my attention. It has indicated that these lists are not perfect, and that as a result, names of people who have interactions with various levels of governments get into the overall system and inadvertently end up on the list of electors. These people are sent voter information cards that indicate where they can go and vote, although they are not eligible to do so.
The problem is that there will be some who go and vote, even though they are not citizens, because they think that they are allowed. If they get a voter information card that says they should show up at the elementary school around the corner to cast their ballot, logically they would think that they, as permanent residents, are allowed to do that. There will be people among that 40,000 who will accidentally break the law.
There will also be some who might deliberately break the law. With their names being on the voters list, they do not even have to sign oaths asserting that they are a citizens when they go to cast their ballots. It is only those who are not on the voters list who have take an oath of citizenship when they vote.
The solution in the citizen voting act would authorize the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with the names, genders, birthdates, and addresses of non-citizens who are in Canada so that Elections Canada can cross-reference and remove them from the National Register of Electors. This would be a very difficult and tedious undertaking, I am afraid, but it is a worthwhile one. If it can reduce that number of 40,000 non-citizens to a smaller number, or perhaps eliminate it altogether, we can celebrate that as an improvement in the accuracy of the voters list and the fairness of our elections.
The next problem is that under the current law, Canadians voting abroad do not need to have any proven link to the riding in which their vote is counted. At present, if a person is living in London, England, or Washington, D.C., for example, and wants to vote in Canada, that person can register to vote in pretty much any constituency with which they feel that they have a connection, and that connection will not be verified by Elections Canada. Everyone else has to vote in the riding in which they reside, because the residential link is a critical part of our constituency-based system, but there is a double standard that allows some to pick their riding and do riding shopping, while others have to vote where they live or where they have a residential connection.
The solution is to bring about the same rules for everybody. The way we would do that is by requiring proof of past residence.
Obviously someone living abroad most likely would not have a current residence in Canada, so I think it would be reasonable to ask them to cast their ballot for the constituency in which they last lived before they left the country. The citizen voting act would do that. The bill would require that they prove their identity and their most recent Canadian address, using the same documentation as do voters who live in Canada under the new rules that came in through the Fair Elections Act.
The options would be a photo ID containing a prior address, or any two of the 39 pieces of ID approved by the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada. If none of the documentation has their address on it, the voters would be able to rely on someone who would sign an attestation that in fact they did reside in the riding in which they want their vote counted, and that attestation would quality as a proof of past residency.
These rules might seem familiar. That is because they are the same ones that the Fair Elections Act brought in. Under that bill, we require people to show ID when they vote, but if that ID does not have an address on it, then they can rely on someone to sign an attestation or co-signing an oath that they in fact do reside in the riding in which they want to vote. We are simply taking that set of rules that we apply within Canada and applying it outside of Canada.
Some might ask about expired documents. If someone has been living abroad for 10 or 15 years, obviously their documents would not be up to date. We have specifically stated in the bill that expired documents are acceptable forms of ID, so if somebody has an old drivers licence that is past the expiration date, it would still qualify as proof of previous Canadian residency and render eligible that voter in the riding where he or she is attempting to cast a ballot.
The next problem is that there is a double standard for voting abroad.
There are two types of voters who cast ballots from abroad. There are those who are resident in Canada but are on vacation or working abroad during the election. Examples are the snowbirds who go down to Florida or California during the winter. They have to vote by something called a special ballot. When they vote, they actually have to apply for the ballot at each election. They have to provide ID to show where they reside in Canada, and then they get a ballot for the riding that they come from. They send that ballot back in the mail, and it is counted in the correct constituency.
By contrast, those who are long-term non-residents, those people who live outside of Canada, do not have any of those obligations. They merely apply to be on the voters list once, and then into perpetuity the ballot arrives in their mailbox as soon as the election is called. This causes a lot of problems.
One problem is that someone could easily have moved. Someone resident in Mexico City might move to another part of the world, but their ballot would still come from Elections Canada to the Mexico City mailbox of someone who has no connection to Canada and should not be in possession of a Canadian ballot. As a result, into perpetuity we would obviously have ballots going to the wrong people, and there is no way of verifying that the address is accurate in that kind of circumstance. The requirement to apply for a ballot for each election is an organic way to keep the list of those Canadians who are voting abroad up to date.
Next we move to the issue of proof of citizenship. The citizen voting acting would require in law that everyone voting outside Canada provide proof of citizenship. This requirement would not apply to Canadian Forces members, but it would apply to everyone else.
Finally, the citizen voting act would apply some audit procedures to Elections Canada to make sure that all of these rules are followed. That process was established in the Fair Elections Act for voting when it occurs within the country. We are simply applying it to all of those who vote from outside of the country.
How does this proposed system compare to other countries around the world? Many like-minded democracies place restrictions on voting by non-residents with limited exceptions for citizens serving abroad.
For example, in the U.K., non-residents can only vote if they have been out of the country for less than 15 years. In Ireland, non-residents cannot vote. If they do not live in Ireland, they do not vote in Ireland. In Australia, non-residents can only vote if they have lived abroad for less than six years and intend to return to resume residence in the country within six years. They must provide either their Australian drivers licence number or their Australian passport number or have a person who is on the federal electoral list confirm their identity—not their address—by signing the application form. In New Zealand, non-resident citizens can vote only if they have been abroad for less than three years. In Germany, non-residents can only vote if they have been abroad for less than 25 years. They also must have lived in Germany for three consecutive months following their 14th birthday.
To avoid getting into all of the details, members can surmise from these examples that among our peer group, Canada, which currently allows Canadians living abroad to vote without restriction, has basically one of the most generous systems of enfranchisement for citizens abroad.
This legislation would not change that, but it would improve the integrity of the system. It would ensure that only citizens vote, that their vote is only counted in the riding from which they come, and that they only vote once. That is basic to the integrity of our electoral system, and the bill would bring the rules for Canadians abroad in line with the rules we have now established for those voting here at home.
That is in essence the proposal we bring forward to the House. I thank the House for this opportunity to address the chamber.
- MPconDec 10, 2014 1:05 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
- MPconDec 05, 2014 7:15 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the member will note that the Liberal member who just stood up said that tax cuts cost the middle class money. In reality, tax cuts save the middle class money. The reality is that when families have to pay less tax, that does not cost them money. It saves them money. It means they can go out and spend in their communities or on raising their families.
The member raised the issue of family tax fairness, which allows a single-income family to have the same tax bill as a dual-income family making the same amount of money. That would help about two million families in this country. On top of that, we have increased the universal child care benefit by $720 a year and have extended that additional benefit to children over the age of five.
I wonder if the member, who knows a lot about northern Ontario communities, can tell us whether families in his riding would prefer to have money in their pockets to make the right decisions for their children or whether they would like the Liberal Party to take that money back and spend it on a government day care program, which will not help 90% of families.
- MPconDec 03, 2014 1:20 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the member acknowledges that there would have to be a list voted on by the citizen. However, that list has to be established somehow. Somebody has to put the list together. The party, the party apparatus, and party leaders would establish that list and give all of its priorities, so the vast majority of parliamentarians on that list would be the hand-picked selection of party leaders.
We do not do that in this party. We have locally nominated candidates who win the support of party members on the ground. That makes our party unique. The others have been exercising a heavy hand to shut down legitimate contestants in their nomination races. That is something we have avoided in the Conservative Party, and we are very proud of the democratic record of our Prime Minister.
- MPconDec 03, 2014 1:15 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, I did address those arguments in my speech. First of all, I believe that the system we have of first past the post has given Canada good, stable, democratic government. It is government that Canadians are comfortable with.
In fact, when proposals similar to the one that that NDP has put before us were offered in referendums in British Columbia, Ontario, and P.E.I., all of them were rejected by the voters. There was a member across the way from the Liberal Party who pointed out that it was only in one riding in all of Ontario that electors voted in favour of this proportional system that the NDP is now proposing.
Canadians do not consider this proposal to be a priority. They want us to use our existing democratic system to focus on jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. With our low-tax plan, that is exactly what we are doing.
- MPconDec 03, 2014 1:05 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, in setting the context, I will take just a few moments to elaborate on an important piece of legislation on democratic reform that he and I both debated, the Fair Elections Act, which requires people to present ID when they vote, a new requirement in Canadian elections that has removed the largely inaccurate voter information card as a form of ID. It has brought in independent investigations so that an investigator can look into potential violations of the Canada election law without any interference from either a party or Elections Canada itself.
We got rid of the ban on the early transmission of election results, which was no longer practical in the modern-day environment. In this country, we used to ban anyone reporting the election results on the east coast before the end of the election on the west coast, something that is possible in the modern era of technology.
We cracked down further on the power and influence of big money by closing the loans loophole that some politicians had used to get around donation limits and by banning dead donors, that is to say, people dying and leaving in their wills donations that were vastly larger than the donation limit, effectively allowing people to do in death what they were prohibited from doing in life. We got rid of dead donors in the Fair Elections Act. It was the biggest remake of our election laws in well over a decade and, according to publicly released polling data, has been overwhelmingly popular with Canadians.
That is a short summary of the context in which we enter the debate on the proposal for a proportional representation system in Canada.
One thing that I have always admired about our existing system as distinct from the proportional one proposed by the NDP is that each member in this place is accountable to an individual constituency and there is not a single square inch in Canada that does not have an MP. Therefore, no matter where people live or who they are, they have members of Parliament that they help hire or fire every four years. That person is responsible to go back to their geographic area and represent its interests and values on a continuing basis.
With a proportional system, that direct connection between a member of Parliament and citizens is obscured at best, and broken at worst. In fact, this place is called the “Commons” because it represents the common people. Its colour is green because the early commoners actually met in fields. They almost always represented a geographic area and would take to the fields with the values and interests of the commoners they represented. Over time, that has evolved into this very sophisticated and well-entrenched system of responsible government that relies on members of Parliament whose jobs are given and taken by the voters in their communities, and we have been very well served in this country by that system.
Proportional representation, by contrast, would inevitably lead to unstable and risky coalition governments that are constantly falling and re-emerging. That would break the stability that Canadians have come to expect and demand from their governments.
Canadians have clearly rejected coalition government. It was not so long ago, back in late 2008, that the NDP and Liberals joined with the separatist Bloc Québécois with the aim of forming a coalition government against the wishes of the electorate and the outcome of an election that had been held only a few days earlier. They came very close to forming a government by way of this coalition. It was not until a massive, potentially unprecedented backlash that they were forced to retreat from that plan and allow the winning party to govern the country.
There is no question that if Canadians return a Conservative minority in the next election, that coalition would re-establish itself and attempt as a coalition to take power that it was not able to secure via a direct election.
Instead of using the proposed change to the electoral system to achieve that coalition government, the Liberals and New Democrats should be honest in the coming election if a coalition is their intention. I think that NDP and Liberal candidates should go door to door and explain their plan for a coalition after the next election and let Canadians decide if they want that. If Canadians vote for it, that is one thing, but what they should not face is a group of parties pretending to run independently from one another and then, after the election is over and the decision is out of the grasp of voters, doing something entirely different, as was the case in late 2008.
If we look at the quality of life that we enjoy in Canada, we see that no matter what measurement we take on an international scale, the success of Canadian democracy in representing the values and interests of the people is really unsurpassed anywhere in the world. We have inherited the greatest democratic system in the world, which is parliamentary democracy. Regardless of where people come from around the world, they can cherish this democratic institution that we inherited from the British parliamentary tradition. Our success is entirely founded on all of the attributes that this system brings. It brings responsible government, common law, limited government, and economic freedom, all of the basic pillars of a free society that have allowed countries throughout our civilization to enjoy so much prosperity and well-being.
I look forward to working with members across the way to build on the success of that great tradition. Hopefully, day by day and step by step, we will make Canada's democracy even better.
- MPconDec 03, 2014 1:00 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, I give a special thanks to the member who raised this motion and has given us the opportunity to discuss our democracy and various ideas on how to improve it.
In order to talk about this proposal, we need to discuss the broader context of the debate. I will start with the broad strokes of Canadian democracy, recognizing that everything great that has been achieved in this country has been done through gradual, incremental improvement, starting 800 years ago with the Magna Carta, whose anniversary we will celebrate next year.
I will not go through each of the 800 years, but I will state that in 1867 we actually got a country. It was not until 1931 that we got an independent foreign policy through the Statute of Westminster, and it was not until 125 years after Confederation that we got constitutional independence with the Constitution Act of that year.
There have been instances with the Statute of Westminster where the British mother country actually offered us more independence than we were prepared to accept, which really speaks to the temperamentally conservative approach that Canadians had always taken to the evolution of their democracy. We have built on that approach by making some important incremental improvements in our democracy under the leadership of the present-day Prime Minister.
For example, in this Parliament under this Conservative majority, we have passed more private members' bills than any other government since 1972. Private members' bills are proposed by backbench members of Parliament, not by the government, and they are supported by this government to pass into law. The last time as many passed was 1972, when a large number were simply for riding name changes. In this case we are talking about substantive legislative changes that have done everything from protect vulnerable people from sex trafficking to cracking down on crime, to countless other measures that improve the daily lives of Canadian citizens.
Second, we have allowed vastly more free votes than was case during previous majority governments. Free votes are when members of a given caucus can decide how they want to vote regardless of what their party leadership tells them to do.
Indeed, The Globe and Mail, along with Samara Canada, a group that studies democracy, looked at 162 individually cast votes on the floor of the House of Commons and concluded that the Conservative caucus was far more likely, during the two-year period under examination, to have members vote independently from their leadership than any other caucus in the House of Commons.
The Liberals voted as a unanimous block 90% of the time. In the two-year period under examination, the NDP voted as a unanimous block 100% of the time.
In one in four votes cast in this House of Commons, the Conservatives had a member stand up and vote differently from the party leadership. Statistically speaking, our members have been proven to be far more independent from their leadership, and our leadership has far less control over our caucus, than is the case in other parties.
We have also seen ideological litmus tests on the other side, with the NDP saying that anyone who opposes the long gun registry should be removed from caucus. That happened to one member of Parliament from northern Ontario. The Liberal leader said he would ban anyone who disagreed with him on the subject of abortion.
These sorts of hardline ideological litmus tests that ban anyone with a different point of view are a foreign concept in the Conservative caucus, which is, as I have said, far more open. That speaks to the culture of the caucus in the government of the present day, but let us talk about the legislative initiatives.
First, we passed the Fair Representation Act, which gives fast growing provinces—
- MPconNov 18, 2014 2:55 pm | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader says that he favours transparency, and we should all favour transparency. That is why I stood in the House and voted in favour of union financial transparency, given that unions have access to an unfettered amount of money through mandatory union dues that are given to them through the force of law, and benefit from tax shelter dues at the same time.
It is also why I supported the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which has allowed Canadians to find out that, in some instances, the leadership of certain bands has been taking enormous sums of money when the people on those reserves could have used that money for the basic needs and necessities of life.
If the hon. member is now taking a position in favour of transparency, will he rise today and announce that he has changed his mind and that he will extend that principle of transparency to support the First Nations Financial Transparency Act and union financial transparency?
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