The subamendment is in order.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain makes a very good point. It is clear that the Liberal leader believes that terrorists with dual citizenship should keep their Canadian passports.
This government works to protect Canadians, both at home and abroad, and believes that we should be tough on terrorists. It seems the Liberal leader is worried about a two-tiered system. We will revoke the citizenship of dual nationals who are convicted of these very grave acts of terrorism against our country. If the Liberal leader does not understand the difference between law-abiding Canadians and terrorists, as the old saying goes, he is clearly not up to the job.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Souris—Moose Mountain for that question.
Our government and our country remain steadfast in our support for the people of Ukraine in the face of ongoing militarism and aggression by the Putin regime.
Today, I am pleased to announce that we are committing the HMCS Regina, which is currently deployed in the Arabian Sea, to NATO's reassurance package.
I am pleased to announce that we are committing the HMCS Regina, which is currently deployed in the Arabian Sea, to NATO's reassurance package.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain will have approximately four minutes for debate this afternoon.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain for his thoughtful comments today and for sharing his time with me.
I want to focus my speech on a fundamental truth that is at the heart of this debate, and that is living within one's means. Last year's throne speech highlighted our government's unwavering commitment to controlling spending while investing in Canadian priorities to safeguard our economy. Year after year and budget after budget, we have put in place credible plans to achieve financial sustainability and have set clear targets to bring our deficit down. These actions were crucial as we dealt with the damaging effects of the worldwide recession, one of the worst in more than seven decades. We had to get our fiscal house in order to keep Canadians working and our economy strong.
More than just managing debt, our government is tackling spending. In the same way that Canadian families and businesses have to make tough choices about how to spend their hard-earned money, we are reducing the size and cost of government to ensure taxpayers get good value for the money. We are working hard to make government more efficient and responsive to the needs of Canadians. This is because our overarching goal is to create the conditions for jobs, economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians. Our impressive track record in advancing this agenda has made Canadians the envy of the world.
Since we introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, Canada has recovered more than all of the output and more than all of the jobs lost during the recession. Real GDP is significantly above pre-recession levels: the best performance in the G7. This success has not gone unnoticed. In fact, in Bloomberg's recent 2013 ranking of best countries for doing business, Canada jumped from sixth to second place, challenging Hong Kong for top position. This recognition reinforces the benefit of being good fiscal stewards. Reducing spending, lowering taxes and paying down debt are enabling us to seize new economic opportunities as we promote free trade and innovation. These are the keys to job creation, economic growth and prosperity.
I lay out these facts to underline that these same truths apply just as much to Canada Post as it faces unprecedented challenges. In the same way that our government had to make tough decisions and take decisive action to respond to the global economic downturn in 2008, Canada Post must also tighten its belt and develop new strategies for success as it copes with the detrimental impacts of the digital economy on its traditional business.
The pace of postal decline has been accelerating here in Canada and in other developed countries for a number of years. However, it accelerated after the economic slowdown struck in 2008. Companies cut their mailing costs as part of their overall cost reductions, and many opted to shift more billing, statements and marketing to an online solution. At the same time, individual consumers began moving en masse from traditional to digital communications. In fact, Canadians are now more likely to send and receive a text message or email than to write, post or wait several days for delivery. This is especially true with the under 35 crowd. They are a population of people who are starting to move into their first homes and who have led to a growth in the number of new addresses that Canada Post must serve.
Not surprisingly, rapidly declining mail volumes, combined with the need to deliver mail to more households, is causing serious financial challenges at the corporation.As other speakers have noted, mail volumes per address dropped by nearly 25% between 2008 and 2012, and a further 6% decline is forecast in 2013. We do not need a crystal ball to see where this trend is going. A 2013 report prepared by the Conference Board of Canada into the corporation's future projects states that unless major changes are made, annual operating deficits will reach nearly $1 billion by 2020. Quite simply, the corporation's current business model no longer allows it to earn sufficient revenues to offset its costs. Without changes, the future viability of the postal service is clearly in question.
Canada Post is not the only postal service in the world facing these challenges, nor is it the only one to come to a similar conclusion. The U.S. Postal Service, for example, has reduced service hours and the number of employees to address these financial pressures, while the U.K.'s postal service has been privatized, which has led to a significant increase in stamp prices.
The digital economy is not going away. The corporation cannot turn back the clock and change the fact that fewer Canadians are using the mail system and visiting post offices. Canada Post has no option but to find new ways of doing business in order to keep its operations profitable.
Like the people living in the millions of households that it delivers mail to or like any level of government that is accountable to taxpayers, Canada Post must manage its business prudently. Indeed, it has a mandate to operate on a self-sustaining financial basis. Its financial responsibility has been a legislated obligation since 1981.
The services currently provided by Canada Post are clearly no longer affordable. The corporation needs to spend within its means in the same way that individuals do as they manage their family budgets. More than that, change is essential at Canada Post if it is to keep pace with the choices Canadians are already making about the way they prefer to communicate.
To meet this goal, the corporation is focusing on the best ways to reduce its expenditures. Since delivery accounts for about 40% of Canada Post's operating costs, it is the most obvious place to start.
Door-to-door delivery is by far the most expensive mode of delivery. It costs between two and three times the cost to deliver to community mailboxes. Let us compare $283 annually for home delivery versus $108 for community mailboxes. They are also cheaper than delivery to a rural mailbox, which rings in at $179 a year.
To be clear, we are talking about changes affecting only home delivery. Businesses with large volumes of mail or located in business zones will generally retain their door-to-door delivery. However, the remaining one-third of Canadians who still have door-to-door service—a minority of people in this country, I would add—will gradually shift over the next five years to community mailboxes instead.
Community mailboxes provide secure mail storage in a convenient place close to home to receive parcels and packets. The people using them will join the 10 million other Canadians who have been receiving their mail this way for decades. Let us remember that Canada Post introduced community boxes back in 1981, so Canada Post has been successfully delivering mail and packages this way for a very long time.
Since labour is another significant component of Canada Post's rising costs, plans to return the corporation to self-sustainability have to address labour costs, including the sustainability of Canada Post's pension plan. The corporation expects to reduce its workforce by between 6,000 and 8,000 positions by 2019. This will be achieved largely through attrition. Like most workplaces populated by baby boomers, a lot will leave the workforce in a few years' time. Nearly 15,000 employees are expected to retire or leave the company over the next five years.
Another way that Canada Post is addressing its revenue shortfalls is by increasing the basic stamp price to $1. As others have explained today, there are ways of lowering this cost by buying stamps in larger quantities, which will help to keep mail costs lower for small businesses.
By taking these necessary and progressive steps, Canada Post will be able to remain productive and competitive into the future. Most importantly, these steps will enable Canada Post to become financially self-sufficient again, as it was for the 16 years up until 2011.
While Canada Post is a crown corporation that operates at arm's length from the government and is solely responsible for its day-to-day operations, all Canadians have a stake in Canada Post's long-term welfare. Canada Post has put forward a plan that it is confident will return the corporation to financial self-sustainability by 2019. It is important that this plan be implemented as quickly as possible and that these results be achieved.
Canada Post must fulfill its mandate of operating on a self-sustaining financial basis in order to protect taxpayers while modernizing its business and aligning postal services with the choices of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the discussion on Ukraine at this important and troubling juncture. Let me just say, for my Ukrainian friends.
[Member speaks in Ukrainian language].
I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
Since we last met in the House in a special session to discuss Ukraine, in December of last year, the situation in this beleaguered country has indeed deteriorated significantly. The government of Viktor Yanukovych has become even more brutal and more authoritarian. Acts of repression and intimidation have become well-worn tactics of the administration and of the security services. The use of violence by the state against peaceful protestors has become routine and widespread. The free press, brave journalists, religious figures and democracy activists have been muzzled. Ukrainians have been beaten and kidnapped and some, indeed, have been killed.
Tonight, the people of Ukraine face off against a government that has squandered whatever fragment of legitimacy it might once have had. The Yanukovych government has brought this situation upon itself, exacerbating civil unrest by using thuggish strong-arm tactics to try to pull the protest movement apart and by ignoring parliamentary process to push through a new set of repressive and illegitimate laws designed to silence legitimate dissent and facilitate a crackdown. The brave people of Ukraine could not be expected to be docile and submissive in the face of such repression. Ukrainians are brave and determined people and they know how to endure unbelievable hardship and tyranny, as they demonstrated a long time ago during the Holodomor. They will not let their country creep toward tyranny and dictatorial rule.
This protest movement started off in early December as a reaction to the unpopular and last-minute decision by Viktor Yanukovych to reject an offer for closer association with Europe, an offer that would have benefited all Ukrainians. However, because of the government's disproportionate and unprovoked counterattack on the protestors and on the ideals they espouse, this movement has become something more. It is not only about Ukraine's relationship with Europe and the communities of western democracies; the protestors demand an accountable government that respects human rights and the rule of law. This movement is now spreading across the country, and its outcome will be decisive for the future of Ukraine.
On the evening of January 25, in talks between the government and Ukraine's main opposition leaders, Yanukovych offered two key opposition leaders the posts of prime minister and deputy prime minister in a government that he, Yanukovych, would continue to lead, along with some minor concessions whereby he agreed to amend, not repeal, the draconian anti-protest laws he had pushed through his parliament 10 days prior. The opposition leaders, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Vitali Klitschko, rejected the offers, as they should. They rejected these offers because they constituted an attempt to co-opt the opposition, not accommodate it.
The opposition's demands are legitimate and they are clear. They are to release all citizens who have been detained by law enforcement bodies for participation in protest actions that followed adoption of the dictatorship laws on January 16, 2014; to pass a law that exempts from responsibility and guarantees absence of criminal responsibility in the future for participants in protests that took place after January 16, 2014; to invalidate the package of dictatorship laws, passed on January 16, which grossly violate the Ukrainian constitution and other long-established legal instruments and procedures; to begin the process of revising the Ukrainian constitution to better protect civil rights and liberties; and finally, to dismiss the cabinet of ministers, so many of whom have had a direct hand in facilitating this crackdown against legitimate civil dissent.
I believe that Canada should support these calls for change and that we should encourage the Ukrainian government to re-engage in talks with the opposition on the basis of these principles. In this respect, I am encouraged by the news today that the United Nations will dispatch a mediator to Ukraine. In the meantime, the opposition and the Euromaidan movement need Canada's moral, political, diplomatic and material support, and they can count on it.
At the outset of the crisis on December 6, the Minister of Foreign Affairs travelled to Kiev. He expressed Canada's deep disappointment that the Ukrainian government had, in balking at implementing the measures necessary to sign an association agreement with the European Union, effectively suspended that country's path toward democratic development and economic prosperity, all at the hands, frankly, of Vladimir Putin and Russia. This was clearly not the wish of the Ukrainian people.
While in Kiev, the Minister of Foreign Affairs met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kozhara, to express grave concerns about the Ukrainian government's crackdown on mass protests against its decision to suspend negotiations with the European Union.
The minister also visited Independence Square, where he personally met with many of the protesters. We saw that on television. People in the square chanted, “Thank you, Canada” and cheered when the minister arrived. Afterwards, the minister said:
The clear signals of the Ukrainian people have been broadcast around the world, and the most concerning and disappointing aspect has been the government's reaction to these peaceful protests. We will continue to stand with those Ukrainians that believe in freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Canada sent more than two dozen election observers to Ukraine to monitor parliamentary byelections being held amid this crisis, on December 15, in five electoral districts where electoral fraud had invalidated the results of the nationwide parliamentary elections of 2012.
Through the end of December and into January, the Yanukovych government, seeing that the protesters in Kiev's Independence Square showed no signs of abandoning either their posts or their principles, could have taken this as a signal to begin negotiations with the opposition. He could have pulled police and interior ministry forces back from a confrontational posture. He could have taken steps to show that he had heard the will of the people and would respect and recognize a form of protest that had been both peaceful and popular.
Yanukovych did none of this. Instead, he ratcheted up the pressure. He maligned and defamed the opposition leadership. He loosened the reins on his security forces, and he enacted new repressive laws. This is when the beatings, the disappearances, and the killings began. In response, the protest movement spread, and while remaining remarkably restrained, naturally became more volatile in some quarters.
Yanukovych's justice minister threatened to impose a state of emergency. This is the state of affairs in Ukraine tonight. The international community is rightly concerned.
I have mentioned that the United Nations announced today that it will dispatch a mediator to Kiev. We shall see in the days ahead whether this initiative will produce positive results for the people of Ukraine. I certainly hope it does.
The European Union has condemned the government's excesses and has called for restraint. The United States has revoked the visas of Ukrainian authorities deemed to have had a hand in these acts of oppression. Like Canada, the U.S. has also said that all policy options for holding responsible those implicated in acts of violence and repression may remain on the table.
The Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE, Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, has called on the Ukrainian authorities to do their utmost to prevent a further escalation of tension, to carry out investigations promptly, and to bring those responsible for the casualties and violence to justice.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has pointed out that the Ukrainian government is ultimately responsible for protecting peaceful demonstrators and that a sovereign, independent, and stable Ukraine, firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law, is key to Euro-Atlantic security.
Whatever direction this crisis takes, the Ukrainian people should know that they can count on support from their friends in Canada. As evidence, Canada's embassy in Kiev has been engaged with the Maidan and with key opposition figures as well as with the government throughout this crisis.
Our diplomats have conducted spot checks and have maintained a visible presence at protest sites in a clear demonstration that Canada and the world is watching. No act of violence or oppression will go unnoticed or unaccounted for by Canada.
At the same time, our embassy has been closely coordinating positions, messaging, and diplomatic actions on the ground in Kiev with our American and European partners, all with a view to urging restraint while demanding accountability for the democratic will of the Ukrainian people.
Canada's $20 million a year development assistance program in Ukraine is targeted towards supporting democratic civil society, instituting electoral reform, combatting corruption, and helping small and medium enterprises in Ukraine grow.
Since Ukraine's renewed independence in 1991, Canada has played a pioneering and influential role, promoting freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in this important country with which Canadians share such deep historical, cultural, and people-to-people ties. That role will continue, especially in the midst of crisis.
The Government of Canada is determined to continue to assist the Ukrainian people in achieving their aspirations for a fully free and democratic society. They must know that they have our support. We share their values. We share their aspirations. Their struggle is our struggle.
[Member spoke in Ukrainian]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hard-working member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
Yesterday the Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed Canada's grave concerns with Ukraine government's crackdown on mass protests against its decision to suspend negotiations with the European Union.
Today he will visit the Holodomor monument to pay his respects to those who perished under Soviet tyranny. He will also be visiting Independence Square in support of Canada and Ukraine's shared values of democracy and human rights.
We are proud of our principled approach in these matters. This government continues to stand with the people of Ukraine.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Souris—Moose Mountain for his timely question.
Today, our government launched the global markets action plan. This new trade promotion plan will entrench the concept of economic diplomacy by harnessing government resources and services in order to maximize the success of Canada's exporters and investors in key foreign markets. Our target is to grow Canada's small and medium-size enterprise footprint in emerging markets by 10,000 companies.
It is an ambitious target, but I am confident that Canadian small and medium-size enterprises are up to the task. That is how we create jobs and opportunities for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member forSouris—Moose Mountain for his hard work in promoting trade between Canada and the United States.
I can assure this House that our government will vigorously oppose any efforts to impose new border taxes. In these challenging economic times, there is no better American or Canadian job creator than trade between our two countries. New border fees send exactly the opposite message.
Canadians can be assured that our government will work tirelessly to promote their interests and the interests of Canada's exporters and job creators.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Souris—Moose Mountain for prompting me to share some good news today for Canadians.
As everyone knows, our Conservative government has focused on creating jobs and long-term prosperity and ensuring that our economy grows. Indeed, today Stats Canada announced that our economy grew again in the third quarter of 2012. This represents the fifth consecutive quarter of economic growth in Canada. Our modest but steady economic growth shows that we are on the right track. We are going to continue on this track. What we are not going to do is to implement a $21 billion carbon tax on Canadians that would kill—
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the motion before the House. In my brief remarks today, I would like to give members an overview of our economy and what our government is doing to keep our country strong and competitive in what is a volatile and uncertain global environment.
I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
Canada's current economic and fiscal health record is the envy of many other nations today. Thanks to the prudent fiscal and economic decisions made by our government before the recession hit in 2008-09, Canada's economic and fiscal health today is stronger than most other developed nations.
When faced with an unprecedented global crisis, our government responded with an economic action plan, which stimulated the economy, protected Canadian jobs during the recession and invested in the long-term growth. It is also been both outstanding and widely recognized.
For example, the Canadian economy has achieved one of the best performances on jobs and growth among the G7 in recent years. We have recovered and exceeded all the output and all the jobs lost during the recession. Since July 2009, almost 770,000 net new jobs have been created. Virtually all jobs created since then have been full-time positions. Real GDP is now also well above the pre-recession levels.
In addition, Canada has the distinction of the world's soundest banking system for the fifth year in a row, as affirmed three weeks ago by the World Economic Forum. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada as number one in its annual review of the best countries for business. Three credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch and Standard & Poor's, have reaffirmed the top rating for Canada and it is expected that we will maintain their AAA rating in the year ahead.
Canada is still growing, but we are not immune to the downside risks originating outside our country or, in fact, of the economic challenges faced by some of our largest trading partners.
Our continued response to the global economic uncertainty has been our economic action plan. To ensure that Canada's finances remain sustainable over the long term, our government has introduced a host of strong, economic measures to foster more growth, more jobs and continued long-term prosperity.
These actions to improve conditions for business investment include: expanding trade and opening new markets for Canadian businesses; keeping taxes low for job-creating businesses; strengthening business competitiveness; and further strengthening Canada's financial sector.
Our government is also determined to return to balanced budgets in the medium term. Our government is taking a balanced approach based on prudent economic growth presumptions between supporting jobs growth and implementing our plan to return to balanced budgets over the medium term. It is a goal that we are all well on our way to achieving and at a pace other developed countries cannot match.
In two years we have already cut the deficit in half. We did it by ending our targeted and temporary stimulus measures and by controlling the growth of new spending.
Canada expects to achieve its G20 commitments to halve the deficit by 2013.
We also plan to stabilize or reduce total government debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016, as agreed by the G20 leaders at the summit in Toronto in June 2010.
Finally, I will say a few words about Canada's tax advantage.
To prosper in a competitive global economy, entrepreneurs and businesses also need a competitive and efficient tax system. That is why early on our government introduced the tax relief required to create jobs and growth throughout the economy. In 2007, prior to the global crisis, we passed a bold tax deduction plan that would help brand Canada as a low tax destination for business investment. The final stage of our step-by-step reduction in the fiscal business tax rate came into force at the beginning of this year. It is a culmination of a process that has seen the business tax rate fall from 22.12% in 2007, when we set our goal, to just 15% today.
I do not have to tell anyone in this room what this investment-friendly tax environment means to the future of Canada's economy and jobs. It is a broad-based, fiscally durable and structurally sound—
Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain wants to make a statement to the House. We all shared his concern before question period. Perhaps he could fill us in now on the news from Saskatchewan.
Mr. Speaker, my friend and colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain chairs our human resources committee and does an admirable job. The point is that governments make mistakes on occasion. Somewhere along the line governments legalized smoking tobacco, and we know the devastating impacts that has on people's health now, but somewhere along the line governments thought that was okay.
The other day, the minister responsible for the Canada Revenue Agency admitted that her department had made a mistake and she was taking actions to correct that. We even had a colleague here from my party who tweeted and commended her on 'fessing up to making the mistake, and the problem has gone away.
I do not think this is a mistake. A large amount of information is now at the minister's disposal. She was numb to an answer for the first couple of days, but I am sure she has been briefed by now. Evidence is overwhelming that people are being hurt by these clawback provisions in the regulations around working while on claim. It cannot be a mistake.
The Conservatives have never provided a rationale as to why they want to hurt these people. Anybody who works less than three days in low-wage-earning positions is being hurt. What is the rationale?
Order, please. The hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
Before I go to the member for Souris—Moose Mountain, I would kindly remind all members to pay attention to the Chair during questions and answers so that assistance with timing can be given.
The hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain, a short answer please.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to ask my colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain a question in terms of the postal bill that is before us.
I have heard a number of the opposition MPs speak about undermining the negotiation process with this bill. Does this legislation actually undermine the collective bargaining process?
Order, please. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member.
I would ask the members at the back of the chamber to please keep it down. Several members have mentioned that they are being disturbed by the loud comments.
The hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
The electoral district of Souris--Moose Mountain (Saskatchewan) has a population of 63,238 with 46,796 registered voters and 159 polling divisions.
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