Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to today's motion on jobs and the economy. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Markham—Unionville.
The Prime Minister and the Conservatives do not want to talk about the economy these days. In fact, they are so spooked by the topic that they are delaying the budget into the next fiscal year. We are told that we will not have a budget until April at the earliest. They do not want to talk about the economy, all because of plummeting oil prices.
The Conservatives are also telling us that all the challenges facing Canadians and the Canadian economy today are a result of plummeting oil prices. However, the reality is that we have faced real challenges in the Canadian economy, and Canadian families have faced real challenges, well before plummeting oil prices.
In fact, the May 3 issue of the Economist magazine had an article entitled, “Canada's economy: Maple, resting on laurels”, Canada's “post-crisis glow is fading”. In that article, the Economist said that the Conservative government's retelling of the 2008 crisis indicated that the Conservatives saved Canada from doom. It went on to say, “Yet luck played a large, unacknowledged part”. The Economist points to three areas where the Conservative government was lucky.
First, the Conservatives were lucky that the previous Liberal government, Mr. Chrétien to Mr. Martin, refused to follow the global trend of bank deregulation, and we have a strong banking system as a result of that.
Second, there was a solid financial footing. The previous government paid down $80 billion of our national debt, but the current government has added $160 billion to the national debt.
Lucky in a third way was that oil and gas revenues helped pick up the slack when manufacturing faltered, and no federal politician can take credit for putting the oil and gas under the ground in Saskatchewan and Alberta. However, we all know it was Danny Williams who put it under the water off Newfoundland.
The Economist pointed to three reasons why we went through the global financial crisis in 2008 better than other countries. The three reasons are: a strong banking system, a good fiscal situation, and oil and gas. The one thing they have in common is that the Conservative government has had nothing to do with any of it.
The Economist also pointed out that since 2008, Canada's post-crisis glow was fading, and that in terms of growth and jobs, and growth in the GDP, Canada had actually fallen behind other countries. In fact, if we look at 2015 numbers, Canada is projected to be 14th, or middle of the pack of 34 OECD countries in growth. We will be behind the U.S. and the U.K. In 2016, Canada is projected to be 21st of 34 OECD countries in economic growth. We will be behind the U.S., Australia and the U.K. There are real challenges.
It is important to also recognize that when the Economist published that article citing the challenges facing the Canadian economy, oil, WTI, at the time was at $104 a barrel, which is in fact more than twice where it is today. Therefore, even before plummeting oil prices, our economy had flatlined in growth and job creation.
In terms of job creation, the CIBC report from last week said that Canadian job quality was at a record low. The growth of low-paying jobs compared to mid or high-paying jobs is significant. We are seeing fewer high-paying jobs created and more low-paying jobs.
The Conservatives talk about 1.2 million jobs being created since 2008. However, they are completely ignoring the fact that our working age population has grown by two million. Labour market participation remains lower than before 2008. People have given up looking for work. The number of people facing long-term unemployment, or people unemployed for over a year, today is twice that of 2008. There are 160,000 fewer jobs today for young Canadians than in 2008.
There are record levels of personal debt as middle-class parents and grandparents are forgoing retirement and retirement savings to financially support young Canadians who are unable to support themselves based on the low-quality jobs they are getting.
It is damning of our economic situation and of the government's negligence and ignorance of that situation which it seems to be blissfully unaware, or perhaps it does not care, that this is the first generation of Canadian parents who believe their children will be worse off than them.
The Conservative government does not get it. It is out of touch, and one can only assume because of it delaying the budget, that it is also out of ideas.
We needed a plan for jobs and growth before plummeting oil prices, and we need a plan for jobs and growth even more today. Even in terms of how it manages the petrol economy, because the Conservative economic plan was threefold, which was oil, oil and oil, it has not done very well. Not one pipeline has been approved under the Conservative government, largely due to the fact that it either has no relations or toxic relations with the stakeholders and partners required to move these projects forward, whether it is with President Obama, aboriginal and first nations leaders, the provinces or the environmental community.
The government and the Prime Minister have not built the kinds of relationships required to defend Canadian economic interests. Former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney says that the top foreign policy priority of a Canadian prime minister is to have a personal relationship with the President of the United States.
Mr. Mulroney would have gotten Keystone XL approved with President Reagan. Mr. Chrétien would have gotten Keystone XL approved with President Clinton. In fact, they understood the importance of relationships.
However, the government cannot even meet with premiers to discuss moving forward on labour and training, and addressing the jobs-skills mismatch. It cannot meet and sit down respectfully with aboriginal and first nations Canadians. It calls the environmental communities eco-terrorists. These are the stakeholders and partners we need to have our projects moving forward. Even in the area where the government is focused, and that is on oil, it has not done a very good job.
The Bank of Canada has said that low oil prices are “unambiguously bad for growth”. It responded with a 25-basis point rate cut. What has been the response from the government, when we need action, when we need clarity, when we need certainty? It has delayed the budget until April, perhaps hoping oil prices will increase.
The reality is that wishful thinking is not a replacement for responsible budget making. Suncor and Encana cannot delay their public reporting or their annual reports because of low oil prices. They would have a regulatory challenge with the securities commission, but they would also create uncertainty with their investors.
The same could be said about a federal government delaying the budget, ostensibly because of falling oil prices. I can remember governments that introduced budgets when oil prices were less than $40 per barrel. I can remember governments balancing budgets back then. The fact is that the government is out of touch and out of ideas.
The Liberal plan for jobs and growth will be to invest in infrastructure, to take the historic opportunity we have today to rebuild Canada's infrastructure; to create jobs and growth today, and the kind of economy that will create more jobs and growth in the future; to invest in people and skills to ensure young Canadians have the skills they need for the jobs of today and to prepare for the jobs of the future; to invest in innovation, science and data; and to invest in the kinds of trade relationships we need, both globally with the Obama administration, China, Mexico and our traditional partners, but also within Canada, the kind of relationships required to build a strong economy.
A Liberal government will move this economy forward and will help Canadian middle-class families move ahead. The Conservative government is out of touch and totally out of ideas to benefit those families.
I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on January 26, 2015, by the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard related to the government’s response to written question Q-393, which was given to the House on May 14, 2014.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for having raised this matter, as well as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the hon. opposition House leader for their comments.
In raising this matter, the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard expressed concerns about the response she received to her question, Q-393. She argued that there was interference by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration who, she claimed, ordered officials in the department to stop preparing a response and, instead, use the same answer that was given in response to written question Q-359 on May 12, 2014. She asserted that that answer constituted a non-answer to a question submitted by the member for Markham—Unionville. Having received the same non-answer, she contended that this impeded her in the performance of her parliamentary duties since she was not provided with a satisfactory response to her question. From this she argued that a breach of privilege had occurred.
In response, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration explained that it was the length and breadth of the member's very extensive question that was preventing departmental officials from being able to comply with the 45-day response deadline. Once advised of this, he provided the response that the member received.
Members will be familiar with the provisions of Standing Order 39(5)(a), which states:
A Member may request that the Ministry respond to a specific question within forty-five days by so indicating when filing his or her question.
In essence, the member is seeking redress with respect to perceived ministerial interference, which in her view, prevented departmental officials from responding to her question.
On previous occasions, the Chair has been asked to rule on issues related to the government’s responses to written questions. In each instance, the Chair has sought to remind members of the clear limitations of the role of the Speaker in this regard.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, states, at page 522:
There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions.
Speaker Milliken also noted on February 8, 2005, on page 3234 of Debates:
Any dispute regarding the accuracy or appropriateness of this response is a matter of debate. It is not something upon which the Speaker is permitted to pass judgment.
This applies as well when the government indicates that it is unable to provide an answer. O'Brien and Bosc confirms this approach at page 522, where it states:
As with oral questions, it is acceptable for the government, in responding to a written question, to indicate to the House that it cannot supply an answer.
How or why the government chooses to provide such a reply, or non-reply as some see it, is not something to be questioned by the Chair. Nor is it for the Chair to question the decision of members to ask for a response to a written question within a 45-day limit, as per Standing Order 39(5)(a), even when the question is lengthy and complex.
Specifically, as Speaker, I must assess the role the government played in the preparation of responses within the limited scope that is granted to me by our practice and precedents. As I indicated in my ruling of April 3, 2014:
The Chair understands that the member is not asking for judgment on the accuracy of the answer provided. However, he is asking the Chair to judge the actions of the minister and the effect these have had on his ability to function as a member of Parliament. To do so would require the Chair to judge not only the content of answers provided, but also to delve into internal departmental processes past and present. Regardless of whether the department's internal processes on written questions have changed or not, it remains beyond the role of the Chair to undertake an investigation into any such matter or to render any judgment on it.
In view of the particular jurisprudence cited by the Chair with regard to written questions, I cannot conclude that the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard has been impeded in the performance of her parliamentary duties. Therefore, I cannot find that a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred.
That being said, the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard does have one other avenue she could pursue. She could consider resubmitting her question without requesting an answer within the forty-five day deadline, particularly in light of the Minister’s comments regarding the question's length and complexity.
I thank honourable members for their attention.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my colleague and friend, the member for Markham—Unionville.
In these difficult and uncertain times, we have to recognize that first of all, even before the plummeting oil prices, growth in Canada had stalled. We had stagnant growth and a soft jobs market prior to plummeting oil prices. In fact, if we look at the numbers even a year ago, well before falling oil prices, we had 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than before the financial crisis in 2008. Long-term unemployment, people unemployed for over a year, had actually doubled in Canada.
The Economist magazine did an article on the Canadian economy called “Canada’s economy: Maple, resting on laurels”, which said: “The post-crisis glow is fading.” That was written last spring. The Economist was comparing Canada's growth numbers with those of the U.K., Australia. and of course, our neighbour to the south, the U.S.
The reason I am saying that is that it is important to realize that we needed a real plan for jobs and growth prior to plummeting oil prices, and we need a plan even more so today. That is why it is important that the government come forward and present a budget that actually contains a plan to create jobs and growth but also to help the struggling middle-class families in Canada who are having trouble making ends meet, who are falling further behind, who are taking on higher levels of personal debt, and who are concerned about the future of their children and grandchildren.
This brings me to today's motion and its three components: extending the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing, the innovation tax credit, and cutting the small-business income tax rate.
The accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing has existed now for about eight years. During the period of time this measure has existed, we have lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs. The proposal being made by the NDP is to extend it by two years. I would argue that this is a status quo measure and that it will not really move the needle in terms of helping manufacturing.
The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters are calling for five years, which would provide more certainty in terms of manufacturing investment. A two-year extension is not a bold new policy that is really going to move the needle in terms of manufacturing competitiveness.
In terms of the innovation tax credit, the government has diluted and pulled back the SR and ED tax credit. It has made changes that we are told by smaller companies that are involved in research and development and commercialization, and we are told by larger manufacturers as well, that the changes to SR and ED made by the government have been negative for their capacity to research, develop, and commercialize new technologies and to create value.
What the NDP has proposed is a small measure. We would agree that trying to create more incentives to actually encourage and support commercialization is important for creating wealth and prosperity for Canadians and jobs and growth. We are concerned that this is a very small measure. I believe that it is $40 million per year. Again, when I talk to people involved in venture capital, IT, biotech, or cleantech, they do not believe that this is going to make a big difference.
This leads me to the third measure, and that is cutting the small-business income tax rate. The NDP has proposed a two-point cut, which would cost about $1.2 billion per year.
Jack Mintz, director of the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, opines frequently on tax policy in Canada. This is what it says in an article about the NDP plan.
An NDP plan to give tax relief to small businesses will actually end up giving wealthy Canadians a tax cut. “[It’s] something to make the rich richer,” Jack Mintz....
But Mintz and some fellow economists argue that the tax break will go overwhelmingly to Canadians who need it least and may not result in job growth at all.
“We find that 60 per cent of the small business deduction goes to households with more than $150,000 in income,” Mintz said....
“The worst part [of the NDP plan],” Mintz added, “is that it doesn’t have good economic impacts because small business deductions contribute to a wall of taxation, so if they grow, they lose some of their benefits and get hit with higher taxes…. It tends to keep small businesses smaller.”
What he is saying is that it is a disincentive to growth.
He also refers to the tax vehicles that exist for a lot of wealthier Canadians. Canadian-controlled private corporations, known as CCPCs, are used by high-income Canadians and high-income households as a form of income splitting, with dividend distribution shared between spouses. If people talk to a tax planner, accountant, or private banker, they will say that these are frequently used by people with a lot of money, families with a lot of private wealth.
Mintz says this about the NDP plan: “...it’s also a good income splitting method that the NDP are recommending”.
The coalition that has emerged between the Conservatives and the NDP around income splitting to benefit Canada's wealthiest families is something the Liberals are watching with amazement. I am not going to suggest that discussions about a coalition or anything like that are occurring behind the scenes, and I do not actually think the NDP has intentionally done this. I think this has been poorly researched.
In fact, Armine Yalnizyan, who is with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a very progressive think tank, had this to say on CBC when she was asked about the NDP's proposal. She was asked a specific question by the CBC journalist, as follows:
This criticism [by Jack Mintz] of the NDP's proposal sounds bang on to you or totally wrong?
This is what the economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said:
Absolutely bang on. We have got new research in the last year or so that Dr. Mintz is talking about. So you'd think that the NDP would have known about this research. It's a little bit weird to say that we are looking at a way of benefiting small businesses when...[we are benefiting] tax shelters. If you want to do the things that they're saying, [they] could actually target your tax cut to incentivize the growth or only give tax cuts when the behaviour you are looking for takes place....
What she is referring to are direct incentives for businesses that create jobs, that invest to create jobs and hire more people. Again, there is a startling and perhaps troubling trend here of NDP policy looking like Conservative policy.
A few months ago, we were critical, the NDP included, of a Conservative hiring credit that would do nothing to really create jobs. It would be expensive. In fact, we were told by the Parliamentary Budget Officer that it would cost $700,000 for every job created and would not provide an incentive to hire. In fact, it would be a disincentive for hiring and growth. Now the NDP is proposing a policy with a similar disincentive to growth, which would do nothing to actually create jobs, and similar to Conservative income splitting, would disproportionately benefit the wealthy.
If we really want to focus on creating jobs and growth, we should look at the policy proposed by the Liberal Party at that time, which was a hiring credit that would provide a tax benefit to employers who actually hired new workers and expanded their employment. That policy was embraced and supported by the CFIB, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, and Restaurants Canada.
More broadly, the Liberal plan we will be presenting to Canadians and engaging Canadians in will be one that helps the middle class and creates jobs and growth by investing in infrastructure, people, and innovation.
In terms of infrastructure, whether it is a small business, a big business, or a family, 100% of Canadian families and businesses benefit from investments in infrastructure. There has not been a better time in our lifetimes to invest and fix Canada's infrastructure. We have historically low bond yields, soft employment numbers, stagnant economic growth, and an historic opportunity to take the advice of David Dodge, the IMF, Mark Carney, and others and invest in infrastructure.
That is the kind of vision that Canadian small businesses and Canadian middle-class families would benefit from, not a poorly thought out approach from the NDP that would disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Canadians families who need the help the least.
Mr. Speaker, Canadians know what happens when Liberal prime ministers meet with provincial premiers. The people of Alberta will recall the national energy program. They remember that.
The member talked about being in the provincial legislature. I wonder if he was in the provincial legislature when the Paul Martin Liberals and the Chrétien Liberals unilaterally cut $50 billion from health and education. I wonder if he spoke up against those unilateral cuts at that time.
The member talks about the Kelowna accord, but he and his party vote against matrimonial rights on first nation reserves. They vote against and would repeal accountability and openness and transparency for our first nations as well.
The member for Markham—Unionville was having a very difficult time with this. I know that the province of Manitoba does not have a price on carbon or a carbon tax. We know today that the leader of the Liberal Party, along with the Premier of Ontario, supported a carbon tax for the people of Ontario and other provinces. I want to be very clear. Does the member support his leader in placing a carbon tax, a price on carbon, whatever they want to call it, not only on the people of Ontario but on the people of Manitoba? Does he support his leader in overtaxing his own people? We know that they resisted it in Manitoba, but today his leader suggests that they want to do that. Does he support that, yes or no?
Mr. Speaker, at the outset, let me say that I will be sharing my time with a very distinguished member of this House, the member for Markham—Unionville. I know members will want to be here not only to listen to my remarks but to stay for the incisive remarks that will follow my presentation.
Of course I am very pleased to rise to support the motion moved by my colleague from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, who has set an important example to all Canadians across our country of how to manage a federation that works.
Throughout the years when my colleague was the minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs, there was a constructive and positive relationship between the federal government and its partners in the Canadian federation.
For instance, many important agreements were signed between the two levels of government. There was co-operation and mutual respect not only regarding their respective areas of jurisdiction, but also regarding the difficulties shared by all those who represent Canadians and are seeking significant solutions to the economic, social and environmental problems facing our country.
The motion today I think sets out a very simple premise. The simple premise is that the Prime Minister of Canada has a responsibility, as head of the executive of the national government, to work constructively with other orders of government and with his partners in the federation: other first ministers.
This Prime Minister has resisted so vehemently sitting down in a structured first ministers' conference, where all premiers would have an opportunity to express their shared concerns about economic issues facing their populations and their citizens and what the national government can do in partnership with them to better serve the citizens that all of us have been elected to this place to serve.
I wanted to give some concrete examples from the regions, especially my province, New Brunswick, where a constructive and respectful commitment on the part of the Prime Minister towards his provincial counterparts would give them the opportunity to come up with regulations, a solution or some way to move forward on difficult and complicated files, while respecting jurisdictions and the spirit of partnership and constructive engagement.
It is no secret: my province, New Brunswick, is in a very difficult economic situation. In many respects, that province has performed the worst when it comes to job creation and economic growth. We have suffered significant job losses. Industries that have traditionally been very important to New Brunswick are struggling, and this has led to job losses in other sectors.
The situation is serious. This is a critical time, and that is not a partisan statement. These circumstances have meant that the former Progressive Conservative government, the Liberal government that preceded them and the current Liberal government have all faced issues that do not fall solely under provincial responsibility; they also require an engaged federal partner.
Take, for example, the question of employment insurance. The current government decided to make changes to employment insurance benefits, particularly for those who work in seasonal industries across many regions of this country. In New Brunswick, those changes obviously have a disproportionate impact, because a certain percentage of our economy will necessarily be seasonal. However, right across the country, in Quebec, northern Ontario, and the Prairies, the decisions the Conservative government made around employment insurance benefits had a negative consequence.
The Atlantic premiers decided to commission an independent study to look at the direct impact these changes would have on the revenues of families in their provinces at times of the year when there is no employment. In my province of New Brunswick alone, hundreds of millions of dollars, over $400 million, was taken out annually from the pockets of New Brunswick families who depended on employment insurance benefits. As I said a minute ago, at a time when the unemployment rate increases, if the corresponding employment insurance benefits are reduced and limited, it has a devastating impact. It also has a devastating impact on the provincial treasury, as many of these people land on income assistance and social development measures, the instruments that the province has to look after income security.
Was the Prime Minister willing to sit down and talk about employment insurance with the Progressive Conservative Premier David Alward for the last four years? Of course not. Was he willing to engage with the newly elected Liberal government of Brian Gallant on the important issue of employment insurance? Of course not.
This is an example of a problem that is shared by other premiers. It is an example where the national government has a program that has a punitive effect in many regions and provinces of our country and where the premiers asked the Government of Canada and the Prime Minister to sit down with them to look at solutions, to understand the impacts, and perhaps constructively and collaboratively find a solution.
The current Prime Minister was not interested. Think of the changes to provincial health transfers. The former finance minister, the late Mr. Flaherty, went to a premiers' meeting and announced that a certain amount was available. There was no negotiation, no discussion, no acknowledgement of the demographic realities of each province.
The province of New Brunswick has an aging population, and many people live in rural and remote regions. Its proportion of people who live in regional centres and rural areas is one of the highest in Canada. We have two official languages, and I am extremely proud of that. However, that means New Brunswick's provincial government has to spend more money to provide adequate services in both official languages.
Instead of engaging in constructive collaboration with the provincial premiers on this important issue—providing high-quality health care in all provinces of Canada for the long term—the current Prime Minister is unavailable.
We talk a lot about infrastructure in the Liberal caucus, because we hear from premiers, mayors, community leaders and citizens about the negative effects right across the country of the recent reductions and cuts to infrastructure spending. The premiers are in Ottawa today and tomorrow. They would have given anything for an opportunity to be invited by the Prime Minister to sit down and talk about a positive and comprehensive infrastructure investment that would not only create the much needed immediate jobs right across the country that, but also prepare our economy to be a sustainable green economy, a growing economy, and a productive and competitive economy.
Route 11 in New Brunswick is one of the important north-south highways from one end of our province to the northern part. The provincial government of Premier Alward, who was defeated this fall, had asked for the Government of Canada to be a partner, twinning with them in making this highway a four-lane highway. We have seen tragic accidents, with people losing their lives on an overcrowded, dangerous two-lane highway, often through difficult winter conditions, but the government refused to sit down with its provincial partners to find a way to make this important economic project a reality.
Even federal infrastructure, such as wharves, ports and smaller infrastructure, lacks funding. For example, the town of Richibucto in New Brunswick needs money for infrastructure repairs. The mayor of Richibucto asked for money. Provincial elected representatives have once again realized that they do not have a federal partner.
For years, the restoration of Moncton's Petitcodiac River has been a provincial government priority. It is the right thing to do for the environment and the Moncton region. The government refused to get involved in any constructive way.
Projects like the energy east pipeline and other energy projects that are vital to the economic future of my province are stalled because we have a Prime Minister who will not engage with his provincial counterparts. We think the Prime Minister has a responsibility to hold annual first ministers' conferences and to discuss issues like this that are important to citizens right across the country.
Mr. Speaker, today I will speak about the Canadian economy and the challenges faced by middle-class Canadian families.
Conservative government mismanagement and also its lack of vision for the Canadian economy and its future has dashed the hopes of middle-class Canadian families. I would like to take a moment to reflect on the reality of Conservative management of the economy.
When it came to power in 2006, the Conservative government inherited a decade's worth of balanced budgets from Liberal governments as well as an annual surplus of $13 billion. It took the Conservatives just two years to turn that surplus into a deficit, and that was before the recession hit.
The Conservatives actually put Canada on the edge of deficit prior to the global financial crisis in 2008. Even in the most recent economic update, the government forecast shows that the economy's rate of growth would slow from one year to the next. That is the latest forecast from the government.
The economy is facing long-term structural challenges. These structural challenges existed before plummeting oil prices. The Bank of Canada has forecast that the economy's growth will decline in 2015 to 2.1% from the previously forecasted 2.6%. The TD's forecast is actually even lower, at 2%.
The Conservatives like to take credit for the country's favourable performance relative to other industrialized economies in weathering the 2008 recession, and it is true that we did get through the 2008 financial crisis better than other countries. However, the Economist magazines tells us that there are three principal reasons for that: first, Canada's banking system and the decision made by Prime Minister Chrétien and Finance Minister Martin not to follow the global trend of deregulation in the 1990s; second, with the fiscal management of the previous government, having taken more than $80 billion off the national debt, the Conservative government inherited the best incoming fiscal situation of any incoming government in the history of Canada; and third, oil, gas and minerals. Those are the three factors that helped Canada get through the 2008 financial crisis, and they have one thing in common: the Conservatives actually are not responsible for any of them.
It is important to realize that the more time has passed since the recession, the less robust Canada's economic recovery has been, especially in comparison with the U.S. In fact, the Economist magazine's article was “Canada's economy, Maple, resting on its laurels. Canada's post-crisis glow is fading”. That article was from last spring, a long time before plummeting oil prices.
Now it is clear, with the recent collapse of oil prices, that we cannot simply rely on fossil fuels, pipelines and minerals to be the sole drivers of the Canadian economy. The Conservatives have had a three-prong strategy. It has been oil, oil and oil. They have actually shortchanged other sectors, totally ignoring the manufacturing sector, where we have lost almost half a million jobs under the government.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Markham—Unionville.
Again, even before plummeting oil prices, Canada faced significant challenges, slow growth and a a soft employment market.
The number of Canadian jobless for over a year or more had actually doubled since 2008, and that was before plummeting oil prices. Even before plummeting oil prices, there were 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than in 2008. More young Canadians with good educations were unable to support themselves and were living at home with their parents. More Canadian parents and grandparents were going deeper in debt, in fact record levels of personal debt, because of their direct financial support of children and grandchildren. This was, again, before plummeting oil prices.
The reality is that the Conservative government has also raised taxes. It imposed a $330 million increase in Canadian tariffs in the previous budget implementation act. In fact, that took effect this month.
Now the government's fiscal position is eroding. The TD Bank has forecast a potential $4.7 billion deficit if oil prices do not recover. Similarly, the Conference Board of Canada has issued a report saying that the drop in oil prices will reduce government revenues by $4.3 billion.
These economic circumstances call for vision and leadership from the federal government, and certainty. In fact, we have had anything but certainty from the Minister of Finance or the government. The Minister of Finance postponed the tabling of a budget to April, at the earliest. Even in the best case scenario, where a budget is tabled in April, there will be a lack of parliamentary scrutiny as the House of Commons is due for a two week break in April.
Also troubling is the apparent rift within the government when it comes to how to cope with the budget surplus that is now evaporating.
The Minister of Employment and Social Development said:
We won’t be using a contingency fund. A contingency fund is there for unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters.
On the other hand, the Minister of Finance said:
The contingency fund is there for unexpected and unavoidable shocks to the system [like] the oil price decline--which was a dramatic one--would fall in that category.
The fact that two senior Conservative economic ministers have two totally separate and different positions on something as fundamental as the budget does not inspire confidence among the investment community or among consumers.
The dilemma over how to avoid a fiscal deficit would not have presented itself in the first place if the government had not recklessly painted itself into a corner with pre-election commitments to income splitting and other tax expenditures. This was the opposite of leadership. The government was pandering to its base for political advantage. It was doing everything it could to create a notional surplus on the eve of an election to fund its pre-election spending. It took no account of the potential volatility of commodity prices.
It is plain and simple. The government mismanaged the fiscal situation. It let Conservative ideology and politics take priority over the practical demands of governing and fiscal responsibility.
The government should now prepare and table a budget that acknowledges the uncertainty and provides some level of leadership. It should not wait until April to do this. The government should retreat from its income splitting commitment because it is costly and it would benefit only 15% of Canadians. We heard from the former minister of finance, Jim Flaherty, on this, and he expressed concerns that it was unfair.
Before plummeting oil prices, income splitting was unfair. After plummeting oil prices and its fiscal impact, it is unaffordable. It is important to realize that any tax cut like income splitting, which only benefits 15% of the richest families, and deficit financing will require all Canadians to pay higher taxes in the future.
The Bank of Canada has shown leadership. It recognized the turbulence faced by the Canadian economy and it cut the key interest for the first time in almost five years.
Despite the warning from economists, the TD Bank and others, the Minister of Finance said, “the Canadian economy is in good space”. This is out of touch with the emerging reality, and out of sync with the concerns of middle-class Canadian families. It is also indifferent to the needs of average Canadians.
It is important to realize that the Conservative government has not provided certainty to Canadians, and it has not provided a plan for jobs and growth. A plan for jobs and growth was needed before plummeting oil prices. We need a plan for jobs and growth even more today.
A Liberal government would invest in plans for jobs and growth in three principle ways. It would invest in infrastructure. We have never had a better time to invest in infrastructure than today. We would invest in people and skills. We would invest in innovation.
A Liberal government would invest in jobs and growth. Canadian families are looking for leadership and investment in jobs and growth, a real plan.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank both hon. members for their kinds words and for their succinct understanding of how we have all worked collectively. I applaud them for mentioning that.
As the member for Markham—Unionville noted so well, we can all take credit and we can all take some of the blame. However, today we are all here together and we are going to correct this problem.
As was noted, it is a rare occurrence in this House. Oftentimes, we seem to battle each other. However, every one of us recognizes that this is something that must end. I am very pleased to have been able to present this bill, and I am also very pleased to have been able to work with this House in such a cordial manner to come to an agreement.
I hope that this bill will now move quickly through the Senate and quickly become law, so that we can rectify something that was so wrong and turn it into something that is so right.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood says it is a lie. It is remarkable that he says it is a lie because there are all kinds of press releases. I would encourage him to read the article so he can see that his colleague from Markham—Unionville was there for the presentation of a $2 million cheque when farmers were evicted from their lands in what is now called the Bob Hunter Memorial Park in this area.
Prime farmland in 2007 was taken out of production with a smile by the same minister who was at the time parliamentary secretary to the minister of municipal affairs and housing, the provincial member of Parliament for Markham—Unionville, the federal member of Parliament for Markham—Unionville, all happy about what was about to happen with the removal of these farmers from their lands, with a $2 million cheque.
The Bob Hunter Memorial Park still is not open to the public. That is the type of park management the Liberals across the way and their friends in the provincial government are supporting. That is what farmers are afraid of, because they know what happens when they entrust their futures to other people. What happens is they suffer, as Mr. Whittamore has said, the death of 1,000 cuts.
The members opposite have talked about ecological integrity. Among the witnesses who appeared at committee, who have actually been managing the resources in that area, was Ian Buchanan of York region. He said that it was impossible, that we could not bring ecological integrity to this park not only because of Highway 401, not only because there was a landfill in the area and the Metro Zoo, but for many other reasons. Mr. Buchanan of York region government talked about the successes and stated:
In addition, I have 15 years of environmental enforcement background at three different levels of government, and what was sadly lacking among all of the framework of legislation in the past was that there was no one window for environmental protection. There were multiple layers and people didn't know who to turn to about what activities were taking place. The one window is a blessing for the Rouge Park.
Larry Noonan, as was referenced by the member for Thornhill, who is with a ratepayer group, supports the legislation that we have brought forward. It recognizes that the goal of environmental integrity is impossible to attain in this area. It also supports the continuation of farming in the area.
Many of the members opposite have referenced Friends of the Rouge Watershed, Ontario Nature and a number of other organizations. A representative of Ontario Nature appeared in committee, Caroline Schultz. We often hear members opposite say not to worry about farming, that it will be protected, that it is all okay. When Ms. Schultz was asked about a corridor, she said that she supported a 600-metre ecological corridor that would take 2,000 acres of class 1 farmland out of production, but said that we should not worry because farmers could still farm.
However, depending on the type of agricultural production that is taking place, she said there were certain types of farming that would not be compatible. Already they are making plans to eliminate farmers from the area.
On the Rouge park management plan, a number of the members opposite have submitted petitions and have talked about their support for organizations like Ontario Nature, the David Suzuki Foundation and Friends of the Rouge Watershed and how important it is.
The member for Scarborough Southwest, when speaking about the Friends of the Rouge Watershed, said, “Nothing will ever be accomplished in Rouge Park without buy-in from the Friends of the Rouge Watershed”. Who disagrees with that? The 700 farmers who actually farm in the area, and the ratepayers who actually lives in the area. The Cedar Grove ratepayers association disagrees with it. People who actually live, work, invest or play in the Rouge disagree with everything the opposition has said with respect to the Rouge and preservation.
Why are farmers so worried about what the environmental groups have put forward? It is because in the Rouge park management plan, this is a section they support. This is from the plan:
Part of protecting cultural heritage values in the park involves the continuation of active farming. Since all activities must dwell within the framework of park goal and objectives, with the highest priority being the protection and restoration of the park's natural heritage, some reduction of farm land base is recommended to permit natural restoration goals to be met.
These are the people and the policies that the members opposite are telling farmers they have to swallow yet again.
Let us talk about the 600 metre ecological corridor. I thought it was 1,700 acres of class 1 farmland that would be taken out of production. I was wrong. It is actually 2,000 acres of class 1 farmland that would need to be taken out of production to meet what the environmental groups have suggested has to happen in the Rouge Park. Let us take that into consideration.
When asked by Ms. Empringham and Mr. Whittamore what that would mean, Mr. Whittamore said it was “death by a thousand cuts”. Ms. Empringham, on behalf of farmers, suggested that people who believed that did not understand farming. The equipment is bigger and it is more intense than it was before. This would almost certainly lead to fewer people farming in the Rouge Park.
The opposition also talks at length about Mr. Robb. Why do farmers fear Jim Robb? Why do they fear the environmental groups that have signed onto this? What has Mr. Robb called our farmers?
He called our farmers industrial cash cropping farmers who planted products that harmed the environment. This was at a committee in front the city of Markham. He went on to say that he was willing to share the Rouge Park with the heritage farm community.
When we had Mr. Robb in front of our committee and asked him to describe what a heritage farmer was, he suggested that a heritage farmer was somebody who was there when the lands were expropriated.
What he was saying in front of the city of Markham was that he would share the park with the heritage farmers, but the farmers who were farming class 1 farmland in the area who did not own the land when it was seized from them did not have a right to be on that land producing.
He was on a committee with a gentleman by the name of Reesor. The Reesor family is one of the original families that actually settled that area. Mr. Reesor actually started farming in that area in 1985. He would not be considered a heritage farmer. He would be evicted, presumably, under Mr. Robb's definition, which is supported by the opposition, from those lands that he has been farming since 1985 and that his family has been farming for over 200 years.
We heard from witnesses. I have met with a number of farm groups. I met with countless constituents of mine. They all say the same thing; that we have to protect the farmers in the northern part of the Rouge.
At the same time, we have to do our best to protect the southern part of the Rouge, which is in the hands of the provincial government. At first, all the provincial government wanted was a hundred million bucks. It said, “Give us $100 million and we'll turn our backs on the Rouge. You can do whatever you want with it, just give us that $100 million”.
Alan Wells, former chair of the Rouge Park Alliance, said that had never been done before. When we called them on it, they then changed their mind and said, “Okay, maybe $100 million is asking too much”. Part of that deal was also saying that ecological integrity was important to them. However, no, it was “Give us $100 million. We'll turn our backs. Congratulations. Move forward with your park”.
We said no; that was not our priority. Our priority was to amass these lands on behalf of all Canadians and to create something special in the Rouge. That is what we are moving forward with.
Let us look at what has happened. People have been calling upon the federal government to take leadership in the Rouge for decades, and we came forward with that protection. We came forward with a plan that engaged Parks Canada.
I have not ever heard anyone in this House who would suggest that Parks Canada is not among the most professional organizations and one of the best stewards of our parkland. In fact, it is world renowned for what it has done in creating national parks and in protecting our natural heritage around this country.
Parks Canada sat down with farmers and actually changed the relationship that government had with its farmers in the area. It changed that relationship to make it more co-operative. They worked together and got the buy-in of farmers to participate in the Rouge national park.
The federal government then set aside over $140 million to create this park, to make it a reality, so that millions of people in the GTA could have access to a national park. We incorporated visitor centres so that people could understand what is important about the area. We established a farming centre to the north of the Rouge Park, so people could understand the 400-year tradition of farming in the area. To the south, there are going to be trails so people can enjoy the Rouge park. They will be able to enjoy their visitor experience. There was going to be upgrading to the environment, upgrading that the provincial government has never done.
The provincial government has put forward a set of circumstances to transfer lands, and it wants us to do what it has never done. By the way, that does not include its infrastructure demands. The provincial Liberal government said, “You need ecological integrity, but, just a second, we need a whole swath of that exempted because we might have future infrastructure demands over the area. You can forget about that portion, but for everything else you should have ecological integrity”.
Forget the fact that the provincial government has never done it. Forget the fact that this legislation would increase the protection of the environment to the highest level it has ever had in this area. Forget the fact that the people who live, work, and play in this area, and have done so for decades, do not agree with what the provincial government is doing. They agree with the approach we are taking, and actually appeared before committee to support this government, to support the Parks Canada initiatives. We are supposed to throw all of that out and pay attention to groups that have no vested interest in the park unless they are getting paid. That is the reality here, and to suggest anything else is wrong.
When they talk about the amendments they brought forward, page after page of amendments, what are the vast majority of these amendments about? They are about ecological integrity. Did we vote against them? Darned right, we voted against them. To vote in favour of them would mean we would be evicting farmers. We cannot have it both ways.
To sum up, to those who suggest that they cannot support this bill, look at it this way. If the provincial government said that it is not transferring its lands, what would we be doing? We would be creating a 5,000-acre park. What are we doing there? We are taking 5,000 acres of class 1 farmland out of a proposed international airport. We are setting it aside for farmers and preserving it so that they can farm forever.
By voting against this, the opposition would not be voting against a greater Rouge park; they would be voting in favour of holding this land for an international airport. They can separate the two issues. If they support farmers and they support the environment, then they will support this bill, at the very least because it would take 5,000 acres of federal land out of a potential international airport and preserve and protect it forever.
At the very least they can support that, and we could all work on the framework and final management plan that would support all of the goals of farmers and environmentalists.
With regard to government funding, for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusive: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group in the electoral district of Markham—Unionville, providing for each (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the location of the recipient, indicating the municipality, (iii) the date, (iv) the amount, (v) the department or agency providing it, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?
Mr. Speaker, if I am not mistaken, the member for Markham—Unionville was the minister of national defence when Canada deployed a significant force to Afghanistan without any debate in this country. He sent a significant force of Canadians to a war zone with inappropriate equipment, with old outdated jeeps, and with the wrong colour of uniforms. It was described by military leaders at the time as a decade of darkness.
Having said that, I wonder if the member could identify for us what the differences are between this mission against ISIL in Iraq and the mission we undertook in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. What would have led the Liberals to send our military forces to fight the Taliban, when today they are not willing to send our forces to fight ISIL? I wonder if the member could highlight what the differences are and why the Liberals have now flip-flopped. I am not sure. We have a couple of hours until the vote, so they might change their minds before then.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by noting that today is the first day of the Markham Fair, which runs from October 2 to October 5. This is one of Ontario's largest agricultural fairs. It has been going on since 1844 in my community. It highlights the important role that farming and agriculture have played in the development of my community and the entire York region.
What is very special about the Markham Fair every year is the importance that the entire community places on it. Every November, I have the opportunity to attend the president's banquet at the Markham Fair, and we recognize the individuals who have volunteered their time at the fair. It always amazes me how many people have been there for 5, 10, 20, 25, 40, 45 and 50 years, volunteering at the Markham Fair. Generation upon generation of families volunteer to make this annual fair a special event for our entire community.
As I said, it is an agricultural fair. We see all the things that we could expect to see at an agricultural fair. There are ploughing matches There are competitions for things like hogs, chickens, the best homemade apple pie. There is soap carving. Obviously, there is a midway and there are all kinds of other things that highlight the importance of agriculture to our community.
Today, as they kick off another year of the Markham Fair, I just wanted to congratulate them and wish them well.
There has been a lot of difference of opinion on the creation of the park. Actually, let me take that back. I do not think that there is a difference of opinion with respect to creating the Rouge national urban park. I think that the difference is in the form that the park would take.
As the members for Scarborough—Guildwood and Wellington—Halton Hills highlighted, a lot of people for many years have been focused on trying to create a national park in the Rouge. That is something that has been talked about for many years.
It is important to look back a little bit at where this all started and how we got to this place. A lot of the land in this area became available to the government through the expropriations in 1972 by the Trudeau government of, I think, over 18,000 acres of land for the creation of potential new airports and a second airport for Toronto. At that time, farmers in the area were evicted from their lands. Some were given leases to lease back their lands on a yearly basis, but many were evicted. That has been the reality for many of the farmers in the area since 1972.
Fast forward to 1994, when the Rouge park concept started being put into play. As it has already been noted, it really followed Pauline Browes, who was the minister of state for the environment in the Campbell government and a parliamentary secretary in the Mulroney government. A decision was made that $10 million would be set aside to help create, manage and preserve some of the natural heritage of the Rouge park. That brought in a heightened significance of how special the natural heritage of the Rouge is.
Consequently, there have been provincial governments that have also recognized its significance. Through the 1990s and the early 2000s, the Mike Harris government transferred thousands of acres of land into the management of the park. Also through that time, plans were made to manage the Rouge in a more effective way so that we could preserve and protect the national heritage of the area.
As we have got a little bit further into the discussion, there were thoughts about what could be done to protect the Rouge park. As it has been mentioned, the Rouge park falls into two different categories. There is a Toronto category, and then there is a York region part of it.
For those who do not know the area, in the Toronto category there is a large street called Steeles Avenue. South of Steeles Avenue, some of the most extraordinary natural heritage in Ontario or Canada can be evidenced through the Rouge park there. It is absolutely spectacular. I do not think anybody can question that.
North of Steeles Avenue, we start coming into more agricultural areas. A vast majority of the land to the north of Highway 7, which would be put into Rouge park, is agricultural land that has been farmed for hundreds of years. This is not just a new concept. This land has been farmed for hundreds of years. In fact, I would invite all of my colleagues in the House to look at a program called The Curse of the Axe. This program highlights the Wendat people who were settled in this area some 500 years ago. It was discovered that the Wendat people had been farming those very same lands. The extent to which they were farming completely changed how we viewed our first nations and the role that they played in agriculture and trading in the area. I would invite all my colleagues to look at the program. It will highlight again how long this land has been farmed.
North of Highway 7, it is farming. To the south, as the member for Scarborough—Guildwood rightly pointed out, we have the 401, a hydro corridor, the Toronto Zoo and, on one edge of it, there is a landfill. However, there are extraordinary pockets of incredible beauty that the Ontario government, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and what was previously the Rouge Park Alliance had been working on preserving for a number of years. We have done that with partners in the private sector. By and large, we have done a very good job.
However, when the concept started evolving with respect to a national urban park, and we knew we had some excess airport lands, that is when the debate started to change a bit. We knew, as has been mentioned by other speakers, that we could do something very special here. We could protect the natural heritage of the Rouge Valley, but at the same time we could extract those lands that had become surplus to any potential airport needs, and put them back into a Rouge park so these lands could be protected for a long time to come.
The Ontario Farmland Trust, a non-profit organization that promotes farmland preservation, said, “The new Rouge National Urban Park offers one of the most innovative opportunities for the protection of farmland resources, agricultural heritage and local food production in our generation.”
If I am not mistaken, it is only 1%. This is class 1 farmland. We have lost so much farmland in this area to development. In the park south of Steeles Avenue, pretty much all of the farming that was there is now gone. I believe that we have to do our absolute best to ensure that the class 1 farmland on the northern part of the future park is preserved and saved, and that we allow our farmers to continue to farm, using best farm practices, for a very long time.
Our farmers are sometimes condemned as not being proper stewards of the land. I disagree. These lands have been farmed for hundreds of years, and our farmers are some of the best stewards of the land. The proposal that has been brought forward by the minister would see these farmers finally get long-term leases. Bear in mind that these farmers have been working on yearly leases. It is very hard, if not impossible, for them to make investments in the land that they have been farming. They cannot make the investments that most farmers would want to make. They are forced into a certain type of farming because they are on a yearly lease. This has disadvantaged the farmers in this area for a very long time.
We have the opportunity through this legislation to do both things that are very important, to protect the natural heritage of the park, while at the same time reversing decades of poor treatment of farmers in the area.
That is why I am very excited about this. Obviously throughout this process there has been a lot of debate. The member for Wellington—Halton Hills and I have not always seen eye to eye on this. We have had a tremendous amount of debate. When the proposal first came to me as the member of Parliament for Oak Ridges—Markham to create a Rouge national urban park, I was dead set against it if it meant that farmers in my riding would be disadvantaged the way they had been and if they were to be treated the way they had been under the existing Rouge Park management.
There is a 2001 Rouge Park management plan. Part of that management plan calls for a 600-metre corridor. The net result of that corridor would mean the elimination, at a minimum, of 1,700 acres of class 1 farmland and that is completely unacceptable to me, to farmers and to my constituents. We can make sure that we work with the farmers, who are not opposed to making sure that the entire ecosystem is protected. They want to work together with government to make sure that they can do that. I want to read a letter from the York Region Federation of Agriculture, which represents farmers in the area, to the hon. Brad Duguid, the Ontario minister who has highlighted that the Ontario government does not want to transfer the land. It says:
The York Region Federation of Agriculture members are the 700 farm businesses in York Region and Toronto including the farmers in the Rouge National Urban Park. ...you arrived at your decision to not recommend the Provincial land transfers after discussions with stakeholders and local citizen groups. You did not consult with the York Region Federation of Agriculture, the farmers in the Park, or the community living in the Park. We urge you not to hold up the transfer of Provincial lands to Parks Canada.
The farming community in the Rouge National Urban Park are the same farm families that have been farming and caring for the land...for the past 200 years. The future of the farms in the Rouge National Urban Park have been in limbo since the farms were expropriated in the 1970's. The farmland in the Rouge National Urban Park is Class 1 Agricultural Land, meaning it is the best land for agriculture production. Less than 1% of Canada's farmland is Class 1. The farmers in the park have already given up 1000 acres of productive farmland in the Rouge National Urban Park to reforestation projects.
We support Parks Canada's consultation process that engaged over 100 stakeholder groups and thousands of individuals to create the Rouge National Urban Park Draft Management Plan.
It went on to say:
We believe that Parks Canada will improve the ecological integrity of the Rouge National Urban Park while maintaining the farmland in food production.
I want to reference another letter, from the Cedar Grove community group to Minister Duguid. Cedar Grove is an extraordinary community within my riding, a very historical community. This is what it has to say:
On behalf of the Cedar Community Club, we write with regard to your letter of September 2...which presents your decision to withdraw your recommendation to support transfer of land to Rouge National Urban Park.... It was shocking to learn of your decision and we strongly disagree.... With the promise of the coming Rouge National Urban Park, there was an anticipated hope for stability for the farmers and residents of Cedar Grove and surrounding communities.
It went on to support what the minister has done to bring about the Rouge national urban park.
I want to talk about what has recently transpired with the Province of Ontario.
We obviously have been working with the Province of Ontario for a number of years. Since this announcement was made in the previous election of 2011 and rehighlighted in the throne speech, we have been working closely with the Province of Ontario to bring about the Rouge national urban park in a way that respects the ecological integrity and promotes the national heritage, but also protects the farmers and gives them the stability that they have been looking for since 1972.
I do not think it is a big secret that we were close to an agreement. We had a signed agreement with the Province of Ontario that we probably would have announced had an election not been called for the Province of Ontario. Then, after the election that changed, unbeknownst to any of us. I know I picked up the Toronto Star one day and saw a letter from Liberal Minister Duguid outlining the Liberals' concerns. They were no longer going to be transferring the land because they had some concerns with ecological integrity.
Never had they mentioned this before. The province had signed an agreement with us. The transfer was to happen. We were to move forward with a management plan that was working with the province and the stakeholders in the area. Then this came. Coincidentally, everything is held up until November 2015, after the next federal election. It is truly shameful.
It is worth remembering that these are the same provincial Liberals that had before requested, not ecological integrity, but money for the lands it was going to transfer. They wanted to be bought out. Therefore, when they asked for I think it was $120 million, they had no concerns with what they were seeing then. Their concern was that they wanted to be bought out of their position in the lands; “Give us a hundred million dollars and we'll transfer it to you, no problem”.
It was highlighted by people like Alan Wells, who was the final chair of the Rouge Park Alliance, that this had never been the case. Governments had transferred lands to the Rouge Park for a very limited amount, I believe for $1. The provincial government had done that before. The provincial government of Mike Harris transferred lands to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority so that it could be managed. That was pointed out to the minister, but they needed to get their $100 million.
I really want to reiterate what the provincial Liberals' proposal would do. In his letter to the Minister of the Environment, he highlighted what the member for Scarborough—Guildwood and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands talked about. It is worth noting that the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River, the member for Markham—Unionville, and I am not sure if anyone else, submitted petitions to the House supporting a 1994 framework, saying that this park could not go ahead unless the 1994 framework was supported. However, as I said earlier, the 1994 framework would cause 1,700 acres of class 1 farmland to be taken out of production. It would mean the eviction of farmers and would probably mean the closure of one of our most successful farms in the area, Whittamore's Farm.
To say that the farmers do not trust the provincial Liberal government on this is an understatement because they have seen this before. There was a park called Bob Hunter Memorial Park, where 600 acres of class 1 farmland was taken away from farmers. People who had lived there for 33 years were evicted. Trees were planted across this class 1 farmland. Millions of dollars were put into it. There was no consultation. It was done and forced upon these farmers. Therefore, the farmers do not trust the provincial government. Quite frankly, governments at the federal level have never undertaken a consultation process like we have on this, and that is all governments. The Conservative and Liberal governments in the past have never done what we have done now.
While I agree that the southern part of this extraordinary ecosystem needs to be protected, and that is what our legislation does, I do not agree that means sacrificing thousands of acres of class 1 farmland in order to create a Rouge national urban park.
I hope that members of the House will work with us to create a park that we can all be proud of and give the millions of people who live in this area access to a treasure that we will be able to brag about because we helped create it.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday evening was the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Rosh Hashanah marks the start of 10 days of reflection and atonement for Jewish Canadians, culminating on Yom Kippur. It is also at time of celebration, as one gathers with friends and family to reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the promise of the future.
York Region has a thriving Jewish community, and I would like to use this moment to recognize them for their innumerable contributions to Canada.
On behalf of the residents of Markham—Unionville, I would like to wish a happy and healthy new year to all who are celebrating. May 5775 be a year of peace, prosperity, and happiness for all.
Mr. Speaker, that is really rich coming from the Liberal Party, a party that cancelled our replacements to the Sea Kings, the party that went and bought used submarines.
The member for Markham—Unionville back in 2008 said, when referring to the defence file, “I think the defence budget has gone up at an alarming rate”, so we will take no lessons from the Liberals while we are trying to help the Royal Canadian Navy. We are investing in modernizing the frigates and we have a $36.6 billion program in the national shipbuilding procurement.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Markham—Unionville was on CBC recently. He was being skeptical about the government's promise to reduce the processing time from upward of 36 months to under one year. He went on to say that it was just in time for an election year.
Is he really that cynical?
This is taking up a great deal of time. The hon. member for Markham—Unionville has not finished asking his question. I would ask members to allow him to do so.
I will be very careful, Mr. Speaker, because as my friend across the way knows, one must be delicate when talking to our friends across the way.
It is important to know that the way the House conducts itself, the way the House performs its function on behalf of Canadians, the way we study legislation and vote on legislation seems incredibly unimportant to my Liberal colleagues right now. I express this with some concern and sadness, because the function of Canada's Parliament should matter to all of us, regardless of our political persuasion.
The motion in front of us directs how the House of Commons will operate over the next four weeks. Specifically, it proposes to extend the hours. It would also give the government unilateral control over how the House would conduct itself past a certain time of day. Only those sitting in the Conservative cabinet would be allowed the basic tools and the basic rules that govern this place. Not even my friends on the Conservative backbench would be allowed the basic tools under the motion. Those rules would be given over exclusively to the Conservative cabinet.
To my friends in the Liberal Party who attempted to belittle the conversation going on here today, it is only going to last so long. I would remind them that the motion would guide the House not on just this one moment but on what will happen over the next four weeks, including a number of important pieces of legislation on which the opposition and my Conservative colleagues in the back would be prohibited from exercising their democratic values and rights.
The Liberals can make fun and talk about bubbles in bubbles, but the constituents that I represent care about our fundamental democratic values. I do not know about Kingston and the Islands or about Markham—Unionville or all the rest, but my constituents care about our fundamental democratic values. The place where that happens the most is right here.
If the Conservatives introduce draconian motions that extend hours and limit the power of MPs to debate pieces of legislation and those measures are not important to my Liberal friends, then so be it. That is fine. That is a decision they can make. We stand opposed to this motion specifically because it would prevent members of Parliament—
The electoral district of Markham--Unionville (Ontario) has a population of 127,191 with 88,931 registered voters and 206 polling divisions.
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