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.
Before we move on to questions and comments, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, Veterans.
The hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc for questions and comments.
Mr. Speaker, the end of the year is a fitting time to reflect and share in the festive spirit with family, friends and neighbours, as well as to express appreciation for the hard work done by those around us.
As chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, I would like to thank all the members of that committee, including all of our clerks, analysts and staff who support the work of the committee. We have had a very busy and productive session and I sincerely appreciate all of their efforts.
I would also like to thank my very hard-working office staff, both in the constituency and in Ottawa, who work so diligently throughout the year to ensure that the needs of Edmonton—Leduc constituents are met. Therefore, I thank Debbie Healy, Samantha Johnston, Kim Dohmann, Carmel Harris, Lene Jorgensen and Trevor Rogers for all that they do.
I would remind all members to exercise safety during this holiday season. There is always an option to get home safely, whether by calling a friend, a cab, taking public transportation or using a service like Operation Red Nose and the wonderful volunteers who work there.
Once again, Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel et bonne année à tous mes collègues.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-45, the jobs and growth act, 2012, which is legislation to implement the next phase of Canada's economic plan.
Our plan will help Canadian workers and their families. It will help them by creating a pro-growth environment that will create jobs and long-term prosperity from coast to coast to coast. The measures in today's act are key to achieving this goal.
Indeed, the bill before us today includes wonderful initiatives to grow our economy, create jobs, support Canadian families and communities when they need it most, promote clean energy and enhance neutrality in the tax system, while at the same time taking into account the taxpayers' ability to pay.
So far, our action plan is working very well. Since July 2009, for instance, over 820,000 jobs have been created in Canada. That is the strongest job creation record in the G7, and 90% of the jobs created are full-time. But that is not all.
The World Economic Forum states that our banks are the soundest in the world. The OECD and the IMF predict that our economy will be among the leaders of the industrialized world over the next several years. Our net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7, by far. All three of the major credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch and Standard and Poors, have reaffirmed Canada's top credit rating.
Only recently, respected head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, told The Globe and Mail the following:
Canada is...faring relatively well because of its fundamentals...and the way in which it has been properly supervised and regulated and organized over the course of the last few years. [...] Canada is doing a lot better than other advanced economies.
However, as we all know, it is not enough to simply maintain Canada's advantage among the major advanced economies. As we have said all along, Canada is not an island. We are not immune to global weakness from beyond our borders. There is no question that Canada will be impacted by ongoing global economic turbulence, especially from our biggest trading partners in the United States and Europe. That is why we must move quickly to implement the pro-growth, job-creating measures contained in economic action plan 2012 by enacting today's legislation.
For instance, today's act would help build a strong economy and create jobs by extending the job-creating hiring credit for small business, which will benefit over 500,000 employers and help them to create jobs. It would also promote interprovincial trade, improve the legislative framework governing Canada's financial institutions, facilitate cross-border travel, remove red tape and reduce fees for Canada's grain farmers. Supporting Canada's commercial aviation sector is a priority in this legislation.
This legislation also supports families and communities by improving registered disability savings plans, helping Canadians save for retirement by implementing the tax framework for pooled registered pension plans, improving the administration of the Canada pension plan and strengthening the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It would also promote clean energy, enhance neutrality of the tax system by expanding tax relief for investment in clean energy generation equipment and phasing out tax preferences for the mining and oil and gas sectors. It respects taxpayers' dollars through changes, such as, taking landmark action to ensure the pension plans for federal public sector employees are sustainable and financially responsible and by closing tax loopholes and eliminating duplication.
It is true that the jobs and growth act, 2012 is comprehensive and ambitious. As we all know, the challenges that our economy face are neither small nor one-dimensional. In a fast-paced and uncertain global economy, where we face increasing competition from rapidly growing emerging markets like Brazil and India, we must move quickly to implement vital economic reform. However, as is becoming all too familiar, we have heard the same tired complaints from opposition members. They say, “Let us not move forward on economic reform. Let us not support the economy”. They say, Let us play partisan politics instead”. I say shame on them.
At a time of global economic turbulence, the opposition's amateurish political games and desperate delay tactics to block our government's continued support for the economy will do nothing but hurt Canadians. Make no mistake about it.
We are proud of economic action plan 2012, and we are proud of today's act. We are not afraid to debate it.
In addition to the many hours of debate in this House, our government led a comprehensive study of this bill. No fewer than 10 House committees, in addition to the Standing Committee on Finance, took part and held hearings on various parts of the bill. Over the past few weeks, those committees heard from countless witnesses who shared their opinions with parliamentarians and the public.
I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank the committee members and chairs, especially the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc, for all of their hard work.
I would especially like to thank the members and chairs of these committees for completing their study in a timely manner to ensure that swift implementation of job-creating measures to secure our economic growth happen here.
In my time remaining, I will speak specifically to those job-creating measures, which become increasingly important with each passing day.
As I mentioned before, the global economy is all too fragile, as recent headlines can attest. Only two weeks ago, we learned that Europe entered a second recession. South of the border, the United States is edging closer to its so-called fiscal cliff. It is at times like this that our government must stay focused on the economy. This is when we must turn our attention to the needs of everyday Canadians in communities across the country so that they can continue to rely on a strong Canadian economy to support their families and grow their businesses.
We must stay the course with our plan for jobs and growth, which is widely considered to be a model for the world. It is this fiscal discipline that has served us so well, earning us the lowest net debt to GDP ratio in the G7. Indeed, this has been recognized time and time again by international leaders. Only recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised our government's approach, saying:
Canada's path of great budgetary discipline and a very heavy emphasis on growth and overcoming the crisis, not living on borrowed money, can be an example for the way in which problems on the other side of the Atlantic can be addressed.... This is also the right solution for Europe.
I am so glad that the Minister of Foreign Affairs agrees wholeheartedly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
It is this emphasis on growth I would like to highlight in my discussion of today's act, and in particular, the hiring credit for small business to help small employers all across Canada defray the cost of hiring new workers.
I am pleased to tell Parliament and all Canadians how well the credit has been received by Canadian small business owners. For example, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, representing over 100,000 Canadian entrepreneurs, explains exactly how the hiring credit helps their members:
The Hiring Credit for Small Business...is a popular measure among all SMEs but is particularly important among growing firms as it helps them strengthen business performance.
In fact, small businesses liked the credit so much in 2011 that they asked for it again in 2012, saying, and once again I will quote the CFIB:
The 2011 EI Hiring Credit was very helpful to CFIB's members, particularly the smallest businesses.... This is a relatively inexpensive measure that benefits businesses across the country.
Unbelievably, not only has the NDP voted against this measure time and time again, but shortly after the introduction of the jobs and growth act, 2012, the NDP finance critic actually came out against the bill's extension of tax relief for small business, oddly calling the hiring credit for small business “an across-the-board cut for small business”.
Let us forget about the NDP finance critic's odd reasoning. I want to explain exactly what his party opposed not just once, but twice.
As indicated in Canada's economic action plan, this measure allows for a credit of up to $1,000 against a small employer's increase in its 2012 EI premiums over those paid in 2011. For the benefit of Canadians watching at home and my opposition colleagues, I will take a moment to explain how this credit works.
Say, for example, Bill and his wife Linda own a small café and that, last year, they hired five employees. Their business's payroll was $125,000 and they paid $3,108 in EI premiums. This year, more customers are visiting their café and they have expanded. They hired a new employee, which raised the business's payroll to $150,000. With the hiring credit for small business, they will receive a credit of $732, which will cover the increase in EI premiums for their new employee, which will help them create a stable job in their own community.
To make things even easier, the Canada Revenue Agency will automatically calculate the hiring credit when Bill and Linda file their 2012 tax return. They will not even have to apply, which will enable them to avoid endless red tape and delays.
I would remind my opposition colleagues of the evidence we heard at committee that the credit is working and is having a tangible impact on the ability of small businesses to hire more workers.
Only recently, Corinne Pohlmann, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, told me and other members of the finance committee that:
It's not always easy for every single small firm to hold onto every employee they bring on. We always say small businesses are the first to hire and the last to fire. They'll do anything they can to hold onto their people. We saw that through the recession very clearly.... [T]he way the EI hiring credit is now, it has also been useful for a lot of the very small companies.
If an issue affects small business, it touches 60% of Canadian workers and has a major impact on job creation, especially in a period of economic recovery. With that in mind, our government has long recognized that small businesses are the engine of job creation in Canada, employing hundreds of thousands of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
We are proud of our consistent record of support for this fundamental sector of our economy, this year and every year since we formed the government. That is why, since 2006, we have lowered the tax bill of small businesses to help them succeed, even when the opposition has tried to stand in our way.
The NDP talks about supporting job creation, but let us take a moment to actually examine the record.
We reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, but the NDP voted against it. We increased the amount of income eligible for the lower small business tax rate from $300,000 to $500,000, but the NDP voted against that too.
While the New Democrats have never met a tax they did not like, they could take a lesson or two from the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Canada's largest industry and trade association, with over 85% of its members representing small and medium-sized businesses. Despite what the opposition might have us believe, the CME explains:
Over 110,000 companies pay corporate taxes and...90 per cent of those businesses are small and mid-sized enterprises.
These are the companies on Main Street...in which most Canadian workers are employed. When businesses keep more of their profits, they have more money to expand [and] hire more people
We on the government side understand this, which is exactly why we are here debating the jobs and growth act, 2012 and the extension of the small business hiring tax credit. I urge all members to carefully consider the measures in this act, including other measures to grow our economy and create jobs, to provide support to Canadian families and communities when they need it the most, to promote clean energy, and to enhance the neutrality of the tax system.
While hope springs eternal that the New Democrats might come to their senses, their rejection of the small business hiring tax credit and other job creation measures in the jobs and growth act, 2012 is just another sign that their tax-and-spend agenda is out of touch with the priorities of small-business owners and hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour and a pleasure to speak on the matter of our government's budget implementation bill.
I would like to begin my comments by congratulating the Prime Minister; the finance minister; my good colleague from Edmonton—Leduc, who chairs the Standing Committee on Finance and has done an excellent job in getting this through; and, of course, the two parliamentary secretaries for their excellent work in making sure that this bill got through committee and some of the treachery and traps planned for it there.
Canadians expect politicians to keep their promises, and the promises that we made to them in our previous elections are being delivered in this bill. The top priority of our government is to promote job creation and economic growth. That is our priority because of the positive results our policies have had in supporting Canadians so far. That is our priority because in a challenging global economy, we need to continue taking prudent action. It is also our priority because it is the priority of Canadians.
Since the introduction of Bill C-45, I have been hosting numerous round tables and town hall meetings in my riding and listening to the concerns of my constituents about the current landscape in Canada. I often hear calls for the reduction of unnecessary red tape, a key point in this bill.
Our government's plan to reduce red tape is quite clear. Our government is going to address specific irritants to businesses, as well as the systemic barriers that unnecessarily frustrate and burden Canadian businesses with additional delays, costs and unnecessary bureaucracy. Part of this plan includes implementing the one-for-one rule and committing to a red tape reduction action plan to reduce unnecessary and ineffective regulations, allowing small businesses to focus on growing and creating jobs.
Additionally, we know there is a need to modernize many of Canada's regulatory systems when it comes to project reviews. Since 2006, our government has been working to streamline the review process for major economic projects so that projects proceed in a timely fashion while protecting the environment. The government will propose legislation to modernize the regulatory system and realize the objective of one project-one review within a clearly defined time period.
Economic action plan 2012 also proposes $13.6 million over two years to fund the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in support of consultations with aboriginal peoples related to projects assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to ensure that their rights and interests are respected and that they benefit from the economic development opportunities afforded to them.
Another issue that I have heard about in my riding, of course, is the issue of job creation. Canada's well-trained and highly educated workforce represents one of our key advantages in competing and succeeding in the global economy. We know that the key to a strong future is well-trained youth. That is why we are investing $50 million over two years to assist more young people to gain the necessary skills and experiences they need.
Far too often Canadians run into barriers or disincentives that discourage workforce participation. Better utilizing Canada's workforce and making Canada's labour market more adaptable will help ensure Canada's long-term economic growth. That is why since 2006 the government has placed a strong emphasis on access to skills training, support for post-secondary education, building a fast and flexible economic immigration system and developing untapped potential in the labour market.
Economic action plan 2012 builds on this with an enhanced labour market focus and a number of targeted investments that will help respond to current labour market challenges and meet the longer-term labour market needs. We are also helping those who are unemployed get back on their feet by giving them the skills they need to find jobs in their communities.
Through economic action plan 2012, our government will invest $21 million over two years to improve efforts to connect employment insurance claimants with the necessary skills with available jobs in their communities, including through targeted information and compliance sessions. Along with providing relevant and timely job information, the government will strengthen and clarify what is required of claimants who are receiving regular employment insurance benefits and looking for work.
This bill also proposes investing $74 million over two years in new national employment insurance projects to ensure that claimants are not discouraged from accepting work while receiving those same EI benefits. This new pilot project would cut the current earnings clawback rate in half and apply to all earnings while on claim. This would ensure that EI claimants always benefit from accepting work by allowing them to keep more of what they earn while receiving EI benefits.
Economic action plan 2012 would also invest $387 million over two years to align the calculation of weekly EI benefit amounts with local labour market conditions. This new approach would reduce disincentives to accepting all available work prior to applying to the EI program, by permanently revising the way benefits are calculated.
Economic action plan 2012 would improve the integrity and fairness of the tax system by closing tax loopholes that allow some businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax.
The plan would also improve the neutrality of the tax system by eliminating inefficient tax preferences. These actions would broaden and protect the tax base of federal and provincial governments, helping to keep Canadian tax rates competitive and low and thereby improving incentives to work, save and invest in Canada.
Our government would also continue to provide significant support through major federal transfers in 2012-13. Federal support, for example, to provinces and territories would reach an all-time high of $59 billion, some $3 billion more than last year. Total amounts for each major transfer would see year-over-year growth in 2012-13. For Alberta, my province, major transfers would total close to $3.6 billion in fiscal year 2012-13. This long-term growing support would help ensure that my Province of Alberta has the resources required to provide essential public services. It also contributes to shared national objectives, including health care, post-secondary education and other key components of Canada's social programs.
As elected members of Parliament, we have a duty to lead by example. That is why this budget also includes an overhaul of the MP pension system, with changes that would see pensions fall more into line with the private sector by moving toward a 50-50 cost sharing model and pushing back the age of eligibility to 65. Over the next five years, these changes, along with similar adjustments to the public service pensions, would save taxpayers $2.6 billion.
These types of measures would help us stay on the right track despite ongoing global economic uncertainty. Through our economic action plan, we have helped the Canadian economy grow over 820,000 net new jobs since July 2009, the best job-creation record in the G7. This legislation would keep Canada's economy on the right track.
Our Conservative government is spending taxpayer dollars responsibly and efficiently to continue our economic success and reduce our deficit. The results speak for themselves. Since July 2009, our debt to GDP ratio is the lowest in the G7 and our deficit is half of what it was two years ago. Canada's deficit in 2011-12 was down by about a quarter from 2010-11 and by more than half from 2009-10. We have also heard praise of our government's ongoing efforts to ensure continued responsible spending of taxpayer dollars, with direct program expenses in the 2011-12 fiscal year falling 0.6 percentage points as a share of GDP from their 2010-11 level.
The admiration of Canada's economic environment is not limited to foreign governments and dignitaries. Recently, Forbes magazine ranked Canada as the best country in the world to do business, and the OECD and the IMF predict that our economic growth will be among the strongest in the industrialized world over the next two years. All three of the major credit ratings agencies, Moody's, Fitch and Standard and Poor's, have reaffirmed Canada's top credit rating. These accomplishments are not the end of the road but a sign that our efforts are helping deliver for Canadians and must be continued.
That is why our government would continue to implement economic action plan 2012 through this budget implementation bill. As long as there are Canadians looking for work or concerned about economic turbulence beyond our borders, our job is not done. Bill C-45 is another step that our government is taking to balance the budget, create jobs for Canadians, reduce unnecessary red tape and remove the burdens of bureaucracy that slow down the progress of industry and citizens all across our country. Our Conservative government is keeping taxes low and remaining focused on jobs and growth. By doing everything we can to continue Canada's success, we are helping Canada stay on the right track for long-term growth and prosperity.
I am proud to support this bill and will continue to support the efforts of our government to improve Canada in the short and long terms.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member from the New Democratic Party for his comments and I quite enjoy working with him at the finance committee.
I want to know why the New Democrats on the finance committee voted in favour of the Conservatives' time allocation motion on Bill C-45. That happened on October 31. Did they not understand that this was a time allocation motion?
Also, the finance committee chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc is widely respected by all parties for his fair and balanced approach. Therefore, I wonder why his members, the New Democratic members on the finance committee, worked with the Conservatives and ganged up on the chair and actually voted against the chair's ruling, overruled the chair and effectively changed the rules at committee. Why did New Democrats not insist that the rules be respected?
Does the member recognize that a dangerous precedent has been created, where now the Conservatives can use their majority on committees to challenge the chair, say the rules mean black instead of white and have their way on any debate whatsoever? Why are the New Democrats complicit in this?
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a separate point of order regarding the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Finance. I will endeavour to be succinct in my remarks.
I do think it is important to make you, Mr. Speaker, and other members of the House aware of serious and grave irregularities that took place during the finance committee's study of Bill C-45.
On October 31, 2012, the committee adopted a motion to limit debate at committee during its clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-45, what was effectively a time allocation motion. I would like to draw the Speaker's attention to paragraphs (d), (e) and (f) of that motion, which read:
(d) the Committee shall proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-45 no later than Wednesday, November 21, 2012, provided that the Chair may limit debate on each clause to a maximum of five minutes per party per clause before the clause is brought to a vote;
(e) amendments to Bill C-45, other than the amendments deemed to be proposed pursuant to paragraph (c), be submitted to the Clerk of the Committee 48 hours prior to clause-by-clause consideration and distributed to members in both official languages; and
(f) if the Committee has not completed the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-45 by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, November 21, 2012, the Chair shall put, forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment, each and every question necessary to dispose of clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill, to report the Bill to the House, and to order the Chair to report the Bill to the House on or before Thursday, November 22, 2012.
Of particular importance is the phrase “without further debate or amendment”. The chair of the committee, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, correctly interpreted that motion as follows. He said, as indicated in the blues, that “First of all, with respect to the timing in section D of the motion adopted by the committee, it states that 'the Chair may limit debate on each clause to a maximum of five minutes per party, per clause, before the clause is brought to a vote'. So it's five minutes per clause, this is prior to 11:59pm, not for amendments”.
The member for Edmonton—Leduc, the chairman of the finance committee, continued by saying, “The second is with respect to the end of debate; section F of the motion adopted by the committee states: 'if the committee has not completed a clause by clause consideration of Bill C-45 by 11:59pm on Wednesday, November 21st 2012, the Chair put, forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment, each and every question necessary to dispose of clause by clause consideration of the Bill'. So at that point I will deal with all of the clauses that are left if we have not completed our work by 11:59pm.”
The chair further emphasized his point by saying, “To explain this so that everyone understands, if we go past 11:59pm, at that point I will just be putting the votes on the clauses. If we have amendments left to deal with, I will not be putting forward votes on those amendments”.
The member for Edmonton—Leduc correctly interpreted the phrase “without further debate or amendment” as meaning that no amendments could be moved after 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, November 21, 2012.
However, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca disagreed with the chair. He argued that all amendments for which notice had been given should be put to a vote. In effect he argued that “without further...amendment” actually means “with further amendment”.
The chair emphasized his interpretation by stating, “I will say though it is still my view, and it's the view based on advice from our clerks that the section you quote, section F, it says: 'The Chair shall put without further debate or amendment each and every question necessary to dispose of' but it says without further debate or amendment so that is my view...”.
Simply put, the interpretation of the motion by the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca was inconsistent not only with any proper understanding of parliamentary procedure but also with any proper understanding of the English language. The phrase “without further...amendment” cannot be interpreted as meaning “with further amendment”. Further, by adopting the motion of October 31, 2012, the committee showed a clear intent to prevent amendments from being moved after 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, November 21, 2012.
The motion adopted by the committee on October 31, 2012 was silent on when amendments proposed pursuant to paragraph (e) would be moved. As such, that would fall to the normal practice of committee.
Under the normal practice of committee, it is a member's choice to move or not move amendments for which proper notice has been given. When a member provides notice for an amendment at committee, it simply preserves the member's right to move that amendment. It does not require the member to move that amendment. Instead, it provides the member with a choice to move or, upon further reflection, not to move that amendment in the end. At committee, it is the member's choice.
If the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca had wanted to change the committee's rules while following due process, perhaps he ought to have tried to amend the motion that was adopted by the committee on October 31, 2012, or perhaps he ought to have moved a new motion to replace the motion that was adopted by the committee on October 31, 2012. However, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca did neither of these things. Instead, he challenged the ruling of the Chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, in order to give the motion a meaning that was entirely inconsistent with its stated intent. As members know, a motion to challenge the Chair at committee is not debatable. As George Orwell noted, the ability to change the meaning of language is a very dangerous power, but that is precisely what the majority of the members of the finance committee did when they challenged the Chair and overturned his decision.
I provided notice for 3,090 amendments to Bill C-45, pursuant to the rules of this House, to committee and, in particular, pursuant to paragraph (e) of the motion that was adopted by the committee on October 31, 2012. By redefining “without further...amendment” to mean “with amendment”, all of the amendments that I had given notice for were retroactively deemed to have been moved without my consent. That choice was taken away from me, and was done so in a manner that falls well outside the rules and traditions of committee.
I am extremely troubled by the precedent that was set at the Standing Committee on Finance meeting on November 21, 2012.
I am concerned that the majority of members can now challenge a chair and change the meaning of words without any debate. I am concerned that the tyranny of the majority can be used to give a rule its opposite intent, effectively leaving individual members without the protection of any rules at committee whatsoever.
Under the rules governing the House and its committees, decisions are to be made by the majority of members. However, the rules also protect the right of the minority to take part in and influence the debate.
At the finance committee, the majority of members representing the Conservatives and the New Democratic Party conspired to overturn a fair and legitimate ruling by the Chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, in a manner that was entirely inconsistent with a proper understanding of the English language and without any respect for the traditions or rules of the House.
The result was to retroactively deny my rights as a member of the committee, without any proper debate. The result was also to help the government speed through passage at committee. This is entirely consistent with the government's view of how Parliament ought to be handled or mishandled, but what I have difficulty understanding is why the official opposition would act as the handmaiden for the government at committee and effectively support the government and aid and abet the government running roughshod over Parliament at committee.
I will raise a point of order about the acceptability of the motion for concurrence at report stage at the appropriate time but I am thankful for the time today. What happened at committee last week was probably the worst abuse of the committee process that I have seen in 15 years in this place. To see the official opposition being complicit with the Conservatives on this perhaps reflects a misunderstanding of the rules at that time, in which case, the New Democrats should simply say that they did not understand what was going on and that they did not intend to support the government on this. That would be entirely acceptable. In fact, given the confusion at the committee at the time of some of the New Democrats, perhaps that is what happened, but it would better if they simply acknowledged that and then joined with us in opposing the government's continued disrespect for Parliament and committee.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to the hon. member's point of order and I have a separate point of order of which I have notified the clerk.
On this point of order, I think NDP members have to acknowledge that, in fact, they served in the House of Commons as the government's handmaiden. They effectively aided and abetted governing members and supported every effort to steamroll over the committee, including the committee chair, to challenge his interpretation of the rules and to overturn the ruling of the chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, who is universally respected as a fair and competent committee chair.
It was with the NDP's support that the Conservatives were able to speed up the process to the extent that the NDP finance critic actually agreed to give up one of the votes on the NDP side, as part of this role, to become chair of the committee to make it go faster, to actually help aid and abet the Conservatives in their efforts to move this along.
The reason this has to be raised is that one cannot talk the talk, as the NDP do, about trying to throw a wrench in the spokes of the Conservatives' wheel on this type of legislation and trying to teach them that they have to respect Parliament, but then fail to utilize every tool of Parliament that we have in our capacity to slow down the process when the Conservatives are so intent on a counter-democratic agenda of running roughshod over Parliament and the committee process.
In fact, the member said that the NDP is against time allocation. I have minutes of the proceedings from meeting 86 of the committee where the question was put on the motion. It was agreed to by a show of hands with nine yeas and one nay, which was yours truly, Mr. Speaker. The NDP actually voted for time allocation and supported the government back on October 31.
The reality is that last week at committee the NDP joined with the Conservatives to form a tyranny of the majority to effectively throw out all the rules of the House of Commons finance committee and make up new ones that suited the Conservatives. I think it is passing strange for NDP members today to pretend that they have been up to the job of official opposition on this piece of legislation when, in fact, through a combination of incompetence and neglect, they aided and abetted the Conservatives in railroading the committee.
When the hon. member referred to the Conservatives using the finance committee, or subcontracting the government's work to the finance committee, I would argue that the NDP were part of that subcontracting effort and were part of that outsourcing. I would agree with much of the member's point of order today, but the reality is that much of his argument is not consistent with what NDP members of the House of Commons finance committee actually did.
I will give the benefit of the doubt to the member as perhaps he has not been fully informed of what actually happened on the finance committee, but I would argue that the NDP members of the House of Commons failed to stand up to the government. They failed to legitimately fight for the rights of Parliament, the committee, the members of Parliament and the people we represent at committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in this House today to debate the bill introduced by my hon. colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.
I will talk not only about the content of the bill, but also about its purpose. I will also discuss what we need to do to make sure we examine this issue with all due care.
I also want to speak about the problems with cell towers, which constituents of mine have raised with me over the years, and more frequently in recent times. I know it is beyond the comments of the hon. parliamentary secretary, but one of the big concerns people have is that they cannot get information. It seems that Industry Canada actually has a fair bit of information, but it is put in complicated ways and in disparate locations so that we really have to dig hard to figure out what is going on in each location. If we have a particular location in mind and want to find out what power there is from that tower, what the radio frequencies are, et cetera, we cannot find out.
I am not saying there are negative health effects associated with the present levels we hear about. However, I do have constituents who are concerned about this and who worry about those effects. Some of them have said that they accept the fact that the science today does not show there is a problem with this, but they have seen so many things where 25 years ago they thought something was fine and not causing a problem at all and today they find out that it is causing a problem. There are so many examples of that, people do not have complete confidence in what technologies such as this can do and what effects they may have.
I think it is very reasonable to say that we should have a very simple way to find out, in relation to a tower at a particular address, the key information about what is happening there. It is very difficult as it stands now to find that on the Industry Canada website and it ought to be made much easier.
I also want to start by letting my colleagues know that based upon our initial assessment of Bill C-429, we believe the House should pass the bill at second reading and send the legislation to committee for an in-depth study. That way we could benefit from expert testimony on this subject and look for ways to strengthen and improve the bill.
It is clear from a quick scan of media that cell towers are becoming a point of concern in just about every province in the country. In fact, as the bill's sponsor points out, local residents' associations, landowners, municipal councillors and others are seeing cell towers popping up all over the place and they feel they are left out of the process. There is no consultation with them. There is no consideration of the impact on their neighbourhoods, no negotiations at all. Sometimes these things are not the most attractive items in the neighbourhood and people do not find them all that desirable. Obviously it has led to hostile feelings and a sense of powerlessness among people in the neighbourhood.
My colleague said that he introduced a bill that would create legislation to support the existing Industry Canada directive on public consultations. He circulated a letter yesterday in which he said:
The bill will ensure that telecommunications antennas are installed in a logical manner that respects the interests of communities while increasing access to modern telecommunications services.
I am sure it will not be that easy to have the issue settled in a logical manner. I expect that cell phone companies will bring forward arguments to support what they are doing and explain that if we want to have state-of-the-art wireless services, we also have to accept the necessary infrastructure.
I think people understand that, but I think we also have to recognize that finding middle ground, although it is difficult to find, is worth pursuing. It does not mean we should give up and not try. From personal discussions, I know this is an issue that could be a growing cause of friction in countless communities.
Let us look at what the bill actually does. Bill C-429 would amend the Radiocommunication Act in order to provide for the possibility of sharing antenna system infrastructures, and to require the proponent to consult the land use authority and hold a public consultation. It would also amend the Telecommunications Act to allow the telecommunications carrier to apply to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to gain access to masts, towers and other antenna-supporting structures belonging to the holder of an authorization under the Radiocommunication Act. I think those are worthwhile objectives.
It is obvious that something has to be done, but we also have to make sure that we get it right. Too many consumers are depending on this.
The hon. parliamentary secretary highlighted the issue of red tape and not wanting to have too much regulatory burden placed on industry. I understand that. At the same time, it is important to recognize and try to address the real concerns of people in the neighbourhoods where these are located.
I know that the member for Peterborough has heard about the issue. Teresa Daw represents 160 homeowners and has been a forceful opponent of a proposed telecom tower application on Lansdowne Street in Peterborough. In a recent letter to the Minister of Industry, she wrote:
We find it incomprehensible that Industry Canada has neither appropriately responded to our correspondence nor committed to considering our reasonable and well-grounded concerns in their analysis of this application. We find it equally incomprehensible that the proponent does not appear to be held responsible to address our concerns, particularly those that are governed by CPC-2-0-03 and/or pertain to the accuracy of the description of a local environment.
In Edmonton, people are upset with a cellphone antenna being built in a church steeple. They are angry over how the tower was approved. The hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc has pointed out that is in his riding.
Others have put forward very solid arguments calling for a cell tower protocol that gives residents a say in where these towers are erected and a meaningful role in the process.
The stories of these concerned residents in Edmonton and Peterborough are repeated in communities across Canada. I know, because I have heard them from my own constituents in Halifax West, who have been angry about the lack of public input in cell tower locations in their own neighbourhoods.
Some in fact have had positive results. Just over a year ago, a large number of residents gathered at the Wallace Lucas Community Centre in Lucasville, Nova Scotia to oppose an EastLink cell tower on Daisywood Drive in Hammonds Plains. Due to community concerns, EastLink responded by moving the location 100 meters and it was approved by community council. This moved it further from some of the houses, but not all, so not everyone was satisfied with that. Clearly, not everyone felt that was a big improvement, but at least it was some improvement as a result of that community involvement. Although the meeting was held by the municipal land use authority, the residents felt the decision was already made and that they had no say in whether the tower was actually to be built or not. They felt they were stuck having it in their area. It was more a question of where exactly it was going to go.
There was another case, this one in Bedford. A constituent found out just one week before a cellphone company planned to upgrade a cell tower that was already in use by the water commission. Because it was only an upgrade and not new construction, no public consultation was held at all. This particular constituent felt that the public was given very little notice and no detailed information about the cell tower, the radio frequency output and so forth. That is not acceptable.
It seems to me to be very clear. This is not difficult. It is just simple information that ought to be made available to the public in an easily accessible way. The Internet is a marvellous tool for that sort of thing. I personally found it extremely frustrating when I attempted, for several years, to get data on a cellphone tower inside a church tower on Donaldson Avenue in Halifax, in my riding. After something like five or six years, I finally got the information. However, it was a very frustrating process and very frustrating for the constituent who lives across the street from that church, from whom I hear about this whenever I knock on his door. Therefore, I was glad to finally get the information.
I very much appreciate the efforts of the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, who introduced this bill in the House.
As I have already said, we must support this bill at second reading and send it to committee so that it can be studied, so that we can hear from experts and make an informed decision on the best way to manage this growing problem.
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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