June 8, 2015

NDP

Irene Mathyssen

New Democratic Party

Ms. Irene Mathyssen

They stole them.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

The member likes to heckle. She thinks the NDP is on the high road on this issue, Mr. Speaker. If I have time, I will comment on that point later.

However, I want to emphasize that the employment insurance program is of great value to all Canadians, whether they are unemployed or employed. Even if they are employed, they never know if they will find themselves in a situation where they might require employment insurance. It is a wonderful safety net that we need to support.

Whether it was Paul Martin, my current leader, or other members, we have talked about looking at the employment insurance program and improving the social condition of others, such as the issues of maternity or compassionate care for parents. These are the types of things we should be exploring because it supports workers and families, and it the right to do. This will be a high priority for a Liberal government. We understand the benefits of approaching issues of this nature with an open and progressive mind, and in making a difference and supporting workers. That is really important.

When we look at youth unemployment in particular, we have had some very serious problems. The government says that it has created 1.2 million jobs. It has been saying that for the last year. The reality is that in the last couple of years, the government has failed to meet the needs of Canadians when it comes to jobs. Far too many of the jobs it has created have not been good, strong, valuable jobs, those jobs which we have lost in the last decade. The manufacturing industry alone has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs since the government took office. In the history of Canada, there has never been a government as worse as the Conservative government when it comes to manufacturing jobs.

The government can say that it has created 1.2 million, but look at what has happened in the last couple of years. It has fallen short and some of the individuals who have been hit the hardest are our youth. Look at what the government is doing with the summer employment program. It has no problems spending vast amounts of public tax dollars on self-promotional partisan ads, totalling $750 million, of which a good portion of that went to pat itself on the back. However, at the same time, it is dissing our young people and other individuals who are looking for training and for additional opportunities so they can get engaged in Canada's workforce.

My advice for the government is to recognize the value of Canada's middle class. If it recognizes that, it will start investing in it. By investing in the middle class, it is going to be investing in Canada. By investing in Canada, we all win.

I will reserve my comments on infrastructure for another time.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
CPC

Brad Butt

Conservative

Mr. Brad Butt (Mississauga—Streetsville, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, that was a wonderful speech of revisionist Liberal history as to what has really taken place, coming from a party that had the biggest raid on the EI fund we have seen in a generation. The Liberals talk about their balanced budgets during the Chrétien-Martin years. That was because they slashed transfer payments to the provinces, literally starving the provinces through the Canada health and social transfer reductions that they made. That is how they balanced their budgets.

That is not the way this government has done it. We have increased our transfers to the provinces in a considerable way.

One of the interesting comments the member made was with respect to the Liberal proposal for an EI holiday for new hires. That member was not paying attention for the first three years because that was in our first three budgets. We delivered on that. There was an EI hiring reduction for new hires. The Liberals voted against it.

My question to the hon. member for Winnipeg North is quite simple. He talked about payroll taxes. How is it that he believes a government, under the current Liberal leader, which has offered a huge increase in CPP premiums to pay for an expanded mandatory CPP process, would allow for small businesses to hire more people, when at $60,000 of pay for an individual, they would be taxed an additional $1,000 and their employer would be taxed an additional $1,000?

I think there is a lot of hypocrisy over on that side.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

Mr. Speaker, the member wants to talk about pensions. I have indicated this before. The reality is that the Prime Minister and the current Conservative government do not support the Canada pension program. The Prime Minister would like to see CPP disappear completely. He does not believe it is a part of the federal government's responsibility. We know this because the Prime Minister advocated this in his earlier days. Then, we take a look at the OAS program where it is increasing the age from 65 to 67.

We know that the government does not believe in pension programs. That is fine. It can differ itself from the Liberal Party of Canada because we do believe in our safety nets, in all three of our social pension programs. As for the transfers, when the Conservatives stand up and glow about the health transfers being a record high today, the person they should be thanking is not the current government; it was Paul Martin and the health care accord that was signed in 2004. That has allowed the provinces and Canada to have the highest amount of health care transfers that they have ever had.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pierre-Luc Dusseault (Sherbrooke, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I always find it rather funny to see the Liberals and Conservatives look back on each others' measures and debate which of the two parties that have governed Canada is the least objectionable and which did the worst things. It is always fun to see them debate this.

I would like to know whether my colleague agrees with the practice used by various Conservative and Liberal governments of taking the EI surplus and using it to balance their budgets. What does the Liberal member for Winnipeg North think about that practice?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

Mr. Speaker, there are two things. First, the member could read my comments and he would get a better sense of what I was referring to with respect to the changes that ultimately led to a reduction of premium rates during the nineties. It would be interesting to hear what the New Democrats have to say with respect to that premium rate. I look forward to that.

Second, the member made reference that he always finds it interesting in terms of drawing the comparisons. I can tell the member, being an MLA from Manitoba, that there are many injured workers in the province of Manitoba who would say that the NDP government of Manitoba has saved dollars from the workers' compensation program on the backs of injured workers. Therefore, as much as he might have enjoyed the exchange between the Liberals and the Conservatives—and we listened to many speeches today from his New Democratic colleagues taking shots at the Liberals and the Conservatives—they need at times to get off their high horse and recognize that there is room for improvement, and not only across the way. All political entities have a responsible role for constantly looking at ways that we can improve the system.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6:30 p.m. and this being the final supply day in the period ending June 23, 2015, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the opposition motion.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Yea.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

I have the permission of the member for Edmonton Centre to say that the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(18), the division stands deferred until later this day.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance Premiums
Permalink
CPC

Tony Clement

Conservative

Hon. Tony Clement (President of the Treasury Board, CPC)

moved:

That vote 1 in the amount of $57,031,359 under the Senate program expenditures in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016 be concurred in.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   MAIN ESTIMATES 2015-16
Sub-subtopic:   Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Permalink
CPC

Paul Calandra

Conservative

Mr. Paul Calandra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the motion that is before us today. The motion obviously speaks to the motion brought forward, but it also speaks to the overall budgetary situation that the government finds itself in. I would be remiss if I did not spend at least a moment before getting to the main topic of discussion to highlight the extraordinary work of the President of the Treasury Board, and, of course, the Minister of Finance over the last number of years to bring forward Canada's economic action plan, balanced in a way that has left Canada as one of the strongest nations in terms of our competitors. We have a balanced budget. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is one that is envied around the world. We are—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   MAIN ESTIMATES 2015-16
Sub-subtopic:   Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Permalink
NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre is rising on a point of order.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   MAIN ESTIMATES 2015-16
Sub-subtopic:   Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Permalink
NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the late point of this session of Parliament, I want to make sure that we use the time we have in the House of Commons correctly. The issue we are dealing with now is a $57 million vote for the Senate of Canada, vote 1 in the main estimates. I am worried that the parliamentary secretary is going off on a tangent about the merits of the economic action plan and not speaking to this important, timely, topical issue of whether or not it is the will of Parliament to send another $57 million to the Senate of Canada for it to use or misuse as it wishes.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   MAIN ESTIMATES 2015-16
Sub-subtopic:   Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Permalink
NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

I am afraid the parliamentary secretary is too soon into his speech for me to determine whether it is going to be relevant to the issue before the House. The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre obviously has a valid point that the debate has to be relevant. I will give the floor back to the parliamentary secretary, but again caution him that relevancy is obviously always an issue.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   MAIN ESTIMATES 2015-16
Sub-subtopic:   Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Permalink
CPC

Paul Calandra

Conservative

Mr. Paul Calandra

Mr. Speaker, as I said at the outset of my speech, I want to take a moment to highlight some of the work. This is a budgetary issue as well, and we would not be able to debate the ability of the Government of Canada to fund issues if we did not have a good President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Finance. They put the Government of Canada on the path toward long-term balanced budgets and economic stability. I would be remiss if I did not talk about that.

Specifically, we are talking about the motion brought forward by the member for Winnipeg Centre with respect to the Senate of Canada. A lot of focus has been put on the Senate of Canada over the last number of years, and it goes without saying that the Senate is a constitutionally mandated part of our parliamentary democracy. Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that both chambers have the resources they need to constitutionally fulfill their mandates. This motion would provide the other chamber with the resources it needs to continue on in some of the very important work that the Senate does.

We have been talking a lot about the Senate and Senate reform. It is obviously very important for us to talk a bit about what we have seen in the other chamber over the last while. A couple of years ago, a potential abuse of taxpayers' dollars was identified. That is something that we on this side of the House find absolutely appalling. Members will recall that when this first came out, I was often in the House answering questions regarding what we were seeing about Senate expenses. On this side of the House, we were focused on ensuring that the individuals who were highlighted were being held accountable for their actions. That is something that has been the focus of our government since we took office in 2006.

We were all somewhat surprised about the rules regarding how the individual senators handled their expenditures. The rules there were dramatically different from the rules that we follow in this chamber, and a number of us were surprised by that. There was an opportunity for the Senate to come to an understanding that the systems it had in place were not acceptable to Canadians. They were certainly not acceptable to members of Parliament, who have the opportunity to vote on expenditures like we are doing tonight. We all expected better and something different from them.

That is why the Senate made some very important changes to the structure of its finances. They are changes that we have supported. At the same time, it was the Senate that then invited the Auditor General to review all of the senators' expenses. That was a very important move. As I just said, we had very different circumstances in the House of Commons for handling our expenses. A lot of us could not rationalize how expenses were done here in comparison to how they were done there. It was important not only for members of the House of Commons who have the opportunity to approve their budgets, but, more importantly, for Canadians to understand what was happening and how, and to ensure that this had never happened before.

We heard from Canadians that they wanted the maximum light shone on how the Senate was undertaking the payment of expenses.

I want to be clear on this next point, because I have heard about it from some individuals. This was not and is not an issue with respect to the public service workers who handle expense claims. I want to be very clear on that. Those who are in the public service work very hard and do a professional job. Their job was to undertake the repayment of senators' expenses based on the rules that the Senate had brought in place. These are rules that had been in place for many years, through previous Liberal administrations. They were tightened up, but not to the satisfaction, at least of members on this side of the House, or, more importantly, to the satisfaction of Canadians. We see that change has happened.

Also, we have an Auditor General's report which was recently completed. That will be tabled in the Senate tomorrow. Obviously, we anxiously await the results of the audit.

I think it is relevant to the discussion here today that we have heard from a lot of Canadians with respect to possible changes to the Senate, how we could reform the Senate to better reflect our current democracy.

We have brought forward a number of recommendations to change the Senate, to make it an elected Senate, to make it accountable, and to place term limits on senators. We brought those changes forward. We sent it through to the Supreme Court of Canada, because we want to ensure that we could do what we were proposing. The Supreme Court of Canada has come back to us and said that the only way we could change this institution, the only way we could change the Senate was if we received the unanimous consent of all the provinces and territories.

What we have now is that the Council of the Federation, which comprises the provinces and the territories, have it within their mandate to look at the reforms that we have put forward and to come back to us suggesting whether these are reforms the provinces would like to undertake with us so that we could modernize the Senate. Failing that, we do not in the short term believe that Canadians have an appetite to enter into long, protracted constitutional negotiations with respect to reforming the Senate. We believe that Canadians want us to continue to focus on jobs and economic growth.

We know that the NDP have put forward a proposal with respect to the abolition of the Senate. While that might be a good sounding point, of course it would require a constitutional amendment, which again, as I said, would require the approval of all of the provinces. As we know, that just is not there right now.

Many of the provinces have suggested that they would want to enter into constitutional negotiations to address other issues that they have with respect to the Canadian Constitution, which would plunge Canada back into something that we saw back with the Charlottetown and Meech Lake accords. While there is global economic fragility, that is not something this government wants to entertain.

We have reform proposals. We have them on the table, the proposals that would have it elected, that would have term limits. Now it is up the Council of the Federation to come forward and address those proposals that we have on the table.

We also know that the Liberals have made some proposals with respect to changing the Senate. Their proposals would see an unelected, unaccountable Senate be appointed by an unelected, unaccountable body, which is completely not something that Canadians want.

We also know that the Liberals have come forward and said that the Senate Liberals, even though they call themselves Liberals, are not members of the Liberal Party. Well, I think they do a disservice to themselves and I think they do a disservice to Canadians when they suggest that just by changing the name from Liberals to Senate Liberals they no longer belong to the Liberal Party, when they campaign for the Liberals, when they fundraise for the Liberals, when they attend Liberal conventions, and when they call themselves Liberals. I think they are trying to fool Canadians into thinking that they are not Liberals. They are Liberals. I think that does a disservice to Canadians.

This is not what Canadians want. Canadians want these people to be accountable for the decisions that they make. That is something that we on this side of the House have been fighting for right from the very beginning.

There can absolutely be no doubt that the deliberate misuse of taxpayers' dollars is not something that any Canadian will stand for. As I have said on a number of occasions in this House, I look back to my riding of Oak Ridges—Markham, and people in my community and in communities across this country work very hard.

In my riding people are up early in the morning. They hop on the GO train and go to work. Farmers are up at the crack of dawn working their fields. They work hard for the amount of money they get to invest in their families and for that, they send money to governments, federal, provincial and municipal, and they expect that those dollars will be treated fairly and with respect. When that does not happen, when there is a deliberate attempt to misuse those dollars, Canadians have every right to be angry and they have every right to expect that their elected officials at every level will do better.

That is what we are insisting on and continue to insist on with the Senate. However, make no mistake. Senators are an important part of our system right now. We have a bicameral system. It is in the Constitution. We have a responsibility as parliamentarians to ensure that senators continue to do the work they have before them.

I will come back to how taxpayers view expenditures. As I said, Canadians work very hard. They want to be able to provide for their families. They want to be able to save some money for their futures, for their children's futures, to invest in their businesses. They expect a very high standard from us. We have put in place on this side of the House and of course now on the Senate very strict rules on how taxpayers' dollars should be used. When that trust is broken with Canadians, the very least Canadians can expect is that the funds be returned and in the instances when taxpayers' dollars are misused deliberately, that the people who do it are held accountable.

That is what we are seeing right now in the Senate. There will be a report presented tomorrow. If the reports are to be believed, some senators will be investigated by the RCMP and other senators will be asked to repay money. Here is where we have a bit of a dilemma. It is when elected officials think that they are above the law or that somehow what Canadians expect of other politicians is not what is expected of them.

When I look at the NDP right now, I find it very difficult to understand how we can be debating this motion tonight and not talk about the fact that it is the NDP that owes millions of dollars to the Canadian taxpayer. That is very important. If reports are to be believed, the Auditor General has come forward with some $900,000 worth of payments, which need, in one way or another, to be accounted for and paid back to the taxpayer of Canada. We know that right now the NDP owes $2.7 million to the very same taxpayers. Where did the $2.7 million come from? They came from resources that are provided by taxpayers, that come—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   MAIN ESTIMATES 2015-16
Sub-subtopic:   Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Permalink
NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I have cut the hon. parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister a lot of slack. I know he is running out of gas and running out of ideas. I think he got the short straw on who would try to defend the indefensible tonight, but he is straying wildly off the subject matter, which is vote 1 in the main estimates and whether the House of Commons should approve the appropriation of $57 million to send over to the Senate for its members to spend as they please.

He is wildly off topic. We have tried to be tolerant because I kind of feel sorry for the guy. He always gets stuck with this crappy job of trying to defend the indefensible, but he is so far off topic that he is doing a disservice to the debate.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   MAIN ESTIMATES 2015-16
Sub-subtopic:   Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Permalink

June 8, 2015