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March

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    MPlib
    Mar 13, 2015 8:25 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, today's job report also shows that there are fewer jobs for young Canadians. In fact, there are 160,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than in 2008.

    Meanwhile, Canada has just set another new record for high levels of household debt. There is a connection between household debt and a weak job market for youth in Canada. Middle-class parents are taking on extra debt in order to help their adult children make ends meet.

    When will the Conservatives actually understand the real challenges faced by middle-class families? When will they give them a real plan for jobs and growth?

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    MPlib
    Mar 12, 2015 11:50 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I remember when finance ministers used to answer budget questions. I also remember when finance ministers actually introduced budgets in this House.

    Alberta's economic and fiscal framework is far more dependent on oil prices than that of Canada. Yet, Alberta's finance minister is set to deliver a budget on March 26.

    Therefore, if Alberta's finance minister can introduce a budget before the next fiscal year starts, why can Canada's finance minister not do the same thing?

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    MPlib
    Mar 10, 2015 12:25 pm | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance just referred to the report of CIBC economics as sham statistics. A bank economist would have absolutely no incentive to directly attack the Canadian government. It is doing it because the facts are backing up what it says, that the quality of jobs in Canada has declined, that full-time jobs are being replaced by part-time work, and that low-paying jobs are replacing high-paying jobs.

    The minister just said that the reason he has not been in the House lately is that he has been busy because he has to do a budget. Being a member of Parliament is part of being the Minister of Finance. I remember when ministers of finance actually showed up in the House to respond and, at the same time, wrote budgets that were balanced when oil was less than $50 a barrel.

    How does it actually contribute to certainty in the Canadian economy to have the Minister of Finance delaying a budget? Suncor is not saying it cannot produce its quarterly reports because of this uncertainty with fluctuating oil prices. Why is the minister creating uncertainty through his abdication of responsibility to do his job to present a budget?

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    MPlib
    Mar 10, 2015 8:15 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member again is demonstrating that the Conservatives are totally out of touch with the challenges faced by middle-class Canadian families, who are struggling. He does not seem to accept the fact that we have 160,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than before the downturn. He does not understand or get the reality that while we may have 1.2 million new jobs, the labour market of people who are eligible to work has grown by 2 million. The member does not seem to understand that the growth in jobs has been in lower-paying jobs, and that is in that CIBC report.

    For Canadian families, the bills still come in, whether they are for rent, car payments, or paying for hockey or education. The bills do not go down when someone loses a full-time job that is replaced by part-time work. The member exemplifies the arrogance of the current government, which is so focused on patting itself on the back that it does not have time to be in touch with the challenges faced by Canadian families.

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    MPlib
    Mar 10, 2015 8:00 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to today's motion on jobs and the economy. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Markham—Unionville.

    The Prime Minister and the Conservatives do not want to talk about the economy these days. In fact, they are so spooked by the topic that they are delaying the budget into the next fiscal year. We are told that we will not have a budget until April at the earliest. They do not want to talk about the economy, all because of plummeting oil prices.

    The Conservatives are also telling us that all the challenges facing Canadians and the Canadian economy today are a result of plummeting oil prices. However, the reality is that we have faced real challenges in the Canadian economy, and Canadian families have faced real challenges, well before plummeting oil prices.

    In fact, the May 3 issue of the Economist magazine had an article entitled, “Canada's economy: Maple, resting on laurels”, Canada's “post-crisis glow is fading”. In that article, the Economist said that the Conservative government's retelling of the 2008 crisis indicated that the Conservatives saved Canada from doom. It went on to say, “Yet luck played a large, unacknowledged part”. The Economist points to three areas where the Conservative government was lucky.

    First, the Conservatives were lucky that the previous Liberal government, Mr. Chrétien to Mr. Martin, refused to follow the global trend of bank deregulation, and we have a strong banking system as a result of that.

    Second, there was a solid financial footing. The previous government paid down $80 billion of our national debt, but the current government has added $160 billion to the national debt.

    Lucky in a third way was that oil and gas revenues helped pick up the slack when manufacturing faltered, and no federal politician can take credit for putting the oil and gas under the ground in Saskatchewan and Alberta. However, we all know it was Danny Williams who put it under the water off Newfoundland.

    The Economist pointed to three reasons why we went through the global financial crisis in 2008 better than other countries. The three reasons are: a strong banking system, a good fiscal situation, and oil and gas. The one thing they have in common is that the Conservative government has had nothing to do with any of it.

    The Economist also pointed out that since 2008, Canada's post-crisis glow was fading, and that in terms of growth and jobs, and growth in the GDP, Canada had actually fallen behind other countries. In fact, if we look at 2015 numbers, Canada is projected to be 14th, or middle of the pack of 34 OECD countries in growth. We will be behind the U.S. and the U.K. In 2016, Canada is projected to be 21st of 34 OECD countries in economic growth. We will be behind the U.S., Australia and the U.K. There are real challenges.

    It is important to also recognize that when the Economist published that article citing the challenges facing the Canadian economy, oil, WTI, at the time was at $104 a barrel, which is in fact more than twice where it is today. Therefore, even before plummeting oil prices, our economy had flatlined in growth and job creation.

    In terms of job creation, the CIBC report from last week said that Canadian job quality was at a record low. The growth of low-paying jobs compared to mid or high-paying jobs is significant. We are seeing fewer high-paying jobs created and more low-paying jobs.

    The Conservatives talk about 1.2 million jobs being created since 2008. However, they are completely ignoring the fact that our working age population has grown by two million. Labour market participation remains lower than before 2008. People have given up looking for work. The number of people facing long-term unemployment, or people unemployed for over a year, today is twice that of 2008. There are 160,000 fewer jobs today for young Canadians than in 2008.

    There are record levels of personal debt as middle-class parents and grandparents are forgoing retirement and retirement savings to financially support young Canadians who are unable to support themselves based on the low-quality jobs they are getting.

    It is damning of our economic situation and of the government's negligence and ignorance of that situation which it seems to be blissfully unaware, or perhaps it does not care, that this is the first generation of Canadian parents who believe their children will be worse off than them.

    The Conservative government does not get it. It is out of touch, and one can only assume because of it delaying the budget, that it is also out of ideas.

    We needed a plan for jobs and growth before plummeting oil prices, and we need a plan for jobs and growth even more today. Even in terms of how it manages the petrol economy, because the Conservative economic plan was threefold, which was oil, oil and oil, it has not done very well. Not one pipeline has been approved under the Conservative government, largely due to the fact that it either has no relations or toxic relations with the stakeholders and partners required to move these projects forward, whether it is with President Obama, aboriginal and first nations leaders, the provinces or the environmental community.

    The government and the Prime Minister have not built the kinds of relationships required to defend Canadian economic interests. Former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney says that the top foreign policy priority of a Canadian prime minister is to have a personal relationship with the President of the United States.

    Mr. Mulroney would have gotten Keystone XL approved with President Reagan. Mr. Chrétien would have gotten Keystone XL approved with President Clinton. In fact, they understood the importance of relationships.

    However, the government cannot even meet with premiers to discuss moving forward on labour and training, and addressing the jobs-skills mismatch. It cannot meet and sit down respectfully with aboriginal and first nations Canadians. It calls the environmental communities eco-terrorists. These are the stakeholders and partners we need to have our projects moving forward. Even in the area where the government is focused, and that is on oil, it has not done a very good job.

    The Bank of Canada has said that low oil prices are “unambiguously bad for growth”. It responded with a 25-basis point rate cut. What has been the response from the government, when we need action, when we need clarity, when we need certainty? It has delayed the budget until April, perhaps hoping oil prices will increase.

    The reality is that wishful thinking is not a replacement for responsible budget making. Suncor and Encana cannot delay their public reporting or their annual reports because of low oil prices. They would have a regulatory challenge with the securities commission, but they would also create uncertainty with their investors.

    The same could be said about a federal government delaying the budget, ostensibly because of falling oil prices. I can remember governments that introduced budgets when oil prices were less than $40 per barrel. I can remember governments balancing budgets back then. The fact is that the government is out of touch and out of ideas.

    The Liberal plan for jobs and growth will be to invest in infrastructure, to take the historic opportunity we have today to rebuild Canada's infrastructure; to create jobs and growth today, and the kind of economy that will create more jobs and growth in the future; to invest in people and skills to ensure young Canadians have the skills they need for the jobs of today and to prepare for the jobs of the future; to invest in innovation, science and data; and to invest in the kinds of trade relationships we need, both globally with the Obama administration, China, Mexico and our traditional partners, but also within Canada, the kind of relationships required to build a strong economy.

    A Liberal government will move this economy forward and will help Canadian middle-class families move ahead. The Conservative government is out of touch and totally out of ideas to benefit those families.

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    MPlib
    Mar 10, 2015 7:55 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, the member and his government are very much out of touch with the economic reality faced by Canadians and the challenges faced by Canadian families across the country and in his riding of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.

    He said that 1.2 million new jobs have been created since 2008. He is ignoring the fact that the working age population in Canada, the number of people eligible to work in Canada, has increased by two million. We have had stagnant economic growth and flatlined job growth in terms of good-quality jobs.

    Is the member aware that in his own riding, which is part of the north region of Nova Scotia, there have been 6,700 net jobs lost since 2008? Sixty-three hundred of those jobs were full-time jobs. If he is not aware of that, why does he not have a better idea of what is going on in terms of the challenges faced by families in his own riding? If he is aware of it, how can he stand and boast about his government's record, when people in his own riding are struggling because they have lost full-time work and are trying to pay their bills on part-time jobs?

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    MPlib
    Mar 09, 2015 11:25 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, the only good-paying jobs the Conservatives want to protect are their own.

    CIBC is not alone in raising the alarm on Canada's job market. The Bank of Canada has reported that Canada's jobs market is weaker than unemployment rates suggest. The bank has reacted by lowering interest rates.

    However, our soft jobs market cannot be fixed by monetary policy alone. Why are the Conservatives ignoring the facts and delaying the budget? Why do they not understand that Canadians need a real plan now for good jobs and growth?

February

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    MPlib
    Feb 25, 2015 11:45 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    That is the arrogance, Mr. Speaker, that got us a veto from Obama on Keystone XL.

    To get projects approved, we need to work with others, but this is the Prime Minister who will not meet with premiers or first nations' leaders, who calls environmentalists eco-terrorists, and the Prime Minister who cancelled the three amigos conference with Mexico and the U.S. In the words of Brian Mulroney, “...the top foreign policy priority of the prime minister” should be to have a personal relationship with the U.S. president.

    Why does the Prime Minister not take Mulroney's advice and build the relationships we need to defend Canadian jobs?

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    MPlib
    Feb 25, 2015 11:40 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, President Obama's veto of Keystone XL marks the Prime Minister's latest failure to advance Canada's economic interests. Brian Mulroney would have gotten Keystone XL approved with Ronald Reagan. Jean Chrétien would have gotten it done with Bill Clinton.

    Does the Prime Minister recognize that his failure to build relationships is costing Canadian jobs, and does he not understand that a personal relationship with the leader of our biggest trading partner is, in his own words, a no-brainer?

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    MPlib
    Feb 23, 2015 11:40 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are ignoring the challenges faced by middle-class families. They have cut funding for veterans. They have cut public health funding to educate Canadians about the importance of vaccinations. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are shovelling more money into economic action plan ads.

    When will the Conservatives lay off the action plan ads and start focusing on the things that really matter to Canadians, like supporting veterans or protecting children?

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    MPlib
    Feb 17, 2015 2:55 pm | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to speak to Bill C-636, which seeks to clarify the law regarding unpaid internships.

    I would like to begin by thanking my colleague, the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, for introducing this bill and giving us a chance to discuss the issue of unpaid interns.

    Too many Canadians, particularly young Canadians, are caught in a vicious cycle of not being able to get a job because they do not have work experience and are not able to get work experience because they do not have a job. It is that catch-22 that we are hearing more and more about in our communities and our own families.

    At the same time, many areas of Canada do not appear to have clear laws regarding unpaid internships. This legal ambiguity, combined with a weak labour market for young Canadians, places unpaid interns in a vulnerable position. The concern is that in many cases employers are using this ambiguity as a loophole around minimum wage laws.

    More and more vulnerable Canadians are forced to accept unpaid work simply in order to gain work experience. The situation facing unpaid interns appears to have gotten worse since the recent financial crisis, because young Canadians are finding it harder to land their first job in their field of study.

    I say that it appears to have grown since the financial crisis, because we do not know how many unpaid interns there are in Canada and we cannot manage what we do not measure, as the saying goes.

    Unpaid interns are not included in the labour force survey. They are not counted as employees because they do not receive a wage. They do not count as unemployed unless they are available and actively seeking work, which they cannot do if they are already committed to a full-time internship. Therefore, we do not have good data on unpaid internships.

    We do not know exactly where unpaid interns are working. We do not know if there are more of them in certain provinces or industries, but we do know that young Canadians are facing a huge unemployment rate.

    Statistics Canada recently revised its employment data going back to 2001. The revised numbers reveal a number of problems with the job market, particularly for young Canadians. The fact is that young Canadians face huge challenges in today's workforce.

    For example, compared to before the downturn, more Canadians now fall into the category of the long-term unemployed, those who have been unemployed for over a year. The number of Canadians who do not have a job and have been actively seeking and searching for work for at least a year is twice that of 2008.

    The situation is worse for young Canadians. The percentage of young Canadians with paying jobs has fallen from 60% to 56%. There are 160,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians today than in 2008. There are now three times as many unemployed young Canadians who have been looking for work for over a year.

    Young Canadians and the long-term unemployed are desperate for new work experiences, which makes them vulnerable to being pressured into unpaid work.

    Last June, the Standing Committee on Finance released a report on youth employment in Canada. As part of our study, we heard testimony on the issue of unpaid internships.

    I wish to thank Claire Seaborn and her colleagues with the Canadian Intern Association for their extraordinary contribution to public information on this problem.

    At committee, we heard from both employers and prospective employees about the need to clarify the law, particularly when it comes to student placements that are part of an academic program. Witnesses told the committee that we should look to British Columbia and Ontario as provinces that have best practices in terms of providing clarity on the definition of what is an acceptable internship, what is an exploitative internship, and protection for Canadians.

    For example, in Ontario, an intern is considered an employee and is entitled to minimum wage unless all of the following six conditions are met: one, the training is similar to that given in a vocational school; two, the training is for the benefit of the intern, who receives some benefit from the training, such as new knowledge or skills; three, the employer derives little if any benefit from the activity of the intern while he or she is being trained; four, the training does not take somebody else's job; five, the employer is not promising a job at the end of the training; and six, the intern has been told he or she will not be paid for his or her time.

    After hearing the evidence, the finance committee recommended the following:

    That the federal government collect data on unpaid internships in Canada and work with the provinces and territories to ensure the appropriate protections [are taken] under relevant labour codes. Moreover, the government should study the impacts of unpaid internships.

    Unfortunately, we have not seen any progress from the government since then. It has not directed Statistics Canada to start collecting data on unpaid internships.

    We have heard from some organizations, and the Canadian Federation of Students I think said that there were 300,000 unpaid interns in Canada, and we know anecdotally that the numbers have grown. We know from our own families and communities and a number of colleagues and friends whose children are working as unpaid interns. However, we do not actually have good data on this. Therefore, number one, we need to have Statistics Canada measure the number of unpaid interns on an ongoing basis, so that we understand the scale of the problem.

    Bill C-636 appears to emulate many of the conditions set out by the Province of Ontario, which is something that, on the surface, we would support. However, we do have some concerns.

    The Liberals were the first party to call for greater protection of unpaid interns, but this is something that the New Democrats have also been raising. We recognize that the federal labour law system is complex. It is built on a delicate balance between the interests of labour and management. We also recognize the potential for unintended consequences when we are changing the Canada Labour Code and labour laws of the country through private members' bills. This is something that is always a concern, and it is unfortunate that the government does not move forward with something in terms of a government bill.

    One concern we hear over and over again is that young Canadians are desperate for work experience. While there is a greater need for protection, it is critical that we do not regulate away legitimate programs that help vulnerable young Canadians enter the job market. There is a risk that clause 4 of Bill C-636 might in fact do that. For example, there are risks of excluding programs run by community groups to help vulnerable Canadians gain work experience, and not all these programs are linked to an academic program.

    During the current Parliament, a number of MPs on the opposition side have expressed concerns about amending the Canada Labour Code through a private member's bill. I would like to quote the member for Trois-Rivières who said:

    As far as I know, changes to labour relations legislation have never been introduced via a private member's bill....

    In the past, changes to the Canada Labour Code have come about following discussions between employers and workers, not when an MP stands up to say that he has made the discovery of the century.

    Therefore, when it comes to amending complex laws, a government bill is generally preferable, because under the rules of the House, it is subject to greater debate and analysis in Parliament.

    That being the case, I will be supporting the bill before us because I think it is an important debate. It is one that we should have as a Parliament. We should at least let the bill move forward so that we can dig deeper into this issue and ultimately provide the government with more pressure to actually take action in addressing this important issue of unpaid internships in Canada, which reflects the general malaise we have for youth employment in this country.

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    MPlib
    Feb 06, 2015 8:25 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, adding $160 billion to the national debt does not sound like the Conservatives are doing a very good job repairing damage.

    The Conservatives are fudging the numbers on the building Canada fund. They are inflating them by spanning them over a decade, when in fact 70% of the funds will not even flow until after 2019. They could get even more creative with their accounting. They could span the fund over 100 years and create a really, really big number. Meanwhile, in reality, they have actually cut the fund by 90% for the next two years to create this notional surplus on the eve of an election.

    When will they stop misleading Canadians with creative accounting and actually fix Canada's infrastructure?

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    MPlib
    Feb 06, 2015 8:20 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, when Canada's premiers call for increased infrastructure investment, the finance minister calls them oblivious to economics. Yet economic experts like David Dodge, the IMF, and the Bank of Canada agree that there has never been a better time to make infrastructure investments here in Canada. The Conservatives are not listening. In fact, they slashed the building Canada fund by 90% to create a notional surplus on the eve of an election.

    Will the government heed the premiers and the economic experts, reverse these harmful cuts, fix Canada's infrastructure, and create jobs and growth for Canadians?

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    MPlib
    Feb 05, 2015 11:25 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, that is false and they know it.

    The truth is that the Conservatives are playing a shell game with infrastructure funding just to create a notional surplus on the eve of an election.

    The truth is that 73% of the new Building Canada fund would not even be available until after 2019. That is two elections from now.

    The truth is that $210 million is available this year. That is a 90% cut from last year.

    When will the Conservatives simply tell the truth and reverse their cuts to infrastructure funding?

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    MPlib
    Feb 05, 2015 8:20 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, to be honest, I do not understand the question because the Liberal Party is not the party that came up with the idea to help the rich that we are talking about today. That came from the New Democrats, not us.

    I do not understand why the member supports the NDP's current policies when those policies seem to favour the rich and families that do not need help from the Government of Canada. It is up to him, not me, to explain the NDP's backward policies here in the House of Commons.

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    MPlib
    Feb 05, 2015 8:15 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I think I was pretty clear, so the answer is, no, we will not support the motion. To support a motion that will take $1.2 billion out of the federal treasury will not really do much for jobs, growth or help the middle class. It does not seem like good public policy. It sounds like something coming from the Conservatives in terms of income-splitting.

    Beyond that, the member is right that we can get quotes from different sources. I have never seen the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which is considered a progressive think tank, agree with Jack Mintz at the University of Calgary on anything before in my life. They both say that this proposal by the NDP will disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Canadian families through tax shelters and private family corporations. The top one percent is doing very well in Canada and the NDP ought to focus on the middle class like the Liberal Party is doing.

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    MPlib
    Feb 05, 2015 8:05 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my colleague and friend, the member for Markham—Unionville.

    In these difficult and uncertain times, we have to recognize that first of all, even before the plummeting oil prices, growth in Canada had stalled. We had stagnant growth and a soft jobs market prior to plummeting oil prices. In fact, if we look at the numbers even a year ago, well before falling oil prices, we had 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than before the financial crisis in 2008. Long-term unemployment, people unemployed for over a year, had actually doubled in Canada.

    The Economist magazine did an article on the Canadian economy called “Canada’s economy: Maple, resting on laurels”, which said: “The post-crisis glow is fading.” That was written last spring. The Economist was comparing Canada's growth numbers with those of the U.K., Australia. and of course, our neighbour to the south, the U.S.

    The reason I am saying that is that it is important to realize that we needed a real plan for jobs and growth prior to plummeting oil prices, and we need a plan even more so today. That is why it is important that the government come forward and present a budget that actually contains a plan to create jobs and growth but also to help the struggling middle-class families in Canada who are having trouble making ends meet, who are falling further behind, who are taking on higher levels of personal debt, and who are concerned about the future of their children and grandchildren.

    This brings me to today's motion and its three components: extending the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing, the innovation tax credit, and cutting the small-business income tax rate.

    The accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing has existed now for about eight years. During the period of time this measure has existed, we have lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs. The proposal being made by the NDP is to extend it by two years. I would argue that this is a status quo measure and that it will not really move the needle in terms of helping manufacturing.

    The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters are calling for five years, which would provide more certainty in terms of manufacturing investment. A two-year extension is not a bold new policy that is really going to move the needle in terms of manufacturing competitiveness.

    In terms of the innovation tax credit, the government has diluted and pulled back the SR and ED tax credit. It has made changes that we are told by smaller companies that are involved in research and development and commercialization, and we are told by larger manufacturers as well, that the changes to SR and ED made by the government have been negative for their capacity to research, develop, and commercialize new technologies and to create value.

    What the NDP has proposed is a small measure. We would agree that trying to create more incentives to actually encourage and support commercialization is important for creating wealth and prosperity for Canadians and jobs and growth. We are concerned that this is a very small measure. I believe that it is $40 million per year. Again, when I talk to people involved in venture capital, IT, biotech, or cleantech, they do not believe that this is going to make a big difference.

    This leads me to the third measure, and that is cutting the small-business income tax rate. The NDP has proposed a two-point cut, which would cost about $1.2 billion per year.

    Jack Mintz, director of the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, opines frequently on tax policy in Canada. This is what it says in an article about the NDP plan.

    An NDP plan to give tax relief to small businesses will actually end up giving wealthy Canadians a tax cut. “[It’s] something to make the rich richer,” Jack Mintz....

    But Mintz and some fellow economists argue that the tax break will go overwhelmingly to Canadians who need it least and may not result in job growth at all.

    “We find that 60 per cent of the small business deduction goes to households with more than $150,000 in income,” Mintz said....

    “The worst part [of the NDP plan],” Mintz added, “is that it doesn’t have good economic impacts because small business deductions contribute to a wall of taxation, so if they grow, they lose some of their benefits and get hit with higher taxes…. It tends to keep small businesses smaller.”

    What he is saying is that it is a disincentive to growth.

    He also refers to the tax vehicles that exist for a lot of wealthier Canadians. Canadian-controlled private corporations, known as CCPCs, are used by high-income Canadians and high-income households as a form of income splitting, with dividend distribution shared between spouses. If people talk to a tax planner, accountant, or private banker, they will say that these are frequently used by people with a lot of money, families with a lot of private wealth.

    Mintz says this about the NDP plan: “...it’s also a good income splitting method that the NDP are recommending”.

    The coalition that has emerged between the Conservatives and the NDP around income splitting to benefit Canada's wealthiest families is something the Liberals are watching with amazement. I am not going to suggest that discussions about a coalition or anything like that are occurring behind the scenes, and I do not actually think the NDP has intentionally done this. I think this has been poorly researched.

    In fact, Armine Yalnizyan, who is with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a very progressive think tank, had this to say on CBC when she was asked about the NDP's proposal. She was asked a specific question by the CBC journalist, as follows:

    This criticism [by Jack Mintz] of the NDP's proposal sounds bang on to you or totally wrong?

    This is what the economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said:

    Absolutely bang on. We have got new research in the last year or so that Dr. Mintz is talking about. So you'd think that the NDP would have known about this research. It's a little bit weird to say that we are looking at a way of benefiting small businesses when...[we are benefiting] tax shelters. If you want to do the things that they're saying, [they] could actually target your tax cut to incentivize the growth or only give tax cuts when the behaviour you are looking for takes place....

    What she is referring to are direct incentives for businesses that create jobs, that invest to create jobs and hire more people. Again, there is a startling and perhaps troubling trend here of NDP policy looking like Conservative policy.

    A few months ago, we were critical, the NDP included, of a Conservative hiring credit that would do nothing to really create jobs. It would be expensive. In fact, we were told by the Parliamentary Budget Officer that it would cost $700,000 for every job created and would not provide an incentive to hire. In fact, it would be a disincentive for hiring and growth. Now the NDP is proposing a policy with a similar disincentive to growth, which would do nothing to actually create jobs, and similar to Conservative income splitting, would disproportionately benefit the wealthy.

    If we really want to focus on creating jobs and growth, we should look at the policy proposed by the Liberal Party at that time, which was a hiring credit that would provide a tax benefit to employers who actually hired new workers and expanded their employment. That policy was embraced and supported by the CFIB, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, and Restaurants Canada.

    More broadly, the Liberal plan we will be presenting to Canadians and engaging Canadians in will be one that helps the middle class and creates jobs and growth by investing in infrastructure, people, and innovation.

    In terms of infrastructure, whether it is a small business, a big business, or a family, 100% of Canadian families and businesses benefit from investments in infrastructure. There has not been a better time in our lifetimes to invest and fix Canada's infrastructure. We have historically low bond yields, soft employment numbers, stagnant economic growth, and an historic opportunity to take the advice of David Dodge, the IMF, Mark Carney, and others and invest in infrastructure.

    That is the kind of vision that Canadian small businesses and Canadian middle-class families would benefit from, not a poorly thought out approach from the NDP that would disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Canadians families who need the help the least.

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    MPlib
    Feb 02, 2015 11:35 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, Canada needs jobs and growth now.

    Statistics Canada tells us that in fact 65,000 fewer jobs were created last year than it previously reported. Our economic growth has not just stalled, it actually went into reverse last month, with a shrinking GDP.

    Smart infrastructure creates jobs and growth today, and it builds a stronger economy to create more jobs and growth in the future.

    Why have the Conservatives, during this period of slow growth, cut the building Canada fund by almost 90% for the next two years, back-end loading the next real increase to 2017?

January

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    MPlib
    Jan 28, 2015 11:45 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, with plummeting oil prices and stagnant growth, Canadians deserve leadership and certainty. Instead they have a Minister of Finance who dithers and delays the budget.

    Yesterday the Parliamentary Budget Office warned, “There is...uncertainty right now...and not having a budget may actually add to that uncertainty.”

    Will the government take the PBO's advice and table a budget in February to provide economic certainty to Canadians during this difficult time?

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    MPlib
    Jan 27, 2015 11:40 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, the only thing this government manufactures is excuses. The reality is that the finance minister says he needs to delay the budget until he has heard from the economists. If the minister listened, he would hear TD Bank, and now the PBO, saying that he is heading toward a deficit, yet the minister insists that he can balance the budget while giving income splitting as a gift to the rich and without program cuts.

    Now that he has heard from the economists, and they are contradicting him, will he stop dithering and table a budget to clear up this uncertainty he has created?

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    MPlib
    Jan 27, 2015 8:15 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, in the current situation, it is very important that the government put forward an economic plan. I therefore support the NDP motion in that respect.

    At the same time, we need to work more closely with the provincial governments on issues like minimum wage. I agree that middle-class families are having trouble making ends meet at a time when incomes have stagnated while the cost of living continues to rise. This is a problem in Canada and around the world.

    The government should be working very closely with the provincial governments to develop post-secondary education programs, for example, in order to ensure that workers have the skills they need for the future. That would be another way to ensure progress for middle-class Canadians.

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    MPlib
    Jan 27, 2015 8:10 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear. We do not support income splitting, which is unfair because it only benefits 15% Canada's richest. It does nothing for the other 85% of Canadians. However, it puts 100% of Canadian families deeper in debt by putting the government deeper in debt, because it is deficit financing. A tax cut like income splitting, which is highly regressive today, will be paid for through higher taxes in the future, and we do not support that.

    The member spoke of free trade. We agree free trade is very important. The NAFTA is extremely important to the Canadian economy. Our relationship with the U.S. and Mexico are critically important, which is why I find it curious that the Prime Minister would have cancelled the upcoming summit of President Peña Nieto, President Obama and the Prime Minister in Ottawa. Why would he have damaged further our relations with our key trading partners in the NAFTA by cancelling that meeting?

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    MPlib
    Jan 27, 2015 8:00 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, today I will speak about the Canadian economy and the challenges faced by middle-class Canadian families.

    Conservative government mismanagement and also its lack of vision for the Canadian economy and its future has dashed the hopes of middle-class Canadian families. I would like to take a moment to reflect on the reality of Conservative management of the economy.

    When it came to power in 2006, the Conservative government inherited a decade's worth of balanced budgets from Liberal governments as well as an annual surplus of $13 billion. It took the Conservatives just two years to turn that surplus into a deficit, and that was before the recession hit.

    The Conservatives actually put Canada on the edge of deficit prior to the global financial crisis in 2008. Even in the most recent economic update, the government forecast shows that the economy's rate of growth would slow from one year to the next. That is the latest forecast from the government.

    The economy is facing long-term structural challenges. These structural challenges existed before plummeting oil prices. The Bank of Canada has forecast that the economy's growth will decline in 2015 to 2.1% from the previously forecasted 2.6%. The TD's forecast is actually even lower, at 2%.

    The Conservatives like to take credit for the country's favourable performance relative to other industrialized economies in weathering the 2008 recession, and it is true that we did get through the 2008 financial crisis better than other countries. However, the Economist magazines tells us that there are three principal reasons for that: first, Canada's banking system and the decision made by Prime Minister Chrétien and Finance Minister Martin not to follow the global trend of deregulation in the 1990s; second, with the fiscal management of the previous government, having taken more than $80 billion off the national debt, the Conservative government inherited the best incoming fiscal situation of any incoming government in the history of Canada; and third, oil, gas and minerals. Those are the three factors that helped Canada get through the 2008 financial crisis, and they have one thing in common: the Conservatives actually are not responsible for any of them.

    It is important to realize that the more time has passed since the recession, the less robust Canada's economic recovery has been, especially in comparison with the U.S. In fact, the Economist magazine's article was “Canada's economy, Maple, resting on its laurels. Canada's post-crisis glow is fading”. That article was from last spring, a long time before plummeting oil prices.

    Now it is clear, with the recent collapse of oil prices, that we cannot simply rely on fossil fuels, pipelines and minerals to be the sole drivers of the Canadian economy. The Conservatives have had a three-prong strategy. It has been oil, oil and oil. They have actually shortchanged other sectors, totally ignoring the manufacturing sector, where we have lost almost half a million jobs under the government.

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Markham—Unionville.

    Again, even before plummeting oil prices, Canada faced significant challenges, slow growth and a a soft employment market.

    The number of Canadian jobless for over a year or more had actually doubled since 2008, and that was before plummeting oil prices. Even before plummeting oil prices, there were 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than in 2008. More young Canadians with good educations were unable to support themselves and were living at home with their parents. More Canadian parents and grandparents were going deeper in debt, in fact record levels of personal debt, because of their direct financial support of children and grandchildren. This was, again, before plummeting oil prices.

    The reality is that the Conservative government has also raised taxes. It imposed a $330 million increase in Canadian tariffs in the previous budget implementation act. In fact, that took effect this month.

    Now the government's fiscal position is eroding. The TD Bank has forecast a potential $4.7 billion deficit if oil prices do not recover. Similarly, the Conference Board of Canada has issued a report saying that the drop in oil prices will reduce government revenues by $4.3 billion.

    These economic circumstances call for vision and leadership from the federal government, and certainty. In fact, we have had anything but certainty from the Minister of Finance or the government. The Minister of Finance postponed the tabling of a budget to April, at the earliest. Even in the best case scenario, where a budget is tabled in April, there will be a lack of parliamentary scrutiny as the House of Commons is due for a two week break in April.

    Also troubling is the apparent rift within the government when it comes to how to cope with the budget surplus that is now evaporating.

    The Minister of Employment and Social Development said:

    We won’t be using a contingency fund. A contingency fund is there for unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters.

    On the other hand, the Minister of Finance said:

    The contingency fund is there for unexpected and unavoidable shocks to the system [like] the oil price decline--which was a dramatic one--would fall in that category.

    The fact that two senior Conservative economic ministers have two totally separate and different positions on something as fundamental as the budget does not inspire confidence among the investment community or among consumers.

    The dilemma over how to avoid a fiscal deficit would not have presented itself in the first place if the government had not recklessly painted itself into a corner with pre-election commitments to income splitting and other tax expenditures. This was the opposite of leadership. The government was pandering to its base for political advantage. It was doing everything it could to create a notional surplus on the eve of an election to fund its pre-election spending. It took no account of the potential volatility of commodity prices.

    It is plain and simple. The government mismanaged the fiscal situation. It let Conservative ideology and politics take priority over the practical demands of governing and fiscal responsibility.

    The government should now prepare and table a budget that acknowledges the uncertainty and provides some level of leadership. It should not wait until April to do this. The government should retreat from its income splitting commitment because it is costly and it would benefit only 15% of Canadians. We heard from the former minister of finance, Jim Flaherty, on this, and he expressed concerns that it was unfair.

    Before plummeting oil prices, income splitting was unfair. After plummeting oil prices and its fiscal impact, it is unaffordable. It is important to realize that any tax cut like income splitting, which only benefits 15% of the richest families, and deficit financing will require all Canadians to pay higher taxes in the future.

    The Bank of Canada has shown leadership. It recognized the turbulence faced by the Canadian economy and it cut the key interest for the first time in almost five years.

    Despite the warning from economists, the TD Bank and others, the Minister of Finance said, “the Canadian economy is in good space”. This is out of touch with the emerging reality, and out of sync with the concerns of middle-class Canadian families. It is also indifferent to the needs of average Canadians.

    It is important to realize that the Conservative government has not provided certainty to Canadians, and it has not provided a plan for jobs and growth. A plan for jobs and growth was needed before plummeting oil prices. We need a plan for jobs and growth even more today.

    A Liberal government would invest in plans for jobs and growth in three principle ways. It would invest in infrastructure. We have never had a better time to invest in infrastructure than today. We would invest in people and skills. We would invest in innovation.

    A Liberal government would invest in jobs and growth. Canadian families are looking for leadership and investment in jobs and growth, a real plan.

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    MPlib
    Jan 26, 2015 12:20 pm | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    With regard to travel paid for by government departments and agencies for Members of Parliament and Senators other than the minister, Minister of State, or Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the department: since 2010-2011 inclusively, (a) what was the total cost for each trip; (b) what was the cost for each trip, broken down by (i) transportation, (ii) accommodation, (iii) meals and incidentals, (iv) gifts; (c) what was the reason for each trip; (d) what was the name of the Member of Parliament or Senator on each trip; (e) what was the itinerary for each trip; (f) was the Member accompanied by staff and, if so, what was the cost for the staff member or members, broken down by (i) transportation, (ii) accommodation, (iii) meals and incidentals, (iv) gifts; and (g) was a press release issued regarding the trip and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?

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    MPlib
    Jan 26, 2015 12:15 pm | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    With respect to each expenditure contained in each budget or budget implementation bill since fiscal year 2006-2007, inclusively: (a) has the Department of Finance done an economic impact analysis of the expenditure; (b) if the answer to (a) is affirmative, what is the date, name and file number of any record which constitutes part of that analysis; (c) has the Department of Finance relied on any economic impact analysis of any organization outside government on the expenditure or not; and (d) if the answer to (c) is affirmative, (i) which organizations analysed the measure, (ii) what is the date, name and file number of any record obtained from that organization which constitutes part of that analysis?

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    MPlib
    Jan 26, 2015 11:40 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, last week the Bank of Canada cut rates, because the bank's priority now is jobs and growth, but the Conservatives' priority is a $10 billion income-splitting scheme that does nothing for jobs or growth. According to TD, income splitting will drive Canadians or the Canadian government $10 billion deeper in debt.

    When will the Conservatives realize that their pre-election income-splitting scheme does nothing for growth, is unfair, and now is unaffordable? When will they scrap this $10 billion fiscally irresponsible scheme?

December

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    MPlib
    Dec 09, 2014 8:40 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I remember when the Prime Minister referred to Atlantic Canada and Atlantic Canadians as having a culture of defeat. He said that as an opposition leader. Since then he has gone from contempt for the region to neglect. It is a region that is struggling, particularly the Maritimes. Newfoundland and Labrador are fortunate that, based on natural resources, they are seeing some progress. That is a good thing. However, the Maritimes are struggling. It is not just the cuts to EI benefits and changes that have been negative for the region, but it is a real lack of leadership on issues where traditionally federal governments played leadership roles in our region.

    On the issue of immigration, the Maritime provinces have a terrifying demographic trend before us whereby our populations are teetering on decline and are aging rather significantly. As a result, we will see a diminishing of the labour pool and the productive capacity of our region. We need immigration. When provincial governments and the Maritimes came to the current government, they were told that it would not raise the cap and it would not enable them to bring in more immigrants.

    In our region we ought to be working on a future Liberal government that would work with the provincial governments. For instance, we would look at the Manitoba model for immigration. We would ask ourselves if we could do that in our region, if we could work with the federal government to change our immigration strategy to have perhaps even a unified immigration strategy among the maritime provinces, so that they would have a greater capacity to attract and retain more new Canadians to our region.

    There is a lack of vision in the federal government for Atlantic Canada, which reflects a lack of creativity in terms of public policy. It also reflects a lack of compassion or real interest in moving our region forward. Most importantly, it reflects a lack of understanding of the potential of the maritime and Atlantic Canadian people and the capacity through leadership for us to harness that innovation, which could do so much to create jobs and prosperity for our region.

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    MPlib
    Dec 09, 2014 8:35 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the question.

    Unfortunately, that is the case. It is true that the government did not conduct an analysis; there are no facts or figures. The government decided to spend more than $500 million on a program that will not create jobs. That is nonsense and bad policy. It may be good policy for the Conservatives before an election, that much is true, but it does not reflect the principles of good governance.

    When the government is considering implementing a policy, it needs to do research to understand the potential results. That is not what the Conservatives did, and this is not the first time. The Conservatives always do the same thing.

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    MPlib
    Dec 09, 2014 8:10 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, as I rise to speak to the government's budget implementation act at third reading, I regret that we are debating, yet again, another massive omnibus piece of legislation.

    This legislation contains many specific flaws, but I would like to start by addressing its conceptual failure. It covers too many subjects which are non-budgetary in nature and therefore not suitable for inclusion in a budget implementation act.

    This legislation is frankly a smokescreen designed to ram through a multitude of changes without allowing for careful scrutiny and rigorous analysis. It is 460 pages long, with 400 separate clauses amending countless different laws. Bill C-43 represents a continued abuse of power, disrespect for Parliament, and plain bad judgment on the part of the government.

    I would like to review a few of the specific laws in this legislation.

    First, there is the small-business job credit. The Minister of Finance conceded, in his appearance before the finance committee, that his department did absolutely no economic analysis of this measure before allocating more than half a billion tax dollars to it.

    At the Standing Committee on Finance, we heard from experts who say that this tax credit has a serious design flaw. It creates a perverse incentive for employers to lay off workers or reduce their hours of work in order to qualify for the tax savings.

    The Parliamentary Budget Officer told us that this so-called job credit would create only 800 jobs over two years, at a cost of about $700,000 per job. Obviously, it is outrageously expensive and ineffective as a job creation measure. We know that there are better ways to manage half a billion dollars in tax dollars and at the same time better ways to create jobs. There are other measures or potentially better-designed investments that could do more to bolster the economy and create jobs cost-effectively.

    We offered a focused alternative. The Liberal plan would create a two-year EI premium holiday for businesses that create new jobs, that actually hire and add to their payrolls. This would be a true incentive for employers to do more hiring. Our proposal would fix the design flaw in the government's tax credit. It was endorsed by Canadian employer organizations, such as the CFIB, Restaurants Canada, and the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.

    Second, I would like to address the government's latest attack on refugee claimants. Having been overruled by the courts on their previous attempt to deny claimants proper medical care, the Conservatives now wish to make it easier for provincial governments to deny them social assistance. It is a harsh and punitive policy that certainly should not be buried in an omnibus budget bill.

    Third, there is the restructuring of the Public Health Agency of Canada. The government would demote the position of chief public health officer, a move that would carry potential risks for the health of Canadians. At the finance committee, we heard from experts about how the Public Health Agency was created in the aftermath of Canada's SARS crisis. They told us that the chief public health officer was deliberately, at that time, made a deputy head so as to have the necessary power and autonomy to work with the provinces and effect change. The omnibus bill would undo much of that good work.

    This omnibus bill also attempts to clean up the mess and correct some of the errors contained in previous Conservative omnibus bills. For example, in the last omnibus budget bill, Bill C-31, the Conservatives forgot to include a tax credit for interest on Canada apprentice loans. In the same bill, they forgot to include foreign money-service businesses as foreign entities in measures under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.

    The Conservatives also forgot to introduce a refund for duties paid on destroyed tobacco products when they hiked these duties in Bill C-31. As well, they forgot to subject pooled registered pension plans to the same GST rules as registered pension plans in previous legislation.

    There is a litany of forgetting, and it is an unfortunate result of not just a lack of competence and attention to the detail, the nitty-gritty of government or economic management, but also the design flaw of the overall approach of putting all these changes in a budget omnibus bill and denying the appropriate committees of Parliament to both review and vote on measures pertaining to their area of public policy and expertise.

    In this litany of forgetting things, the government may actually be forgetting about the needs of Canadians. However, I do not think Canadians will forget about the failings of the current government come the next election.

    Principle among those failings is a lack of consultation, which is clearly evident in this omnibus bill. The government did not consult with aviation groups when changing the rules around aerodromes. It did not listen to Canada's only international cable-laying company when excluding cable laying from the definition of international shipping. It did not listen to the provincial governments when pressing ahead with measures aimed at denying social assistance to refugees.

    The Canadian people have made it clear that they need economic growth and employment, and they need growth and jobs to be an absolute priority for the government. Unfortunately, the government is out of touch with Canadians' needs and aspirations, and it is certainly doing nothing to create growth and prosperity.

    For example, consider the government's new income-splitting scheme, which will cost $2.4 billion this year. It benefits only 14% of Canadians, the most privileged of Canadians. The measure completely overlooks single parents and parents who happen to both make similar incomes.

    The late Jim Flaherty had doubts about it, and he expressed them clearly. These are the words of the late Jim Flaherty:

    I think income-splitting needs a long, hard analytical look...to see who it affects and to what degree, because I’m not sure that overall, it benefits our society.

    If the Conservatives followed his advice and took a long, hard look at income splitting, they would see that it does nothing to really create growth and prosperity, and does nothing to help a lot of the Canadian families that need the help the most. It also puts the government more deeply in deficit this year. The government would already project a surplus, or be close to a surplus this year, if it were not for this income-splitting scheme, which actually puts us back into a deficit situation.

    While the Conservatives are borrowing to benefit a small and relatively well-off segment of the population through income splitting, they are neglecting a vulnerable group that has served Canadians with true patriotism and valour; that being our veterans.

    In addition to closing Veterans Affairs offices, the government lapsed $1.1 billion that was earmarked to invest on behalf of veterans. Instead of following Parliament's direction and using those funds to take care of our veterans, the government clawed that money back for the federal treasury.

    Meanwhile, the government skimped on much-needed mental health services for our veterans. In his recent report, the Auditor General found that 80% of veterans had to wait nearly eight months to find out if they were even eligible for long-term mental health services, and the other 20% had to wait even longer than that.

    This is callous treatment by a government that likes to lionize the military, but will not treat individual veterans or their families with care and respect. The Conservative government is even trying to argue in the courts now that it does not have a sacred obligation to those who served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

    A Liberal government would have a very different agenda than the current government, economically and socially. We believe that members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans should have nothing less than the best of care and support from a grateful nation and government. Our goals would be fair treatment for all members of society and the strengthening of Canada's middle class through an agenda of jobs and growth.

    We would grow the economy in a way that would benefit all Canadians, investing significantly in infrastructure, innovation and trade. We would partner with the provinces and Canadian municipalities. We would work with progressive investors, including, potentially Canada's pension funds, to invest significantly and massively in infrastructure. We would follow some of the lead of countries like the U.K. and Australia. This year, Australia is investing $13 billion of federal money into infrastructure. It is leveraging with the state governments and with pension funds to create $60 billion of new investments in infrastructure.

    We have the capacity, through a forward-thinking and innovative infrastructure agenda, to create jobs and growth in the short term during this time of secular stagnation and slow growth and soft employment. We can create jobs and growth in the short term, but we can also render our economy more competitive in the long term by addressing Canada's crumbling infrastructure needs.

    The reality is that we probably have the best opportunity in our lifetime to actually invest in infrastructure. We have bond yields at historic lows, real interest rates actually negative, a crumbling infrastructure and soft employment market, and a slow growth economy. Put those factors together and there is little wonder why people like David Dodge, or the OECD or the IMF are saying that countries like Canada ought to be investing significantly in infrastructure.

    This is no time for the government to do what it did in the last budget; that is, cut planned infrastructure spending by 89% in order to achieve a notional surplus on the eve of an election.

    Infrastructure spending needs to be significant, it needs to be consistent, it needs to be long term in nature, not just around electoral scheduling.

    We would invest, as a government, in getting better labour market information to provide a clear understanding of the skills mismatch to the situation of jobs without people and people without jobs, address labour shortages and, at the same time, give opportunities to young Canadians who need work.

    There are 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians today than before the downturn. One of the things we need in Canada is better labour market data. We need to invest in organizations like Statistics Canada. We need to ensure that young Canadians and their families know more about what the jobs of today look like and what the jobs in the future will look like. We need to get better data and we need to make that data available in a user-friendly format for young Canadians, starting in junior high school, such that they can start thinking long term, not just what they want to do but what those jobs actually pay so they can get a job that will provide them with the means to have a place of their own. There has never been a time, in recent history, when we have seen more young Canadians living at home, on the sofa in the basement, because they simply cannot get work to financially sustain themselves.

    One of the drivers of high levels of personal debt for Canadian families right now is the direct financial subsidization of adult children who cannot get a job or cannot get jobs that will actually financially sustain them. Canadian families today are seeing record levels of personal debt—$1.65 for every $1.00 of annual income—as parents and grandparents directly financially support young people who have skills, who have good educations, but whose skills do not match current labour market needs. We need to close that gap and part of it is simply providing good information to young Canadians as they are planning their career and their lives, and informing them as to the types of jobs, professional trades, that can provide them with the capacity to support themselves into the future.

    We need to work with the provinces to restore the honour and respect paid to professional trades. We have seen a diminution in the respect for professional trades over the last 30 years. We need to reverse that because we know there is a shortage of skilled trades and an opportunity for young people, if they are given the correct information, to choose paths in skilled trades, I think we will see more young people doing that.

    We also need to invest more in training and apprenticeships. We need to track unpaid internships, for instance. We have asked the government to mandate Statistics Canada to track unpaid internships. We have been told that there is more use of unpaid interns today than ever before. It is kind of a supply and demand issue.

    There are a lot of young Canadians who are desperate for work, desperate for the experience they need to start off their careers, who simply cannot find work. The issue with unpaid internships is that it can deepen inequality of opportunity significantly because only children from privileged families can afford to work for no pay. In other words, it is more likely a child from a privileged family will actually get a good start and get some work experience.

    This has tremendous long-term impacts on equality of opportunity. We have learned from a recent report of the IMF that in fact inequality of opportunity is not just a social issue; it impedes economic growth. That is why issues like unpaid internships and income inequality are important and why we should, at the very least, not make the situation worse with a tax change that has the capacity to deepen inequality, like income splitting.

    We also need to recognize that over the last 30 years the nature of work and training has changed, not just in Canada but throughout the industrialized world. The old days where one could get a degree, or a diploma, or trade and be set for life and never have to go back to school, university or college, are over, in the same way that working for 30 years, retiring with a gold watch and defined benefit pension plan is largely behind us.

    We need to update and modernize our Canada student loans program as part of a suite of support for not just young people as they graduate from high school to get their education, but as they move forward through multiple decades of their careers and lives. There is nothing really there for people in their 30s who have young families, who find that their skills do not match the current job market. It is very difficult for them to finance the education and training they need to get a job to support their families at that time. It would be good for productivity and competitiveness, and jobs and growth, if we worked with people throughout their careers and life cycles to help them get the skills they needed during that entire period.

    We also believe it is important that we go back to evidence-based decision making, as opposed to the Conservatives' decision-based evidence making, when we are crafting public policy. What we may think, based on an ideological perspective, is the right thing to do, when exposed to the bright light of fact and information, we may be surprised. It is important that we get the best possible information and data, whether scientific or statistical.

    We live in an age of big data. Smart companies and smart governments are investing massively in knowing more about their customers and the demographic trends and how to prepare for them. There is only one organization I can think of globally that has deliberately chosen over the last 10 years to both reduce the quality and quantity of data it collects, and that is the Conservative government. It is an ideological perspective that is wrong headed.

    Instead of dividing Canadians with ideologies, a Liberal government would unite Canadians with ideas, based on fact, creativity, imagination and innovation, to create the jobs and growth that Canadians need.

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    MPlib
    Dec 05, 2014 8:55 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have hurt Canada's international standing. Now we hear that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scolding us. He says that Canada needs to stop stalling on climate change and that we need to start thinking about others.

    Even if the Conservatives do not believe in climate change science, do they not know that their failure to act on climate change is hurting our economy and risking Canadian jobs? Do they not understand that their hostility to the environment is the reason that important projects like Keystone XL have not been approved?

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    MPlib
    Dec 02, 2014 10:20 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate my colleague's question as well as the opportunity to work with him on the Standing Committee on Finance.

    It is clear that the Conservative government has once again imposed a policy without consulting the provincial governments. It is ridiculous to develop policies of this kind without consultation. In the past, Progressive Conservative and Liberal governments met frequently with provincial governments in order to develop common approaches to such issues. This is another example of the Conservatives' regressive policies. Attacking refugees is not in keeping with Canadian values. That makes no sense from a social or economic standpoint.

    In future, when the Liberals form the government, we intend to reverse such policies.

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    MPlib
    Dec 02, 2014 10:10 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the government budget implementation act at report stage.

    Once again, this is another omnibus budget bill that legislates on far-ranging and diverse matters that have very little to do with an actual budget, and as such, many of the measures in this piece of legislation are ones that are not appropriate for review or voting at the House of Commons finance committee. They should be at committees more specific to their actual subjects.

    However, despite its diverse content, one thing is true thematically throughout this bill: the Conservative government is imposing a regressive public policy agenda on Canadians. It is ignoring the needs of Canada's struggling middle class. It is ignoring the challenges faced by young Canadians, many of whom are facing significant challenges in the workforce, as we have a very soft jobs situation for young Canadians. As well, in terms of the long-term unemployed, the number of Canadians who are unemployed for over a year has actually doubled from 2008 till now. In fact, the government brings forward a measure in this budget implementation bill that actually creates a perverse incentive for employers to fire workers.

    Overall, this is a continued attack on the social fabric of Canadian society, but it is also weakening the economic foundation of the country.

    I want to talk about a few specific measures in this legislation and how I think we could do better.

    First is the government's so-called small business job credit. The Minister of Finance admitted to the finance committee that his department did no economic analysis on this measure, zero, before committing over half a billion dollars of taxpayers' money. At the finance committee we heard from experts who testified that this tax credit has a serious design flaw in that it would create a perverse disincentive for employers to lay off workers or reduce hours of work in order to qualify for the tax savings. We have heard from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that this measure would create only 800 jobs over two years, at a cost of $700,000 per job. That is fiscally irresponsible. It is ludicrous from a public policy perspective. It is highly ineffective and very expensive. It is a failed public policy experiment. There are better ways to spend half a billion tax dollars, and there are better ways and better measures that would do more to strengthen the economy and create jobs cost-effectively.

    The Liberal proposal that we have offered would work because it would only benefit employers who actually increased employment. Instead of proceeding with this flawed small business Conservative job credit, the government could adopt the Liberal plan, which would create a two-year EI premium holiday for businesses that actually grow and add to their payroll. This measure would be directly tied to job creation. It would be an incentive for employers to hire. It would be better for employers who want to grow their businesses and better for unemployed workers who want a job. The Liberal plan has been endorsed by the CFIB, the Canadian restaurant association, and the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.

    This omnibus bill does a disservice to unemployed Canadians, but it is actually even worse for another group of vulnerable Canadians: refugee claimants. Under Bill C-43, their access to social assistance would be jeopardized. Bill C-43 is just the latest instalment in the government's ongoing attack on refugees.

    First the Conservatives tried to removed access to basic health care for refugee claimants, but the courts quashed the Conservative government's policy. They called it “cruel and unusual”. Now the Conservatives are trying to remove what little source of income refugee claimants have.

    Refugee claimants have to wait for a work permit from the federal government before they can work legally in Canada. If they do not have a permit, they must rely on social assistance to survive. Now, however, the government would make it possible for provincial governments to impose residency requirements as an obstacle for obtaining social assistance.

    None of the provinces requested this authority. In fact, the government has only talked to the Ontario government, and the Ontario government does not support it. It did not ask for it, yet the Conservative government wants to proceed with this measure regardless. If a province does make use of the authority, the burden of feeding and sheltering the refugee claimants would fall upon charitable organizations, which are already stretched too thinly in our communities.

    Refugees are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Frankly, it is mean-spirited that the Conservative government has chosen to pick on them, first by trying to eliminate their health care services and now by attacking their ability to support themselves. Let us keep in mind that we are not talking about just the adult claimants but about their children as well. The children of these refugee claimants are being victimized by the Conservative government's mean-spiritedness and short-sightedness. We would reverse this punitive measure against asylum seekers.

    It is not only the health of refugees that the government has played fast and loose with; it has put all Canadians at risk with the demotion of the Chief Public Health Officer and the reduction in his ability to promote and effect needed change. At the finance committee, we heard from experts who told us that the Public Health Agency of Canada was created in response to Canada's experience with the SARS epidemic. They told us that the Chief Public Health Officer was deliberately made a deputy head at that time so that he or she would have the necessary power and autonomy to work with the provinces and the ability to speak truth to power and effect change.

    The omnibus would undo some of that good work. It would demote the Chief Public Health Officer and reduce his authority and ability to effect change. We think this is an unhealthy move. We also think that it is very much in keeping with the government's ongoing disrespect for, and attack on, the scientific community. There was a time when governments were guided by evidence-based decision-making; this government seems to be guided by decision-based evidence-making.

    It is not just the Conservative policies that are wrong-headed, but also the process that leads to these policies. In many areas of Bill C-43, the government has ignored key stakeholders affected by the policies. When the government changed the rules applicable to aerodromes, it gave the minister overly broad powers and failed to consult the aviation groups that are affected. When the government changed the definition of “international shipping” to exempt cable laying, it failed to work with the only Canadian company that does cable laying, thereby jeopardizing its business and jobs. It showed contempt for the public by implementing new and possibly harmful policies without consulting the constituencies and stakeholders that had the most to lose as a result of these policies. That is not just undemocratic by nature; it also leads to bad public policy and to mistakes.

    Another aspect of the process that troubles us is the use of an omnibus bill to effect changes to policies that have, as I said earlier, no relationship whatsoever to the budget. What do the bill's measures on aerodromes and the Chief Public Health Officer have to do with the fiscal framework? Nothing. Why should they be reviewed and voted on by the finance committee, instead of by individual committees that have the expertise to deal with them?

    I can assure members that a Liberal government would follow a very different course in terms of both process and policy. The public's top priority is economic growth and job creation. This requires more than simply expensive advertising of non-existent or unimproved programs. The Conservatives' proposed measure on income splitting would only benefit 15% of the wealthiest Canadians. We agree with the late Jim Flaherty, who said:

    I think income-splitting needs a long, hard analytical look … to see who it affects and to what degree, because I’m not sure that overall, it benefits our society.

    A Liberal government will pursue an agenda of jobs, growth, and investments that benefits all of society.

November

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    MPlib
    Nov 28, 2014 9:15 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    With regard to the Prime Minister’s “24 Seven” videos: for each video work posted to date, (a) who owns the copyright in the video work; (b) does anyone, apart from the copyright owner specified in (a), own copyright in any individual image, video clip, audio clip, musical work or other work which constitutes part of the larger video work; (c) if the answer to (b) is affirmative, (i) who is that copyright owner, (ii) when and how was their permission to use the content secured, (iii) what is the duration of the permission which was granted, (iv) if permission was granted for valuable consideration, what was the dollar amount of that consideration; (d) who owns the moral rights in respect of the video work; (e) does anyone, apart from the moral rights owner specified in (d), own moral rights in any individual image, video clip, audio clip, musical work or other work which constitutes part of the larger video work; and (f) if the answer to (e) is affirmative, (i) who owns these moral rights, (ii) when and how was their permission to use the content secured, (iii) what is the duration of the permission which was granted, (iv) if permission was granted for valuable consideration, what was the dollar amount of that consideration, (v) were the moral rights waived?

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    MPlib
    Nov 27, 2014 11:40 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, TD Bank's report, “The Case for Leaning Against Income Inequality in Canada”, recommends making our tax system more progressive. TD cites an IMF report that shows that tackling inequality is good for growth.

    TD Bank, the IMF, and Mark Carney have all warned against growing income inequality here in Canada. Why will the Conservatives not listen to these experts and cancel the regressive income-splitting scheme that will actually make income inequality worse?

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    MPlib
    Nov 26, 2014 11:05 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, November is a month to reflect on those who have given their lives and to honour all those who have served. Over 50 years ago, the Royal Canadian Legion launched a poster and literary contest open to all Canadian students to foster the tradition of remembrance among young people.

    This year, two people from my riding won first place in the junior literary contest for students in grades four, five and six.

    Roman Javorek of Kentville, a student at Northeast Kings Education Centre, won in the poem division for his poem, “I Hold Your Hope”.

    Lauren Gatto of Elmsdale, a student at Elmsdale District School, won in the essay division for her essay, “The History of Remembrance Day”.

    I congratulate Roman and Lauren on their incredible success in this national contest. Next year, their work will be displayed in the Canadian War Museum with the other winning entries and they will enjoy a trip to Ottawa for the Remembrance Day ceremony.

    I want to thank the Royal Canadian Legion for its efforts to foster the tradition of remembrance among young Canadians.

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    MPlib
    Nov 24, 2014 10:25 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his thorough speech on this legislation. He is an expert, of course, on agriculture, with his background, and he brings a lot to this House in terms of that experience.

    The member just spoke of the importance of research. I want to ask him a specific question about the research being done in the Annapolis Valley at the Kentville research station. In recent years, we have seen, through attrition, a reduction in the number of researchers working there. They are not being replaced at retirement.

    Given the member's experience in horticulture, does he agree that regional, decentralized research is essential to the future of industries, whether it is the apple industry or the growing grape and wine industry? The research done in the Annapolis Valley is going to render a different result than that done in the Okanagan Valley or in Prince Edward Country in Ontario or in the Niagara region. As such, should we not be focusing more on regional research as opposed to centralizing it, which seems to be the trend with the current government?

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    MPlib
    Nov 20, 2014 11:40 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' so-called job credit would cost more than half a billion dollars of taxpayers' money, yet the finance minister told committee that the government has not done any economic analysis of it.

    Yesterday, when I asked the finance minister why, he said, “...we don't do analysis on every expenditure.”

    If a half-billion-dollar expenditure does not require analysis, exactly how much taxpayer money do the Conservatives have to spend before they do their homework?

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    MPlib
    Nov 18, 2014 11:40 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I was not aware that Jack Mintz was a union leader.

    With over 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than before the downturn, young Canadians are not getting the work experience they need. Governor Poloz says that high youth underemployment and unemployment are hurting their chances for future success, but he suggested the wrong solution: unpaid work.

    A better way to offer young Canadians meaningful job experience is actually through government programs that can pay young people so they can get jobs and experience at the same time, so why did the government, last summer, create half the number of summer jobs for young Canadians than in 2005 and—

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    MPlib
    Nov 18, 2014 11:35 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, Statistics Canada tells us that there are 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than in 2008. Instead of helping, the Conservatives have actually introduced a flawed EI tax credit that rewards firms for firing workers. This is what the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said recently:

    Why not just fire your summer student or cut back her hours to get yourself under the cap? Your reward for firing a student...a tax break!

    That is also what Jack Mintz, the economist, has said—that this job credit creates a disincentive for hiring and an incentive for firing.

    Why do the Conservatives not help young Canadians instead of giving a flawed job tax credit that actually hurts them?

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    MPlib
    Nov 07, 2014 9:25 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    With regard to government funding, for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusive: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group in the electoral district of Kings—Hants, providing for each (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the location of the recipient, indicating the municipality, (iii) the date, (iv) the amount, (v) the department or agency providing it, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?

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    MPlib
    Nov 06, 2014 11:35 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, experts like David Dodge, the IMF, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce all agree that we need more public investment in infrastructure. Now we can add Governor Poloz to that list. This week he called infrastructure “a key ingredient in our economic growth story”. He said that with interest rates at “a generational low”, the “missing ingredient” is government and the certainty government can provide.

    Governor Poloz is right. Will the Conservatives listen to Governor Poloz and to David Dodge? Will they reverse their 90% cut in planned infrastructure spending this year?

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    MPlib
    Nov 05, 2014 11:45 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I saw the light and I followed the guidance of my better angels who told me that income splitting would only benefit 15% of Canada's wealthiest families. When I learned that, I knew it was wrong, as did Jim Flaherty. Beyond that, in the riding of Yellowhead one out of every five families with children is a single parent family.

    Why are the Conservatives taking away a $2 billion tax credit that actually helps single parent families to pay for a $2 billion income splitting scheme that leaves these vulnerable families behind?

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    MPlib
    Nov 04, 2014 11:45 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, Jim Flaherty did not believe that this was a progressive measure and that is why he opposed it.

    In fact, there are over one and a half million single-parent families in Canada. These families got help from the child tax credit, but they will not get a dime from this income splitting scheme.

    Why are the Conservatives scrapping a program that helped single parents and replacing it with an income splitting scheme that will leave these single-parent families, some of Canada's most economically vulnerable families, out in the cold?

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    MPlib
    Nov 04, 2014 11:40 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are replacing the child tax credit with a regressive income splitting scheme. Both cost about $2 billion a year, but the child tax credit helps significantly more families. It helps single parents and it also helps families where both parents earn similar wages. The Conservatives' new income splitting scheme will leave these families out in the cold.

    Why are the Conservatives scrapping the child tax credit and taking this money away from single parents just to pay for their regressive income splitting scheme?

October

  • retweet
    MPlib
    Oct 30, 2014 11:25 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, the late Jim Flaherty said, “I think income-splitting needs a long, hard analytical look...because I’m not sure that overall, it benefits our society”. He was right.

    The Conservatives may have tinkered with their scheme, but it still does nothing to help 86% of Canadian families. It will not help the 1.5 million single parents who are struggling, but it will cost billions of federal and provincial dollars.

    Will the Conservatives listen to the late Jim Flaherty and experts across Canada, and will they scrap this tax scheme?

  • retweet
    MPlib
    Oct 29, 2014 1:50 pm | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, if the temporary foreign worker program were ever being used to bring in professional dancers, I would certainly express concern, particularly if there was a lack of gender balance.

    Beyond that, let us be very clear. The temporary foreign worker program, on a limited basis, worked quite well for a long period of time. It has grown massively under the current government and is being used in areas where it was never intended to be used. Historically, if we look at temporary foreign workers in the horticulture or agriculture side, it is something where everyone acknowledges, and not just in Canada but elsewhere, there is a legitimate role for temporary foreign workers.

    What we have been troubled by and what makes no sense is the skyrocketing of the use of temporary foreign workers in areas of high unemployment, for example, in the Windsor, Ontario area, and the threat and the very real risk of it depressing wages in those areas. What we believe ought to happen is that we consider temporary foreign workers policy as part of an overall immigration strategy, and we restore the opportunity and the linkage between people who come here to work as part of our production chain of products, goods and services, with immigration.

    If we look at Manitoba, it has done a great job of immigration. There were approximately 16,000 new Canadians who moved to Manitoba last year, compared to the 2,000 in my province of Nova Scotia. Manitoba has a whole-of-government approach. One of the things they do there is streamline the process and make it easier for people who come here to work to move on to permanent residency and then on to immigrate to Canada.

    As a country, we ought to look at the Manitoba model. We need more new Canadians. We need to attract them, not just to work on a temporary basis but to become full partners in progress and citizens of this country.

  • retweet
    MPlib
    Oct 29, 2014 1:45 pm | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, when I spoke recently with Mayor David Corkum, the mayor of Kentville in my riding, he stressed the need for infrastructure investment. He also stressed the need for us to take investing in social infrastructure, such as housing, seriously.

    There is a strong role for the federal government. This is certainly not the time for the federal government to cut by 89% planned infrastructure spending for next year. It is doing that, again, to pad the books on the eve of an election. It may be good politics. It is bad economics.

    The reality is that, if we listen to David Dodge or the OECD or the IMF, with bond yields at historic lows, with real interest rates actually negative, we have an historic opportunity to invest in Canadian infrastructure, to create jobs today and to improve Canada's competitiveness tomorrow. We heard that from the former deputy minister of finance yesterday, Scott Clark, at committee.

    Beyond that, we have the greatest concentration of expertise in the design, construction, and financing of infrastructure in the world resident in Canada in our pension funds. Let us work with them to invest in fixing Canada's infrastructure and create good jobs here in Canada.

  • retweet
    MPlib
    Oct 29, 2014 1:40 pm | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. The voluntary approach has not worked. When we talk to the restaurant association or the retailers or the CFIB, they acknowledge that more needs to be done. Some of them point us toward the Australian model and potentially capping rates.

    Just to show how perverse the current system is, if a persons goes into a store in Windsor, Nova Scotia, and buys a pair of shoes with a credit card, the merchant can be dinged with a 3% charge upon the sale of those shoes. The person takes the shoes home, finds out his spouse does not like them, brings them back and exchanges them. There is another 3% charge for the merchant. The merchant has been hit by a 6% charge and has not sold a pair of shoes yet. That is one of the best ways to illustrate how ludicrous the current situation is and how important addressing it is for the engine of Canadian economic growth: small business.

    A mandatory approach may be the best way, but ignoring it with a voluntary approach certainly has not worked.

  • retweet
    MPlib
    Oct 29, 2014 1:20 pm | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, I rise this afternoon to speak to the latest Conservative omnibus bill. This bill is a product of a tired, old Conservative government that has lost touch with the challenges and opportunities of Canadians.

    Bill C-43 is overflowing with changes that have no place in a budget bill, such as the petty change the Conservatives want to make to deny refugee claimants access to social assistance.

    The Conservatives are actually using Bill C-43 in an effort to deny income support to refugee claimants, right after their attempt to limit refugee claimants' access to health care was struck down by the Federal Court. The court called that Conservative policy “cruel and unusual treatment” that “outrages (Canadians') standards of decency”.

    A recent editorial in The Globe and Mail called this bill “an abuse of process and shown contempt for Parliament by subverting its role”. The Globe is right. It is anti-democratic for the Conservatives to once again use a massive omnibus budget bill to limit debate and ram through so many unrelated measures in Parliament.

    In the last few years, the Conservatives have concocted and implemented a process that prevents MPs from all parties from doing their jobs in properly scrutinizing legislation. This is leading to a lot of sloppy mistakes. The Conservatives' general disdain for Canada's democratic institutions and their outright contempt for Parliament have led to countless errors being cemented into Canadian law.

    This bill would try to fix a number of previous Conservative mistakes. I would like to give members a few examples of areas where the Conservatives are trying to use this omnibus bill to fix errors in previous bills.

    First, the Conservatives forgot to include a tax credit in the last omnibus budget bill, Bill C-31, for interest paid on Canada apprentice loans. The Conservatives try to fix that in clause 35 of Bill C-43.

    The second is that the government forgot to ensure that PRPPs are subject to similar GST treatment as RRSPs. The fix for that is found in part 2 of Bill C-43.

    Third, they forgot to include a refund in Bill C-31 for duties paid on destroyed tobacco products. That correction is in Bill C-43, part 3.

    Fourth, they forgot to change a legal heading when the Conservatives used Bill C-19 to transfer spending powers from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The Conservatives gave all of the powers in that section of the law to the immigration minister, but still named the section “Minister of Foreign Affairs”.

    Fifth, they forgot in Bill C-38 to allow the Minister of Industry to publicly disclose certain information regarding the review process.

    Sixth, they forgot in Bill C-31 to include foreign money services businesses as foreign entities under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.

    Seventh, they ignored expert advice and capped the size of the Social Security Tribunal in Bill C-38, leading to massive backlogs in the system.

    Eighth, they failed to realize in Bill C-4 that the amalgamation of the Blue Water Bridge Authority might not go as planned.

    Ninth, they created confusion in Bill C-4 with various amendments related to public service labour, including a reference to the wrong clause number.

    Tenth, they forgot in Bill C-45 to coordinate between RCMP pension rule changes in Bill C-42 and rule changes that raised the age for public service pensions in Bill C-45.

    There are 10 examples of the the mistakes the Conservatives made in the previous bill that they are trying to fix in this omnibus bill.

    The fact is that the Conservatives' game plan of limiting debate and ramming these bills through Parliaments is responsible for creating these mistakes. Parliament is denied its legitimate role to identify these flaws in the process of real parliamentary debate at committee and in the House and fixing them.

    The reason these mistakes are made in the first place is because of the deeply flawed process surrounding omnibus legislation.

    I would like to talk a bit today about tax policy, GST, EI, and the income-splitting proposal that the Conservatives had in their last platform.

    Bill C-43 actually adds GST to some goods and services that are used by or provided by non-profit organizations operating health care facilities. When we asked officials for an example of what kinds of service might get caught up in this GST hike, the example they provided was of a health care facility that also runs a residential apartment building, such as an old age home. Adding GST to services purchased by or provided by old age homes means one of two things: either it will cut into the bottom line of the health care facility, or the old age home will have no choice but to pass the tax hike on to the people they serve. In the case of an old age home, it means that the government is getting ready to hike the GST and punish Canadian seniors, who are already struggling to get by on a fixed income.

    In terms of employment insurance, Bill C-43 also gets it wrong. Bill C-43 offers a small EI tax cut to employers, but only if they agree to stay small. Instead of creating real jobs and growth, Bill C-43 would actually encourage businesses to stay small and would punish them if they grow and become more successful. Due to a design flaw in Bill C-43, the so-called small business job credit creates an incentive for some businesses to fire workers. That is why economist Jack Mintz has called it “a disincentive to growth” and why economist Mike Moffatt said “...the proposed ‘Small Business Job Credit’ has major structural flaws that, in many cases, give firms an incentive to fire workers and cut salaries.”

    Even Finance Canada officials last night acknowledged that this tax credit creates a disincentive for some employers to hire.

    Last month the PBO looked at this tax credit and found that it will only create 800 jobs over the next two years, at a cost of $550 million. That means it will cost taxpayers almost $700,000 per job.

    In response to the need to encourage businesses to hire and to reduce EI premiums for businesses that do that or reward businesses that hire, the Liberals have proposed an EI holiday for new hires. This plan would only reward businesses that actually create jobs. The Liberal plan has been endorsed by Canadian job creators, including the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, which has said that the Liberal plan for an EI exemption for new hires “would create jobs”. The Restaurants Canada organization, representing restaurants across the country, said “This...proposal for an EI exemption for new hires would help restaurants create jobs.” The CFIB said it loves the Liberal plan to exempt small business from EI premiums for new hires, which has lots of job potential.

    The same PBO report that looked at the Conservatives' tax credit and identified the flawed program that would cost $700,000 per job also identified that the Conservatives are collecting billions of dollars in excess of taxes in EI over the next two years and that the Conservatives actually have the capacity to cut EI premiums significantly.

    The PBO estimates that artificially high EI rates under the Conservatives will cost the Canadian economy 10,000 jobs over the next two years. That is 10,000 more Canadians who will be out of work over the next two years because the Conservatives are using artificially high EI premiums to pad the books to fund pre-election spending. The Conservatives are ignoring the evidence and putting Conservative politics ahead of the Canadian economy and ahead of the interests of Canadian workers and employers.

    Speaking of ignoring the evidence, the Conservatives appear ready to go ahead with their flawed income-splitting scheme that was introduced in their last platform. The idea that the Conservatives were putting forth in their last platform has been panned by everyone from the C.D. Howe Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to the Mowat Centre and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It was even panned by the late Jim Flaherty himself.

    It is being panned because, as articulated in their platform, fewer than 15% of Canadian households would benefit, most of them high-income households, at a cost of $3 billion per year to the federal treasury and another $2 billion per year to provincial governments. Provincial governments, as we know, are facing deficits and huge fiscal challenges.

    Under the Conservatives' scheme, the Prime Minister, earning $320,000 a year and with a stay-at-home spouse, would save about $6,500 per year. Meanwhile, a Canadian earning the average industrial wage and with a stay-at-home spouse would save less than $10 per week, and most households would get no benefit whatsoever.

    We have a different approach. The Liberal approach is that we need to build a plan for 2015 that would be focused on creating jobs and growth to strengthen the Canadian middle class. The status quo is not working. The current federal government is so preoccupied with day-to-day politics that it has lost track of and is out of touch with the challenges and opportunities facing Canadian families. Those are challenges such as aging demographics and a slow-growth economy, which some refer to as secular stagnation. Baby boomers are rapidly approaching retirement age, and as they exit the workforce, they will leave a shrinking tax base and labour shortages in their wake. They will also place a greater strain on health care systems as they age. We will end up with more Canadians using the social safety net and fewer Canadians paying into it. These demographic pressures are leading economists to predict that slow economic growth could become the new normal.

    The Canadian economy, frankly, is already sputtering under the Conservatives. Job growth over the last two years has been extremely weak, consumer debt is high, infrastructure is in disrepair, and housing prices in our cities are inflated. Last year the Canadian economy created a paltry 5,300 net new full-time jobs across the country. The percentage of Canadians working today is still two full points lower than before the downturn. There are 200,000 more jobless Canadians today than before the downturn, and the number of Canadians who are considered long-term unemployed is twice that of 2008. More than 150,000 Canadians are unemployed and have been searching for work for a year or longer. As we all know, the longer they are out of the workforce, the harder it is for them to get back in.

    On the other end of the spectrum, we have young Canadians who simply cannot get their foot in the door of the Canadian labour market. Recent grads are facing huge challenges. There are 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians today than before the downturn, before 2008. Persistently high youth unemployment and under-employment is robbing a generation of people of opportunities they need to succeed. TD economist Craig Alexander and CIBC economist Benjamin Tal describe a scenario of a lost generation of Canadian youth and a lost generation of potential for all Canadians.

    This is despite the fact that this generation is the most technologically adept, most educated generation in our nation's history, and therein lies the challenge we face. There is a gap between the education they have and the job market. We have people without jobs and jobs without people.

    Too many Canadians in their twenties are left saddled with big student loans and are unable to make ends meet. All too often, it is their middle-class parents and grandparents who are footing the bill. Among the hardest hit are Canadians who are actually squeezed between helping their adult children pay the bills and taking care of their aging parents at the same time, the sandwich generation. In many cases these parents in their forties, fifties, and sixties are taking on additional debt or dipping into their retirement savings. In fact, this is one of the things that is driving record levels of personal debt, which is about $1.65 for every dollar of annual income. According to the Canadian Financial Monitor, Canadians who are 55 years of age or older are two and a half times more likely to refinance their mortgage if they have children than if they do not have children. Their average household debt is twice that of their childless peers.

    Meanwhile, many younger families do not actually have a mortgage to refinance. Instead, they are being priced out of the housing market altogether.

    On this front, the Conservative government must share at least part of the blame for the high housing prices in Canada and commensurate personal debt. It was the Conservative government, in budget 2006, that brought in 40-year mortgages with no down payment. It introduced them for the first time in Canada. It had an effect, because in the first half of 2008, more than half of all new mortgages in Canada were 40-year mortgages, and 10% of those had zero down payment.

    The Conservatives shifted Canada's borrowing culture and lending culture, and that shift has helped fuel record levels of housing prices commensurate with that household debt. They have since reversed course and returned to the norm that was the case under Liberal governments in the past, meaning 25-year mortgages with at least 5% down. However, it is important to recognize the Conservatives' culpability in bringing 40-year mortgages with no down payments into Canada and helping fuel record levels of personal debt related to skyrocketing housing prices.

    From the OECD and the IMF to the Bank of Canada, one thing on which Canadian and international economists agree is that elevated housing prices and household debt pose a big domestic threat to our economy. These elevated housing prices have helped widen the generational divide between those on the one hand who have watched the value of their house appreciate and in some cases have tapped into that equity to help fund consumption, and those on the other hand who cannot afford to even enter the housing market.

    We are seeing greater income inequality in Canada, and fewer Canadians now think of themselves as being middle class. In fact, the number of Canadians who self-identify as middle class has dropped from 64% in 2009 to 47% in 2014. Even more troubling is that for the first time in recent history, more Canadians now believe that the next generation, their children and grandchildren, will be worse off, not better off, than they are today. That is the first time this has happened in Canada.

    What we need is a federal government that will rise to meet these big challenges facing our country: aging demographics, slow growth, soft job market, and high levels of youth unemployment and underemployment. These are all challenges, but they also represent opportunities. I will give one specific challenge to our country that is a big social and economic challenge but that also represents an opportunity if we can get it right.

    Over the next 10 years, there will be about 400,000 young aboriginal and first nation Canadians who will be of workforce age. If they have the skills they need for the jobs of today, that would be really good for our economy. If they do not, it represents a demographic, economic, and social time bomb for our country.

    The reality is that we have failed collectively as governments at all levels to address this challenge. If we take it seriously, young aboriginal workers can be part of a Canadian growth and economic success story. We have to get it right. We have to take these issues seriously.

    Liberals believe that sustainable growth and a focus on creating jobs, growth, and opportunities is the best way to benefit Canadian middle-class families and to restore hope to them. We believe we need to invest in infrastructure, training, innovation, and trade, and we believe that we need to keep our competitive tax rates.

    Bill C-43 does nothing to grow the Canadian economy, and it ignores the very real challenges of the middle class and of young Canadians.

    In a very short period of time, potentially within days, we will be seeing a fall economic statement. We hope the government chooses to invest in the future by investing in infrastructure, in training, and in young Canadians. We need the government to do so, and if this government does not, a future Liberal government will.

  • retweet
    MPlib
    Oct 29, 2014 1:15 pm | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is a fellow member of the finance committee. A range of witnesses who came before that committee, from the Canadian Labour Congress to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said that we had an unprecedented opportunity to invest in infrastructure. We have a record low of bond yields and real interest rates are negative. It is an opportunity to invest in fixing Canada's crumbling infrastructure.

    Does the member agree that we have a significant opportunity and that our pension funds, such as OMERS, teachers' and CPPIB, could be very important partners in progress in fixing Canada's infrastructure? Our pension funds are building infrastructure around the world. We probably have the greatest concentration of expertise in the design, financing and construction of infrastructure in the world resident in Canada. Does the member agree that we should be engaging those pension funds in Canada to fix our infrastructure?


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MP
Scott Brison

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