Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Brandon—Souris, not only for his great intervention and speech but also for his understanding, knowledge, and background in agriculture.
I have been listening to this debate, which will wrap up here shortly. The focus has been on farmers' privilege, and I understand why some folks are focusing on that aspect but missing the big picture of the greatest value and the greatest movement forward for the agriculture industry in many years.
One of the things I would like to ask my colleague is this. I had the privilege in 2006 of bringing forward a motion, M-460, to give the competitive edge in getting products to the farmers at a reasonable rate and having the inputs from research so that as global research is done, Canada can be a part of that. What it is about is ensuring that our products are competitive in the big field.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Brandon—Souris.
This government has made no bones about it. Creating jobs and strengthening Canada's economy remains our top priority. Through Bill C-18, we would secure the continued success of one of Canada's prominent industries, agriculture.
In 2009, Canada exported $35 billion in agriculture and agri-food products. Last year, we exported $50.4 billion, and the potential for future growth is substantial.
With the global population expected to reach 9.3 billion by the year 2050, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that in order to feed everyone internationally, food production will need to increase by 60%.
Currently, the world is hungry for the goods that Canadian agriculture producers provide. Bill C-18, the agriculture growth act, would ensure our farmers would have the means to meet that demand. More specific, the act would ensure that Canadian farmers could keep pace and even make gains against competitors like China, Brazil, Russia, Australia, the United States and the European Union.
One way in which Bill C-18 would give Canadian farmers an edge is through the proposed amendment to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act, and I will explain.
Canadian agriculture producers cultivate more than 75 million acres of farmland from coast to coast. Ultimately, the value of the harvest depends largely on the quality of the seed sown. To grow the best, Canadian farmers must plant the best. They must sow crop varieties that produce high yields, resist drought and disease, and that meet specific demands in the global market.
This sounds straightforward, but the science behind the development of farmers' all-important seeds is extremely complex.
Plant breeding is a time and resource-intensive process. It typically takes 10 to 12 years to bring a new variety to market. As members can do doubt appreciate, plant breeders have a reasonable desire to own the results of their many years of hard work.
Where inventors protect their intellectual property through patents, plant breeders do the same through plant breeders' rights. These rights give plant breeders control over the sale of the seeds, cuttings and other reproductive material of the new plant varieties they create.
In Canada, all plant species are eligible for protection. The relative strength of our intellectual property environment for the plant breeding industry, however, ends there.
Nearly all of our major international partners, including the United States, the EU, Japan, Australia and even South Korea have an enticing environment that conforms with most current international standards: the 1991 International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. Canada's existing plant breeders' rights meanwhile is based on outdated 1978 conventions. We cannot afford to continue to lag behind.
Ms. Patty Townsend, the chief executive officer of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, an association that brings together 130 seed company members, has said:
Due to our outdated plant breeders' rights legislation, companies with an interest in these crops have chosen to invest elsewhere. Added to that is the fact that plant breeders outside of our borders won't send their varieties here for testing, because our plant breeders' rights legislation has not kept pace with the rest of the world.
We can change this and update the protection. We will encourage private investment in Canadian plant breeding programs, encourage more foreign breeders to protect and sell their varieties here in Canada, and ensure that Canadian agriculture and horticulture producers gain access to the innovative new plant varieties they need to compete in a global marketplace.
Specifically, Bill C-18's proposed changes to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act would improve protection for plant breeders in five ways.
First, the amendments would extend plant breeders' rights to the reproduction, import and export, conditioning and stocking of material for commercial purposes or propagating. Currently, the plant breeders are protected only on the sale of propagating material and for production and propagating material intended for sale.
Second, the amendments would enable plant breeders to sell the new varieties in Canada for up to one year before they must apply for plant breeders' rights protection. For many breeders, this 12-month period would be critical because it would allow them the time to test the market, advertise and increase their seed stock before they filed for protection.
Third, Bill C-18 would entitle plant breeders to exercise their rights while applications were pending by providing provisional protections for a new plant variety from the date the application is filed.
Fourth, Bill C-18 would lengthen the time plant breeders would be protected from 18 years to 25 years for trees, vines and other specified categories, and from 18 to 20 years for all other crops. In both cases, breeders could choose to terminate their rights earlier.
Finally, Bill C-18 would clarify under the act that plant breeders could only collect royalties on the initial sale of a particular cycle of propagating material. Should breeders be denied reasonable opportunities to collect these royalties because of theft or the illicit sharing of propagating materials, they could exercise rights on harvested material.
These are five critical improvements. They are five critical tools that agriculture innovators need to protect their investments and successfully conduct business in today's global marketplace.
Our Conservative government heard from stakeholders that there was a need to amend Bill C-18 to make it absolutely clear that storage of seed is included in farmers' privilege. As a result, we now have an amendment that directly addresses this key issue.
Equally important is that Bill C-18 would balance the interests of agricultural producers and breeders and would ensure benefit-sharing through two specific exemptions.
First, under the research exemption, anyone would be able to study or conduct experiments on protected varieties without seeking permission. This means that Canadian farmers, whose livelihoods are tied to their seeds and soil, would continue to get up-to-date information on potential benefits and drawbacks of those seeds years after the release of a new variety.
Through the second exemption, the breeders' exemption, anyone could access protected varieties to breed other new varieties without seeking permission. What this means is that profits would not stand in the way of innovation and progress. Competing plant breeders would have open access to all PBR protected varieties for breeding purposes so that they could build and improve upon the work of others. By extension, every Canadian farmer would be able to benefit from a competitive breeding environment, which would bring new and innovative plant varieties to the marketplace to meet their specific needs.
I do, however, support the amendments as they stand in the agricultural growth act, and I do not use that title lightly. This act would improve the quality of agricultural inputs and would increase the global demand for Canada's agriculture goods. I ask Parliament to join me in supporting Bill C-18.
I have gone back to my riding and have talked about Bill C-18. There has been a lot of confusion and a lot of misinformation spread by different parties that does not really benefit the industry. However, when I have sat down with farmers and have told them the exact benefits and gains they would be getting from plant breeders' rights and what benefits they would see in the future, they have been very excited. They understand what can happen when they invest in new seed technologies.
I look at the canola industry back to Saskatchewan. When I was farming back in the early 2000s, if people had a 20 or 25 bushel crop, that was an average crop. If people had a 35 or 40 bushel crop, that was a tremendous crop. If people had a 50 or 60 bushel crop, they were just fibbing or lying. Today, the reality is that 50 or 60 bushels is quite common, 40 bushels is okay, and 20 or 25 bushels is a disaster. The changes that have happened are because of plant breeding. It is because we have invested in new genetics. Those new genetics have been marketed to farmers, and they have been able to take advantage of it.
The return per acre for the farmer in this situation has been phenomenal. When we look at a 20 or 25 bushel crop going to a 60 or 65 bushel crop, their return per acre is more than doubling. When we look at the operations farmers have, their incomes are definitely going up substantially. That is why the farmers get very excited.
If we can take that technology and logic and put it into wheat, barley, pulses, and lentils in our agriculture sector, we can see the benefits to farmers. That is why they get really excited about the potential of seeing this type of investment here in Canada. In fact, we are already seeing companies investing here in Canada. We are already seeing Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada taking advantage of new varieties. The collaboration and the growth from new companies and the work Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has done is very exciting for farmers. It is going to make a very exciting and very strong future for Canadian farmers, especially young farmers.
I will close there. This is such a basic act. It has been modernizing our agriculture sector. It is something it requires and has asked for, and we are just doing what it wants. The benefit at the end of the day will be for all Canadians, because when Canadian farmers grow and harvest a good crop, they spend money, and the Canadian economy flourishes.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join today's debate on the opposition motion to make reforms to question period by changing the Standing Orders. As is my custom, as I am sure most members in the House are well aware, I never read from a written speech. I do not believe, frankly, in that. I particularly do not like the practice that seems to have become common in this place whereby members come into this place and read a speech, which someone else has written, not even knowing the content of the speech. They are just reading words. It is almost like white noise.
I can appreciate the fact that some members, in order to collect their thoughts and give them a coherent stream, do write their own speeches, as did my colleague the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification today, and a good speech it was. I have no real objection to that. However, I take a different view. If members have knowledge of a particular subject, they should be able to speak here for 10 to 20 minutes, at least, and converse with their colleagues to impart their views and opinions on the subject at hand.
While my thoughts today may be somewhat random, I hope I can connect them in a way that will be somewhat understandable to my colleagues opposite.
I have been listening to the debate throughout the day. That is why it has taken until now for me to formulate my thoughts. I will start by saying that I will be opposing the motion, as opposed to my colleague and good friend from Wellington—Halton Hills, who will be supporting it. I am going to be opposing it for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, I do not believe that Parliament should be changing the Standing Orders in a one-off manner, as the NDP is trying to do here.
I have been involved for the last two and a half years, believe it or not, at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, in examining potential changes to the Standing Orders. I have been absolutely frustrated, not because we have not had goodwill on all sides of the House to try to make changes that would fundamentally improve the functioning of Parliament, and that is the objective we all had, but because we keep getting interrupted. Much of this is outside of our control. There are pieces of legislation that come to our committee that take precedence. There are private member's bills or matters of privilege and those types of things. We have always been interrupted.
I point that out because I believe that if we finally get to a point where we have members from all sides of the House on a committee dealing with reviewing the Standing Orders to see if there are things we could do to improve the functioning of Parliament and the House, whether it be in question period, at committee, or otherwise, it would benefit us all.
As I mentioned to a few of my colleagues today, when we were meeting again about the Standing Order review, when I leave this place, whether willingly or because of ill health, that being, of course, because my voters get sick of me, and someone asks me years from now what difference I made in Parliament, I would like to be able to answer with something substantive. If I could say that I was part of a committee that changed the Standing Orders in Parliament and improved the way Parliament works, I would be one happy individual. I hope we can actually do that. That is primarily why I have opposition to this one-off approach the NDP takes.
I have a few other problems with it. I feel that question period as identified and as illuminated by some of my colleagues on the opposition benches is primarily an opportunity for the opposition to question the government of the day. I have no issues with that whatsoever. However, I also feel that opposition members must also follow the principles and guidelines as established in O'Brien and Bosc. I do not even know if most members here realize that there are principles and guidelines governing questions asked of the government, but there are. There are clear guidelines.
We have heard before that we cannot be repetitive. Today one of my colleagues told me he thought there were 12 questions in a row on ISIL. They were all the same question. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was giving a proper response, saying that there will be a vote in Parliament and a debate in Parliament if it is the government's view that we should be entering into a combat mission.
One question, when answered, should have sufficed, yet we had the same question 12 different times. There were 12 different variations, but of the same question and receiving the same answer. Does that benefit anyone? Of course not.
We have to look at not only how the government responds to questions but how questions are posed. Rather than this one-off on the relevancy of questions or answers, I would like to see a more comprehensive review of Parliament as a whole. That is something I am still going to try to spearhead over the course of the next few months. Perhaps it might even go into the next Parliament.
All of us need to be accountable to Parliament, and it is not just question period. Most of the members of the opposition when debating the motion today have focused in on question period. I understand that. It is their 45-minute opportunity each and every day to try to question the government, to try to score partisan points for themselves and to get public opinion on their side. I understand that. Similarly, a lot of the answers we give are obviously going to try to make the government look in its best light. That is the nature of adversarial politics. That is the nature of Parliament. However, we cannot view that in isolation. We have to look at a larger picture.
I have also heard members of the opposition say it is the role, and only role, for opposition members to be questioning government. I disagree. As expressed by my colleague, the minister of western economic diversification, every single member here needs to be accountable.
For example, while members of the opposition question the government on its future plans to deal with ISIL and other terrorist threats, I have yet to hear in Parliament an articulated view from members of the opposition parties, both Liberal and NDP, of what their plans would be. Do they, or would they, support combat missions to join with the United States and allies, if that in fact was what the request was? I have not heard that, not in this place at least.
I have heard outside of Parliament some news reports saying that the NDP has said it does not agree to any mission, combat or non-combat. I have heard outside Parliament members of the Liberal Party saying they would not support a “boots on the ground” movement but would perhaps support limited air strikes. I have not heard them say that in here. Therefore, there is a need for accountability by even members of the opposition in dealing with issues that affect Canadians.
I know my next few comments will not be viewed with any delight by members of the opposition, but I do want to point this out because my House leader mentioned it in his intervention this morning. An issue that is before Canadians is the issue of illegal mailings and satellite offices by the NDP. What I do not think most Canadians are aware of, however, is the background to that. I want to spend just a few moments on that because, frankly, there is a need for accountability from the NDP when it comes to these very issues, because we are talking about a lot of taxpayers' dollars here.
Most Canadians who may be watching this are aware that most members of Parliament, hopefully all members of Parliament, send out communiqués to their constituents on a regular basis. They are usually in the form of ten percenters or householders. Ten percenters is an inside baseball, inside politics term. Basically, for those Canadians who many be watching this debate, it is a small brochure that one could fit inside a coat pocket. They are sent out by members of Parliament at various times throughout the year, sometimes half a dozen times or more. Householders are a larger format, more like a newsprint. They are sent out usually four times a year. I say this as background.
The issue at hand is that the board of internal economy stated that the mailings the NDP sent out last fall during a time there were three by-elections being held in Canada, one in Bourassa, one in Provencher and one in Brandon—Souris, were illegal. Why is that? It is because the rules quite clearly state that these communiqués that members of Parliament send out should not be political in nature. They should not be there to promote elections or anything like that.
In the case of the mailings in question, the NDP did a couple of things, which on the surface would appear to be extremely strange.
As members know, and as most Canadians know, all of the ten percenters and householders that I was referring to are normally printed by House printers and they are paid for by the good taxpayers of Canada. They allow us to communicate with our constituents, to give information to our constituents about what is happening.
I found it extremely odd that the tens of thousands of brochures that were sent out by the NDP during the time of these three by-elections were not paid for by the House and were not printed by the House. The New Democratic Party went to an outside printer, paid for them itself, and then mailed them out in franked envelopes, franked envelopes meaning taxpayer paid-for envelopes. The NDP did not have to incur the cost of postage.
Why would those members do that? The answer is quite simple. They knew if they put the content of those brochures before House administration, House administration would say they could not be mailed out because the content of the brochures did not fit the guidelines we have to follow. Why? Because they were campaign documents. They were documents meant to promote the candidacy of the NDP candidates in those three by-elections.
The NDP went to an outside printer to get them printed, and there is nothing wrong with that. The New Democratic Party paid for those brochures itself, and there is nothing wrong with that. The New Democratic Party should have paid for those brochures because they were campaign documents. Then that party used—
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to enter into the debate on these important measures.
I will begin by saying that we are proud of this government's economic record. I recently attended a conference in Europe with leaders of international companies and heads of government from the developed world. I was struck by how impressed these people were by Canada's economic record. Everyone I met said that, to them, Canada was a model for the rest of the world when it comes to prudent policies and economic growth. It is true. Here people criticize us, which is normal in a democracy. We are aware of our weaknesses and the areas we can improve on. However, sometimes we have to go overseas to see how others look at Canada, how our country is perceived internationally.
According to the World Bank, Canada has one of the strongest fiscal and economic frameworks in the world. The World Economic Forum has said for six straight years running that Canada has the most stable banks in the financial services sector. The OECD just today published its Canada annual country report, which was filled with praise for our country's record on a number of things, including the progress that we are making on skills development. The IMF has singled Canada out as having struck the right balance.
By the way, I was very touched by the preface in the report issued today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, written by the director of the OECD. It was a preface of praise for our late colleague, the hon. Jim Flaherty. The head of the OECD credited Mr. Flaherty for his prudent leadership and strong fiscal management. I mention that at the outset to say that we are, indeed, regarded around the world as something of a model.
There remain challenges. While we have seen the creation of some 1.1 million net new jobs since the height of the global economic downturn, while we have seen relatively strong economic growth, while we are on the cusp of a balanced federal budget, while federal taxes are at their lowest level as a share of our gross domestic product since 1965, while we have all of these things, the truth is that there remain challenges. For me, one of the great challenges is what I call the skills gap, the skills mismatch.
It is interesting that in the report issued by the OECD today, it confirmed what this government and I have long said, which is that while there may not be general labour shortages in the Canadian economy, there are clearly sectoral and regional skills shortages. None of us should put our heads in the sand about that. Every major business organization in the country predicts that by the end of this decade, there will be a significant shortage of workers in its respective sector. Indeed, The Conference Board of Canada most famously issued a report several years ago projecting that by the end of this decade, Canada would be facing a shortage of some one million workers in various fields.
What I find interesting is that we have a very well-educated population. As the OECD report demonstrates yet again today, Canada has the highest rate of enrolment in tertiary education. That is, essentially, to say university and post-secondary academic education. Therefore, about 52% of our youth are enrolled, participating in university level academic formation. That is a very good thing.
It means that effectively we have one of the best-educated populations in the world right now.
However, I must add parenthetically that there are at the same time some worrying signs on the dashboard. Last year the OECD issued a very disturbing report that demonstrated a slide, a decline, in basic numeracy and literacy for young Canadians vis-à-vis our international competitors. Asian countries, such as Korea, are skyrocketing ahead of Canada when it comes to results, particularly in the STEM disciplines of science, math, and the like.
Our primary and secondary education systems have to keep pace. It is not good enough to have a high rate of tertiary post-secondary enrolment.
However, one of the problems that vexes all of us is the continued stubbornly high level of youth unemployment. About 13% of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 25 who seek employment are unable to find it. This is clearly too high. Youth unemployment is about twice as high as general unemployment in our economy.
We see other cohorts in our population with similarly unacceptable high levels of unemployment. Recent immigrants, those who have been in Canada for less than five years, face an unemployment rate between 13% and 14%. There are some 800,000 Canadians with disabilities, according to the ministerial advisory Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, who might be willing to or are interested in working but who do not have work, and we also have completely unacceptable levels of unemployment among our aboriginal people.
While our economy is generally prosperous and our labour market is doing significantly better than in most developed countries, these are areas that we all need to focus on. I invite creative ideas from all parties on how to address the challenge of youth unemployment, for example.
However, here is the paradox for me: we have very high levels of university enrolment, the highest in the developed world, yet very high youth unemployment as well. What is going on here?
Well, at the very same time, we see a boom in the commodities sector, the extractive industries in oil and gas, and in mines, in a huge swath of northern Canada from the offshore oil projects in Newfoundland and Labrador to Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity to iron ore developments and other mines in Labrador.
I am also thinking of all the mining projects in northern Quebec.
There is the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario, and projects all across the northern span of the Prairie west. My friends from Provencher and Brandon—Souris know very well the huge growth as a result of the Bakken reserve in southwest Manitoba that extends into Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan, of course, has huge uranium and potash developments, as well as oil and gas. There is bitumen in northern Alberta, which has the world's second-largest proven oil reserves.
There are energy infrastructure projects, such as Energy East and perhaps Keystone XL, with potential pipelines to our coasts. There are all of these huge projects.
There are also mines in British Columbia, a modest renaissance in the forestry industry, and huge mining potential and developments across the three northern territories.
In February, I had the opportunity to go to the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and see many of these projects at work; I wanted to find out how we can hire aboriginal workers to help train the workforce so that they can take part in these projects in northern British Columbia and in all these regions.
With all of those projects together, we have what some people are calling a new industrial revolution, and we ought not turn up our noses at it.
There is in some perhaps elite policy circles a view that Canadians should be ashamed that much of our economic history has been characterized as “hewers of wood and drawers of water”. The truth is we are a highly advanced, extremely well-educated, diversified, and increasingly urbanized economy with value-added industries, with remarkable research development, science, technology, and high tech, with a very robust service industry. All of those are great things. We should never be ashamed.
I look at my friend from North Bay here, my friends from New Brunswick, my friends from all different corners of the country, whose livelihoods in those communities are dependent on forestry, mining, extractive industries, these things that have been the spine of the Canadian economy for 200 years. We have a new renaissance.
Here is the challenge. While increasingly technology drives those industries, we also need skilled tradespeople. We need the people who can actually build those mines, develop those energy projects, build the offshore platforms, build the hydroelectric dams, and so forth. We are talking here collectively about hundreds of thousands of future jobs in, not exclusively, but many of the skilled trades and related technical vocations.
Here is the big challenge I see. For the better part of 30 years our education system writ large has not been preparing young Canadians for those vocations, for the trades, for construction-related vocations, through apprenticeship programs. Instead, we as a society, all levels of government, the primary and secondary school systems, parents, the culture generally, have been sending all sorts of cues in creating multiple incentives for young people to go into tertiary academic university education. Typically the results of that kind of formation are very good. Typically the results are very strong. Typically incomes for young people with university degrees are significantly above the average.
But here is the truth. If we dig below the numbers, dig below the superficies, we will see that there are many young people going to university, incurring debt, graduating with hope that they will be able to work in their field only to find that there is no employment, perhaps for people with degrees in international relations or communications or people who have graduated from our education faculties with teaching degrees. A growing number of those young Canadians find themselves either underemployed or worse, unemployed. Many of them find themselves frustratingly stuck, as they would see it, in the service industry at close to minimum wage. At the same time, here is the paradox. We have a growing demand for people in skilled trades and technical vocations. What is going on here?
There is another challenge. The public sector, federal and provincial governments, spend more collectively on skills development and job training than virtually any other developed economy in the world. The private sector companies in Canada spend less as a share of our GDP on skills development than virtually any developed economy. One way of looking at that is that employers have been getting a bit of a free ride on taxpayers' spending in skills development.
These are all reasons why I have said that I see the key part of my job as Minister of Employment in addressing the paradox of an economy that has too many people without jobs and too many jobs without people.
Let us be clear. Again, we do not face general skills shortages. There are about 6.5 unemployed Canadians for every job that is being listed and unfilled. Clearly, there is a surplus of unemployed Canadians. That is what the aggregate labour market information tells us. This is why we do need substantially better, more granular labour market information. We need to know what is going on in particular regions and industries, which is why it was announced this week that our government will be launching two new robust labour market information surveys through Statistics Canada.
One is a quarterly survey on job vacancies that will get us very granular data by sector and region, and another is an annual survey on wage rates.
This will help us to much better inform policy and to communicate to young people where the best opportunities are. For example, later this year my ministry will be launching online, downloadable apps for smart phones, et cetera, that will help young people to establish what they are likely to make, in terms of salary, through different kinds of training.
They will, for example, be able to find out that someone with a political science bachelor of arts degree, on average, makes $52,000 five years following graduation, but that someone who has completed a Red Seal certificate journeyman's program as an electrician, on average, is likely to be making $63,000 five years following certification.
I am not sure high school counsellors are giving our young people the information that they can make more in the trades. In Britain—and this is remarkable—graduates of apprenticeship trade programs make, on average, the equivalent of a $750,000 Canadian more over their lifetimes than university graduates do in the United Kingdom.
What I want to do is get similar comparative data in Canada that can help to inform the choices young people make. As a Conservative, I believe in maximizing human freedom. I do not think the government should tell young people what kind of formation to take, what kind of job they should be interested in, but what we must do is stop sending cues to young people that suggest they are not fulfilling their potential unless they go into an academic university program. That is wrong.
This is why in March I led a delegation that included many of Canada's major business and employer organizations, some of our largest unions, and five of our provincial governments to Germany and the United Kingdom to study European models of skills development and vocational education.
I must say I was struck by how effective some of those systems are. In Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark, for example, the so-called Germanic model of vocational education training sees on average about two-thirds of their young people at age 16 go into paid trade apprenticeship programs. On average, these programs last for three years and result in their getting a certificate at age 19, a certificate that is considered by everyone in those societies as having the same social and economic value and merit as a university degree.
I know that to the Canadian ear, that might sound a bit disingenuous, but the truth is that everyone we met—government leaders, union leaders, business leaders, and academics—said that there is what they call “a parity of esteem” between skilled trades and professional occupations, between trade apprenticeship programs and university academic programs.
They do not, as we too often do, denigrate or diminish or devalue basic work, vocational training, trades, and apprenticeships. They regard those things as essential. They encourage them. They reward them. They invest in them. They value them. We must do the same here in Canada.
That is why one of the elements of the bill before us is the creation of what I think is the most exciting part of the budget, the Canada student apprenticeship loan. For the first time, we will now be providing interest-free loans of up to $5,000 to an estimated 2,600 apprenticeship students during their block training so that they can help to finance that training.
Right now there is a big opportunity cost when they leave their paid apprenticeship to go into their unpaid block training. This loan would give them a little more financial flexibility. Just as importantly, we are sending a symbolic message that we value apprenticeship training and trades and vocational education just as much as we value university or college academic education.
That is a very important message we are sending in this budget, and I look forward to continued discussions on how we can continue to produce results.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the great member of Parliament for Brandon—Souris.
I am pleased to speak today in support of the agricultural growth act. This legislation would modernize and streamline nine different statutes, seven that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency uses to regulate Canada's agricultural sector, and two that are administered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. I will list the nine statutes quickly: the Plant Breeders' Rights Act, the Feeds Act, the Fertilizers Act, the Seeds Act, the Health of Animals Act, the Plant Protection Act, the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, the Agricultural Marketing Program Act, and the Farm Debt Mediation Act. Together, these acts and regulations are critical to the strength of our farming economy and the growth and safety of our agricultural products.
Some of the acts we are proposing to amend date back to 1950. I do not think you were even born at that time, Mr. Speaker, though the member for Brandon—Souris definitely was. The acts have served us well, but it is time for change.
As new agricultural production techniques and new developments in science arrive, the legislative tools for agricultural products must keep pace. This is especially true since some of our international trading partners have already innovated and modernized their approaches.
The agricultural growth act proposes amendments that would reduce the regulatory burden for industry, promote trade in agricultural products, and strengthen the safety of agricultural products, which are the first link in the food chain.
With this act, we would be building a more effective, innovative, and nimble legislative framework that reflects what is needed in the 21st century. We are bringing these laws up to speed with modern science and technology, innovation, and international practice in the agricultural industry on an international basis. We need to keep pace with the modern world, and we need to help our farmers grow their businesses.
On December 10 of last year, in a news release praising our government's efforts to bring in this legislation, Doug Robertson, president of the Western Barley Growers Association, summarized the bill as follows:
This Bill is good news for farmers. It encompasses many changes that farmers have been asking for, and will help modernize our grains and regulatory system. It will help create an environment that fosters innovation which our farmers need.
By doing this, we will enhance the competitiveness of Canadian business and ensure consistent regulatory approaches while aligning our legislation with that of our international trading partners. Updated, streamlined, and harmonized legislation will benefit Canadian farmers and industry while supporting the government's modernization initiatives.
The agricultural sector depends on a nimble legislative framework that is able to adapt to a changing industry landscape while providing a constant and effective approach. If Canadian farmers, along with the agriculture and food sector, are to keep their competitive edge on the global stage, they need 21st century tools to do so. We want to help these entrepreneurs harness innovation, add value, and create jobs and growth right across Canada. The agricultural growth act would do just that.
To illustrate, I would like to focus on the Feeds Act and the Fertilizers Act.
The agricultural growth act would propose new and broader controls on the safety of Canada's agricultural inputs through the licensing and registration of feeds and fertilizing manufacturers.
The proposed amendments would provide the CFIA with the ability to license or to register fertilizer and animal feed operators and facilities that import or sell products across provincial or international boundaries. This would be in addition to the current system, where feed and fertilizer products are registered product by product.
Licensing or registering facilities and operators would provide a more effective and timely approach to verify that agricultural products meet Canada's stringent safety standards. For this approach to work, we need to allow for better tracking and oversight of production processes and products being produced, a more efficient system to identify any issues that may come up, and a faster response if and when a product recall is required.
Licensing or registering feed and fertilizer facilities and operators would require regulations. Prior to any new requirements, the government would work closely with stakeholders to design an effective licensing or registration regime.
This amendment would not apply to farmers who make these products for use on their own farms. It would only apply to businesses that sell their animal feed and fertilizer products across provincial and international boundaries.
This amendment would also align Canadian legislation with international trading partners and help our feed and fertilizer industries maintain their export markets, especially in the United States.
The agricultural growth act was written to provide for new and stronger border controls for agricultural products.
CFIA inspectors will be able to order imported shipments of feeds, fertilizers and seeds out of Canada if they do not meet legal requirements. This is similar to the way in which imported plants and animals may be ordered removed from Canada if they do not meet legal requirements. The CFIA already takes action now, and does seize illegal products related to animal feed, seeds, and fertilizers. However, the act would propose updates on the way that we do it.
Under the current process, CFIA negotiates a solution, or there may be a court proceeding after the seizure of illegal products relating to animal feed, seeds, or fertilizers. This process works, but at times Canada must pay to dispose of illegal products that are seized.
The Speaker has given me the one-minute signal, which means that I have less than one minute to end my remarks. Though I could go on about how wonderful this act would be, the Speaker is shaking his head, suggesting that I do not.
Although what I have to say is very profound, I will leave the Canadian population with bated breath.
However, I will say that the legislation would be an improvement. It would bring Canada into the 21st century.
Just think, some of these bills have not been changed since 1950. That was before rock and roll.
Mr. Speaker, it will not surprise you that I think our House leader was absolutely right when he reminded the member that he was not speaking to the motion before the House this afternoon. He did it twice. Obviously, the member disagreed. However, I do have some sympathy for member for Etobicoke Centre, because the Prime Minister's Office has asked him to do the impossible, which is to defend the indefensible.
In the motion before us, we are asking that the government use government jets for government business. I agree with the member that we have a lot of Canadians who have bravely served our country in the armed forces. Absolutely, they have. However, if I ask those very veterans whether they think that Canada's government jets ought to jet around Conservative fundraisers, I suspect I would not find a single one who would say that it would be a good use of taxpayers' dollars. That is what the motion before us today is all about.
I know that the member will listen to the debate today as attentively as I did earlier when the member for Brandon—Souris, who to his credit actually did speak to the motion before us, tried to trivialize it as if it were no big deal. The cost we are talking about here is $118,000. That cost is the equivalent of old age security for 19 seniors, the GIS for 20 seniors, the survivor allowance for 16 seniors, and an average annual pension for 5 retired veterans. Is the member really saying that the ability to fly fundraisers across the country is more important than the well-being—
I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the administration of the Labrador by-election held on May 13, 2013; and the Bourassa, Brandon—Souris, Provencher, and Toronto Centre by-elections held on November 25, 2013.
This document is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to reply to the question of privilege raised by the MP for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, a riding adjacent to my own riding of Westmount—Ville-Marie.
In essence, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine argued that I have infringed upon her privileges as an MP by placing an ad in a weekly newspaper that announced that I would be holding a meeting in a coffee house and that I was welcoming citizens from both my riding and her riding to join me for coffee. This would have been on January 25.
More specifically, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine argued that the ad I prepared for publication was trying to make it sound as though I was actually the MP for her riding.
I should point out a number of things that are relevant here.
First, the ad in question was placed in the NDG Free Press weekly newspaper. This weekly newspaper's distribution straddles both my riding of Westmount—Ville-Marie and the neighbouring riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
Second, while my riding is called Westmount—Ville-Marie, it actually includes approximately 45% of the population of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. When the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine stated yesterday that she represented the vast majority of NDG, she was wrong. Approximately 30,000 of my constituents live in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. I am perfectly entitled to notify them of an upcoming meeting by placing an ad in a newspaper inviting them to join me.
Third, the MP for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine accuses me of trying to present myself to her constituents as their MP. The ad very clearly identifies me as the member of Parliament for Westmount—Ville-Marie and nothing more. I believe it is a reasonable assumption, on my part, to say that her constituents know very well what riding they live in and that my ad did not confuse them in any way.
Finally, given that our ridings are adjacent, it is also reasonable to assume that we share some common preoccupations. One example is the plan to build a third rail line for the Montreal AMT train service, a public transportation service that crosses both my riding and a good part of the riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. I have been very active on this file and have organized meetings with citizens impacted by this major infrastructure addition to public transportation. As the MP for Westmount—Ville-Marie, I consider it acceptable to invite all those who might be potentially impacted by such a project to join me for a coffee, and I always make it very clear that I am the MP for Westmount—Ville-Marie.
This is no different from my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine getting up in the House of Commons a little while ago for a member's statement and telling everyone that the NDG Food Depot, which we both support because it is a good cause, was in her riding, when in fact it is in my riding.
Both of us care deeply about the work done by the NDG Food Depot, which serves both our ridings, but the fact remains that she was wrong when she said that it was in her riding.
Am I upset? Are my privileges undermined? No. I made nothing of it at the time, because it was not, in my opinion, worth doing that.
My colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and I both work with a number of organizations that serve both our ridings. Some of these organizations are based in my riding while some are based in her riding. I do not consider this a cause for partisanship, since in the end, the interests of our constituents should be our common priority.
It did not occur to me for one minute that when she was meeting with organizations based in my riding that serve her riding she might be passing herself off as the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie. That would be very petty on my part.
I do not want to say much more about my colleague's question of privilege other than to state that it is a frivolous question of privilege. It is a frivolous question that has been clearly raised because the NDP is trying to distract from its abuse of mailing privileges in the ridings of Bourassa, Toronto Centre, Brandon—Souris, and Provencher during the recent byelections, ridings where it used taxpayers' money to mail literally hundreds of thousands of NDP documents designed to identify votes and partisan fundraising in ridings, possibly during the writ period. It is no wonder that the Board of Internal Economy has taken the unusual step of referring the matter to the Commissioner of Canada Elections.
Mr. Speaker, I urge you to rule quickly on this frivolous question of privilege and put this matter to rest.
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank my two colleagues on the government side who spoke tonight, the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke and the member for Brandon—Souris, for their words, as well as opposition members who have spoken in support of the motion this evening.
I have said this before, and I will say it again, I am under no illusions about this motion, in the sense that there is much more to do. That is a point that has been brought up by all sides of this House.
Here is what we know. We have this untapped resource of approximately 800,000 individuals in this country who have one form of disability or another. Those disabilities range from episodic-type disabilities to physical and intellectual disabilities. The broad range of disabilities of those individuals has been spoken about over and over again.
About 340,000 of them have post-secondary university or college degrees. These are talented people. These are people we need to match to the jobs that are available in our country, both public and private sector.
What this motion is really about is mobilizing those people who own and operate businesses in communities, at the grassroots level. I was fortunate before coming to the House of Commons to have owned my own construction company that I ran for 25 years. In those 25 years, I was rewarded greatly by my employees.
I would like the opportunity for my colleagues in the construction industry to consider hiring someone with a disability, and not because of sympathy or feeling sorry for someone because they do have a disability, but because it makes good business sense. The business case that was laid out by the panel that the government put together on hiring persons with disabilities shows that the broad range of benefits from hiring someone with a disability go far beyond what anyone's expectations could be.
First, they are some of the hardest-working individuals in this country when they get a job. There are many reasons for this. First and foremost, it is because they are thankful to have a job. They are a group of people who inspire those around them. Another great benefit is that attrition rates and rates of turnover of employees are greatly reduced. People want to be around and to be inspired by these wonderful individuals, many of whom have had to overcome many obstacles on a daily basis, the kind most of us do not have to face.
I have seen it in my community. I have seen it in groups of individuals who support those with disabilities. I have seen it in individual lives. I have seen individuals who have started their own businesses. When going out to do business for our own personal reasons, as many of us have, I have seen these individuals in our communities. Would it not be wonderful if we took the next steps, as a society, to make sure that the focus is on that pocket of individuals in our community? When we see opportunities, we want to encourage those who have businesses to consider them on their merits when there is a job opening.
That is what this motion strives to do. It sets out prescriptive things that the government can do, many of which are non-monetary. It is my belief that it is private sector's responsibility to step up to the plate. They need to step up and realize that there is this pool of untapped talent out there.
The motion has very prescriptive actions and includes the necessary government support behind it. We talked about accommodation. Things have been brought up, such as transportation. All of these things are pieces of the puzzle that can help. It is those opportunities, those doors, that need to be opened.
I appreciate the support of all members of the House on this motion. It is a motion that can move the yardstick ahead one step. It is better to take it one step at a time than to not take any action at all.
It is a great privilege and honour to have put forward this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Brandon—Souris for his very enthusiastic speech. The member has done a tremendous number of good and great things for Manitoba, both at the municipal and provincial levels and now at the federal level. I wonder if he could elaborate on the infrastructure plan and how it ties in with the job grants initiative in the budget and what that would mean for a community such as Brandon or the rural areas of his riding.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss the bill, Bill C-52, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act.
As the previous transport critic for this party during the 2008 to 2011 era, through that time I recognized that there was a great demand across the country for changes that would assist shippers in dealing with the duopoly of the rail system in Canada and the conditions that occurred.
Quite clearly, the concerns were greater among the smaller shippers than among the larger shippers. Therefore, the ones that could command the greatest use of the railway had greater opportunities to strike better deals. The problems lay in a stronger fashion with those that did not have the quantity and the continuity of freighting that would attract the rail systems.
I remember meeting with the pulse association, people who provide agricultural products that are not grain but beans, soy, peas and that measure of agricultural product, which is growing considerably in Canada but in smaller batches in different areas across the country. Their problems with getting their product through the rail system were paramount to them. They said they could not deal with the system as it is right now. The types of producers, the locations of those producers across the country and the nature of the product meant that the rail companies were not attracted to them as customers as much as they were to larger producers.
I will be very interested to see how it will play out across western Canada now with the loss of the single desk for grain, how that will play out with small producers, smaller aggregations of those who are moving grain.
The Conservatives sold the idea of getting rid of the single desk on the basis of enabling grain to be moved to different places by the producers in a fashion that would allow them to value-add to their product. Let us see what happens when this occurs in a system where the need for freight is paramount, where we have to move the product and where farmers are not protected by the larger system that existed under the single desk. We will see what that does and how it works. I am sure the committee will hear representation on that matter as well, as it moves forward.
In looking at the rail system, we have heard a lot of talk about infrastructure. The parliamentary secretary mentioned the great investments that the government has made in the rail system. I would raise, for instance, the investment the government is making in one of the big problems with our rail system, the level crossings. There are some 1,400 level crossings in this country. They are being added to incrementally by municipalities all across the country. The Conservatives identified $27 million a year over five years to invest in level crossings.
When we do the math, that does not turn out to be something that will really solve the problem we have with level crossings. Some level crossings can cost between $30 million and $40 million to fix. These are major requirements in the rail system.
If we take a good look at it, the rail companies are not primarily responsible for what has happened with level crossings. This is a co-operative effort that extends across governments, provincial highway authorities and municipal governments. Everyone has a hand in level crossings. Why does the federal government have to play a role? The federal government can be the final arbitrator there. With the profits rail companies are making, they should be a big part of this as well.
Of course, the government does not collect taxes in a decent fashion from corporations that actually make profits, and cannot reinvest for the public good and the good of those corporations. The chances of the infrastructure issues, that is, of rail being fixed across this country, are very remote if the present spending level of the federal government continues.
I am glad that the NDP has such a strong transport critic today, one who has pushed very hard on these issues.
The service agreement review went through and finished in 2011. Members are now seeing an act in front of Parliament, Bill C-52.
The first part of the bill sets up terms and conditions for contracts for railways and shippers. If a shipper wants to enter into a contract with a rail company, it can describe the traffic to which it relates, the services requested by the shipper in respect to the traffic, and the undertaking the shipper is prepared to give to the rail company with respect to traffic for services. How will one make sure that the rail companies will be well served when their cars arrive? How will all of this fit together?
Contracts, of course, do not apply to written agreements already in place. A company that has already established a written contract with a rail company is not available to deal with this under this legislation. They are locked in.
In the case of many of the larger producers, that may be to their advantage. They do not have to renegotiate anything. The ones that provide a lot of freight movement have a deal set up.
Seeing what is happening in the industry here with the failure of the pipelines that have been proposed for Canada, I would say that we are going to see greater rail traffic carrying oil and gas products across this country. That may change the dynamics of the rail system as well. The larger producers may find themselves competing with other very large producers as well. We will see how that plays out.
The second part of the bill deals with arbitration. Once one has established a contract or is unable to agree on a contract, there is a process of arbitration. That is good because, of course, it is sometimes very difficult to come to agreements.
Small producers in a remote location are looking for the rail company to arrive in a good fashion with the cars. They are going to leave them there. The cars are going to be in good shape. They are going to take the cars away after they have them filled.
There are many variations that have to be examined in a contract between two parties that carry out this kind of work. Is the shipper going to be ready to provide the product to fill all those cars when they are delivered at the site? If they are not, is there some measure of compensation to the company for leaving the cars there longer? If the company does not supply the cars in a good fashion, is there a way to compensate the shipper, who may be backlogged at the receiving area with the other mode of transportation that caused them to bring it to the railway? These are complex, detailed issues that have to be worked out between shippers and the rail company. Of course they will require some arbitration.
What is the hammer that the company keeps under this legislation when it comes to negotiating or dealing with arbitration? Under proposed subsection 169.31(4), the following applies:
For greater certainty, neither a rate for the movement of the traffic nor the amount of a charge for that movement or for the provision of incidental services is to be subject to arbitration.
There is the hammer for the company. It can set the rate for the cars sitting in the dock. It can set the rate for the movement of the material out of the area. It can decide the nature of the movement, the volume of the movement taking place, and how cost effective that is with its service charges that fit over top of that. All of those issues are not going to be subject to arbitration.
The company holds a very strong hand there when it comes to exactly what it is going to cost to do the work. Still, the arbitration should take into account the rates. In any business arrangement, the rates are very important. They cannot simply say “We are going to have a service contract, and you do not get to talk about the rates. The only thing you can talk about is what is going to happen”. Those two things have to work together.
The government, by excluding that from arbitration, has given the rail companies a very strong position in Bill C-52. I hope that it will be seen in committee as something that needs to be worked on. There needs to be some work done to make this fairer, more equitable to all of those concerned, especially the small producers across this country who do not have the leverage to make the deals, as was the case even before this bill.
After this bill there should be some leverage for those small companies so they can make sure that services are being provided to them in a good fashion at a reasonable rate. That is what we should be doing in government, being fair to both sides. The basis of government is trying to come up with solutions that work for all parties.
Some of the other concerns here also fit with small companies, the small shippers, such as the degree of difficulty they may have in working in arbitration, the timeframes that are outlined, the process that is outlined, all of which are very complex and very expensive. The costs will have to be borne by the shipper. The cost of the arbitration is to be split equally between the shipper and the rail company in all cases, according to this legislation.
How does that work? If the arbitration is in favour of the small shipper, they still have to pay the piper for the work they have done.
What I would like to see in this is some means of establishing rates and conditions that would apply across the country, so that some kind of equivalency develops among the arbitration systems and that, across the country, what is decided in one place has some relevance to what is going on in another, so that we have some fairness in the system.
I do not see that yet. Perhaps some of my Conservative colleagues who may have some ideas about that may want to express them. I think it is more likely to be taken up in committee, however. This bill needs a lot of work.
What is the record of this majority Conservative government in offering up amendments? I have to say it is abysmal. It is totally abysmal. These people do not believe in amendments. The Conservatives believe that what they put forward is good enough for the country. They are in charge and they know what is right. This is what has happened with almost every single piece of legislation that has gone through the House to date.
Where are the amendments? When I worked in the transport committee, when there was not a Conservative majority, we worked together, we looked at the issues and we came up with solutions that were mutually agreeable. Then we created amendments that we all agreed with.
Transportation is a fundamental and vital service to this country. It is not something that should be dealt with by parties working against each other. I was always very pleased with the previous transport committee chair, the member for Brandon—Souris, who was very fair and understood that transportation was a vital and important part of this country, which needed to be expressed as such.
This bill should be amended. It should be considered very carefully for what it actually accomplishes and what it should accomplish.
Mr. Speaker, it should come as no surprise that I disagree profoundly with my colleague from Brandon—Souris, as I disagree with his party on the policy direction they are taking. I even disagree with just about everything the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said. I think those guys are going down the wrong road and are doing the dirty work for corporate Canada once again.
Here are the origins of the bill. Thomas d'Aquino, when he was the head of the Business Council on National Issues, and then John Manley, when he became the president of the chief executive officers, or whatever they call themselves—the Grand High Poobahs of, really, the unelected Prime Minister of Canada, which is essentially what he is--declared that what was really holding back Canadian productivity was “legacy costs”. That is a nice way of saying those dirty pensions that our predecessors got into in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. That was back when we used to negotiate fair wages for working people, back when working people and their employers would sit down and put together a sensible benefit package with a real benefit plan for their retirement years. All of a sudden, the corporate world has declared that unaffordable and it does not like having the burden of legacy costs.
We can even look at what happened in 2008 with the economic downturn. As soon as the auto industry got into trouble, what did the executives of the auto industry say? It had nothing to do with the cars they were producing or their management skills or the way that they had dropped the ball and made products that nobody wanted to buy anymore. Right away they said that the reason they were not productive was because of the legacy costs. They said that it was the pension plans that were dragging them down. They said that something needed to be done about the pension plans so they trooped down here to their friends, the guys who they bought and paid for and put into power, and complained to them that they had to do something about these pensions.
Mr. Speaker, I forgot to say that I will be splitting my time with the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.
The Conservatives put it in fine print so the world can see. They put in place this disingenuous bill with a title that actually uses the words “registered pension plan” in the title. This is another example of the creative writing class that takes place somewhere down in the bowels of the Conservative Party's black operations department. They develop these names that have nothing to do with the bill. In fact, they are 180 degrees opposite to the true intent.
There is nothing about this that is a pension plan. It does not bear any resemblance to a pension plan. It is a savings scheme that, frankly, is no different from what ordinary workers could do today if they were lucky enough to make enough to set money aside in an RRSP. They could put a little more money aside in an RRSP and have the same net effect as this, except that they would be gouged even further by the financial sector that also stands in the wings waiting to benefit from this huge shift of money that should normally be going into a pension vehicle such as a proper registered retirement pension plan or, the best retirement vehicle that we have, the Canada pension plan.
And you wonder, Mr. Speaker, why I have strongly held views on this issue?
I represent the riding of Winnipeg Centre and that, frankly, has been the home of two of the greatest champions of social justice that our country has ever known. In 1919, the Government of Canada wanted to send J.S. Woodsworth to prison for his role as a leader of the 1919 general strike. The good people of Winnipeg Centre sent him to Parliament instead where he became the founder and first leader of the CCF. He served there until 1942 when he died. Then the good people of Winnipeg Centre elected the person who came to be known as the father of the Canada pension plan, Stanley Knowles.
J.S. Woodsworth, while he was here, managed to wrestle old age security out of the Liberal government of the day. William Lyon Mackenzie King had a minority government. J.S. Woodsworth had two members, A.A. Heaps and J.S. Woodsworth were called the Ginger group. They were the Independent Labour Party, predating the CCF. They went to Mackenzie King and told him that they would support his government and prop it up if he would introduce old age security.
We have a letter on file at the NDP headquarters today that is signed by William Lyon Mackenzie King agreeing to that. It took him seven years to do it. It was 1926 by the time he actually fulfilled that promise. However, William Lyon Mackenzie King yielded to the pressure of the ginger group. The member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre managed to negotiate some semblance of pension.
When Stanley Knowles was elected, he not only brought in the Canada pension plan, the second initiative was the indexing of the Canada pension plan. Now, at a 1% operating cost, the Canada pension plan with a small amount of contribution yields a guaranteed benefit to Canadians in the neighbourhood of $900 or $1,000 a month. That is a good return. That is in the best interests of Canadians.
I am worried that as the government puts in phony bills like this and phony diversions like this, it will siphon off attention to, contributions in and participation in vehicles that work, like the Canada pension plan. It is as if it is throttling down the emphasis on the Canada pension plan.
We, when we form government in 2015, intend to undertake a comprehensive overhaul of the Canada pension plan, which will be meaningful support in old age security for Canadians. It has been charted out and it is part of our platform. It will be the most effective investment vehicle ever. Even if the Canadian pension plan as we know it were doubled, as being proposed by the NDP, the total old age security coming from that would still be less than social security in the United States. Social security in the United States has a maximum benefit of about $30,000 a year. If we take the CPP as it is today, even adding on the old age security of under $7,000 a year, that still only comes up to about $19,000 a year. We are well behind other countries, even the United States, in our social security benefits for seniors.
It frustrates me how disingenuous the Conservatives are when they introduce a bill that purports to be a pension plan for ordinary Canadians. I just heard the member for Don Valley West saying that his employees could never have a pension plan if it were not for this. He said that he had worked for years and all his employees never had any benefits. Maybe if he had given them a raise in pay they would have been able to buy some old age security. Why did the member not put a pension plan in his company? That is what we used to do in the old days, we had corporate social responsibility. We had capitalists with a social conscience. That seems to be gone.
Capital has no conscience. If it were not for the NDP here to impose some conscience into that party, it would just be following loyally and faithfully behind the Business Council on National Issues, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and all the other dummy outfits that undermine the basic needs of Canadians for their own selfish self-interest.
We can look at the handout this is to the financial sector. We can look at the dough they will make by managing all this dough again. It is appalling, frankly, how they gouge, and the percentages they take for moving money around. The best bargain is the Canada pension plan with an operating cost of less than 1%.
This bill diminishes and undermines the systems that work and would put in place a system that will not be effective and will be no better than issuing a piggy bank. The Conservatives might as well give every Canadian a piggy bank and say, “I know you have not had a raise for seven or eight years but here is a piggy bank. Put more money into it and you will have more money to spend when you retire.”
That is not creative. There are no financial geniuses over there. That is like pulling a sedated rabbit out of a tattered old top hat and trying to convince people it is magic. It is not magic.
The electoral district of Brandon--Souris (Manitoba) has a population of 84,602 with 61,449 registered voters and 186 polling divisions.
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