Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming.
I am delighted to speak today to the pipeline safety act. When it comes to energy supply, few countries can match Canada's enormous potential. We are the world's fifth-largest producer of oil, with the third-largest proven reserves; and we are the fifth-largest producer of natural gas, with natural gas resources estimated at up to 1,300 trillion cubic feet. Canada is indeed fortunate to have abundant oil and gas resources. However, as hon. members of the House know full well, to reach our full potential we need more than supply. We need the energy infrastructure necessary to reach new markets. Here is the problem in a nutshell.
While Canada's endowment of petroleum resources is immense, we have only one major export customer: the United States. In fact, nearly all of our oil and gas exports are to the United States. Meanwhile, here in Canada, production from the oil sands is forecast to continue to grow, apart from a temporary slowdown today, from about 1.9 million barrels per day in 2013 to more than 5 million barrels per day by 2035. These two factors—increasing Canadian production and declining American demand—mean that Canada must develop new markets and the infrastructure to reach them, including pipelines.
At the same time, global energy demand is projected to increase by 33% between 2011 and 2035. Massive new markets in Asia are fuelling new energy demands. Non-OECD countries are forecast to account for 93% of energy demand growth, with China and India alone consuming almost half of it. Canada can capably meet that need, as Canadian oil and gas production is expected to grow dramatically over the same period. However, again, without pipelines to move our products to tidewater to reach world markets, Canada's oil and gas will continue to be stranded, and the opportunity will be lost.
That is why it is critical for Canada to build new pipelines to the west, the south, and the east to open up new markets and ensure that Canada is getting top dollar for its energy resources. That is why pipeline safety is also so important.
We recognize that we cannot expand into foreign markets if we don't have the backing of the public. We understand that public safety and environmental protection are necessary conditions for energy development to proceed. Right now, despite what we hear from the other side of this House on a regular basis, Canada's pipelines are among the safest in the world. For example, between 2008 and 2013, 99.999% of oil transported on federally regulated pipelines arrived safely. In fact, the rate of spills on federally regulated pipelines in Canada was 60% lower than in both Europe and the United States over the past decade. Even given these impressive safety statistics, our government believes that it is not the time to be complacent, but rather it is the time for action. It is crucial to keep improving the technology and increasing our efforts to improve safety around pipelines.
We believe that expanding market access and protecting our environment can go hand in hand. Time and again, we have promised that no pipeline project will proceed unless it is safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. With this proposed legislation, we would build on our impressive safety record to make Canada's robust pipeline safety system even stronger.
Strengthening the safety of Canada's pipeline systems focuses on three key areas: prevention, preparedness and response, and liability and compensation.
When it comes to prevention, our goal is simple: to take action to reduce risks and prevent accidents from happening in the first place. This legislation would build on previous pipeline safety measures that increased the number of inspections and audits, and that gave the National Energy Board the authority to levy administrative monetary penalties.
For the first time, we will enshrine the polluter pays principle in law, so that polluters, not Canadian taxpayers, will be held financially responsible for the costs and damages they cause. Pipeline operators will be held responsible for incidents, irrespective of fault, and the National Energy Board will have the tools to take control of a response to an incident if a pipeline operator is unable or unwilling to do so. These costs will be recovered from industry to ensure that taxpayers are protected against any potential costs of cleanup.
We will also ensure that companies operating pipelines are responsible for them throughout their lifetime, from their construction until they are abandoned, including any related costs. To ensure full transparency, documents concerning pipeline safety will be available to the Canadian public.
We are also moving ahead with important measures that will enhance the participation of aboriginal peoples in the development and operation of pipeline safety systems. With the participation of aboriginal people and the commitment to world-class pipeline safety, Canada can harness the tremendous economic opportunities before us.
Ultimately, all of these measures are about the same thing: protecting Canadians and the environment. Emphasizing prevention, responding quickly in the event of an incident and making sure that companies, not Canadians, are liable for any costs, these measures are strengthening our pipeline safety system and making it world-class. This legislation will send a strong signal to the world that Canada is a safe and responsible supplier of energy resources, and that Canada is indeed open for business
Right now, the scale and pace of resources development in Canada remains truly remarkable. Hundreds of major natural resource projects are under construction or planned over the next ten years. This represents a total investment of as much as $675 billion. Over the next 25 years, responsible development of Canada's energy resources is expected to generate literally trillions of dollars in economic activity and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Huge markets in the Asia-Pacific region and in Europe are ripe for business. We must not let this opportunity pass us by. The bottom line is that opening new markets for our energy products will support our government's top priority, which is creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians.
We are going to be resuming debate, but I would draw to the House's attention the fact that we have used up the five hours allowed for speeches of 20 minutes and questions and comments of 10 minutes. We are now down to speeches that would only be for 10 minutes and questions and comments for five minutes.
The hon. member for Nipissing—Timiskaming.
Mr. Speaker, I am always proud to rise to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay, who put their trust in me, as indeed do all citizens of this country put their trust in all of us, regardless of whatever political party we represent.
We are called to this place to rise above our own personal, pecuniary, or familial interests to represent the people of this country. This institution is a work in progress. It often does not live up to the standard that Canadians expect of it, but it is the democratic House of the people of Canada.
I do not think that this is a debate that any of us engage in tonight with relish. I have worked with the member for Peterborough for a number of years. We have had many memorable drop-down, drag-'em-out scraps that were sometimes like Alli-Frazier. I am not saying that I was like Ali, but we did respect each other and we worked well in committee. We worked well in the heritage committee on a number of issues. We worked sometimes less well in the ethics committee, which was sometimes more of a circus, but thank God the member for Sherbrooke was there to keep order.
We do develop relations across party lines, whether or not we agree with each other, and sometimes we have to call each other to task for not living up to the obligation that is upon all of us in this House. Tonight is one of those nights.
The finding of guilt in a court of law for electoral fraud is a very serious issue. It is a serious issue because it cuts to the heart of the democratic system of our country. The idea that people can game the system and buy elections cuts to the very credibility of whether or not we are a truly democratic institution. We have to take these breaches of the law seriously. We cannot just write them off as mere mistakes.
Unfortunately, we have seen in this last session of Parliament a number of incidents that have certainly raised questions to the Canadian people about ethical lapses within the parliamentary system. We have had the suspensions without pay of Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin, and Mike Duffy, all three of whom are under investigation and going to trial.
We have Mac Harb, the Liberal Senator, who ran an extraordinary scheme to get money from taxpayers. Average Canadians would have to ask themselves why someone would do that. Mac Harb, to get the housing allowance, bought a property 100 kilometres from Ottawa so he could collect $22,000 a year. Then he sold 99.99% of the property to somebody else, so he had a .01% claim, and then defrauded the taxpayers of $22,000 a year. Seeing that kind of deviousness, the average Canadian would say, “What kind of person would think like that?” This is a serious breach of public trust, and we certainly expect that the RCMP will do full due diligence when we see the kind of fraud that has been committed in the Senate.
We see Senator Raymond Lavigne, who was charged and convicted for fraud and breach of trust and sent to jail, again for schemes to use the money that is supposed to be there to serve the parliamentary process and the senatorial process. To use it for personal interests is a breach of the trust of Canadians and cannot be set aside just because they are rich, just because they are powerful or just because they know people.
As parliamentarians, we are put in this House to be the lawmakers of this land. The fascinating thing about the parliamentary tradition is that to be lawmakers, we are appointed by the people who put their trust in us. We may have no background in law. We may be a baker, a cobbler, an accountant, or a bass player in a punk band. If the people believe we should be there to review the laws, then we are entrusted to review the laws.
That is a good process, because it says that the review of law in this country is done, and should be done, by ordinary people who have ordinary life experiences, people who are there to be reasonable in looking at legislation and in ensuring that legislation is done in the right manner.
When people breach the law knowingly, there has to be consequences, and that is what we are here to deal with tonight.
The issue before us is a case of breaching the electoral act, where the member for Peterborough spent $21,000 during his election campaign through Holinshead to do voter outreach. That would have breached the electoral spending limits of his campaign, so he and his official agent, Mr. McCarthy, only claimed $1,575 in services. Issues were then raised with Elections Canada that these documents had been falsified to create a cover-up. Money was spent and services were hired, yet they tried to claim that this was parliamentary and outside the work of the electoral season.
A number of issues of trust were breached at that moment. Number one was exceeding the limits. Number two was falsifying documents. Number three was trying to claim that work, which was clearly within the purview of an election period, was somehow parliamentary and should be claimed.
My colleague, the member for Peterborough, would have been under investigation for some time on this. He did come into the House and plead his case as a matter of privilege. Unfortunately, his argument at the time, I think, was a false and misconstrued argument that his rights as a member of Parliament were somehow breached by the fact that he was under investigation for a crime. Certainly, I do not think that any Canadian would think that people under investigation for a crime have a higher level of privilege to be protected just because they are a member of Parliament.
I say that, again, more out of sadness than anything, because the charges against my colleague were very serious, and the conviction is serious. Justice Lisa Cameron stated, in terms of finding him guilty on all charges, that there were numerous inconsistencies and obfuscations in his testimony and that he simply was not a credible or believable witness, so she found him guilty. That then puts us in a very difficult position. What happens in the House of Commons if the people who are supposed to make the laws actually break the laws of this country?
My friend from Peterborough did himself more damage when he was asked about the judge's ruling, and he said that it was simply a matter of her opinion. To me, that speaks of a larger disrespect for the law. We get a sense that because he is a Conservative insider, it is the judge's opinion that is at stake here, as opposed to reflecting on the breach of trust and faith with his citizens, the voters, and his own party in terms of what he has done.
The need to take responsibility puts more pressure on the House to act. We simply cannot carry on and pretend that nothing happened.
Now, my colleague from Peterborough is saying that he has more evidence and that he wants to reopen the case. The fact is that he was found guilty, end of story. Having been found guilty, the House is forced to act.
It puts us in the situation that we have not really dealt with an issue of this manner within the House. We know that in the Senate, where we have a number of senators under investigation, moves were made earlier this year to suspend without pay the three senators, Brazeau, Wallin and Duffy, while they were under investigation. Mac Harb jumped ship at that point. At that point, none of them had been charged, but it was felt, because of a loss of faith by the Canadian people toward the Senate, they should be suspended without pay.
In a case where a member of the House has been found guilty, the issue of suspension without pay is the first step. It is also a statement that the House takes breaches of the law seriously and that we, as members, regardless of our party, recognize that this is a serious breach.
What is the secondary step from this? The secondary step is that it should then go to the procedure and House affairs committee to review the numerous pieces that are going to have to be figured out with this conviction and the suspension without pay. This is not to protect or to give my colleague from Peterborough any kind of extra privilege that an ordinary citizen would not have. Rather, it is because we are, as parliamentarians, entrusted to make sure that we do due diligence in this. There are issues that need to be addressed.
For example, right now there are constituency staff who work for the member who actually do work for the Canadian people in Peterborough. They answer phones and make sure citizens are able to get that information. Even if the member is suspended, even if he cannot sit, we have to look at what that period is going to be.
The New Democratic Party has said that we have to send a clear message as a Parliament that he needs to be suspended without pay. He cannot come in here. He cannot sit. He cannot vote. We have to send that message. How we move forward from there, I trust all parliamentarians will put their partisan interests aside and make sure that this is done in a manner of due diligence.
There is the issue, for example, of his pension. Are we talking about retroactively stripping someone of their pension? That is a serious question. This is not something I want to stand up in the House and wave my fist on. I want due diligence done. I want it done right. I want this to be done in a manner that passes the test of the Canadian people, so that we can say we did the right thing in this instance.
It is unfortunate that the member for Peterborough has not chosen to resign and spare us all from having to deal with this, but we will deal with it. I think we can deal with it in a manner that is respectful to the traditions of the House. It is also a matter of respect for the voters of Peterborough. We have to approach this with the larger sense that we are entrusted to do the right thing.
We have had a number of tawdry examples of breaches of the law in the last four years that need to be addressed in terms of the lowering ethical standards of the House. We also had the unprecedented situation of Mr. Peter Penashue. He was elected up in Labrador. He was a man who came with a very impressive reputation. He broke the electoral laws of our country and was forced to resign. He lost his position and had to leave in disgrace. He was not here that long.
Again, why are the electoral laws so important? It is because in Canada we have established the principle that one should not be able to buy an election. The fairness of the Elections Act exists so that someone who wants to take on a long-standing incumbent, who has built up their team, their volunteers and has money in the bank, is treated fairly. The democratic process in Canada says there has to be a limit on how much a candidate can spend so that they are not simply able to buy the kind of political exposure that another candidate could not buy.
This is something that is lacking in the United States. I know many people in the United States look to our system and ask how Canada has managed to maintain a more credible electoral system in some areas. A lot of that has to do with the electoral financing laws. Therefore, people who game the system, who believe they can buy those votes, have no business being in this House.
We had the resignation of Mr. Penashue. In 2006, we had the in and out scheme, where senior people in the Conservative Party had to cop a plea. Unfortunately, there was no punishment for them. In fact they were elevated to the Senate, which I think sent a very bad message. We had the robo-fraud case in 2011. The Federal Court found that there were numerous cases of robo-fraud taking place across the country. The judge found that at the heart of it was the phone database that was controlled by the Conservative Party. However, because of the electoral laws, Elections Canada was not able to get the kind of information it required from witnesses, so the case never went any further.
Right now, we have Michael Sona convicted but we do not know who ran the false phone calls, for example into Nipissing—Timiskaming, which was an election that was won by about 17 votes. Someone made those calls. Someone organized that database. We never got those answers. That is a question that reflects on the credibility of the House.
If this kind of electoral fraud is able to happen and there are no consequences then Canadians' faith in politics is going to suffer. It puts us back to the issue before us tonight. I think we can do the right thing. We can do the reasonable thing.
We do need to address the larger issues of accountability that have yet to be addressed from the abuses we have seen in the Senate. I am hoping that when we see the Auditor General's report on the Senate spending, we will get a better sense of how to deal with that very belligerent institution.
The problem on the other side is the refusal to put in some of the checks and balances that were put in on the House side. This is not to say that there are angels sitting in the House of Commons, but there are some fundamental differences between the House of Commons and the Senate. Number one is that people in the House of Commons have a democratic mandate. They were elected by the people; they can be fired by the people. Nobody can be fired in the Senate. They are there until they are 75, whether they show up to work or not. Our famous senator from Mexico used to show up once a year just to show off his tan, and he collected money for years.
There needs to be better accountability on the other side. We know that when the Federal Accountability Act was brought in, in 2006, it was one of the few times New Democrats put our faith in the Conservatives to actually work together with us on improving accountability after the horrific abuses of the Liberal sponsorship years. However, one of the things that interfered with our ability to bring better accountability was that the Senate refused to meet the same standards, which is very problematic.
What we are dealing with here—
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming.
I am privileged to rise today to speak to the second budget implementation act, 2014. I would like to share with the House some of the important measures contained in the legislation that stem from budget 2014 and other important actions of our government.
In the 2011 election campaign, our government made a number of promises to the Canadian people that we said we would bring in once the budget was balanced. We are well on our way to fulfilling our promises. One of the first promises we are fulfilling is the doubling of the children's fitness tax credit from $500 to $1,000 and making it refundable.
It is well known that regular exercise is essential to the successful development of children. It is a great way to get them started on a lifetime of healthy, active living. That is why our Conservative government introduced the children's fitness tax credit in the first place. This measure makes it affordable for Canadian families to register their kids in fitness activities. This tax credit currently benefits approximately 1.4 million Canadian families by providing them with much-needed tax relief.
With the doubling of this tax credit to $1,000 and making it refundable, it would become even more beneficial to low-income families. These enhancements to the children's fitness tax credit would help bring further tax relief to about 850,000 families that enrol their children in sports or other fitness activities. As a government, we have been strongly committed to making life more affordable for hard-working Canadian families, and doubling the children's fitness tax credit and making it refundable does exactly that.
Our government has also committed to supporting job creation and economic growth in Canada's economy. We recognize that the most important driver of Canada's economic growth and success is the private sector, small businesses and entrepreneurs. These companies and individuals are the ones driving our economy forward, putting in long hours, and hiring our friends and neighbours.
According to the Business Development Bank, small and medium-sized enterprises make up 99.8% of all Canadian companies. It is because small businesses are so important that our government has introduced the small business job credit. The aim of this measure is to help small businesses save money and therefore have more resources to hire more workers. The small business job credit would apply to employment insurance premiums paid by small businesses in 2015-16.
The credit will be calculated as the difference between the premiums paid at the legislated rate of $1.88 per $100 of insurable earnings in each of those years. Since employers pay 1.4 times the legislated rate, this reduction in the legislated rate is equivalent to a reduction of about 39¢ per $100 in insurable earnings. That is in EI premiums paid by small employers. The 39¢ premium reduction would apply in addition to the premium reduction related to the Québec Parental Insurance Plan. Any firm that pays employee EI premiums equal to or less than $15,000 in 2015 or 2016 will be eligible for the credit in those years.
As an example, a small business employing 14 employees each earning $40,000 would ordinarily pay about $14,740 in EI premiums in 2015. However, since the total EI premiums paid by the employer are less than $15,000, it would be eligible under the small business job credit for a refund of about $2,200. That is the difference between the employer premiums paid at the legislated rate versus the premiums calculated under the reduced small business rate.
Businesses will not have to apply. The small business job credit will be automatically administered by the Canada Revenue Agency, which will determine eligibility and calculate the amount of the credit. Once calculated, the credit will be applied against any outstanding debt and then the remaining amount, if any, will be refunded to the small business. We expect this measure to save small employers more than $550 million in 2015-16. This is just another way that our government is helping foster the conditions for private sector jobs and growth in the Canadian economy, which is the foundation of our long-term prosperity.
The budget implementation act would also take action to help amateur athletes and students, and I want to highlight those measures briefly as well.
First, for amateur athletes, the budget implementation act would permit income contributed to an amateur athlete trust to qualify as income earned for RRSP contribution limits. This is another important way we can help encourage and fund our young athletes on their journeys in their respective sports.
The budget implementation act would also extend the tax credit for interest paid on government-sponsored student loans to interest paid on a Canada apprentice loan. This is also vital in encouraging young Canadians to consider the trades as they prepare to enter the workforce or prepare for their post-secondary education. It is well known that there is a shortage of skilled tradespeople in the country and this is another important step in encouraging young Canadians to consider a career in that field.
I would like to turn to a subject that is close to my heart. Anyone who has spent time with me knows my passion for caring for men and women in uniform, and for continuing that care once these individuals are out of uniform and become part of Canada's veteran community.
With so many young veterans now, our care for them must change, it has changed, and it continues to change and improve.
One of the primary goals of the government and of the Department of Veterans Affairs is care for our veterans, helping them transition to a new career and establish a new life with as much independence as possible. This includes helping the seriously ill and injured veterans have their house renovated to accommodate diverse needs, such as wheelchair access and things like that, as well as providing up to $75,800 in career retraining funding for either the injured forces member or their spouse.
The aim of that fund is to get veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces working again in meaningful and gainful employment. We want them to use their trade, leadership and people management skills in the public or private sector where they can be put to good use.
For our part, our government is taking action to ensure that veterans are welcomed and hired into the public service in a way that recognizes the service they have already given to the country.
Each year, approximately 7,600 Canadian Armed Forces personnel leave the service, including about 1,000 individuals who leave for medical reasons beyond their control. Finding meaningful employment for them is a very important factor in them making the successful transition to civilian life.
In recognition of their service to Canada, budget 2013 promised to enhance employment opportunities in the federal public service for medically released Canadian Armed Forces personnel by creating a statutory hiring priority in the Public Service Employment Act for forces members who were medically released for service related reasons and by extending the duration of priority entitlements from two to five years for all medically released Canadian Armed Forces personnel.
Our government also proposed, in budget 2014, to amend the Public Service Employment Act to give preference to eligible veterans in external public service job competitions and to allow Canadian Armed Forces personnel with at least three years of military service to participate in internal public service job competitions.
To that end, our government has tabled Bill C-27, the veterans hiring act. That bill would build upon our previous commitments and previous legislative, giving honourably released forces members better access to job openings in the federal public sector. This is all part of our efforts to ensure there are more opportunities for Canada's veterans to build meaningful second careers as they transition from military to civilian life.
As part of this effort, veterans and Canadian Armed Forces personnel with a minimum of three years service would be allowed to participate in advertized internal hiring processes for a period expiring five years after their release date.
This measure would be in addition to a previous announcement by our government that eligible veterans whose military service was cut short by a career-ending illness or injury suffered in the line of duty would be given statutory priority access to job opportunities in the federal public service.
The duration of priority access for all medically released personnel would also be extended from two years to five years.
These are clearly all initiatives designed to help our veterans achieve “re-establishment in civil life”. That short quote comes from the list of responsibilities that the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and therefore the Government of Canada, is charged with in relation to Canada's veterans. These priority hiring measures are simply another way that our government is trying to help our veterans successfully re-establish themselves in civilian life.
This is the key concept in the overall philosophy of service to veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs
The aim of veterans programs is not lifelong financial dependence, unless that is the only option. The aim of the programs is to give the veteran every support possible to help those who cannot or do not wish to continue to serve in the military the tools they need to succeed in carving out a good future on their own terms. It is a goal I know all members of the House and all Canadians share.
The measures from the budget implementation act that I have highlighted today are ones I believe are in the best interests of all Canadians, whether they be children, amateur athletes, working moms and dads or veterans.
Where government can help Canadians, we want it to help and be as effective as possible. Where it is simply in the way of ordinary Canadians achieving their best possible quality of life, we want government out of the way.
The bill would help us improve that balance. That is why I am pleased to speak to it and support it.
There are nine minutes left for questions and comments for the hon. member for Nipissing—Timiskaming.
The hon. member for Winnipeg North.
The time for government orders has expired. The hon. member for Nipissing—Timiskaming will have nine minutes remaining for questions and comments when this matter returns following question period.
Mr. Speaker, I need to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the fantastic member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. I am looking forward to that, after my speech is over.
The important thing to talk about in this budget is that it reminds me of one of my favourite television shows from the mid 1990s to the end of the 1990s, which was Seinfeld. Seinfeld was a show about nothing. It was a show about lots of blunder and lots of talk, but it was really about nothing, which is the same thing we have seen with this budget.
There was not a heck of a lot in the budget. It really comes down to choices and priorities. On this side of the House, we think the government's choices and priorities are wrong.
Are there a few good things in the budget? Of course there are. There are some things that we have been calling for, like rural and northern Broadbent—I mean, broadband. That was a Freudian slip.
The importance of broadband for northern and rural communities is something we have been stating all along, especially as we have seen the failure of the spectrum auction that the government has been putting out over the last year. We need broadband to grow our economy in the north, especially in northern cities and in rural communities.
Let us look at that and what the government did when it comes to the food inspectors. In the budget, we have 200 new food inspectors. That is fantastic. That is great. However, why is it that we get 200 new food inspectors when the government cut 300? We had to go through the biggest meat recall crisis in our country's history. We had the listeriosis meat recall. It just keeps showing that, when the government cuts and cuts and then makes the announcement that is putting 200 food inspectors in, it is just a falsehood.
When we talk about nothing, we are talking about a do-nothing budget. Areas of northern Ontario, such as the great city of Sudbury that I represent, as well as Thunder Bay and Rainy River and all of the great communities that I can think of there, are not mentioned in the budget. The two words do not come together.
My hon. colleague from Nipissing—Timiskaming talked earlier about FedNor, saying that the status quo is good enough. Actually, the status quo is not good enough. When we are keeping the Ring of Fire at bay because there is a lack of leadership, that is not good enough for northern Ontarians. We need the government to act on, to jump on, and to support economic growth in northern Ontario, but this budget does not do it.
There is also no mention of any infrastructure projects. It is as if the government completely forgot that northern Ontario existed.
Small businesses, again, are very important. We on this side of the House and maybe everyone in the House will agree that small businesses are the economic drivers and job creators in this country. However, the government eliminated the small business hiring credit. The Conservatives are turning their backs on job creation. The HCSB affects around 560,000 businesses across the country, and it generally captured companies with roughly 20 to 35 employees or fewer. The HCSB was estimated to cost around $225 million annually.
Even when the Conservatives decided to include small business related measures in the budget, it was only in vague terms. For example, once again, business owners are left waiting for real action to combat something that we, on this side of the House, have been fighting on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis: the highest credit card processing fees in the world.
What is in the budget? To address the high cost of fees merchants pay banks to process credit cards, the government will consult on how to best disclose the cost of different payment methods. I repeat, consult. There are no further details or timelines. While we do not have a problem with such disclosure, the NDP is calling for stronger measures to address uncompetitive practices in the market.
It is not just the NDP that is calling for this. There are groups out there saying action is needed now. The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association asked why we need to talk about this again and why the Conservatives need to consult about an issue that the organization and many others have been talking about for years.
Every time we see the interchange rate or these swipe fees go up, it not only affects small business owners, but every single Canadian. For every single Canadian, the price of whatever product they are buying goes up because the credit card companies continue to increase these rates. When they increase these rates, small business owners have two choices. First, they can eat the cost and then, unfortunately, have to close their doors, which none of us want to see, and stop accepting credit cards. In this day and age, credit cards are almost a public utility. Second, they can increase the price of their products to offset the cost that is being paid.
We can have action now on this. We waited until July of 2013 to hear from the Competition Tribunal to act on many of these anti-competitive practices that have been implemented by the credit card companies and the banks. The Competition Tribunal then ruled that they cannot make the decision, that this is a political decision that needs to come back to Parliament. Since July, we have been waiting for action, and what we get from the government is more consultation.
That relates right back to this do-nothing budget. It is a matter of waiting until next year when the government says it will actually have a surplus, and then the government will act. However, if we look at the numbers, which even the Minister of Finance said, we could have been in a surplus this year. Now Canadian businesses and families have to wait another year before they will see any action on this and many other things that would save Canadians' pocketbooks, making life more affordable for them right now.
One of my other Conservative colleagues mentioned in his speech that we need to ensure that consumers have a balanced budget at home. Right now, Canadians have skyrocketing household debt. We could have taken action on many things that could have helped Canadian consumers right now, such as capping ATM fees. That is one. We had that debate here last week. That would keep more money in the pockets of Canadian consumers. While that would not address the household debt, it would still be a small piece in an overall puzzle to ensure that we are keeping money in the pockets of Canadians. That is one example.
What about ending the pay-to-pay billing program that we are seeing for many of the large institutions? I believe that is on page 175 of the budget, but it only seems to be going after the banks on this one. That is great, but what about all of the other ones? We need to have more details on that to ensure that we are not gouging low-income earners and seniors, who are mostly the ones affected by a pay-to-pay program. The pay-to-pay program is very simple: people who are getting paper bills are now being charged $2 by some of these organizations to receive them. Some would say it is only $2, but if we start adding it up, 10 or 15 bills per month multiplied by 12 months add up to a couple of hundred dollars. For seniors, that is rent or food on the table. There is a lot more we could do to address those types of issues.
There are many things we could have done with this budget. If the Conservatives had actually listened to some of our ideas and used them, we could have truly helped Canadians now.
One of the issues I am hearing about quite often in my riding relates to veterans. The veterans in my riding and the great citizens of Sudbury are actually appalled at what happened to veterans over the last few weeks. We are seeing offices close. This was an opportunity for us to act on making a difference in the lives of veterans. Keeping these offices open would have been paramount for so many of them.
The citizens that I am hearing from in my riding were appalled at the closure that happened and would have liked to see this budget act on that. Unfortunately, the choices and priorities of the government really did not consider veterans. If we look at small businesses, consumers, and veterans, the priorities and choices of the government are wrong, and by 2015, hopefully, the government will be like a Seinfeld episode, with a lot of reruns.
Mr. Speaker, first I wish to indicate that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming.
When I was a university student, one of the first words my professor in the economics department said was, “You cannot spend more than what you have taken in”. Economics is a very simple science. We have to balance what we take in with what we spend.
A couple of days ago, the finance minister indicated very clearly that we need to achieve a balanced budget and that it will be done through job creation, economic growth, and ensuring the long-term prosperity of Canada.
Let me also explain to members opposite, if they do not understand, microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics has to do with one's basic household budget. We cannot spend more than we earn. Businesses also cannot spend more than they earn, or else they go bankrupt.
I have served in public companies in the past. I have had to stand in front of my shareholders every year to explain the company's strategy to achieve a balanced budget and to put it in a profitable position year after year.
I think the minister has done an excellent job outlining to the nation, to corporate Canada, if we treat Canada as a corporation, in a macroeconomic sense, that we cannot spend more than we take in. I think that is the basic lesson we have to learn about the economy of this country.
In this balanced budget, there is another side that is not being explained at all by the members of the opposition. I do not think they quite understand the concept of assets and liabilities.
The country's assets are our human resources, our natural resources, and our ability to educate our youth so that they can carry on building this nation. Where we cannot internally generate these assets or wealth, we could have policies to bring in immigrants, entrepreneur immigrants, or we could set the most favourable, business-friendly conditions in Canada to attract those types of assets to Canada.
On the liability side, we have to spend in a measured way so that we do not overspend what we have. We can argue that, yes, we can sometimes, in a stimulus way, spend a little bit more, as we did in 2008-09, by borrowing from the future. However, at the end of the day, we have to balance the budget. That is absolutely key to the long-term survival of the economy of this country.
Let me drill down a bit to help my friends across the way understand what is needed to maintain these sustainable economic conditions.
We need to create a business-friendly environment. We need to have safe families. We need to have safe communities. We need to have healthy families. We need to educate our youth from day one until the point that they can contribute to our society. We need to have a stable government. We cannot be changing a government every year or every two years, as we have witnessed in Italy or in Thailand, where in the last 50 years, they have had 30 changes of government. That is not a stable economy for a business-friendly environment.
We need to attract direct foreign investment. Some tools the government has to attract direct foreign investment are low taxes and an investment-friendly environment so that foreign business will say that Canada is a great place to do business, and they will come here and invest.
Let me share something about Canada's tax system. Since the Conservatives have been in power, we have reduced taxes 160 times, from consumption taxes to corporate taxes and just about every kind of tax we can think of.
Our general federal corporate tax in Canada is 15%. This is probably one of the lowest of the G7 and, as a matter of fact, it is the lowest in the world. I used to do business in Hong Kong, where the corporate tax rate is 16.5%. We are even lower than Hong Kong.
Bloomberg and the IMF have agreed that Canada is now one of the best places to do business. We provide our labour, our families, with a very generous universal health system. We have one of the best education systems, which attracts hundreds of thousands of international students, also benefiting our economy.
As far as stimulus to our small and medium-size enterprises, which are the backbone of our economy, our tax rate for businesses under $500,000 is about 11%. I cannot think of a country with that generous a tax regime.
Something that we talk about a lot, and the member opposite alluded to, is the government spends $1 and it generates a 50% more multiplier effect. There are many ways to look at this multiplier effect. In a business sense, if we look at the accelerated capital cost allowance, Canada has a very generous accelerated capital cost allowance. This allows businesses to modernize and to upgrade their equipment so they can be competitive in the 21st century.
We have mineral exploration credits so we could have these minerals more effectively explored and then sell them as products around the world. We have scientific research and development credits that assist our corporations to engage in research and innovation and eventually to take that quantum leap from innovation to commercialization. All of these we have to do effectively with the multiplier effect of our generous tax credit.
Opposition members seem to imply that our government is not compassionate with our spending policy. That is totally wrong. Let me share some of the examples where we are totally compassionate on this side.
We have the arts credit to encourage our youth to participate in the arts and to develop their literary and musical side. We have a fitness credit to encourage Canadians to be fit. We have a mass transit credit to encourage Canadians to use mass transit to reduce pollution in our environment. We have a live-in caregiver credit to allow seniors to live a dignified life in their own homes so they are not ending up in hospitals, old age homes, or totally alone. We have disability credits of many sorts that assist people who are hard of hearing, sight-impaired, and with other disabilities. All of these are totally compassionate measures of our government to recognize the needs of our citizens.
In the budget we also introduced the search and rescue volunteer credit to recognize the good work volunteers do in our society. There is also the adoption expense credit. We recognize that in today's world, many families are unable to have children, so we propose to reduce their adoption costs. There is also the medical expense credit.
The opposition also mentioned the immigrant investment program that we propose to delete. The immigrant investment program as it has existed for 30 years has not worked. At $800,000 it brings in only jobs like convenience stores, dry cleaners, and small grocery stores. These do not work. We will implement a new investor immigrant venture capital fund that would bring money into Canada and we would treat it almost like the CBC's Dragon's Den.
All the economic elements are there for a balanced budget.
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-536, an act to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act (Trout Lake).
Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a pleasure for me to introduce this private members' bill today, which would amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act in order to protect Trout Lake in the beautiful community of North Bay, the gateway to northern Ontario.
I want to thank my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for seconding this motion.
There are some reasons I want to protect this lake. First, Samuel de Champlain, the famous explorer, paddled Trout Lake 400 years ago. It is historic. Also, the pristine waters are another source of the drinking water for the residents of North Bay. A natural gas pipeline that borders both sides of Trout Lake is being considered for a switch to bitumen, and that worries the people of North Bay.
Another reason I want to present this private member's bill is that, unfortunately, when the Conservatives changed the Navigable Waters Protection Act, they did not include North Bay and Trout Lake. As we know, Trout Lake, as I said a while ago, is the drinking-water source for the community of North Bay. I do not know where the MP for Nipissing—Timiskaming was when this decision was taken. However, I want to assure the people of North Bay that even though their MP, my good friend sitting over there, was not looking after their best interests, they do not have to worry, because the NDP will look after their interests.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
The electoral district of Nipissing--Timiskaming (Ontario) has a population of 90,963 with 70,178 registered voters and 206 polling divisions.
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