February 8, 2008


The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion.


LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Don Valley East had the floor. There remain 17 minutes in the time allotted to her for her remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Don Valley East.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   PREBUDGET CONSULTATIONS
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LIB

Yasmin Ratansi

Liberal

Ms. Yasmin Ratansi (Don Valley East, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a small correction. I have seven minutes left as I am splitting my time with the member for Saint Boniface.

To continue from where I left off, I was talking about budget 2006 and how the Conservative government saw fit to make cuts despite the fact that it had a $17 billion surplus. One has to pose the question: why cuts, especially social spending cuts?

What does the government have against the vulnerable, the poor and women, people who are really in need of assistance? The only logic there is that the government has a neo-conservative agenda. Those members are not thinking about the people of Canada. They are thinking about those who match their mindset of every person for themselves.

A statement released by the Treasury Board on September 25, 2006 said, “We have found savings in...Programs that weren't providing good value for money for Canadians”. Which Canadians is the government talking about?

Could the government be referring to people who suffer from the lack of basic literacy skills? Could it be talking about students looking for a summer job so they can afford to pay tuition? Could it be referring to our first nations and Inuit people?

Perhaps it is referring to our troubled forestry sector and single industry communities that benefit from regional economic development funding. Or what about ordinary Canadians who face discrimination on a daily basis yet lack the necessary resources to launch a challenge in the courts?

Maybe it is referring to the thousands of women over the age of 65 in this country who live below the poverty line. What does the government have against these seniors who have contributed to Canada and its well-being?

It does not make sense for the Conservative government to go after the most vulnerable in our society.

Let us look at budget 2007, with its rather strange heading, “Aspire”, which won the finance minister a place in Canadian history for the highest spending budget ever. Gone was the Conservative mantra of less government and lower taxes. In 2007, the Conservatives “aspired” to blow as much of the surplus as they possibly could in the shortest possible time.

What did they get out of it? Zero. The money went down the drain without any investment in the Canadian economy and without boosting the Canadian economy. That leads us to the Prime Minister's current dilemma. Now that the United States has entered a recession, the Conservatives are faced with the stark possibility of running a deficit when the economic fallout hits Canada. The Conservative solution, of course, is to force an election before the storm hits here.

Although the Prime Minister is renowned for keeping secrets well within the dark confines of the PMO, I will let members into his current strategy: first, play politics with our troops currently serving in Afghanistan and then try to blame the government's indecision on opposition parties; and second, create an artificial crisis in the Senate, which is currently examining far-reaching justice bills that cover everything from conditional sentencing to the age of sexual consent, and then draw a line in the sand because the bill is being given second sober thought in the Senate.

Or else what? Will the Prime Minister call an election? Does the Prime Minister think Canadians are foolish? They know that procedures are in place in Parliament which allow the government to get over the logjam. The government does not have to go into an election.

However, the Prime Minister, in his deceitful manner, is trying to fudge issues and convince Canadians that somehow his desire for an election can be blamed on the opposition. Or could it be that the budget is on the horizon in the next three weeks?

Canadians do not see a pressing reason for an election. The Prime Minister knows that he will face the wrath of Canadians if he is perceived to be engineering his own government's defeat.

What would be in the next budget? We can only guess, because the Conservatives have utilized all the surplus. They cannot give out any more goodies. What are they planning to do? They will make empty promises with no intention of delivering them, because the cupboard is bare. The cupboard is bare because of our finance minister, who was the architect of the deficit in Ontario and is bringing those very skills here to the federal Parliament.

The fiscal incompetency of the government has come home to roost. The cupboard is depleted. The government cannot show anything, zip, zero, for all the money it wasted. The previous budget was an inflationary budget. It has done nothing for Canadians.

Let us look at history. Who was responsible for the largest federal deficit in history? Brian Mulroney was. Of course there also was Mike Harris in Ontario. The current Minister of Finance was his finance minister.

In 1993 the federal Liberals inherited a bankrupt country. It took intelligence, commitment and vision to get the country back on track. The IMF once called Canada a economic basket case, but by 1997, thanks to the discipline and the leadership of the Liberals, we saw balanced budgets and Canada was back on track. Now Canada is the envy of the G-7 countries.

If history is repeating itself, where the Liberals come back to clean up a Conservative mess, we are probably right when we say that the government is way out of its depth, without vision, morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   PREBUDGET CONSULTATIONS
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CPC

Dean Del Mastro

Conservative

Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, there were an awful lot of items in that speech that I would love to correct, but unfortunately I am not going to get to all of them.

Of course the member probably is aware that the current Minister of Finance never ran a deficit when he was finance minister of Ontario. In fact, he took Bob Rae's economy, which was the worst economy in Canada, and turned the Ontario economy into the hottest economy in the G-8. I thought she might like to know that.

He is doing that for Canada as well. The finance minister of Canada is creating more jobs and Canadians are making more money. Record numbers of Canadians are working. I think that is tremendous.

Let us check the Conservative record. I would love to hear what she has to say about it. We cut the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%, saving her riding millions and millions of dollars. It is money that her constituents can spend on their priorities.

This government has reduced the lowest personal income tax rate. We have created the working income tax benefit. That helps low income Canadians. I know that she cares about low income Canadians, but she is not being fulsome in her speech.

This government has created the $2,000 child tax credit to help families. We have increased the amount that all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax. In fact, tax freedom day comes about two weeks earlier now, and I feel free.

We have eliminated taxes on students. There has been record spending on health care and post-secondary education. That member should get up and rejoice. We have tax freedom. Canadians are better off. The government is doing a great job. I would love to hear the member stand up and congratulate the government.

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Subtopic:   PREBUDGET CONSULTATIONS
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LIB

Yasmin Ratansi

Liberal

Ms. Yasmin Ratansi

Mr. Speaker, I am saddened by the economic incompetence of that member. We have seen $15 billion go down the drain. This is typical of what happened in the United States. A government starts on a spending spree and has nothing to show for it. If that is the way economic incompetence goes, Canadians have to be careful. Canadians know that it was Brian Mulroney who put them into deficit.

Of course, that member is either asleep at the wheel or totally deceitful, because it was the Mike Harris regime, and the minister was a member of that regime, that left Ontario with a $5.6 billion deficit. History does repeat itself. If the Conservatives are going to have their blinkers on, then Canadians need to boot them out for their moral bankruptcy, because they keep on fibbing, they are incompetent and they have no vision.

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LIB

Navdeep Bains

Liberal

Hon. Navdeep Bains (Mississauga—Brampton South, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I will take this opportunity to congratulate my colleague on a remarkable speech. It was very well thought out. She clearly articulated some legitimate concerns around the current government's fiscal management and its inability to manage its affairs, specifically when it comes to delivering sound policy for Canadians, policy that creates jobs, wealth and opportunities.

Could the member again highlight for us and comment on the situation inherited by the Liberals in the 1990s and what they did? Could she then comment on the situation today with this government as to what it has done with the surplus and the current state of the fiscal framework in terms of the government's ability to help Canadians through these difficult and challenging times, specifically in the manufacturing and forestry sectors?

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LIB

Yasmin Ratansi

Liberal

Ms. Yasmin Ratansi

Mr. Speaker, that is a very valuable question. When the Liberals inherited the government, there was a $43 billion deficit and a debt of $500 billion. It took the Liberals four years, until 1997, to clean up the incompetent government of the previous Conservatives. Those Conservatives had no idea. They kept on running up deficits because they were on a drunken spending spree. Once we cleaned up the mess, the IMF claimed that we were the best run G-8 country. We had balanced budgets. In 1997, we gave Canadians tax cuts of $100 million. They were largest tax cuts in history.

Those members cannot cover up history. The Conservatives have proved time and time again that they are incompetent. By cutting the GST they have not invested anything in research and development or in productivity. They are totally without vision. The manufacturing sector needs investment. Research and development needs investment. We need a vision. We do not need a government that is totally clueless.

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Subtopic:   PREBUDGET CONSULTATIONS
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LIB

Raymond Simard

Liberal

Hon. Raymond Simard (Saint Boniface, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to the prebudget consultations.

It looks like we may be headed for some fairly tough economic times. We have seen what is happening in the U.S. with the sub-prime mortgage situation, coupled with the large accumulated debt, and there is a real possibility that there is a recession on the horizon.

I could not help but notice that over the last couple of weeks the spin by the Conservatives has been to call the Liberals spendthrifts or bad fiscal managers. I can understand that, but it must be embarrassing for Conservative members to have to do this. It cannot be easy to spin this when Conservatives the world over are running up debts and Liberals are having to come in and clean up their messes.

George W. Bush, a close friend and mentor to the Conservative government, is a case in point. The U.S. debt load is unbearable and is having a huge impact on the U.S. economy, and Canada is starting to feel the repercussions.

The reality is that the Conservatives have no choice but to try to spin this because their fiscal record over the years is so dismal. I know I have mentioned this in the House before but it bears repeating. It is a bit of trivia. When was the last time a Conservative government produced a surplus prior to inheriting the surpluses of the Liberal government in 2006?

Members might think it was under Joe Clark or under Mulroney. We know where that surplus has gone. Was it under Diefenbaker? No. It was under Sir Robert Borden in 1912. Was there electricity back then? That is a long time ago. Those people are actually terrible fiscal managers. They create uncertainty in the marketplace and this is one of the major reasons.

Liberals cleaned up the $42 billion yearly deficit from the previous Conservative government when they came into power in 1993 and produced eight consecutive surpluses. They passed this incredible legacy onto the Conservative government and, in two short years, it has taken the best fiscal position in the G-7 and an economy that was the envy of the world and brought it to the brink of deficit.

There is an old saying that continues to be true today, “Tory times are tough times”. I do not think this is necessarily a coincidence. If it were, we would have to assume that Conservative governments get into power and suddenly the economy faces a downturn or goes into a recession. What are the odds of that happening every time? I believe the Conservatives create the conditions for tough times.

An example of this is the current Conservative Prime Minister's choice for Minister of Finance. We would all agree that this is a position of importance in any government and that this person must have the confidence of the people. Who does the PM reach out to fill this position? It is the same person who, as provincial finance minister, ran for a government that had promised balanced budgets but left behind a $5.8 billion deficit in Ontario.

The same minister is now applying those same skills at the federal level. He produced the highest spending budget in Canadian history with direct federal spending increasing by 8.6%. He broke a promise on income trusts that cost the Canadian economy, and mostly seniors, some $25 billion. He brought in measures on interest deductibility that hurt Canadian companies' competitiveness and accelerated the sale of Canadian companies to foreigners.

He introduced tax measures that were totally ineffective and seen more as gimmicks. The example I would use for that is the textbook tax credits for post-secondary students. The maximum students can get is approximately $80 a year but most of them do not qualify because they need to have revenue to take advantage of the tax break.

Besides those flagrant errors, the Conservatives also have created conditions that have put Canada in a very precarious position should we face this anticipated slowdown in the economy. They got rid of the $3 billion prudence or cushion that the Liberals would build into every budget. They decreased personal and corporate taxes, which is a very good move on its own, but coupled with the GST cuts, it puts the government very close to a deficit position.

This also means that it is not in a very strong position to help Canadians who may lose their jobs in the next little while in sectors such as manufacturing and forestry. These people are living through extremely difficult times. We were told that we could expect between 300,000 and 400,000 job losses in the next few years in the manufacturing industry alone.

I believe Canadians prefer a balanced approach to resolving issues, not the radical positions taken on most issues by the government. I believe Canadians want us to pay down the debt but not put the whole surplus against the debt. A more balanced approach would be what has been done in the past: a third on the debt, a third on tax relief, because tax relief is good for Canadians, and a third on programs, especially when we have crises like SARS or when certain industries are in crises situations.

The government has also indicated clearly that it does not believe in partnerships with Canadians. When the manufacturing industry is down, when the forestry industry is down and when the agricultural industry is down, the government is nowhere to be found.

The Liberal Party believes that governments have a responsibility to partner with industry and to help Canadians get through tough times. It is a different philosophy and I accept that. We cannot all be the same. We do have different philosophies on either side of this House.

It seems to me that the government should consider helping industries, like the pork industry, which have come to us lately looking for temporary support through low interest repayable loans. That does not seem unreasonable to me. We should be there for them. Once we lose the industry, we do not get it back. I am not sure my colleagues on the other side of the House appreciate that or even understand that.

If I were asked what I would like to see for the people of Saint Boniface in the next budget, I would like to see a budget that puts people first, that shows that we can be practical on the fiscal side and still provide our social programs of which Canadians are so proud.

I would like to see the court challenges program restored to show that we respect our multicultural, official languages, minority and disabled communities.

I would like to see the word “equality” restored to the mandate of Status of Women Canada and restore funding to women's groups to an adequate level.

I would like to see funds for a comprehensive early learning and child care program as proposed by our government. This program was applauded right across the country.

In the budget I would also like to see a renewal and improvement of the action plan for official languages. Official language minority communities set their priorities at the 2007 Summit of la Francophonie in Ottawa. The time for consultations is over. It is time for the government to make a serious commitment.

I would like to see funding restored for Canada's aboriginal community so that first nations people can take their proper place in our society and be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

I would like to see our government provide income support or tax relief for our seniors as well as low and middle income Canadians.

I would also like to see a serious effort to curb greenhouse gases to reduce global warming. The carbon budget we are proposing seems to have been well received by experts who are knowledgeable in the field. It is something that should be considered.

I would like the government to tell Canadians the truth on infrastructure funding, which is that the bulk of the $33 billion it announced is not new money but funds that were committed by the previous government through gas tax transfers and the GST rebate for municipalities. The new funds are closer to $7 billion or $8 billion over seven years. Let us be truthful with Canadians.

I would like to see the funding for the second phase of the Red River floodway come from the strategic infrastructure fund and not from Manitoba's infrastructure fund that is proposed by the member for Provencher. Manitoba would lose $170 million with the minister's plan and Manitoba Liberal MPs worked too hard to secure this in the first place for the first phase of the project.

Finally, I would like to see a serious commitment to clean up Lake Winnipeg, the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world and the pride of Manitobans. We should all be embarrassed for having allowed this lake to deteriorate to the level we see today.

That is my wish list. It seems reasonable and measured, and I look forward to seeing this in budget 2008. I know Canadians will look forward to seeing this as well.

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Subtopic:   PREBUDGET CONSULTATIONS
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NDP

Peter Julian

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague, who I respect a great deal, talk about his wish list for budget 2008, but I cannot really believe that he understands that many of the problems he has been talking about were caused under the previous Liberal administration.

The collapse of the manufacturing sector, losing 200 jobs a day, started under the Liberals and continued under the Conservatives who have done absolutely nothing to stop that.

This obsession the Conservatives have with massive corporate tax cuts for the banks and big oil and gas was started by the Liberal Party.

All the problems we are seeing are problems that started under the Liberals and have continued under the Conservatives.

Is the member willing to apologize on behalf of the former Liberal governments for the type of economic policies they put into place: their obsession with corporate tax cuts and the collapse of our manufacturing and softwood industries? Is he willing to apologize for all of that and say to the Conservatives, “We screwed up. You are screwing up. Let us both as parties agree that we have not done what is right for the economy and let us take the approach of the NDP”?

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Subtopic:   PREBUDGET CONSULTATIONS
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LIB

Raymond Simard

Liberal

Hon. Raymond Simard

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the member respects me.

If an apology is required, it should be from the NDP. It is because of the New Democratic Party that we no longer have child care and respect for the aboriginal community that we had planned in our past budgets. That is very clear.

I can tell the member that at the industry committee we are not hearing what the member is saying with regard to the manufacturing sector. The problems in the manufacturing sector are being created, to some extent, by what is happening in the United States, but that sector is very concerned about not getting any assistance from the government. When we were government, we were always there to provide support to industries in trouble.

I mentioned the pork industry. In Prince Edward Island alone, 50% of the industry has gone already. I would like to say that if the NDP--

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NDP

Peter Julian

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peter Julian

Softwood, beef cattle, agriculture. It is a long list.

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LIB

Raymond Simard

Liberal

Hon. Raymond Simard

Would the member let me speak, please? I allowed him to ask the question. If it were not for the NDP, we would have child care, the Kelowna accord and all the things that those members talk about but vote against.

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CPC

Ed Fast

Conservative

Mr. Ed Fast (Abbotsford, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I listened patiently to my friend's comments and only one thing is clear to Canadians. Today, Canadians have a Conservative government that cares for families, that wants to reduce taxes, that wants to pay down the national mortgage and that wants to control spending.

We have heard the tremendous spin from the Liberals but this is what we have done. In the last two years, our Conservative government has reduced taxes by close to $200 billion. What is even more remarkable, most of those tax cuts go to individuals and families. We have also paid down the national debt by $37 billion. We do not want to leave this hanging around the necks of future generations of Canadians.

We have started to control spending and yet every time we hear the Liberals speak in the House they talk about increasing spending and increasing taxes. What else are they doing? They are talking about increasing the debt or going into deficit to try to afford some of these programs.

A few minutes ago we heard the member for Don Valley East speak. Here is what she said about the child care benefit that we have paid to the parents of every child. She said that it was an insult to Canadians. She said that it was billions of dollars going down the drain.

The Liberals do not trust parents. The Conservatives do.

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LIB

Raymond Simard

Liberal

Hon. Raymond Simard

Mr. Speaker, I find it fascinating that those members can stand and say that they are controlling spending when what we are hearing is that they are having to go into every department right now and find every contingency fund so as not to go into deficit. That is the reality.

That is what Conservative governments do. We have seen it in the United States on numerous occasions where it creates instability, which is not good for an economy. The Conservatives are doing the same thing here. There are all kinds of instability.

The Conservatives say that they are cutting costs and controlling expenses. The reality is on the record and the facts are that this is the biggest spending budget in the history of Canada. Those are the facts. We cannot invent that.

I would challenge Canadians to go and see those people who are saying that they are controlling costs but who actually have put in place the highest spending budget in the history of Canada.

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CPC

Ted Menzies

Conservative

Mr. Ted Menzies (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for St. Catharines, who, for the record, worked tirelessly on this report. I believe that he travelled across the country attending each of the finance committee's prebudget consultations. Indeed, it was a great pleasure to work with all of my colleagues on the finance committee in order to come up with the report that was tabled in the House on Thursday.

I want to take a few moments to thank the House of Commons committee staff as well for their hard work on this report. Too often we forget the number of hours of recording and summarizing of the consultations and discussions that go into a report of this stature, especially since the discussions often contained conflicting views. It will not surprise the House to learn that there are even sources of disagreement across party lines and at times among party members. Therefore, focusing on the positives to come up with a report that all committee members are comfortable with is certainly no small feat.

I also want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for the work they contributed to what I think is a very good report. It is truly unfortunate that legislative duties in the House on behalf of the Minister of Finance kept me from a couple of the meetings across Canada that I would like to have attended. I want to thank hon. members who are not full time members of the House Standing Committee on Finance but who graciously agreed to fill in from time to time at these important meetings that allow Canadians to have input on the budget.

I had hoped by moving forward the government could build on the positive momentum from this report to work cooperatively for all Canadians. We heard from a very broad spectrum of Canadians on what they personally, or the association that they represented, thought should be included in our report as advice to this government.

Having said that, I must say that I was disappointed when some members of the opposition then wanted to add into the report some of their own partisan pet projects that no witness had raised before the finance committee. Then, adding to my disappointment, I read some of the stories this week which made their way across the news wires a few hours after the meeting took place between the Minister of Finance and all opposition finance critics.

The critics' chairs were not even warm when one would have thought that they mistook the finance minister for Santa Claus. There were asks in the tens of billions of dollars with no long term strategic thinking or any kind of accurate accounting, led off, of course, by the Liberal finance critic asking us to go backward in time to re-release the Kelowna press release. After all of the things that this government has accomplished in two short years for first nations, why would we go back to the old Liberal way of years of promises ending in a deathbed conversion, admitting that the Liberals had failed first nations? Then there was the greatest ask of all, that if we can, to please try not to go into deficit. That was what we heard, after the list of asks. I am paraphrasing to keep my remarks short.

I shake my head at the opposition on this for playing politics with people's lives. We have taken the approach as the government of this vast and diverse land to enact policies that will provide Canada with the strongest economic fundamentals. We do this so that Canadians will have the fewest possible roadblocks in their way along the path to prosperity, a path Canadians have shown they are more than capable of following, especially given that this government under the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have provided a clearly marked road map.

We need to acknowledge that there are certain sectors which, for various reasons, are facing very real challenges right now. Based on a myriad of factors, some Canadians are hurting and we cannot ignore that. However, the answer is not to pit Ontario manufacturers against Alberta's oil and gas sector, or Quebec forestry against Saskatchewan's potash industry.

The Bloc and the NDP have a few things in common on that file. They ratchet up their dangerous and harmful rhetoric for ideological reasons. The Bloc believes Quebec would be better off on its own, separate from Canada. The NDP believes that corporations should not be allowed to prosper, but in the same breath demands that they employ more workers. It is time that the NDP joined the real world and realized that it is these same corporations, large or small, that help fuel the strong economy that we all enjoy.

Both ideas are misguided and ones with which we cannot agree, but at least they actually believe in these things. Because they believe these things and because at the end of the day based on our system of government, the Canadian people have the last word, their beliefs mean that they also share the bleak political future of never having the Governor General ask them to form Her Majesty's government. Thank goodness.

The Liberals, on the other hand, try to fuel the fires of regionalism and nationalism because of a much more sinister motivation. They simply want to divide and conquer, pit the English versus the French, the rich versus the poor, Ontario versus Alberta, or Quebec versus Saskatchewan. It makes no difference to them to have Canadian versus Canadian and to govern for the sake of governing. Not on this side of the House; we will not have that.

My home province of Alberta is doing quite well and I will not apologize for that. We are proud of that, but I do recall times that were not nearly as prosperous, that in fact, were quite troubling. Now is not the time to say, as the opposition would have us do, that we have $14 billion in surplus, do not pay down the debt, give it to the forestry industry, to the auto sector or any one of the provinces. That is not what this government is about to do.

The sad truth is that despite the excellent stewardship of the economy by the Prime Minister and the steady hand of the finance minister, Canada still owes in excess of $465 billion. And the Liberals say we should not address that? It is a debt burden that we risk passing along to future generations of Canadians who would be saddled with that through no fault of their own. In the absence of fiscally prudent, responsible and careful spending based on a long term plan and strategic approach, Canada is in very real danger of slipping back into a deficit situation. That is clear.

Now is the time to lower taxes and make sure government spending is under control and to continue to pay down our debt. The opposition would have us increase taxes, spend like drunken sailors and ignore the debt, sending Canada into deficit. Canadians have been very clear in all of our consultations with them throughout this process. They realize what is happening in the United States. They realize that we are not planning on going down that road and that we do not want to go there. They are proud of the leadership this government has shown and the capability that it is showing of staying out of deficit.

We promised Canadians that we will do that. We will continue to do that, but along with that, we will make sure that the debt is reduced for our children and grandchildren.

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LIB

Charles Hubbard

Liberal

Hon. Charles Hubbard (Miramichi, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary talked about the sad truth. The sad truth is that the economy is stalling, if it has not stalled already. Based on the speech the member for Peterborough gave, one might call him a good car salesman. We hear from the other side of the House that the Conservatives have increased spending in the last two budgets by about 10%, the biggest budgets that we have had in Canadian history. We see that the manufacturing sector is in difficulty. We see that the farm groups, the pork and beef producers are in trouble and we have seen little response from the party opposite.

We need an election in this country to get rid of that group over there and to bring back true fiscal balance, to bring back a government that represents the people of Canada, that is willing to see Canada as a progressive state. We need a government that is responsible, that works for its people, that offers good programs to those in need, that supports the Kelowna accord, that supports university students, that brings in a child care program, not two days of child care a month for the people of this country, the working mothers, but a good child care program that will be for the benefit of all Canadians.

I would like the hon. parliamentary secretary to admit that on balance this country is going down the tubes, that in fact the revenues of the government have decreased for the last several months and that they are worried about the economy. The Conservatives talk about an election. We need an election to get a real government, a real party in charge of this country.

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CPC

Ted Menzies

Conservative

Mr. Ted Menzies

Mr. Speaker, I guess the truth is out. It is the Liberals who really want an election. I am shocked because this morning on television I heard the opposition House leader say, “It is not us who want an election”. Perhaps the member for Miramichi should consult with his House leader before he makes public statements in here. There seems to be a bit of a contrast, but no surprise in that contrast.

The doomsday comments the hon. member put forward are nonsense. If they do not scare me, they scare Canadians. That is not the message we need to put forward to Canadians.

The member talked about a big budget, which by the way, the Liberals voted against. Of course it was a big budget, because it provided massive infrastructure funding. Of course it was a big budget because $33 billion was set aside for infrastructure.

It provided money for the environment, the first real environmental plan that this country has ever seen. It provided money to reduce patient wait times. Funny we should put that in a budget, what a novel idea. money to combat cancer. We have never done that before in this country, what a wonderful idea and it was very well received. It provided money for post-secondary education. The hon. member for Miramichi must not have read the budget and that point about post-secondary education. It provided a working income tax benefit, which was applauded across this country. It provided pension income splitting for seniors. If the hon. member has been reading the media as of late, seniors are just starting to pick up on this fact as they fill out their tax returns. There is a tremendous benefit through income splitting that seniors have been asking for, for years and years. It took this Conservative government to listen to seniors and help them.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on and on and I am sure that you wish that I would, but I would like to give an opportunity to some other members of the House to ask questions.

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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

I think the two hon. members who spoke have gone enough to use up all the time that was available for questions and comments on that speech, so we are going to have to move on to the next speech.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for St. Catharines.

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CPC

Rick Dykstra

Conservative

Mr. Rick Dykstra (St. Catharines, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is good to see you in the House on a Friday morning. It seems like everyone is in a festive mood. It must be Friday, when we have a chance to get back to our ridings and talk about the budget.

The budget will be coming up soon. Some excellent work has been done by a number of my colleagues on the finance committee, from all parties. They have come together to put together a prebudget submission, with some 36 recommendations. for the finance minister's consideration. If the finance minister, the finance department and our government see action items that should be implemented in the next budget, they will be in there. Those that are not will be considered in the future.

I have been honoured to participate in two prebudget consultation processes over the past two years and have travelled across Canada to hear from hard-working Canadians. Last year we heard from over 400 groups and we made 52 recommendations to the Minister of Finance. Some people say that good work does not come out of committee. In fact, good work does come out of committee. Seventeen of those 52 recommendations were in the 2007 budget. These consultations do matter.

This year we heard from 166 groups and individuals. The report prepared by the committee contains 36 recommendations. We flew from Vancouver all the way across the country to Halifax. We listened to the concerns of people from all walks of life.

In 2006 there may have been a bit of a hangover from a long and tired government. We faced a number of presentations from people who were upset and who felt that they had not been heard over the past number of years. These people had made their presentations to the finance committee. They put the work and effort into their presentations. Time after time and year after year they felt no one had listened to them.

These people were not there to complain. In the process we went through of 166 presentations. Not everyone was there to say exactly the same thing or to say that they would not like to be included in the budget. It was a very positive experience from Victoria to Calgary, back to Ottawa, to Halifax and then back to Montreal. The outlook from the people and organizations on the future of their communities and our country was nothing less than stellar and positive.

I mentioned the locations where we went. I thought I would highlight a couple of the presentations that were made because they left an impression on me in the approaches they took and about what they spoke.

The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce commended the fiscal update and its benefits to Canadians. The organization asked all members of Parliament to continue to be responsible and to ensure that we provided opportunities for small businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs, hard-working families and Canadians so they too would have an opportunity to continue to grow their small businesses.

The Canadian Sport Centre in Calgary reminded all of us of the importance of physical fitness and Canada's stature in the world. It was interesting because representatives from the centre explained the 2010 Olympics. This week we celebrated the two year countdown to those Olympics. Athletes from across the country, including the great riding of St. Catharines, are in Calgary now training and getting ready for those Olympics. The slogan is “Own the Podium”. We are using that slogan to ensure we will be at the top of the podium in 2010.

One of the comments made was Canadians were changing a little. A number of years ago that slogan may have been “share the podium”. We have come a long way. We no longer think of ourselves as not rightfully having a spot on any podium, whether it is the environment, sports or finance. We can own the podium.

Halifax was the only available opening for a representative from Assembly of First Nations to make a presentation to us. It touched me that he had travelled all the way from my home riding of St. Catharines to Halifax to make that presentation. He put forward a plan and a vision for young aboriginal people in our country. He told us that there was a positive road for them as well.

In Montreal we heard from a company that recommended a tax incentive for employers that developed their own pandemic preparedness plan.

The 2006 budget included $1 billion over five years to fight future pandemics. People have said that we made the right investment in 2006. They have asked that it be extended to allow small and medium sized businesses to set a plan in place for their companies, their employees and their families.

It is not only government that should be responsible for these types of issues. All of us need to be responsible. When Canadians see it in the budget, they come back with ideas and concepts that take it past bureaucracies and government having to pay for or be responsible for this. There is another way to deliver health care on behalf of Canadians.

There are a number of recommendations that I want to briefly highlight.

We have suggested that the Income Tax Act be amended to extend the accelerated capital cost allowance for a five year period for manufacturing and processing, machinery and equipment. This is one of the most positive components of the 2007 budget. Whether in Abbotsford, British Columbia or in Peterborough, Ontario, companies are investing in their shops. They are buying equipment that they could not afford before this. They can purchase it now because they can write the depreciation off over a two year period.

There was not a stop that we did not make. Companies and organizations said that this was one of the most positive things they had seen in a budget in years. They did not ask us to reinvent it. They did not ask us to come up with a different way of delivering it. All they simply asked for was an extension.

My community of St. Catharines has been hit hard with manufacturing closures, as have other communities. We have worked hard to assist this sector through policies in the 2007 budget. This week we voted on providing $1 billion to the provinces and territories so they could assist companies in their communities, which really need help.

We also recommended amending the Excise Tax Act to permit people arriving in Canada to make duty free purchases at Canadian airports. Members may not think this is a big deal. This would not take any money out of the ministries at the federal level. It would simply be an opportunity to create and support jobs in Canada.

We also recommended amending the Income Tax Act to give enhanced incentives for charitable giving. We heard from many not for profit organizations. They wanted the opportunity to increase the donations from Canadians. We can compete with anyone in the world in this regard. We own the podium when it comes to charitable donations. The potential to add to this is something we hope will find its way into the budget.

We heard many times about the child fitness tax credit and what a great benefit it was to many Canadians. We heard from the new Olympic committee on the summer Olympics. It talked about preparing our summer athletes to own the podium. More than that, it is about preparing our children to become physically fit, to learn about working in a team atmosphere and having the positive influence of coaches and leaders.

I am proud to be a member of the finance committee. I am proud we have put forward an opportunity and a report for the finance minister. I am sure some of it will see its way into the budget.

Again, it was good to hear the valuable input and presentations across the country. This is a valuable report that will do good work for Canadians.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   PREBUDGET CONSULTATIONS
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NDP

Denise Savoie

New Democratic Party

Ms. Denise Savoie (Victoria, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the comments of my colleague. I was pleased to hear his reference to the standing committee's visit in Victoria. He quoted the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. However, its comments were not only praise for the Conservative government's tax cuts. It stated:

—the Government of Canada needs to take a far more aggressive lead in solving the problems of chronic homelessness across our country....By comparison, the U.S. government invests 3.6 times per capita what the Canadian government does on results-oriented homelessness initiatives.

It went on to say:

In this time of record government surplus, it is absolutely necessary for the federal government to apply a focused effort to reducing homelessness across Canada, and in doing so improve the business environment for thousands of Canadian companies.

Therefore, this is not an issue to address for humanitarian reasons. It has become an economic one and our tax system works at cross purposes with the efforts of cities.

Will his government commit to dealing with homelessness and housing affordability issues in Canada?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   PREBUDGET CONSULTATIONS
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February 8, 2008