March 27, 2003

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The Speaker

Hon. members must be disappointed they did not receive their Journals this morning. I must inform the House that they will be available only toward the end of the morning.

I also wish to advise hon. members that the voting lists appearing in Hansard may not be entirely accurate. The verified voting list will be found in Journals which will be available, as I indicated, later this morning. Hon. members can understand there might have been some difficulty given the number of votes and the number of changes that hon. members made in stating their positions during the course of the evening.


Subtopic:   Journals
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LIB

Elinor Caplan

Liberal

Hon. Elinor Caplan (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency's summary of the corporate business plan for 2003-04 to 2005-06, entitled “Innovations”.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
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LIB

Tony Tirabassi

Liberal

Mr. Tony Tirabassi (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, on behalf of the President of the Treasury Board, part III of the Estimates consisting of 87 departmental reports on plans and priorities. These documents will be distributed to members of the standing committees to assist in their consideration of the spending authorities sought in part II of the Estimates.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Main Estimates, 2003-04
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

Mr. Geoff Regan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Government Response to Petitions
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LIB

Sue Barnes

Liberal

Mrs. Sue Barnes (London West, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Finance, entitled “Large Bank Mergers in Canada: Safeguarding the Public Interest for Canadians and Canadian Businesses”.

With regard to the government response, also pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report. However, notwithstanding the deadline of 150 days stipulated in Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the comprehensive response to this report be tabled within 90 days of the presentation of the report to the House.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
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CA

Jason Kenney

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among all party House leaders and I believe that if you seek it you would find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion. I move:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should endorse international efforts to bring to justice Saddam Hussein and all other Iraqi officials responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, including through the formation of an international criminal tribunal.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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BQ

Michel Guimond

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table petitions bearing 2,311 signatures of residents of the riding of Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans.

These petitioners have one thing in common: they are all pacifists. They consider that peaceful disarmament of Iraq is the preferred solution to the present crisis. A war in Iraq would lead to destruction and would endanger the lives of thousands of Iraqi civilians. There would be disastrous effects on the entire Middle East.

The petitioners are calling upon Canada to oppose any participation in a war in Iraq.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

Mr. Geoff Regan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 133 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
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CA

John Reynolds

Canadian Alliance

Mr. John Reynolds

For the fiscal years 1993-1994, 1994-1995, 1995-1996, 1996-1997, 1997-1998, 1998-1999, 1999-2000 et 2000-2001, from all departments and agencies of the government, including crown corporations and quasi/non-governmental agencies funded by the government, and not including research and student-related grants and loans, what is the list of grants, loans, contributions and contracts awarded in the constituency of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, including the name and address of the recipient, whether or not it was competitively awarded, the date, the amount and the type of funding, and if repayable, whether or not it has been repaid?

(Return tabled.)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Question No. 133
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

Mr. Geoff Regan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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LIB

Wayne Easter

Liberal

Hon. Wayne Easter (for the Deputy Minister and Minister of Finance)

moved that Bill C-28, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 18, 2003, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2003
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LIB

Bryon Wilfert

Liberal

Mr. Bryon Wilfert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present Bill C-28, the budget implementation act, 2003, for second reading today.

In the course of preparing his budget, the Minister of Finance was advised by Canadians that it must be more than a tallying of accounts: that the budget must reflect the sum of our values as well. The budget the minister presented to the House in February meets the challenge in three arenas of national life.

First, it builds the society Canadians value by making investments in individual Canadians, their families and their communities.

Second, it builds the economy Canadians need by promoting productivity and innovation while staying fiscally prudent.

Third, it builds the accountability Canadians deserve by making government spending more transparent and accountable.

Just as important, the government is able to meet these challenges and pursue significant new investments, without risking a return to deficits, because of our continuing commitment to sound fiscal management. This commitment to fiscal responsibility is real and rigid, not just rhetoric, as demonstrated by the fact that we have already delivered five consecutive surpluses, a $47 billion reduction in the federal debt and the $100 billion tax reduction plan.

The 2003 budget is a budget based on continuity: maintaining the prudent, balanced approach to fiscal planning that has contributed so much, so directly, to Canada's economic stability and success. At the same time, it is a budget marked by milestones and major new commitments.

Economic success and fiscal discipline are only part of good government. They are a means to the much more important end of building the society that Canadians value, where compassion and social responsibility are constant, concrete facts of national life.

No social policy is more vital to Canadians than our publicly funded health care system.

The 2003 accord on health care renewal, agreed to by the Prime Minister and provincial first ministers in February, reflects a common commitment among governments to work together to improve access to the health care system, enhance accountability of how health care dollars are spent, and help ensure that the system remains sustainable in the long term.

Budget 2003 confirms $34.8 billion in increased funding over five years to meet the goals outlined in the health accord. Bill C-28 implements these measures.

First, in terms of increased support through transfers, the budget builds on the significant federal support for health care already provided to the provinces and territories through the Canada health and social transfer, the CHST.

Following the September 2000 agreements on health and early childhood development, the federal government provided provinces and territories with a predictable and growing five year funding framework to 2005-06 through the CHST. Now, this established funding will be further increased by $1.8 billion and extended for an additional two years. As a result, total yearly cash transfers to the provinces will rise to $21.6 billion in 2006-07 and $22.2 billion in 2007-08. Again, let me emphasize that this is over $22 billion for that one year.

Next, an immediate $2.5 billion supplement to the CHST will help relieve existing pressures in the health care system. This funding will be on an equal per capita basis, with provinces and territories having the flexibility to draw down their allocated share of funds, as they require, up to the end of 2005-06.

But the sustained renewal of Canada's health care system needs positive structural change as well as further financing. That is why the first ministers also agreed to restructure the CHST into two separate transfers, a Canada health transfer and a Canada social transfer, effective April 1, 2004.

Creating distinct transfers for health and other social spending will provide Canadians with information on the federal government's long term contribution to health care. At the same time, first ministers reaffirmed the importance of the equalization program in ensuring that all provinces have the ability to provide comparable levels of public services at comparable levels of taxation.

To strengthen the program, the federal government agreed to permanently remove the ceiling on equalization payments beginning in 2002-03.

All of these measures will provide a predictable, sustainable and growing long term funding and planning framework for transfers to the provinces and territories in support of health care and other social programs.

Bill C-28 would also implements other investments agreed to in the health accord.

In terms of health reform transfer, first ministers identified primary health care, home care and catastrophic drug coverage as priority areas where the provinces and territories needed to accelerate and reform to help their residents. The budget responds with a five year $16 billion health reform transfer to help in these priority areas with funds to be distributed on a per capita basis over a five year period beginning on April 1, 2003.

In terms of the diagnostic and medical equipment fund, the first ministers also recognized that more needed to be done to improve access to diagnostic services. The availability of equipment is a key factor in ensuring timely access to quality health care.

Building on the $1 billion provided for medical equipment in 2000, the 2003 budget responds with an additional investment of $1.5 billion over three years. This funding will enable provinces and territories to acquire diagnostic and medical equipment and train specialized staff to operate increasingly sophisticated equipment. Again funds will be distributed on an equal per capita basis and drawn down as provinces require up to the end of 2005-06. Under the accord, governments agreed to report annually on both the health reform transfer and the medical equipment fund so that Canadians can gauge the impact of the new investment.

Another area identified as a priority concern are electronic health records, which are an essential building block for a modernized, more innovative health care system. Under the September 2000 agreement on health, the government announced $500 million to expand the use of health information and communication technologies, including the adoption of electronic health records.

Canada Health Infoway will receive an additional $600 million to accelerate the development of EHRs, common information technology standards, across the country and the further development of tele-health applications.

Without a doubt, research is a vital component of Canada's health care system. The federal government currently provides significant funding for health research through its support for students, researchers, universities, research hospitals and other institutes and also undertakes research in its own laboratories. The 2003 budget recognizes that more can be done. Two such measures are included in this bill.

The first concern is the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the CFI, which was established to support the modernization of research infrastructure in Canadian universities and colleges, research hospitals and other non-profit research institutions across Canada. The budget allocates $500 million to the CFI to enhance its support for state of the art health research facilities. At the same time, Genome Canada will receive $75 million for applied health genomics. It is perhaps the most exciting sector of biological research in today's world and one where Canada has developed a global reputation.

In terms of other health initiatives, the budget provides significant funding to support a range of other initiatives fundamentally linked to health reform. For example, the budget provides $205 million over five years for governance and accountability initiatives, including funding for the Canadian Institute for Health Information to enable better public reporting on the health system and the health of Canadians.

Funding will also be provided to support the establishment of a new Canadian patient safety institute, as well as to improve the timeliness of Health Canada's regulatory processes with respect to human drugs, to pursue a national immunization strategy and to better assess the use of new diagnostic and treatment technologies.

Another initiative covered by this legislation involves a compassionate care benefit under the employment insurance program to help ease the economic problems facing families who must deal with grave illness. The government recognizes that income support and job protection are key for workers who take time off to care for seriously ill family members, as they often lose income and benefits due to time loss from paid employment.

As a result, starting on January 1, eligible workers will be entitled to a six week paid leave to provide care or support to a gravely ill or dying parent, spouse or child. Also, to enhance its flexibility, the benefit can be shared among eligible family members. The compassionate leave benefit underscores a fundamental social fact, that central to the life of every Canadian is the welfare of their family.

There is no more important investment that we can make than in the opportunities we create for our children. Working through the bill before us, budget 2003 strengthens our longstanding commitment to Canadian children and families in several key areas.

First, annual assistance for children and low income families is increased through the Canada child tax benefit, the CCTB, to $10 billion by 2007 with annual benefits increasing to $3,243 for the first child, $3,016 for the second child and $3,020 for each additional child.

Next, the government recognizes that caring for children with severe disabilities imposes a heavy burden on families. To that end, a new indexed $1,600 child disability benefit, effective July 2003, will provide additional assistance of up to $1,600 annually to low and modest income families with a disabled child.

A third measure provides $80 million per year to enhance tax assistance for persons with disabilities, drawing on the evaluation of existing disability tax credit and the input of a technical advisory committee.

The budget also adds to and builds on the tax measures introduced in previous budgets to provide support to persons with disabilities. More infirmed children or grandchildren will now be able to receive a tax deferred roll over of a deceased parent's or grandparent's RRSP or RRIF proceeds.

The budget expands the list of expenses eligible for the medical expense tax credit to include, for example, certain expenses for real time captioning and note taking services and voice recognition software. In addition, individuals with celiac disease who require a gluten free diet will now be able to claim the medical expense tax credit for the incremental cost of gluten free food products.

Our ability to make major long term investments in boosting the quality of Canadian life without jeopardizing our fiscal balance rests on a healthy, growing economy. However better economic performance tomorrow requires a more productive, innovative and sustainable economy today.

As we know, improved skills and learning are vital to improved productivity, competitiveness and a better life for all Canadians. Budget 2003 takes action to help give Canadians opportunities to gain new skills by committing $60 million over two years to improve the Canada student loans program to put more money in the hands of students and better enable post-secondary graduates to manage their debt. In addition, individuals who are in default of the Canada student loans or have declared bankruptcy will now have access to interest relief. As well, protected persons, including convention refugees, under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, will be eligible to Canada student loans.

Canada's high calibre workforce deserves the support of a competitive tax system. That is why in the 2000 budget the government launched a five year $100 billion tax reduction plan, the largest in our country's history. This plan continues to deliver growing tax relief, about $24 billion this year and $30 billion in 2004.

To help sustain our economy, the budget further improves the tax system through incentives to save and invest, to help small and medium sized enterprises and boost Canadian competitiveness.

The legislation promotes savings by Canadians by increasing registered retirement saving plans, RRSPs, and registered pension plans, RPPs, limits to $18,000 over four years and indexing these new limits.

As well, we are providing concrete assistance to our country's entrepreneurs and small businesses, a key source of economic growth and job creation in Canada.

Employment insurance contribution rates will be cut by 12¢ to $1.98 per $100 of insurable earnings for 2004. This is the tenth premium rate cut since 1994 and will give a yearly savings for workers and employers to over $9 billion. While this rate reduction will apply to everyone, it will be particularly beneficial for small businesses.

The federal small business tax rate of 12% will be extended to business income between $200,000 and $300,000 over the next four years. This will result in an annual saving of up to $9,000 for many local Canadian companies.

Another measure eliminates the $2 million limit on the amount of small business investments eligible for the capital gains rollover. This will help small firms to assess the risk capital they need to expand and grow.

The bill reduces business costs and complexity by improving the tax treatment of automobile benefits for employees and auto expenses for employers.

A competitive tax system is necessary to attract investment to Canada and to encourage entrepreneurs to create and grow their businesses and the jobs that they bring.

The government's five year tax reduction plan is putting in place a tax advantage for businesses in Canada as a basic part of the strategy to foster a strong and productive economy. With the tax cuts implemented to date, the average federal-provincial corporate tax rate in Canada is now below the average of the U.S. rate. The budget builds on that advantage over the next five years, totally eliminating the federal capital tax, which is currently levied on all corporations with more than $10 million of capital used in Canada. The first step in the phase out will be to raise the level of the capital at which a firm begins to pay tax to $50 million.

As members can see, the scope of our budget plan is dramatic, and yet I have only covered a portion of the measures in the legislation before us.

We are also taking action in such vital areas of public concern and support as climate change, the environment and agriculture. For example, Bill C-28 includes $250 million to the Sustainable Development Technology Canada Foundation for the development of climate change and clean air technology. Bill C-28 includes $50 million to the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences to increase climate and atmospheric research activities including research related to northern Canada. The bill also includes $20 million to support venture capital investment by Farm Credit Canada in the agriculture sector.

Bill C-28 also includes additional tax measures to confirm the increase in the federal taxes on tobacco products effective June 18, 2002 as part of the government's strategy to discourage tobacco consumption. The bill removes the 4¢ per litre federal excise tax on diesel fuel from bio-diesel. It also provides authority for voluntary arrangements with interested first nations to levy a broadly based sales tax consistent with the GST on first nation lands.

The budget provides important new investments to build the society Canadians value and the economy we need. Canadians have also made it clear that these investments must be backed by enhanced accountability to Parliament and the public. Several new steps will help to make government spending more accountable and transparent.

The budget follows up the government's commitment to review the air travellers security charge to ensure revenue from the charge remains in line with the cost of the enhanced air travel security system through 2006-07. Now that the review has been completed, the government is reducing the charge to $7 from $12 each way for domestic flights. That is by more than 40%.

Accountability is also the anchor of the new health accord. The accord sets out an improved accountability framework that includes a commitment by all governments to report regularly to Canadians. This framework will give Canadians more information about how their tax dollars are used to bring about reform in the health care system.

The government is also making a number of changes to improve the accountability of foundations to Canadians and parliamentarians. Most of these changes can be made through changes to the funding arrangements with the foundations.

However the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation and the Canada Foundation for Sustainable Development Technology were established through federal statute. Under the existing legislation, unspent funds are distributed among the eligible recipients that receive grants, but the Auditor General believes these moneys should be returned to the government. There will now be provisions that the responsible minister may, at his or her discretion, recover unspent money in the event of winding up a dissolution of these three foundations and return the funds to the consolidated revenue fund.

Finally, the budget terminates the debt servicing and reduction account, the DSRA, which was established to pay interest on the public debt and ultimately reduce the debt. There is no longer any need for this account since the DSRA revenues must ultimately be disposed in the consolidated revenue fund.

Budget 2003 delivers a dramatic range of action while maintaining our commitment to prudent fiscal planning for balanced budgets. The budget takes serious steps forward in the quest to build the society that we value, the economy we need and the accountability we deserve. It is based on sound fiscal management and responsible stewardship of our resources, but is rooted in our values as we seek to give Canadians the tools they need to realize their potential. Above all, it recognizes the crucial link between social and economic policy and how an integrated approach produces policies that benefit all Canadians. The result is a better, more compassionate and competitive Canada today and an even stronger, more prosperous Canada in the years ahead. I urge all hon. members to support the legislation.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2003
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CA

Charlie Penson

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy for the opportunity to speak today to the budget implementation act, Bill C-28, but I must say that the Canadian Alliance has a lot of concerns about the budget which was introduced in the House on February 18.

The new finance minister could have chosen to change the course set by that of his predecessor in the last several years but he chose not to do that. One has to wonder why that is, although most reasonable people might expect that it had something to do with the Prime Minister's legacy program. When someone has been in office for 40-some years and he still has to buy himself a legacy in the last year out, that seems like a pretty sad commentary, but that seems to be part of budget 2003.

In addition to that, the finance minister perhaps is launching a leadership bid and that may be part of it and may partly explain why we see the kind of spending increases that we have identified in budget 2003: $25 billion in new spending over the next three years. It is not just spending, it is a smorgasbord of sloppy spending. Other than the $5.3 billion this year for the health care increases, it is spread so thinly in so many areas that it may be of little benefit to anybody.

What we have seen from the government is a pattern over a long period of time of trying to buy votes and not really caring what the outcome of the legislation will be as long as it looks good on the surface. It is like the Hollywood storefront image that we see in the westerns; nothing behind it.

The budget includes $2 billion in unspecified Kyoto projects and $1.5 billion again shovelled out to unaccountable foundations. The Auditor General had a considerable amount to say about that in the past, that this was not the type of corporate accounting that we accept in the corporate sector so why should we accept it from the Government of Canada?

The budget contains $1 billion for the national child care system which will bring it to roughly $10 billion. That money has to come from somewhere. Six billion dollars will be spent on the federal bureaucracy, an increase in spending that seems reminiscent of the 1970s.

The budget contains little tax relief and what tax relief there is, it is spread over several years. I am thinking of the capital tax, of which one portion will be phased out. I heard more about the capital tax than any other thing when our committee was travelling across the country. When I was the industry critic for our party we heard that this was a very discouraging tax on investment, but the government is only taking one part of it out and only doing that over five years. That is the type of example we see in budget 2003.

Many commentators have suggested that the budget was really the end of fiscal discipline in Ottawa, but I would like to demonstrate why that simply is not the case at all. It really is a return to old Liberal values. The fiscal discipline only took place in about 1996-97, for two years, because the government was driven to the wall and had to do something about it. I will make that case.

I submit that this is really a continuation of the Liberals' tax and spend policies that put political expediency ahead of good policy, wasteful spending over restraint and accounting trickery over transparency.

The reality is that since 1993 the Chrétien-Martin tag team increased personal and corporate income taxes 53 times.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2003
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry to interrupt but you referred to the Prime Minister by his name, as well as the former minister of finance by his name. You are a veteran of the House. Please refrain from doing so.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2003
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March 27, 2003