Does the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel have the unanimous consent of the House for this motion?
I would like to thank both the opposition House leader and the government House leader, and of course our hard-working pages to whom I extend my own words of thanks. I have got to know quite a few of them over the course of the year and they are, as both House leaders indicated, a very professional and dedicated group of young individuals who, I am sure, have bright futures ahead of them.
The hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel on a point of order.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member, because as the critic for international human rights for the official opposition, this particular agreement is very concerning to me.
Earlier today, the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, from the Liberal Party, was talking about this trade agreement and the importance of it. He made reference to the fact that if there were some kind of accounting mechanism, a report done annually on how this agreement improved human rights, he might find that acceptable. We have an agreement with Colombia right now. We have such a reporting mechanism, and it is a complete fallacy that it is an appropriate method, because what is coming out of there does not even begin to address it. We are into our third report now on that particular deal.
I would ask what the member's response would be, when it seems that the Liberal Party is very quickly moving into alignment with the Conservative Party on these particular trade agreements.
With regard to the constituency of Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, in fiscal year 2011-2012, listing each department or agency, initiative and amount, what is the total amount of government funding allocated within the constituency?
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, we witnessed several miracles on ice at the Canal Classic. Some miracles were expected; some were not.
As expected, the members for Barrie and Wetaskiwin demonstrated their dazzling speed.
As expected, the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel missed an open breakaway that any four-year-old could have scored on.
One media member who claims to be both tough and fair was neither tough nor fair nor present, spending the entire game on the fringes, presumably worried about his makeup.
An unexpected miracle occurred when former Liberal senator Jim Munson tied the game in the last few seconds. He appears to relish his new-found freedom to be out of a position at the perfect time.
With the game tied and at the end of regulation play, the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel redeemed himself and miraculously won the game in a shootout. Equally miraculously, the NDP, the Conservatives, and the Liberals co-operated to beat back the media hordes. Even the former minister of defence and his former critic of a similar name were civil to each other.
However, the most satisfying miracle was to raise funds for JumpStart. We thank Canadian Tire for making all of these miracles, both big and small, possible.
What is the total amount of government funding, allocated within the constituency of Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel in the fiscal year 2009-2010, listing each department or agency, initiative and amount?
Mr. Speaker, as we heard from across the aisle, I will take the little kick in the pants from the official opposition. I know its members support this bill. I accept that. I thank them and all of the members across the way. I especially thank the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, who I know is an avid fisherman, hunter, and trapper, and who cares very much about the environment and making sure that those activities continue to be part of our Canadian heritage.
On September 22, 2009, there was a press release that came out of the White House in the United States of America. I will not read it all, because many of the members here spoke of what the President of the United States said.
Toward the end, he stated:
Now, therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 26, 2009, as National Hunting and Fishing Day. I call upon the people of the United States to recognize this day with appropriate programs and activities.
This is one small part of the reason I brought this bill forward. It is to match the laws of this country to those of the United States for the Americans who come up to every one of our ridings in this place that have fishing and hunting camps or cottages. They invest, and they enjoy our natural bounty of fish and game and contribute greatly to the economy of our country.
I thank the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River for his wholehearted support for this bill. I thank the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, who said how important hunting and fishing were to her and her family and pointed out the fact that women are now an important part of the hunting, fishing, and trapping heritage of this country.
I also thank the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for his heartfelt support of this bill and his reasons and passion for that.
Finally, I give thanks to my friend from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel for his party's support for the bill.
As the member who previously spoke said, hunting and fishing are sort of a rite of adulthood. I will use the term, and I know some people might object, but it is a rite of manhood in my family when one's son or daughter catches his or her first fish or harvests his or her first moose or deer. It is part of our DNA. It means so much to a father and son, and to a grandfather, to see his children and grandchildren do this.
It was mentioned before by the member from Manitoba that it was part of the founding of his province. This hunting, fishing, and trapping heritage is part of what Canada is. Our country was founded because the Europeans really loved beaver for making warm clothing. That started the whole trade. However, I will not repeat what the member said.
This bill is really a motherhood bill. It recognizes the importance of this. We have many other days we recognize.
Members heard in prior speeches about the billions of dollars spent annually by people who fish and hunt recreationally. Members heard about those who trap and seal, and the importance of sealing to our northern communities, whose sealing tradition has been their very subsistence for years. We, as a country, support this. Because this bill means something, there is all-party support. It does not cost anything. It sends a signal to all Canadians, especially new Canadians who are coming into a country that has such abundance. We need to protect that.
The previous speaker said that it is the hunters and fishers who are the true conservationists. There are still ducks, moose, and deer all over. The member from Newfoundland mentioned how many moose there are. These are things to be treasured. They are to be harvested because the good Lord expects us to be good stewards. To be good stewards means that we can enjoy nature's bounty, but we are good stewards of it. That is what this bill is about.
I encourage all members of Parliament to put aside our partisanship, put aside our rancour, think about the people in our ridings who enjoy these activities, and please vote for this bill.
Mr. Speaker, like the previous speaker, I want to sincerely thank the NDP member for Laval—Les Îles. I was the critic for seniors and pensions following the 2008 election. Jack Layton asked me to take on this file. I travelled over the next two and a half years to 57 town hall meetings across the country. I listened to seniors and heard stories about how difficult it was for them to get along in society. They had contributed to this society, but in many ways, they were excluded from the benefits of society.
Before I go further, a previous speaker for the Liberals, the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, talked about what the Liberals had done for seniors. I want to add a little more. Yes, the Liberals brought in OAS and CPP, but OAS was proposed to them by J.S. Woodsworth of the CCF, following the fact that on the Prairies, in those days, many farmers and their families were actually starving.
Again, in the 60s, in a minority situation in Parliament, Stanley Knowles, who was like the dean of this place, par excellence, brought forward the concept of the Canada pension plan. In both instances, we worked together to bring these forward.
I just thought it would be worth putting that on the record for people to hear to remind them of the participation and leadership shown by the CCF and the NDP in the House when it comes to seniors.
The member for Laval—Les Îles, who brought the bill forward, is actually moving forward on things we had in our 2011 platform.
I want to speak to a statement made in the House by a Conservative speaker about how they increased the guaranteed income supplement. Yes, they did do that, and we will give them some credit for that. However, in our proposals in the 2011 election, we proposed an increase of $200 a month for seniors on OAS and GIS who had a combined income of approximately $1,400 a month, just to bring some 300,000 of those folks to the poverty line.
I have spoken many times in this place of the hardships people face when they are on such a meagre income. Yes, the Conservatives brought in their $50 a month, but it is nowhere near what is needed to address the situation.
It has been stated by others in this place that it would benefit members to take the bill to committee to examine the pros and cons. If there are improvements we can make to the bill, that is the appropriate place to do that. However, we should think for a moment about the intent of the legislation.
The people I have spoken to and have listened to are in their senior years. I know that when members of their families pass away, and they are suddenly hit with $8,000 or $10,000 in costs, and for a number of reasons they have not set aside any money earmarked specifically for that but have perhaps put aside a little in an RRSP, to be able to take out $2,500 and put it toward that cost would take the edge off the stress during that time of loss.
It really needs to be stressed that it is not intended to do anything to replace the benefit from CPP, which some people are able to get.
There is another issue it is important to talk about. Some people who are on GIS have gotten part-time jobs and have earned a little money. The following year, after they have honestly filed their taxes and have brought that to the attention of the tax folks, their GIS has suddenly decreased. The provisions in the bill would ensure that this is not the case. In fact, their GIS would not go down, and they would not be penalized.
There is a reality, though. The bill says that the $2,500, when put to use, would have to have taxes paid on it. That is only fair to other Canadians.
Going back to the financial burden on seniors, oftentimes, when they have lost a lifelong mate, it is a burden. This is just a small way we can help these seniors deal with those times of trial.
Again, I spoke about the fact that in the 2011 election, my office and staff put together our platform on pensions and for seniors. I am very pleased to see the member for Laval—Les Îles bringing forward a concrete measure to this House in line with our thinking of that time.
I cannot say the same for the Conservatives. They are increasing the eligibility for OAS from 65 to 67, and adding another two years of burden on workers who perhaps works in a mine some place or as a waitress who has been on her feet all the time. I have had people actually say to me, “I do not know whether I can do it.”
I recall in my days at Bell Canada, there was a gentleman who worked to about 68 years of age. We were frightened every day, because he would go out and climb poles. He strapped spurs on his legs, and his legs were so spindly the spurs hardly even fit him properly. It was his choice to work that long. However, the government is saying, “You have reached 65 but you must work two more years” in either a hazardous job or one that is strain, like for the waitress. People just do not know how they are going to do this.
Some things are crucially important to seniors. We know how seniors tend to worry a bit more about some things in life, such as whether the kids in the neighbourhood are putting up too much graffiti. These things look larger to seniors. If the noise level of the party next door is too much, things like that bother them. We can imagine the feelings of loss of a family member, and then the additional sorting out of the finances. If this, in some small way, helps then I think it is well worthwhile.
Again, we are simply talking about sending this bill to committee to study. I look forward to our people from the NDP on that committee working with the government side. Perhaps there are ways to improve the legislation to make it better for seniors. We will be pleased to do that.
Some of the speakers on the government side today sounded somewhat reluctant. They have proposed some reasons why they have concerns about it. That is fair.
However, let us send it to committee so that it is studied properly. Experts can be brought in and we can look at this in a comprehensive fashion. Then, whatever comes back to the House will be as good a bill as we can possibly make it. I think it is a responsibility of all of us at committee. Sometimes we do not live up to that responsibility for a variety of reasons.
I want to stress that from those 57 town hall meetings that I attended, we brought notes back to my office and shared them with our colleagues. We set our agenda for the last election.
It also carries forward beyond that, because the problems that were there have not yet been addressed. For us, this is a continuation of ensuring that senior Canadians understand that they are a priority to the NDP. They should be a priority for this entire House.
There are some programs, like CPP or the Quebec pension plan, that have similar credits to this. Again, I want to stress this is not intended to compete with them in any way. It is intended for a very simple, direct purpose. It is to assist seniors in a time of need, both financially and emotionally.
I have brought up, a number of times in my remarks today, the importance of doing what we can to add peace to the life of seniors who have had a loss.
Yesterday afternoon, following question period, the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel rose in the House to request that I make available to all members correspondence I have received from the Chief Electoral Officer in relation to the election expenses of certain members. I explained to the member that the matter referred to is currently the subject of a question of privilege on which I will return to the House with a ruling. I also indicated to the member that, in any case, the letters he is seeking are available through Elections Canada and that he should contact that office to obtain copies.
Some time later, the hon. member for Malpeque rose in the House to restate the request made earlier by the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel and asked the Chair to reconsider. Commenting on the Chair and what he considers to be the Chair’s responsibilities, he argued:
A letter with that kind of content, referring to the ability of members to sit in this House of Commons...is...a letter to all of us. That letter should be tabled...by the Chair.
I wish to review for the House the role of the Chair with regard to the tabling of any document.
The Speaker, like ministers and parliamentary secretaries, generally tables documents in accordance with statutory requirements or the Standing Orders. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at pages 435 and 436, lists the kinds of documents the Speaker is normally called on to table.
Outside of the sorts of documents enumerated in O'Brien and Bosc, the Chair is not aware of any precedent or practice that would suggest that letters to the Speaker, even letters from an officer of Parliament, are, de facto, letters to the House, as has been suggested. The Chair does not know of any statutory or Standing Order authority that would lead to letters of this kind being tabled.
The Canada Elections Act is explicit in prescribing what reports and documents the Speaker must table and when they must be tabled. As an example, earlier this week, on June 5, pursuant to provisions of section 536 of the Canada Elections Act, I tabled a report of the Chief Electoral Officer regarding the qualifications and process of appointment of returning officers.
The Chair is mindful of its responsibilities to all members, that is, to the House as a whole and to each member as an individual parliamentarian. Similarly, every exchange with an agent of Parliament is one that I take seriously, and this is perhaps especially true of the Chief Electoral Officer, who oversees the very processes by which Canadians elect us. It seems to me all the more important that our respective roles and responsibilities be understood and respected when we are dealing with difficult issues, issues on which there is heated debate.
In the case before us, I believe that the responsibility for putting into the public domain the correspondence initiated by the Chief Electoral Officer rests with the Chief Electoral Officer. This he has done and continues to do on an ongoing basis by making available for consultation in his office a wide range of documents that it is Elections Canada's practice to make public. I trust this clarifies the Chair's approach to the situation for all hon. members.
Finally, let me say that I will return to the House as soon as I can with a ruling on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Avalon and, until I do so, I urge members to be judicious in their interventions and to avoid making erroneous assumptions.
I thank the House for its attention.
Order. The hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel now has the floor.
Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order.
The Speaker, in the chair that he or she occupies in this place, is a position that has to be beyond reproach. I have been a member of Parliament for nearly 20 years in this place, and by your ruling, my confidence in the Speaker has been thrown into jeopardy. Let me explain.
My concern is based on the Speaker's response to a point of order raised by the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel immediately following question period about a letter from Elections Canada that referred to the member for Selkirk—Interlake and the member for Saint Boniface. The member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel asked that the Speaker table that letter.
In my view, a letter to the Speaker with that kind of content is a letter to us in the House of Commons. The response from the Chair was that the letter is on the Elections Canada website. We have now looked. That letter is not there. The letter is on CBC's website.
However, this concern goes far beyond whether the letter is available or not. A letter with that kind of content, referring to the ability of members to sit in this House of Commons and suggesting that two members should be suspended, is, I believe, a letter to all of us. That letter should be tabled, in my view, by the Chair.
I am certainly willing to accept that in the heat of the moment, your office thought that it might be available through Elections Canada. Maybe you did not have time to consult with the desk and respond accordingly.
However, Mr. Speaker, in all seriousness, this is a serious matter for our chamber and our confidence in the Speaker and how the Speaker operates.
I respect the position. I respect the individual. I think an error has been made here in terms of the kind of response to that question.
I am asking the Speaker to reconsider—maybe not right in this moment, but I am asking the Speaker to reconsider.
I am not sure that question is really pertinent to the question that is before the House.
I do see that the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel is on his feet. Does the hon. member wish to answer?
The hon. member.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this legislation, which, I would suggest, would be very costly and is very poorly thought out.
It is really a novelty proposal from the Liberal Party for a new taxpayer-funded travel subsidy. There are numerous flaws with this Liberal proposal, but unfortunately the 10 minutes allotted for my speech are not nearly enough to explain them all. However, before I address them in detail, let me briefly explain what this Liberal proposal would actually do.
This costly bill would give a very generous tax deduction of up to $2,000 for certain types of travel across at least three provinces by bus, train or airplane or, for short, the Planes, Trains and Automobiles subsidy. Unlike the 1987 comedy by the same name, with the great Canadian actor John Candy, there is nothing funny about this Liberal proposal, especially for the Canadian taxpayers who would be asked to fork over hundreds of millions of their hard-earned dollars to pay for it. Indeed, for Canadians watching at home, today's Liberal proposal is a perfect example of what our Conservative government means when we say that the opposition is fiscally incompetent.
In an era when governments are trying to get back to balanced budgets, I ask Canadians why a party with any sense of fiscal responsibility would suggest that a new novelty subsidy with a price tag of over $200 million each year be a sound idea. More importantly, why do the Liberals think it is the responsibility of government, which is taxpayers, to subsidize personal travel? That kind of big government thinking is a relic of the 1960s and 1970s. Respected National Post columnist Kelly McParland provided commentary on this Liberal proposal in a recent article. She wrote, in part, “...the shrunken little Liberal caucus is pumping out silly ways to spend even more borrowed money trying to manipulate Canadian behaviour, just like the old days”.
What's worse, this bill would not even accomplish what it sets out to do, and that is according to the Canadian tourism industry itself. The head of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada said directly, “...we don’t think this is a particularly useful mechanism because Canada’s challenge is not a lack of domestic travel”.
In the remainder of my time here today, I will address the flaws of this proposal in greater detail. These flaws include its unfairness to Canadians across the country, its sizable cost to taxpayers, and its inability to actually increase domestic travel.
After that, I will present our Conservative government's constructive, effective and more fiscally responsible approach to promoting Canadian tourism.
First, let us examine the issue of fairness—or unfairness, in fact—as it relates to this proposal. For instance, let us consider the modes of travel that are available: buses, planes and trains. What about boats? What about cars? What about motorhomes? Why would some be excluded? Why would some be included? It seems to be completely arbitrary.
What about the fact that eligibility would be tied to travel crossing three provincial boundaries? This would mean that some Canadians would benefit more than others, given the shorter distances between provinces in certain areas of the country.
Second, let us remember that this costly subsidy would not even accomplish what it sets out to do. As I noted before, the Canadian tourism industry itself has already dismissed today's Liberal proposal. It has done so for the good reason that it is clear this proposal would do very little to actually encourage interprovincial travel within Canada.
For that matter, even a basic analysis quickly reveals that it would carry a significant cost. Specifically, according to the Department of Finance and based on existing travel patterns and expenditures, preliminary estimates suggest that this proposal would cost at least $215 million each year.
I should note that is a conservative estimate based solely on existing travel patterns. If Canadians were actually motivated to change their travel plans to qualify for this costly subsidy, as is the stated intent of the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, this proposal would cost taxpayers even more.
I know the Liberal Party might not think that $200 million a year is a lot, but Canadian taxpayers know it is a lot of money.
We can think of it another way: over the first five years alone, it would cost, at the very least, $1 billion—not $1 million, but $1 billion. When politicians propose $1 billion in new spending over five years, Canadian taxpayers expect and demand that they also explain how they are going to pay for it. Canadian families working on their household budget around the dinner table know that if they add new spending, they had better know how they are going to pay for it. Even though the Liberals have come here today with a plan for new spending, have they told us how they are going to pay for it? Would they cut government services? Would they cut government programs? Would they cut health care transfers, as they did in the 1990s when they were in government? Would they just hike taxes, such as income taxes or the GST? Maybe they would simply add to the government debt.
We do not know what they would do, because the Liberal Party and the member did not think about those questions. That is the very definition of fiscal irresponsibility.
It is little wonder that many Canadians have given a thumbs-down to this proposal already. Indeed, here is what some everyday Canadians said when asked by Global News about this proposal. One man said, “It reduces tax revenue to the government, which means government has less money to do other things that I might value more.” Another added, “We are in financially tight times right now, and letting our country go further into debt for that sole reason seems like a bad idea to me.”
It is comforting to know that these everyday Canadians have more wisdom and more fiscal responsibility than the Liberal Party. It is no wonder more and more Canadians are turning their backs on the Liberals. By rejecting this costly Liberal plan, our Conservative government is standing by the existing support that we provide to Canada's tourism industry.
This government recognizes the importance of the tourism industry to this country. It contributes about $80 billion to our economy. It creates jobs for 600,000 Canadians and is an industry that touches all regions of the country. It is important to all regions and to all our constituencies.
That is why, in October 2011, we brought forward our federal tourism strategy. It is a whole of government approach. It reaches across 20 different departments or agencies and touches on 31 different recommendations across those 20 different agencies and departments.
It is centred on four key areas. The priorities are, first, increasing awareness of Canada as a premier tourist destination; second, facilitating ease of access and movement for travellers while protecting the safety and integrity of Canada's borders; third, encouraging product development and investments in Canadian tourism assets and products; and fourth, fostering an adequate supply of skills and labour to enhance visitor experiences through quality of service and hospitality.
One of the biggest things it does is pull together all those departments for the first time. It does so by bringing together a steering committee. The steering committee takes the plans and priorities we have for tourism, pulls them all together and gets all the departments and agencies thinking about the importance of tourism and the effect they have on tourism. For the first time, we are including the tourism industry in those consultations and meetings and making sure their voices are heard at the government table.
We are making a difference. If I had more time, I would like to share all the great things we are doing for tourism. Unfortunately, time runs short in the House, so suffice it to say that we are very excited about the future prospects of the tourism industry.
As a government we are committed to fiscal responsibility, and for this reason we will be voting against this proposal. That is also why we are supporting effective programs to boost tourism rather than the costly novelty of the Liberal proposal for a taxpayer-funded travel subsidy.
I would point out it does not matter whether I agree or not. Again I would remind all members to direct their comments to the chair not to individual members.
The hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with my colleague, the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.
I would like to begin where I left off on my question to the previous speaker. The thesis of my remarks is that the proposition put forward by the government is fundamentally flawed and illogical. Let me begin by stating what its proposition is, and then I want to explain why I claim it to be flawed and illogical.
The government claims that the purpose of the temporary foreign worker program is to provide only temporary work and only where there is an extreme labour shortage. Then the government talks as if it is suddenly surprised, whoops, that there is a problem out there. We have 340,000 temporary foreign workers, and in 2006 we only had 140,000. Then the government announced reforms, as of this budget.
That makes no sense, because this surge in temporary foreign workers was in fact a deliberate creation of the government since it came into power in 2006. Since that time we have gone from 140,000 to 340,000, over an unfortunate period of seven long years of Conservative government. Over that time, it has deliberately caused that number to grow exponentially.
It is not as if the government was not warned earlier. It was taken to task by the Auditor General in 2009. What did it do? The government expressed concern and said it would review, and it said it a number of times. However, nothing has changed.
My point is that this is not a problem that the Conservatives have just discovered. This is a problem it has deliberately created since it came to office.
I repeat, this is not a new problem. This is a problem that the Conservative government has deliberately created since it came to office.
I note that even though the numbers have gone from 140,000 to 338,000, that might be explainable if we had a sudden drop in unemployment and an increase in labour shortages. However, the unemployment rate today is in fact higher than it was in 2006, and the overall vacancy rate in the economy, according to Bank of Canada figures, is approximately the same as it has been on average over the past 20 years.
The next question is this. If the Conservatives deliberately created this crisis over the last seven years, why and how? To answer that question I think we need a little historical perspective.
The temporary foreign worker program was brought in many years ago by a Liberal government and, in my opinion, if properly managed, it is a very good and very valuable program. However, the way it was managed under Liberal governments was that we had to achieve a balance between the interests of employers, the interests of Canadian workers and the interests of foreign workers. As long as that balance is maintained across these three groups, it is a very successful program. In terms of Canadian workers, those workers had to have first call for available jobs. The current government, self-evidently, has failed to achieve this.
In terms of the temporary foreign workers, they had to be treated fairly and be subject to the same laws as other Canadian workers. The government has violated that, because now, under certain circumstances, temporary foreign workers can be paid 15% less than the going wage. Third, the interests of employers have to be looked after, because in certain circumstances and in certain sectors, like agriculture for example, there are clearly labour shortages, there are clearly some jobs that cannot be filled by Canadians and there is a clear need for temporary foreign workers. As long as the system is managed in a balanced way, respecting the interests of all of those three groups, then it is a good program.
The problem with the Conservatives, and the reason the program has become a big mess since they came to power in 2006, is that they no longer had a balanced approach. They gave all the weight to the employers and none of the weight to the Canadian and foreign workers. The Conservatives just listened to employers, turned a blind eye and turned their back on stuff so that employers could get whatever they wanted.
I do not blame the employers. Employers are out there to make money, and if the government turns a blind eye and lets them covertly do what they are not really supposed to do, a lot of employers will do it. The problem is the administration of the system by the government. I do not blame employers for taking advantage of deliberate government laxness; I blame the government for creating that laxness in the first place, for deliberately building up these numbers to unprecedented levels and for totally disrespecting the rights of Canadian and foreign workers.
There are a couple of other issues I would like to mention. First, in terms of the unwarranted influx of these foreign workers, I have a high-tech riding and I have received letters from a number of my constituents who work in the tech sector. One of my constituents wrote:
These Indian/Multinational companies are proving to Immigration that skills are not available but this is not true. All the skills are available in abundance locally and it is only the work of the Immigration lawyers who cook the application to make it look like the skills are not available.
The government allows these immigration lawyers to get these phony stories in and immediately allows these foreign workers in to displace people like my Canadian constituent in Markham.
There is also the question of immigration through landed immigrants, who ultimately become citizens and raise their family in this country, versus temporary immigration through temporary foreign workers or what are sometimes called “guest workers” in certain European countries. We in the Liberal Party have a preference for the first category of immigration. We think the way to build our country is to bring people in from foreign lands, let them settle here, let them become citizens and let them raise their family. We acknowledge that temporary foreign workers have an important role, but the fact that these temporary foreign workers have gone up to 340,000, which is more than the annual intake of regular immigrants, is not good for the structure of immigration for this country. As I said earlier, that is a deliberate plan by the Conservatives to create this situation.
Lastly, it is not good for the poorest countries in the world. Consider a poor country like Bangladesh, which imports products from countries like China and India. Given that China and India will now have to pay higher tariffs, the products that Bangladesh exports to Canada will now cost more.
In other words, what the current government is doing is not only penalizing China and India, but it is also penalizing the very poorest countries of the world.
So for all of these reasons, in conclusion I will say that the Conservative government's explanation is totally illogical, that this is not a problem the Conservatives have just discovered but a problem they have deliberately created over their period in office, and they have deliberately created it because they have given zero weight to Canadian and foreign workers and all the weight to the companies.
Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill C-463, the discover your Canada act. I want to thank my colleague from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel for introducing this legislation and for giving the House an opportunity to discuss the importance of our tourism sector and to address Canada's travel deficit.
The goal of the bill is to make it easier for Canadians to travel within their own country. It would amend the Income Tax Act and create a tax credit of up to $2,000 for Canadian taxpayers who cross at least three provincial or territorial borders on personal travel. This credit would help reduce the cost of holiday transportation by covering eligible travel expenses. Taxpayers would be able to claim the amount not only for their own expenses but also for their children. This would provide much needed support for Canada's tourism sector.
According to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, this sector represents more of Canada's GDP than the agriculture, forestry and fisheries combined. It generates $78.8 billion of economic activity annually. It is responsible for more than $15.9 billion of export revenue despite this growing travel deficit. It generates $10 billion in federal government revenue and fosters over 600,000 jobs across the country.
Tourism plays an important role in the economy in my riding in Nova Scotia. People come to Kings—Hants from all over the country and all over the world to marvel at the world's highest tides, to come to the beautiful Annapolis Valley, to come to Windsor, the birthplace of hockey, and also to enjoy our growing food and wine industries.
Many of us in the House represent Canadians who make a living in the tourism sector. We know how vital this sector is to the Canadian economy. We also know how worried participants in this sector are about the future of this industry and the growing travel deficit.
There is a gap between how much money Canadian tourists are spending abroad and how much money international tourists are spending here in Canada. This gap is growing, and the government used budget 2012 not to address it but to slash support for tourism in Canada. By cutting the Canadian Tourism Commission's budget by $14.2 million each and every year, the government is cutting the commission's ability to promote Canada abroad and to attract international tourists to Canada.
David Goldstein, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada said:
The travel deficit has widened dramatically since 2002.... We used to be the seventh in the world in 2007 when it came to international arrivals. We are now the 18th. We used to have 20 million international visitors in 2002 and now have 16 million....
The fact that we are now contributing almost a third to Canada’s trade deficit is somewhat shocking....
Last December Mr. Goldstein told The Globe and Mail the Conservative cuts are hurting the sector.
While other countries are making tourism a priority and investing in marketing to attract international visitors, Canada lags behind. Australia, for instance, outspends Canada by three to one in terms of tourism marketing dollars, yet according to the Canadian Tourism Commission every dollar invested in direct advertising is actually earned back 37 times over.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has also asked the government to make tourism a priority. In a recent report on tackling the top 10 barriers to competitiveness, the chamber identified uncompetitive travel and tourism strategies as one of the most serious barriers to success in the Canadian economy. That report cited that tourism is a major industry in every reach of the country, but it is struggling.
Instead of damaging the sector's ability to market itself abroad, the government should recognize the risks associated with Canada's travel deficit and reverse these cuts to our tourism sector. We need a real tourism strategy and this legislation could be part of that. Bill C-463 gives the House the opportunity to help reduce our travel deficit by encouraging more Canadians to discover their country and spend their tourism dollars here at home. Canadians are onside. According to Harris/Decima, a public survey conducted last fall showed 70% of Canadians support the idea of a tax credit for travel within Canada.
It is not just about dollars and cents and business. It is about national unity and the reality that encouraging more Canadians to travel within our country and to understand regions within our country is important.
I have heard some of my colleagues from both the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party speak to the bill. I can accept that perhaps they can identify a design flaw or a problem that could be addressed at committee. However, the reality is that the intention of the bill is sound. The direction of the bill makes sense. Canadians want to find more ways to support their ability to travel within Canada.
I would urge members from all parties to support the legislation and to send it to committee. If there are technical design flaws that could be addressed at committee, that is fine. We are open to that. My colleague is open to that. However, we need to send it to committee in order to have a broader discussion on how we can strengthen tourism in Canada and, more fundamentally, how we can unite the country by giving more Canadian families the opportunity and the incentive to travel within Canada.
I heard my Conservative colleagues say earlier tonight that it would complicate the tax system by providing an incentive for somebody to do something. My goodness gracious, the Conservatives have grown the tax code by one-sixth since coming to power, with tax incentives for almost everything. The reality is that they have done that because people like a tax incentive to pursue one behaviour or another. The reality is that travel within our own country is a meritorious and positive economic activity, but it is also good for national unity.
Why would we not support any initiative that would enable Canadian families to spend more time within their country and spend more of their money in other regions of the country? What a boon to national unity.
I was born in 1967. A few months before I was born, my parents were at Expo 67. Now I cannot say that their trip to Montreal that summer was totally responsible for what happened, but how many Canadians, in 1967, went to Montreal as part of Expo 67? At what point in our nation's history were we as united as a country as we were when families from across the country went to Montreal in 1967?
I am not saying that this private member's bill would achieve the same level of national unity that Expo 67 did, but it is a start. It is a beginning. It is a recommencement of that spirit of voyageur that unites Canadians so that we will travel to other parts of our country and we will experience other cultures. God knows how many more parliamentarians would be born as a result of that.
I want to tell members that I am proud to be voting for and supporting Bill C-463 because I want it to be sent to committee. I want it to be studied. I want all parties to be able to contribute to shaping a national tourism strategy, the genesis of which might just be part of this legislation.
I think if there is a concern about eligibility, if there is a concern about progressivity and about how we could ensure that low-income people would benefit from this, let us address it. Perhaps if we would ensure it is fully refundable, that would address the concerns, for instance, for low-income Canadians. Certainly the tax credits offered by the government for disability tax credits, caregiver tax credits, firefighter tax credits, all these different tax credits, have been non-refundable. I do not support that. I believe full refundability makes sense in order for this to be progressive.
Whatever the issues that exist, they could be addressed at committee. However, it is important that we support this piece of legislation, that we send it to committee so we can have a fulsome debate on how to move Canada's tourism industry forward and also how we could unite this country around the majesty and the beauty of her geography.
The electoral district of Saint-Léonard--Saint-Michel (Quebec) has a population of 104,786 with 71,692 registered voters and 198 polling divisions.
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