Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about my private member's bill, which I call “Discover Your Canada”.
This bill seeks to amend the Income Tax Act in order to make travel within Canada more affordable for Canadians by providing income tax deductions on the expense of purchasing tickets for taxpayers and their children, for non-business travel by airplane, train or bus, if travel covers at least three different provinces.
During the many speeches we will be hearing on this bill, some members of Parliament will erroneously discuss the potential high cost of the bill. However, this bill is intended to be about unifying Canadians and not about finances. As an accountant and former chairman of the finance committee, I am usually the first person to want to ensure that the numbers add up. I have written Bill C-463 in order that the federal treasury would not be impacted and that this bill would be revenue neutral, while perhaps even being an economic generator.
Therefore, the primary focus of this bill would not be financial. As is evident in the name “discover your Canada act”, I want more Canadians to have the option to travel across this country, something that is usually only an option for the more affluent. I want as many Canadians as possible to be able to visit other parts of their great country, and not as a layover to a foreign destination, not as a two-hour drive up to the cabin, and not as a business trip, where all they will see is an airport or perhaps a conference room. We want Canadians to see a part of Canada that is as distant and as different from their own little corner of this great land as possible.
I first got this idea years ago while I was in Vancouver chairing the finance committee during its pre-budget consultations. Anyone who has been to Vancouver can tell us that there are some impressive sights to behold. As a visitor walking the streets after a long day of witnesses telling us how the government should spend its money, I looked up and was astounded by what I saw. I thought that if more Quebeckers would see what I am seeing right now, none of them would want to separate. It was every bit as beautiful as my hometown of Montreal, but it was also very different. The vastness of the Pacific Ocean was different from the charm of the St. Lawrence River. The grandeur of the Rocky Mountains was different from the soothing humility of Mount Royal. The modern architecture was different from the classic beauty of Old Montreal. Pictures can never do justice to Canadian scenery, and one can never truly appreciate and feel like it is part of his or her natural heritage until he or she can see it and touch it in person.
In the past, even prior to being a member of Parliament, and afterwards of course, I have been to places in Canada as far east as Newfoundland, as far west as British Columbia and as far north as Yukon and the Northwest Territories. I have found in each place a newer and deeper appreciation for Canada. I am certain that all Canadians would have a better sense of their own national identity if they just had a chance to see parts of this country that are out of reach for some of them now. This is why I have chosen to refer Bill C-463 to the heritage committee instead of the finance committee. The discovery of Canada act would not be about dollars and cents; it would be about allowing Canadians to take ownership of their national heritage by providing them with a bit of assistance and incentive to see their own country.
Having said all this, it would be unlike me not to discuss costs at least a little bit. The deductions I propose in the Discover Your Canada Act are not extravagant. The deductions are also capped, and conditions to ensure that the deductions are not abused are written into Bill C-463.
As a result, the upper threshold of deductions will not be reached by most eligible travellers, as was confirmed by a Parliamentary Budget Office study I requested for this bill soon after it was introduced.
According to newspaper articles, the government says that this bill will cost money. However, even if the government is able to justify its estimate of the cost of this bill, nothing can compare to the $5.2 billion that Canadians spent in the United States in 2012.
During the second quarter of 2012, during trips to the United States, Canadians spent $3.4 million, the most money in 20 years. In June, they spent a record $1.9 million. This increased spending is a result of the increase in duty free allowances, which went from $50 to $200 for a stay longer than 24 hours, and from $400 to $800 for a stay of 48 hours. We are talking about travel abroad.
According to the government, this will result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in 2013-14. This is another gift for the American industry.
It is easy to add tax deductions. Administering them will cost the Canada Revenue Agency nothing extra. The Parliamentary Budget Office said so as well.
The last thing I want is for this bill to create more red tape.
When a new income deduction is proposed, there is always a measurable cost, but it is not so easy to calculate the economic spinoffs.
The Parliamentary Budget Office acknowledges that Bill C-463 will generate economic and financial spinoffs, but it cannot calculate those with certainty.
Generally speaking, I can say with confidence that increased travel within Canada is bound to generate positive economic and financial spinoffs.
Increased revenues from provincial and federal sales taxes are one such fiscal benefit.
I know that when I travel, I need to stay somewhere, I need to eat, and I want to take in some local attractions. I like to enjoy a night out on the town, and I enjoy bringing souvenirs back to family and friends. All this costs money and all this will contribute to government revenues in the form of federal and provincial sales tax.
Increased economic activity from more Canadians travelling domestically will also benefit the tourism industry in Canada in addition to industries that see spinoff benefits from increased tourism.
According to Industry Canada, almost 600,000 jobs in Canada are directly generated by tourism in every province and region of the country.
If that is not specific enough, I encourage each member in this chamber to visit the Tourism Industry Association of Canada website, where a breakdown of tourism jobs per riding is available.
I took examples from the ridings with the largest cities in the country. Tourism represents 4,905 jobs in Elmwood—Transcona, 5,460 jobs in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, 9,445 jobs in Vancouver South, 10,080 jobs in Calgary Centre, 11,150 jobs in Trinity—Spadina, and 11,170 jobs in Laurier—Saint-Marie in downtown Montreal. These are just a few examples. There is a list of all the ridings across Canada.
These are real jobs for real people in each and every one of our communities. We need to be cognizant of what stimulating this industry can mean to local economies and the national economy as a whole. The possible benefits are too big to ignore in my opinion.
I could go on, but as I stated earlier, the bill is not about dollars and cents.
Since I introduced the bill back in November, what has struck me most of all is how much Canadians have rallied around this idea. According to a Harris/Decima study released on November 7, 2012, total support for the discover your Canada act stood at 70%, and it enjoyed strong support throughout the country.
For example, the Atlantic region registered 78% approval, Quebec registered 68% approval, Ontario registered 69% approval, Saskatchewan and Manitoba registered 66% approval, Alberta registered 76% approval and British Columbia registered 74% approval.
The same study showed that 39% of Canadians would be more likely to consider travelling within Canada if the discover your Canada act were to become law, while only 5% would be less likely to consider travelling within Canada if the discover your Canada act were to become law, for a net gain of over 34%.
The same study also notes that the bill has the potential to address Canada's growing international travel deficit, which grew by $91 million in the second quarter of 2012 alone.
Beyond the numbers, I have been humbled by messages of support I have received from Canadians from all over the country who want to see the bill pass. One lady from Alberta wrote to tell me that “Despite not being one of your constituents, I am writing to tell you that I support your recent private member's bill, the discover your Canada act. I live in Alberta. However, I have strong ties to Quebec through my maternal grandparents. In such a vast country as Canada, I would welcome this initiative in assisting my travel within our own borders. Canada has so much to offer”.
I cannot go on all day quoting letters and emails, but this is just one of several letters of support I received. They all have the same theme: a desire for us as Canadians and as parliamentarians to implement this idea.
It is not because they want to save money or because they are looking for a handout, but simply because they love their country and like the idea of more Canadians visiting more places within Canada to strengthen their bonds to this country and to each other, especially when we have a travel deficit in this country.
It has long been said that Canada has too much geography and not enough history. In 2017, Canada will have precisely 150 years of history behind it. Our nation's history is no longer in question, but our geography remains both a source of pride and a challenge to our nation's cohesiveness. Facts are facts: there is no inexpensive way for people to traverse such a massive country as Canada. As parliamentarians, we should recognize this reality and react accordingly.
I have chosen 2017 for the coming into force of the bill, because I believe that for Canada's 150th birthday, we should give Canadians the greatest gift we could possibly give them: we should give them Canada.
The government will be investing all kinds of money in celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary, so I am asking the government to think about offering Canadians a choice of where they choose to spend their money and not have the government decide for them.
We do not know how much money the government will put towards the anniversary, but this investment is minimal. There will events across Canada, as I just stated. We should have Canadians plan today where they want to travel to get to know Canada much better so that they will not be watching the events on a TV screen because they cannot afford the trip. They will be able to watch and participate in these events, up close and in person.
We should remove some of the financial barriers that stop them from exploring this great land and tell them to go out and discover your Canada, because one thing I have learned is that financial incentives are one way to get people to change their behaviour.
Thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker. I am open to questions.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to highlight the action our government has taken to support Canadian communities and to create jobs. Our government has played an important role in strengthening Canadian communities. It helped drive economic development well before 2009 when the world's economy took a turn for the worse.
Because of our quick and decisive action, today Canada boasts the strongest rate of employment growth among the G7 countries. The timely support of the Canadian action plan and Canada's solid economic fundamentals have enabled our country and our economy to weather a period of continuing global uncertainty. Our government will continue to focus on creating jobs and growth for Canadians across our great nation.
Thanks in part to our strategic community and economic development programs, we have seen the creation of 900,000 net new jobs since the end of the recession. To continue to encourage economic growth as part of economic action plan 2012, our government announced the creation of the community infrastructure improvement fund, commonly known as CIIF.
CIIF builds on our commitment to further modernize Canada's infrastructure by committing $150 million over two years to support repairs and improvements to existing community facilities. The program supports the beating hearts of Canadian communities, such as community centres, libraries, parks, museums and sports fields, from coast to coast to coast. They are the places where families, friends and neighbours gather.
It is also an important part of our plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians right across the country. In Saskatchewan, my colleague, the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced significant funding for the Kenaston swimming pool. That was made possible thanks to funding from this federal government.
In total, the minister announced $46 million in funding across western Canada. I am delighted to see that the funding has met with the same enthusiasm right across the country. We are going to be working on approximately 300 projects that have already been announced throughout the west.
As of today, in British Columbia, we have already announced 80 of these projects. They are under way and are benefiting Canadians across the province. For example, Castlegar and District Public Library will have improved energy efficiency through the replacement of the library's heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. In addition, our government has helped the district of North Vancouver rehabilitate Maplewood Farm to increase visitor use and to improve accessibility. Since opening in 1975, Maplewood Farm has become a hub of community activity and is one of North Vancouver District's most popular visitor attractions. It receives over 90,000 visitors per year.
In Alberta, nearly 90 projects are helping to revitalize key community infrastructure. For example, upgrades to the Walsh and District Community Hall will improve the accessibility of the kitchen for mobility impaired individuals. The renovations will ensure that members of the community can easily and affordably access the hall.
Federal funding under CIIF is also supporting the expansion of soccer turf at Calgary's Foothills indoor soccer centre as well as the installation of protective boards and netting.
In Saskatchewan, there are over 60 jobs, including extensive renovations to the Learning Disabilities Association of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. In addition to mechanical and electrical upgrades, clients and staff will have a new kitchen, automatic doors to the foyer and three new washrooms that meet accessibility standards.
In the village of Paradise Hill, our government is supporting upgrades that will enhance public safety. Renovations to the arena include the installation of new posts and tempered safety glass on the boards surrounding the ice surface.
In Manitoba, my home province, over 70 projects have already been announced. A CIIF investment is helping the Royal Canadian Legion Charleswood Branch in Winnipeg become more energy efficient by replacing its roof, two rooftop heating and air conditioning units, and the lighting system.
We have also invested in the Army Navy and Air Force Veterans facility to improve its parking lot. We are investing in the St. James Civic Centre Pool to help with renovations. We have provided money for the Assiniboia Curling Club and the Charleswood Curling Club. These are all community-run organizations that would not have been able to make the changes necessary if it were not for the grants from the federal government.
While we are on Manitoba, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Plessis underpass. The federal government, through the building Canada fund, has put in a substantial amount of money, fulfilling a local campaign promise to make transit much better for the people of the Elmwood—Transcona area. I would like to thank the member for Elmwood—Transcona for all his hard work on that project.
I could go on and on. There has been $146 million for recreational infrastructure projects in the four western provinces.
Over the last seven years, $33 billion has been invested in the building Canada fund, which was introduced in 2007 and was Canada first long-term infrastructure plan. It will continue to deliver results until 2014 and beyond.
As my colleague mentioned, we made the gas tax permanent. We have ensured that projects can be accelerated. We have cut down on red tape. We have done many things to ensure that the quality of life of Canadians is improved through infrastructure programs.
RInC, the recreational infrastructure Canada program, members will recall, the communities component, invested $500 million in recreational facilities across Canada over two years. This was a temporary economic stimulus that helped create jobs while renewing, upgrading and expanding recreational infrastructure in Canadian communities. It was hugely well received, as were the other portions of the building Canada fund and the other infrastructure programs this government brought forward. We brought them forward at a time when Canada needed them. What we have done has been well received. People appreciate it. Lives are better. The NDP voted against it all.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the great member for Elmwood—Transcona.
Today I am here to give some perspective for hon. members opposite on measures that have been introduced by the government to the EI program.
The purpose is to ensure the EI program is working for Canadians. The design of it is to help find work and get people back to work. Our government is committed to supporting workers and ensuring that EI enables a strong and competitive workforce. This is in line with our government's focus on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Many of the clarifications to the EI program are designed to make it easier and to better connect unemployed Canadians to the jobs in their local labour market.
The government has announced several targeted common sense clarifications to encourage Canadians to stay active in the job market and to remove disincentives for individuals. These changes include better connecting Canadians with available opportunities in their local area, clarifying their responsibilities while collecting EI and establishing a new pan-Canada approach for calculating EI benefits. Those living in regions of comparable labour market conditions should receive similar benefits.
Canadians may not be aware of local jobs within their skill sets and that is why, as a government, we will be providing enhanced job alerts. They are there to inform Canadians of where the local jobs are. Therefore, as of January 2013, recipients can sign-up to receive two emails a day through the enhanced job alert program. This is a vast improvement over the previous program that sent out alerts once or twice a week.
However, the opposition continues to argue that these changes will limit access to EI. Therefore, we need to be very clear about what EI is. An individual who is on EI has a responsibility to undertake an active job search. All these changes do is further clarify what that job search should be like, but this does not affect access to the EI program at all.
The new definition for a “reasonable job search” includes a wage that is significantly better than the benefits paid out by EI. It cannot be said that these changes are pushing Canadians into poverty. In fact, it is quite the opposite. With greater workforce attachment, Canadian families are always better off.
Our government has introduced many other EI measures that are designed to support Canadian families, the fundamental units of society and the backbone of any successful country.
For example, foster parents adopting foster children into their care now have access to parental benefits earlier on. Eligibility to the compassionate care benefit has been extended to include additional family members and others considered as family by the person who is gravely ill. The self-employed, which I have been all my life, will now have the option to opt into EI programs, which has never been offered before, to receive maternal, parental, sickness and compassionate care benefits. As for military families, there is now improved access to parental benefits.
Our government also recognizes that it may difficult for people who have full-time jobs to care for family members with serious illnesses or injuries. That is why we want to help families balance their work and family responsibility with the financial difficulties that happen during those times. Specifically, the Helping Families in Need Act, which was passed in the fall, is to help hard-working Canadian families at a time when they need it most. It is an important and fundamental value that truly connects all of us as Canadians.
We understand on this side that raising a child is the most important, responsible thing that we ever have to do. I have three grown children and nine grandchildren, and I can attest to that.
Therefore, when a parent is struggling with an illness while balancing responsibilities, whether at work, at home or both, the whole family becomes affected. Under the Helping Families in Need Act, parents are now able to access sickness benefits if they fall ill while receiving parental benefits. Additionally, as part of the bill, we included changes required to allow for other income supports for families when they needed it the most.
We now offer EI benefits to parents of critically ill or injured children.
These new benefits are there to help reduce some of the financial pressures that parents experience. I think that through our families or a personal experience, all of us can relate to what that means and the toll it takes.
Last year we also announced a new grant to support parents coping with the disappearance or the death of a child as a result of a suspected criminal act. We read and hear of way too much of that every day in the news.
Our government is combining our proven track record of adapting the employment insurance program to foster economic growth along with support for parents who are victims, helping to ease them financially.
We want to improve the EI program to make it more flexible for Canadians by adding benefits for parents who need to take time away from work to focus on a critically ill or injured child, all to help them focus on the issues that really matter as a parent or grandparent.
Our desire is to help families. It is a desire that motivated the government to renew the extra five weeks pilot project through the worst recession since the thirties. We understand that many industries are working less and we want to help Canadians through that very tough and difficult time.
While we still all recognize that these are fragile economic times, particularly around the world, we have seen a significant and strong growth in the Canadian economy and labour market, with over 920,000 new net jobs since July of 2009. We now have more jobs in Canada than at any point in our history.
Many of the regions covered by this pilot project have now seen excellent or significant recovery as well. There were in fact a couple of regions that prematurely pulled away from that pilot project because their unemployment rates had receded so well.
Our government remains committed to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians. On this side of the House, and I believe across all sides of the House, we are proud of our country, the job creation and the economic standing that we have seen and been recognized for around the world. Therefore, let all of us stay focused on growing jobs and continuing to develop a long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, he needs to stop waving that cardboard sword or he is going to hurt somebody over there.
We all knew the Conservatives were under investigation for voter suppression in Don Valley East, Nipissing—Timiskaming, Elmwood—Transcona, Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, Vancouver Island North and Yukon. It is a veritable who's who of the no-names on the Conservative backbench. Now court affidavits show that a Conservative-paid phone bank deliberately sent people to the wrong polls on election day. This was a coordinated scheme that goes all the way back to Conservative Party headquarters.
When will the Conservatives get serious about dealing with election fraud on election day?
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Conservative member for Orléans and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Public Works did not talk about their ridings; they talked about the official opposition.
The member for Elmwood—Transcona has only made one statement in the House since we returned. What did he do with his precious, limited opportunity? He also parroted the PMO's blatantly misleading lines about the NDP. If that member does not want to talk about his great riding, I am proud to tell the House some of the fantastic things going on in Elmwood—Transcona.
For instance, Transcona is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. This coincides with the annual Hi Neighbour Festival, also celebrating its own 40th anniversary. These celebrations have allowed people in Transcona to reflect on the famous Canadians who have also come from the area, including Terry Fox; Olympic speed skater, Susan Auch; sports commentator, Rod Black; and of course our own Bill Blaikie.
We on this side of the House take great pride in celebrating the centennial. Shame on the member for kowtowing to the PMO—
The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.
Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that we have this debate today about extending hours, because we cannot look at this particular motion in isolation from everything that has happened in the past year since the election, under this Conservative government.
I would begin my remarks by saying that I think a measure of a government is how it represents and respects the institution it operates within. By and large, certainly a majority government controls that institution. Therefore, how the government actually operates on a day-to-day basis and operates overall in terms of respecting the opinions of opposition, of members of the public, of committees, of the structures and the vehicles that we have, is a very important criterion in terms of how one looks at how a government is performing, whether it is the current Conservative government, a majority government or former governments. One has to look at this motion today in that context.
I mentioned in my remarks earlier that we have seen the government now bring in time allocation possibly 20 to 24 times on different bills. Time is a very valuable commodity. It is something by which we all operate. We understand the importance of it. I do find it incredibly ironic that, on the one hand, we have a government that has been doing everything it can to restrict the time we have for debate, for example, on Bill C-38, but on the other hand it is looking for an expansion of time in the next two weeks because it wants to get everything else through. This is really very disrespectful of the process we have in Parliament and is disrespectful of the engagement that members of Parliament want to have.
Bill Blaikie, who was the former member for Elmwood—Transcona, actually was the dean of the House. He was a very long-standing member of the House of Commons for more than 20 years. I remember speaking with Bill Blaikie on many occasions and getting a sense of how much the procedures had changed in this place, how much the rules had been bent, managed and finessed to basically minimize and restrict what members of Parliament can do.
We have to look at this issue over the longer term. We have to look at how much has been cut out already. Whether it is the right to have ongoing debate or the rules of the House generally, there has been so much undermining of the democratic process in this place. When we look at this motion today and we look at the underlying intent that motion has, which is to basically control the government agenda and to do everything it can to push through what it believes is necessary, then we can see that this place begins to be diminished. Its role and the role we have as individual members of Parliament begins to be diminished.
I remember, back in 1998 or 1999, the Reform Party of the day bringing in 472 amendments on the Nisga'a treaty. It is curious though that the Conservatives seemed to have no problem then in insisting that there had to be proper debate and a proper process. In fact, they used it. They were very opposed to that treaty. I remember voting. I think it was about 48 hours straight when we voted on those 472 amendments to the Nisga'a treaty in British Columbia. They seem to have forgotten all of that. They seem to have forgotten the process and the need to have some sort of equilibrium in this place. It has now become a very heavy-handed measure that it uses. That is what we are seeing today with this motion.
If we add on other examples, such as gag orders to employees, this is no longer a place where even people who work in different departments of the federal government are free to express an opinion. The gag orders are out there to shut down, to be silent and to self-censor. It all speaks to a pattern of incredible control. It speaks to a pattern of undermining the democratic process.
All opposition parties have a responsibility to hold the government to account. My hon. colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, the NDP House leader, in his earlier intervention on a point of privilege made the point well that by blocking information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, by withholding information to parliamentarians, we are impeding the proper functioning of a democratic process.
When we put all of that together, we can begin to see we have a government that is arrogant in its approach and dismissive of any opposition. That speaks badly to our democratic process as a whole.
We have seen unbelievable opposition to Bill C-38. We heard the governement House leader say earlier that this is the longest debate we have ever had. Seven days at second reading on a bill that would have so much impact on almost every aspect of anyone's life in Canada, amending more than 70 pieces of legislation, is the equivalent to having one day of debate for 10 different pieces of legislation. I do not think anybody could characterize that as any kind of adequate or substantive debate.
We are not only opposed to the motion and all of the processes that are unfolding in such a high-handed way by the Conservative government; we are also dealing with the substance. We are also opposed to the process of ramming through all of these bills because the substance of what is contained in the legislation is critical. It is important that people understand what all of these changes are about. We have been pressing that day after day in question period and in committee, where our team did an incredible job of bringing forward amendments.
The list of changes and their impacts is just unbelievable. We have heard about changes to food safety inspection and EI. The government is basically rewriting the way EI will operate. What is worse is that it will be under the complete control of the minister.
We are debating changes in Bill C-38 that would give the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development huge powers to make regulations and unilateral changes to the employment insurance system. This is particularly offensive because, as we know, the employment insurance system is based on contributions from workers and employers. It is a system that people rely on when they need it. Yet the wholesale changes that we know are coming, with respect to what is considered suitable employment, how far one has to travel, the wages that are involved, are all substantive changes. The ability to examine even that one piece in Bill C-38 has been minimal.
We also heard earlier today from the member for Halifax, who raised a question in question period, as she has done for many days both here and in committee, about the changes to environmental assessments. Today in question period she noted that Bill C-38 would, with one clause, change the whole environmental assessment procedure in Canada. The bill would basically bring in a whole new system. In normal terms over the history of Parliament, these are changes that would have intense scrutiny, each and every one of them.
Scrapping the director general of CSIS, what is all that about? Why is that being allowed to happen? What about the gutting of the Fisheries Act?
What about weakening foreign ownership rules on telecommunications? People who work in this industry, not the big corporations, are hugely concerned that buried in Bill C-38 are significant changes to foreign ownership rules that would make it much easier for corporations from abroad to come into Canada and take greater control over our telecommunications industry. That is something that requires substantive examination, but it is buried in the bill.
We have the cuts to health services for refugees. This one only came out more recently and now there is a huge outcry across the country about what the impact would be for refugees. We hear the talking points from the government members saying that refugees will not get anything more than anybody else. However, the loss of some of these medical services would have a significant impact upon people's lives.
However, do we get time to examine this? I do not think so because again this is something that is being rammed through.
The governement House leader mentioned some of the other legislation that his government wants to move through if the motion to extend the hours passes, which, of course, it has the votes to do. It is very possible that, with some of these bills with which other parties in Parliament agree with, there may be some agreement to have a good debate and to see the passage of those bills. That is something that we have done for many years where there is co-operation, where there is some dialogue, conversation, that we can actually come to an agreement. It seems to me that is the way we should be conducting our business. We should be allowing the House leaders to meet to figure out, where there is some agreement, which bills can go through, because there may well be agreement that there has been adequate discussion and that would be a timely and proper thing to do.
However, I think it is wrong to lay down a whole list of probably 15 or more bills and say that in the next two weeks we will sit until midnight, that we will ram all these bills through no matter what anybody thinks and no matter the length of debate. I know the Conservatives will use the argument that we can debate it all we want but I think the central point that we need to make about this motion is that it is not intended to allow substantive debate on these bills, whether there are 6 or 10 or 15. The purpose is to allow the government to , ram them through. I will bet my bottom dollar that it will now accompany this extension of hours, if it gets it, with time allocation.
I again come back to my first point, which is that on the one hand, the government is both restricting debate on Bill C-38 and other bills and it is also creating time for further debate so that it can also restrict debate to get the bills through. This is what we have come to. I have been in this Parliament now 15 years, through six elections. I have seen minority Parliaments and majority governments. I have seen how this operates. I know that if there is that process of some dialogue, goodwill, respect and trust, having been a House leader for eight years as well, we can arrive at a consideration and an agreement about the House agenda. We have the capacity to do that.
However, when the government y is so disrespectful of both the process and the substance and has an agenda that it just wants to ram through in the closing weeks of Parliament, all I can say is that we need to do our job and our job is to hold the government to account. Our job is to ensure that there is substantive and proper examination of all the bills before the House. We owe that to our constituents and to the public in general. I can tell from the emails that I am receiving and the stuff that is on Facebook that people are truly alarmed at the government's method of dealing, in particular, with Bill C-38.
People are only just beginning to understand the comprehensiveness and the far-reaching impact that the bill would have. This notion that it has had the longest debate ever is just nonsense. We need to look at what is in the bill. We need to know all of the legislation that it is trying to change. We need to know that none of that has been properly examined.
I do find that the government, in putting forward this motion today, is, regrettably, just a continuation of the arrogance it has displayed. It is a continuation of a disrespect of this place. It is a pattern of just wanting to get something through at any cost.
I feel very proud that the NDP, the official opposition, has spoken out very strongly. All of the amendments we have for Bill C-38, which will be voted on this week, are a reflection of the opposition that exists in this country. They are not just spurious amendments. These amendments are a reflection of what it is we are hearing from Canadians.
It is incredibly disappointing that the government is refusing to budge even an inch to look at splitting the bill or to look at ways to manage the bill so that there is proper debate. We have not seen the government willing to move anything on that front. That is a real indication, unfortunately, of where the Conservatives are at.
We will not be supporting the motion, not because we do not want to be here at night to debate. We are quite happy to do that. We are good at it. We would be happy to debate until midnight. However, we need to look at the intent of the motion and we know full well that the intent of the motion to extend the hours is so the government can bring in further time allocation to ram through Bill C-38, plus a dozen or more other pieces of legislation.
That is offensive. It is disrespectful of this Parliament. It is something that we do not think can be unchallenged, and it is for that reason that we oppose the motion.
I would like to move an amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by replacing the words “Friday, June 22” with the following: “Thursday, June 21”.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for Trinity—Spadina for invoking, for me, the memory of the Hon. Rev. Bill Blaikie, the former member for Elmwood—Transcona, and his regular and frequent admonitions to the House of Commons that we need to get the freight off the trucks and back onto the rail where it belongs. That should be our number one job for the environment, for rail safety, for any number of compelling reasons.
There is one thing I would like my colleague to comment on. We are dealing with the Railway Safety Act today. There has been a call for a rail service review, and there has been a further call for a rail costing review. Prairie farmers are being gouged as badly as they were gouged in the 1930s, because nobody has reviewed whether what they are being charged to move their grain is in any way related to the actual cost of moving that grain.
Will the member comment on the need for a rail costing review as the next initiative for this chamber?
Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the fact that the member spoke to this very important issue. We all know that Jim Maloway, who was the NDP MP for Elmwood—Transcona, spoke on any issue because he was so knowledgeable.
When it comes to rail, this is extremely important. VIA Rail comes through my riding as well. I am very pleased to see the safety aspect, but when it comes to passenger trains, could he elaborate as to why his government would have large cuts, probably about $200 million, to VIA Rail when passenger rail is the important piece we need to have in our communities?
The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona. His predecessor, Mr. Jim Maloway, was my seatmate at the far end of the House. He was elected again as an MLA in the New Democratic government in Manitoba. I congratulate Mr. Maloway on that. I do miss him as a seatmate, but nonetheless he is back in the Manitoba legislature and we are happy for him.
My colleague from Elmwood—Transcona said something and I had to write it down because I was slightly taken aback. In referring to the Conservative government, he said, “We put all Canadians first”. I would challenge my friend from Elmwood—Transcona on that one.
Regarding the tax credits laid out by the Conservatives, for all the things for children which they talked about, one might say it is admirable and that we want young people to get into the arts, sports and different clubs and to find a way to help parents make that happen financially. However, the difficulty is that it is supposed to help all Canadian families according to what my friend said. The reality, of course, is that this is not true. A tax credit cannot help all Canadian families because people who live in poverty do not pay tax. They cannot get the tax credit if they do not pay tax.
How does the government intend to help those families get their children into the arts and sports and join clubs and participate with other children, as this bill purports to do, when those families who can least afford to have their children join in the first place get the proverbial goose egg, nada, nothing, zero, not a penny, no financial help whatsoever? They will not receive one solitary red cent. Why? Because it is a tax credit. Tax credits are for people who have a certain amount of taxable income and remit taxes to the government and they get some form of credit back. It is elementary. Who does that credit really help? It helps people in the top income brackets, the folks who can actually afford to pay for all the things their young children may want to do.
As a parent of kids who are not so young now, when they were young my wife and I wanted them to participate in various activities. We had two well-paying jobs. I worked in the manufacturing sector and my spouse worked in the health care field. We were fortunate to be able to afford to have our three kids in the programs that they wanted to join. We had well-paying, full-time jobs, both of which were unionized. We had good pay, good benefits and good pensions. That is the type of workforce we want to create. That is the type of workforce that could benefit from tax credits, if that is the direction in which the government wants to go. It is not for those that are underemployed or unemployed, or for those who are in dire need, in fact in poverty, who still have children who will not be able to participate.
We have heard numbers being bandied back and forth. We have heard about the 600,000 net new jobs. There is an old saying which I will not repeat here because the language might be unparliamentary. It is about figures and figurers. We will leave aside as to who figures and who is the figurer trying to figure out what the figures are.
The bottom line is the real number. In July 2008 there were 17,084,200 people employed in the labour force in this country. In July 2011, a mere few months ago, there were 17,344,200 people employed in the labour force. I will be the figurer on this one. I think I can do the arithmetic; it does not seem too complicated. That is actually an increase of 260,000 jobs.
I am not sure where the government gets the figure of some 600,000 net new jobs. Net of course is the difference between what one had and what one has now, as most folks would see it. What we have is less than half that amount. If that be the case, who am I to quibble with Statistics Canada? I know the government did when it wanted to get rid of the long form census but that is a debate for another day.
Nonetheless, we can clearly see that the number of jobs purported to be created is significantly lower than what the government purports it to be.
My riding of Welland is a glorious place. I invite my colleagues to visit Welland. It is a wonderful place to be, but it suffers a huge amount of unemployment, because the manufacturing sector that was not supported by the government simply took off. It went to Mexico, Illinois, and Indiana. It packed up and went to China.
We watched Henniges Automotive dry up last month and send 300 workers and their families in Welland to the unemployment line. What is their future under the Conservative government? Less than 40% of Ontarians who are unemployed actually qualify for EI. That is the future for those folks who have been in and out of work over the last year and a half because of the downturn in that sector. The sector did not dry up. Henniges makes rubber mouldings for automobiles. It is headed to the United States. It is going to a state where it will get tax advantages because the government pours money into new firms and expands existing ones.
It is not a question of a business going out of business. It is a question of a company leaving this country and leaving our folks high and dry. We have seen this throughout Welland's history, especially in the last number of years. John Deere did exactly the same thing and the government washed its hands of the situation and said that is the way it goes. That is not good enough and it should not be the way it goes for Canadians.
I would like to pick up on the remarks of my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas. I am a little bit older than he is and when I was in high school, in grade nine, teachers talked about how we had to diversify the economy. At the time we were good at digging stuff out of the ground and cutting logs. We are still good at it today. In fact the mining sector is seen as one of the best in the world, which is a good thing. Except when I was in high school the idea was to take that stuff we dug out of the ground or the raw logs we cut down and do something with them. Manufacturing is what it is called. Manufacturing seems to be an ugly word these days. We seem not to want to manufacture; we let others do it because they are good at it somewhere else.
We have gone back 40 years. It is 40 years since I have been in high school. We have gone back four decades, back to the same old, same old, when clearly what economists and teachers in my high school and other schools were saying to young people like me as we looked forward to potential jobs, was to diversify the economy, make manufacturing jobs. It would give us an opportunity to work in good-paying full-time jobs with pensions and benefits, unionized jobs if that is the case. The economy would grow and so would our country. Lo and behold, what did we have during the 1970s? Someone who was my age at the time and lived in the heartland of this country, Ontario, could literally walk up the street and get a job the next day after quitting a job the day before.
Today we have young people who are still in school, not necessarily because they want to be there, but because they cannot find a job. They cannot start a career because there are no jobs in which to start careers, because of the limited opportunities over the last five to seven years. Yet the government presents a budget and all of those aspects are absent. All of those pieces that we would want to see and did see in the 1970s when we diversified the economy, when we actually made sure there were businesses where we could get a full-time job with good pay and benefits and pensions. We have eliminated them and now we have temps and people working on contract. We have itinerant workers.
It reminds me of the dirty thirties when men would stand outside the gate and wait for the boss to pick them one at a time and send the rest of them home to come back the next day and try again. That is what we are doing to our young people and it is criminal. We are wasting the potential of young folks who are our future by not making sure that we have the investments set up so they have a sustainable future, good paying full-time jobs with benefits and pensions. That is a crime. That is what is absent in the budget.
I suggest the government put it in the budget to make sure we look after not only those who are at retirement age, but those who are at the beginning stages of their lives, ready to walk into the new economy, so that they can participate in that new economy.
Order. Questions and comments.
The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.
Order, please. Is the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona rising on the same point of order or another point of order?
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Elmwood—Transcona for laying out the situation that resulted in at least part of the bill and then some of the concerns with it.
I specifically reference section 3 of the bill. Subsection 3.(2) states:
—a person...may arrest a person without a warrant if they find them committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property and
(a) they make the arrest at that time; or
(b) they make the arrest within a reasonable time after the offence is committed and they believe on reasonable grounds that it is not feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest.
That section of the bill directly comes from the member for Trinity—Spadina's private member's bill as a result of what happened with the Lucky Moose Food Mart store owner. The bill is more than just that section. The bill would add some additional sections to supposedly clarify the laws on self-defence and defence of properties.
We have some additional sections that would amend the Criminal Code. It seems, from input that we are receiving already from people, there has been undue haste in proposing these extra amendments to the Criminal Code.
Could the member comment on what he sees as a problem with putting forward proposed amendments where we do not know what the consequences of those would be?
My colleague from Elmwood—Transcona just said that the Criminal Code was passed in 1892. It is a complex code.
Over the last couple of years, we have seen a series of so-called law and order bills amending various aspects of the Criminal Code. Bill C-60 is another example of amending the Criminal Code. It is a piecemeal approach. We are trying to amend one section after another.
It would seem to me that a responsible way to approach this would be to look at the various provisions in the Criminal Code that need to be amended and do it in an omnibus bill. I know the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, our justice critic, called for that. He does an incredible job of managing the various bills that come before the House.
I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that we have this ad hoc, piecemeal, ill-considered approach to looking at this complex piece of legislation, the Criminal Code.
The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.
Mr. Speaker, as the member for Elmwood—Transcona indicated, the NDP will be supporting this bill after the very able work of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore.
There are, of course, things that are not in the bill and I would like the member to specifically comment on the situation with agent orange. We know that members of the Canadian Forces at CFB Gagetown were exposed to agent orange in the late 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. There was a very narrow window of opportunity for armed forces personnel to be compensated for that exposure to agent orange and some of the terrible things that happened to their families.
I wonder if the member could comment on whether he thinks it is important that we expand the scope for veterans and their families to receive compensation for exposure to agent orange at CFB Gagetown.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to conclude the debate on my motion to establish a National Tree Day.
For the people of Ottawa—Orléans, I thank them for the opportunity to serve them and to represent them in the Parliament of Canada. It is with their support that I am able to stand in this place, in their place, today to speak to this important motion.
The residents of Ottawa—Orléans are the beneficiaries of a rich natural history. Orléans was, and to a great degree remains, a deep farmland with old trees and a great natural presence. Though continued growth has made new development a recurring pattern, one can always witness vibrant urban forests, parks lands and, of course, trees.
It is such a pleasure to take the journey that brought us here today with Michael Rosen and the professional staff and dedicated volunteers of Tree Canada.
In the first hour of debate, I alluded to the support of Mr. Rosen's organization for Motion M-575. Tree Canada has continued to be most helpful, and I understand they have even sent letters—on recycled paper, of course—to each member of this House seeking their support also. I once again thank them for their work.
Every member of the House knows, and it is henceforth recorded in the history of this place, that Tree Canada provides a vital service to our country and to its people. They have had a role in planting and maintaining over 76 million trees.
This motion comes as a product of a vision. As I previously told the House, I plant a tree each year during National Forest Week. I have done that since my days as a Boy Scout. I have also planted some 52,000 trees outside this celebratory week, and my children have planted 23,000 trees so far.
We do not just talk about the environment. We actually look after our own carbon footprint, and we have done it for generations.
It is my hope that this motion will create a day where others will be inspired to acknowledge the importance of the tree and take the time to plant one, or many, of their own.
Tree day will be the only exclusive day to recognize one of Canada's greatest assets: its trees. As I mentioned before, the tree is a symbol of Canada's historic, economic and environmental success. Our friends to the south celebrate their Arbor Day and soon we will celebrate Canada's own national tree day.
By passing this motion, the House will ask Canadians to spend just one day reflecting on the link between their lives and that of the tree. Canadians will dedicate trees, plant trees, learn about trees and appreciate the historical impact the tree has had on Canada’s economic success as a nation.
I understand that all parties in the House are fully aware of the importance of this motion and have extended their support. I thank them. It is then fruitless to continue encouraging them to support this motion when it seems that I have already laid a convincing case.
So, I will take just a few moments to thank some people who have helped this motion become a reality.
I thank the hon. members who have participated in this debate, my friend, the jovial member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, and the learned member for Elmwood—Transcona.
I also want to thank the fiery member for Honoré-Mercier and the member for Trois-Rivières.
As well, I thank the member for Windsor West and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board.
I thank Craig Huff, the late manager of the city of Ottawa Forestry Services, his successor, David Barkley, the students of Good Shepherd Catholic School, the 1st Blackburn Scouts, 3rd Orléans, 4th Orléans, 8th Orléans and the 14th Gloucester.
And the Scouts of 25th St. Gabriel, 31st St. Joseph, and 55th Ste. Marie.
Finally, I thank my own staff, Lynne Bernard, Amanda Iarusso, Rebecca Lee, Andrej Sakic, Gina Vilsaint, Amanda Weir and Colette Yelle.
I also thank my senior assistant, Kyle Simunovic, who keeps the trains running on time.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak at third reading on Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act.
I did speak on this bill earlier, at second reading, and I think also at report stage. I certainly share some of the very serious reservations that my colleagues in the New Democratic Party have about this bill. I am very pleased that a number of us are getting up to speak on this bill. I would certainly echo the comments of the member for Hamilton Mountain and the member for Elmwood—Transcona that it is very disappointing that although we have heard other members of the House express concerns about the bill, apparently they are making a decision not to participate in the debate.
The reason we debate legislation is to have a thorough airing of what legislation is about and what its impacts and consequences will be. A bill is sent to committee, where it is examined very thoroughly and witnesses are called.
I do find that in this current political environment, a pattern that has been emerging is this idea that everything has to be rushed through. Everything gets a once-over, a quick once-over, and then off it goes. We get through it quickly at committee and call in a few witnesses. It seems to me that long gone are the days when parliamentarians examined legislation very carefully and tried to think about what the impacts of legislation might be immediately and in the longer term.
It strikes me that this is one of those bills that we have to look at not only in terms of the immediate impact on Canadians but also in terms of the longer-term effects. That is why I am very proud that members of the NDP have debated this bill very seriously. We have treated it very seriously in committee; here we are at third reading, final reading, and we are not prepared to say that we will just let it go and that it has had the kind of examination it needs, because we still have a lot of questions about this bill.
Even at third reading, it is not too late. I appeal to some of the Liberal members that it is not too late to reflect on this bill and to make a decision that it should not be allowed to pass third reading and then, of course, go to the Senate, where it will just be rubber-stamped and go through now that a Conservative majority has been appointed in the unelected Senate.
As a result, we take our work even more seriously, because we know that any examination that needs to be done has to be done in this place, has to be done in committee and has to be done by people who are following the bill, by calling in witnesses and hearing the expertise and experience that exist on this file.
Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act does have a history. I remember when we debated it just before the holiday recess in December. We were told that this bill had to be passed by the House, that there was a deadline, that the U.S. government was insistent that this bill be passed and it had to be done by such-and-such a date. I do not remember exactly what that date was, but all of a sudden—
Mr. Speaker, I never cease to be surprised by the depth and breadth of knowledge of the member for Elmwood—Transcona. He does a lot of homework and keeps on top of things.
The hon. member asked, who is going to pay the cost? In the late seventies we had a 36% corporate sales tax for large corporations in both the U.S. and Canada. Today that marginal tax rate for large corporations in the U.S. is still 36%, but for Canadian corporations it has dwindled down to 16.5%, which has not resulted in investment. We are exporting huge amounts of tax revenue to the United States at this point, so it certainly will be able to afford the cost of multi-billion dollar computers to keep track of the private lives of Canadians.
The electoral district of Elmwood--Transcona (Manitoba) has a population of 78,700 with 58,216 registered voters and 173 polling divisions.
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