January 27, 2015

CPC

Michael Chong

Conservative

Hon. Michael Chong (Wellington—Halton Hills, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition here from about 150 constituents in my riding of Wellington—Halton Hills. They are calling on the Government of Canada and the House of Commons to adopt policies that will aid small family farmers in developing countries and will protect the right of these small family farmers in the global south to use and exchange seeds.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Agriculture
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LIB

Ted Hsu

Liberal

Mr. Ted Hsu (Kingston and the Islands, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have four petitions today.

The first one is asking Parliament to impose a moratorium on the release of genetically modified alfalfa.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Genetically Modified Alfalfa
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LIB

Ted Hsu

Liberal

Mr. Ted Hsu (Kingston and the Islands, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is calling on the federal government to rescind its cuts to the interim federal health program.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Health Care
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LIB

Ted Hsu

Liberal

Mr. Ted Hsu (Kingston and the Islands, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is asking the federal government to adopt international aid policies that protect the right of small family farmers in the global south to preserve, use, and freely exchange seeds.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Agriculture
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LIB

Ted Hsu

Liberal

Mr. Ted Hsu (Kingston and the Islands, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the last petition is from Canadians who are appalled that we spent an extra $22 million on the national household survey to collect data that was of poorer quality than the data collected through the last long-form census.

The petitioners are asking for the restoration of the long-form census.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Census
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LIB

Kirsty Duncan

Liberal

Ms. Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, each year in Canada, 10,000 people die from prescription drugs taken exactly as prescribed, and some 3.5 million Canadians have inadequate drug coverage or no coverage at all.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to establish a committee with the necessary authority, mandate, expertise, and funding to make recommendations to reduce the number of deaths by prescription drugs; to work with the provinces and territories to ensure that all Canadians have a drug plan that covers the cost of prescription drugs; and to expand catastrophic drug coverage for all Canadians.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Prescription Drugs
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CPC

Ray Boughen

Conservative

Mr. Ray Boughen (Palliser, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Moose Jaw and the surrounding area. The petitioners would like to bring to the attention of the House that multinational seed companies are threatening the ability of family farmers to produce the amount of food required to feed their families and communities.

The petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to adopt international aid policies that support small family farmers, especially women, and recognize their vital role in the struggle against hunger and poverty. They want the government to ensure that Canadian policies are developed in consultation with small family farmers.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Agriculture
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CPC

Tom Lukiwski

Conservative

Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC)

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

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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CPC
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

Nathan Cullen

New Democratic Party

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP)

moved:

That the House call on the government to (a) immediately present an Economic and Fiscal Update to Parliament outlining the state of the nation’s finances in light of the unstable economic situation, including job losses, falling oil prices, and declining government revenues; and (b) prepare a budget that addresses the economic challenges facing the middle class by creating more good-quality full-time jobs, and by encouraging economic diversification.

Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I thank my colleagues. I will be splitting my time with my hon. friend from Beauport—Limoilou.

I want to thank him for his work and the work we will do together in the future.

Today we present our first opposition day motion of 2015, which we think comes at a critical juncture for this country and our economy. Our expectation is that the government would actually support this motion, because it clearly addresses the needs of this country in response to the moment we are in.

Let us take that moment for what it is. The last time the government came to Canadians with its economic update, the world oil prices were at $86 for world and $81 for WTI. Those prices have subsequently dropped to $48 and $46 respectively. That is a $4.3 billion hit to the current government's treasury, as estimated by the OECD.

Calling for accountability and action is the job of all parliamentarians, and New Democrats take this job incredibly seriously. We have seen over the last number of weeks serious job losses in the retail sector, the energy sector, and other sectors across the economy. The TD Bank has concluded the following:

The conclusion is unambiguous. In the absence of new measures to raise revenues or cut spending, TD is projecting budget deficits in fiscal 2015-16 and 2016-17 as opposed to the surpluses expected at the time of the [last fiscal] Update.

The government needs a reality check. It needs to address the situation that is in front of it rather than the one it wishes to see. It is important, because we have seen this movie before from the Conservatives. Canadians will remember that on the eve of the last global recession, as the world was dipping into negative territory, that rather than paying attention to the facts in front of them, and the indications were clear from the private sector economists, the World Bank, and the OECD that Canada too was falling into a recession, the Conservatives chose to ignore that and brought in an austerity budget. This made the Conservative government unique in the developed world, a uniqueness we did not wish to enjoy, in not responding to the reality in front of us. Only at the threat of losing their government did the Conservatives reassemble a budget that was in fact a stimulus budget in response to the times of the day.

The Minister of Finance recently sent a letter to us asking for ideas and solutions to help fix the economic weakness in Canada.

Let us take a snapshot of the Canadian economy in 2014, a year that was meant to be a year of recovery and coming through the global recession. The population in Canada grew faster than the number of jobs in Canada in 2014. The youth unemployment rate remained twice the national average, a rate seen during the worst times of the global downturn. Canadian youth are still experiencing those very difficult times.

Canadian individuals are carrying more debt than they ever have in our history. We carry this debt, and that is a great encumbrance on the economy, and the Governor of the Bank of Canada has rightly pointed out that this is a concern and adds greater weakness and fragility.

In these long nine years since the Conservatives took power, Canada has lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs alone. These are good-paying jobs that support families. These are jobs that add value to our natural resources. All that time, we never heard a whit of concern from the Conservatives. With their all-eggs-in-one-basket approach to the economy, it was all pipelines all the time. So much of our effort in our relationship with our greatest trading partner, the United States, fixated on one job-exporting pipeline, namely Keystone. There was a loss of social licence with Canadians with regard to natural resources as Conservatives tried to force through job-exporting pipelines to the west coast.

This has been the fixation of the government. We have seen that it built a house of cards, and it spent a surplus in the fall before it had it. What did the government spend it on? It spent it on a $2.5 billion income splitting scheme that would do nothing for 85% of Canadians and that would skew proportionally toward the wealthiest Canadians, those who have a large income and a spouse that has very low or no income. That is what income splitting supports.

The Conservatives called it a lie, but I remember that it was Jim Flaherty who stood in the House and other places and said that his problem with income splitting was its deep unfairness. His problem with income splitting was that 15% of Canadians who do not need the help were suddenly getting $2.5 billion in help from the Conservatives in the last budget.

That is what the Conservatives chose to spend their now illusionary surplus on, and now they are talking about dipping into their rainy day fund, the emergency fund, to paper over their mistake. They had better hope that there are no floods or natural disasters, because that is what it was originally set aside for. It was for unforseen circumstances. Well, this was not unforeseen. This was a choice the Conservatives made. They chose to dig a $2.5 billion hole in their budget that they thought they could pay for, and now they cannot.

An intelligent and responsive government would say that the circumstances have dramatically changed and that maybe this unfair tax cut for the wealthiest Canadians is not timely, because it would do nothing for job creation, which is something that every private sector economist and the Governor of the Bank of Canada is calling for right now.

Is it spending on infrastructure? No, not at all. The Conservatives did not choose that. Does it create jobs in small and medium businesses in this country? No, it does nothing like that. It is a political effort to buy votes on the eve of an election, clearly and simply. That is why they rushed it and backdated it. It was to help their electoral fortunes come next fall.

This is not about the Conservative Party anymore. This is about the Canadian economy, and it is time for the Conservatives to adapt to the reality in front of them.

Today's motion calls for them to simply bring us a fiscal update and tell us what the books say and to then bring forward a budget that responds to the reality in front of Canadians.

According to the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Canada has low or zero job growth recovery. That should be concerning to everybody. Even in the midst of a recovery, the Canadian economy right now is not creating jobs. That is according to the governor of the bank.

The governor acted last week with one of the major tools available to the bank. He lowered interest rates. It is unprecedented. Over the last almost five years, there have been more than 30 opportunities for the Bank of Canada to do this, and it was just last week that the governor chose to act, to move more money into the economy to stimulate growth because of the concern the bank had about Canada's future.

The finance minister yesterday was bragging that we may achieve as much as 2% growth this year, compared to more than 3% in the United States and almost 4% globally. Those guys are patting themselves on the back rather than acting. When it comes time to actually deliver the budget, the Conservatives have said that they are going to cross their fingers, hide under the covers, and hope that things just get better in a few months' time. They have said that maybe in April they will bring it. Maybe after April they will bring it, but do not worry; they have have plan B. After years and years of plan A, which was $50 billion in corporate tax cuts that have contributed to almost $600 billion in dead money in this economy, Canada has one of the lowest reinvestment rates in research and development and one of the lowest rates of job growth, and this does not seem to concern the Conservative government.

Solutions are required, and New Democrats are offering those solutions to the government and to Canadians. We are offering $15-a-day affordable child care for all Canadians, not the 15% the Conservatives are focused on at the top. We are offering a $15-an-hour minimum wage for federal workers. We recognize that since 1974, adjusted for real dollars, people at the lowest end earning minimum wage have received exactly a one penny raise in all of that time. Yet the Conservatives think they concern themselves with average Canadians. Hardly.

We have brought forward ideas on the small business hiring tax credit, which for a couple of years the Conservatives picked up and then cancelled, a hiring tax credit that was connected to a company actually creating a job.

We have connected the idea that when the government acts on the economy, it should focus on creating jobs, not simply focus on partisan activity and trying to buy votes just before an election.

The motion presented today is clear. It is acceptable. It is smart. It asks the government to bring forward an update, level with Canadians, show us the books, and then for heaven's sake, bring forward a budget that actually responds to the reality that Canadians and our economy face today.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—The Economy
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party would ultimately argue that it is a fundamental responsibility of the federal government to provide a sense of confidence in our economy. One of the tools by which it provides that is a federal budget brought in a timely fashion. This is something that has escaped this particular Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. It is something of critical importance on many different fronts.

Provinces are making up their budgets today and are very much reliant on some of those national figures that would be incorporated into the federal budget. I wonder if the NDP critic for finance might want to provide some comment on the need for a national budget, which has an impact on other budgets in Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—The Economy
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NDP

Nathan Cullen

New Democratic Party

Mr. Nathan Cullen

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for his comments. First, with the Conservatives, who pride themselves in being somewhat disciplined about the messaging, almost robot-like at times, there has been nothing but confusion not only with respect to this budget that is meant to come at some point in the spring—maybe toward the summer; we are not sure—but there has been utter chaos. One minister gets up saying they are going to bring in a budget that will likely bring in more cuts to services that Canadians need, like food inspection, rail inspection, and veterans affairs. We have seen that already. They are going to cut again. Then we have another minister saying no, not at all. We have another minister saying we have to spend our rainy day fund to make up for the wasteful promises they made. Then the next minister says no, not at all.

With respect to timing, we have seen the government download more than $36 billion in health care cuts to the provinces. It has just recently announced that disaster programs are going to be cut by hundreds of millions of dollars more to the provinces. Now Conservatives are saying, for their own political fortunes and their own political timing, that the provinces are just going to have to wait and guess what contributions may be coming from the federal government. These are provinces that are struggling to make ends meet, much like Canadian families.

The responsible thing, the right thing to do is react, act, and take some leadership when it comes to responding to our economy right now.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—The Economy
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CPC

Cathy McLeod

Conservative

Mrs. Cathy McLeod (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and for Western Economic Diversification, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the NDP, for the last four or five years, since I have been in the House, has consistently talked down the Canadian economy and the great work we have done in terms of seeing ourselves through a global recession and seeing the largest number of net new jobs.

We see New Democrats on the picket lines protesting against every resource project out there. Really, their plan is absolutely a plan that will not move Canadians forward. It is a plan that is anti-resource and anti-job and includes massive government spending.

I would like the opposition member to talk about the massive government programs they plan to bring in and where they intend to get the revenue for them when they are against every project and almost every job I have seen come forward.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—The Economy
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NDP

Nathan Cullen

New Democratic Party

Mr. Nathan Cullen

Mr. Speaker, it would be like a Canadian going to a doctor and getting a health check and the doctor saying, “You should cut down on fats a little bit, and we're worried about this” and the person saying, “Well, don't talk down my health”. This is the reality check that Conservatives need. They can choose to ignore it, like they did in the last global downturn in 2008. It was not that long ago. It is recent memory.

We are not anti resource development. We are anti stupid resource development. When it comes up that the Conservatives think they can bulldoze their way through Canadian communities doing whatever it is they want and gut environmental laws and run over the rights of first nations, that somehow that is a resource plan, well, that plan ends up in court.

Congratulations on the energy superpower that the Prime Minister promised Canadians in 2006. How is it going for him? It is an absolute unmitigated disaster. There are tensions with our largest trading partner, the United States, no pipeline is getting approved, and there is increasing public opposition to their plans, because there they go again with all their eggs in one basket. This is all they know.

When we ask for help for the manufacturing sector, where are the Conservatives? With the value added sector, where are the Conservatives? They are nowhere. This motion is asking for an action plan from the government, finally, not the billion dollars the Conservatives spent on self-promoting ads, but a real action plan that will help Canadians get back to work.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—The Economy
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NDP

Raymond Côté

New Democratic Party

Mr. Raymond Côté (Beauport—Limoilou, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley for sharing his precious speaking time with me because I am sure he could have made good use of his 20 minutes to touch on other subjects. There is so much to say about our motion.

My colleague read the motion, so I will not reread it. However, I will begin my speech by saying that the Conservative government has been setting Canadians up for some hard times for quite a while now. I am not just saying that. That statement is based on well-established, well-documented facts. I can point to a source that I hope my Conservative colleagues will not dispute: the Bank of Canada's “Monetary Policy Report”, which was released a few days ago. This is the January 2015 report.

I am going to focus on issues that directly affect the middle class, specifically, labour market issues. In this report the Bank of Canada indicates that the labour market index has been held back by other developments, such as long-term unemployment, which is still close to its post-crisis peak. Not pre-crisis; post-crisis. The situation has clearly not improved.

In addition, the number of hours worked remains low, and the proportion of involuntary part-time workers continues to be elevated. The government needs to face this distressing fact. It has nothing to do with the present circumstances, which are related to plummeting oil prices. This situation is the direct result of the current Conservative government's policies. It cannot hide from that fact. The Governor of the Bank of Canada wrote it right there in black and white.

To that I will add another very troubling bit of information. I think it is probably the most troubling part of all and what makes our debate today so urgent and important. The participation rate is low relative to what would be suggested by purely demographic forces. The report indicates that the participation rate of prime-age workers, those aged 25-54, fell substantially in 2014, suggesting that at least some of the decrease in labour force attachment is unrelated to demographic forces. It is therefore not related to the normal changes we might expect in the labour market or to the changes in Canadian demographics. This is the result of the conditions created by the measures adopted by the Conservative government. The Conservative government is to blame for the current state of affairs, for putting us on the brink, perhaps not of a perfect storm, but of a very worrisome turbulent situation where Canadians, families and the middle class will pay a high price in various parts of the country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—The Economy
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?

Mr. Preston

That is false.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—The Economy
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NDP

Raymond Côté

New Democratic Party

Mr. Raymond Côté

Mr. Speaker, I hear my colleague saying that is false. He is therefore saying that the findings of the Bank of Canada's “Monetary Policy Report” are false. I would ask him to read that report and then tell me the facts are false. I am not making this up. I am just quoting the Bank of Canada report.

The job market has not been this unstable since the end of the economic crisis. I would describe it as a sink-or-swim job market, which is really too bad for a country as wealthy as ours.

Canada is well positioned with its natural resources, its human resources, its expertise, and its extraordinary and renowned industries with a number of a leading-edge sectors. There is also the tourism industry, which made Canada a leader. That leadership has been lost because we are in the middle of the pack with truly dismal tourism growth rates. Despite all these assets, we have been falling behind for years now.

Now the context has changed drastically, since there has been a massive drop in oil prices. Indeed, the price per barrel on global markets has dropped by 50%, and in just a few months' time, which is really brutal. There is no other way to describe it. I do not think anyone in this House would challenge me on that.

With that in mind, it is clear that the government has basically abandoned the middle class, and we are going to have to change course completely. This change in course should come from the Government of Canada, which is in the best position to do it, as it has the best tools to fix the situation and ensure that the middle class can reclaim its rightful place. This means getting back to real prosperity, the long-term security it no longer has because of the precarious nature of the labour market, and to conditions that allow middle-class Canadians to hope for the same for their children, since this is no longer a sure thing.

Over the holiday break, many of my colleagues probably had an opportunity not only to take a few days or weeks of vacation, but also to talk to people who are still very worried for their children. They worry about what will happen to them, even when their children are getting an advanced education. The labour market is not very strong; in fact, it can no longer really accommodate most young people after they finish their studies.

Furthermore, the monetary policy report was very clear on that. The situation did improve somewhat for young people, but only a little. We are lagging so far behind that we cannot actually talk about good opportunities for young people entering the workforce. These observations apply to the situation right now, which is already distressing, so what are we passing on to future generations?

Right now, the House has the wonderful opportunity to discuss and debate the legacy that we are going to build and pass on to future generations. However, no such legacy exists. The only legacy that we are passing on is a legacy of liabilities or a social debt on the labour market that is going to haunt us long after the budget is balanced. Even a balanced budget is rather unlikely given that the ministers have made contradictory statements on the issue and we have no idea whether the budget will be balanced within the timeframe that the government set for itself. The government is seeking to balance the budget, but we do not know whether it will do so in these conditions, which are even more terrible than what we have been living through over the past 10 years.

The reality—and this is why the NDP is positioning itself to become the next Government of Canada—is that we already need to be sending strong signals in order to improve the situation and build this legacy. As my esteemed colleague said, we can do this by implementing rather simple, but strong and practical, measures, such as a $15 minimum wage. Obviously, this will be implemented gradually so as to not disrupt the market, but we will set an ambitious, yet realistic, timeline.

Clearly, setting up $15-a-day child care is important. Canadian families are struggling to make ends meet with low incomes and part-time jobs, and yet they still have to pay astronomical child care costs, which vary across the country from hundreds of dollars to even a thousand dollars a month. That is truly ridiculous. It is absolutely unacceptable, and the government is not doing anything to stop it.

However, the most serious problem—and likely the most important point in the debate about our economic future—is that the Bank of Canada has taken action to address the upheaval we are experiencing but has been left to fight alone because the government has not given any indication that it is prepared to support the Bank of Canada's plan. That is completely unacceptable because the Bank of Canada should not have to bear the burden of trying to remedy the situation. On the contrary, we need direct action from the government in order to weather this storm while ensuring that people have better living conditions and get through this difficult situation under reasonable conditions.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—The Economy
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CPC

Cathy McLeod

Conservative

Mrs. Cathy McLeod (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and for Western Economic Diversification, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest, but again the NDP is not reflecting on the facts. The facts are that we have the best job-creation record in the G7 and that in spite of the challenges of oil prices, our growth rate is predicted to be in the 2% of GDP range, so we will continue to be on a positive track. We have a low-tax plan that will continue to support businesses and encourage growth in all sectors of our economy. In my riding, it looks as though the low dollar will have a positive impact on the tourism industry. Therefore, I think we have to recognize that there is some balance here and that we are on the right track.

What I hear from New Democrats are plans for a $15 minimum wage and universal child care that will maybe only help 10% of the population. I hear a lot of plans in which they intend to take money out of the pockets of Canadians, but I have not heard anything that would actually support growth in Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—The Economy
Permalink
NDP

Raymond Côté

New Democratic Party

Mr. Raymond Côté

Mr. Speaker, I have the impression that my esteemed colleague missed part of my speech. My presentation was about the labour market. I did not give my own estimates or assessments, but the facts presented by the Bank of Canada.

I invite my colleague to consult the Bank of Canada's January 2015 Monetary Policy Report, where she will find the quotes and data pertaining to the precarious labour market that I described. It is not even a question of opinion. She can refuse to accept reality if she so wishes and if those are the instructions from the PMO. However, the reality has been laid out by the Governor of the Bank of Canada. That is not debatable.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—The Economy
Permalink

January 27, 2015