June 15, 2015


The House resumed from May 28 consideration of the motion.


CPC

LaVar Payne

Conservative

Mr. LaVar Payne (Medicine Hat, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise today in support of my colleague, the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain, and his motion that we are debating today.

I think as Canadians we are really very lucky. We have freedom of expression enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and nobody can take that away from each individual Canadian. It grants us the right to speak our mind, the right to discuss issues that we believe are important not only to our constituents, but to Canadians right across this vast, beautiful land we call home.

I believe it is our duty as federal legislators, as federal representatives here in the House of Commons of the Parliament of Canada, to speak out and to speak according to our conscience. This is especially pressing on abortion and end-of-life issues. I find it concerning and highly irritating when I hear somebody suggest that we cannot as federal legislators discuss an issue that is in the federal jurisdiction as it is not politically correct, or that it will offend some segments of society.

Well, it will be no surprise to anybody that I have been a defender of the rights of the unborn and I believe that we must be able to debate this issue freely. I supported previous motions to that effect, and will support any future motions that come before this House. I constantly receive correspondence and phone calls from constituents who are firmly in favour of defending the right to life, and as it is my duty as their federal representative here to represent their interests in Parliament, I am reinforced in my belief that this is the right thing to do.

Another issue that has dominated the national spotlight is that of end-of-life matters. The Supreme Court recently struck down parts of legislation which made assisted suicide illegal in Canada. I know that our government is carefully crafting a legislative response to this decision, and I pray that the drafters will take into consideration the value of human life when they are making the decisions on what this legislation will look like. Because the end-of-life issue is so pertinent right now, my words will focus mostly on this.

To start, I want to say that I receive many comments from constituents, whether they be spoken, by email or regular mail, by phone or by fax. Most of them urge us to choose a strong, well thought out palliative end-of-life care strategy over the legalization of assisted suicide matters. I support this view, and I believe that every life must be protected.

I think we in this country have one of the best medical care systems in the world. It has its problems, but overall we are very blessed to have the best doctors and some of the best medical science out there available for our use. I believe that we can develop a palliative care regime that cares for our citizens until the end of their natural lives.

I believe that when it comes to matters of conscience such as these, it is critical that the democratically elected members of this House be allowed to vote according to their beliefs and to vote on how the majority of their constituents would have them vote. I realize that support for some issues can be different from community to community, province to province, and in our case, electoral district to electoral district.

It is very unfortunate that certain political parties represented in this House today have basically eliminated the ability of their members to decide how they wish to vote based on conscience issues. When it comes to matters of conscience, in an open, transparent, and democratic society such as ours, it is unthinkable that somebody would tell another that on deeply personal moral issues, one has to vote the way the party leadership tells members to vote, or else. Or else could be suspending said person from the caucus, or simply putting them in the penalty box so to speak.

How can we as legislators in a modern democracy believe that this is somehow all right, that this is the way of doing business? How can we, in our quest to cater to what we think is prevailing public opinion, seek to silence democratically elected members of this place on the very important moral issues of conscience? I find this to be absurd.

An opposition member recently said that they consider all votes to be matters of conscience. As I understand it, that is what the member said. Well, I wish that would be reflected when it came time to vote. These votes would not be whipped and these people would not be basically ordered how to vote by their party leadership. We need to all take a collective breath and consider exactly what we will no doubt have to consider sometime in the near future.

End-of-life issues are a very emotional subject matter and tend to evoke strong emotions. I understand this and I am willing to bet there are members from every party here today who have reservations about legalizing physician-assisted suicide.

This motion would encourage that the parties represented here today allow their members to vote freely according to their personal beliefs, according to what their conscience is telling them.

It is like the old Pinocchio jingle, “always let your conscience be your guide”. That is kind of a gentle way of urging my colleagues here today to carefully consider the motion that is in front of them.

I know that we will have some emotional debates here regarding other major issues of conscience.

Motion No. 312 by the member for Kitchener Centre supported the establishment of a parliamentary committee to study when life begins. I was incredibly proud to stand up and support that motion.

However, I am left asking myself how my constituents would want me to vote. Some upcoming questions that we will have to deal with in this place will be questions of conscience. They will also be relevant to what my constituents would have me do as their chosen voice in this place. I think I have always done my best to vote with their best intentions at heart.

Motion No. 312 and others that may have come before the House in the last several Parliaments seek to deal with a very delicate issue. Many people may not realize that there are no laws regulating the right to an abortion in Canada either. Through his motion, the member for Kitchener Centre was essentially trying to get us to start discussing some sort of direction that we as federal legislators should take on this important issue.

It is matters such as the one that Motion No. 312 was trying to deal with that the motion we are discussing today would cover.

Let us face reality here. Simply having no law is something I find unfortunate in a modern democracy. This is something of an issue that I and many of my colleagues here today probably have a problem with. Regardless of where one stands on end-of-life issues, I am sure everyone in the House would agree that we absolutely must have a written law on the books that would regulate it one way or another. Are we to expect that we should simply have no laws covering end-of-life issues? By going down that path we would be opening up a major can of worms, so to speak.

I do not believe that pretending there is no issue here is the right course of action. We cannot allow ourselves to get into the same situation, and that is why the government is working on the next steps. Doing nothing is not an option. It is our responsibility as federal legislators to craft laws that will protect vulnerable people in our society. We lose a certain amount of institutional credibility by simply turning a blind eye to these very important issues of conscience.

On the Carter case which recently struck down this country's law on assisted suicide, we must tread very lightly as federal legislators. My personal view I have already mentioned, but I believe that this is one of the great moral issues of conscience that our generation is dealing with. The value of human life must not be put in jeopardy by emotional quick decisions. It is important that we take a thoughtful and careful look at how we as a society are going to deal with these important matters. That is why it is so critical to look at the facts and ensure that we are not rushing into any decisions.

Doing nothing is simply not acceptable. Again, our responsibility as federal legislators is to legislate when it comes to the issues affecting the lives of human beings. We are truly blessed with a very important mandate. It is our responsibility to keep Canadians safe from harm. We must also do our utmost to protect the unborn as well as those who are coming to the end of their natural lives. Let us choose to support and comfort those who are nearing the end with everything in our power. Let us look at making changes and improving on our palliative care models so that they are always the absolute best and the most compassionate possible.

We can work together to deliver this with other levels of government and with stakeholder groups. Let us work together to recognize that the value of life is greater than any of our emotional choices as we humans are often compelled to make. This is a critical issue for our attention. I wholeheartedly support this motion, which speaks to the freedom we elected members should have when voting on issues of conscience. I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of the motion.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
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CPC

Dave Van Kesteren

Conservative

Mr. Dave Van Kesteren (Chatham-Kent—Essex, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on private member's Motion No. 590, presented by the member for Souris—Moose Mountain. The motion deals with the most fundamental means of expression for an individual member of Parliament, the choice of how to vote on a particular issue. The motion reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, all Members of Parliament should be allowed to vote freely on all matters of conscience.

The motion speaks to the important representational role that individual members of Parliament play in this institution. Before explaining how it does so, I would first like to turn to examining the motion itself and what it calls on members of this place to support.

If we break down the motion, it actually deals with two important concepts. First is the concept of free votes. While I think it is obvious to us all what the meaning of a free vote is, it is interesting to note how little information there is available to explain the concept and what the practice is with regard to free votes.

In the House of Commons' Glossary of Parliamentary Procedure, a free vote is defined as:

Non-procedural term, meaning a vote during which party discipline is not imposed on individual Members. Votes on Private Members' Business are usually conducted as free votes.

The glossary contrasts the concept of a free vote with that of a party vote. A party vote is defined as:

A division on a question during which Members follow the instructions of their respective Whips so as to reflect the official positions of their parties.

Notably, the Standing Orders do not define or provide any guidelines regarding a free vote in the House of Commons.

The other concept that is related to this motion in addition to the concept of the free vote is what constitutes a matter of conscience. In the context of this motion, it is important to have some grasp of what a matter of conscience is in order to provide some delineation of what types of scenarios might call for a free vote. Again, there is not a definition of what a matter of conscience is in the motion itself or in the Standing Orders. We do know that a free vote is often said to be synonymous with a conscience vote, usually referring to issues which tend to be more contentious and of a personal nature for an individual member. In the past, this has included, depending on the party, matters such as same-sex marriage and capital punishment. These are matters for which individual members often have strong personal convictions. Importantly, they are also issues that tend to raise strong feelings among constituents, who are more likely to pay attention to how their elected member of Parliament represents the prevailing sentiments in the riding in the House of Commons.

To sum up, neither of these two core concepts to Motion No. 590 are strictly defined anywhere. However, clearly these are votes where party discipline is relaxed and members may vote according to their own convictions in their individual roles as elected representatives.

In practice, a decision on whether or not to hold a free vote is decided by each party on a case-by-case basis. Party whips provide instructions to individual members regarding the party's position and whether or not party discipline is to be applied to a particular vote.

While each party has its own criteria for determining whether or not a free vote will occur, suffice to say that there are cases where all parties will want to ensure that members vote as a bloc on certain issues. In our system of responsible government, a decision on whether to enforce party discipline on a vote takes on particular importance in relation to the confidence convention, where a loss of confidence can lead to the dissolution of Parliament.

In cases where confidence is not an issue, should a government be defeated on a vote, it does not amount to an expression of non-confidence in the government. That is why the glossary cited above observes that free votes are mostly seen for private members' business where confidence is generally not an issue.

However, even where it is not a matter of confidence per se, matters of fundamental importance to a party may also require party discipline to be applied in a given case. These are matters that relate to fundamental positions that the party has taken on certain issues where the party's position is seen to be irrevocable and important to achieving the party's policy and legislative objectives. Therefore, there are good reasons why a party should apply party discipline for certain votes in the House of Commons.

First, it can assist and maintain the balance of responsibility and accountability in the House. Consistent with the principles of responsible government, the government should be held accountable for its decisions.

Second, it can avoid blurring the lines between government and opposition on matters of fundamental importance to a party, thereby making it more difficult for the electorate to hold a party to account.

Third, it can assist in respecting democratic outcomes by ensuring that the electoral platform Canadians have voted for is effectively implemented by the party that was chosen to form government.

Of course, changing the key supports of party discipline is certainly not what is being proposed by Motion No. 590. The fact that free votes cannot apply in all cases in no way diminishes the importance and the role that they can play in our parliamentary system. Free votes are an important recognition of the role that members of Parliament play in representing their constituents. One of the key roles of members of Parliament is the link that they provide between their constituents and Parliament, both through representing the constituency in Parliament and also in keeping their constituents informed about government policies and legislation.

Most members are affiliated with a particular party when they are elected, which they have chosen to join because they agree with the party's fundamental policies and objectives. As a result, members tend to support their party's position the majority of the time. That is one of the important underpinnings of our electoral system which uses political parties to provide distinct options to Canadians, and it is a key element in contributing to the effectiveness of our parliamentary process. However, that does not diminish the representative role of members, and exercising their right to vote is a key feature of that role.

I mentioned earlier that there are some natural tensions that arise for individual members as these three features of our parliamentary system interact with each other. On the one hand, members have their constituents to answer to, and their constituents may be particularly vigilant when it comes to some of the more contentious issues that are sometimes addressed in Parliament. There is a certain amount of pressure on a member to vote in a fashion that reflects their community's wishes or interests. At the same time, members often have their own personal convictions on certain issues.

On the other hand, members also belong to a party that represents particular ideals which are fundamental to the party's position on the national interest. On matters of conscience, the individual member must reconcile the different roles that he or she plays as a key actor in our parliamentary system. Motion No. 590 recognizes the balance that empowers members of Parliament: free votes for members on matters of conscience.

Before concluding, I would like to note how appropriate it is that Motion No. 590 has brought this issue to the House as a matter of private members' business. Our system for private members' business provides an important opportunity for individual members to bring forward legislation or motions, as is the case with the motion before us today. Private members' business is more likely than ordinary legislation to be the subject of a free vote. It is an important expression of an individual member's role in Parliament, and I commend the member for Souris—Moose Mountain for moving the motion.

In conclusion, our government has shown a commitment to providing Canadians with the principled and accountable government that the country deserves. We continue to be open to initiatives that strengthen the role of parliamentarians and improve parliamentary procedures. It is important that we acknowledge all of the important roles that members of Parliament perform in our parliamentary system, including the representational role played by individual members of Parliament in the House of Commons.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

Resuming debate with his five minute right of reply, the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
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CPC

Ed Komarnicki

Conservative

Mr. Ed Komarnicki (Souris—Moose Mountain, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Medicine Hat for his strong personal views, and also the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex, who delicately diced and danced around what is and is not a matter of conscience.

In the previous hour of debate, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent ended her speech by saying that she believed her NDP colleagues should support the motion. I appreciate that, but she trivializes the debate by saying that in the end, all of us are already free.

She said that the motion could just as easily read, “That in the opinion of the House, all members of Parliament should be allowed to vote freely on all matters of beauty”. What nonsense. I would like to see how her and her colleagues would view a free vote on matters that are truly matters of conscience, namely matters relating to life, more particularly to the termination of life at any time from the point of conception to the point of natural death. She said, “What therefore is the legal definition of a matter of conscience?” She said, “The problem is the abstract notion of conscience”.

Let me address that. Conscience, as a concept, is referred to in the recent Carter case, and intervenors were talking about that. On page 132, the court stated:

In our view, nothing in the declaration of invalidity which we propose to issue would compel physicians to provide assistance in dying. [...] However, we note—as did Beetz J. in addressing the topic of physician participation in abortion in R. v. Morgentaler—that a physician's decision to participate in assisted dying is a matter of conscience and, in some case, of religious belief.... In making this observation, we do not wish to pre-empt the legislative and regulatory response to this judgment. Rather, we underline that the Charter rights of patients and physicians will need to be reconciled.

That is precisely the point when it comes to matters of the charter. Charter rights have to be balanced and reconciled. No one right is absolute.

In the Morgentaler case, the court made reference that the freedom of conscience is guaranteed in section 2 of the charter. Wilson B., on page 165, stated:

It should [also] be noted, however, that an emphasis on individual conscience and individual judgment [also] lies at the heart of our democratic political tradition. The ability of each citizen to make free and informed decisions is the absolute prerequisite for the legitimacy, acceptability, and efficacy of our system of self-government.

This should be even more so in Parliament where members vote on matters of conscience. On page 176, she refers to a previous Supreme Court case and the comments of Justice Dickson, where he stated:

Attempts to compel belief or practice denied the reality of individual conscience and dishonoured the God that had planted it in His creatures. It is from these antecedents that the concepts of freedoms of religion and freedom of conscience became associated, to form, as they do in s. 2(a) of our Charter, the single integrated concept of “freedom of conscience and religion”.

Dickson went on to say:

What unites enunciated freedoms in the American First Amendment, s. 2(a) of the Charter and in the provision of other human rights documents in which they are associated is the notion of the centrality of individual conscience and the inappropriateness of governmental intervention to compel or to constrain its manifestation.

On page 177, he says:

The values that underline our political and philosophic traditions demand that every individual be free to hold and to manifest whatever beliefs and opinions his or her conscience dictates, provided inter alia only that such manifestations do not injure his or her neighbours or their parallel rights to hold and manifest beliefs and opinions of their own.

This right must not injure one's neighbour, which could include the unborn. That is precisely the point when it comes to matters of the charter. Charter rights have to be balanced and reconciled. No one right is absolute.

The members from Kings—Hants and Kingston and the Islands talked about all kinds of things except real matters of conscience. Why is that? Why have they not come to the defence of their Liberal leader, the member for Papineau? Could it be because their leader's position is indefensible? In an open letter from seven former Liberal members of Parliament, they stated:

We, the undersigned [...] are concerned about your [recent] pronouncement that people who hold a particular view on a given moral issue, as a matter of conscience, cannot be Liberal candidates for the position of M.P. unless they agree to park their consciences at the entrance to the House of Commons and vote directly opposite to their fundamental beliefs, as directed by you.

This is clearly in reference to the Liberal leader's position that commonly referred to “pro-choice candidates” could only be nominated, or, if elected, would have to vote as the leader directed.

In my view, the actions of the Liberal leader, the member for Papineau, are indefensible. Either one believes in the charter or one does not. His edict violates the charter without the use of the notwithstanding clause and strikes at the heart of this motion, and indeed at the heart of the charter.

Can we imagine that the leader of the Liberal Party would sacrifice a right or protection of the charter to be able to enforce his personal views on a particular subject matter? How very wrong is that?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

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

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

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

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Yea.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Nay.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 17, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

The House stands suspended until 12 p.m.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:30 a.m.)

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Free Votes
Sub-subtopic:   Suspension of Sitting
Permalink

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)


CPC

Kevin Sorenson

Conservative

Hon. Kevin Sorenson

moved that Bill C-59, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 21, 2015 and other measures, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back here again this week with the opportunity to speak to Bill C-59 after a busy weekend in the riding of Crowfoot, having been in Camrose and Stettler for their art walk, as well as the rodeo and parade, and a number of other events that were held throughout my riding. I know all of us are busy on weekends. A great way to start Monday is debating Bill C-59.

This morning I would like to outline some specific features of the bill that would support families, seniors and rural Canada, as I represent predominantly a rural riding.

Let me begin by reaffirming that under the bold leadership of our Prime Minister, our government's top priority has been creating jobs, and focusing on economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians. That is why our government brought forward a number of measures to do that, such as cut taxes for job-creating businesses, invested in research and development, expanded markets for Canadian businesses abroad, committed unprecedented support for job-creating infrastructure, and established the framework for responsible development of our natural resources, despite global economic fragility, geopolitical uncertainty with what was happening in Europe, Ukraine and the Middle East, and also volatile oil prices.

Make no mistake that our economic action plan is working. It is the plan that has steered Canada out of the great recession and created over 1.2 million net new jobs, overwhelmingly in the private sector, full-time and well-paying jobs. According to KPMG, total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G7 countries and 46% lower than our closest ally and trading partner, the United States. Bloomberg has ranked Canada the second best place in the world to do business.

However, this success does not just happen. It does not occur overnight. It requires tough decisions, sound judgment and a focus on priorities. Supporting small business has been one of those priorities. It is also a central element in the budget that we are debating here today, the economic action plan. the budget implementation act. We have delivered substantial ongoing tax savings to small businesses and their owners. This enables them to take those savings and reinvest in their businesses, which helps create more jobs for those businesses.

We already reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11% earlier, and in 2015 we propose to take it from 11% to 9% by 2019. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has strongly endorsed this measure and agrees with our plan. Many of the small businesses that benefit from our tax relief are from rural Canada.

Our government recognizes the important role that farmers play in our economy and communities. Canadian farmers have always been among the best producers, the best farmers in the entire world. For generations, they have fed Canadians around the globe, while providing jobs and opportunities across Canada. My grandfather moved to Canada in 1905-06 with the hope of homesteading, breaking the land and starting a family farm. That story has been told many times throughout the west and throughout Canada.

As someone who has owned and operated a farming business, I can say first-hand that to ensure these operations succeed, it demands hard work, focus and discipline. A farmer's budget does not simply balance itself. Our government firmly believes Canadian farmers should be strong and profitable, and able to capitalize on market opportunities. We believe Canadian farmers deserve support from their elected officials, not the mistreatment and high taxes that Liberal Party elitists imposed for 13 long years. Those high-tax measures and bloated government policies burden our agricultural sector and set our farmers back.

By contrast, our Conservative government stands with farmers. We are working to provide them access to millions of new customers. Through our free trade agreements, through expanding our customer base, we have an opportunity to get into countries that we have never been in before, and we have lowered tariffs so we can have trade with many of those countries.

Let me remind members that last year we simplified the tax rules relating to the lifetime capital gains exemption and the intergenerational rollover for many Canadian farmers. To accomplish this, our government passed legislation to generally treat the taxpayer's combined farming business the same as perhaps a separate farming business conducted by the same taxpayer. This will ensure consistent treatment for taxpayers who conduct various farming activities.

Economic action plan 2015 would build upon the work we have been doing since 2006 to foster a strong, stable, sustainable and prosperous agriculture sector for all of Canada.

I was pleased to join members of the Saskatchewan farming community and our Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, to announce new federal supports for agriculture. What we announced was to allow farmers to maintain more of their capital for retirement. Economic action plan 2015 would bring forward the measures to provide funding to increase lifetime capital gains exemption for farmers and fishermen, but certainly for farmers, up to $1 million.

This was welcomed by the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. It said:

The CCA appreciates another measure of practical importance to producers, particularly those wishing to retire or transition from the industry.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture also praised this measure. It said:

The Lifetime Capital Gains exemption is an important tool for helping farmers manage the tax burden associated with the transfer of farm assets. The CFA is pleased the increase to $1 million is effective immediately, as it will assist farmers in their transfer of assets to the next generation by providing greater flexibility for both the retirees and new entrants.

That answers a lot.

Farmers realize they may be living poor, but they have some savings in their farm assets. When they retire, they need those to help them through their retirement so they may have a secure, dignified retirement.

I would like to now turn to parts of the bill which deal with improving the quality of life of Canadians, in particular, the health of Canadians.

There are measures in the bill that would continue our government's proud record of being a champion for persons with disabilities. This is an area where the former finance minister was a very strong advocate. As we shaped economic action plan 2014, I was pleased to witness this commitment by former Minister Flaherty first hand at the budget table. His legacy includes the landmark registered disability savings plan, which helped to ensure the long-term financial security of Canadians with severe disabilities. Since becoming available in 2008, more than 100,000 Canadians have opened a registered disabilities savings plan, and with that has come a great deal of confidence and security.

To ensure this program continues to serve Canadians who need it most, today's bill proposes an extension of the federal temporary measure that allows a qualifying family member to become the plan holder of a registered disability savings plan for an adult individual who might not be able to enter into a contract on his or her own. We are also introducing a new home accessibility tax credit for persons with disabilities and for seniors. This non-refundable credit will provide tax recognition for the cost of improvements that allow a person who is eligible for the disability tax credit, or is a senior who wants to stay in his or her home to be more mobile, safe and functional within their own home. These measures will assist Canadians who face the daily challenges of living with a disability or who are in their seniors years in leading a much better quality of life.

Let me also highlight how today's legislation builds on our government's support for families and communities across our great country of Canada.

Since Canadians gave us our first mandate in 2006, this government has taken significant action to support and protect Canadian consumers by reducing taxes time and time again, including cutting the GST twice. Keeping taxes low and putting more back into the pockets of hard-working Canadians to spend in the way they decide is essential for jobs and growth.

Today, because of the measures introduced by our government, a typical two-earner family of four will receive up to $6,600 in tax relief and increased benefits in 2015. Economic action plan 2015 builds on the government's record of support for Canadian families by keeping taxes low and helping them save.

We are focused on helping 100% of families with children with policies like the family tax cut, and increased and expanded benefits through the universal child care benefit. Unfortunately, the opposition parties, both the Liberals and the NDP, would scrap the universal child care benefit and cancel income splitting for families.

Our government is also providing tax support for seniors and persons with disabilities, as well as measures to help students pay for their education.

Whether they want to purchase a new home or a car, start a new business or save for retirement, Canadian families have many reasons to save. That is why our government introduced the groundbreaking tax-free savings account, or TFSA for short. This savings measure is a flexible, registered, general purpose savings vehicle that allows Canadians to earn tax-free investment income. They can watch compounding interest grow in their favour. That gives them a much more secure, dignified retirement.

Canadians get it. Canadians understand. Canadians have embraced the tax-free savings account for their savings needs. It is unfortunate that the members opposite have all but rejected it. Let me remind them of some important facts.

Eleven million Canadians have opened a tax-free savings account, and half of those earn less than $42,000 a year. Sixty percent of those who have contributed to the tax-free savings account and who maximize their account earn less than $60,000. Six hundred thousand seniors, aged 65-plus, with income below $60,000 a year are currently maximizing their tax-free savings account.

Due to popular demand, today's legislation proposes to increase the tax-free savings account annual contribution limit from $5,000 to $10,000, effective 2015 and subsequent years.

While we are making it easier for Canadians to save money, at the same time we want seniors to feel confident that their savings will always be there, or that it will be there for them while they are enjoying their golden years. Seniors are already benefiting from important money saving measures, such as pension income splitting and taking advantage of the tax-free savings account.

The fact is that Canadians are living longer than ever, and we want to ensure that they have a secure, dignified retirement throughout their most senior years. That is why the bill that we debate today, Bill C-59, will reduce the minimum withdrawal rate for registered retirement income funds, or RRIFs.

As some members may know, the rules concerning registered retirement income funds and registered retirement savings plans dictate that RRSPs must be converted to RRIFs by the end of the year in which the RRSP holder reaches 71 years of age. A minimum amount must then be withdrawn. Alternatively, the RRSP savings may be used to purchase an annuity.

Economic action plan 2015 proposes to adjust that RRIF minimum withdrawal rate that applies in respect of ages 71 to 94 to better reflect more recent long-term historical real rates of return and expected inflation. The seniors advocacy group, CARP, says its members welcome this measure. As a result, the new RRIF factors will be substantially lower than the existing factors. By permitting more capital preservation, the new factors will help reduce the risk of outliving one's savings, while ensuring that the tax deferral provided on RRSP and RRIF savings continues to serve a retirement income purpose.

Our government has been consistent in advancing innovative options to allow Canadians to save and manage their finances for a secure and dignified retirement, and our work continues. Currently, 96% of pension plan assets in Canada are in a defined benefit plan, as compared to 71% in the United Kingdom, 42% in the U.S., and 15% in Australia.

That, in part, is why we began consultations on the framework for target benefit plans. These innovative plans would allow businesses to offer a third option, a middle ground between defined benefits and defined contribution models. At the same time, employees would receive a pension with a high degree of retirement income certainty.

Let me be clear. Current pensioners and retirees should be assured that it is not our intention to convert any pensions to target benefit plans without the explicit consent of that individual. A retired person's plan would not be converted unless that individual expressed a desire to convert the pension or agreed to do so. In the interim, those who are retired or saving for retirement will benefit tremendously from targeted tax relief and new optional savings methods, such as the tax-free savings account.

However, while we keep Canada's retirement system strong, I must inform Canada's seniors about a possible new threat to CPP benefits. The Liberal leader has announced that if given the chance, he would fund his favourite infrastructure projects with “...alternative sources of capital, such as pension funds.”

I regret to inform the House that it gets even worse than that. The Liberal leader has confirmed that he would implement the Ontario Liberals' dramatic payroll tax increase on every worker and small business in Canada. For a worker who earns $60,000 a year, the Liberal leader's plan and the Liberals' policy would mean a $1,000 tax hike. It would cost a two-worker family up to $3,200 more per year, whether those workers like it or not.

This mandatory payroll tax increase would kill middle-class jobs and force small businesses to cut hours and wages. According to the Meridian Credit Union, the majority of Ontario's small business owners believe this type of payroll tax would the greatest challenge that they have ever faced. According to a CFIB survey, 69% of employers in Ontario indicated that they would have to freeze or cut salaries. This is even further evidence that now is not the time for untested leadership and Liberal high-tax policies.

In closing, while I have touched on only a few of the measures in today's legislation, they are measures that would help create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians. Through this legislation, we will maintain and strengthen our advantages by continuing to pursue those strategies that made us so resilient in the first place: responsibility, discipline, and determination. That is what it is going to take.

I appreciate this opportunity to serve with a government that has steered our nation out of the great recession and brought Canada back into the black. Our balanced budget and low-tax plan for jobs and security will strengthen businesses, families, and communities across the country. I urge all hon. members to give their support to this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1
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NDP

Nathan Cullen

New Democratic Party

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

Mr. Speaker, there were a few omissions in my friend's speech, which I will help put in so that he can comment on them. One is that there are 11 million Canadians without a workplace pension right now, and the Minister of Finance has invented this new pension scheme and is going to go out and consult. Why did the government never consult a single Canadian when it decided to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67, costing every single Canadian senior upwards of $24,000 in pensions? Pensions are now delayed by two years because the Prime Minister stood in front of a bunch of billionaires in Europe to decide what Canadian pension policy would be.

More specifically, my friend across the way and all our colleagues in this place enjoy a stable pension plan. It is a defined benefits plan as opposed to a defined contribution plan, and my friend knows the difference. Since he and all of us collectively enjoy a pension plan of a kind that most Canadians will not have access to and will never have access to, how can he stand in this place and reject the option of allowing Canadians to contribute to the most solid and secure pension plan we have, the CPP? How can the member stand in this place when the Conservatives have broken the promises the Prime Minister made to create 125,000 child care spaces in Canada and they have not created a single one?

Finally, how can the member in any good conscience want to double the TFSA, which will help the top 20% of earners by 180% more than the rest of Canadians combined?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1
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CPC

Kevin Sorenson

Conservative

Hon. Kevin Sorenson

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his questions, although I think what he said was more of a statement than a question.

Again, our government understands the importance of a secure and dignified retirement for the seniors who have helped build this country. That is why we are bringing forward measures that will give them that kind of retirement. Currently, many federally regulated pension plans are defined benefit plans, but Canada Post and others are finding that they have a massive pension debt. In fact, the liability is so big that they have taken a rider on even paying back into their pensions.

What companies, corporate agencies, and crown companies have asked for is not to get rid of the defined benefit plan and not to get rid of the defined contribution plan, but to have a third option. Indeed, many companies and crown corporations are even now looking at moving all new employees into a defined contribution plan. We want more security for them than that.

The opposition is saying we should have only defined benefit plans for everybody. The truth is that those who are now bringing forward pension plans are moving employees into a defined contribution plan. We want a better target benefit plan so that employees will be able to understand what their retirement will look like.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1
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LIB

Mark Eyking

Liberal

Hon. Mark Eyking (Sydney—Victoria, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, in the hon. member's speech he mentioned that he represents a lot of farmers in his area. As a farmer and as the agriculture critic, I will focus on what the Conservatives have done wrong with agriculture and what they are still doing wrong with it.

We know what happened with the grain shipping problem. Farmers lost billions of dollars out west because of that. They had a good crop, and the prices were good.

However, my concern and my questions are on business risk management. Under the Conservatives' watch, millions of dollars have been cut from business risk management. Let us hope it does not happen, but what will happen if we have a drought this year and prices are low and yields are down?

My questions are these: how much did his party cut from business risk management, and why would the Conservatives make those cuts when farmers need that support when they go through hard times? How are the farmers in his riding and across Canada going to deal with it when they go through that dip and lose money and find that business risk management will not be there for them because the Conservatives have cut over $200 million from it?

I want to know exactly how much was cut and what is going to happen to the member's farmers if they have a drought this year and try to get business risk management.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1
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CPC

Kevin Sorenson

Conservative

Hon. Kevin Sorenson

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member. I know he is an egg producer and a very important farmer in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Out west, in Ontario, through Quebec, and in Atlantic Canada, farmers understand that when there has been a disaster such as a flood or drought, this government has been there. This government has stood with them. This government has brought forward programs and plans, such as Growing Forward and others, that recognize the importance of insurance and of helping farmers and the agriculture sector get through in those times of difficulty.

The member mentioned rail transport for farming. We have had record production, especially in the prairie provinces, over the last three years. The yields have never been higher and the amount of grain has never been greater, yet that has undoubtedly been a frustration as we watched more and more oil come onto the rail lines and sometimes not as much grain as we farmers would have liked to have seen. The NDP and the Green Party are the parties that oppose pipelines for oil, and in reality what they end up saying is that oil should be shipped by rail, which pushes grain out.

We have always been there for the grain producer. We have always been there for the agriculture sector. We will stand with them through thick and thin. Right now in my area we have been dry, but we have not yet lost a crop early in June. However, this government will stand with them come what may.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1
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CPC

Jeff Watson

Conservative

Mr. Jeff Watson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the Minister of State for Finance, for his speech on retirement income.

He raised the appropriate alarm and concern for pensioners and hard-working families. The Liberal leader would like to impose a $1,000 pay cut with respect to the CPP, which is very similar to what we are now bracing for from Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government in Ontario and what businesses in Ontario are saying they oppose. As well, big unions are out promoting the NDP's plan, which is to double the amount that would be taken off families' paycheques or workers' paycheques for the Canada pension plan.

I wonder if the member could comment on that risky scheme and what that take-home pay cut would mean to workers, particularly in Ontario.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1
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June 15, 2015