- MPlibMay 10, 2013 9:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
With regard to government communications: (a) for each news release containing the phrase “Harper government” issued by the Economic Development Agency of Canada for Quebec Regions since February 6, 2006, what is the (i) headline or subject line, (ii) date, (iii) file or code number, (iv) subject matter; (b) for each news release mentioned in (a), was it distributed (i) on the website of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for Quebec Regions, (ii) on Marketwire, (iii) on Canada Newswire, (iv) on any other commercial wire or distribution service, specifying which service; and (c) for each news release distributed by a commercial wire or distribution service mentioned in (b)(ii) through (b)(iv), what was the cost of that service?
- MPlibMay 09, 2013 11:25 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the U.S., Japan, Australia, Sweden and other countries are all expecting economic growth better than Canada. Young Canadians especially are falling behind. There are 212,000 fewer of them who are working today than before the recession, 404,000 are looking for jobs, and this paranoid isolated government wastes $23 million, $32,000 every day, to spy on the media and its own backbench. For that spy money, the government could have triggered 7,600 summer jobs. Why did it not do that?
- MPlibMay 06, 2013 11:25 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian economy has doubled in size over the past 30 years but median household income has grown only by 13%. Middle-class Canada is falling behind and Conservatives are making it harder by imposing more and more middle-class taxes, small business taxes, payroll taxes, new tariff taxes on everything from cancer wigs to the kitchen sink. We cannot blame the Chinese. They do not impose these taxes and they do not pay them. This is a made-in-Canada Conservative attack on the middle class and all those trying to get there. Why?
- MPlibMay 06, 2013 11:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, in budget 2013 the government increases taxes on middle-class Canadians by close to $2 billion every year. For example, on page 335, the Conservatives take $550 million more every year from the profits of small business owners. On page 289, there is a recurring payroll tax hike of another $600 million every year, an escalating, job-killing Conservative tax on every job in this country.
Why does Conservative tax policy attack the middle class and all those who are working so hard to join the middle class?
- MPlibMay 03, 2013 8:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, in their last four budgets Conservatives have increased taxes on middle-class Canadians by billions and billions of dollars.
Conservative tax increases on small businesses hurt the middle class. Conservative tax increases on payrolls hurt the middle class. Conservative tax increases on consumer goods hurt the middle class.
Specifically, why does budget 2013 increase Conservative taxes on middle-class Canadians by nearly $2 billion every year?
- MPlibMay 02, 2013 7:15 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the timing issue here, obviously it is unfortunate when debate in the House is curtailed by the use of time allocation or closure. That impinges upon the democratic right of members of Parliament to adequately consider matters that are before the House.
I look at the calendar on the table before you, Mr. Speaker, and it properly identifies today as May 2. The budget was presented on March 21. It has been well over a month since the budget was presented and yet the legislation to implement a portion of it has only been put before the House in the last couple of days. It seems a bit unusual for the government to move so expeditiously to bring time allocation to the discussion of the budget when it has had well over a month to put the legislation before the House.
I would like to ask the minister a very specific question. He has said the subject matter will go to a variety of committees; that may be useful. Would he go the further step and make sure that the House has the opportunity to vote on each one of the subject heads separately so that we are not confronted with one omnibus vote at the end of it all where we have to vote on soup to nuts all together at once, thus defeating the principle of proper democratic--
- MPlibMay 02, 2013 7:10 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to file today on behalf of a number of people in Saskatchewan, particularly students at the University of Saskatchewan, who are expressing their concern about the treatment of a Canadian citizen, Bashir Makhtal, who is presently imprisoned in Ethiopia.
The petitioners are expressing concern about how the Canadian government can pay better attention to the circumstances of this individual.
- MPlibMay 01, 2013 2:00 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, at that time, Canada's debt ratio was in excess of 70%. In other words, the size of the federal debt was in fact 70% of Canada's entire GDP. The IMF was knocking on the door, just as they are doing today in a number of European countries. The IMF was knocking on Canada's door back in the 1990s, and it required significant action.
The changes in transfer payments made at that time were, in fact, temporary. By the time of the budget in 2002, the level of transfer payments to the provinces had been entirely restored, and they went on to all-time record levels with the changes made to equalization and the changes made to the health transfer in the budgets of 2004 and 2005. I am proud to say that I was the finance minister at that time who took those federal transfer payments to the highest level ever in history, up to that point in time.
- MPlibMay 01, 2013 1:55 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, I did make reference to the credit union issue during my remarks, and it is explicitly referred to in the amendment that is now before the House. Obviously, we think the tax changes with respect to credit unions are regressive. We think they are a mistake.
Credit unions have long performed an absolutely fundamental service in the financial services sector of our country. Probably the extension of credit unions is most successful in his province and mine. Quebec and Saskatchewan have a long heritage with respect to credit unions and the co-operative movement generally. We oppose the tax changes in Bill C-60 with respect to credit unions.
As for labour sponsored venture capital funds, there has long been a consensus in the House that those funds need review and revisiting. The government indicated that it was going to do something with respect to venture capital in the budget speech itself. Until we see exactly what it is proposing, how it is structured and how it is worded, I am not sure we could actually pass an opinion on the detail of what the government seeks to accomplish. There needs to be some reform, but I am not sure I am comfortable having the reform in the hands of this particular government.
- MPlibMay 01, 2013 1:30 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, today we are dealing with Bill C-60, the first Conservative omnibus bill following its 2013 budget. It is a bit less abusive than Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 from last year, but it is still an omnibus measure, lumping together various unrelated matters. By my count, at least 18 different government portfolios are implicated.
At the end of the day, the government will force a single vote on all of that all at once. That renders the vote so meaningless, because it cuts across so many unrelated disciplines. Again, democracy is compromised in the process.
There are some items for sure in Bill C-60 which people could generally support: better allowances for veterans, for example; dealing with the adoption tax credit; more incentives for charitable giving; the extension of capital cost allowance; and additions to the gas tax transfer.
However, these positive things are intermingled, unfortunately, with many very negative measures, especially large tax increases that will hit and hurt middle-class Canadians in particular, and we cannot and we will not support those negative measures.
Budget 2013 is crafted to feed several false illusions. The first of those is the mythical notion that the Conservatives are the competent economic managers that they claim to be, but let us look at the facts.
When they took office in 2006, they inherited from their Liberal predecessors 10 straight years of balanced budgets, an annual surplus that was running at the rate of $13 billion every year, lower debt, lower taxes, low and stable interest rates, a sound and solid Canada pension plan, steadily dropping employment insurance premiums, annual economic growth rates of 3% or better, the best banking system in the world, the best ever transfer payments to provinces and territories, progressive investments in child care, skills and learning, science and innovation, environmental integrity, infrastructure, trade and three and a half million net new jobs. That is what the Conservatives inherited. That is what was handed to them as a starting point in 2006.
Just as an interesting historical sidebar, before the Conservatives inherited 10 years of Liberal balanced budgets and robust surpluses, the last time a Conservative government actually balanced a budget for Canada was 101 years ago in 1912. The prime minister at the time was Robert Borden, originally a school teacher, as a matter of historical fact. He, too, inherited his surplus from a Liberal predecessor, namely Sir Wilfrid Laurier, but sadly, he managed to maintain it for only one year before dropping into deficit.
The current Conservative government has behaved in a similar manner through excessive spending and reckless budgeting. Between 2006 and 2008, they put Canada back into the red again before, not because of, the recession, which hit in the latter part of 2008, and they have not balanced the books every since.
In budget 2013, the Conservatives claim they will eliminate the deficit hocus-pocus by 2015. Is that not convenient? Just on the eve of the next federal election they are projecting a balanced budget. A close look at their financial plans provides ample reason to be just a little bit suspicious. Here are some of the fiscal tricks.
First, they use rosy growth estimates. To puff up government revenues, the Conservatives have based their fiscal planning on optimistic projections about economic growth. They ignore the reality that in years just passed, their numbers have never ever been correct. Time and time again, their initial forecast has had to be downgraded, as both the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of Canada have just done once again in this last month.
Second, they use deficient reserves. To create the illusion of more financial flexibility and strength than they really have, the Conservatives have lowballed the reserves that should be in place to serve as fiscal shock absorbers for Canadians against unpleasant future economic surprises. The amounts set aside should grow in the outer years because the risk is larger in the outer years, but the Conservative government has foolishly flatlined its reserves going forward, meaning it is not protecting adequately against future risk.
Third, they use exaggerated lapses. When a government department does not use all the budget in any given year that is given to it, the excess money naturally lapses back to the central treasury. The Conservatives in their budget are counting on very large lapses over the next several years. In fact, that is worked right into their arithmetic. In other words, they are planning to make big announcements of big new spending plans but never actually investing the money.
Fourth, they use excessive optimism about catching those tax cheats. While cracking down on those who do not pay their rightful taxes is an absolute necessity, the Conservatives claim of a balanced budget depends heavily on quickly collecting billions in unpaid taxes, and that seems highly improbable at a time when they are chopping the resources needed in the revenue department to go after those tax cheaters.
Fifth, they use big program cuts. For big programs like infrastructure, the government claims to be increasing its investment, but any hypothetical increase would actually occur only years down the road, beyond the mandate of this Parliament, sometime in the latter part of this decade, conveniently well after 2015. It is a trick that is called multi-year bundling and back-end loading. When the government has nothing to announce, it rolls a bunch of years together and pretends it is going to spend money five or ten years down the road while it actually cuts in the short term. That is happening here. In reality, the build Canada infrastructure budget has been cut by $1.5 billion this year, $1.5 billion next year and $1 billion in the year after that. Any hypothetical increase is only well after 2015.
Sixth, they are claiming before proving. Using all of the tricks that I have just mentioned to concoct the false notion of a balanced budget by 2015, the Conservatives will claim that they have met their fiscal objective just before they call an election and, importantly, before proof to the contrary can become available. In the normal financial cycle, the audit report on the government's books for 2015 will not get published until much later, that is well into 2016, long after any election has come and gone. So much for the Conservative illusion of fiscal and economic competence.
Their second illusion is that they really care about jobs and job training and they boast about their proposed new jobs grant. The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development mentions it in the House almost every day, but again it is fiction. It is spin. It is make-believe. It does not exist.
What exists are labour market agreements, and they have existed since the late 1990s. They are job training agreements between the Government of Canada and all the provinces. The latest versions of these labour market agreements were negotiated about five years ago, and they are worth now about $2.5 billion all together. Federal money is regularly transferred every year by the Government of Canada to the provinces. The provinces use those funds to tailor job training and labour market programs and services that suit their local circumstances. The provinces are in charge of the design. That is what exists now.
The Conservative government wanted to appear to be doing something about skills and jobs in the 2013 budget. People without jobs and jobs without people is one of Canada's biggest economic problems at the present time. The government wanted to look as if it were aware of that and doing something about it.
However, the government was not prepared to invest any new money to try and make an actual difference in terms of job training. What it did do was create an illusion of action and the fiction it was doing something about jobs and training. What it is basically proposing to do is claw back the $2.5 billion per year labour market money that it now sends to the provinces and renegotiate it with provincial governments. That is all. It amounts to recycling existing money. There is nothing more. There is nothing new. There is no additional federal investment.
The provinces will need to contribute more and so will the private sector. That may actually serve to reduce the extent of job training in some sectors and some provinces, because some of those other partners, the provinces or the private sector, may not be able to match the federal dollars. Even the provincial treasurer in Alberta has made the comment that he does not know whether Alberta would want to participate in that kind of initiative.
The bottom line here is that there is no new money and no additional federal investment in training. It is an illusion to try to create the impression that something new is happening when it is not. That is tragic, especially for young Canadians looking for some hope and opportunity.
Here are the numbers. More than 212,000 fewer young Canadians are working today than just before the recession began in 2008. The youth unemployment rate is a very stubborn 14.2%. That is nearly twice the rate for other Canadians. The actual number is 404,000 jobless young people. Worse still, another 171,000 have simply given up and dropped out of the labour market altogether. The government and the budget do nothing but shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic. It is simply not good enough.
Another fiction, the third one, is the government's bogus claim that is does not increase taxes. That assertion is completely false, and that is one of the key reasons we cannot support Bill C-60. It increases taxes, especially the tax burden of middle-class Canadians and all those who are working so hard to join the middle class. It happens in dozens of nefarious ways. New hidden Conservative taxes on safety deposit boxes total $40 million a year. On certain medical services, it is $2 million a year. New Conservative taxes on credit unions amount to $75 million a year. It goes on.
However, there are three hidden Conservative tax hikes that hit especially hard at the middle class. They are taxes on small business dividends, taxes on payrolls and taxes on imported consumer goods.
First, the Conservative small business tax, a new tax burden on small businesses, will absorb $550 million every year, taking it from small businesses and hurting the middle class.
The second new Conservative tax is the EI payroll tax, which will suck up $600 million every year in higher EI premiums, again hurting the middle class. By contrast, facing a job challenge in the 1990s, a Liberal government did not increase EI payroll taxes. We in fact cut them. We cut them 12 consecutive times and we cut them by 40%. Employers and employees saved billions of dollars and 3.5 million net new jobs were generated. The Conservative government's record is the opposite of that.
Finally, the third tax increase that we object to is the new Conservative increase of tariff taxes, taxes on imports, which will take about $333 million every year from middle-class Canadians.
The cost of vacuum cleaners will go up by 5%. Bicycles will go up by 4.5%. Baby carriages will go up by 3%. Plastic school supplies will go up by 3.5%. Scissors will go up by 11%. Ovens, cooking stoves and ranges will go up by 3%. For coffee makers, the cost will increase by 4%. On wigs, especially cosmetic wigs for cancer patients, the cost will go up by a whopping 15.5%. The cost of USB drives will go up by 6%. On blankets, the cost will go up by 5%. On toothbrushes, the cost will go up by 2%. On pillows, the cost will go up by 6%. On alarm clocks, the cost will go up by 6%. There are dozens and dozens of imported products.
The government's excuse for this is that it only wants to provide these higher tariffs in order to give a benefit to a lower-income country overseas. However, the reality is, when we put on these tariff increases, the country overseas does not levy the tax and does not pay the tax. The tax is levied in Canada and it is paid by Canadians. The burden is on average middle-income Canadian families. This is a self-inflicted cost burden in Canada, which is why we cannot support it.
When all of these measures I mentioned are fully implemented, as well as some other taxes that are buried in this legislation, the burden will add up to more than $2 billion per year in new Conservative taxes that are being levied on Canadians. The largest portion of that burden will fall squarely on the backs of middle-class families.
For substantive reasons of public policy today, we will not vote for these measures. Also, because the government is trying to hide these new taxes and deny them, we cannot sanction such deceit. Liberals oppose Bill C-60.
Therefore, I move, seconded by the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-60, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures (Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1), because it:
A) raises taxes on middle class Canadians in order to pay for the Conservatives' wasteful spending;
B) fails to reverse the government's decision to raise tariffs on items such as baby carriages, bicycles, household water heaters, space heaters, school supplies, ovens, coffee makers, wigs for cancer patients, and blankets;
C) raises taxes on small business owners by $2.3 billion over the next 5 years, directly hurting 750,000 Canadians and risking Canadian jobs;
D) raises taxes on credit unions by $75 million per year, which is an attack on rural Canadians and Canada's rural economy;
E) adds GST/HST to certain healthcare services, including medical work that victims of crime need to establish their case in court;
F) fails to provide a youth employment strategy to help struggling young Canadians find work; and
G) ignores the pressing requirements of aboriginal peoples.
- MPlibMay 01, 2013 11:40 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, hidden new Conservative taxes on small businesses, $550 million every year, hurting the middle class; hidden new Conservative payroll taxes, $600 million every year, hurting the middle class; hidden new Conservative tariff taxes on everything from school supplies to the kitchen sink, $333 million every year, hurting the middle class.
Why is the government nailing middle-class Canadians with more than $1.5 billion in hidden new Conservative taxes every single year?
- MPlibApr 24, 2013 12:00 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, if people are disposing of any business, they will get more for it if they sell it in good shape as a going concern, rather than dumping the assets in a fire sale.
Well-respected western organizations are trying to avoid a hasty fire sale of the federal tree farm at Indian Head, Saskatchewan. They want it to service prairie agriculture for a long time into the future.
They ask only that the government ensure the tree farm's full operation through 2013, protecting its integrity and value so it can be properly transferred as a viable business in 2014.
Will the minister agree?
- MPlibApr 19, 2013 8:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, it is a naked money grab, and it is incoherent. Hockey pads might cost less, maybe, but the most vital hockey equipment, hockey helmets, will cost more, and so will half of a jockstrap. The Conservatives cannot blame the Chinese or India. They did not impose the tax, nor will they pay the tax. This is self-inflicted Conservative stupidity, and will they--
- MPlibApr 18, 2013 12:15 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, this discussion is getting out of hand.
The member for Cape Breton—Canso made it very clear in his first intervention to you, Mr. Speaker, that he searched his records and found no indication of the existence of any such document. The government House leader is now more than trying to make a joke of it; he is trying to leave a very false impression of what the member for Cape Breton—Canso in fact said.
In fairness, the record has to be clear. The member searched his records. He found no evidence of any such document, and the latest gratuitous remark by the government House leader is complete horse feathers and ought to be withdrawn.
- MPlibApr 18, 2013 11:40 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are obviously weary of being used as props in deceitful Conservative publicity stunts. Just ask that bicycle shop owner.
Tariffs are taxes. The government is raising taxes by $333 million every year, and do not blame China. The Chinese did not impose the taxes and the Chinese will not have pay them.
This is a self-inflicted Canadian tax grab on the Canadian middle class, draining Canadian disposable incomes, driving Canadian businesses and consumers across the border.
Why does the government not just cancel the tax increase?
- MPlibApr 16, 2013 11:40 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are increasing tariff taxes by $333 million every year. It is just like increasing the GST: a money grab to concoct the illusion of a balanced budget by 2015. To feed that fiction, Canadians will be forced to pay more for everything from tricycles at 4.5% more, baby carriages at 3% more and cosmetic wigs for cancer patients at 15% more.
The government should cancel these new Conservative taxes and stop ripping off the middle class. Why will it not do it?
- MPlibMar 28, 2013 8:25 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, Elections Canada cannot keep up with Conservatives breaking the law. It started with the in and out financing scam for which Conservatives were charged and pled guilty. Then Conservative Pierre Poutine generated robocall election fraud in as many as 200 ridings, still under investigation. Then came the perversions in Peterborough and the chronic cheating by Penashue in Labrador.
Elections Canada wants more investigators, more power to get evidence and stiffer penalties. Will it get what it needs to fight Conservative corruption?
- MPlibMar 28, 2013 8:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, Canada participated in the work of the United Nations to fight drought for two reasons: first, to help the poorest on earth avoid starvation; and second, to bolster our own ability to farm the dryland prairie.
Maniacal front-line cuts have killed PFRA, which had world-class Canadian brainpower on soil and water conservation. Conservatives vandalized community pastures, the prairie tree farm and Experimental Lakes Area. Now Canada is the only country in the world sneaking out the back door on the UN Convention Against Drought.
Why are Conservatives isolating Canada as a global delinquent?
- MPlibMar 27, 2013 12:45 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present four petitions, including hundreds of signatures from people all across the city of Regina and in the vicinity who are concerned about the budget reductions that would eliminate the experimental lakes project in northwestern Ontario.
The petitioners indicate that this has been an absolutely crucial site for the most vital freshwater research in North America, perhaps in the world. They think the cancellation and closure of this facility would be a retrograde step. The petitioners call upon the government to provide the funding necessary to ensure the experimental lakes projects can continue.
- MPlibMar 27, 2013 12:35 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
He's not there yet.
- MPlibMar 27, 2013 12:10 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, for the next few minutes the House will be focusing some attention on the hon. member for Toronto Centre.
He certainly does not need our help to draw attention, but today, his last day in the House as leader of the Liberal Party, he deserves a tribute.
Amid all the eulogistic things that are likely to be said today, I remind members at the outset that the MP for Toronto Centre is not dead, neither will he be retiring anytime soon. He is just changing roles.
We are going to pay a tribute to him because, and I hate that word “interim”, his leadership over the past 22 months has been anything but interim. It has been robust and unstinting, skilful and substantive, and readily applauded by the media, the public, our caucus, the party and indeed by his opponents in the House.
In the middle of his job as leader, we named him Canada's parliamentarian of the year. When I say “we”, I mean all of us in this House together. His peers in all parties voted him number one. God knows the Liberal Party could not have stacked that vote. We were not that organized even when we were in government. That parliamentarian of the year award, amidst all our travails as the so-called third party is a large and unique signal of the respect the member for Toronto Centre has earned across the partisan divide.
As members can imagine, our national Liberal caucus meeting this morning was filled with many emotions as we thanked our leader for the work that he has done over the past two years or so, years that were both difficult and crucial but not without a bit of humour. Like Bette Midler, the MP for St. Paul's over there gushed this morning that the leader has been the “wind beneath [her] wings”. However, the member for Cape Breton—Canso said that maybe someone just passed a bit of gas.
The leader himself addressed the caucus with some poetry. "You, the unwilling,” he said, “led by the all-knowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little, we now feel qualified to do anything with nothing”.
He went on to say, “I know I have not answered all of your questions. The answers I have given only serve to raise big new problems. In some ways, I feel just as confused as ever, but I believe I am now confused on a higher plane and about more important things”. It was indeed quite a caucus meeting.
As other parties in the House like to remind us, the Liberal Party has endured some difficult times since the election of May 2011, perilous times because survival was not guaranteed. More than anyone else, the member for Toronto Centre has given the Liberal Party the opportunity to have a future.
More than anyone, the hon. member for Toronto Centre has given the Liberal Party hope for the future.
He was the right person in the right place at a critical time. With his deep well of experience, his storehouse of knowledge, his understanding and judgment, the vast array of Canadians and international personalities whom he knows and who know him and whose respect he has earned, his oratorical skills in both official languages, his spontaneity in question period, his easy interaction with the media, the deep respect he shows for Parliament and the institutions of our democracy, the consistent principles that guide his conduct when the cameras are rolling and equally when they are not, his kindness and decency; these are characteristics that have shaped his leadership.
Far beyond the House, people struggling with issues such as mental illness, for example, people who have been marginalized by life's circumstances, aboriginal peoples searching for new hope and respect, and many others, have seen in this Liberal leader a reason to believe in the potential and compassion that Canada can offer. Perhaps more than any others, the member for Toronto Centre lives by what Laurier would describe as “sunny ways”, that positive instinct to see the glass always half full, not half empty.
Yes, tough times come along in politics. One reaction is to get angry, to grow bitter, and if one does that, one will diminish and fade. The best lesson from the member for Toronto Centre is to always rise above the petty, look for the best in people, even one's opponents, be fair and always try to build a more inclusive society and a better country.
It was with that attitude that he motivated our caucus and our party, kept us united and helped us to grow, while keeping us visible and relevant.
Perhaps his greatest ally in all this work is his spouse and partner, Arlene. A soul mate, helper, adviser, comforter, confidant and pillar of strength, she and their daughters, Lisa, Judith and Eleanor, have been absolutely indispensable to what has been achieved. Today we say “thank you” to all of them.
We have a future to fight for and hope for another day because of the member for Toronto Centre, and we are grateful.
- MPlibMar 06, 2013 11:45 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative plan for job training provides no new money, nothing incremental. The Conservatives will just claw back funds from the provinces, over $2 billion.
For Saskatchewan, that is a cut of more than $60 million per year, hitting the province's single most important priority.
Saskatchewan has that money at work, helping thousands of people in the job market: aboriginal people, immigrants, youth, the disabled and people with limited skills. Satisfaction rates are in the 90% range.
Why does the federal government want to screw that up?
- MPlibMar 04, 2013 11:55 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, in last year's budget, the government said that it would sell off the federal tree farm, which has been operating with great success at Indian Head, Saskatchewan for 111 years.
Many people believe the decision to get rid of it is wrong. At the very least, the former employees of the tree farm, the community and the rural municipality of Indian Head and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan are asking the government to suspend any sell-off plans for at least one year to allow a local producer-based alternative to be developed.
Will the government give them that time?
- MPlibFeb 14, 2013 11:25 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, again it is business as usual.
If non-aboriginal women were disappearing at the same rate as aboriginal women in Canada, there would be 20,000 missing or murdered victims. The police solve 84% of all homicides in Canada, but when the victims are aboriginal women and girls, the solution rate drops to just 50%.
Allegations of police misconduct are mounting. To save the victims who can still be saved, will the government appoint a special independent civilian authority to take charge of this situation, because the present authorities do not have the—
- MPlibFeb 14, 2013 11:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the relationship between aboriginal women and the police is sadly broken. The government cannot pretend it is just business as usual. We cannot tell terrified and traumatized women to go report themselves to the same people who made them victims.
Serious allegations of criminality have been made. Will the Prime Minister appoint a special prosecutor or some other civilian authority with the power and resources to receive and investigate these allegations in ways that ensure the safety of the victims?
- MPlibFeb 13, 2013 12:10 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to table today.
The first is from a number of people across Saskatchewan who take strong exception to Bill C-45, including, in particular, its provisions that impact in such a negative fashion upon aboriginal people. The petitioners call upon the government to rescind Bill C-45 until such time as proper consultation has taken place.
- MPlibFeb 13, 2013 12:00 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the crop year for the Canadian Wheat Board ends July 31. Typically, the board calculates final payments by December and issues cheques in January. Farmers depend on that timing. However, it is all contingent on government approval. The CWB asked for that approval on December 18, but they still do not have an answer now, eight weeks later.
Why is the government so slow? Why is it forcing farmers to wait more than two months now to get their own money? Will there be an independent audit to prove that none of that money was scooped? When will farmers finally get their final payment cheques for last year?
- MPlibFeb 11, 2013 11:25 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, government boasting is meaningless to those who have lost their jobs or cannot afford a mortgage or a pension or cannot get their kids into higher education. Saying we are not as bad as some others is settling for mediocrity.
Will there be a budget in February? Will it freeze job-killing Conservative EI payroll taxes? Will it make family tax credits available to all Canadians not just the more wealthy? Will it tear down barriers to skills and learning? Will it invest in infrastructure and housing?
Will the budget do these sensible things?
- MPlibFeb 11, 2013 11:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, buried in all of last week's rubble about Duffy and Brazeau, robocalls and push polls, there was some hard reality about the struggling Canadian economy. Consumer debt got worse, 22,000 jobs were lost, trade was down again and housing starts dropped by 19%; all signs of a weakening economy. This is no time for complacency.
To counteract Canada's economic deterioration, will the government present a new budget before the end of February?
- MPlibFeb 07, 2013 11:25 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, representing 80% of where Saskatchewan people live, has strongly supported the new map. So have dozens of other Saskatchewan people.
And about the legislation back in the 1990s, the now Prime Minister—
- MPlibFeb 07, 2013 11:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said yesterday that he followed the rules when he interfered in a quasi-judicial process with anonymous robocalls.
However, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader says exactly the opposite. He says that failing to identify the party as the culprit is wrong. He says it is deceptive. He says that making these calls, anonymous or not, is something he would never do.
Now that he is so bluntly contradicted by the parliamentary secretary, would the Prime Minister join in asking the CRTC to investigate this matter?
- MPlibFeb 06, 2013 12:25 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, in the flow of events of routine proceedings, there was some discussion I understand among the parties earlier pertaining to travel motions that might relate to some committees. I wonder if there is anything to report on that matter.
- MPlibFeb 04, 2013 11:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce says access to skilled workers is its biggest single pre-budget issue this year. It is the biggest limitation on Canadian economic growth.
Yet we have stubborn unemployment above 7%. Youth unemployment is twice that bad; 225,000 fewer young Canadians are working now than before the recession. Canada has far too many workers without jobs and far too many jobs without workers.
Will this year's budget include a specific plan to fix this debilitating mismatch?
- MPlibFeb 01, 2013 9:45 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, on that question and many others, we need to hear what the shippers have to say, because they are the ones who have paid the penalty for bad service up to now.
It is clearly important for any penalties in this kind of legislation to be adequate so they can actually change the behaviour about which the shippers are complaining.
In some of the provisions of Bill C-52, the penalty provisions appear to be significant. In others, they do not. Quite frankly, the question the hon. member raised should be looked at very carefully in committee. Will the enforcement mechanisms, including those penalties, be adequate to solve the problem?
The best solution for all concerned would be for the legislation never to have to be used, that it was there setting the legislative framework, but that the parties were able to find commercial results and not need to have recourse to the legislation. However, the legislation needs to be strong and robust enough to ensure that if it has to be used, it actually does achieve the result the shippers want.
- MPlibFeb 01, 2013 9:40 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
With all due respect, Mr. Speaker, I do have to suggest that the hon. gentleman's recollection of history is just a little faulty. Alexander Mackenzie was not the prime minister in 1783. It was 1873 that he was the prime minister and he discovered on his desk the first day he walked into the office the Pacific scandal about the railway that was handed to him by Sir John A. Macdonald.
It is a bit of a waste of time to debate those ancient Conservative scandals. It was about the time that Louis Riel was becoming the member of Parliament for my district of the country. In any event, those historical references are fascinating, but it is more important for us to get on with the task of actually dealing with the circumstance today.
The major debate, as the hon. gentleman will recall, before 2006, was not about level of service agreements; it was about a costing review and whether railways were overcharging. There were in fact legal actions going on during the 1990s and the early part of the last decade that resulted in some major refunds to farmers because the railways had been caught overcharging for the freight rates they imposed for the services they were delivering, as substandard as those services were.
Until the middle part of this last decade, the issue was a costing review. In the latter part of the last decade, the issue shifted to this whole discussion about level of service, which brought about the seven year process that I talked about.
The hon. gentleman can be assured that we have no intention of delaying the legislation, either in the House or in committee, with this one caveat. We want to hear what the shippers say. If the shippers' expectations are properly and adequately addressed when we hear the testimony going through the committee, then we will be most anxious to see the legislation passed with whatever subsequent modifications the shippers might recommend.
- MPlibFeb 01, 2013 9:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to participate in the debate this afternoon on the second reading of Bill C-52, dealing with the issue of the level of railway services across the country. The House has been waiting for this legislation for several years. More importantly, shippers across the country have been waiting for this legislation for a very long time. I am sure we are all very happy that it is finally here.
The Liberal caucus intends to support Bill C-52 in principle at second reading because the shipper community is anxious to get the bill into the standing committee for detailed examination of the precise meaning, from a legal and a practical point of view, of all of the provisions in the bill. Shippers want to ensure, and we need to ensure, that their needs would actually be satisfied by the legislation.
The shippers coalition supporting level-of-service legislation, as it has become known, is a very broad and comprehensive coalition. It obviously involves agriculture, and that is a big and important part of the shipper community, but it goes far beyond agriculture. It also includes the forest products sector, minerals and chemicals, potash and fertilizer, manufactured goods and much more. They have all had common issues and a common problem, which is substandard service from the railways in shipping their products and commodities to market.
The intense debate about railway service levels has been raging across the country since about 2006. In 2007, specific requests were made by the shipper community for a legislated solution. They asked for a legislated solution because a commercial solution did not appear to be available. In 2008, the Government of Canada promised a formal review of railway services. It was not until a year later though, 2009, when the government finally appointed a panel to conduct that review of railway services. The panel worked for about a year, and by October of 2010 it had finished its work and had written its report. In that report the panel confirmed that service levels provided by the railways were seriously deficient.
To give just one example, and there are dozens referred to in the panel's report, farmers could typically count on getting the service from the railways that they needed, that they ordered and that they paid for, only about 50% of the time. That is obviously not an adequate level of performance by the railways. Similar troubles affected most other shippers right across the broad spectrum of the coalition. The details differed from one industry to another, but the bottom line was the same: the shipper community was being badly served. That is what the panel concluded in the report it wrote in the fall of 2010.
The review panel said that the problem was a serious imbalance in clout and power in the marketplace, an imbalance between the railways on one side and the shippers on the other. The shippers are mostly captive, as I said in the House earlier today. They do not have competitive options for moving their products. They are captive to one particular shipper at any given moment in time. That is what the panel concluded. It said there was little genuine competition, that shippers have no realistic commercial alternatives and that they also have no legal recourse to address the problem.
For the most part, they do not even have access to enforceable contracts that set out both their obligations and the railways' obligations, which are then binding and enforceable on both sides. That would be one's normal commercial expectation. The parties doing business would write up a contract and they would fulfill the terms of the contract or there would be consequences one way or the other. That practice seems to be missing in the relationship between the railways and the shipper community.
According to the panel that was appointed by the government and which reported in the fall of 2010, the playing field is totally tilted in the railways' favour. The panel said that if that imbalance is to be remedied it would be preferable to do it by commercial means. However, if a commercial solution is not readily available, and that is obviously the case by this long process that has gone on since 2006, then the review panel said that there should be legislation and regulations to fix the problem. That is, there should be legislation to require the railways to provide their shipping customers with service level agreements that are readily enforceable.
The railways have said, “That was then and this is now” and claim that things have improved. I think objectively a number of shippers would say that indeed there have been some service improvements over the course of the last three or four years, especially service improvements by CN. Even CN notes that the controversy about bad service and the suggestion of some new legislation or new regulations coming down the pike have, at least in part, brought about that improvement. In other words, there has been a threat hanging in the air that there may be legislation or regulations and the railways have pulled up their socks a bit. It was in response to that threat of legislation, the speculation in the community that there would be legislation, that has in fact contributed to the level of service improvements.
The review panel's report was done in October of 2010. The government then waited six months before committing to implement its recommendations. That commitment finally came forward in the spring of 2011, ironically just on the eve of the calling of an election.
After the election, action was once again postponed. Instead of bringing the legislation forward in the late spring or early summer of 2011, which was an imminent possibility, the government waited another six months. Then it launched a second review process, this one to be conducted by Mr. Jim Dinning of Alberta. That process started in the fall of 2011 and ran until the spring of 2012, again trying to find this elusive commercial solution to the problem. Unfortunately, Mr. Dinning's efforts were largely for naught and there were no significant results from that process, except for another six month delay. The government then waited another six months, until this past December, to finally table the legislation that we have before us today, Bill C-52.
This has been a painfully long wait. The discussion began back in 2006 and we are now in 2013, so it has been a seven-year process. The shippers are anxious now for action, at long last, to become promptly tangible. I think the House owes them that. We should have a sound debate at second reading on Bill C-52, but it does not need to be a protracted debate. We should discuss it properly and efficiently in the House and then move Bill C-52 as quickly as we can to committee so that we can hear from shippers and others and, on the basis of their evidence and testimony, determine if Bill C-52 is in fact good enough to get the job done.
I hope the government would ensure that there are no restrictions put on the transportation committee in hearing the witnesses that will want to be heard on this very important matter. The shipper community has been waiting a long time. Now that the bill will soon be at committee, the very least that Parliament can do is to give the shippers the opportunity to be heard fully so that all of their comments, recommendations and advice can be taken into account.
The preliminary reviews of Bill C-52 have been reasonably positive. That is encouraging. It would appear that the legislation does provide all shippers the right to have an enforceable service level agreement with the railways without discrimination among different tiers or categories of shippers. If that proves to be the case when we have the opportunity to legally and comprehensively review the legislation, then that would indeed be progress.
The legislation also appears to specify at least some of the mandatory content that each service level agreement must cover. It also appears that it would provide robust penalties if the railways fail to perform up to an acceptable standard.
The shipper community has been quite explicit about the kinds of things they want to see in these proposed service level agreements. It readily admits that with each particular shipper or sector within the shipper community there would be variations from agreement to agreement. Each one would not be an exact cookie-cutter copy of the others. There are logical differences that would need to be taken into account and there is a commercial negotiation process that would need to take place here. However, shippers have specified six subject areas that they think every service level agreement should deal with. It is important to put these on the record so that when we get to the committee we can examine the legislation to see if these six areas would be adequately covered.
The shippers say that each service level agreement that the railways would be required to provide in negotiation to their shippers should include the following. First, it should include a section covering the services and the obligations. They should spell out what each side is supposed to do to have a successful contract between the carrier and the shipper.
Second, it should include communications protocols so that when they are trying to work out their commercial relationship, or if things go wrong in the relationship, they would all know exactly what they are supposed to do to communicate with one another in an effective way, rather than two ships passing in the night that never quite get around to connecting with each other.
Third, there would need to be performance standards specified in the agreements. What is the acceptable performance to be expected in the circumstances? Fourth, there would have to be performance metrics. In other words, how do you measure the performance against the standards laid out in the agreements?
Five, there would need to be consequences for non-performance. There are obviously penalties provided in the legislation. We will have to examine as to whether they would be appropriate and sufficient to achieve the kind of behaviours that the shippers want to see. Finally, there would need to be dispute settlement mechanisms included in the agreement.
Those are the six areas that the shipper community mentioned. It is important for the committee to examine in detail whether Bill C-52 would cover those areas adequately from the point of view of the shippers.
Finally, I will mention four or five other areas, beyond the nature of the contract that I have just described, where the shippers have said they are not clear about what the legislation seeks to accomplish and whether it would get to the result that the shippers want.
First is the issue of train movement into the United States. To what extent would a service level agreement in Canada also affect the kind of service that is provided across the border by the carrier, in some cases the same railway, when that carrier is operating in the territory of the United States? What would be the impact of service level agreements on cross-border shipments of product? Of course, between Canada and the United States, that is a huge volume.
Second, what would be the relationship between the service level agreements that apply to the main line rail carriers, basically CN and CP, when the product being shipped may originate on a short-line branch railway? Would the service level agreements have any implications for short-line rail operators and their relationship with the main railway operations?
Third, there is already a section in the Canada Transportation Act, section 113, that provides some description of service requirements imposed upon the carriers. Is there anything in Bill C-52 that diminishes the value or the effect of what is already in the act in section 113? The shippers are very anxious to have that clarified. Obviously they, and we, would not want to see the beneficial impact of section 113 diminished.
The fourth question that shippers have asked is on the matter of practical access to the process. The way the legislation is set up it basically says that the parties should go out and negotiate a contract. If they cannot, then the shipper can go to the CTA and get an arbitrated solution that will then be imposed by regulation. The question from the shippers is whether there will be practical access to that process or whether the process will be so complex, costly and slow that only the biggest shippers will be able to participate in the proposed arbitration proceedings. As a result, the smaller shippers will just find it too complicated, expensive or time-consuming to be able to avail themselves of an arbitration procedure. We will need to examine the practicality of how Bill C-52 will apply to make it accessible to all.
Finally, there appears to be a section in the act that says that if a shipper already has some kind of existing contract with a railway, if they have gone out and tried to negotiate something and put it in place, then the shippers do not have access to the provisions of Bill C-52 unless and until that existing contract expires. That needs to be clarified as well. To what extent are shippers impeded from having any benefit of Bill C-52 because they have already tried in some way to have a contract and have negotiated something, whether or not it lives up the standards of Bill C-52? Would they be prohibited from trying to get a Bill C-52 solution if they already have a contract in place?
Those are some of the questions that I have heard from the shipping community. By and large they are anxious to see the legislation proceed. They are looking forward to the committee hearings because they want to be heard and they have a number of questions to ask. I think it is incumbent upon the government and upon the House to make sure that we get into those hearings as quickly as possible and that we ensure that every shipper across the country that wants to be heard can have the opportunity to present their questions and their observations to the standing committee.
I welcome the debate this afternoon. I am anxious to see progress on this subject. Everybody has already been waiting far too long. Let us get on with it and try to make a tangible difference in the level of service that is provided to the shipping community, and therefore make a tangible contribution to the well-being and success of the Canadian economy.
- MPlibFeb 01, 2013 8:25 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, even worse than young Canadians, the education and job numbers for aboriginal people are appalling. That is partly because the government has a cap on the number of first nation youth who can get into post-secondary education every year, and the federal investment in the K to 12 learning of first nation children on reserve is only a fraction of what provincial governments invest per child in non-aboriginal kids. No amount of jiggery-pokery with the arithmetic will change that hard fact.
Will the government fix both the gap and the cap in this year's budget?
- MPlibFeb 01, 2013 8:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, there were major job losses in Canada yesterday with the closure of Best Buy, Future Shop and other retail operations. The sales staff in those stores were largely young people; smart, tech savvy and getting their first job experience. Now, those jobs are gone, hundreds of them.
At a time when youth employment remains at punishing recession-like levels, draining more than $1 billion every year from Canadian incomes, what new initiatives is the government prepared to launch to give some hope and some help to jobless young Canadians?
- MPlibFeb 01, 2013 7:45 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, in light of this last exchange between the minister and the House leader for the NDP, I wonder if there is the beginning of a consensus on the floor of the House, that we could agree to a fairly short debate at second reading on the bill on the understanding that when the bill does get to the transport committee for hearings, we all agree that every single shipper who wants to be heard on this matter would have the opportunity to present to the committee and get a fair hearing about whether shippers think this legislation is good enough or not.
- MPlibFeb 01, 2013 7:30 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, in an earlier answer to the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, if I heard him correctly, the minister used a phrase to express that the transportation sector is a competitive sector, that there is competition in the transportation industry, presumably between the railways. I would ask the minister, is that not exactly the problem here, that there is no competition? The shippers are captive and it is because of that captive shipper situation that legislation like this is in fact necessary.
- MPlibJan 28, 2013 12:15 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
With regard to defibrillators, within each department, agency and crown corporation of the government: (a) how many units are currently installed and ready for use; (b) how much did each unit cost; (c) who was the supplier for each unit; (d) where exactly is each unit located; (e) how many units are at each location; (f) how many employees at each location are trained to use them; (g) what regulations or policies govern their installation and use in federal facilities and in federally regulated industries; (h) are there any federal rules requiring the installation of defibrillators in airports, Canada Post outlets and RCMP detachments and vehicles; (i) what programs provide incentives and information to encourage their installation and use; (j) are any such programs planned in the future; (k) according to Health Canada, what impact do defibrillators have; and (l) what cost-benefit studies have been done on the installation and use of defibrillators, and what were their results?
- MPlibDec 12, 2012 12:30 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, I have two sets of petitions to file today, each of them involving thousands of signatures.
In the first case, the petitioners are arguing for the continuation of federal funding for the Motherwell Homestead in Saskatchewan, which is an important historical feature in our province.
- MPlibDec 11, 2012 7:05 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to file this morning.
The first petition is signed by hundreds of people, particularly aboriginal people, all over Saskatchewan who are objecting to the provisions in Bill C-45 that directly impact upon first nations and aboriginal people.
The petitioners request that the Government of Canada set aside Bill C-45 until due consultation and informed consent is given by those who would be directly impacted by it.
- MPlibDec 10, 2012 12:15 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, I have a number of petitions to file today, about 40 or so, with hundreds of names of people from one end of Saskatchewan to the other, expressing concern about the prairie shelterbelt program and in particular the planned closing of the tree nursery at Indian Head.
The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to maintain appropriate funding so the shelterbelt program can continue and the tree nursery, which began in 1901, can continue its invaluable work to Canadian agriculture.
- MPlibDec 06, 2012 8:35 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the second group of petitions, 22 of them, come from literally thousands of people mostly across Saskatchewan and some from outside of the province.
The petitioners protest the downsizing of the Motherwell Homestead National Historic Site. They believe that site, which stretches back to the early agricultural history of Saskatchewan, is absolutely fundamental to the province and Canada.
They call upon the Government of Canada to maintain full funding for the Motherwell Homestead National Historic Site.
- MPlibDec 06, 2012 8:30 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, I have two sets of petitions to table this morning.
The first set of petitions include literally hundreds of signatures primarily from first nations people across Saskatchewan. The petitioners protest the provisions in Bill C-45 that specifically discriminate against aboriginal people.
They call upon Parliament to change its mind with respect to the aboriginal provisions contained, they believe wrongly, in Bill C-45.
- MPlibDec 05, 2012 11:15 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, one of the truly nice things a member of Parliament gets to do is nominate distinguished citizens to be awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. By celebrating them, we pay tribute to Her Majesty's 60 remarkable years.
It has been a great privilege to nominate outstanding Saskatchewanians who represent the wide range of talent, hard work, community service and excellence that typify our country. Among that group is Mr. Sam Gee. For years, Sam and his beloved wife Morley were pillars of the vibrant Chinese Canadian cultural and business community in Regina. They ran the most popular neighbourhood store. They contributed generously to Regina's rich multicultural mosaic. Always a proud Canadian, Sam played a vital role in drawing public attention to the sad legacy of Canada's Chinese head tax and in securing redress.
It was a great honour to present the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal to Mr. Sam Gee today.
- MPlibDec 04, 2012 11:40 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the cuts the government has chosen to make typically hurt low-income Canadians the worst. For them, vital front line services are eviscerated, but there is more. There is a bizarre attack on public health and safety, maritime search and rescue, emergency preparedness, environmental science, habitat protection, food safety, product labelling and aboriginal health. None of these cuts are in the so-called back office. They are all front line services that keep Canadians safe.
Why do the Conservatives let their financial incompetence impair public health and safety?
- MPlibDec 04, 2012 11:35 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives used their self-inflicted debt burden as an excuse to cut front line services to the most vulnerable. They drove up federal debt by $140 billion. Who is forced to pay the price? It is low-income families who cannot get their kids into university, the unemployed who cannot get anyone to answer the phone at EI, newcomers to Canada who are told it is not a federal problem if they get sick and die waiting for their refugee claim, and veterans who cannot get a decent burial.
Why do the most vulnerable need to suffer the financial incompetence of the government?
- MPlibDec 03, 2012 11:55 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, from grain to lumber, from chemicals to cars, captive shippers have been asking for legislation since 2007 to provide enforceable level of service contracts. After five years, will we finally see that legislation this week?
Without discrimination, will all level of service contracts include six mandatory elements: services and obligations, communication rules, performance standards, performance metrics, consequences for non-performance, and a dispute settlement mechanism? Will we get that legislation this week?
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