Mr. Speaker, we have some disagreement with the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, but we have always had a good relationship in committee and when we have disagreed, we have been done that in a cordial way.
I am excited to speak about this legislation, but before I do I want to point out the extraordinary work of the Minister of Canadian Heritage. I have only been here since 2008, but I have had the opportunity to be a student of politics and a student of our system and I am confident and secure in saying that he is the best Minister of Canadian Heritage that our country has ever had and I will tell the House why.
What the minister understands, and what previous ministers, including those who served on this side understand, is the importance of arts and culture to not only helping people around the world understand how great our country is, but understand that arts and culture is important to the country's economic growth, that it creates jobs and economic activity.
As a result of that, even when the country was going through one of the worst global economic downturns, this government made historic investments in arts and culture. When other G7 countries were reducing their funding, this government, through the leadership of the minister, was increasing funding to the Canada Council for the Arts to its highest level ever. We invested over $140 million in our national museums and we did that for a number of reasons. It is important that Canadians have access to their history and that they have pride in the institutions that are mandated to tell the stories of Canada. This is why we have made some of these important investments.
I have also heard from members of both official parties about the motion that was brought forward at committee. I want to speak briefly to that because it ties into this a bit. They talked about it being overly prescriptive. The motion actually says that we should talk about Canada and its history before Confederation and after Confederation. It says that we should talk about the 20th century and important developments in Canadian history. It referenced some important battles of World War I and World War II.
Why should we talk about that? We should talk about that because significant anniversaries of important battles in Canadian history are coming up for one. Second, there are still people in our country who can give us first-hand accounts of what they faced in battle. This is an opportunity to bring these people before committee before it is too late, hear their stories and celebrate them. It is not meant to be something like the end of it. If members were to read the whole motion, if they do honour to this place, they would talk about the entire motion. I know we will get co-operation.
We want to talk about the people, the places, the events, the things that have helped shape our country. Sometimes those things are good. Sometimes they are things we want to celebrate, things we want to commemorate, but there are instances when things were not good, but we need to remember them all the same. We talked about the internment of Japanese Canadians. We might not be proud of that part of our history, but it is important that we remember it. That is what we are talking about at committee.
We have heard a lot of people talk about how important it is that we go forward with this project. We have heard a lot of historians talk about how happy they are that we brought this initiative forward. We have seen over the last number of years, especially as we approach Canada's 150th birthday, a reawakening of Canadians' pride in their country, in their province and in their local communities. We have heard consistently that there is no way for them to share this pride in a tangible way across the country.
I want to share a story about something in my riding. About 200 metres from my home there was a discovery made in advance of a subdivision being built in the community, which changed entirely the way we think about our first nations, and there has been a documentary on this called the Curse of the Axe. We found, 200 metres from my home, a Wendat village.
Why is this important? It is because this village had 70 long houses. It was not a community of 10 or 12 houses as was first thought, but a city of 70 long houses. Thousands of people lived in this village and it completely changed the way we thought about these people in this area.
The excavators found that in order to support a village of this size the cornfields alone would have encompassed the entire city of Toronto. They found that these people engaged in trade with other nations, again changing what we thought about the relationships between our first nations at that time. It was revolutionary in how we thought of the Wendat nation.
There are no large communities of Wendat still in Ontario. They are now in Quebec. However, we had ambassadors from the Wendat nation come to my home town of Stouffville and they talked about how significant this find was for their people. They talked about how important it was that the rest of Canada and North America understood what they were doing, how they were doing it and how sophisticated they were. They were very proud of this.
We had the team that led the excavations come to our town a number of times and had displays of the Curse of the Axe. Hundreds of people from our community have come to learn about the local heritage that we just did not know about. Our own community was making headlines across North America. In the town of Stouffville, 200 metres from my front door, there was this amazing discovery. Now we have to find a way to make sure that all Canadians understand it so that we can update what people think of the Wendat and tell them how important and exciting this is.
The minister referenced Douglas Cardinal in his remarks. He said:
I love the fact that the museum keeps evolving and growing, and people still feel that it’s a national monument that can expand and serve all of Canada.
This is important because, although it has a long history, at one point the museum was called the Museum of Man. At the time, I suppose, that was okay. However, time moves on. As the member for Ottawa—Orléans points out, there was a time in this country when women were not even considered persons, but time moves on and we are better for it.
We changed the mandate of the Museum of Man, which became the Museum of Civilization. We got together and said that we had to do better and we did. The Museum of Civilization was brought forward and Canadians have been very excited about that. It has done a spectacular job. Canadians can now be as excited about the new museum of history as they had been about the Museum of Civilization, and for many different reasons.
It is a tragedy that over three million pieces or artifacts in the collection of the Museum of Civilization are in storage and not available for Canadians to see. It is a tragedy, especially when we have museums across this country that have made significant investments.
I look at my own community, the city of Markham, which has massive investments in its local museum. The people of Markham understand how important it is to preserve their local history, their culture. They have made massive investments. They are very excited about the prospect of a museum of history so they can share their collections with the national museum and so the people of Canada can understand just how important Markham was to the development of the GTA.
There are 40,000 people in my home town of Stouffville who poured millions of dollars into our museum. They did that for a number of reasons, predominantly because they knew it was a good investment for the community. They knew people wanted to know more about the history of our community, so they put more money into it. They did it also because so many people were coming, they needed to upgrade the facilities so they could host more people.
I looked at my own community. Last year we celebrated something called the Freedom of the Town for the Governor General's Horse Guards, a unit which, in part, has its history in the development of our community.
Even on that there was not complete agreement. There were people in the community who felt this celebration should not happen in because the community was founded by Mennonites, who did not necessarily support things like the war of 1812. We had fierce debate in the community, but ultimately we had the Freedom of the Town and thousands of people came out from our community to celebrate this historic unit.
However, that does not mean the people who disagreed with it were wrong. They disagreed. They talked about it. I may not necessarily have agreed with them, but they got their message out there. It shows just how exciting history can be when we present it to Canadians in a way they can debate, discuss and share. Then they can go to their local communities.
Think of what this could do to local communities across the country when they have the opportunity to see the last spike in their own little town. Think of what that would do for a local museum, the amount of people who would drive to that museum, the people who would be even more engaged to know about their communities and the things that have helped build our country.
Ultimately, we will always have disagreements in this place. It goes without saying. We are elected from different parties. We all have different attitudes on different things. I know full well that although we have different ideas, that all of us fight and argue, ultimately we are all very proud Canadians. We are all people who want to see our country prosper and do better. We also want to ensure that people around the world can understand what has made our country great. That is what this museum will help us do. That is one of the reasons why I am so proud and excited about this.
We also talked a bit in some of the speeches about the road to Canada's 150th birthday and why that was so important, the sesquicentennial, as the Minister of Veterans Affairs pointed out.
That is such an important time for Canada. It will be a time when we can showcase all the great things Canada has done. So many people came to us at committee and said that the 100th birthday of Canada was one of those remarkable things. Everybody talked about Canada's 100th birthday. I am almost jealous that I was not born then so I could have attended some of the 100th birthday celebrations.
We want to ensure Canada's 150th is the same. We want to really help Canadians from coast to coast to coast understand why they should be so proud of our country.
I had the opportunity to visit Yukon with the fabulous member for Yukon, and he took me to his local museum. That was my first visit to Canada's north. The pride he showed as he toured me around and showed me some of the important places in his community was something that all Canadians should know. Yet not all Canadians can get to the north.
When I looked at the treasures and the collection in storage at that museum and when I heard the minister talk about the opportunities with the new Canadian museum of history, to share these collections so we could be proud of what we had accomplished, I thought this was an excellent opportunity.
We see upstairs in this place a display of the Franklin expedition. We saw the pride the Minister of Health had because something so important to her community was not being displayed just outside the offices of the Prime Minister. It was being displayed and celebrated in other areas of the world, such as Norway. I had the opportunity to meet with the ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway and to talk about how important this was, how Norwegians were celebrating and wanted to continue to make connections with the Minister of Health's home town. These are things we have to celebrate. These are things Canadians have to know.
I have had the opportunity, as I am sure a lot of parliamentarians have had, to go to Pier 21. My parents came to this country through Pier 21. It is a shame to me, and one of the saddest parts of my life, that neither one of my parents was alive to see me elected. To go back to Pier 21, where they arrived in Canada, and see my parents' names on the manifest of the boat that brought them to this country, to stand on the pier and look out over the exact place they came to, was truly amazing. It was a truly amazing moment for me, and not just me. Others were visiting Pier 21, and it was easy to know who was going back. I could see them standing there and looking around. I could see in their faces how honoured they were to be there and to be Canadians.
We have to celebrate these things and let other Canadians understand. That is why when I hear things about the Historica-Dominion Institute talking to our veterans, getting first-hand accounts and making them available, that makes me proud. It is also talking to people who came to this country through Pier 21 and getting their stories about what they faced when they came to Canada.
My parents came from Italy. My mother always told me that she was depressed for the first 10 years she was in Canada, because the winters were so harsh and the summer was only a time for her to fear what was coming in the winter. It was brutal for her. My father was a very proud Italian, but also a very proud Canadian. He did not understand hockey at all, but he cheered for it, because he knew it was what Canadians did. He could not understand any part of the game, and he always tried to relate it to soccer, but he was fiercely proud of his new country.
Sometimes it takes going somewhere else to realize just how lucky we are and just how special this country is. Going back to my parents' home town, when I was 14, although it was a beautiful place, made me realize how lucky I was to be here. It also awakened me to something then, even that far back. The many Italians who came to Canada did not know enough about Canada. We have all heard stories of tourists who come to Canada in July with skis on their cars thinking it is going to be snowing. We could do a better job.
There is no problem with members disagreeing in the House about history. That is good. Let us disagree. That is what history is all about. It is not our job to write the history books. That is not what we do. It is our job to be in this place, debate, and make sure other Canadians have access to that history. That is what this new Canadian museum of history would do, and that is why I am so excited.
It is not just about a $25-million investment that will update the museum, as the minister said, after many years. Displays have to be changed. It is not just about that $25-million investment. It is not about the $142 million we have already put into arts and culture and into our museums. It is about giving Canadians access to the things, people, places and events that have helped make this country the best country in the world in which to live. Regardless of how we feel about the policies of one another, we can all agree on that. Surely we can all agree on the fact that everybody, not just Canadians, deserves to understand what has made this country so great.
Order please. The hon. minister has used up more than 30% of the time allotted for questions and comments.
The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, if he wants to reply.
I would remind the member to direct his comments through the Chair.
The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.
Order, order. The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor has the floor.
Before question period, the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor had concluded his speech and is now looking for questions and comments.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan.
When question period started the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor had questions and comments left.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.
The time for government orders has expired. The question and answer period for the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor will occur when the House returns to this matter after question period.
Statements by members, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
I declare Motion No. 785 defeated. I therefore declare Motions Nos. 786 and 789 defeated.
Is the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor rising on a point of order?
Order, please. I do not wish to interrupt the hon. member, but time is limited and I know there are other hon. members who wish to pose questions.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.
Mr. Speaker, in the member's riding of Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, the 103 Search and Rescue Squadron does a remarkable job. Although we have complaints about response times, it is not the squadron's fault; it is the military's fault, and we will get to that on Monday in a different debate on a private member's motion.
We were impressed by the activity around the marine rescue co-ordinating sub-centre and the other operations of the Coast Guard. It was extremely important that there were people working the Coast Guard boats, operating the weather stations and looking after the ice patrols.
I have to say that at one of our hearings in St. John's, a government member, in talking about Coast Guard rescue, said that it would never have occurred to any of them, even on the Ottawa River, to count on the coast guard to come and help them, that they would do it themselves. I do not know if he remembers, but it was the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke who said that.
It is unfortunate that people on the other side sometimes do not understand the importance of this service in saving lives.
Madam Speaker, I am most pleased to rise and support Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits).
It has been put forward by the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, and I support my colleague.
Basically, in summary the bill enacts and amends the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act to
...provide that any benefits that are required to be paid on a periodic basis under those Acts shall, on the request of the beneficiary, be paid on a biweekly basis.
In order to do that, it amends the Canada Pension Plan such that any benefits that are required to be paid on a periodic basis under this act shall be paid on a biweekly basis if the beneficiary submits a written request to the minister that the benefits be paid on a biweekly basis.
It basically states the same thing in the amendment to the Old Age Security Act.
Simply put, as my colleague, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor said, this bill is unique, it is not complicated, and it basically allows pensioners and seniors the freedom and flexibility to budget on their own.
To back up concerns on costs, my colleague did a fair bit of research. He ran the bill by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who said that the costs of administration of this bill are “not fiscally significant”. However, with even such a simple change such as this and with costs not fiscally significant, the government did not do its own cost analysis but came out quite strongly against this bill.
I will quote what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour had to say:
Mr. Speaker, I will start by underscoring our government's commitment to improving the well-being of seniors and our continued efforts to address their needs now and into the future.
After making that statement, she went on to say:
However, our government's priority is reducing administrative costs to ensure the maximum amount of seniors benefits.
Then comes the kicker. She said:
As a result, the government cannot support a bill that would increase the administrative costs of government by tens of millions of dollars in this time of fiscal restraint.
The fact of the matter is that the government did not do an analysis to come up with that figure of tens of millions of dollars. It is opposing this bill before it even gets to committee to be discussed properly. Let us find out what those costs are.
Can the bill be amended in such a way that it would only be utilized by those who want the payment to be made biweekly? There are many who would, but in some cases it is not that they want to but that they need to.
Many seniors are living in poverty in this country. Some of them are getting old age security, some get the supplement, and some get the CPP. When we talked to them, they told us that when they get their cheque, they know they have to try to budget that cheque for the next 30 days.
These are mostly people who are between the ages of 65 and 80. Many of those who are over that age are in retirement homes, and the monthly payment works fine. However, those who are living in their own homes, which is where we want them to stay, have to take out money for their rent, electricity, telephone and maybe Internet for a computer, if they have one. They try to take enough money to purchase their drugs for the month. Then they allocate the rest for groceries. Some are very low in terms of what they can get for groceries.
Then something happens two weeks in, and they have no emergency money to buy medicine for a cold or a flu or whatever because they have run low on funds by that time.
Going to a biweekly basis for those who need it and are willing to apply for it would make a huge difference in terms of insecurity and worry in their lives for several days or weeks.
I know people on the government side do not like the Parliamentary Budget Officer's analysis, because he tells the truth. He lays it out before them. He has laid out the cost of many of the issues that the government has not been willing to inform us on; as a result, the government is not too enamoured of any analysis done by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, although his analyses have been proven to be quite accurate time after time.
That said, the government, without having done a cost analysis, opposes a bill that could make a significant difference in some seniors' lives at practically no cost, and it will not even allow it to go to committee to be discussed. That is pretty sad.
If we talk to seniors, maybe they would accept that this be done only for those who use direct deposit. I understand mailing cheques costs money. There is no question. There is the postage, the service fee at the bank, and so on. However, if it was done by direct deposit, the cost would be very minimal. It would make a huge difference in people's lives, but the government seems to be rejecting this proposal out of hand.
As I mentioned, the parliamentary secretary said:
As a result, the government cannot support a bill that would increase the administrative costs of government by tens of millions of dollars in this time of fiscal restraint.
We just heard in the House today, in answer to a question on the gun registration issue, that the government is not going to require those registrations. It is going to have another amnesty. That money probably would have paid more than the administration costs for doing something for seniors, but the government operates on the basis of ideology, not on the basis of care and concern for the people of this country.
To put it quite simply, it is unbelievably sad that a government would be so uncaring as to not even allow a proper hearing on a simple proposal in a private member's bill to help seniors who may not just want but need biweekly payments.
Can the government just not accept to help, even just a little, seniors who request some help?
If the parliamentary secretary was speaking on behalf of the PMO, as she was, then I say to the other members in the party at least that it is time to stand up. It is a private member's bill. It is time to stand up and allow this issue to be discussed without being a puppet on a string for the PMO. It is time for those members to represent the constituents and the seniors in their ridings and allow the bill to be debated at committee.
We know the government has done a lot of damage to new seniors coming into the system. By changing the age requirement from 65 years of age to 67, it has basically stolen $30,000 from the new seniors coming on. Conservative members can at least help out by allowing the bill to go to committee to be analyzed properly, to be debated, and hopefully, at the end of the day, to help those seniors who want this to be done in their interest.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on report stage debate on Bill C-11, the copyright bill.
My hon. colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay, was just talking about the fact that at committee everything was shut down by the Conservative members in terms of any amendments proposed by opposition members. Before that, they ensured we would have not too many witnesses. We would also have very few meetings and a very short time for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. In effect, they put into place time allocation, or closure, so that it would all happen very quickly. This was done in spite of the fact that not all members in the committee were here in the previous Parliament to take part in the debate and of course not all members of Parliament in this chamber were here before the last election. Many are new, as we know. Many are looking at these issues for the first time.
The minister included me among those who have been on this for three years. I guess that is a compliment if it seems like I have been on this for three years. I have only been the critic for industry since last June, so I was not on the previous committee. My colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor was. However, having been here in Parliament during that period, I certainly had some awareness of the bill, as we all did.
Unfortunately, for many Canadians the process of this copyright bill has been one of futility and frustration that they were not being listened to. Despite hearing from hundreds of witnesses, and receiving 167 briefs in the last Parliament, and more this time, the Conservative government chose to use its majority to push the bill through without any major changes, and really only minor tinkering.
Opposition members on the C-11 committee reflected on the evidence that was presented by witnesses, both in person and in writing, and brought forward numerous amendments to try to improve the bill. The government did not appear to be interested in those, even the most minor, those that made innocuous changes to make a slight improvement and perhaps prevent a problem. The Conservative members obviously had orders to shut down anything coming from the opposition. That does not seem to me like a government that is interested in a good democratic process of good give and take. In fact, the Conservative majority on the committee missed a great opportunity to try to improve the bill in a number of ways.
The government pushed through a few amendments, but these technical amendments did not actually change the intent of any section of the bill. They primarily clarified the wording in a few places. This was in spite of the fact that the special legislative committee heard a wide range of views and some very deep concerns about some elements of it. The committee listened, but did it make any really substantive change? No, it simply clarified the wording. There are still technical problems and major flaws.
The government speaks about bringing forward a modern copyright law but unfortunately, what it says and what it does seldom match, as we have seen in so many other areas. Bill C-11 is a clear example.
What we see with provisions on digital locks, for example, is that the government is going backwards. It is a regressive position. The minister spoke about a balanced approach, but allowing digital locks to trump the interests of consumers is the complete opposite of a digital lock. It does not make sense at all. The Conservatives are essentially saying that people could reformat or copy a movie, or song they bought onto their iPod, as long as there were no digital lock. Of course, all the company that sells this has to do is put on a digital lock and consumers are out of luck. Is that really going forward? Is that modernization? Is that going in the right direction? If a young mother wanted to transfer a DVD on to her iPad, she could not do that because she would be faced with perhaps a $5,000 fine. How is that possibly a balanced approach? Why would the government not be open to finding some way to deal with this kind of situation? It was not at all.
Bill C-11 also fails to include a clear and strict test for fair dealing for educational purposes. That is another major problem with the bill.
It also fails to provide any transitional funding to artists. The minister speaks about how this will protect artists. There are some creators that this will certainly protect, but many artists will lose out. We do not hear any response from the government to that.
When the minister speaks again, or when he asks a question or comments, maybe he can tell us how the vast majority of artists, small-time artists and artists who do not make much money, will benefit and find compensation under this bill. Where are the revenue streams that will replace the ones they have lost? Perhaps the minister has some theories. I would certainly be interested in hearing them.
Let us look at what this bill would do.
It has significant changes. It has the new fair dealing exceptions for education, parity and satire. If we could clarify the wording on education and fair dealing, that would be okay. It has changes allowing copying for personal use, such as recording TV shows, things like using a PVR to record a show and watch it later, although I think there are provisions that could have had some minor improvements to ensure people would be able to do that.
For example, if people will be hosting, not on their PVR but on a computer at their headquarters, they see that as a problem. The way the bill is currently worded, it will create problems for them. The government was not interested in amendments to correct that problem. It is the kind of problem one would think the government would have wanted to solve for those kinds of businesses.
There are new rules making it illegal to circumvent digital locks, or as we have heard them called in the bill “technological protection measures”. I suppose that is a much nicer term. It sounds like a good thing, protecting something. It makes it sound more positive than if we call them digital locks.
It contains new responsibilities. Wherever the phrasing comes from, it does not change what the apparent intent of that kind of wording is. When words are chosen, they are chosen for a reason. We should think about what words have been chosen to describe what has happened. In fact, what it is doing is it is locking up something so there is no access to it.
There are new responsibilities in the bill for Internet service providers to notify copyright holders of possible copyright violations, and that is a good move in the right direction. There was talk about the idea of “notice to take down”, as it is called, whereby an if Internet service provider was informed by copyright owners of a problem of an infringement happening through their website, the provider would have to shut it down right away.
The bill provides, in fact, that the company has to give notice to the offending person, the person who has put something on the company's site or through its system, that is problematic. A notice is given that the owner of the copyright has objected to that. Then it is up to the copyright owner to sue.
That is not perfect because we know the costs of lawsuits these days. If the copyright owner is not a huge company but a small individual songwriter, for example, it is pretty tough to enforce that. On the other hand, at least there is not the situation where there is no recourse and where someone who has put something online is not quickly shut down without any examination of whether copyright has been infringed. That is a positive change.
The Conservatives talk about playing politics. The minister talked about that earlier. I find that a bit rich coming from that side of the House. We cannot imagine the Conservatives ever playing politics. They would never do that unless it was a day ending in Y, I suppose.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to rise in debate on Bill C-38. I have to agree with at least the last point made by my colleague who just spoke, which was that the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor was in fact an outstanding weatherman. He is an outstanding member of Parliament as well, although members might want to talk to him sometime about some of the stories he has about some bloopers he may have experienced during his time as a weatherman. They may be on YouTube, as a matter of fact. They would have to ask.
However, when my hon. colleague praises the current Minister of Finance, I find it rather humorous and remarkable, considering that the finance minister and the government inherited a $13 billion surplus and that by April and May of 2008, six months before the recession began, the government was already in deficit.
Members may not believe that, but if they doubt it, I invite them to Google “deficit April-May 2008”; they will find CBC and Reuters stories dated June 25, 2008, pointing that out. They could probably find out more about that later. In addition, that fall there was a further deficit.
The Conservatives have been trying to claim for a while that the deficit we have today was the result of the recession and stimulus spending. The fact is that there was a deficit in that fiscal year of 2008-09. The stimulus budget that the government brought in was not even announced until the end of January 2009, and it was for the 2009-10 fiscal year. It did not start until well after the deficit was in place. If there was a deficit for the year 2008-09 and the stimulus budget was for the year 2009-10, how can Conservatives claim that the earlier deficit was caused by the later budget?
In fact, articles even in December of 2009 talked about how the stimulus money was just getting going. There are articles about municipalities complaining about how long it was taking for that stimulus spending to get started. It took a long time.
Therefore, to claim that the deficit is a result of the recession is an outrage. The claim that this was one of the greatest finance ministers has no basis. By increasing spending dramatically, at three times the rate of inflation, the minister put the country back into deficit before the recession began. That is the context we are in when we come to this budget. That is the history of this government. It is outrageous for the government to claim that this was in any way a good finance minister. It is ludicrous.
Let me talk about Bill C-38. We even have well-known Conservatives criticizing the bill. Here are some comments from Andrew Coyne. He is not exactly a Liberal voice in Canada, but he is a well-known, respected commentator. What does he say about this? He says:
The bill runs to more than 420 pages. It amends some 60 different acts, repeals half a dozen, and adds three more, including a completely rewritten Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It ranges far beyond the traditional budget concerns of taxing and spending, making changes in policy across a number of fields from immigration...to telecommunications...to land codes on native reservations....
He goes on:
So this is not remotely a budget bill, despite its name.
He says further:
Moreover, it utterly eviscerates the committee process, until now regarded as one of the last useful roles left to MPs. How can one committee, in this case Finance, properly examine all of these diverse measures, with all of the many areas of expertise they require, especially in the time allotted to them?
How indeed, Mr. Speaker? Mr. Coyne has made some very good points about the budget, and my hon. colleagues across the way would do well to take note of the comments from this Conservative commentator about their own budget bill.
However, let us look at the budget. What do we expect from it? What are Canadians looking to the government for in the budget bill?
After Canada experienced no job growth during the last six months, I think Canadians expected this bill to have one focus: jobs, job creation and helping our economy strengthen. Instead, what does it have? It has dozens of disconnected themes that will do nothing to grow jobs or address Canada's skills shortage.
In fact, when I think of jobs, I think of the issue of what has happened with foreign investment. This bill is a complete abandonment of the industry minister's promise of a serious review of the Investment Canada Act.
The bill has so many parts. It is 425 pages long. For those who have not looked through or read it, I will just give a sense of how big this bill is. Division 28 of part 4 does authorize the minister to communicate or disclose certain information in relation to foreign investments, but it does nothing to prevent Canada from a repeat of the PotashCorp takeover fiasco that the government mishandled so badly and it provides no advance understanding of how it would handle matters like this and no explanation for its decision.
In fact, the Conservatives pledged in late 2010, after abruptly killing BHP Billiton's hostile bid for the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, to undertake a serious review of the Investment Canada Act. In fact, the minister talked about having a committee do this, but iinstead we get a few lines in a 425-page omnibus bill. The industry committee will not even study this measure.
I would like to see that happen. I put a motion before the committee to have that happen. Of course, as we know, the government insists that everything involving a decision about what a committee will study be done in camera, behind closed doors, so that the media and the public cannot follow it. As a result, I cannot talk about what might have happened to that motion, but I can say that it is no longer before the committee. If I put forward a motion and it is no longer available to be discussed and it has not been adopted, I think people can draw their conclusions about what might have happened to it and what the Conservative government, having a majority, decided to do.
What happened to the promise to clarify the key test used to judge foreign takeovers, the so-called net benefit determination? That was a promise the Minister of Industry made, another promise relegated to the trash bin.
It is the same with the minister's public declaration in June 2011 that he would ask the House of Commons industry committee to review the Investment Canada Act. Where is it? Why is that Conservative members would not be anxious to do this, considering their own minister was talking about it nearly a year ago and asking for it to be done? Perhaps he is not so keen anymore. We do know that members on the Conservative side tend to do what they are told by the Prime Minister's Office and by the ministers.
This review has not happened, despite several attempts from opposition members to call for a review of the act by the committee. Instead, the industry minister gets new powers to disclose a little more information about takeovers without betraying commercial secrets. It is all well and good, but it is too bad that there is no such commitment to prevent ministers from betraying their own promises, such as the one made in this case.
The fact is that this country needs to modernize its foreign investment policies. It is too bad that instead of moving on significant change, we get half measures buried in a budget bill. That makes it very clear the government is more intent on maintaining its ability to insert its political bias into these decisions than it is on focusing on and doing what is best for the Canadian economy and Canadian jobs.
Order, please. The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.
Mr. Speaker, I will take my time to talk about budget 2012 and the positive changes it will bring to Canada. I will also take a bit of my time to correct the record on some of the things that my hon. colleague across the way from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor had to say.
I will go back to the beginning of his speech when he talked a bit about the 2005 budget and the Atlantic accord. The changes that came forward under our government to the Atlantic accord ended up with Nova Scotia getting a better agreement. Unfortunately, Newfoundland and Labrador was no longer a have-not province and did not reap the benefits of Atlantic accord. Every province in Canada should have that problem. Good for it; I applaud it for that reason. Some of the environmental changes the hon. member talked about in this budget will actually improve the process for oil and gas operations on the east coast of Canada, including of course the very rich oil fields on offshore Newfoundland.
It is worth taking a look at what we are discussing. Budget 2012 is called coming back to balance. We are going to do that in a way that will bring budgetary balance and will also streamline some of the processes we have in this country, be they environmental, banking or employment insurance related, not to be negative but to assist our country to get back to a balanced budget.
It also important to note that nothing in this budget is going to bring in a new Fisheries Act. Since the hon. member is from Newfoundland, I hope he would understand the importance of some government in the House some day bringing in a new Fisheries Act. If he does not, then I am left shaking my head.
I come from a part of the world that is dependent on the fishery. In the southwestern end of Nova Scotia, there are 1,688 boats fishing in the most affluent fishery in Canada, without question. I can say that they are hobbled by a Fisheries Act that dates from 1867. They are absolutely handcuffed by archaic legislation and it is time we moved that 1867 act into the modern era. That does not mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater. It does not mean that all the changes that have come forth regarding the fishery get put into the act. I would hope that in this day and age, in 2012, we can look back at that act, say let us move it forward, modernize the fishery and keep all the good things that we have brought into the fishery along the way.
I would like to speak directly to the budget bill and how it affects my home province of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia has always been a trading province, from the days of the clipper ships to the days of the schooners. It was the part of Canada where Champlain first stepped ashore in 1604. We have consistently made a living off the land and off the sea and have traded our resources around the globe. That is the only way Canada can survive and excel today. We have tremendous resources and a great workforce, and we have to trade those resources around the world in a global economy. We are absolutely capable of doing that.
I am chagrined when the union membership across the country stands and says that we should put up protectionist walls and barriers. It would be the end of society as we know it. It cannot be done. We need to trade and we meed to trade on an equal footing. That means insisting that our trading partners have rules-based trading and that they respect our rules and we respect their rules. It is not complicated.
Both of the hon. members before me, as well as the member for Edmonton—Leduc, talked about the major projects initiative. The economic action plan 2012 proposes $54 million over 2 years to continue to support effective project approvals through the major projects management office initiative, which has helped to transform the approvals process from major natural resource projects by shortening the average review times from 4 years to 22 months.
I think just about everybody in this place would agree that if they had a large project ready to go forward, with investors on the hook for billions of dollars from all over the planet, they would expect to get that passed sooner than four years. Surely it needs a good environmental review and proper inspections nut surely that can occur in 22 months without duplication by the province and the feds. The average approval process, as I said before, is 4 years and, if we go to 22 months, I do not think there can be any disagreement from the opposition side of the House.
Consultation under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act would propose that $13.6 million over two years to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency to support consultations with aboriginal peoples related to projects assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to ensure that their rights and interests are respected and that they benefit from economic development opportunities. I think that is called consultation. There is nothing wrong with that. We need to bring the players to the table but it must be done in a timely fashion.
We will strengthen pipeline safety. Every Canadian would support strengthening pipeline safety. I have a colleague who has the sour gas pipeline that goes behind his house. It is safe. Nobody is in danger from that. However, we know it is safe because of a regular inspection system. Again, this is not rocket science. This is good, common sense stuff.
The reality will be that oil pipelines and gas pipelines inspections will increase from 100 to 150 inspections. I am sure that is something that everyone in this House would support.
This is extremely important to the offshore industry in Nova Scotia and the offshore oil and gas industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. Offshore oil and gas developments create jobs and support economic growth in Canada's communities. Continued exploration activity is required to bring new projects to communities and sustain these economic benefits over the long term and depends on modern reliable seismic technology and data.
To advance exploration for new developments, economic action plan 2012 proposes to amend the Coasting Trade Act to facilitate access to Canadian waters for the global fleet of vessels that undertake seismic surveys. This would ensure that private sector companies have the information they require to identify potential resource development opportunities.
In Nova Scotia alone, this budget will mean a lot more dollars for Nova Scotia. It will be almost $2.5 billion when we look at the increase in transfer dollars, the increase in the health transfer, the increase in the social transfer and the increase in the training opportunities that will be made available. This is a good budget for Canada and a great budget for Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor only had 10 minutes and he decided to look at what he thought were some of the negative aspects of the budget. When I have my time, I will talk about what I see as the entire positive budget we have brought forward.
However, I have a question on process, and the hon. member did not quite get time enough to finish it. The fact is that the NDP decided it would take all the time to speak to the budget and not give the Liberal Party of Canada any time to speak to the budget. I have been in this House for 15 years and I have never seen that happen, so I would like some comments on that.
Before I call the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, I will let him know that I will have to interrupt him at 6:15 p.m., about three minutes into his speech, because that is the end of government orders for today.
The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.
Mr. Speaker, along with my colleagues in the NDP, I am very pleased as the critic for seniors to be able to stand here in support of Bill C-326 brought forward by my colleague, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor. There I would note that we do indeed have long names for some of the wonderful, beautiful parts of our country.
I find it ironic that we are dealing with Bill C-326 now, after seeing the budget few days ago and knowing that the government is going to change the age of retirement for future seniors and baby boomers in Canada. I think it is a real step backwards from where we want to be as a country.
Given that the government has announced its plan to slash seniors' benefits, I am especially keen to discuss this measure, as it would actually help low income seniors rather than hurt them. It is a simple thing to do and not a complicated issue. It is not going to cost a lot of money. All it is going to do is to help some of the people out there who truly need help.
Let me be clear on Bill C-326. It is not suggesting that we pay seniors half as much, but rather that we pay seniors in shorter intervals. I think we all know the difficulties when a cheque cannot be stretched until the end of the month. My colleague outlined many good examples, including one of his constituents.
It is very sad to think that seniors in this country today, in this rich country of ours called Canada, have to try to manage to get through the month in order to be able to buy medication. It is absolutely outrageous that anyone is living like that, especially seniors.
I understand that many of my colleagues on the other side of the House like the idea of finding ways to reduce what we provide to baby boomers and seniors, but the document that attacks seniors is the Conservative budget. In contrast, Bill C-326 actually helps seniors by adding some flexibility to how they set up their household finances. It is not complicated; it sounds pretty normal.
The OAS is currently delivered by a monthly cheque of approximately $540.12 to those who get the maximum OAS benefit, which most people actually do not get. Then if they qualify, which many of the seniors we are talking about do, they would get the maximum GIS of $732, albeit which many people do not get. The total would be $1,272 a month. We are talking about giving it to them on a bi-weekly basis, the way lots of us pay lots of our bills.
To stretch that $1,272 over a whole month would be tough, I would suggest, for any one of us, never mind talking about a senior citizen who quite possibly has health issues to deal with, and who knows what else. Most financial planners tell us that people struggle to set up and maintain an effective monthly household budget. With less than $293 per week, this task gets even harder for those over the age of 65.
Paying seniors twice per month would help seniors to budget and plan more effectively and to have a little more comfort in their homes. More money would help, and we all understand that.
We have talked about all of the other countries that are changing their pension systems, but many of them have very rich pensions. Seniors living in Norway get 66% of their income replaced. In Canada, we give people 25%, and now we want to make them wait an extra two years to even get that. Some think we have an over-generous system of looking after our seniors, but we clearly do not.
Canadian seniors and baby boomers have worked and contributed to this nation for generations, so we should do whatever we can to ensure that they get to live with some dignity in retirement. This is why I have written a white paper on pension reform and a pension income bill of rights, and it is why I oppose this 2012 budget.
In contrast to Bill C-326, budget 2012 is an outright betrayal of seniors and baby boomers. It is a betrayal for many reasons, one of them being that this Prime Minister campaigned on a promise to protect seniors' pensions. With his most recent budget, the Prime Minister has jammed his hands deep into the pockets of tomorrow's seniors and baby boomers. Even more, budget 2012 is a betrayal because it is a step closer to throwing seniors to the wolves.
The minister said it is about choices. On that we are in agreement: governing is all about choices. We make our choices, the government makes its choices but it is the government. Clearly its choices are jets and jails in contrast to helping seniors. The government chose to limit the choices seniors and baby boomers have and Bill C-326 is about increasing choices for seniors. Of course, the government will oppose any effort to help low income seniors, because it has already charted its course and that, obviously, does not include a serious role for government and helping the most vulnerable in society.
Unfortunately, this is typical Conservative dishonesty, saying one thing at election time and 11 months later making major changes to this country when it comes to retirement planning. Even worse, it is doing it at a time when it has been discovered that the Prime Minister himself is preparing to cash in on a very special deal that only the PM gets, which is a taxpayer-funded annual retirement bonus worth nine times the OAS. That is $100,000 per year over and above his investments and the MP pension plan. I do not think that any prime minister should be getting this, never mind one who has tabled an austerity budget that is chopping seniors' benefits and making them wait an extra two years.
I know my pleas tonight are going to fall on deaf ears when it comes to the front bench, but is there no one on the back bench who really cares about seniors? If so, he or she should stand and support this bill. It is a good bill that will be helpful. It will make life a little easier and is not going to cost the government any money, if that is what those members are worried about. Bill C-326 is one way of mitigating the damage being done by the budget. Conservatives are asking seniors to do more with less, so we should at least give them the tools they need to manage.
Bill C-326 is a step toward helping seniors manage their households more effectively. That is all it is. It is very important for those on the other end getting the cheques. It is not a $100,000 stipend like the Prime Minister is going to get, but it will be a helping hand for many seniors. In an era when the government is determined to slash what is available for the lowest income seniors, Bill C-326 deserves a look by all of us in the House.
I want to congratulate the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor for his ongoing work for seniors. He is constantly raising seniors issues with me, and constantly talks about how his constituents are struggling and how much they are looking to him for leadership to make a difference. I am pleased to lend my support to Bill C-326 and would say to all members in the House that if we are doing nothing good for seniors this whole year, let us at least do this. Let us make it a little easier for them. I hope we will all vote to pass this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this place to speak to Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits).
The bill seeks to amend these acts to allow for CPP and OAS benefits to be paid biweekly. It is worthy noting that this change would apply only at the request of persons receiving the benefits. In other words, it would be a matter of choice for the seniors and retirees.
Members will no doubt know this is actually the third time the bill has been brought before the House, the first time being in 2008.
Although the bill's intent is laudable, the NDP has not seen a call for such action from Canadians for such a change. Having said that, because it is voluntary, the NDP will support it.
Regarding changes to CPP, OAS and GIS, I and my fellow New Democrats have been campaigning since 2009 for much stronger action than what is contained in Bill C-326. Members will know, from reports to the House, following my appointment as pensions critic for the NDP in 2009, that I hosted two round tables of pension experts that February. These experts concluded at the time that the CPP was fine, fully funded for 75 years. As of late, the government has actually agreed with that statement. Their additional conclusion was that OAS likewise was sustainable for the long term. These panellists reached these conclusions even after considering the impact of retiring baby boomers and what that impact would be on OAS.
Following the advice that was given us from these round tables, my staff and I turned our attention to the broader question of retirement security for all Canadians.
In June of 2009, my opposition day motion on pensions raised in the House of Commons for the first time the urgent need for an increase to GIS to raise some 300,000 seniors out of poverty.
The motion also highlighted the NDP plan for a phased-in increase of the core assets of the CPP until it reached the capacity to double its benefits that it provided to Canadians.
The motion also included a proposal for a national pension insurance fund paid for by plan holders to protect workers when companies went out of business.
Finally included in the motion was a proposal to change the ability for workers to use the legislation governing CCAA protection and actual bankruptcy proceedings under the provisions of the BIA whenever a company went into bankruptcy. This would have given workers and retirees status as creditors in order to access the company's final assets.
I am pleased to remind the House that our opposition day motion at that time was passed unanimously, with all parties in agreement, including the Conservatives.
The fact that the Conservatives so heartily supported our road map for changing Canada's retirement security program gave us hope that we would see these changes in short order. Sadly, that has not been the case. In spite of taking such an enlightened decision to support the NDP motion and in effect endorsing our plan, the Conservative government has not delivered on that promise.
During last May's election campaign, Jack Layton, our leader at the time, was clear that the NDP would follow through on our promise to raise the GIS significantly. In fact, it was the very first proposal in our platform, as was increasing the CPP. New Democrats had done a cost analysis of our plan and were prepared to move forward delivering for Canadians.
While New Democrats were being very clear on our plan, and were clear during the election campaign with respect to seniors, pensioners and those people who were planning their retirements, what did the Conservatives and the Prime Minister have to say on the retirement security of seniors during that election campaign? Did the Prime Minister or his party once raise the fact that they were planning an increase to the eligibility of OAS and GIS from 65 to 67? Of course they did not. They knew their own base of voters would oppose this unneeded attack on the poorest of the poor.
What will our next steps be? Although Bill C-326 offers a very modest change for Canadian citizens and seniors, we will not stand in the way of this particular bill. We also want to emphatically reiterate to Canadians that the NDP, after forming the next majority government in 2015, will rescind any motion or law that has changed the eligibility for OAS or GIS from age 65 to 67.
In the meantime, all New Democrats in this House will continue to press the Conservative government to honour its 2009 vote on our opposition day motion. We will call on the Conservatives and all members of this House to work with the NDP, in consultation with the provinces and territories, to bring forward the measures that are necessary to establish a phased-in doubling of Canada pension plan benefits.
We are looking forward as well to working constructively with the government, using my Bill C-331, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (pension plans), as a template for changing the CCAA and the BIA to protect retirees' pensions during CCAA or bankruptcy proceedings. I do believe that this would bring a significant change to employers' understanding regarding pension assets. They do not realize at this point in time that these are deferred wages and that they should belong solely to the workers. That change in view or ideology, however we want to propose it, is a hurdle that we have to get over as Canadians in dealing with the assets of companies that happen to have the misfortune of going under.
To the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, I want to say that the New Democrats will be supporting Bill C-326 as it moves forward through the House. We are also looking forward to all of the advances that we can make together to better the lives of Canadian seniors and retirees.
Order. I hate to interrupt the hon. member, but hon. members, there is too much noise in the chamber. The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor has the floor, and I am certain there are many members in the House of Commons who would like to hear what the hon. member has to say.
The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.
The electoral district of Bonavista--Gander--Grand Falls--Windsor (Newfoundland and Labrador) has a population of 86,394 with 69,828 registered voters and 226 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.