Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise here today to talk about this motion, which I will read in a moment. It is an important motion because of the economic situation we are facing.
In the retail sector we see a current crisis with the closure of Target, the most recent casualty in the Canadian economy, and others are also talking of liquidating themselves. It is important to mention that Target was allowed into the country under the Investment Canada Act and then bought out Zellers. Not only have we just lost Target, another retail chain, with vacant spaces appearing in shopping centres where they were located, but the reality is that Target supplanted and took over from the last Canadian-owned retail store, Zellers. When Target took over at that time, I remember the distress and concern of the workers at Zellers, because they had to immediately take a pay cut of a couple of dollars or lose their chance to stay on at Target.
I was on the picket line with some of those employees who had been at Zellers, a Canadian employer company, for over 20 years when this American superhero giant came in to compete.
We knew the terms and conditions because we were living on the border in Windsor, Ontario. We would often go over to Target or some place like that. We would see the signs for a minimum wage of $3 an hour or something like that. We knew the type of attitude that was going to come into the Canadian market.
We have not only just lost this retail component today; we have also lost a Canadian component that had a liveable wage at that time for those workers. The government did nothing for those workers at that time. It could have and it should have, but it did not. It allowed them to be crushed.
Today we stand here to talk about a motion made by the member for Parkdale—High Park, which moves:
That the House call on the government to take immediate action to build a balanced economy, support the middle class and encourage manufacturing and small business job creation by: (a) extending the accelerated capital cost allowance by two years; (b) reducing the small business income tax rate from 11% to 10% immediately, and then to 9% when finances permit; and (c) introducing an Innovation Tax Credit to support investment in machinery, equipment and property to further innovation and increase productivity.
I am going to talk about the initiatives that we have proposed as reasonable ways to move our economy forward and make sure that middle-class Canadians can emerge as a stronger force in this country. We have seen that whittled down over the years through a series of attacks.
There has not been proper support for certain industries, especially when other foreign countries have used intervention to steal some of our jobs. We have certainly seen that in the auto sector.
We have also allowed middle-class Canadians to be attacked by gouging, whether it is at the pumps or through fees charged for credit cards, banking, or cellphones. These are a whole series of important things that are necessary to function in a modern society that have been put on the backs of consumers and families alike.
What that has done is put a real squeeze on disposable income. Just today we saw more reports about consumer debt. It is a real issue, and the investment that is necessary is available to the government and to those individuals who could help.
The first item in the motion is about extending the accelerated capital cost allowance by two years. I have a little history with this.
I was reminded by my friend from Edmonton—Leduc about the work that we did in the industry committee before this place became so hyperpartisan that we could not agree on anything. There was a working relationship in the industry committee at that time.
Ironically, the work was done by several parties. We came up with a series of recommendations that we could all agree upon for the most part, and we worked on the ones we could not agree on to make sure that they would be at least palatable to all of us. One significant recommendation was the capital cost reduction allowance so that the manufacturing and resource sectors could write off of equipment at a quicker pace to encourage investment.
That is important because Canada has become, for the most part, a branch plant economic system. The head offices have often moved outside of this country. Very few have moved back here and very few have stayed. At the time when we produced that report and made recommendations that were tabled in the House of Commons, there were Canadian giants that were still in the field, such as Nortel. Gone.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-43, the second budget implementation act.
I would like to start by thanking my colleagues on the finance committee from all the parties. It has been what I would call, at best, a hectic fall with the committee actually working on not only the budget implementation act but also a fairly aggressive schedule with respect to the pre-budget consultations. Some of those things have wrapped up in the last week and some will be wrapping up this week, and so I do want to thank them for that.
I also want to thank our great chair, the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc, who does such a great job in chairing that committee. He is very fair-handed and he works very well with all his colleagues.
I would like to talk about three or four provisions of the bill and then, in whatever time I have left, I would like to spend some time countering some of the things I have heard in debate today and try to give some assurance to people about the objectives that would be accomplished.
The first thing I would like to talk about is the extension to apprenticeship loans of the tax credit for interest paid on student loans.
As we know, with apprentices, about 80% to 85% of their training is called “on-the-job training”. Somewhere in the order of 26,000 people would benefit each year from the provisions in this agreement. That is important because when we look at the study we did on youth unemployment in Canada, it is a little over 14.2% right at this point in time, which is not as high as it has been in the past, but youth employment has been a stubborn issue for successive governments over the past number of decades.
One of the things we saw in the study done in 2013 is that 50% of students, if they had the choice, would actually want to go to university and only 20% would actually want to pursue a trade. That is unfortunate because there are incredible industrial and manufacturing opportunities available for our young apprentices and tradespeople.
This is one of these efforts, with the expansion of the loans and the interest to apprentices in the trades, that would create more interest for people to go into the trades.
The second thing I would like to talk about is clean energy generation. Part of the bill would also include the expansion of the accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation that would expanded to water current energy and to equipment that would gasify eligible waste fuel.
Earlier this morning, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley said there is nothing in here on the energy, the environment, or anything like that. When we encourage companies with an accelerated capital cost allowance to actually invest in this type of equipment, that feeds all the way up the pipeline, in terms of the R and D in the sector, as well, because more of these types of energy generation that are being supported through aggressive capital cost allowance would also provide the opportunity for that to happen, as well.
I also want to talk briefly about the small business job credit, about which there has been a lot of discussion today.
The reality is that $550 million would go back to small businesses. I was in committee and heard the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report, but at the end of the day, CFIB is the leading spokesman for small business in Canada, and it said this would create not only 25,000 person years of employment but also additional training to help small businesses grow their businesses.
When we look at New Brunswick where probably 80% or more of the businesses have fewer than 10 employees, we see we are talking about a significant number of our small businesses that would be able to take advantage of that. I know my New Brunswick colleagues, including the member for Saint John, would really be happy to hear that.
The last issue I want to talk about is the credit unions and the point that was brought up previously.
I believe we have somewhere around 300 credit unions actually in Atlantic Canada, and the credit union movement is very strong in terms of loans to the agricultural sector and to small business in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as well. The ability for these credit unions to go beyond their provincial scope and to come under federal regulation is important, and this would allow them the tools to do that.
We did have representatives from the credit unions actually come to committee. They said one of their major concerns was not necessarily the legislation but ensuring that the phasing in and coming into force of it was stretched out over a period of two years, because that would allow them at least the opportunity to engage with the department and make sure there were no unintended consequences to this. I think it was a very fair proposal they made.
Now I would like to go back to a few things I heard earlier today that are important to get back to. The member for Victoria talked about tax evasion. Some of the aspects of the budget continue to close loopholes and other tax-related things.
It is also important to talk about the number of auditors. There has already been an increase of about 750 auditors at CRA. CRA is realigning its operations because we are trying to actually collect more taxes. In fact, up to March 31, 2014, the CRA audited 8,602 international tax cases, identifying over $5.6 billion in additional taxes that are being collected. In addition to that, we continue aggressive action on the file with respect to tax treaty networks and developing those, as well as tax exchange agreements. Those are all very important aspects in saying that our government is very much on the job when it comes to tax evasion.
The next piece I would like to talk about a bit is the Public Health Agency of Canada and some of the changes in the bill. I heard a lot of talk this morning that the chief public health officer in some way would be neutered by this change. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, when we look at the comments that were made, we see that the Public Health Agency of Canada now has somewhere around 2,000 employees and a budget of some $600 million.
The chief public health officer, Mr. Taylor, provided us with his comments. Mr. Taylor has done a fine job as a chief public health officer. In fact, the legislation we are proposing today is codifying what the agency has been doing since 2012. It makes sense to have an administrative arm and a deputy minister level to be looking after the administrative side. Mr. Taylor very clearly said he did feel his role to talk about health issues to Canadians; and his mandatory requirement to report to Parliament is still very much in place.
We had comments to that effect from some of our witnesses who also came to committee. A couple of witnesses did express concern, Mr. Culbert and Mr. Hoffman. When the chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc asked some very pointed questions with respect to the actual legislation, asking if they saw any portion of the legislation that would prevent the public health officer from actually reporting, they said they did not think so, but they were not sure.
I rely on the testimony of Mr. Taylor very much, because he is the one who has operated in this environment in the last couple of years and he is the one who actually knows how this would work because he has seen it actually work for the past couple of years.
Those are very important changes, and it is very important that we continue on because it is very important, too, as part of a budget bill to ensure that a $600 million agency each year is properly administered. We do not want a distraction between the administration of the affairs of that public health agency and the important role the chief public health officer plays.
There are tremendous benefits in the budget implementation act, Bill C-43. There are some very important administrative and legislative changes being proposed in the bill. Even though there were some amendments proposed at committee, certainly all they would have done was take away from the good things that would be done.
There is strong effort on the tax credits for the interest paid for apprentices. It is an awesome thing to get more people involved in apprenticeship. Also, clean energy generation and some of the great things in part 4 would move us forward on continued economic growth in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Edmonton—Leduc for the excellent and hard work that he does on the finance committee.
The new tax cuts will help all Canadian families prosper. We are increasing the universal child care benefit for children under age six. We are expanding it to children aged 6 to 17. We are increasing the child care expense deduction dollar limits by $1,000. Thanks to our government's tax cuts, two-thirds of the benefits flow to low and middle-income families.
The Liberal leader does not understand the basics of our policy. There are just too many tax savings for him to count.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise and speak to the reform act, 2014, brought my colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills.
My dear friend from Edmonton—Leduc gave a little history about governments and the Westminster type of government. I have travelled all over the world and have seen numerous forms of government across the world, not only the Americans but we have the French. We have military regimes and we have dictatorships and we have all kinds of other governments. However, what is very clearly important is the form of democracy that we have elected here in Canada, the Westminster style of democracy, which has stood the test of time coming from U.K.
However, in what I am saying, it is dreadful that our Senate is not an elected Senate. Having said that, the House of Commons indeed is an institution that, for all everybody says whatever they want to say, is a very respected institution giving good governance to Canada, based on my own experience travelling around the world.
I have been a member of Parliament for close to 17 years now. Through this process, I have gone through a tremendous amount of political flux that has taken place in this country. I started as a Reform MP, then a member of the Canadian Alliance, then the old Progressive Conservative Party, and then the new Conservative Party. As I like to say, I never crossed the floor, the parties crossed on me.
Going through all this system over here, we learned one thing: where is the basic situation. Sure, there are always ways and room to improve, but the main basic thing I learned from all this here is that our process has checks and balances, not through legislation and that discipline but through practice. Let me give an example of that. My friend from Leduc talked about the crisis we had during the time of the Canadian Alliance. I went through all of that and I must say I give great credit for what happened over there to Stockwell Day, who realized that the caucus was not with him at that given time and took the right step, but went back out there to seek the leadership again from the members. These are the kinds of decisions that are in practice, which we have as part of us. However, I do want to commend my colleague here for trying to formalize it.
Where I had a very strong objection to his bill was where I felt that membership's voice was being taken away by giving more power to the caucuses, to Elections Canada, and so on. However, to his great credit, he heard all of our objections, and I want to commend him for bringing in the amendments that he did, which address many of the concerns we have had. I must say that gives back, in my opinion, the powers to the membership as, for example, in his first amendment by letting the parties decide who is going to be the person in charge. It does not matter who is the person in charge, whether it is the Prime Minister or whoever, but it is the membership that will decide, and that is part of his amendment.
I want to thank the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, who worked throughout the summer with the others in bringing in a lot of amendments that have now made us feel very good, so that I feel I am in a situation where a lot of positive things are now coming out of this bill. One of those positive steps that I am quite comfortable with is the election of the caucus chair. A democratically elected caucus chair is an absolutely good idea. Also the caucus would have the ability to admit or re-admit people who have been removed from caucus. That should be a caucus choice, which makes it a democratic institution. So that is excellent.
However, I do still have some little problems over here, which he has of course addressed. Again that comes to the issue of the leadership, which he said caucuses can update. What I am saying now is that it is a bill that we can all debate and all talk about. There are some positive aspects to it that we can move forward. When the bill goes to the committee, we can talk about other areas where we have concerns. I will talk to him again about concerns that I do have, and see how best we can bridge that gap. It can allow us, at the end of the day, to make a bill that is acceptable to all of us, which will strengthen the democracy in this country.
I want to give him credit for bringing it forward. We are waiting for this. We will vote for the bill to go to the committee, and then at the committee we will bring further amendments.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Edmonton—Leduc for the excellent work he does as chair of our finance committee.
Yesterday, Cisco Canada, joined by the Minister of Finance, announced the Cisco Canada innovation program, a strategy to invest $150 million to support and accelerate innovation in Canada. Cisco's investment will create jobs across Canada and help turn the entrepreneurs of today into the business leaders of tomorrow.
We commend Cisco for its initiative and encourage other private sector firms to take advantage of the tremendous talent and supportive business climate that business has to offer.
The hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc.
That concludes this round. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to take part in this debate. I will not presume to be as eloquent or as passionate as the previous two speakers, but I will do my best to speak on Bill C-23, known as the fair elections act. It is a bill I strongly support.
At the start, I want to commend the minister who has introduced and is shepherding the bill through the House of Commons. I think he has done an outstanding job in presenting the details and facts of the bill, which respond, frankly, to many of the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer and others in addressing the deficiencies of our electoral system in Canada.
However, we should all note on both sides of the House that we have one of the best electoral systems in the world here in Canada. We should be very proud of it, but we should never shy away from making improvements to it. I want to recognize the minister's work in this area as someone who gave one of the most impressive presentations to our caucus that I have seen in years, and I speak here as a member who has been here for over 13 years.
I want to return to the substance of the bill. As I mentioned, there are many issues that do need to be addressed. Frankly, this very comprehensive bill would do and implement 38 of the Chief Electoral Officer's past recommendations. I would like to go through them in detail.
I would caution members on both sides to stick to the substance of the bill. I know there are a lot of charges at Elections Canada, and I emphasize that they are “charges”. We should leave them to be investigated, but as legislators we should stick to the text of the bill itself.
First of all, the bill would protect voters from rogue calls and impersonation with a mandatory public registry for mass calling, prison time for impersonating elections officials, and increased penalties for deceiving people out of their votes. All of these issues, such as impersonating elections officials and voter suppression, are addressed and taken very seriously in this proposed legislation.
I speak as someone who has been a candidate in five elections. My local election officials with Elections Canada have done an outstanding job, with some 90% and more being volunteers. They do an excellent job and need all the help they can get, and this proposed legislation would do that.
This bill deals with the so-called robocalls issue, involving the impersonation of others using these types of technologies. However, it should be noted that these types of technologies can be used legitimately if, obviously, the person calling identifies themself and the purpose of the call. Many members of Parliament on both sides use them to do electronic town halls, as I have done. It is a very good method, but I obviously identify who I am, why I am calling, and engage citizens in that way. The bill would deal with impersonation, the first item I want to emphasize.
Second, the bill would give law enforcement sharper teeth, a longer reach, and a freer hand. It would allow the commissioner to seek tougher penalties for existing offences and empower the commissioner with more than a dozen new offences to combat big money, rogue calls, and fraudulent voting. A freer hand means that the commissioner would have full independence with control of his or her staff in investigations and a fixed term of seven years so he or she cannot be fired without cause.
The bill would crack down on voter fraud by prohibiting the use of vouching and voter information cards as replacement for acceptable ID, something one would presume the opposition would strongly support.
Studies commissioned by Elections Canada demonstrate mass irregularities in the use of vouching and high rates of inaccuracy on voter information cards. It is important to note, as the minister just pointed out in response to a question by the member opposite, that voters would still have 39 forms of authorized ID to choose from to prove their identity and residence. In order to ensure that election results are legitimate, especially in ridings where the vote is very close, I think it is entirely reasonable for us to require voters to present ID to show they are in fact eligible voters, as the parliamentary secretary to the House leader pointed out earlier.
Next, the bill would make rules easy to follow for all. Since the last election, the commissioner has had to sign 15 different compliance agreements with those who have breached elections law, some due to honest mistakes. Members of all parties have noted that the rules can be unclear. Complicated rules bring unintentional breaches and intimidate everyday people from taking part in democracy. That is why the fair elections act would make the rules for elections clearer, more predictable, and easier to follow.
Parties would have the right to advance rulings and interpretations from Elections Canada within 45 days of a request, a service similar to one provided by the Canada Revenue Agency. Elections Canada would also be required to keep a registry of interpretations and provide for consultations with notice to parties before changing them.
This is important and here I will point to someone who has been my official agent for a number of elections and the financial agent for the electoral district association in-between elections. He is a very reputable chartered accountant with Deloitte and Touche in Edmonton. He says that one of the things that is challenging as an official agent is that there are some grey areas. When he is not exactly certain what the rules are, he contacts Elections Canada and asks what exactly the rule is, and they always err on the side of caution. However, this is something that this legislation would help improve, by ensuring that all electoral district associations in all ridings across the country have one set of very clear and consistent interpretations.
We all have to recognize as members of Parliament that we may have an office manager, a campaign manager, and some people who may receive compensation. They do not in my campaign's case, as our official agents are typically volunteers. I am very fortunate to have someone who is very qualified, but these people are typically volunteers and need very simple, clear, and consistent rules so they know exactly what they are doing and can be sure they are following all the rules and regulations.
This legislation would also allow small donations and keep big money out. One of the changes we made as a government that I am most proud of was to ensure that corporations and unions and organizations would not control political parties. Individual donations are set to a maximum amount. That is one of the biggest changes that our government has made. Obviously, the previous government made some changes along those lines with Bill C-24, but our government made some further changes to ensure that citizens themselves would be the ones who controlled elections. As we all know, special-interest money can sometimes drown out the voices of everyday citizens. That is why this act would ban the use of loans to evade donation rules. It would also allow parties to better fund democratic outreach, with small and reasonable increases in spending limits while imposing tougher audits and penalties to enforce those limits. It would let small donors contribute more to democracy through the front door in a very transparent way, and block illegal big money from sneaking in the back door. The modest adjustments in the donation limit, up to $1,500 from the current $1,200, and election spending limits of 5% would let parties raise their own funds to reach out to Canadians. A total ban on union and corporate money would remain in place, as I mentioned earlier.
It would also respect democratic results. Members of Parliament and the Chief Electoral Officer sometimes disagree on an MP's election expense. This has happened in the past and will happen in the future for people from all parties. When that happens, the Canada Elections Act provides that the MP can no longer sit or vote in the House of Commons until the expense return is changed to the CEO's satisfaction. However, the removal of a democratically elected MP reverses the decision of tens of thousands of voters. The fair elections act would allow an MP to present the disputed case in the courts and to have judges quickly rule on it before the CEO seeks the MP's suspension. Again, this is a very fair, reasonable change that the minister is seeking to make.
Next, it would uphold free speech. The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the ban on premature transmission of election results infringes on freedom of expression. I can say as a westerner that it is interesting to be in Alberta waiting for the election results when various people are testing that, especially via social media today. The fair elections act would repeal this ban and uphold free speech.
It would provide better customer service for voters by focusing Elections Canada advertising on the basics of voting: where, when, and what ID to bring. Also, the fair elections act would explicitly require Elections Canada to inform disabled voters of the extra help available to them to vote. The act would also establish an extra day of advance polling. The proposed change would give Canadians access to four advance polling days: the 10th, 9th, 8th and 7th days before an election. This is one thing that I have supported very strongly and asked to be included in this legislation, because, depending on when the election is held, in our constituency I have an area where there are a lot of people who are working in and out of the country and in and out of the constituency. I have a very high seasonal population, especially in the Nisku area. So it is important to allow Canadians as much time as possible and as much access to voting as possible. We in Edmonton—Leduc have one of the highest advance polling numbers across the country. This follows along the lines of encouraging more people to vote.
I hear some of the comments and criticisms that the bill may be used in a partisan way. Absolutely not. In fact, I encourage Canadians and parliamentarians to read the bill and see what it is. Expanding the number of hours and days of voting is explicitly designed to increase the percentage of people who vote. Ensuring that we get as much information as possible out to people so that they know when and where they ought to vote is designed explicitly to allow more voters to have more opportunity to vote.
Another thing we would be doing along these lines is reducing congestion at the polls. The fair elections act proposes a number of practical changes that should make the voting process more efficient. It would streamline the process for appointing election officers and providing for additional resources for Elections Canada. It would allow for additional election officers to be appointed to ease the congestion of polling stations, which has been a problem in the past.
My time is up. I look forward to questions from my colleagues.
I wouldn't want to call him at 11 o'clock at night. As a staffer, I would not have made that phone call at 11 o'clock at night, and that is fair. However, the real story begins the next morning on how this was handled when the Prime Minister woke up and found out what Nigel Wright had done.
This is where this story gets interesting. Obviously, on the morning of May 15 all hands were on deck in the Prime Minister's Office, all the suspects who were involved with this: Nigel Wright, Ray Novak, Benjamin Perrin, Chris Woodcock and David van Hemmen. I believe the Prime Minister, too, was involved with this important discussion, because on May 28 in a question in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister stated:
On Wednesday, May 15, I was told about it. At that very moment, I demanded that my office ensure that the public was informed, and it was informed appropriately.
He demanded his office inform the public on May 15. I think he also demanded in that office that morning, of all his staffers, who else knew about this: “Who in this office knew about this transaction? I need to get to the bottom of this”. Obviously, Nigel Wright spoke up and, instead of firing Nigel right there on the spot for betraying the Prime Minister's confidence, he kept him around for another five days. I will come back to that part of the story.
At that critical moment, when the Prime Minister asked who else in the office knew about it, I am sure that these three individuals either said something then to the Prime Minister that they knew something about it or they did not. Either way, they are were part of the cover-up on this whole issue and they all should have been shown the door immediately. Not one of these individuals, one being the Prime Minister's own lawyer in his office, raised his hand and said, “We have a little problem here. I don't think Nigel should have done this”. He did not say anything.
Chris Woodcock, director of issues management for the PMO, was in high gear on May 15, because when this all broke in the morning of May 15, there were emails in which these guys went into full damage control. There is an email dated May 15 in which the secret deal to help Mike Duffy was reported. Woodcock asked Duffy, “Can you confirm whether you advised the Senate ethics officer of any loans/gifts involved in the March 25th repayment?” Woodcock continued to say, “Trying to cover off all the angles”. That is very important. He is trying to cover all the angles.
Obviously, on May 15, Woodcock was part of this and they were trying to cover all the angles. They were trying to cover all the damage control on this particular file. He knew what had gone on. He asked whether Mike Duffy had notified the Senate ethics officer about this $90,000 gift. It was high gear. The Prime Minister, at that particular time, should have shown them all the door. He should have taken charge of the issue and said he knew nothing about this and what they did was wrong. No, that did not happen.
Then we move to May 16, the next day. This had been brewing for a day now, and the Prime Minister's Office was trying to figure out how to get to the bottom of this and how to control this situation.
Then the Prime Minister's communications director, Mr. Andrew MacDougall, who had no knowledge of what had gone on, whose name is not mentioned in any court documents, was doing his job. He came out and made this statement on May 16, the next day—May 14, 15 and now 16:
The Prime Minister has full confidence in Mr. Wright and Mr. Wright is staying on.
The Prime Minister did not get to the bottom of it. He did not ask if it had actually happened. Mr. Wright had the full confidence of the Prime Minister the very next day.
What the Prime Minister's office and Conservatives were trying to do was to see if they could ride out the storm. They wanted to see if they could get through the storm. They did not want to fire anybody or throw anybody under the bus.
Then the story continued to percolate through May 17 and 18. Duffy is kicked out of caucus. Wallin is moved to the side.
Then a number of Conservatives came out to defend Nigel Wright, and they continue to do it to this day. This past weekend the MP for Edmonton—Leduc came out and defended Nigel Wright as an honourable fellow.
The Minister of Employment and Social Development tweeted on May 19:
Very sorry about Nigel Wright's resignation. Brilliant, decent man who made huge sacrifices to go into public service. We need more like him.
This was upon hearing about the resignation of Nigel Wright. It was later that we learned he was dismissed or resigned, a story that keeps changing.
The Minister of Industry came out and said:
Nigel Wright is a great Canadian. Canada is stronger because of his service as Chief of Staff to our Prime Minister.
Then the Minister of State (Democratic Reform) came out and said:
Saddened to hear of Nigel Wright's departure. He is an honourable man, and great Canadian.
Then another MP came out, the member for Calgary Centre, saying that she really felt for Nigel Wright; it was right thing to do.
No, it was not the right thing to do. The right thing would have been, when they first heard about it, to have fired his arse out the door. That would have been the right thing to do, but the Conservatives tried to get through this scandal in five days, trying to see if it would go away.
That is the essence of why we need to get the Prime Minister to come and testify before the ethics committee. It is because of this story. That was May 19.
Then on May 24, the Prime Minister admitted that perhaps he should have accepted the resignation sooner. Well, he should have fired him immediately. If he had no knowledge of what had gone on, and he had not gone along with it, the Prime Minister should have fired him immediately. If he did not fire him, it would lead people to believe that he knew more than he is letting on.
That is where we are coming down to trust. There is a saying out there, “....what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive”.
It is so true. It can happen in all aspects of politics, when the story starts changing, if one is telling one story to some people and another story to other people, that is the problem. It is the tangled web this Prime Minister weaved for himself. He needs to get out from underneath it. He needs to come clean. He needs to fess up.
One thing that is very honourable in this place is that we sometimes say “I am sorry. I did something wrong”. People should not be punished for saying those things.
That is why this motion is here. I would welcome it before the ethics committee. It is a place for us to get to the bottom of this and make sure trust is regained in our government, trust is regained in parliamentarians.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton—Leduc.
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to explain to the opposition, and to Canadians, why I support Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act, and why I urge my hon. colleagues to stop voting against a bill that would give first nations access to safe drinking water.
The solution at the heart of Bill S-8 is the product of more than seven years of engagement and discussion with a wide range of groups, including first nations, provinces, municipalities, parliamentary committees and organizations devoted to the science of drinking water.
Perhaps the best way to fully appreciate the considerable value of Bill S-8 is to trace its evolution.
In March 2006, our government, working with the Assembly of First Nations, announced the joint plan of action for drinking water in first nation communities. Among the five points in the plan of action was the development of an appropriate regulatory framework.
To help identify what the framework should consist of, the plan called for a panel of experts to be chosen by government and first nations officials. The expert panel held a series of hearings across Canada, in 9 locations in all, to hear from a total of 110 representatives from first nation communities, as well as other stakeholder groups. The panel also received and considered more than two dozen written submissions, most of them prepared by first nation communities and organizations. In its final report, the panel examined three regulatory options and provided valuable advice on the advantages and the disadvantages of each one.
The next step in Bill S-8's evolution occurred in 2009, when the Government of Canada held a series of engagement sessions with first nation groups. The sessions began in Whitehorse, Yukon, and continued in 12 other cities. The 13 engagement sessions attracted more than 500 participants representing first nations.
It is important to note that while work on a regulatory framework continued, our government continued to live up to the commitments it had made through the plan of action. Progress reports were tabled in Parliament, for instance, and budget 2008 invested approximately $330 million, over two years, in projects to improve drinking water in first nation communities. Budget 2009 included an additional $165 million per year, over two years, for first nation water and waste water infrastructure projects.
Our government is also committed to expanding the circuit rider training program and funding a national assessment of first nation water and waste water systems.
In 2010, the government introduced Bill S-11. A standing committee in the Senate held a series of hearings to review the proposed legislation and heard from 40 individual witnesses. Now, although this version of the bill died on the order paper in the initial review, it identified a number of challenges that have since been addressed.
In the interim, government officials continued to discuss regulatory options with first nation groups. Of particular note were the without prejudice discussions with regional first nation organizations across the country. It was during these without prejudice discussions that the first nations proposed a non-derogation clause that would resolve what was perceived to be a major problem with the previous version of Bill S-8. The problem involves the relationship between federal legislation and the constitutional rights of first nations.
The proposed clause would not prevent the government from justifying a derogation or abrogation of aboriginal or treaty rights if it were necessary to ensure the safety of first nations' drinking water.
A second significant development came in the summer of 2011 when our government published the national assessment of first nations water and waste water systems. I am proud to say that this was the most comprehensive examination of first nation water and waste water infrastructure in history.
This report shed a new light on the larger issues at play. The report found that many water systems in first nations communities had a high risk of failure to produce safe water if a problem were to arise. The report identified a need for clear guidelines and recommended the establishment of a regulatory framework for water and waste waster systems. This provided additional momentum to move ahead with the practical solutions.
Last year we introduced Bill S-8, a stronger version of its predecessor. There are several improvements worth noting, such as that the preamble in the proposed legislation explicitly states the government's intention to improve the health and safety of first nations and to work with first nations to develop drinking water regulations.
The new version includes a non-derogation clause that clearly addresses the relationship between the legislation and aboriginal and treaty rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Clause 4.(1)(b) of the new version clarifies that any regulation on source water protection on first nation lands would be restricted so as to protect it from contamination.
The new version also clarifies that regulations could not include the power to allocate water supplies or to license users of water for any purpose other than for accessing drinking water.
There is new language to clarify that the regulations could confer to any person or body only the powers necessary to effectively regulate drinking water and waste water systems. Wording that was perceived to negate first nations authority over water on their lands has been deleted.
Another part of the previous version that has been removed is language that could be interpreted as powers to compel first nations into an agreement with third parties to manage water and the waste water on first nations lands.
Finally, Bill S-8 also features language to clarify that first nations would not be held liable for systems owned by third parties that are on first nations lands.
There have been many changes to this legislation since its last iteration in order to address the concerns raised by first nations, parliamentarians and other stakeholders. In fact, these changes respond directly to the concerns raised by first nations groups.
Moreover, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development recommended an amendment to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development that further addresses concerns raised by first nations to remove the opt-in provision from the bill, demonstrating that our government is listening to first nations concerns and working to address them. I am pleased to see that the hard-working members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development agreed by removing this from the bill.
The proposed legislation now before the House has been informed by a comprehensive process of consultation, review and improvement.
Bill S-8 proposes an effective solution to a problem that continues to threaten the health and safety of residents of first nations communities. I hope that the opposition can recognize the urgent health and safety issues at stake here and support Bill S-8.
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my pleasure and honour to stand and speak in favour of today's pro-economic and job-growth legislation, Bill C-60, economic action plan 2013 act, No. 1 at report stage. Certainly, like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance last week, I also would like to thank the finance committee members and the great chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, for their comprehensive and timely study of the bill. I also would like to extend a very special thanks to every witness who appeared in front of the committee to speak to the significance of the bill and Canada's economy.
In my time today I would like to focus on a number of specific measures contained in the legislation that received some attention during our committee study. First, members will no doubt be familiar with the important adjustments to the Canadian tariff systems that were announced as part of economic action plan 2013. In spite of what the member for Kings—Hants indicated, I would really like to talk clearly about what this is intended to do.
This was in essence a foreign aid program and it was created in the 1970s by western countries to give companies from poor third world markets preferential access to our domestic market. Most western countries that maintained the GPT program or equivalent had modified their list of countries to reflect the fact that formerly developing countries had grown their economies in the 40 years since this program was first introduced. But unlike the EU, the United States and Japan, Canada has not reviewed the list of countries until now. This means that list is sorely outdated.
As a consequence, Canada is giving special breaks in the form of lower tariffs to foreign companies from emerging economic powerhouses like China, South Korea, India and Brazil, companies that compete directly with Canadian businesses and their workers for global market share. Nearly 80% of these special breaks are now going to China even though China now has an economy that is over four times the size of Canada's. Specifically, China's economy is valued at $7.3 billion compared to Canada's, which is $1.7 billion.
Without our changes, Chinese companies will continue to benefit from a one-way trade deal, receiving special breaks and offering nothing in return. This program acts as a disincentive for those growing economies to enter into free trade agreements with Canada, agreements that would increase export opportunities for Canadian businesses, would create more and better jobs for Canadians and would further reduce tariffs for Canadian consumers.
The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters explained the changes best when it said:
It's 39 years since we updated it. It was meant to help developing countries....we were giving them preferential tariffs while their per capita GDP is higher than Canada’s....The solution is what the government is doing: try to negotiate free trade agreements with countries around the world so that we not only drop our tariffs, but they drop their tariffs as well.
That is exactly what we are trying to accomplish.
This leads me to another important feature of today's legislation that responds to recent concerns of the U.S.-Canada price gap. Economic action plan 2013 proposes to eliminate all tariffs on baby clothing and select sports and athletic equipment, including everything from ice skates, hockey equipment, skis, snowboards, golf clubs and other products that promote physical fitness and healthy living.
Targeted measures contained in Bill C-60 represent $79 million in annual tariff relief for Canadian families. I should note though, this tariff relief comes with the expectation that wholesalers, distributors and retailers will pass these savings on to consumers. Working with the Retail Council of Canada and consumer groups, our government will be monitoring the impact of these tariff reductions on Canada's retail prices.
In fact, the Retail Council of Canada has spoken out in support of this important first step in reducing outdated tariffs, which put Canadian consumers at a disadvantage, stating:
—we are very pleased to see this first step toward leveling the playing field for Canadian retailers....it is a good start and a demonstration of the government's recognition of one of the key reasons for price differences in Canada.
Even better, listen to what Dean Lapierre, president of the Windsor Minor Hockey Association, had to say:
This will definitely help because the cost of equipment is the main thing people cite when deciding to register.... It could cost $600 to $700 to equip one player, double that if the kid’s a goalie. And a lot of families have two or more kids who want to play, so this is great.
I want to be clear that this initiative would allow our government and all Canadians to assess whether further tariff elimination could help to narrow the price gap for consumers in Canada. Of course, this is going to guide our future decisions.
Before concluding, I want to take a moment to highlight one particular item contained in today's legislation related to public sector compensation, specifically the amendments to the Financial Administration Act that would enable the governor in council to direct a crown corporation to have its negotiating mandate, including wages and benefits, approved by Treasury Board. While this may seem highly technical to many Canadians watching at home, it really is very important for taxpayers across the country.
As with our action in last year's budget to reform public service pensions, along with those of MPs and senators, to make them more sustainable and bring them in line with private sector pensions, the overriding objective is to protect the taxpayer's dollar. While we acknowledge that all crown corporations are independent in their operations, their financial decisions impact the government's bottom line.
As responsible economic managers, our government must ensure that we have the right tools to protect taxpayers at the bargaining table, if necessary. This is neither new nor revolutionary. It is a common sense action on behalf of taxpayers. It is important to note on this particular measure that Quebec has had a very similar provision in place for over three decades. I hope that all members of the House will understand that both the government and crown corporations have a fundamental responsibility to spend taxpayers' dollars wisely and to help ensure that Canada's fiscal position remains sustainable over the long term.
In the words of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation:
—[the] executives who manage government-owned companies have enjoyed, until now, special status: they are paid like business people, with none of the risk.... But the taxpayer is always there, at the end of the day, to stroke another cheque, cover the losses, and make everything better....
Simply put, provisions in Bill C-60,... grant [the government]...the power to tell negotiators at these companies how much they can offer unions in wages, benefits.... to insert some spine into government negotiating teams--should improve the odds for taxpayers.
Again, I would like to note that the legislation before us today is an important step in creating jobs and economic growth, while keeping taxes low and balancing the budget by 2015. I certainly urge all members to vote in favour of this jobs, growth and long-term prosperity budget bill and support this very important measure.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me thank the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc for the question. He is an excellent chair of the House of Commons finance committee, which is, in fact, an excellent committee, come to think of it. It does a lot work on budget preparation. A number of the recommendations from the House of Commons finance committee were incorporated in economic action plan 2013.
In terms of economic growth, we have the largest and longest federal infrastructure plan in Canadian history in the budget. We have the Canada job grant initiative, which is very important in matching people with jobs across Canada, and of course, the incentives for manufacturing, which suffered greatly from the great recession. This is contrary to the NDP, which wants to raise taxes, and the Liberals, who have no economic--
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me today to present a petition from dozens and dozens of people from Gogama and Sturgeon Falls in my riding. The petition asks the Minister of Health and the House of Commons to pass Bill C-356, an act respecting a national dementia strategy.
As baby boomers are getting older and older, dementia is becoming a bigger problem in Canada. Petitioners are asking the government to do something about what is happening with dementia patients right now.
While I am on my feet, I would like to congratulate the member for Edmonton—Leduc for his statement today on dementia.
Mr. Speaker, we are very proud to talk about budget 2013 and all that it contains for Canadians. I know my good friend the chair of the finance committee, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, is one of the finest committee chairs that our country has ever seen.
In budget 2013, we have the manufacturing fund. We have the Canada jobs grant. We lowered taxes on Canadians. We create jobs in every region of the country. Budget 2013 is something that we are proud to celebrate at committee, in the House and across the country. Let us talk about it as much as we can.
Mr. Speaker, I am here to speak about, and in favour of, Bill C-60, the economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1.
I would first like to discuss Elgin—Middlesex—London and southern Ontario. I will be sharing how this budget relates to and assists the people of Elgin—Middlesex—London.
The area of southern Ontario in which I live is very unique, very beautiful and a very hard-working part of this country. It includes 80 miles of Canada's south coast, the shore of Lake Erie, only 50 miles across to where Cleveland sits, and miles and miles of great farmland. The 401 Highway, the most travelled transportation route through southern Ontario, cuts through the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London. Large manufacturers cluster along this highway, as goods come and go, into the United States and from the United States. In our area, almost everything we make, almost everything we service, almost everything we assemble, is either sold to a United States customer or shipped there for further processing.
It has certainly meant that since the United States has slowed, its economy sputtering, our area has also felt the decline, not the demise but a decline. The decline in manufacturing in our area has led to even more innovation, more entrepreneurship, more vision and more desire to succeed.
Let me share some of the great ideas that have happened. First of all, we have seen the gathering of Canadian businesses. As I shared, most of our economy in that area of southern Ontario used to have a real north-south edge to it. The economy was southern Ontario to the United States, and the United States to southern Ontario. Since the decline in the United States, we have had to go looking for other customers. We found them right here in Canada. Western Canada is flourishing, for those members across the way who have not noticed.
Recently, and thanks to the member for Edmonton—Leduc—I wish he was here so I could thank him in person—we had a large group of Canadian oil producers from the west come to southern Ontario, into small communities in southern Ontario like St. Thomas, put together by the economic development officers in southern Ontario and the oil producers from the west.
They came looking for stuff; gaskets, gauges, pipe, steel. Just about everything we make in southern Ontario that used to be made for the auto industry fits perfectly in the oil industry too. They brought their order books, and they came to southern Ontario. We matched Canadian company with Canadian company, and we are moving forward with this process and continue to do so. It is entrepreneurism at its best.
We have other auto-related companies in southern Ontario that are currently converting or have converted through the recession to products that are not always auto-related. Some are now making solar panels or brackets for solar panels. Some are making blades for windmills or parts for the wind energy industry. This is the innovation of the manufacturing community of southern Ontario.
What else do we do? We have food. We are great farmers. We have a fantastic growing area in southern Ontario. What else have we done from an innovative point of view? We have started to process the stuff we grow, right there at home. It is phenomenal. We have great producers of corn and dairy and whatever else we can grow in Canada.
Dr. Oetker is building a very large frozen pizza factory right there in the south part of London in the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London. It is under construction right now, but will be opening soon. The company will buy wheat for flour cheese made out of dairy from our farmers and produce for toppings on those pizzas, all grown right there in southern Ontario. That is the productivity of the farmers and the food distribution piece.
We continue to look at food distribution. Most of the food grown in southern Ontario gets shipped to Toronto where it is sent to the food terminal, bought by people in southern Ontario and brought back. That does not make sense to most people, so why not put a food terminal right there in southern Ontario? That is what we are working on.
I think I spoke about this House. It is very unique. Right there, enclosed in farmland in southern Middlesex County is a tilapia farm. Aquaculture right there in southern Ontario, not on the lake but inland. A great entrepreneur realized there was millions of dollars of tilapia being sold in the Toronto market from the United States, and said that we could do that in Canada, right there in southern Ontario.
What else have we asked for?
We have heard speeches in the House this morning about tourism in southern Ontario and how it is thriving and newer than it used to be. We knew we lived in a beautiful place, and now we are telling other people about it. We are okay if tourists come to visit and take up some of our space. The 80 miles of Lake Erie shoreline, ports and beaches are fantastic.
If one goes to the beach at Port Burwell along Lake Erie, one will now find a 300-foot submarine. The HMCS Ojibwa has been landed and will open on the long weekend in May for tourists. I have been through it, so anyone can fit. This is the type of entrepreneurship that is happening in tourism in southern Ontario.
Here is another piece we are doing that was never thought of before. Rural Canada has always had the issue of its youth, after high school, having to go somewhere else for post-secondary education. They always went someplace bigger—not always better, just someplace bigger. However, we now have a branch of Algoma University right here in St. Thomas, Ontario, teaching undergraduate studies in what used to be a historic old schoolhouse. Also, Fanshawe College, a community college branch in St. Thomas, is there to teach skilled trades in the new skills program. It teaches people the skilled trades that will be needed to move Canada forward. We will keep our youth at home. Not only will our youth stay at home to go to school; others will come. We are attracting dollars into our community by people coming here for post-secondary education.
We cannot talk about entrepreneurs without talking about those in southern Ontario. Sure, it has had its troubles in manufacturing, but to many who would see a problem, thousands have seen opportunities from an entrepreneurial point of view; they have seen this as a time to move forward and open a small business.
With John and his people at the Elgin Business Resource Centre and their business incubator program, the community futures program and the mentorship programs they are developing, we are returning jobs to southern Ontario. It may be two, three, five, ten or twenty jobs at a time, but they are returning to southern Ontario. The great economic development teams of Elgin County, Middlesex County and the City of St. Thomas are all doing the same thing and attracting small and medium-sized businesses.
How does the budget help all this?
Each of the things I have mentioned has a piece in the budget that has helped move these things forward. I am sure I will not have a chance to cover them all unless the Speaker forgets what the clock looks like, but I will talk about some.
How about creating the Canada jobs grant for training skills for the needs of youth and employers?
As both a small business person, and my business is small, and volunteer president of the Youth Employment Counselling Centre for some 10 years before politics, I have recognized the need to ensure that youth are available and trained for the jobs of today and tomorrow. It seems like a no-brainer, but including employers in that mix of the Canada jobs grant program means that employers will be sharing their needs, and not just today's needs but tomorrow's needs too, so that the training programs for youth will be there and will be the right ones to create the jobs.
For years, we have talked about apprenticeships as an area of concern, certainly in southern Ontario's manufacturing belt, and the skilled trades workers. I remember having a conversation with a principal of a community college some 15 years ago. I asked him how many millwrights would be trained this year. He said that there would be 41. I said, “Wow, that's fantastic. How did you come up with that number? Did you talk to the local manufacturing association? Did you talk to the schools to see how many people were graduating?” He said, “No, that's how many seats there are in the classroom.”
That is how we used to determine how many skilled tradespeople we used to train. How about getting out and talking to employers about their needs? How about getting out and talking to the schools and finding the youth who want to move into those careers? We can merge the two and make it so that employers have enough people to hire.
Also, there are opportunities for those with disabilities. My friend, the member for Brant, has a great private member's motion coming up that will help move forward opportunities for people with disabilities.
I wish I had a great deal more time to talk about other things such as options and what we are doing for infrastructure. I am sure during questions I will be able to talk about some of those.
Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the hon. member for Brampton West could connect our communities. I am from Oshawa, he is from Brampton West, and we both have a very proud history of manufacturing.
He talked about our colleague from Edmonton—Leduc, with whom I was very proud to serve on the industry committee. We brought in this accelerated capital cost allowance and the importance for manufacturing in this budget.
We have heard from the NDP members, and unfortunately, each and every time we brought a budget in since 2007, they have voted against all these wonderful things we have for manufacturing. They want to filibuster everything, delay everything, and frankly, communities like ours need the things that are in the budget in order to get our economy growing.
The NDP claims to support union jobs and claims to support manufacturers. Could he contrast the things that are in the budget as opposed to, say, the NDP policy and its style of going down to the United States, for example, to lobby against Canadian jobs in the energy sector, which has huge spinoffs for manufacturing in Ontario?
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to address Bill C-60, economic action plan 2013. I will be splitting my time with the very hard-working member for Brampton West and I look forward to his speech very much.
This is budget implementation act 1. Just for the benefit of those following this debate, I will outline the process at the beginning. Each summer, the finance committee initiates pre-budget hearings to hear from Canadians and organizations from across the country. Last year we heard from approximately 800 organizations and individuals who had input into the pre-budget process. We table our report in Parliament each year in December. The government considers that report and tables its budget, typically in February or March. We tabled it in March this year. It then follows up with two implementation acts, one in the spring, which the government hopes to pass by June, and then one that follows in the fall.
What the budget implementation acts do is take the budget, which was debated for four days this spring and then passed by this Parliament, and then make all the necessary legislative changes to ensure that the budget will in fact be implemented.
This particular bill, Bill C-60, has a number of measures that were included in our budget presented in March.
It would extend for two years the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for new investments in machinery and equipment by Canadian manufacturers.
It would index the gas tax fund payments to better support job-creating infrastructure in municipalities across Canada. This is something I just asked my colleague across the way about.
It would extend for one year the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through shares for investors, especially for the junior mining sector in our country.
It would modernize the Investment Canada Act, as announced in December 2012 by the government, to clarify the treatment of proposed investments in Canada by foreign state-owned enterprises and the timeline for national security reviews.
It would provide $165 million in multi-year support for genomics research through Genome Canada, following up on our research and development agenda.
It would provide $18 million to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to help young entrepreneurs grow their firms.
It would provide $5 million in 2013-14 to Indspire, which is an excellent organization, for post-secondary scholarships and bursaries for first nations and Inuit students.
It would support Canadian families through such measures as promoting adoption by enhancing the adoption expense tax credit to better recognize the cost of adopting a child.
Following up on recommendations from the finance committee with respect to our report on charities, it would introduce a new temporary first-time donor super credit for first-time claimants of a charitable donations tax credit to encourage all young Canadians to donate to charity.
It would expand tax relief for home care services to better meet the health care needs of Canadians.
It would remove tariffs on imports of baby clothing and certain sports and athletic equipment.
It would provide $30 million in fiscal year 2013-14 to support the construction of new housing in Nunavut.
It would invest $20 million in the Nature Conservancy of Canada to continue to preserve ecologically sensitive land.
It would provide $3 million to the Pallium Foundation of Canada to support training in palliative care for front-line health care providers.
These last two measures, with respect to palliative care and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, I should point out were both brought to members of the finance committee over the last year.
It would commit $3 million to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind to expand library services for the blind and partially sighted. This, again, was brought to members of the finance committee as well.
It would support veterans and their families by no longer deducting veterans' disability benefits when calculating other select benefits supporting veterans in this manner.
It would streamline the process for approving tax relief for Canadian Armed Forces members and police officers.
We are also very much respecting Canadian taxpayer dollars. We are proposing to improve the fairness of the tax system by eliminating duplication. We are proposing steps to align employee compensation offered by crown corporations with what is available to federal employees.
I want to address a couple of these points in particular. I will start with the accelerated capital cost allowance for new investments in machinery and equipment. This is an extension of a measure that was first put forward by our government in the March 2007 budget. It follows on a report by the industry committee in February 2007. That committee did an intensive six-month study of the manufacturing sector. We travelled across the country. Members of both sides did an excellent job in surveying what the challenges were for that sector.
The committee made 22 unanimous recommendations at that time. The first recommendation was to have an accelerated capital cost allowance. For people who are not aware of all the technicalities, it allows businesses in the manufacturing sector to write off their equipment at a faster rate. It enables them, therefore, to purchase more equipment on a much more expeditious basis to ensure that they are as up to date as possible. This makes them more productive, as they can have the most recent equipment in their shops. Having the most up-to-date equipment is also better from an environmental point of view. It has multiple benefits.
In the past, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, led by Jayson Myers, who has done an outstanding job as head of that association and of the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition, has argued that this enables companies to invest in their own productivity.
I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health here. He was an instrumental part of that report as well.
This is fundamental to ensuring that our manufacturing sector is competitive. We often hear that manufacturing is sort of a thing of the past. In fact, in Canada, considering the challenges they have had to face in the past, such as a rapidly appreciating dollar, variable energy costs, finding enough skilled and unskilled labour to meet their challenges, and responding to some real challenges from emerging and now emerged economies such as China, the manufacturing sector, in my view, has responded very well, in part because of specific measures like these and some of the other measures in the budget that was presented in March.
The accelerated capital cost allowance was first introduced in March 2007. It has been extended a couple of times, and it is going to be extended in this year's budget. This is an excellent reason for the members opposite, particularly those who have manufacturing bases, to support this particular piece of legislation. I encourage them to take a very good look at that.
The second item I want to spend some time on is the gas tax fund. Municipalities from across Canada have been coming to provincial and federal governments for years, saying that they need a long-term infrastructure plan to address their needs. They cannot go by this variable rate on a year-to-year basis. They are asking for a long-term sustainable plan. They asked, obviously, for gas tax funding.
Every time we, as Canadians, fill up our vehicles, we pay the 10¢-per-litre federal excise tax. Approximately half of that flows into funding, through the federal government, through the provinces, back to municipalities to ensure that it meets their needs. What we are doing is indexing that gas tax fund so that municipalities can not only count on it over the long term but will know how much it is going to be and will know that it will, in fact, be increasing on an annual basis.
This allows municipalities such as Edmonton—Leduc, Devon, Leduc County, in my area, to then borrow against that if they have something large. In Edmonton, light rail transit was expanded in my area. I believe that the City of Edmonton took approximately $100 million out of gas tax funding and put that money into light rail transit, which I think all parties in this Parliament should support.
Further to that, Edmonton recently announced another extension of their light rail transit system by using the P3 model the government has put in place. That is another excellent model municipalities across the country should look at.
The one-year extension of the mineral exploration tax credit was first put in place in 2000. This credit is sort of like Groundhog Day, because it is constantly extended by one year each and every year. This is especially important for the junior mining sector. It is very important for us to realize the importance of the mining sector in Canada.
The largest mining conference every year, the PDAC conference, is held in Toronto. It is an outstanding conference that not only shows the importance of the mining sector but the importance of that sector in relation to our other important sectors, such as the financial services sector.
I will just finish up by talking about investments such as those in Genome Canada. This follows on the government's science and technology strategy. We released our S and T strategy, again going back, in 2007. Following on that report, we have been investing in a number of areas, whether it is in the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Genome Canada, or the research granting councils, which received increased funding in this past budget, as well. That is why organizations such as the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada have strongly endorsed this budget.
I would ask all parliamentarians to endorse the government's initiatives in this budget to support research and development, science and technology and those high-quality jobs of the future in this country.
I look forward to questions from all members in this House.
Mr. Speaker, I think it is pretty interesting that so many colleagues are here, including my friend from Edmonton—Leduc. They are all waiting for the supplemental here and the late show performance.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the incredible efforts of emergency first responders and civilians in my constituency of Edmonton—Leduc following the massive multi-vehicle crash that occurred on the Queen Elizabeth Highway last Thursday.
Following a fast-moving and violent storm in our region, approximately 100 vehicles were involved in the accident. It caused the highway to be closed down in both directions.
It is with pride that I note how quickly and effectively the City of Leduc set up an emergency operations centre to ensure that efforts were well coordinated to support first responder and motorist needs. Hospitals, emergency crews and police from throughout the capital region collaborated to treat those who suffered injuries from the accident. Buses were also brought in to serve the multi-casualty centres, as well as to shelter individuals from inclement weather. In addition, the Leduc Recreation Centre set up a reception centre to provide a place of refuge for those who were involved in the accident south of the city.
Fortunately, there was no loss of life following what was one of the largest motor vehicle accidents in Alberta's history. I would like to thank all of those who stepped up to respond to the accident. It reiterates just how selfless and willing to serve our emergency responders are. I thank them very much.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to stand and address budget 2013. I will be sharing my time with the wonderful member for York Centre, a very hard-working member of our finance committee.
It is my pleasure to speak to budget 2013. At the outset, I will outline for observers some of the processes that occur with respect to the preparation of budgets.
As members of this place know, the finance committee, which I chair, starts its hearings going back even to the spring and summer prior to the presentation of the budget. We receive submissions. Typically we cut off submission dates in the summer and we prepare all those submissions for members; members then hear from witnesses from across the country in the fall. Last year, we heard about 800 submissions. The committee tried online submissions for the first time in its history; we received those submissions, and the members heard some oral testimony as well.
We present our report to Parliament in December of each year, so we presented our pre-budget report in December. The budget is typically presented in February or March of the following year. We then follow with two budget implementation acts, one that we expect this spring and one that will occur in the fall.
That is just to give people some context in terms of the actual budgetary process.
I highlight that because there are numerous recommendations that our committee suggested in December in the budget itself, and I will refer to them as I go through the positive aspects of this budget.
In terms of the overall budget plan, the government would continue its increase in transfers to the provinces for health care, education and social assistance. For health care, there would be 6% increases until 2017, and then it would be based on nominal GDP after 2017. It would increase support for provinces for education and social assistance at 3% per annum until 2017 as well.
With respect to transfers to persons, those would increase, as obviously more people are receiving seniors' benefits each and every year. Family benefits would also increase going forward. There is an excellent graph and accompanying figures in the budget that reflect that increase. In terms of transfers to provinces and to persons, these transfers would continue to increase, as they have since 2006.
The area of federal spending that the federal government more directly controls does not affect these areas. As members know, there was a program put in a place, a deficit reduction action plan, which examined about $70 billion of federal government spending, and it realized nearly 7% of savings, which is about 2% of what the federal government would spend over the course of the next few fiscal years.
That was very much based on a lot of the pre-budget recommendations we made. Recommendations numbers 2, 3 and 4 all asked us to maintain transfers for provinces and persons, to restrain our own federal government spending and to balance the budget in the medium term, which was echoed by many business groups and other organizations before the committee. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce strongly recommended that we continue to move toward a balanced budget in the medium term, so I am very pleased by that.
However, these organizations and other individuals before the committee also strongly recommended certain areas that did require investments and said that we ought to continue to make investments.
I will relay some of the stories, challenges and issues from my own riding of Edmonton—Leduc, including the southwest part of Edmonton, the city of Leduc, the town of Devon, the industrial heartland of Nisku south of Edmonton and the Edmonton International Airport. It is a very dynamic and diverse riding, but we have some very strong challenges.
The number one challenge that business people in that area raise with me is with respect to access to all types of labour, skilled and unskilled. I have taken visiting members of Parliament through my riding, especially through areas like Nisku where there are signs saying that if people are in one of six or seven listed professions, they should please stop in, because they need people.
I recall that when I took the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism into a company, Tenaris, in the riding, one of its shifts was not working. We asked why the shift was not up and running, and the plant manager simply said that the company did not have enough people to operate that shift, that if it had enough people the shift would be operating and the company would be producing more, paying more tax, supporting more services and employing more Canadians. They simply could not find enough people. That is on the skilled side.
PCL also has a huge centre in Nisku. It could use engineers, welders, boilermakers and all types of skilled trades. Hospitals, hotels and restaurants will say they need skilled and unskilled people. They are simply short-staffed.
One small business owner from the area with a restaurant chain and a drive-through service said at certain times he has to close down the drive-through, because people getting their lunch order would ask employees how much they were making an hour, and when they found out how much, they would give out business cards and say, “Call me tomorrow; we would like to hire you.”
This is the labour situation and the labour challenges we are finding in our area, which is why it is the number one issue raised with me. That is why I am very pleased by things like the Canada job grant, increased support for apprentices and acting on the disability report recommendations in the budget.
The reason I am such a big supporter of the Canada job grant is it actually engages employers and employees at a very direct level. A lot of the training done in the past by the provinces and the federal government has been valuable, but this is special in the sense that it engages employers and employees. It ensures that an employee is receiving training that will directly lead to a job and it matches employers and employees very directly. One of the common phrases used to describe our labour challenge today is “jobs without people and people without jobs”. That is a mismatch we have to address. That is exactly what the Canada job grant is trying to address.
I will refer again to our pre-budget report recommendations 8, 9 and 10 through 16, which all deal with the need to address this labour challenge and ways in which to do it. That is what this budget does.
Next is infrastructure. People often think a province like Alberta, which has seen relatively modest to strong growth over the last number of years, would not have a challenge with infrastructure. The reality is that we do, because when communities in southwest Edmonton or west Leduc or south Devon grow by 5% to 8% a year in the industrial sector, it puts a lot of challenges on our infrastructure.
The municipalities all asked for a long-term infrastructure plan. They worked with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, an excellent organization. The current President, Karen Leibovici, a city councillor from Edmonton, did an excellent job in negotiating with the government a 10-year plan in terms of addressing infrastructure needs going forward. Obviously this will start when the building Canada fund expires in 2014.
There are also things like renewing the P3 Canada fund, the new Canada building fund of $14 billion over 10 years, the community improvement fund at $32.2 billion over 10 years, and the gas fund tax payments and the GST rebate as well. With respect to the gas tax funding, municipalities say this is funding that they can count on and that they know is a certainty. They can then make investments and take out loans against the funding because they know it will be there. The fund can be used to access capital for the light rail transit developed in south Edmonton.
In relation to the P3 project, I am very pleased that there was a recent announcement on the light rail expansion in southeast Edmonton, in the constituency of the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont. It is a very large P3 project between PPP Canada and the City of Edmonton. Both organizations should be applauded for their work in making this happen.
With respect to housing, again based on recommendations 52 and 53 in our pre-budget report, the housing investments over a long-term period were very good as well.
In terms of investments in manufacturing, I am very pleased that we have continued the accelerated capital cost allowance for the manufacturing sector. I am personally very proud of that, as this was in an industry committee report that we produced in February 2007. The finance minister included it in the budget of March 2007, and it has continued since that time. I am very pleased because of the investments in there.
There are also the investments in post-secondary education, based on recommendations 28 and 30 in pre-budget consultations. There is support for the federal research granting councils, for the Canada Foundation for Innovation, by working with excellent organizations like the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, an excellent organization in terms of putting forward its recommendations for the budget.
The last point I will finish with is that we are following up on some of the recommendations we have been hearing at committee with respect to the charitable sector and encouraging Canadians to give more, following up on the member for Kitchener—Waterloo and all of his initiatives, and also with respect to increasing the ability of the Canada Revenue Agency to deal with tax evasion, something we are studying currently before the committee.
I encourage all members of this House to support the budget and I look forward to their questions.
The electoral district of Edmonton--Leduc (Alberta) has a population of 116,986 with 92,861 registered voters and 236 polling divisions.
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