Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today on our official opposition motion on the recent Auditor General's report on the missing $3.1 billion.
I have to say that there are days as an MP on this side of the House when I do not know whether to laugh or cry. On the surface, we can shake our heads and poke fun at the government that cannot find $3.1 billion of taxpayers' money. We know what we do at home when some money goes missing. We look under the bed and in the washing machine. Maybe a few Canadians check socks. Yesterday we asked the government if it checked the banana stand.
All kidding aside, we are not talking about some loonies or toonies or change. We are talking about $3.1 billion. This is the stuff accounting teachers use with their students as prima facie evidence of accounting gone wrong. This is where one wants to cry rather than laugh. This comes from a government that has inflicted on Canadians ad nauseam its economic action plan commercials for itself. It is more wasting of taxpayers' money.
The Conservatives have made outrageous claims about being good managers of the economy, when the evidence, such as the missing $3.1 billion, tells the real story. This is the government that brought Canada the $50-million spending spree of the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka for the G8 summit, with gazebos and the paving of the yellow brick riding that had nothing to do with security. Is this where we should be looking for the $3.1 billion for security measures?
We saw the financial fiasco of the F-35 jets. Are their fumes where we should be looking for the $3.1 billion?
In the past, we have seen economic mis-managers spend money on government programs that did not exist. Coming from Northern Ontario, I know the fiction of FedNor's spending claims from the President of the Treasury Board.
Is it any wonder that when someone with the integrity and independence of Kevin Page, the former Parliamentary Budget Officer, pointed out this incompetence, the government chose to shoot the messenger rather than conduct the business of the government in a proper fashion?
The ridicule of the Conservative government's spending and accountability knows no bounds. Richard Cléroux writes, in his Straight Talk blog, that the President of the Treasury Board is a treasury minister who has lost his treasure. The minister claimed the money was not lost, that it was only an accounting difference between him and Michael Ferguson, the Auditor General. Mr. Cléroux suggests that the treasury board minister might not be wise speculating that the money might have been spent in Afghanistan and on border crossings. Mr. Cléroux reminded Canadians that the minister “spent $50 million on building public toilets in a farmer's field, a gazebo in a town, buying a $2 million cruise boat that wouldn't float, and the killer—paying $1 million to have somebody carve a fake, miniature lighthouse out of an old tree stump...If anybody out there comes across a $3.1 billion bundle somewhere in a government office, you'll know whose it is”. Others are calling the government's explanation a fancy fudging of facts.
The minister acknowledges that the individual reporting by departments is not followed by whole government reporting. If we do the math, it is pretty simple. Add up the different departments and get the bottom-line figure. However, it does not add up. We are out $3.1 billion.
Let us be clear about the importance of security and anti-terrorism initiatives. They are needed to meet the post-9/11 security environment. No one disputes that, but with all the spending cuts happening, we need to be sure we have value for our spending. We need to know where this money is going and whether we are getting the security we are paying for. We have a problem when the Auditor General tells Canadians he does not know and cannot determine how this money was spent. It is a real concern that the government shows such a lack of interest in monitoring overall spending on national security.
The government loves to blame the previous Liberal government for getting us into this mess, and there is some truth to that. However, it is the Conservative government that in 2010 let drop the commitment to strategically monitor overall spending on national security. It was the Conservative government that stopped providing annual reports on where all the money was going.
The Auditor General found that $3.1 billion was missing between 2011 and 2009. What happened in 2010? Both the Auditor General and the Assistant Auditor General had some interesting things to say about that. The Auditor General said:
Our audit only went up to this time period, and at the end of this time period this method of reporting was stopped.
It seems that when the Auditor General found that the Conservatives were not counting money properly, the government's answer was to simply stop counting. That is banana-stand nonsense.
We can do better. We must do better.
I am the mining critic for the official opposition. We have a 20-member mining caucus that met this week to look at what a proper national mining strategy might look like, one that could support the good-paying jobs and the investment the mining industry makes in our economy, which was $35 billion in gross domestic product in 2011. A mining strategy that can pay dividends for Canada when it is done in a sustainable fashion is good management of the economy.
My leader has made it clear that for these natural resources projects, it is not in Canada's best interest, not even for our bottom line, to take as much resources out of the ground in as short a period of time as possible to sell to whomever, usually foreign countries, with foreign companies getting most of the profit. This does not serve Canadian interests now or future generations. We in the party know something about sound economic management. It means paying attention to both the bottom line and the social good. It is not surprising, as a federal government report indicated, that, taking into account all governments and all parties, NDP governments have balanced the books more than any other party. Whether it is mining or national security, we can get it right. That is good fiscal management.
That is not what we are talking about today with this missing $3.1 billion. Where is that money?
During his audit, the Auditor General asked the Treasury Board Secretariat for information to help him explain how the balance of $3.1 billion, allocated between 2001 and 2009, had been used. Although no clear explanation was given, the secretariat worked with the Office of the Auditor General to identify several possible scenarios: the money may have lapsed at the end of the fiscal year for which it was allocated; the money may have been spent on different public security and anti-terrorism activities and reported as part of ongoing program spending; or the money may have been carried over and spent on programs not related to the initiative.
With this motion, we are calling on the Conservatives to make public, by June 17, 2013, a detailed summary of all departmental expenditures specifically related to public security and anti-terrorism initiatives between 2011 and 2009 and to give the Auditor General all the necessary resources to perform an in-depth forensic audit until the missing $3.1 billion is found and accounted for.
Surely it is time to stop politics and actually take the issue of preventing terrorism seriously and account for the money spent on anti-terrorism initiatives. Conservatives are bringing forward initiatives and unnecessary laws that infringe upon our civil liberties without actually being able to explain whether the whopping $3.1 billion allocated for public security and anti-terrorism initiatives was actually spent, and if so, how, and on what programs.
Ordinary Canadians need to know why $3.1 billion of their taxpayer money is missing and why the Conservatives are not doing everything in their power to find where the $3.1 billion went and what it was used for. We will leave no stone unturned to try to get to the bottom of this boondoggle. That is a real economic action plan.
If the Conservatives have nothing to hide, why do they not make it transparent and release all necessary documents to the Auditor General to make sure the $3.1 billion is found and accounted for?
Mr. Speaker, I listened very attentively to the member's comments. However, the crux of the matter is that consumers will be paying more for bicycles, baby carriages, school supplies, household goods, wigs, housewares, iPods and MP3 players, and the list goes on. There are at least 1,300 items on the list.
What is interesting is that the minister would not have even had to raise all of these taxes on Canadians if he had watched his own spending. I will give an example.
It was not easy to come up with these numbers because everything is somewhat hidden with the current government. However, the total that I have with respect to the G8 legacy fund money that the minister spent in his own riding of Parry Sound—Muskoka is $45,758,945. That is how much taxpayers' money he spent on his own riding. I will outline all of that spending for everybody in the House and those watching on television later today. It should be a good time, and I ask everyone to listen in.
My question to the member is this: when did he finally decide that it was okay for the President of the Treasury Board to spend $45 million of taxpayers' money in his own riding?
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative omnibus bill has declared open season on Canada's lakes and rivers. Of the 30,000 lakes across this great country, only 97 will be protected, almost all are in Tory ridings and 12 are in the riding of the gazebo king, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka. He protected Lake Rosseau that is home to Hollywood millionaires. He protected Lake Joseph where a cottage will set one back a cool $5 million.
I love Muskoka, but does the minister really think exclusive lakes of millionaires are worthy of more protection than the lakes in the rest of Canada?
With regard to government employment levels, for each of the federal electoral districts of Parry Sound—Muskoka, Macleod, Haldimand—Norfolk, Halton, Edmonton Centre, Central Nova, Mégantic—L'Érable and Eglinton—Lawrence: (a) what is the current total number of federal employees in the riding; and (b) what is the total number of anticipated job reductions in the riding for the fiscal year (i) 2012-2013, (ii) 2013-2014, (iii) 2014-2015?
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-377, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations).
The bill before us seeks to require trade unions to publicly disclose their financial statements. The reporting requirements contemplated by the bill are completely unnecessary, but the government knows that.
In Canada's trade union movement, financial statements are audited and reported to elected boards of directors, to all union locals, and to delegates at conventions. Annual audited statements must be filed with both provincial and federal labour boards. The Canada Labour Code requires that financial statements be available to members. Where those statements are not routinely provided to all members, individual union members can request them from their locals and directly from labour boards. The process is open, fair, democratic and accountable.
What is really being advanced by this bill is a dangerous and unprecedented move to advance the government's agenda of undermining the balance of labour relations in Canada by tipping the scales overwhelmingly in favour of employers.
Trade unions are profoundly democratic institutions. The leadership is elected by the membership and serves at the pleasure of those members. The relationship between a union's leadership and its members is one of transparency and accountability. A union is accountable to its members, just as comparable not-for-profit and tax-exempt entities, like think tanks, professional associations and trade boards are accountable to their members.
With this legislation the government is once again breaching the bounds of fundamental fairness by demanding that trade unions release their financial information to the public. Importantly, it is only trade unions that would be required to do so. Entities such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the law society, and the Fraser Institute, all of which enjoy the same kind of tax-exempt status as unions, are curiously not mentioned in the bill. When the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale first introduced this legislation as Bill C-317 in the last Parliament, he was asked why it targeted unions alone, why the same provisions would not apply to other not-for-profit agencies or societies. He was unable to answer that very basic question.
Clearly the labour movement is being singled out for attack in this legislation. Equally clear, the decision to uniquely target labour is ideological, unbalanced and vindictive.
Why are we here today debating a bill which on the surface appears to remedy a wholly invented problem?
We are here to debate legislation that would have the effect of hog-tying unions as they conduct their daily business of representing and advocating for working women and men. With this bill the employer sitting across the negotiating table would have ready access to all the financial information it might need to wage a war of attrition designed to bankrupt a union.
With this legislation the employer would know exactly what resources the union has and how far those resources will stretch. The employer would be handed a report that tells it exactly how much the union can spend on a grievance, whether the union can afford an organizing drive, and precisely how much is in the strike fund. It is absolutely outrageous.
Would the government contemplate any other negotiation between two parties where one side was legislatively required to hand over financial information that provided the other side with a spectacular competitive advantage?
This is legislation that corrupts the very idea of fairness and balance in negotiations between parties and undermines the fundamental right of free collective bargaining.
In grasping this we can now see the real purpose of this legislation. It is not intended to improve transparency or accountability. It is intended to deliver to the government's corporate friends a cudgel with which to hobble Canadian unions as they seek to represent their members.
We have seen the government's determination to sabotage free collective bargaining before, and this bill represents one more breach of common sense and responsible management. Never mind that labour rights are ostensibly protected by international conventions. Never mind that the balance of labour relations in this country has been relatively stable for decades. Never mind that organized labour in Canada represents more than three million men and women from coast to coast to coast. In every major dispute since they came to power, the Conservatives have responded with heavy-handed tactics expressly designed to hand the employer a win: disingenuous referrals to the labour board; the imposition of wage settlements that are lower than the employer's offer; draconian back to work legislation announced before labour disruptions have even begun.
Employers in this country now know beyond a doubt that there is no need to engage in free and fair collective bargaining, because the moment workers contemplate exercising their rights, the government will side with the employer and legislate those rights away. To the simple-minded government this must seem terribly convenient. In fact, it is a dangerous undermining of an always fragile balance in labour relations that will further destabilize an already flagging economy.
We have seen that the government's obdurate evidence-free ideological determination to punish those it sees as its political enemies trumps good management and fairness every time. Like a spoiled child, the government's reactionary knee-jerk propensity to attack any individual or organization that has the temerity to disagree with its world view knows no limits. We have seem it lash out at civil servants, scientists, NGOs, even churches, and now Canada's labour movement is again in the crosshairs.
If the government were really interested in accountability and transparency, it would first take a long hard look inward. Its own record is abysmal, from withholding Afghan detainee documents to the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka's multi-million dollar pork-barrel extravaganza, from an inability to tell Canadians how much the omnibus crime legislation will cost taxpayers to ministers and senior officials jetting about on Challengers, from failed multi-billion dollar sole-sourced F-35 purchases to electoral fraud. The Conservative government's call for accountability is sanctimonious nonsense. Its house is made of glass.
If the government has any real interest in accountability and serving the voters who sent us here to represent their interests in sound fiscal management, in making the lives of hard-working Canadians just a little bit easier, there is a long list of initiatives for workers to which it could and should turn its attention and resources.
Unemployment and underemployment for example are growing problems which the government continues to ignore. The real unemployment rate is 11%. Almost two million Canadians are out of work. Student unemployment last summer was a staggering 17%.
Conservative Party talking points aside, the truth is that the government has no job creation plan. That is why the NDP has called on the government to take positive steps to kickstart job creation.
The government should abandon its disastrous corporate tax spending policy and instead use that $3 billion to $4 billion a year for job creation measures that work. We should be providing a new higher tax credit for every new employee who stays on the payroll for a year. We have called on the government to cut small business income tax by two percentage points to encourage local job creation and investment, and to invest in infrastructure projects to address the infrastructure deficit, create jobs and boost competitiveness and living standards.
New Democrats want to invest in green infrastructure and renewable energy to facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy and to invest in skills training for workers in transition and leading-edge industries. Instead, the government, bereft of a job strategy, has given away billions in subsidies and tax breaks to corporations without any condition that they create or even protect jobs for Canadians. When the victims of these failed Conservative policies attempt to access the employment insurance system, one in three of them are turned away.
That is why a previous Parliament voted to support my motion to expand and enhance EI benefits. That motion called for the elimination of the two-week waiting period for benefits, a reduction in standardization of the hours of qualification, and an increase in weekly benefits. Our caucus has tabled specific proposals in this Parliament to promote job creation, and to make EI the effective and responsive safety net Canadian workers have paid for.
Canadian families want action on jobs. When they become the innocent victims of the economic downturn, they deserve the support of their government. What do they get from the government instead? A petulant and gratuitous shot at Canadian workers that further weakens their collective position.
This legislation is as unnecessary as it is irresponsible. It is nothing but a partisan assault on the men and women who go to work every day to provide for their families and the unions who represent them.
I call on all members in the House to stand up for working families and vote to defeat this ill-conceived bill.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed that $50 million that had been earmarked to improve border infrastructure was used to finance projects proposed by friends of the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka. Furthermore, he told us it was simply a matter of a small adjustment, when in fact, he increased the funding by 166%. This scheme was meant to distract parliamentarians and the Auditor General.
Why does the Prime Minister not reprimand his ministers for this flagrant abuse of their fiscal authority?
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise again in this chamber to raise an issue that is very important to my riding and to accountability in this country. This regards the current President of the Treasury Board, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka, and the misallocation of nearly $50 million of border infrastructure funds. These funds did not go into ridings like mine, where there is a significant thickening of the Canada-U.S. border which affects our economy, tourism and a whole series of very important things.
When I asked my question, the President of the Treasury Board's assistant got up to answer, as he has done so many times in the House of Commons. He gave a rebuttal but he did not expand on why there was no accountability. This is very important as we are talking about $50 million.
I have a couple of examples of critical things which took place while the President of the Treasury Board was spending $50 million on glow sticks, gazebos, arenas, a fake lake, different projects that really were not appropriate for the G8 and G20.
In Windsor, the federal government closed the administration and decision-making component of our customs and border facility for a few million dollars. Agents in Windsor have to communicate with an office 400 kilometres away, in Fort Erie. This is despite a government report that said if there was going to be consolidation of the Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and Windsor areas, it should be situated in Windsor because it is the busiest international border crossing between Canada and the United States. It is one of the busiest in the world. Agents are dealing with drug busts. They are dealing with issues regarding immigrants coming into Canada illegally. They are dealing with all kinds of problems on a daily basis. They now have to radio an office 400 kilometres away to get someone to make a decision about apprehending individuals.
The Conservatives often talk about being tough on crime. All kinds of handguns are getting into Canada through the U.S. border and it is unacceptable. It increases crime and tragedy in Canada.
Meanwhile, $50 million was being spent 650 kilometres away from the Windsor-Detroit border on gazebos, fake lakes and a series of pet projects. At the same time the government was cancelling and closing the administration and supervisory capacity at the busiest border crossing, the Windsor-Detroit crossing. That is just not acceptable. We want answers.
If the government has money to allocate for those things, then surely it has enough money to protect the streets of Windsor and Essex County all the way along the 400-series highways to Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City. It does not make any sense to cut a few million dollars out of the budget and move operations 400 kilometres away just because the Conservatives had pet pork-barrel projects 650 kilometres in the other direction.
It is very important to recognize that these ideological cuts by the Conservatives are because they want to cut the department by 5% through attrition. The decision is not based on need or fact. In fact, that decision is counter to reports the government made.
I would like to have an answer as to why the government would redirect money from border infrastructure and border support systems to Muskoka. The money should have been put into Windsor to protect the streets of Ontario.
Mr. Speaker, I was. That is a type of Liberal infighting, a Chrétienite versus a Martinite, with regard to the Manley history. However, it is clear that this has been used as an example to validate this legislation.
I was about to raise other third-party concerns that have been voiced in the debate that Canadians should hear. One of them is from Dr. Michael Geist, a renowned technology commentator. He has been quoted on Bill C-11 as saying that the foundation principle of the new bill remains that any time a digital lock is used, whether on books, movies, music, or electronic devices, the lock trumps virtually all other rights. He also states:
This means that both the existing fair dealing rights and Bill [C-11]'s new rights all cease to function effectively so long as the rights holder places a digital lock on the content or device.
We have a significant problem with the digital lock and we believe that having this type of testimony makes things more balanced as it is not just from the users. Later on we will hear some quotes from the artists as well.
I have statements from the cultural industries, which represent over 80 arts and cultural organizations across Quebec and nationwide. They argue that the bill would be toxic to the digital economy and warn that it would be a failure of the entire act itself. They suggest that the bill is actually toxic to artists.
The Writers Guild of Canada has a different take regarding its interest on the bill. It is a complex bill and issue. It states:
They are neither forward-looking nor in consumers or creators’ best interests. Digital locks, at their best, will simply freezes current revenue streams for creators.
There are other experts in the field, such as the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic. This is what it has to say on digital locks:
Overall, these digital lock provisions are some of the most restrictive in the world.
To achieve a fair balance between users and copyright owners, the government needs to fix the digital lock provisions before this bill passes into law.
That is another counter to the one extreme case being used regarding Mr. Manley and his interests that are represented.
The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, SOCAN for short, states:
Without this balance, the creation of creative content will eventually decrease, as Canadian creators will be unable to make a living.
Presently, the average wage of a Canadian creator and artist is approximately $12,000 a year. That is not sufficient and the bill would take away some of their actual earnings forthright. This is a very important issue for artists because in this economy they are certainly suffering quite significantly. On top of that, they have a history in Canada of not being the most compensated in the workforce despite the fact that billions of dollars are generated from this industry, which I believe is around 7% of the GDP in overall impact.
Mr. Howard Knopf , a copyright lawyer, states:
The Digital Locks (TPM) measures continue to divide Canadians and to defy consensus. [They] are stronger than required by the WIPO treaties and stronger than necessary--
Why does the bill appear to be going overboard regarding digital locks?
What can be brought to bear on this issue is pressure from the United States. It was interesting to see the former minister of industry suggest that we should actually leak an advance copy of our bill to the United States. What is intriguing in itself is that instead of sharing it with Canadians, the people he represented as the minister, he would leak a document to the United States in advance to more or less get the Americans' opinion or blessing.
Later on the former minister's ministerial aid, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka, suggested that Canada be put on the United States' piracy watch list. This was also intriguing because I worked with the member for Edmonton—Leduc to improve Canada's international representation regarding piracy on a number of different visits since 2002 with the Canada-U.S. Parliamentary Association, which is a bipartisan group. We met with members of Congress and senators in the United States. We attended bilateral meetings. We went to different conferences across the United States to meet with Governors and different legislatures on a statewide and nationwide scale.
We often heard that the Hollywood movie industry was upset that Canadian films were allowed to be filmed in our studios or in our theatres. That was true. It was a grey area of the law and we had a problem with the filming and distribution of pirated movies. That was ratcheted up through the U.S. system and it gave us a black eye in many respects. To be fair, there was good evidence that in some specific places in Montreal and other theatres pirated versions emerged. They were being sold on the streets of New York and other places like that just as easily as in Canada but it became a problem.
I am aware of the good work done by the member for Edmonton—Leduc as a representative. We were able to work in a group and make legal changes here in Canada to remove that problem. A lot of effort went into reversing the reputation that Canada had at that particular time with the United States. Therefore, I have difficulty understanding why the second removed former minister would suggest that we would leak a copy to the United States and that the aid for the previous minister, the member from Muskoka, would want Canada to be on the U.S. piracy list.
The member for Timmins—James Bay talked about some of the countries that are on that list. They are not countries like Canada. When we are working hard together on international relationships and trading partner issues, why would we want to subject ourselves to that type of behaviour? It shows that the government will buckle under pressure, as it has many other times, regarding U.S.-Canada government relations, which has subsequently cost Canadians.
This digital lock issue could cost Canadians. That is why we believe it is important to have a digital strategy. I will get to the digital strategy because it does affect us.
The devices we are using today which have changed so dramatically will continue to change in the future as well. It is not only about the types of devices and how they are used but also about how the content is shuffled from one device to another and the many ways in which it is used.
I have a Sony PlayStation. When I download a song I can use it on my PS3 but having it on my Playbook is a different problem altogether. When I buy a particular song I believe I should have the right to use it on both those devices. Therefore, it also involves the mechanics of moving the content around.
We often talk about net neutrality. Canada needs to take a moment to define "net neutrality". It is not only important for consumers and their use of different entertainment and other available devices but also for business, especially small business. In the past we have heard testimony on net neutrality with regard to throttling posing bigger challenges to some of the smaller companies' ability to stream, their access to streaming, as well as the value of streaming. We believe that net neutrality is important for consumers as well as businesses in the country.
We want a national strategy on broadband. It is very important. Many times we have seen companies focus on specific areas of development, such as the large urban areas where the costs are more beneficial than out in the suburbs and rural areas. We believe that in Canada it should be similar to our highway systems and other physical infrastructure which connects Canadians from coast to coast to coast and that we have that ability to communicate.
That is why the CBC is so important and we believe in it so strongly. In Windsor, where we are dominated by U.S. content and material, it is nice to hear stories from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, the Yukon or British Columbia. We get that through a national broadcast structure that is important for keeping our national identity.
We also talk about having a strategy on the spectrum auction. The government ended up in court over the last spectrum auction. It is an important asset. The type of spectrum we are getting is significant and would offer us a great advantage toward building this national infrastructure. However, we need to look at where the resources would come from. The last time the spectrum auction assets came in they were dumped into the central fund. We want to see a national strategy put in place that would take advantage of that and use it as an opportunity to put our broadband, and our society in general, in a better position. The U.S. is approximately two years ahead of us on this. It is an important point.
We do not know when the government will have the spectrum auction and the final terms. It is critical as it is affecting business decisions due to the uncertainty of how we would use and implement the different research, technology, communications, et cetera. We do not know exactly what will take place next and we need to catch up to the United States. Being that much behind the U.S. does not offer the same type of opportunities for investment because we are looking at that when making decisions.
It is similar to physical infrastructure. In my community we are finally working toward implementing a new border crossing. If the legislation passed in Michigan for that it would allow for better investment decisions to be made in Canada. Once it is developed and rolled out and we can see the physical asset, predictability can take place.
We also need to deal with the issue of e-commerce. We have heard testimony at the industry committee regarding Canada's e-commerce. It is a dog's breakfast. The other day we heard testimony that Canada is very much behind on e-commerce and that it is a disadvantage. We also heard testimony to the effect that we are not being treated the same as the United States and that Canadian companies are paying higher fees and charges. We should be looking at all of that.
These are the elements we have for looking at the new age because what we are dealing with today will change a lot.
Going back to Bill C-11, we are interested in getting it to committee to hear more testimony and we hope that the government will look at a couple of things.
I want to touch on the issues I believe are important.
There is a five year review of the bill. I have moved amendments on other bills, some of which have passed through the House of Commons, to have a three year review of a bill. Technology is changing so quickly and the artists are caught up in that. I have read a number of testimonies not only from people in commerce but also from artists stating that there will be a diminishment of Canadian content and remuneration going back to the artists themselves. We should not be leaving them in the lurch for five years. Perhaps we should be looking at a three year review.
One of the things that is very important about that review, and I am sure we will hear this debated, is whether or not the legislation can get out the door, get working and provide a proper analysis after five years. We need to research that. I think three years or some other provision for artists needs to be in there if we are to have the five year review because we are hearing enough testimony that there are problems.
I want to talk about long-distance education. For the most part, it pertains to rural areas. However, long-distance education is also taking place in cities because people are looking for specific degrees, specific information and specific areas of improvement. That is important because, as a competitive society, we have heard that Canadian education needs to be better and stronger.
I have a problem with the 30-day provision where the material would dissolve or we get to the old-fashioned book burning scenario where we have to destroy the product. I do not understand that. When we buy a product, we have that property.
I remember the days in university when we would try to sell our books because when the next edition came out it was a little bit different. That is an important point to make because I think there is some overcalculation here. Each year the book would change a little but we were made to buy the newest edition. I remember the days when only a bit of the content was different but we were forced to buy the new textbook because of the change.
I do not understand why we would want people to lose the education and training materails that they would pay for from their own pocket because of a 30-day cycle. It is very important. I know many professionals, doctors and other individuals who regularly refer to the material from which they learned.
I do that for my own research in the House of Commons. If we research a topic or have the research done by the Library of Parliament, I often review the material a number of times at different points in time. I do not know what advantage there would be for individuals to take college courses via long distance if they could not review the materials whenever and however they wanted.
We can research that some more to determine the exact veracity of that, how the definitions will be defined and who will control that. It will be interesting to hear testimony at the committee hearings.
I am a little bit cautious on that, because I have seen in the past, whether it be with fibromyalgia or other types of disabilities, where people have been denied certain support systems because the disability was not as so-called obvious as others, or there was no burden of proof, or there would be an extra expense to get doctor's notes or other types of learning support documents at different times. I am a little bit concerned about that.
I will wrap up on the important issue of royalty rights. The royalty rights are a stabilizing fund for our artists. There have been a lot of changes over the years to the types of materials that we have had and the way they get remuneration. It is a new world, a new age, which is why we have gone through several machinations of this bill. It has always created a problem because we are trying to find the right balance at the end of the day between the consumers and ensuring that our artists are compensated. It is tough because we all want to have stuff but having it for free is just not fair for the people who have actually spent their time, energy and money creating it.
We want to have balance in there and stripping away the fund is something that I cannot accept. We need to have a solution for it. As I said, the annual average income for an artist in Canada is around $12,000. That is not sufficient to live on in this day and age in our communities. We need to ensure we are going to compete.
It is very common to have great relations with the United States. I go over to the United States all the time. However, we are fiercely proud because we have Canadian content and we have that Canadian identity that is not only recognized by the people in the United States but is celebrated by them, too. We push back into their content with the great artists, the men and women we have in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I personally entered politics to counter the public's perception that politicians are on the take. Regrettably, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka is making that extremely difficult.
Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board did not invent rum bottle politics or unbridled patronage but he has certainly raised it to a high art.
We now know that the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka bought the 2008 election using the public treasury as his personal campaign war chest.
As much as we love hearing from the member for Calgary East read us prepared notes, I am not asking him. I am asking how the Prime Minister can put up with a Treasury Board President who violates his own Treasury Board guidelines to such an egregious extent.
Mr. Speaker, I have accepted the challenge of the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Winnipeg Centre to make this place more civil, to debate issues and not bring about insults.
The reality is that the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka, the Hon. Tony Clement (President of the Treasury Board, CPC), has provided great leadership over 14 years in public service. He has done a heck of a job for the people of Ontario, a great job for the people of Canada. He has a lot to be very proud of.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the motion put forward by the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North.
Small businesses are the bedrock of the Canadian economy. The people who lead them and work in them are the lifeblood of Canadian society. That is why the Liberal Party has traditionally supported any efforts to help small businesses grow stronger.
One part of that mix is lower taxes. Lowering the burden for small business should always be a goal whenever it is affordable. It was under the Liberal government of Paul Martin, when the government was running record surpluses, that the government passed some of the biggest corporate and personal tax reductions in Canadian history. The Liberals believe in keeping taxes as low as is practical while providing high-quality public services and ensuring the sustainability of our society.
Before I give further thoughts on this particular motion, I want to highlight what small business means to Canada.
There are over one million small businesses in Canada. As defined by Industry Canada, those are businesses having fewer than 100 employees. In fact, 98% of all businesses are small businesses and they employ nearly half of the people in the country's private sector. Canada is a trading nation and 87% of our exporters are small businesses responsible for $84 billion in exports.
Small business is a hugely important source of employment. Many women who wish to have the flexibility to parent and work at the same time choose entrepreneurship to support that objective. In fact, 46% of small businesses have some degree of female ownership.
Small business is a major creator of wealth and a source of employment for new Canadians. It offers new arrivals to the country an avenue to contribute to the growth of their community and the well-being of their own families.
The driver of our economy is small business. Over a 10 year period, nearly 80% of our net job growth came from small business, with large firms shrinking the net number of jobs over that period. That is one of the reasons these tax cuts to large corporations are so egregious. Those funds are being directed at the very organizations that are net job losers at the expense of providing tax cuts to small companies that are the job creators.
Small businesses are flexible and nimble and they can recover more quickly from a difficult period, like the recession that we have just experienced. They hold on to their employees longer and they pick them up more quickly afterward. They can innovate more easily and, when given the right support, they can grow by leaps and bounds.
There are a number of things that small businesses need, not just a lower tax rate. They also need a government that makes it easier for them to do business, one that invests in research and development and makes it easier for innovative firms to commercialize their products. The Conservative government has fallen flat in all of these areas.
The government fell flat when it comes to taxes, something it really likes to thump their chests about, but it turns out that it really did not help small business at all.
One of the first things the Conservative government did when it came into office was to raise personal income taxes. Given that many small businesses are run either as sole proprietorships or partnerships where business income is taxed at the personal rate, the government actually raised taxes on small business owners.
Although much has been made of the corporate tax cuts included in the previous and current budget, these cuts only help the largest and most profitable corporations. As I said, these are the ones that are seeing net job losses.
The government has chosen big business over small business during a time of record deficits and when it was already slashing programs and eliminating thousands of public service jobs from people who spend money in the small business sector.
On the issue of affordability, the government thinks that money grows on trees, not produced by hard-working Canadians and small businesses. A government can only deliver low taxes if it spends wisely. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has proven to do just the opposite.
The Auditor General and now the RCMP have called into question $50 million in misappropriated border infrastructure funds that the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka used in his own riding.
We have seen a government pleading with the public service to find efficiencies, while simultaneously increasing spending of ministers and perks in their own ministerial offices and increasing government advertising by 215%.
All told, government spending rose by 40% during the Prime Minister's first four years. These decisions have meant that small businesses are left without real support and taxes have been kept high.
An area where the government could have helped small business was by supporting research and development, but it cut research budgets for the granting councils. The National Research Council, which supports small business in its R and D efforts through the industrial research assistance program, is being cut a huge 20%. Therefore, where is the vision? Where is the plan that fosters equal opportunity and prosperity for all Canadians? Where is the vision for green technology, innovation, sustainability leadership and the green jobs on which we know the future will be built.
The Conservative government appears to be only governing for the short term and is ignoring the kinds of strategies and investment in innovation that are needed for Canadians to maintain their standard of living.
I do not want to ignore the NDP record with regard to business, because that also has been a reason that there has been lack of support for small business. The government fails to understand the needs of modern business. I am sure the NDP and my hon. colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North have the best of intentions in bringing this motion forward, but they represent a party that is fundamentally anti-business.
It is important for members of the House to understand that the NDP has, at its core and is guided by, an ethos that stands opposed to the very nature of the marketplace. I will read from the NDP constitutional preamble, the very principles the party maintained at its recent convention. It states, “the production of goods and services shall be directed to meeting the social and individual needs of people within a sustainable environment and economy”. That is good as far as it goes. It continues on to say, “and not to the making of a profit”.
I wonder if members of the NDP can explain how small businesses can contribute to job creation and economic growth if it believes that profit is a dirty word. Without profit, businesses cannot reinvest and grow, cannot hire new employees, cannot innovate and cannot contribute to the development of sustainable technology and business practices. They simply would not exist. To deny that the basic necessity of a business, which is to earn money and profits, is revealing a fundamental lack of understanding of business.
I hope my colleague from Kings—Hants will not complain when I quote him when he said, “The NDP doesn't know a stock from a sock”.
While I served as environment minister in British Columbia, I co-founded a company that incorporated sustainable principles into our business model, focusing on reforestation and ecological renewal. However, we could not have done so, we could not have grown and expanded this company without capital and that capital was the reinvestment of profit.
Thinking that profit is a bad thing discredits the New Democrats among small business owners and proves them not capable of providing the type of leadership that the small business community so desperately needs.
The Liberal Party supports efforts to lower the tax burden on small businesses, but such efforts must be part of a larger strategy that validates the importance of small business and their profitability and that supports research, provides tools and mechanisms for companies to grow their operations and focuses on key factors, not a scattershot approach.
The Conservative government's record on small business is abysmal and, unfortunately, the NDP does not think small business should be allowed to make a profit. The one option is too hot and one is too cold. It is clear why small business needs a Liberal option that is just right for the people who are at the heart of small business and a long-term vision for their success.
Mr. Speaker, the minister is forgetting the fourth one: to re-elect the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka.
My question is for the Minister of Public Safety.
It has now been a year since the report of Judge Major on Air India. We are now coming up to June 23, which is always a moment of enormous sadness and memory for the families of the Air India bombing.
Why is it that the Government of Canada has made no decision yet with respect to ex gratia payments to these families who have been waiting for so long for justice, consideration and reconciliation?
Mr. Speaker, that is going to be a hard act to follow.
I am honoured to rise in the House once again as the member of Parliament for Nickel Belt. I was born and raised in Nickel Belt. I worked for 34 years at Inco. I was married and raised my family in this great riding.
There is no greater privilege for me than standing in the House and defending the interests of my constituents. I humbly thank them for the confidence they have placed in me and for returning me to this great chamber with an even larger majority than in 2008.
I also want to congratulate all of my colleagues in the House for their election to this great institution.
I wish to congratulate my leader, the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, for his energy, for his commitment to the people of this great country, for his unwavering belief that we can make a difference for families everywhere and for his historic success on May 2. I am honoured to sit as a member of the official opposition under his great leadership.
During this election I had the opportunity to connect with constituents from Foleyet to Onaping to Chelmsford and Azilda, to Killarney and Garden Village, and to Noëlville and Sturgeon Falls. While these communities are distant and unique from one another, the voters of these communities share a lot of common concerns.
At doorstep after doorstep voters shared their worries over their jobs and their pensions. They spoke about the challenges of caring for their loved ones. Seniors spoke about the lack of adequate pensions and access to health care. Active and involved citizens told me they are quitting their volunteer work because they cannot afford to fill their cars with gas.
Just two days ago, splashed across the front page of The Sudbury Star was a report that read:
The high price of gasoline isn't just costing Sudburians at the pumps. It is hurting community service organizations that rely on volunteer drivers for vital programs to help seniors and others remain at home and out of institutions. Meals on Wheels has experienced a sharp drop in the number of volunteers delivering meals to thousands of clients in Sudbury every month since gas prices began spiking about a year ago. In some cases, particularly in outlying areas such as Rayside-Balfour, Valley East and Onaping, the shortage of volunteers is so severe, it could soon affect client service.
The reality of the north is such that people do not have access to public transport. Their cars are their lifeline to work, to their extracurricular activities and to their educational institutions.
These are some of the issues of foremost concern in northern Ontario, and these are some of the issues that are neglected in the budget.
Speaking of the budget, I want to start by noting that the government listened to New Democrats and Canadians by restoring the eco-energy home retrofit program. I stress that this program should be reinstated permanently, not just for one year.
I have met with constituents who were cut off when the government abruptly cancelled the program. These people had already signed contracts for renovating their homes, assuming they were going to receive support from the federal government. I ask the government: will these people be able to apply retroactively for this program?
I also have businesses in my riding that had to lay off employees when this program was cancelled. I was very pleased that my leader came up to Nickel Belt and held a press conference at the site of one of these businesses to bring much-needed attention to the consequences of the government's short-sighted decision to cancel this program. Let us make it permanent.
On another positive note, the budget extends the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors for an additional year. New Democrats have been calling for this measure and welcome it.
This week many of my colleagues have stood for the first time in this chamber and given their inaugural speeches on behalf of their constituents. After listening to their eloquent remarks about the short-sightedness of the budget, it is clear that whether one is from British Columbia, the Prairies, Quebec, Ontario or Atlantic Canada, the budget ignores Canadians.
The budget does almost nothing for improving access to rural health care. The loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses does not go far enough because it does not increase the actual number of doctors and nurses in the system, which is what we need.
The budget does nothing to strengthen CPP and does nothing to provide relief for the family budget. Despite Conservative claims, we still have 300,000 more unemployed since the recession, and of the jobs that have been created, an overwhelming majority are part time.
The number of involuntary part-time workers in Canada is now at 500,000. How are families going to pay down their debt, save for their children's education or put away for their retirement? They can barely pay their heating bills.
With respect to employment insurance, over the next five years EI premiums will exceed benefits by $15 billion.
During my first term as member of Parliament for Nickel Belt, my team helped over 1,400 constituents with various issues, but that figure does not include the processing of passports. Over 4,000 passports were processed with the help of my office.
Over one-quarter of the 1,400 cases had to do with EI. Workers who paid into the system were losing their benefits and could not access training. Let me remind the House that miners went through a strike almost a year long as a direct result of the government's refusal to protect the interests of workers and their communities from foreign takeovers.
I also wish to say a few words about the government's ideological move to pressure municipalities into public-private partnerships, also known as P3 projects. There are countless Canadians and international examples of failed or flawed P3 projects, yet the City of Greater Sudbury is planning a $40 million P3 biodiesel plant with $10 million of federal funding.
Here are just five of the failed P3 projects. There was the Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. P3 project; the end result was that it was abandoned because it was inflexible and reduced access. The Hamilton-Wentworth water and wastewater treatment P3 project was abandoned in the end because of maintenance problems, legal disputes, high costs and poor risk transfer. In the case of the Royal Ottawa Hospital P3 project, the end result was that it was flawed with high costs, secrecy and bed cuts. In the case of the Timmins and District Hospital dialysis centre P3, the end result was that it failed because no bidders were interested. The end result of the Welland Community Centre P3 project was that it failed because the project was deemed not viable in the P3 format due to secrecy.
Over the course of my remarks I have offered a snapshot of the reality in the north, yet this budget offers nothing to help.
The government also could have given the north its own independent economic development agency. It could have made FedNor an independent agency.
It is no accident that my first act in Parliament was to table a bill to make FedNor a stand-alone economic agency. The minister from the riding of Parry Sound—Muskoka likes to harp that making FedNor independent creates a new bureaucracy, but nothing could be further from the truth. I ask the two ministers who are now responsible, the Minister of Industry and the President of the Treasury Board, why southern Ontario can get its own independent economic development agency, but not the north. Why is there the double standard? Is it too hard to relinquish political control?
It is clear that the negatives of this budget far outweigh the small positives. It is also clear that the government paid no attention to the 60% of Canadians who did not vote for it. If, as it claims, it is the government for all Canadians, then we should have expected the Prime Minister to back that claim with meaningful support for Canadian families in this budget. Unfortunately, he did not.
There are billions in corporate tax cuts that do not create jobs, and billions in planned service cuts. There is nothing for small businesses, nothing for improving access to rural health care, nothing for lifting seniors out of poverty and nothing for addressing the needs of Canadian families and their youth. Northern Ontario remains without is own independent economic development agency.
In summary, the concerns of my constituents remain unaddressed. I cannot support this budget. I will not support this budget.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the hon. member to this place and I also thank the electorate of Parry Sound—Muskoka for allowing me to be in this place.
The issues that the hon. member refers to involve merely 1% of total payroll expenditures. Of course, we use temporary help when it is crucial to ensure the delivery of services to all Canadians that are needed to meet unexpected circumstances, fluctuations in workload and special expertise. Those are the things that help us deliver services to Canadians and that is why we are proud to do it.
Madam Speaker, I would also like to thank the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and the hon. member for Nickel Belt.
I would also like to thank the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who is an outstanding MP. He has been an outstanding seat mate over the years. He understands what regional economic development means to all areas. Coming from eastern Canada, the Maritimes, he understands what an agency really does for that area.
I listened to what the member for Kenora had to say. He defined FedNor as what it should be and what he thinks it does. I have some emails and there is a big problem with FedNor now. I am not saying it is bad or horrible. It is doing good things. It goes through the Minister of Industry's office and sits on his desk. The Minister of Industry is a very busy man. I am not taking that away from him. He allots certain amounts of time to issues and northern Ontario is not his priority. That is the problem.
If FedNor had its own minister, it would not be a problem. The minister would take care of things. He would be the minister of state for FedNor. That is what we are asking for. It would not sit as a minor portfolio or file on the corner of the minister's desk.
The other thing the member for Kenora talked about was a paternalistic approach. Of the two members for Parry Sound—Muskoka and Kenora, one is from Toronto and the other one is from Paris, Ontario through Winnipeg. Talk about a colonial outlook. What do we have to do? Are we serfs in northern Ontario? Do we go to whoever the landlord sends out and bow to the lords who are there and beg? Those days are over. They are finished. We do not need someone from outside of northern Ontario telling us what we need. That is the paternalistic outlook that the Conservative government takes.
It is worth noting that the Senate committee on agriculture and forestry considered whether FedNor should be a separate agency during a study on rural poverty between 2006 and 2008. In the committee's final report, Scott Merrifield, FedNor's director of policy, planning and coordination, said that FedNor differs little from the regional development agencies, except for its bureaucratic status. He went on to say:
Functionally, we do pretty much the same thing as the regional agencies; but structurally, we do not have our own legislation like the other agencies do. They would have the status of separate departments, whereas we are within Industry Canada. However, we are functionally similar and do the same kind of work; our approaches are similar, but still respecting the differences of the regions.
Historically, the Prime Minister has been against regional economic development. During the 2006 election campaign, the Prime Minister repeatedly promised that he would not make cuts to regional development funding. In fact, when the Liberals predicted that FedNor would be in serious jeopardy under the Conservatives, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Industry dismissed these comments as nothing more than fearmongering.
This is not fearmongering. This is just part of the long-term plan for the Conservative government. It does not believe in economic development and FedNor is not being converted to an agency because it will be easier for the government to get rid of it down the road. I urge all members to vote in favour of this important bill.
Madam Speaker, the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming has brought forward an excellent bill. It would go a long way toward stopping the federal government from treating northern Ontario like a second-class citizen and instead treat us like a colony. The provincial and federal government have to get beyond that and give us the resources and support we need to live up to our potential.
The member will know that I consulted widely on this bill at one time. One question I was asked was how we defined northern Ontario. The only difference in the bill I championed a couple of years ago and my colleague's bill is the definition. My bill suggested that northern Ontario start and end at the French River and the Mattawa River. My colleague has chosen to include Parry Sound—Muskoka in the catchment area as the areas that would be affected by the bill if it goes forward.
Why did my colleague make that decision?
The electoral district of Parry Sound--Muskoka (Ontario) has a population of 90,281 with 69,514 registered voters and 199 polling divisions.
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