Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for sharing his time with me and for his presentation this afternoon.
On Monday, September 22, 2014, thanks to the leadership of the Prime Minister, Canadians witnessed the signature of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement, Canada's first bilateral FTA in the fast-growing and dynamic Asia-Pacific region. This is more proof that our Conservative government is committed to protecting and strengthening the long-term financial security of hard-working Canadians.
South Korea is a key gateway to the wider Asia-Pacific region, offering strategic access to regional and global value chains. South Korea is the fourth largest economy in Asia, boasting a robust $1.3 trillion economy. It has a population of 50 million, with per capita GDP of more than $25,000, one of the highest in Asia, making it one of Asia's most lucrative, dynamic and advanced markets. It is home to many large multinational conglomerates, including now household names such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG. This landmark agreement is a pivotal step toward growing and deepening Canada's ties with this vibrant economy and the region as a whole.
South Korea is a priority market in the global markets action plan, or GMAP, Canada's blueprint for creating jobs and opportunities at home and abroad through trade and investment, the twin engines of economic growth. Under the GMAP, our government will concentrate its efforts on markets that hold the greatest promise for Canadian businesses, which include South Korea, and stands ready to harness Canada's diplomatic assets to support the pursuit of commercial success by Canadian companies abroad, particularly small and medium-sized Canadian enterprises.
To open new markets for Canadian businesses and create jobs and opportunities for hard-working Canadians, we have launched the most ambitious trade expansion plan in Canadian history. In less than seven years, Canada has concluded free trade agreements with 38 countries and is negotiating with many more.
Canada's prosperity requires expansion beyond our borders into new markets for economic opportunities that serve to grow Canada's exports and investment. This includes the comprehensive economic and trade agreement, or CETA, with the European Union, which will be the most ambitious trade partnership that Canada has ever negotiated.
Canada is also actively pursuing a trade agreement with 11 other Asia-Pacific countries through the trans-Pacific partnership, or TPP, negotiations. These agreements would open new markets and create new business opportunities to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
South Korea has its own very active program of pursuing bilateral and regional trade and investment agreements. Aside from its agreement with Canada, it has signed FTAs with the United States and the European Union, in addition to eight other partners across the globe. It has also recently concluded an FTA with Australia. In light of South Korea's own ambitious trade agenda, there is an urgent need to implement the CKFTA as soon as possible to level the playing field for Canadian businesses and ensure they are able to compete in the South Korean market.
Canada and South Korea have a strong and robust bilateral trade and investment relationship. Two-way merchandise trade between the countries reached almost $11 billion in 2013, making South Korea Canada's seventh largest overall trading partner and third largest trading partner in Asia. South Korea's direct investments into Canada have climbed from $397 million in 2005 to $4.9 billion by the end of 2013, a more than twelvefold increase in less than a decade.
No government in Canada's history has been more committed to the creation of jobs and prosperity for Canadian businesses, workers and their families. During 13 long years in government, the Liberals completely neglected trade, completing only three small free trade agreements. The Liberals took Canada virtually out of the game of trade negotiations, putting Canadian workers and businesses at severe risk of falling behind in this era of global markets.
Similarly, the NDP only has the core interests of its radical activist-group allies in mind, not those of hard-working Canadians. That is why, despite all evidence that trade creates jobs, economic growth, and economic security for hard-working Canadian families, the NDP is and always will be ideologically opposed to free trade.
Our government recognizes that protectionist restrictions stifle our exporters and undermine Canada's competitiveness, which in turn adversely affect middle-class Canadian families.
The CKFTA is a comprehensive agreement that would eliminate tariffs and provide enhanced access and strong disciplines across all major areas of commerce. It would be a major boost to Canadian exporters looking for a foothold in the lucrative Asian market.
The agreement's most visible outcome is the ambitious obligation undertaken by Canada and South Korea to eliminate tariffs for all sectors, including textiles and apparel, chemicals and plastic, information and communication technology, aerospace, metals and minerals, as well as agriculture and agri-food, fish and seafood, and forestry and value-added wood products.
On the first day the agreement comes into force, over 88% of Canada's exports would be duty free, and over 99% would be duty free once the agreement is fully implemented. As average South Korean tariffs are three times higher than Canada's, 13.3% versus 4.3%, tariff elimination is absolutely critical for Canadian businesses exporting to the South Korean market.
For Canadian consumers, the elimination of tariffs under the agreement stands to reduce the cost of imported products and expand choices for them that are increasingly cost competitive.
This agreement would also strengthen the bilateral energy partnership, an area of significant potential for both our nations.
South Korea is already the world's second-largest importer of liquefied natural gas, LNG; fourth-largest importer of coal; and fifth-largest importer of crude oil. It is seeking to diversify its energy suppliers and improve its energy security.
Canada is a natural partner for South Korea. With some of the world's largest oil and gas reserves, Canada is poised to become a large, stable, and reliable supplier of energy to Asia. By removing tariffs on Canadian oil and natural gas, this agreement would make Canadian LNG and petroleum products more competitive in South Korea and help create jobs and opportunities at home here in Canada.
The CKFTA would also provide enhanced market access for Canadian service suppliers in areas such as professional services, environmental services, and business services, and temporary entry commitments that are the most ambitious South Korea has agreed to in any of its FTAs.
The investment provisions in the CKFTA would provide a more predictable and rules-based climate, including investor protections, which would encourage increased investment flows between Canada and South Korea and expand the prospects for joint ventures.
The CKFTA also includes a range of provisions governing government procurement, intellectual property, telecommunication services, and electronic commerce, as well as substantive environment and labour provisions in dedicated chapters. It contains strong provisions to reduce or eliminate non-tariff measures that hinder market access for exporters and investors, backed up by fast and effective dispute settlement provisions.
Going forward, the CKFTA represents a firm commitment by both sides to grow and expand this important strategic relationship.
Trade has long been a powerful engine for Canada's economy. It is even more so in what remain challenging times for the global economy. In these uncertain times, our prosperity depends on our ability to take advantage of economic opportunities in emerging markets.
The Canada-Korea free trade agreement would help Canada compete more effectively and thrive in the world economy.
When the House last left this question, the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound had eight and a half minutes remaining in the time, something I neglected to inform him of prior to statements by members.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
Mr. Speaker, as much as I enjoy the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and his eloquent French, I think there is a question of consistency here. We had discussion earlier in the week about every member being in the House to hear the entire question. If what you are saying, Mr. Speaker, is that a member only has to hear part of the question, that is quite a different interpretation than we have heard in the past.
The member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound was honest that he came in partway through the question, so the issue really is if—
The hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to talk about public finances in this place.
Before talking about the promising numbers and projects in the works for Canadians and residents of Orléans, I would like to congratulate our athletes who represented us so well in Sochi from February 7 to 23.
I would like to extend special congratulations to our athletes from Orleans, Vincent De Haître, Ivanie Blondin, and Cody Sorensen, for being great ambassadors of our region and our country.
I would also like to mention that I am sharing my time with the hon. member, the very dignified member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
With a total medal count of 25, of which 10 were gold, I am happy to say that the $153 million we have invested in our athletes in the past four economic action plans has yielded results.
The Government of Canada is the largest investor in sports development in the country. Since 2006, we have increased investment in sports development by more than 50%. The economic action plan 2014 plans to maintain this record level of funding for sports development and training for elite athletes.
This includes $23 million per year ongoing beginning in 2015-16 for the sport support program.
Special Olympics Canada will receive $10.8 million over four years, which is in addition to the $1 million in ongoing funding the organization will receive through the sport support program.
The government will allow income contributed to an amateur athlete trust to qualify as earned income for the purpose of determining that individual's annual RRSP contribution limit. This will provide amateur athletes with more flexibility to save for retirement on a tax-assisted basis and ease their eventual integration into the workforce by deferring tax on income from their athletic endeavours.
With these measures in place, Canada will continue bringing home medals from various world championships and Olympic games but, more importantly, children will have role models to encourage them to get out there and move, to participate in sports. This is the best way to fight childhood obesity.
To stimulate our economy, Canada needs to distinguish itself as an innovative country. Thanks to a working group established in 2006 with city councillors from Orleans and the Orléans Chamber of Commerce, we are in the process of rebranding Orleans in terms of economic development. While western Ottawa continues its excellent work developing world-class IT programs, Orleans and eastern Ottawa will become the national epicentre for cybersecurity and telecommunications security.
The new VENUS Cybersecurity Corporation chose to set up shop in Orléans. VENUS will serve as a business incubator for knowledge-sector jobs in east Ottawa. It will draw new companies to Orléans.
Venus receives support from this government through the National Research Council and the Communications Security Establishment Canada as well as the Government of Ontario, the City of Ottawa, and various partners in private and para-public sectors.
This is the kind of example the government should be following to stimulate Canada's economy.
With Venus, the upcoming move of the Communications Security Establishment Canada to Ottawa-Orléans, and the regional importance of the National Research Council, Orléans has everything it needs to excel.
We are pleased to propose investments in research and development.
The best Minister of Finance in the world has proposed an investment of $46 million in new annual funding to the granting councils to support cutting-edge research and scientific discovery.
The best minister of finance in the world—I am not the one saying this; it is internationally recognized—is also proposing to invest $222 million in the TRIUMF lab to support advanced research and to create leading-edge companies.
To ensure that the next generation of researchers is ready, we are proposing a record $1.5 billion investment over 10 years by creating the Canada first research excellence fund.
Members will agree with me that Canada is the most dynamic country in the world to do business in, and this statement is based on hard facts.
More than 1 million net new jobs have been created in Canada since the worst days of the economic crisis, in July 2009. Moreover, 85% of these jobs are full-time positions, and 80% of them are in the private sector.
Furthermore, the economy in the national capital is very strong, despite the unfortunate cuts to the public service in the past few years and the doomsayers' predictions.
Ottawa's unemployment rate in January 2014 was 6.3%, which is below the national average of 7%.
Independent and credible organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are predicting that Canada will have the strongest growth among the G7 countries in the years ahead.
This does not happen by magic, as the leader of the third party would have us believe. The tight spending controls put in place by the best Minister of Finance in the world and the government are behind this job creation.
The government is responsible for creating a favourable business climate.
Keeping our debt load under control is part of this climate. Economic action plan 2014 shows us that Canadians are almost done using their credit cards to make ends meet every month.
We are on track to balance our budget by 2015-16. Furthermore, Canada's net debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest of all G7 countries, sitting at 37.5%. That, as far as I am concerned, is still too high, but it is still 20% below the next ranked country, Germany.
To keep our momentum going, we need to focus on our infrastructure, another cornerstone of our economy. Our massive investment in infrastructure during the recession was one of the main reasons Canada was the first country to climb out of the recession.
State-of-the-art infrastructure is a symbol of a healthy economy. Our previous infrastructure plan allowed Ottawa to begin work on a light rail system, which will be operational by 2018. The federal government has invested $600 million in this major public transportation project through the building Canada fund and the Canada strategic infrastructure fund in addition to $161 million from the gas tax fund.
Thanks to the infrastructure improvement fund announced in January 2009 to help stimulate the Canadian economy, citizens in Ottawa–Orléans saw 11 projects in their neighbourhoods receive more than $11 million in funding.
It is with pleasure that I see that the minister of infrastructure is proposing $70 billion over 10 years as part of the ambitious building Canada plan.
I have pages more to deliver. I know that the most important thing of interest to Ottawa under this program will be a further extension of the light rail program and more funding for cleaning up the Ottawa River.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-462, and I want to thank my colleague, the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, who is a fellow member of the class of 2000. I know many in the House, my colleagues from Brant and Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, have remarked on a number of occasions that the class of 2000 was probably one of the strongest and most capable collection of members of Parliament to come to the House in generations. I thank them for that.
The member's bill is certainly well-intentioned. I want to congratulate her on it. The bill seeks to restrict the fees that consultants can charge disabled Canadians who need help with applying for the disability tax credit.
It seems that since 2005, a cottage industry of consultants has sprung up to help Canadians apply for the disability tax credit. Although many of these businesses are legitimate and provide a useful service, there are some that are charging outrageous fees to help guide people through the application process.
I agree with my colleague that it is important to protect persons with disabilities from being taken advantage of like this. Therefore, as with many of my colleagues from all parties, I will be supporting this bill, as I hope my Liberal caucus colleagues will as well.
However, I want to spend some time speaking about some of the shortcomings of the bill. It has some flaws that give me concern, and I believe they should be corrected. I would also like to talk about the reason the bill is needed in the first place and how additional steps are needed to fix the problems. Finally, I would like to talk about a note of caution. The disability tax credit is essential to many support programs for people with disabilities, so we need to ensure these changes would not make it more difficult to get help when they need to apply for this credit.
My first area of concern is that the bill may be too vague. The bill does not make it clear who exactly would be affected by the new regulations on charging fees. Right now, there may be a risk that legitimate accountants, tax filers, or doctors could accidentally be hurt by the bill.
In the submission of the Canadian Medical Association, for example, it noted that:
as currently written, Bill C-462 proposes to apply the same requirements to physicians as to third-party companies if physicians apply a fee for form completion, a typical practice for uninsured physician services.
As the CMA points out, there are already guidelines for these types of physician fees in provincial and territorial medical regulations.
The member says her proposal is targeted at third-party promoters other than normal tax preparers and accountants. In order to ensure the legislation would only affect the right people, it needs to be made more clear.
On a similar note, although the bill seeks to put a cap on how much consultants can charge to help file for the credit, the bill does not make it clear how high that cap would be. The finance committee has heard that the CRA would be in charge of setting the level for the fee cap, but CRA staff were unable to give the committee any idea of how high or low that level might be.
I understand the member wished to avoid including specifics so that the CRA could consult with stakeholders before setting an appropriate cap. While I understand and appreciate her concern on this point, it is nonetheless difficult for tax filing professionals to plan ahead if they do not know whether, or by how much, their fees would have to change. In order to ensure that legitimate businesses are not hurt by the bill, the text must be more clear about unfair fee levels.
My second concern is that the bill would not tackle the root of the problem and may reduce the ability of persons with disabilities to access programs designed to support them.
Although I believe the member has proposed this bill with the very best of intentions, we must be sure that it would not have the unwanted effect of reducing the amount of disability tax credits that Canadians claim. As we know, the cost of this tax credit to the treasury has grown quite a lot in the past few years. Some consultants may be abusing the system, but we must keep in mind that others are clearly successful at ensuring that Canadians with disabilities get access to the money they need and deserve. It makes sense to restrict the fees consultants can charge to help with the tax credit; no one should be taking advantage of people who live with disabilities. However, we must ensure that by restricting these fees we do not also restrict disabled Canadians' access to this tax credit.
The fact that these consultants exist in the first place suggests that it is hard to file for this tax credit. The Canadian Medical Association noted in its submission that it was:
...concerned that one of the reasons individuals may be engaging the services of third-party companies is a lack of awareness of the purpose and benefits of the Disability Tax Credit. Additional efforts are required to ensure that the Disability Tax Credit form be more informative and user-friendly for patients.
Therefore, I want to call on the member to address this issue. The process to apply for this tax credit should be made simpler and the cuts to CRA staff should be reversed so that people struggling with the application process can get the help they need without having to pay through the nose for it.
This brings me to my third point. It is important to make the disability tax credit easy to access because applicants have to be eligible for the tax credit in order to qualify for a number of other support programs. Representatives of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities said in their submissions:
The Disability Tax Credit was initially designed as a tax fairness measure recognizing that people with disabilities have additional disability-related expenses. Disability Tax Credit eligibility is now the determinant for accessing other benefits and programs....
Some of these other programs include the registered disabilities savings plan, the disability tax credit benefit, the working income tax benefit for persons with disabilities, and the disability accommodation benefit. As we know, it also spills into a number of provincial programs; certainly it does in Nova Scotia.
Because of a number of benefits and the fact that individuals can back-file for up to 10 years, there is a huge amount of money available to people who qualify for this credit. The disability tax credit really is a gatekeeper for disability benefits, and qualifying for the credit can mean tens of thousands of dollars in relief for a disabled person. We need to ensure that whatever changes we make do not prevent people who need help from filing for the tax credit and getting that help. We do not want to set out to help persons with disabilities only to end up hurting them in the end.
The bill seeks to prevent some consultants from taking advantage of persons with disabilities, but there is a risk that this legislation, if not applied properly, could also prevent legitimate consultants from doing their job. That would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
In conclusion, it is important to me that we make sure that disabilities do not get in the way of people living a full and happy life. Disabilities impose extra costs on those involved. Because of this, Canada has a number of programs designed specifically around the disability tax credit. However, it is not helpful to set up a program to help people that makes it so difficult that people cannot access it or that requires them to pay ridiculous fees to consultants to help them through the application.
The bill has good intentions. It may not be perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. I recommend that some parts of the bill be updated so that it would be sure to target problem areas and not negatively affect people. I also recommend that the government look more generally at simplifying the application process for the tax credit. Those are my comments.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great enthusiasm that I rise today to speak to Bill C-4, which would build upon our budget introduced last March.
What ought to be the motivation of the government when we construct a budget? What ought the government consider?
Consider this. Canada is a land that stretches 5,187 kilometres, from Cape Spear, Newfoundland, to Mount Saint Elias in the Yukon Territory, and 4,627 kilometres, from Cape Columbia on Ellesmere Island, to Pelee Island in Lake Erie. It encompasses 9,984,670 square kilometres. This land is blessed with enormous wealth in natural resources: lakes, trees, minerals and rivers. However, these attributes are worthless without the human investment to turn them into value.
Canada is blessed with those resources and we have human talent that has come to this country from every corner of the globe. It is a little strange to find corners on a globe, I must say. From Germany to Japan, from Ireland to Iran, from China to Chile, and from England to Ecuador, the people of Canada and the people who have come to Canada are the ones the government must consider when we prepare a budget, a budget that would help people in Nunavut and New Westminster, in Halifax and Hamilton, in Moncton and Montreal, and yes, in Newmarket—Aurora as well.
How would we help? We would help by ensuring that these great individuals who make up the best of this land have opportunities. That is what Bill C-4 is about, creating opportunities. Canadians know how to work and they work hard. They work to provide for their families. They want jobs, they want growth, and they want prosperity for Canada. That is what the budget implementation bill is about.
Since 2006, our government has been putting in place the foundation for that prosperity. We began by paying $40 billion off the debt, and I was glad to hear my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound talk about that a bit earlier. When the financial pillars of the global economy were shaken in 2008, and other economies teetered precariously, Canada was resilient. In those dark days, our government acted with determination and decision. We ensured, through shovel-ready projects, that Canadians stayed working through investments in our community infrastructure.
Newmarket and Aurora both saw benefits in the rehabilitation of community centres, the beautiful Riverwalk Commons in downtown Newmarket, sports facilities, and heritage structures. Now, as we look to a brighter future, the foundation in place, it is time to build upon what we have already put in place. The global economy is still fragile. Many countries still have economies that are on life support, but not Canada. Our government has taken the steps to grow our economy. How?
First, give people back their own money and they will spend some of it. Canadians, being prudent, will also save some of it for a rainy day. We gave them back their money. We cut the GST. We raised the personal tax deduction. We implemented tax credits for kids' sports and arts, for transit, and for apprenticeships. We also created the tax-free savings account, and we gave seniors pension income splitting.
Shall I go on? The list is enormous, but wait, we have other measures to grow the economy.
We named this budget a plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. We know that the job creators are those businesses such as the ones that belong to the Newmarket and Aurora chambers of commerce: manufacturers such as Axiom and Canada Plastic, restaurants like Al Casale's and Cachet, and the UPS Store that Faizy owns in the 404 Plaza at Leslie Street and the 404. These are the businesses that are the job creators.
As Jerry Moran said about the American economy, “...innovation and entrepreneurship is the opportunity and best opportunity we have to grow the economy”.
We need to free these job creators to do what they do best, because Faizy has a dream. He came from Iran for opportunities, and better opportunities for his kids. Faizy works, and he works hard. What did he do? After he bought the UPS franchise, he created two new jobs. We are helping Faizy keep those employees by reducing EI payroll taxes. Faizy has also invested in training for these folks. That costs him money. He wants to keep these employees working. He has also invested in equipment: printers, photocopiers. These are high capital costs for a small business, but we are helping Faizy with that as well by addressing capital cost writeoffs. We helped Faizy return to profitability more quickly.
Is that all we have done? Not for a minute. Our government continues to provide the best economic policies for Canadians to promote jobs, growth and economic prosperity. How is our government doing that? Bill C-4 will implement other tax measures that will be helpful for many other Canadian small businesses and their owners.
For instance, the lifetime capital gains exemption will be increased to $800,000, and for 2014 and subsequent years, the lifetime capital gains tax exemption will be indexed for inflation.
However, it is not only businesses that our government's tax measures will be helping. Our government is also introducing an income tax measure that will help Canadians in the event of making an honest mistake in the event of over-contributing to a registered pension plan. Bill C-4 streamlines the process for pension plan administrators to refund the contribution made to an RRSP when such a mistake is made. These tax measures and others will be greatly beneficial for all Canadians.
Our government is looking out for the best interests of Canadians. These income tax measures are being implemented to encourage Canadians and Canadian businesses, not to spurn their growth.
However, this is not all we are doing. Encouraging economic growth is an important part of our government's mandate, and following in this tradition, our Prime Minister recently signed an agreement in principle for a new trade agreement with the European Union. I know this is not a topic of the Bill C-4 discussion; however, the Canada-EU comprehensive, economic and trade agreement will bring many benefits to Canadian citizens and businesses. New opportunities for investment, business and the ability to consume new products will appear with the opening of the vast European market.
Key sectors of interest to Canadian investors, such as the aerospace, energy and business services industries, will benefit greatly from this agreement. My riding of Newmarket—Aurora, which is home to many companies that operate within these sectors, will see first-hand the benefits of this agreement. I look forward to the hon. Minister of International Trade introducing this new trade agreement in the House of Commons.
However, to stay on topic, I return to Bill C-4. The measures in Bill C-4 will ensure that the goals of jobs, growth and economic prosperity will continue to be met.
I strongly urge all my colleagues to support the passage of the bill so that Canadians can start reaping the benefits.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is from a rural riding. We have talked about jobs, growth and economic prosperity in the budget. Could he talk a bit about what that means in his riding? When Canadians have more money in their pockets, they change their spending habits on agricultural products, for instance.
Could the member talk about what this budget would mean to the people who live in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today to speak to this very important initiative. With recent events around the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa, it is clear that the fight against global corruption is as timely today as it has ever been. Indeed, developments in our own courts highlight that combatting foreign bribery is significant to Canada. Bill S-14 is an expression of our government's commitment to doing exactly that. I will be using my time today to address the inclusion of the facilitation payments amendment.
Before I continue with my speech, I need to let you know, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
I would also like to update the House on the three convictions that have already been made under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, which Bill S-14 seeks to amend. While these recent court decisions are evidence of the effectiveness of Canada's anti-corruption laws and a reminder that corruption is not a Canadian way of doing business, we have been asked to do more, and so we will.
First, I wish to note and thank members of the other place for their support of the bill. Indeed, Liberal Senator David Smith agreed that adopting the measures of Bill S-14 would send an important signal to the international community that we took our commitments seriously and would act on them.
I also wish to thank my colleagues for providing the detailed background on the CFPOA and the six amendments that would answer the call for heightened diligence. Taken together, they certainly demonstrate a broad approach to fighting unethical business practices.
As the Minister of Foreign Affairs has clearly stated, our government is committed to positioning Canada as a reliable supplier of the resources emerging markets need to grow. Canadian companies can compete with the best in this environment and will win fairly. These amendments would ensure that Canadian companies would continue to act in good faith in the pursuit of freer markets and expanded global trade.
I wish to remind my colleagues that a facilitation payment is a “grease payment”, paid to foreign public officials to do something that he or she is already obliged to do, such as deliver mail on time. It is specifically not supposed to allow the person paying to gain a business advantage in any way. Otherwise, the payment would be a bribe and it would be a crime to make the payment.
We have heard some concern that the elimination of the facilitation payments defence may create a competitive disadvantage for Canadian companies with international markets, given that legislation in other countries still contain the facilitation payments defence.
Let me be clear. Those who make facilitation payments are not allowed to receive any kind of business or competitive advantage from their payment. Payments that are made to receive a business advantage are bribes and these payments are already illegal under the CFPOA. They are also illegal under the legislation of every OECD country.
It is also important for hon. members to note that there is good reason to delay the coming into force of the elimination of facilitation payments exception. Canadian companies will need time to adjust their own practices and internal policies, if they have not already done so, to prohibit the use of facilitation payments in their habitual operations. This time to adjust is all the more important given that some other countries continue to allow facilitation payments.
We on this side of the House have been clear that our priority is to create the conditions for Canadian businesses to succeed in the pursuit of our aggressive pro-trade agenda. I reiterate our position that corruption does the opposite. It hinders economic growth and long-term prosperity. It fosters an environment conducive to allowing other crimes to flourish. We expect our companies to abide by the laws of the countries they operate in, as well as to act in accordance with Canadian laws and ethical standards and practices.
For Canadian companies operating in developing countries, this legislation is even more important. As the minister noted before the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, on February 28:
It is not just about values and ethics. It is also about ensuring that we see meaningful development in developing economies. It is important that we see meaningful development and that this development benefits the people. Corruption, particularly in developing economies, is a real problem. It is basically tapping money that could otherwise go toward the public good, to the benefit of the people in these countries, so it is not just an ethical question but also very much a development question.
Foreign bribery weakens economic prosperity by corroding the rule of law that is the basis for market freedom.
Bill S-14 provides us with a robust tool for creating the conditions for Canadian businesses to play by the rules and for Canadian companies to be successful across the globe. It involves encouraging responsible and ethical conduct. It involves positioning our country as a reliable supplier of the resources that emerging markets need to grow.
As I mentioned at the outset, I would now like to use some of my time to provide the House with some details on the three convictions that have already been made under the CFPOA. These convictions highlight just how seriously our government takes its commitment to prosecute those involved in foreign corruption and bribery. I would like my colleagues to keep in mind that there are also two cases pending, as well as 35 ongoing investigations.
As others have noted, penalties are increasing substantially with each new conviction, and the adoption of these amendments means that those engaging in corruption will be penalized even more severely.
Griffiths Energy International Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta, pleaded guilty on January 22, 2013, to a charge under the CFPOA related to securing an oil and gas contract in Chad. Griffiths will pay a total penalty of $10.35 million.
Similarly, Niko Resources, another Calgary-based company, entered a guilty plea on June 24, 2011, for one count of bribery. The company admitted that through its subsidiary Niko Bangladesh, in May 2005, it provided the use of a vehicle valued at $190,984 to AKM Mosharraf Hossain, then the Bangladeshi state minister for energy and mineral resources, in order to influence the minister in his dealings with Niko Bangladesh. In June 2005, Niko Resources Ltd. paid travel and accommodation expenses for the same minister to travel from Bangladesh to Calgary to attend the GO Expo oil and gas exposition, and paid approximately $5,000 for the minister to travel to New York and Chicago to visit his family
As a result of the conviction, Niko Resources Ltd. was fined $9.5 million and placed under a probation order, which puts the company under the court's supervision for three years to ensure that audits are completed on the company's compliance with the CFPOA. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service has placed a hold on providing services to Niko during the period of court supervision.
Finally, Hydro Kleen Group, based in Red Deer, Alberta, entered a guilty plea on January 10, 2005, to one count of bribery and was ordered to pay a fine of $25,000. Along with its president and an employee, the company had been charged with two counts of bribing a U.S. immigration officer who worked at the Calgary International Airport. The charges against the director and the officer of the company were stayed. The U.S. immigration officer pleaded guilty on July 2002 to accepting secret commissions. He received a six-month sentence and was subsequently deported to the United States.
In closing, I wish to address the importance of the timely passage of Bill S-14. This is signature legislation that has given Canada good marks with domestic stakeholders and at the OECD working group on bribery in 2013. We have invested a lot of credibility in Bill S-14.
We are due to report back to the OECD in the near future regarding the adoption of the bill, and further delays would have implications that go beyond the scrutiny of the OECD. Regardless of the merits of recent domestic developments, Canada would be criticized on the domestic and international stages for not meeting our commitments. I think this alone speaks to the importance of passing the bill at second reading today, and I urge my hon. colleagues to lend it their full support.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for his comments on the technical tax amendments act. Indeed, my colleague is very wise. Everyone would be better served if we could just get rid of this backlog of technical amendments.
I wanted to ask him today about something really important to me as the member of Parliament for Oshawa. He talked about Canadian manufacturers and exporters and their support for us and our government. There have been so many challenges facing manufacturers, especially in Ontario.
I wonder if I could get his comments on the different approaches. We have a Liberal government in Ontario that put in a green energy program with feed-in tariffs and we have seen recently how horribly this has affected our economy. It has driven up costs for manufacturers, small businesses and everyone in the province. They have lost at the WTO. It has just been a horrible disaster.
I would like to ask my colleague in his wisdom if he could contrast our plan as a government to lower taxes to continue investing in manufacturers and exporters versus the opposition's plan. He mentioned the topic of taxes. We see from the opposition consistently that they just want to raise taxes and bring new ones in. He talked about the carbon tax and also the $50 billion in unfunded promises from the opposition.
If he could comment on how that is going to affect manufacturers, and contrast the two approaches, it would be beneficial to us here in the House.
Mr. Speaker, that is a good question.
A good question. Tough, but fair.
I want to thank the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for the leadership that he has shown on this issue. Once again, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound is showing real leadership for his constituents, and indeed all Canadians. I am very happy to say the government will be standing solidly behind this member and his effort to stop the Americans from stealing all our clean water.
There remains one minute before the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound has his five-minute right of reply.
The hon. member for Manicouagan has one minute.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join the debate on Bill C-383, the transboundary waters protection act.
First, I would like to thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for bringing this important legislation forward. The support that the bill has received so far is a testament to his efforts and reflects the position of Canadians from all regions of this country on the need to protect Canada's waters.
Bulk removals of water would pose a significant threat to Canada's environment. The protection of this resource is of vital importance to all Canadians. That is why, in 2008, our government made a commitment in the Speech from the Throne to put in place stronger protections to prevent the bulk removal of water. It is also why we introduced Bill C-26, which unfortunately died on the order paper with the 2011 election call.
Thanks to the work of the member from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, we have this bill before us. The time has now come for the House to pass the legislation, which would ensure Canadian waters are protected from bulk removals. I am glad to see that Bill C-383 is supported by the government and by members of all parties.
As my colleague mentioned, the transboundary waters protection act would amend two acts: the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act. Amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act would prevent the bulk removal of water from transboundary waters, waters that flow across borders. Boundary waters that straddle the border, such as the Great Lakes, are already protected under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and its regulations. With the changes found in Bill C-383, all of these waters under federal jurisdiction would be protected from the bulk removal of water to outside the country.
There are other elements found in Bill C-383 that would strengthen protections against bulk removals. For example, proposed amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act would bring the enforcement authority fine schemes and sentencing provisions of the act in line with those found in the Environmental Enforcement Act, which delivers on the government's commitment to bolster protection of water, air, land and wildlife through more effective enforcement.
Provisions found in Bill C-383, which would amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, closely follow the regime from the Environmental Enforcement Act, in terms of the fine schemes. I must remind everyone again of these penalties. Sentencing provisions and enforcement tools would be available. These provisions would include mandatory minimum fines for designated offences and increased maximum fines of all offences under prosecution and conviction.
In addition to higher fines, the act would set out fine ranges that vary according to the nature of the offences and the type of offender, such as individuals, small revenue corporations and corporations. Each of these categories of offender would face stiff fines for violations. For example, individuals could face up to $1 million in fines and a corporation up to $6 million for the first offence. For a second or subsequent offence, the applicable fine range would double. Fines for contravening the law would be cumulative, meaning that a violation that continues for more than one day would be seen as a separate offence for each day that it continues.
Further, the court must order an offender to pay additional fines if the court determines that the offender obtained any property, benefit or advantage from the commission of the offence. Courts also must consider increasing fines if the offence caused damage or risk of damage to the environment. As with the other federal environmental statutes that were amended through the Environmental Enforcement Act, the bill includes other provisions that would enhance the goals of deterrence, denunciation and restoration, which are the fundamental purposes of sentencing.
This legislation contains provisions aligned with the publication of information about an offence committed and the punishment imposed as well as provisions requiring that corporate shareholders be notified in the event of a conviction. The objective is to encourage compliance, given the importance of public opinion to corporate success.
As we can see, this legislation provides strict consequences for violation of the act. The goal is quite simple: to deter anyone from attempting to violate the bulk removal of water prohibitions found in the act.
Bill C-383 would also move certain definitions and exceptions from the regulations for the International Boundaries Water Treaty Act into the act itself. This would make it more difficult to change these definitions or exceptions at a later date and would provide Parliament with a stronger oversight role, should changes ever be considered.
I would also like to take a few minutes to speak about the provision in the bill that would amend the International River Improvements Act. The purpose of the International River Improvements Act is to ensure that international rivers are developed and used in the national interest. International rivers are waters that flow from any place in Canada to any place outside Canada. The International River Improvements Act requires proponents that would like to construct improvements, such as dams, canals, obstructions, reservoirs or other works that would significantly alter the flow or level of any international river at the international boundary, to apply for a licence. This act allows the federal government to ensure that all such works are constructed and operated in a manner that complies with the Canada-U.S. boundary treaty.
Bill C-383 would amend the act to prevent the use of international rivers to transfer large quantities of water across the border. As mentioned in previous speeches and during committee consideration of this bill, some water experts see the use of international rivers as a potentially efficient pathway for transferring water in bulk. To prevent this from happening, Bill C-383 would amend the International River Improvements Act to prohibit licences for linking waters wholly in Canada with international rivers and then using those rivers to move water in bulk across the border. This amendment to the International River Improvements Act would add another layer of protection against the bulk removal of water from Canada. It was endorsed by experts from the Munk School of Global Affairs during the recent standing committee consideration of Bill C-383.
I would once again like to offer my thanks to the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for introducing this legislation. As we have seen, the bill is roundly supported by members of the House. I urge all members to support this legislation when it comes up for a vote.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House to announce that the Liberal caucus will support this bill.
We will support it mainly because we pushed for the government to introduce measures regarding the water export threat. I admit that this is more of a future threat than a current one since, right now, there is not really any great threat to the export of Canada's fresh water. This threat will grow in the future.
We urged the government to introduce measures consistent with those proposed by the University of Toronto's Munk Centre, namely, an approach that is mainly environmental in nature that would prohibit water diversions from one watershed to another in Canada. Without this prohibition, it would be possible to export water. In order to conduct large-scale water exports, the water must leave one watershed and go through several others to get to another country, namely, the United States.
We will support this bill because we want to make it clear that we are against the idea of exporting fresh water outside Canada.
That being said, this bill has many shortcomings. In response to the question I asked earlier, the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound said that we should not dwell on hypothetical situations. I raised the idea that an entrepreneur could want to export water from Gisborne Lake in Newfoundland to another country using tanker ships.
That is not a hypothetical situation. It happened. I believe a local entrepreneur in Newfoundland may have even signed a contract with another country to do exactly that, but the provincial premier at the time, the hon. Brian Tobin, stepped in and declared a moratorium thereby cancelling the contract.
The hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound said that, if ever a province decided to lift its moratorium on the export of water, there would be a public outcry and people would rail against the government.
Yes, I believe that that is what would happen today, but one never knows what might happen in the future. If a province is short on revenue and decides that it would be a good idea to export water and use the returns to fund its education or health care system, public opinion could change.
I would like to add that the president of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec, whose name escapes me right now, is in favour of exporting water from Quebec to fund the health care system.
Public opinion can change, based on the type of campaign used to promote an idea.
I will set that aside for a moment to say that there are a number of flaws in this bill. My colleague from Drummond just mentioned a few.
The bill does not prohibit bulk water exports using tankers. It does not exclude the possibility of exporting water from rivers that flow into coastal areas, as is the case in British Columbia. This water could be exported using tankers or floating bags.
Even though my colleague would say the opposite, I doubt that this bill would prohibit the export of water to the United States via a pipeline.
The government claims that since this bill, which applies primarily to transboundary rivers, prohibits exports from these rivers, it therefore prohibits exports via a pipeline.
I am not sure that is the case. I would like to quote an expert, J. Owen Saunders, who works with the Munk Centre and who was involved when the centre presented the framework for a bill, which became my bill, to prohibit inter-basin water diversions in Canada.
Here is what Mr. Saunders said in committee:
I would say that when you're talking about pipelines or canals, it is a grey area of international law. I assume the government is aware of that and is prepared to defend it under NAFTA. But certainly the argument can be made that the water has been captured when you put it into a pipeline. I take that point.
That leaves the door open for a province to one day decide to lift its moratorium and sign a contract with an American company, and together the two could try to invalidate this aspect of the bill introduced by my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. It could happen, and that is one of this bill's flaws.
I would like to address the point that the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound has made on numerous occasions. His point was that my bill, which was voted on in the House and was defeated by the government, based on the work of the Munk Centre and the work of people such as J. Owen Saunders, was somehow unconstitutional because it was infringing on provincial jurisdiction. That is not the case. I asked Mr. Saunders that question in committee and he was quite categorical on that point. Preventing massive diversions of water from one water basin in Canada to another is a matter of national concern and fits within the peace, order and good government provisions of our Constitution. Therefore, I do not think that is a valid point.
I think that it would be a bigger challenge to work with the provinces on issues such as this. This is the kind of challenge that a federal government that really cares about our water security would want to take up with the provinces. If a federal government wants to get anything done in this very complex federation, it has to have the courage to sit down with the provinces and work it out. However, it is much easier not to do that and to pass something that is much more limited and may have some holes in it.
I was hoping that we could have had more than one or two committee hearings on this issue. I was hoping that we could explore the issue of water exports within the context of NAFTA because this is where the issue gets complicated. This is why the hon. member has brought in the bill and why I brought in my bill. It is because there is still a lot of dispute as to whether our fresh water in its natural state is protected from the rules of free trade that are under NAFTA. It would have been good to explore that whole issue in committee. We might have drawn some conclusions about what more needs to be done to protect ourselves against the free trade provisions of NAFTA as they might apply to water.
If ever there is a dispute on this issue and there is a Canada-U.S. tribunal struck under NAFTA, do not expect the American members of that tribunal to take the same point of view we have, that water is not part of NAFTA. In the United States, water in its natural state is a commodity. Therefore, we know where they stand on this issue.
Mr. Speaker, one thing I can tell members is that, if we got 30 more members like the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, it would be good value for Canadians.
Would my hon. colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound fill in this House on what devastation would come to communities like mine? The hon. member had the opportunity to be in my riding, which plays an important role in the Canadian economy. We have a significant forestry sector and a significant amount of agriculture, as well as a significant number of people working in the oil and gas sector. Might the hon. member enlighten this House as to what impacts a $21 billion carbon tax would have on ridings like mine?
Before I go to the hon. member for an answer, I would like to remind all hon. members to direct your comments and questions to the Chair rather than to your colleague.
The hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
As my colleagues on this side of the House have previously stated, I, too, will not be supporting this motion. I find it disingenuous of the NDP to be moving this motion when its $21 billion carbon tax would kill tens of thousands of Canadian jobs and drive thousands of Canadians into poverty. Today we are talking about the very important pilot project to improve employment insurance.
As the Prime Minister has said many times, Canada is an emerging energy superpower. Whether it is the oil sands in Alberta, natural gas in B.C. or off-shore oil in Newfoundland, hundreds of thousands of good paying Canadian jobs rely on the energy sector, jobs that would be in peril if the NDP ever gained power. Thankfully, Canadians understand that they can trust the Prime Minister's low tax plan for jobs and growth over the tax and spend plans of the opposition parties.
It is an inconvenient truth for the members of the opposition that poverty has never been lower in Canada than it has been under this Conservative government. That is something to be celebrated. Whether it is adult, child or seniors poverty, the rates have never been lower in Canadian history than under our strong, stable, national, Conservative, majority government.
This is because Canada has the strongest employment growth by far among the G7 countries. Thanks to the strong leadership of our Prime Minister, Canada has created over 770,000 net new jobs, 90% of which are full-time positions. That is worth celebrating. That puts Canadians back to work. In fact, there are more Canadians working now than at any point in our history. Currently there are over 350,000 more jobs today than at the highest point in 2008 before the recession. That is quite remarkable.
Statistics Canada revealed that there were 250,000 jobs in our country that remained unfilled this past spring. These are not even in top of mind locations such as Alberta. In Labrador City there is such a shortage of workers to work in their new mining projects that restaurants cannot stay open and the municipality cannot find enough people to maintain the roads.
That is why the new working while on claim pilot will allow Canadians to keep more of their earnings. Under this new program, the majority of people who work while they are on claim will benefit and will be better off.
Previously, claimants could only earn either $75 or 40% of their weekly benefits. That is not much money. Any earnings above that threshold were reduced from the benefit payment, dollar for dollar.
The new pilot project allows EI claimants who are receiving regular, parental or compassionate care benefits to keep half of their earnings from the first dollar earned. This will ensure that EI claimants will always be better off working than not working. It will also allow more Canadians to keep more of what they earn while on EI. This is a pilot project to encourage EI claimants to pursue and accept all opportunities to work. We are always working to ensure our programs fulfill our goals.
At the same time, we recognize that there are Canadians who are having difficulty finding work, particularly in the off-season in parts of the country where much of the economy is based on seasonal industries. Our government is working to help these Canadians find jobs in their local area appropriate to their qualifications. For those who are unable to find employment, employment insurance will always be there for them as it has always been.
Because of an aging population, we can expect skills and labour shortages to become even more severe over time. That is why we need Canadians to contribute their talents to the economy as much as possible. Unfortunately, our government receives no assistance from the opposition parties as we work to solve these challenges. That is what we are doing, working to solve these challenges.
Indeed, not only did both the Liberals and the NDP vote against these changes to working while on claim, they also voted against the youth employment strategy, the EI hiring credit, the targeted initiative for older workers, and the list goes on and on.
Sadly, the NDP seem to be more concerned about implementing a $21 billion carbon tax on the backs of Canadians. That is okay but it is not okay to try to solve the EI problem.
Having voted against countless initiatives that we have put in place to help Canadians get back to work, I cannot help but wonder why the NDP is against helping Canadians return to work, find jobs, become productive and feel good about themselves because they are working.
Our economic action plan is achieving results. The 770,000 net new jobs proves that, but we know we can do better to connect Canadians to available jobs.
Currently, Canadians on EI only get three job alerts every two weeks from the Job Bank website. We are changing this so that job alerts are sent out daily. This is what Canadians need. We have heard about the gentleman who biked to work and picked cards off the wall. That is what used to happen. Now we have to do better and that is why these job alerts on a daily basis are so important. Job alerts will not only provide EI claimants with information about job opportunities within their area and field of expertise, but they will also include information on related occupations to which their skills might be put to good use.
We are also increasing information sharing between the temporary foreign worker and EI programs to ensure Canadians have the first shot at these jobs before employers can hire foreign workers. We are taking care of Canadians.
Let us look at some of the measures the opposition has opposed so far.
Young workers entering the workforce face uncertain job market prospects. Budget 2012 invested $50 million over two years to enhance the youth employment strategy to help more young people gain tangible skills and experience, and to connect young Canadians with jobs in fields that are in high demand.
Despite the fact that the youth employment strategy helped over 57,000 youth get the job skills and work experience they need to successfully enter the labour market, the NDP members voted against this investment for our young people. Not only that, they are proposing, as I said, a $21 billion carbon tax that would raise the cost of essentials for these young workers that they need to transition into the workforce, such as basic groceries and public transit.
How about the older workers? When we increased funding to the targeted initiative for older workers to meet the needs of unemployed people 55 to 64 years old who live in communities with a high rate of unemployment, the opposition voted against that.
How about Canadians with disabilities? No government has done for more for persons with disabilities than this Conservative government. We recognize that Canadians with disabilities are at times disproportionately impacted by economic turbulence and encounter unique challenges in finding jobs during a period of economic recovery. That is why budget 2012 also invested an additional $30 million over three years in the opportunities fund to enable Canadians with disabilities to obtain work experience with small and medium-sized businesses. Again, the opposition voted against this measure.
It is pretty clear what the pattern is: Our Conservative government invests in Canadian workers and the opposition opposes it, whether it be the needy, the vulnerable or those facing barriers or entering the workforce. The opposition continues to oppose these measures.
The contrast is pretty simple. On this side of the House, we have our low tax plan for job and economic growth. This plan has led to the highest number of workers in Canadian history with the lowest percentage of people in poverty in Canadian history. Across the way, we have the NDP that wants to impose a $21 billion carbon tax on Canadians that would kill jobs and increase poverty among the vulnerable. How the NDP feels that such a tax would be beneficial to Canadians looking for work is beyond me.
Our government will continue with our plan and that is to ensure that Canadians are always better off working than not.
The electoral district of Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound (Ontario) has a population of 105,947 with 78,882 registered voters and 203 polling divisions.
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