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      • MPnews news Federal Election 2015: Cape Breton—Canso riding - Globalnews.ca
        Last Election: Liberal incumbent Rodger Cuzner won a fifth-straight term in 2011, beating the Conservative candidate by more than 15 per cent of the vote. If the new boundaries were in effect in 2011, his margin of victory would have been closer to 11 ...and more » read more
        Sep 06, 2015 8:14 pm> |
        • MPlibblog Joyce Murray post Rodger Cuzner, MP for Cape Breton-Canso speaks in the house about the 50th anniversary of the Canada Pension Plan
          Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, tomorrow will mark the 50th anniversary of the Canada pension plan, which, along with the Quebec... read more
          Apr 02, 2015 8:58 am> |
          • MPconblog BarryDevolin_MP 21 post National Fiddling Day Act

            Thank you.

            Resuming debate, the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

            • MPlibblog Rodger Cuzner 128 post Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

              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 Cape Breton—Canso, 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?

              • MPndpblog Yvon Godin 1434 post Business of Supply

                Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to this motion on the minimum wage.

                People who know me know that I have a lot of experience in labour relations, negotiations and all those sorts of things. I was also a member of a committee set up by the New Brunswick government to study the minimum wage.

                I would like to respond right away to the member for Cape Breton—Canso. He rose and asked where the NDP members were in 1996, and he mentioned that they voted with the Liberals. The story there is that in 1996, the federal minimum wage was $4 an hour. It was higher in all the provinces. The federal government was lagging behind. Rather than keeping its minimum wage at $4 an hour and introducing a bill to make the federal minimum wage higher than that of all the provinces and thereby showing leadership to workers by ensuring that they would be treated well, it decided to do what the provinces were doing. The federal government would apply the provinces' minimum wage, which at the time was higher than the federal wage. It was a winning formula. To put it bluntly, it was better than nothing.

                If we look at the situation between 1996 and the present, I think that that had a negative effect. The federal government should have come up with a formula to increase the minimum wage in order to set an example for the rest of the provinces and show respect for workers. Instead, the federal government said that it was not generous, that it would align itself with the provinces and do as they did.

                The problem is that companies under federal jurisdiction act in the following manner. Instead of creating jobs in their province, they move from one province to another, wherever the minimum wage is the lowest. They want to exploit workers in Canada. This does not just happen in the third world; it also happens here in Canada.

                I will come back to this issue because, back in New Brunswick, I was part of the team advising the minister on the minimum wage. I remember I went before the committee saying that they should raise the minimum wage in New Brunswick by $1. I remember that the rest of the committee said that it would not work like that. The minister was prepared to raise the hourly wage by 25¢. Had the recommendation not been for 25¢, there would have been no increase. I for one was not there to say what the minister wanted to hear; I was there to advise him that the increase should be $1 instead of 25¢. That was my position on the issue.

                These wages resemble slavery. Today, people have minimum wage jobs. Most of these people are women and they need to have one, two or three jobs. I am sure that the people back home understand what I am saying because that is what they tell me in their community. There is not a member here, in the House of Commons, who can tell me that, when they met with their constituents, they were told that the minimum wage was too high. Not a single member, whether Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Bloc, Green Party or whichever other party, went to their constituency and met with workers who said that the minimum wage was too high and needed to be cut. It is quite the opposite.

                The cost of living has gone up. The increases to the minimum wage have led to a completely unacceptable level of poverty. That is why I say that the federal government has a responsibility to show leadership and set a minimum wage that is higher than that of any of the provinces.

                It has to step up and tell the provinces that this is unacceptable.

                New Brunswickers are not second-class Canadians. Our minimum wage should not be lower than Ontario's, which is $11 per hour. People in New Brunswick work just as hard as people elsewhere in the country. They can do the same work, so they deserve to have the same minimum wage. Just because people are from the Maritimes does not mean they should be the poorest people in the country.

                The government has an opportunity to show leadership. The NDP wants to take the lead so it can help workers. I have never seen the Conservatives come to the House of Commons with a bill to protect working men and women. Quite the contrary. They pass bills to kill unions and undermine workers' strength. That is what the government is doing.

                When the time comes to vote on minimum wage, I hope they will take the workers' side for once. That is something they have never done since coming to power in 2006. They would rather talk about how the NDP voted against their budgets and how they wanted to lower the GST from 7% to 5%.

                When we suggest raising workers' wages, they say no right away. They would not touch that with a 10-foot pole. They legislated Canada Post and Air Canada employees back to work. They introduce private members' bills to get rid of unions, the very unions that worked so hard to negotiate pay increases, pension funds and health care for workers. The Conservatives are working against that.

                For once, they have the opportunity to stand up and say that the federal government will establish a federal minimum wage. It is not normal for a federal government not to have a minimum wage set in its legislation. The reason the previous federal Liberal government got rid of it is that the government did not have the courage to increase the minimum wage. Instead it shifted the responsibility to the provinces. It is too bad, but that was not the right move.

                Under the current circumstances, the right thing for the government to do for workers would be to show leadership and prove that it is taking care of them. These men and women get up in the morning and work hard to build our country. It takes more than money. They need money to feed their families and we owe them respect.

                As legislators, out of respect for the workers, we must legislate an increase in their salaries to ensure they are not being left in poverty as it is happening now.

                I would like to see a Conservative stand up and deny the fact that there are workers living below the poverty line because of minimum wages. They are forced to take on two or three jobs. These men and women have to work for one employer in the morning, another in the afternoon and a third one on the weekend.

                That is what the people of Acadie—Bathurst back home tell me. I challenge anyone here to stand up and tell me it is not true that workers are living below the poverty line. For example, fish plant workers earn minimum wage their entire lives instead of a decent salary.

                I am proud of this motion and I hope the other political parties are too. If they vote against it, their true colours will show, as they did during the vote on the cuts to employment insurance.

                The Liberals took $57 billion from the EI fund and the Conservatives made it legal to steal from the EI fund. Today, they are still not prepared to support workers. It is not right. Out of respect for the men and women who have built this country and continue to do so, we have a responsibility to legislate in order to provide them the best working conditions, not take them away.

                This motion gives us the chance to do that. It gives us the chance to show national leadership, across the country, and show what Canada is made of and what we want to do. This will then give the provinces the chance to follow suit.

                • MPconblog Chris Warkentin 1614 post Business of Supply

                  Mr. Speaker, it seems that the Liberals are speaking out of both sides of their mouths on this program. It seems to be a usual practice of members of the Liberal Party, but it seems in the extreme in this circumstance.

                  It is interesting that the Liberals have spent the better part of the day talking about the necessity for a permanent stream, or the ability for temporary foreign workers to move from a temporary status into a permanent status. It is interesting that the Liberals introduced this program some 30 years ago with no mechanism for individuals who came as temporary foreign workers to Canada to have any opportunity for a permanent stay. The changes that our government has undertaken over the last number of years have in fact provided a way for those temporary foreign workers who demonstrate that they have contributed to the Canadian economy and have a skill set that is necessary for the Canadian economy to remain here in Canada and become permanent residents and then citizens of Canada.

                  As a matter of fact, I would like to correct the record. When the opposition members say that there is no avenue for temporary foreign workers or people in a temporary state to become permanent residents and citizens of Canada, that is false. The programs in place today allow for over 62,000 people who are working here temporarily to become permanent residents and citizens of Canada this year alone.

                  This is because we understand that temporary foreign workers do come here to Canada, that many of them contribute, and that employers would like them to stay in the economy, depending on their contribution to Canada. It is important that the opposition members acknowledge the facts with regard to this debate, because until now the facts have not risen to the top.

                  The Liberals claim that under their provision of this program, it worked perfectly. Unfortunately, they had no permanent stream. That is something that this government has changed, allowing for over 62,000 people in a temporary status to become citizens this year.

                  It is important that we also reflect on what the Liberals did during their time with this program. We all recall Strippergate. I know that there are members on the Liberal benches right now who remember it well. Under Strippergate, the criteria that the Liberals put forward in terms of their program allowed for strippers to be brought into Canada. Those was the employees with special skills that the Liberals had designated as the prime skill set needed in Canada.

                  Our government does not believe that. Our government members believe that the type of skills needed in Canada are ones that actually contribute to the well-being of our local communities.

                  I can tell members that in the community of Grande Prairie, the community of the Peace Country, we have many employers who use temporary foreign workers, but let us talk about the types of work that they do. We are talking about work in the service sector. We are talking about work in the oil and gas sector. We are talking about work in engineering, in all kinds of construction jobs, and a whole host of others. Nobody is coming to Peace Country on the temporary foreign program as a stripper, as they did under the Liberal program.

                  What has happened in this debate is unfortunate. There are places like my riding in the Peace Country where unemployment is at the lowest point we have seen in history, where employers have followed the rules, where they have not been subjecting temporary foreign workers to abuse, and where they have not been taking jobs away from Canadians by hiring temporary foreign workers, yet what we have seen day in and day out is members from the Liberal Party, specifically the leader of the Liberal Party, criticizing people who are employers in northern Alberta, both in Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie, who have worked diligently to try to hire Canadians but have been unable to hire qualified Canadians to fill the job vacancies. In some cases, they have not found any Canadians who will fill the jobs under any circumstances.

                  As a matter of fact, this is the circumstance for the local McDonald's restaurants. Currently there are four restaurants in the city of Grande Prairie. The average number of employees needed for just one of those McDonald's restaurants would be 150. In the case of Grande Prairie, there are only 150 employees doing all of the work for the four restaurants. Currently, there are job vacancies for over 300 people in the McDonald's restaurants alone. These restaurants are paying far more than minimum wage and they are paying far in excess of the prevailing wage rate for our region.

                  If Canadians want a job in that particular industry, the requirement from the local management at McDonald's is that when they walk in to ask for a job or a job application, they are immediately given a uniform. There is no question, they will hired on the spot. Therefore, there are circumstances in places like the Peace country where these conditions have prevailed. They have required temporary foreign workers to fill some of the job vacancies.

                  Unfortunately, the Liberal Party and the NDP have vilified the employers again and again, hard-working employers that play by the rules and contribute to our communities. They give generously, pay their taxes and do all the things we would expect them to do, as well as accommodate temporary foreign workers in a way that Canadians would be proud. Unfortunately the NDP and the Liberal Party specifically have targeted these employers and have vilified them as some kind of monsters. They are not monsters. They are people who are working hard, playing by the rules and contributing.

                  There are cases where abuses have been noted by the media. The minister has aggressively gone after those people who have broken the rules. Under the Liberal Party, there was no mechanism to blacklist employers if they were engaged in abuse. We know that because all kinds of shenanigans happened under the Liberals when the program was in existence.

                  If employers were found to have abused the system, they could be blacklisted for two years and would be unable to get temporary foreign workers if they broke the rules, if they abused a temporary foreign worker or if they took a job from a Canadian and gave it to a temporary foreign worker.

                  The government takes abuse very seriously. We believe it is reprehensible and it cannot be tolerated. That is why the minister has undertaken to put in safeguards to ensure abuses do not take place. However, if they do, because the world is not perfect, there are now penalties that were not in existence under the Liberal government when the Liberals claimed the program was running perfectly. During their time, they were bringing in a different type of worker. Specifically, they were bringing in strippers.

                  Our government takes abuse seriously. We believe strongly that if temporary foreign workers have a skill set and will contribute to our economy, our country and our communities, there should be a pathway toward citizenship. That is why this year our government is allowing up to 62,000 people in temporary status to become permanent residents and then subsequently to become citizens of Canada.

                  We strongly belive that the mistakes of the Liberal Party of the past can be corrected, and have been corrected. We now have all kinds of things that are far better than what the Liberal Party had when it was in office. The pathway to citizenship, the accountability mechanism, the accountability for employers that break the rules and whole host of other things ensure that those people who are involved in abuse of the program are held accountable for their actions.

                  I mentioned at the beginning of my speech that the Liberals have been speaking out of both sides of their mouths on this issue. I would like to quote a couple of Liberals who believed the temporary foreign worker was important.

                  In May 2012 the member for Kings—Hants said, “Temporary foreign workers are an important part of the production chain and the value chain”. He also said on May 29, “The government has been promoting this idea that a temporary foreign worker takes a job from a Canadian, but what I'm being told is that in fact it creates a job for a Canadian at a different level”.

                  The member for Cape Breton—Canso said in October 2012, “Temporary foreign workers are an important part of our economy” and “some of the best workers are temporary foreign workers”.

                  It seems that the Liberals have been speaking out of both sides of their mouths on this issue. They can be reassured that we have corrected their past mistakes. Those employers that are abusing temporary foreign workers and the program are being held accountable.

                  • MPlibblog Rodger Cuzner 1337 post Business of Supply

                    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Winnipeg North for his well thought out and impassioned speech. He brought a lot to the debate today and hopefully I will be able to contribute a bit more myself.

                    I was able to dust off notes from the debate we entered into a year and two weeks ago when I presented a motion in the House calling for the government to embark on a full review of the temporary foreign worker program. Since that time we have seen another glaring example of the current government's ineptitude. We have seen the government's ineptitude time and time again, whether it is with respect to the fair elections act or something else. Any legislation that has gone well for the Conservatives would be on an incredibly short list.

                    The approach that the Conservatives have taken toward developing legislation is often in error, seldom in doubt. They are adverse to seeking the opinion of the people who know the issues. They are reluctant to study specific issues, or take any kind of recommendations or amendments from the opposition parties because they know it all. That attitude has placed the Conservative Party in trouble many times. Canadians are catching on. Canadians understand that full well, and nowhere is it more obvious than on this particular issue of temporary foreign workers.

                    One of my colleagues mentioned the letter we sent to the Auditor General. The Auditor General was aware of this issue back in 2009. It was the Auditor General who triggered great concern about the explosion in the number of temporary foreign workers in this country. As my colleague from Winnipeg North identified, in 2006 the number of temporary foreign workers in this country was 160,000. That number is about 360,000 now.

                    Two and a half years ago the former Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development took the shackles off this program, let the program run wild thereby accelerating the LMO process for businesses that wanted to bring in temporary foreign workers, and provided employers with the opportunity to pay 15% below market rates for their temporary foreign workers. This program was identified at that time as a great concern because it would put downward pressure on wages and impact the unemployment rate. That is what we are seeing now. We knew that was going to happen.

                    The government has said that this is an isolated case and that the minister has taken action. Make no mistake, this is not an isolated case. We have seen it many times. We have seen it in the mining sector, the banking sector, the service sector, and now we are seeing it in the fast-food industry.

                    The temporary foreign worker program is an important program in this country. At one time Canadians had a great deal of confidence in it. Many parts of this country do not have an agricultural sector. Nova Scotia would not have an agricultural sector if it were not for this program. The temporary foreign workers who work in these industries provide support to Canadians. They provide an opportunity for Canadians to maintain their jobs and continue to raise their families.

                    The government's mismanagement of the program has brought it into disrepute. Canadians think the program is like the Senate: we should just get rid of it. That does a great disservice to the program because it deserves to be saved.

                    I presented a motion this morning. The opposition parties, certainly the Liberal Party, with regard to this program, want to mend it, not end it, but that cannot be done in isolation. We have seen the government make one-off changes to this program, and every time it made a change, it created an unintended consequence and an even greater degree of mess.

                    Just to pick up on a comment from my colleague from Winnipeg North, whenever there is a question asked, the minister dismisses it. He has been particularly hard on the NDP this week, saying the NDP has asked for more temporary foreign worker support.

                    He threw that at me one time. In fact, six years ago, I wrote a letter of support for a company in my riding. ExxonMobil needed, for a short period of time, a very specific type of engineering that was within the realm of the company. I wrote a letter of support once for that company for the particular work that it needed done. That is the intent of the program. That is what that was all about. Then the minister gets up, beats his chest, and says, “The member for Cape Breton—Canso supports this program. He wrote a letter of support”, and all the backbenchers gloat.

                    That is what is wrong with it. That is what is wrong with the government. Rather than trying to get to what works for Canadians and supports Canadian enterprise and business, it tries to score these cheap-shot, sucker-punch little answers to stuff like that rather than trying to find some real answers. It is a huge disservice to our country and the people who are trying to do business in this country.

                    One of the problems—and I am sure I can get support for this not just on the opposition benches but from most Canadians as they realize this now—is that rather than trying to seek out the best evidence and information on which to base some kind of logical decision and way forward on whatever the issue might be, the government will take whatever is in the paper and anecdotally say that this is what the government should be doing. It does this rather than researching the issue and trying to get facts. Everything around job skills development has been based on that type of information rather than on actual labour market data.

                    We heard the Prime Minister talk about the skills shortage crisis and say that Canadians have to be seized by this crisis, but we know that opinions from some of the most respected people in this country, such as Don Drummond with TD Economics and most recently the PBO, have all provided actual evidence that debunks the government's approach to the temporary foreign worker program.

                    In his labour market assessment, the PBO said that Canada is not experiencing a skills and labour shortage but that a higher portion of temporary foreign workers in the private sector could also be putting downward pressure on private sector job vacancies. We see that the C.D. Howe Institute is attributing an increase in unemployment by four percentage points in western Canada right now to the temporary foreign worker programs.

                    If we were to actually investigate this particular program, as has been requested by the House on a number of occasions over the last number of years, and if recommendations were brought forward to the government and a full debate took place, then we would be serving Canadians. We would provide temporary foreign workers to companies that need them, but we would not be putting downward pressure on wages or putting Canadians out of work. It is shameful what the government has done with this program and the disrepute it has brought upon it.

                    Liberals will be supporting this particular motion today.

                    • MPlibblog Ralph Goodale 130 post Employment

                      Mr. Speaker, the government seemed surprised last week by reported abuses of the temporary foreign workers program in the restaurant sector. Suddenly there is a moratorium. However, we know there are problems as well in banking, mining and other industries too.

                      Over a year ago, on the motion by the member for Cape Breton—Canso, Liberals warned about this. To save the program, we asked for a full review to get rid of the abuses. The government voted no, and the trouble got worse.

                      The department cannot investigate itself. Is it not time for the Auditor General to get on this file?

                      • MPconblog blainecalkinsmp 1907 post Employees' Voting Rights Act

                        Mr. Speaker, this is my last opportunity to speak to my bill. I want to acknowledge all the support I have received for my bill, not only from my caucus colleagues but from across the country where workers have reached out to me and expressed their appreciation for this.

                        I want to use my time to bust the myths that some of the people on the other side of the House have put forward insofar as claiming that my bill is not doing any service to the country.

                        I would first like to highlight that I will be talking about the claims that the employees' voting rights act is undemocratic, according to the New Democratic Party. Its members are saying that the rights of employees to vote in a secret ballot is somehow undemocratic. I will address that. There are claims that the employees' voting rights act is unfair, even though it has the exact same process for certification and decertification, whereas in the current legislation it is skewed heavily one way.

                        Some have complained about the process of using private members' bills to address these kinds of issues, which I would be happy to address, as well as the so-called lack of consultation. Even though we all know that it is a private member's bill, we consult with our constituents all the time. I will discuss that and some of the allegations that the legislative changes I am proposing are unconstitutional. I am more than happy to address some of these concerns.

                        Let us talk about the allegations that my bill on employees' voting rights is somehow undemocratic. I ask how it can be undemocratic to provide workers with a secret ballot vote. We know PSAC stated at committee that it uses secret ballot votes for internal elections and for collective bargaining agreement ratifications. Every member in this House was elected by a secret ballot vote. Members have not provided an answer to me as to why they think such a process would be considered undemocratic.

                        If we look at Justice Richards' ruling in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, where the same type of legislation was brought forward, on page 38 he stated:

                        ...a secret ballot regime does no more than ensure that employees are able to make the choices they see as being best for themselves.

                        Apparently, in NDP logic, that is undemocratic.

                        He further stated that, “The secret ballot, after all, is a hallmark of modern democracy”.

                        I would argue that if it is good enough to serve in this House for members of Parliament to be elected by a secret ballot vote, would anybody not want the same kind of backup in his or her arguments and legitimacy to claim that he or she was put in place through a truly democratic process?

                        The member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has mentioned in his comments on March 26 that employers engage in bullying, threats, and blackmail tactics. Anyone who operates under the belief that bullying, threats, or even blackmail is a mutually exclusive act operates under complete and wilful blindness.

                        If I were to shove a ballot in the face of a voter while I am campaigning, while I am out on the hustings during an election campaign, and say to him or her, “I think it's in your best interest to vote right here, right now, in front of me, and sign this ballot”, the NDP and the Liberal Party of Canada would be absolutely outraged, and the Canadian public would be outraged at that kind of intimidation and electoral process. Yet that is exactly what they are defending on the other side of the House when it comes to union certification.

                        This process results in the creation of collective bargaining units whereby the union is able to collect union dues, a massive taxation power on the backs of workers. That is how it gets its funds to conduct its business. It is no different from any other process whereby we have taxation and representation. The difference is that there is no mandatory secret ballot. Therefore, it is absolutely ridiculous that the NDP thinks that a card-check system and the power of taxation, of union dues, is completely fine without any check or balance in the interests of workers.

                        My friend from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie also mentioned that signing a card was an important gesture. I submit that marking an x on a ballot is a more important gesture. I think of Castro, Stalin, and these kinds of people who would say that having one option on a ballot is an important gesture for democracy. I disagree. I think that a yes or no answer in a referendum question as to whether or not one wants to have a collective bargaining agent is a more important gesture than what is being proposed over there.

                        I would like to move on and talk about the allegations that it is unfair. What I proposed was 50% plus one. It is the same as what is currently there in the card check process, but has been amended at committee. I appreciate the committee's hard work on this, the thoughtful amendments being brought forward by Conservative members of Parliament, amending the bill and amending the current laws so that it will be the same process to enter as to exit a union.

                        Right now, under the current legislation, a 35% threshold is all that is needed to create a union in the federal jurisdiction. Yet a 50% threshold is what is needed to decertify a collective bargaining regime. Somehow the other side thinks that is fair, 35% to get in and 50% to get out, whereas my legislation would actually make it 45%. I proposed 45%. It has been amended to 40%, so it is 40% to trigger a vote either way, in the certification process and in the decertification process.

                        That seems fair to me. It is the same way in and out. I do not understand how that could possibly be construed as unfair.

                        I should note that it is not the job of any government to ensure that union certification is as easy as possible. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that paragraph 2(d) does not mandate any particular model of labour relations. This has been referred to by Justice Richards on page 37 of his ruling.

                        Currently in Canada, five provinces employ a secret ballot regime and the entire federal jurisdiction in the United States uses secret ballot voting. I am not convinced that using a secret ballot vote makes things unfair; in fact, I believe it solidifies the message of the employee group and actually provides a mandate for the collective bargaining agent, one that is unquestionable.

                        I would like now to move on to talk about some of the complaints about the process. Some members have complained about the labour laws being changed by private members' bills and that extensive consultation is required with stakeholders.

                        We are all members of Parliament and our stakeholders are the constituents we represent. What is being proposed by the member for Cape Breton—Canso is apparently to have Unifor and PSAC and FETCO and other big organizations coming to the table, completely bypassing the workers whose fate is actually determined in those kinds of negotiations.

                        I think it is completely acceptable that private members be able to use their private members' hour. There are already great restrictions on what private members can do. I am hoping that the member for Cape Breton—Canso is not suggesting that somehow private members' business be further restricted from areas of federal jurisdiction or federal legislation. We are all elected as legislators to come here to change, amend, put forth or remove laws that affect Canadians. To suggest somehow that we cannot use the private members' process is simply ridiculous.

                        When the member for Cape Breton—Canso was at committee, he went after me in his remarks for that process, and quoted FETCO to that effect, as FETCO did suggest that it did not like the process. However, what the member for Cape Breton—Canso conveniently left out was that when Mr. Farrell from FETCO was at committee, he stated his and FETCO's support for a secret ballot vote, and that FETCO would prefer to see a threshold to trigger a vote between 40% and 45%, which is exactly where the amendments are, conveniently left out in the other members' remarks.

                        There are limited opportunities for a member to bring forward legislation, and I would hope that the member across the way is not advocating limiting the scope of private members' legislation any further than it already is.

                        I can assure the House that virtually every one of us has received a complaint at some point in time from a constituent regarding labour issues. It is not unreasonable to think that a private member would bring forward these kinds of issues, using their private member's time.

                        I would like to talk about consultation. The member for Newton—North Delta spoke about the lack of consultation. My private member's bill was tabled on June 5 last year.

                        A number of unions came to the Hill. They had their lobby days. We did not even start debating my bill until later into the fall. After I tabled my bill, not one of these organizations picked up the phone, knocked on my door, or made any effort to contact me whatsoever. In fact, even during their lobby time here on the Hill, none of them even bothered to come to make their case to me.

                        I have not been able to address all concerns, but I would like to say before closing that the members of the House ought to know or should know that their task here is to represent their constituents. Poll after poll indicates that since 2003, support across Canada for secret ballot voting has rated between 83% and 89%, with some of the highest results coming from unionized or formerly unionized employees.

                        The bill is good legislation. It is good public policy. The other side should stand up for democracy and vote in favour of it.

                        • MPconblog andrewscheer 99 post Vacancy

                          It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely Mr. Karygiannis, member for the electoral district of Scarborough—Agincourt, by resignation effective Tuesday, April 1, 2014.

                          Pursuant to paragraph 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed my warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.

                          The hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso is rising on a point of order.

                          • MPndpblog Joe Comartin 16 post Employees' Voting Rights Act

                            Questions and—resuming debate, the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

                            • MPlibblog Mark Eyking 152 post Agricultural Growth Act

                              Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Malpeque for leading things off for the Liberals here today. I had some travel issues getting here. The member did a wonderful job. As a former farmer he is very knowledgeable about the industry.

                              I met with some farmers on the weekend in the member's riding of Cape Breton—Canso, in Mabou. These farmers were very concerned about the cutbacks to AgriStability.

                              Could the member for Malpeque expand a little more on some of the comments he made in his opening statement about how all of these programs are being cut and how this will affect people down on the farms?

                              • MPlibblog JohnMcKayLib 713 post Navigation Restrictions

                                Mr. Speaker, I want to make a point of clarification at the beginning. I am not the member for Cape Breton—Canso and have not been for a long time. However, had he been given the opportunity to speak, and had he known what he was supposed to be speaking about, I am sure he would have enraptured this entire chamber with his eloquence. Unfortunately, members are stuck with me.

                                I would like to compliment my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle on this initiative. It is an important initiative. We all relate it to our personal experiences.

                                As you know, Mr. Speaker, you and I live in some proximity to each other. You have a very famous facility just north of Lake Orillia, and I cottage somewhat east of that. I would say it is about $200,000 east. We all have traffic. You, in particular, have traffic that comes off Lake Simcoe, up Lake Couchiching, and into the system. I have a lesser amount of traffic, but it is nevertheless a great deal of traffic. We will have both noticed that the boats are not getting any smaller, and the Sea-Doos are not getting any quieter, which is taking a toll on some pretty nice lakes and rivers in our respective communities.

                                That is the issue my colleague is trying to address. To rein in the excesses of some cottagers, a very small group of cottagers, the municipalities sometimes struggle to manage traffic flow. I know that the OPP intervenes from time to time, but that is an intervention on the basis of safety and criminality.

                                My colleague's concern is that there are vessels that are getting to the point that they are actually doing environmental damage, just by virtue of their size and speed. When a municipality wishes to rein in that behaviour, it finds that to obtain jurisdiction in the area, it has to seek the permission of the federal government.

                                I know that colleagues have some frustration trying to get things done around here. When we try to get something such as this done, there is buck-passing of a major order. What my colleague is trying to do, and I congratulate him for it, is slice that Gordian knot and get the buck to stop at the municipality or in the local jurisdiction that is most relevant to the lake or the river, as the case may be. I am mixing my metaphors, and I apologize for that. When the buck stops with the municipalities, they can impose regulations and restrictions, which would facilitate the peace, harmony, and good feelings that are generally associated with the lakes and rivers of Ontario, in our case, of Quebec, in my colleague's case, and certainly out in British Columbia and various other places.

                                We find ourselves in sympathy and in support of this initiative. We have some concerns about how this would occur and how we would transfer the jurisdiction from the federal government to the municipalities. Particularly in Quebec, some transfers would be a challenge. For us the issue is the how rather than the principle of it, but we certainly will find ourselves in a position to support the motion.

                                The member is right to say that no one regime fits all. Just going from lake to lake, there are differences in attitudes among cottagers. Some want a quiet, peaceful lake that is motor-free, and others want lakes where they can run around on Sea-Doos and tow skiers behind big boats.

                                Let me end with that. This is a good initiative. It is an initiative I hope money will flow to, because public funds are scarce. We would encourage him in his efforts to pursue this, and I encourage all members to support this motion.

                                I am thankful for the time and attention, and I only wish I was half as eloquent as the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

                                • MPndpblog Joe Comartin 12 post Veterans

                                  The hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

                                  • MPndpblog Peter Stoffer 121 post Business of Supply

                                    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for mentioning the 25,000 RCMP retired veterans. We have approximately 700,000 military veterans, RCMP veterans, and independent spouses. The DVA has a client base of just over 200,000, so two-thirds of that base is not even being served now. Many military and RCMP veterans simply do not know the benefits they are possibly able to get.

                                    As my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso said, what type of service does the member think these people who are applying for the first time at a Service Canada office should expect in the near future?

                                    • MPlibblog Scott Andrews 1135 post Retirement Income Bill of Rights

                                      Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise here today to speak to the bill.

                                      To refresh us on what the bill would do, I would like to quote a few words from the member from Toronto who proposed it.

                                      In broad strokes, the bill would create substantive, justifiable rights relating to retirement income, give every person a chance to accumulate retirement income, promote good plan administration, and set out in law that pension reform goals to which we aspire legislatively.

                                      This bill, in a few short steps, would improve people's financial retirement.

                                      For a lot of people, retirement takes years of planning. Those who start working in their mid-20s to mid-30s are not always thinking about retirement. Thirty years or 25 years is a long way away. A lot of factors can go into what may happen to one's retirement savings over that 30 years. We only need to look back at the last 10 years to see what happened when the markets collapsed and people's retirement savings vanished overnight, making them have to work longer. One never knows what might happen to one's retirement savings. It has taken at least the last five to six years to get back to where their savings were almost 15 years ago.

                                      Wherever I have travelled in my riding over the last little while, the number one issue I have heard from seniors has been how they are struggling in their day-to-day operations trying to survive on the little bit of pension income they have. The cost of living is going up. The cost of a quart of milk has gone up over the last little while. This impacts many seniors. There are a lot of seniors out there who are going to the malls to get warm, which is a shame. When one gets to that age in life, one should be able to retire in dignity and with respect.

                                      I hear it everywhere I go. A lot of seniors are finding it very hard. A lot of them will admit that they did not think of retirement planning for the last 30 years. We have to make sure that these things are there so that people have the retirement savings they need.

                                      People refer to some of the programs we have in place now, such as the guaranteed income supplement, or GIS, the Canada pension plan, and old age security. As the member for Cape Breton—Canso mentioned, when we look at the sum of those plans, it is only in the range of $27,000 a year. With the cost of everything going up, and as people are getting older and living longer, their needs become greater. When they get to a stage where they need care and help, it is costly.

                                      My mother is 82 years old. It is not easy living alone in a home one has lived in one's entire life. When property tax goes up by a small increment, it can really cash-strap a lot of our seniors. When they get into a home or alternate living, it is not cheap. It costs of a lot of money. A lot of people at that age are spending every nickel on it. They have no money left over to share with their grandchildren, family, and friends.

                                      We need people to be thinking about this. We need to make sure that people are guaranteed an honourable retirement. All this bill is doing is proposing a bill of rights for retirees and seniors to make sure that they have the funds to live out retirement with dignity.

                                      Getting back to the GIS and the CPP, one of the things I hear most, and what really gets me going, is that the government will say that it has given a little increase in the CPP. It gives this increase to the CPP; people receive it in January. They have their increase in their CPP, and it is not a whole lot, but it is a little. It is not enough to cover the cost of a carton of milk. However, by the time June comes around and they get reassessed, they are clawed back on their GIS. Therefore, they are no further ahead, at all, on any increase in the CPP. It is clawed back through their GIS.

                                      Seniors, retirees and people in the House cannot understand why the government would claw back their GIS. It gives it on one hand and takes it away on the other. I hear it every June, without fail, from people who call our offices and complain that their GIS, their income supplement, has been decreased because they were lucky enough to get a little more on their CPP in January. It is very frustrating.

                                      Much like where we have a number of bills of rights and charters for our veterans, we need to have this bill of rights for our seniors and for retirement.

                                      It is a pleasure to support the bill. I know the member has been an advocate for seniors and pension plans for a number of years now. She has seen what has happened when people's retirement incomes have slipped away through no fault of their own, or through businesses that collapse and pension funds are in jeopardy. I know there were some references made to Nortel.

                                      Bill C-513will help try to preserve that and make sure it gives seniors every tool they need to remain happy in their senior years.

                                      I would like to close by quoting this one the member put together. Basically, it says that is she had to summarize the bill in 50 words or less, she would say it is about “choice, fairness and flexibility”. She goes on:

                                      It is not about tearing down pensions; it is about elevating everyone to the same level. Every Canadian should have the right to a financially secure retirement and I believe this proposal sets the stage for that to become a reality.

                                      That is what the bill is about, and it is a pleasure to support it.

                                      • MPlibblog Rodger Cuzner 1238 post Retirement Income Bill of Rights

                                        Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in support of Bill C-513. This is a bill that was put forward by my friend and colleague from York West.

                                        I certainly hold in high regard the work that the member has done on this particular issue. I know that over the last number of years she has travelled the country and met with numerous stakeholders, many Canadians who have voiced their concerns around the entire pension issue. This bill is an outgrowth from that experience.

                                        The member listened to experts in the field and to a broad range of voices from many sectors, and I am sure she would be able to share that when she has an opportunity to speak herself. I am sure that was her motivation; trying to help Canadians in their later years is certainly what brought this bill to the floor.

                                        To understand the focus of the bill, it is important that we appreciate the changing demographic in this country. Certainly our aging population, where Canadians are living longer and some are retiring sooner, puts a shift in the paradigm as to how many people in this country are contributing and how many are benefiting from investments in pensions.

                                        As a matter of fact, the ratio has changed considerably over the years. If we look back to 1980, the ratio of retirees to workers was at 36% in 1980, and today that ratio is 53%. That is fairly substantive, and it is a shift, so we have to look differently at how we prepare for retirement. That demographic shift alone places many Canadians' retirement at risk.

                                        A recent survey indicates that 30% of Canadians feel they would not be able to retire at the age of 65. We see that more and more now, whether it is from necessity, or that they want to continue to work past the age of 65, which is not uncommon in this day and age. However, among those Canadians who would like to retire at the age of 65, at least 30% of them feel they would not be able to do so. Also, that study identifies that only 14% of seniors believe they are going to be able to retire with any degree of comfort. They have anxiety leading up to the point when they do retire.

                                        What we are seeing is the development of a two-tier retirement in Canada. We have those who get along quite well and are comfortable. They have had a pension plan that they have been able to pay into, or they have earned quite well, and saved and invested well for their retirement. Then we see the people at the other end of the spectrum, who have not had the benefit of a company pension plan and have not made the money they felt was necessary to invest and save. They have spent most of their time trying to get by and raise their family. We are seeing that gap widen between those in retirement who have and those who do not have.

                                        Some additional statistics that came out of that study are that 75% of Canadians working in the private sector do not have a pension plan other than CPP, OAS, or a guaranteed income supplement. Seventy-five per cent of Canadians is certainly a number we should all be concerned about.

                                        Many Canadians expect to depend mostly on those government benefits in retirement. However, together these government plans can pay only up to a maximum of about $27,000. The average is considerably less.

                                        Those who work for the government or a large company will have some type of plan to rely on. I know of some unfortunate cases, which we can find right across this country, of companies that have come up against hard times. One of the first casualties of tough economic times is an investment in the company's pension plan. We know that they do not have to be fully funded. There are laws on the level of funding for company pension plans.

                                        Stora Enso, in my riding of Cape Breton—Canso, is a company that has been a great corporate citizen and has had a great history in the riding. It did newsprint and high-end glossy paper for many years. However, we know where newsprint and the paper industry have gone in this country and globally. When Stora Enso fell upon hard times, it sold to NewPage Corporation. One of the things NewPage did not invest in was topping up the defined benefits pension plan. When the company went into receivership, many people who left the mill years ago all of sudden themselves making 40% less from their pensions than they did before the downturn and the bankruptcy.

                                        People have a particular lifestyle. They think that they will have a guaranteed income going forward into retirement. To have almost half of that pulled away certainly comes as a shock to many. That is what the retirees and pensioners of Stora Enso and NewPage have experienced.

                                        The provinces recognize this, and they have been pushing the federal government to expand the CPP. However, the government has been dragging its heels. We have heard the minister responsible stand in the House and speak against that. However, it is coming in loud and clear from the provinces that changes have to be made. The government's new PRPP retirement plans are voluntary tools. Employers do not have to offer them, and employees do not have to use them.

                                        We know that Canadians are not saving enough for retirement. There are reasons for that. In the last five years, we have seen an increase of 78% in the number of Canadians who are working for minimum wage. People working for minimum wage are doing the best they can to pay the bills. People are doing the best they can to keep the wolves away from the door if they are trying to run a household on minimum wage. Therefore, they are not able to make those types of investments in savings. What they are investing in is food and heat and lights for their homes. That has to be of concern.

                                        CIBC recently did a study that showed that a 35-year-old today saves half of what a 35-year-old saved a generation ago. I think we all know about those experiences.

                                        To sum up, the bill does two things. It gives Canadians the right to contribute to a decent retirement plan and to be provided with up-to-date, unbiased information about their savings plans. That is worthwhile and noble. If we were able to embrace that through this legislation, those principles would serve us well. That is why I would be happy to stand and support my colleague from York West when the opportunity arises to vote on this piece of legislation.

                                        • MPconblog bruce_stanton 58 post Persons with Disabilities

                                          Order, please. I usually let the first one slip by, but in that the hon. member used the name of another member of the chamber a second time, I thought I would prevent him from possibly doing it a third time.

                                          The hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

                                          • MPconblog Cheryl Gallant 931 post Disability Tax Credit Promoters Restrictions Act

                                            Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, it is my pleasure to rise today and conclude the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-462, an act restricting the fees charged by promoters of the disability tax credit and making consequential amendments to the Tax Court of Canada Act.

                                            My bill seeks to balance the needs of Canadians with disabilities and promoters alike by also contributing to a fair, functioning marketplace for those who do wish to use the services of a disability tax credit promoter.

                                            Bill C-462 is necessary because changes that were made in 2005 placed benefits receivable on a retroactive basis. This change created a new incentive for those claiming to be consultants to work with Canadians on their applications, as the dollar amounts on a 10-year retroactive tax refund can be significant and can reach $10,000 to $15,000.

                                            Let me be clear: this is not an attempt to crack down on those who are legitimately claiming the credit or to deny claims; rather, it is an attempt to make sure that those who do qualify and those who require the tax credit are able to receive it without paying unfair charges.

                                            The disability tax credit promoters' industry is currently totally unregulated and has produced a system that is increasingly ripe for abuse. In the past, government has determined it appropriate to regulate the tax preparation marketplace. The hon. members for Kings—Hants, Jeanne-Le Ber, and Cape Breton—Canso are concerned that the legislation does not specify what the maximum fees would be or how they would be set. I chose not to set a maximum fee in the legislation because I want to allow for consultations with disability groups, medical professionals, and legitimate tax professionals to help inform this decision. I want to ensure that those disabled Canadians who need help with their applications can get it. We are not imposing unnecessary red tape on doctors or legitimate tax preparers.

                                            I would be pleased to receive direction from tax professionals with respect to the fee level, and I agree with the member for Kings—Hants that the maximum fee should reflect the complexity of the case in hand. We will ensure that the maximum fee structure will be set in an open and transparent process, involving a broad range of stakeholders.

                                            Members of the public and tax credit promoters will also be given a chance to share their views once the regulations are drafted. They will be given plenty of notice so that they can adapt to the new regulations when they come into effect. I know that the hon. members from Montcalm and Abitibi—Témiscamingue also raised concerns about this issue in second reading debate.

                                            As the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, which includes CFB Petawawa, I am acutely aware of the effect that disabilities can have on the livelihoods of Canadians. The soldiers of my community are at greater risk for a number of disabilities because of the unique challenges of their duties. My decision to introduce this legislation is a direct result of the aggressive tactics employed by some promoters, who objected to my decision to issue consumer alerts. I started issuing consumer alerts in my riding last year when I found out that some individuals were being charged 20%, 30%, or as much as 40% of the tax credit. Based on the unanimous vote that Bill C-462 received to be referred to committee, I know that other members agree with my concerns.

                                            These kinds of charges are unfair, especially when we consider that the purpose of the disability tax credit is to support Canadians living with disabilities.

                                            I want my constituents and indeed all Canadians to know that they can access their federal member of Parliament for assistance regarding any federal tax credit without being charged a percentage of the credit.

                                            In conclusion, I wish to thank all members for their support of Bill C-462.

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Cape Breton—Canso

The electoral district of Cape Breton--Canso (Nova Scotia) has a population of 71,968 with 57,753 registered voters and 187 polling divisions.

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