In Debate: Bill C-51

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate because I certainly support the measures in Bill C-51 that we have discussed, particularly the home renovation tax credit. Many people in my riding have availed themselves of this tax credit. I will support it because these people have pursued it in good faith.

Unfortunately, however, this budget bill did not go nearly far enough. It was very limited in terms of its application. I regret that it did not focus on home retrofits, energy saving, money saving and environmentally saving our communities in terms of making a real effort to be practical, and retrofits would have done that. They would have also created green collar jobs.

With home retrofits, we would have seen new windows, new doors, insulation and perhaps the installation of solar panels that homeowners could then utilize to save energy and even generate their own clean energy.

What was missing in terms of this bill was the increased investment in not just retrofits but in the technology around the new green jobs and the training for green collar jobs like computer control operators who can cut steel for wind turbines, mechanics trained to repair electric engines and manufacturers of solar panels. These are good jobs. They pay enough to raise a family. They are jobs with purchasing power that in turn create more jobs.

Another positive component to this is that these jobs are very difficult to outsource. Unlike the current corporate strategy of sending jobs to low wage jurisdictions with lower environmental regulations, these jobs stay in the community. A house cannot be picked up and sent to China to have energy efficient windows, doors or solar panels installed. It simply cannot be done.

That is unlike the Ford motor company. In the riding adjacent to mine, Ford Talbotville is closing down. We are losing 1,600 direct jobs and 8,000 indirect jobs because Ford is saying that it cannot make money or that it cannot afford to retrofit the plant. Meanwhile, it is spending $500 million to build a plant in China. These are jobs that are gone. These are jobs that we will sorely miss and that will impact our community. However, green jobs and retrofits would have helped and supported us.

Transportation costs are another consideration when one starts to look at all of this. With the decline in the supply of fossil fuels and the increasing expense associated with oil and gas production, it makes more and more sense to develop local industries that provide local goods and services; hence, back to these green jobs. Unfortunately, that is where the government missed the boat. With the help of the official opposition, it voted against my made in Canada bill. It deemed it protectionist and completely ignored the fact that we are the only G20 country without a local procurement policy.

When all Canadian businesses have been undermined by a government that ignores their needs and the needs of Canadian workers, who will be left to produce the goods that will be needed for the green economy? Who will be there to make those turbines locally? Who will be there to grow the food products locally? When we have cut off our own people and said that they do not matter and that we do not want to be protectionist but that their jobs are insignificant, who will be there to produce this green economy? Who will be there to save our environment? Who will be there to keep our communities strong?

There has been no interest from the government on that, nor has there been any interest in going to Copenhagen with something substantive. The fact is that the government is going empty-handed because it has refused to take any kind of leadership role when it comes to the environment. Instead, the Conservatives quietly tabled their so-called Kyoto protocol implementation act but it does nothing. It imposes no binding target, delays actions on emissions from coal-fired power generation and grants broad exemptions to industry.

The Conservatives could have brought forward the NDP's Bill C-311. That bill sets out a very clear path for Canada to help fight climate change. It provides greenhouse gas targets consistent with those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

One of the members of that panel comes from my city of London, Professor McBean, a University of Western Ontario professor and a very respected Nobel Prize winner. Unfortunately, he and the other Nobel Prize winners were ignored by the government.

At any rate, our bill is consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and would impose legally binding, tough but achievable, reduction targets. Instead the government is trying to stop our bill in committee and is refusing to acknowledge that this kind of inaction is no longer acceptable.

All of this is despite the urgent call for action from Canadians, from scientists, from environmentalists and from the international community.

We have lost our international reputation. We have lost our reputation as being progressive and a leader. There was a time when the world looked to Canada. Whether it was with regard to women's rights, children's rights, environmental protection, or the kind of services that we provide in our health care system, we were leaders. People looked to Canada as the peacekeepers, the peacemakers, the leaders. Now we are scorned. We are scorned across the globe for our inaction and our apparent complacency.

We need budget measures that are directed at environmental protection. We need a government to create budget measures that could and should create opportunities for a better economy, a green, strong, sustainable economy with all the dividends of energy conservation, job creation and environmental protection.

We did not get those and we are not likely to get them, but I want Canadians to think about what could have been.

New Democrats also support the first time-home buyers' tax credit. It is a very important step. There are a lot of young Canadians who would love to be able to provide their family with a home, and they cannot. Therefore, this is a positive thing, as is the income deferral for farmers breeding livestock in drought conditions.

It is interesting that this tax credit is here when, again, the government does not seem to understand that we need to have local procurement policies. We need to support our farmers. We need to support production in order for our communities to thrive, but that is beside the point.

As well, it is very good to see the changes to the working income tax benefit that increase the percentage of the tax credit and increase the top-up of the payment. This will help low-income families. There has been precious little to help low-income families from the government.

All of these are very important and all will have a significant impact on the lives of people in our communities.

However, we need to be cognizant about what is missing from this bill and I would like to go back to that. While the CPP adjustments are very good, providing an increase in security for seniors, some flexibility, and a reduced incentive for early retirement, these are still lacking. They are lacking because they do not provide enough security for seniors...

...This country can afford it. Since 1996, $400 billion has been given away in tax cuts to profitable corporations. That is four hundred thousand million dollars given to profitable corporations, to those deserving banks and oil companies. Imagine if just some of that $400 billion were invested in those seniors who had invested their lives in the building of this country.

We would also like to see the self-financing of a pension insurance program to make sure that when companies fail or choose to abandon retirees, there is a plan in place to protect our grandmothers and grandfathers from poverty. It would have helped the people of Nortel. It would have helped if the government had thought of that.

It would have helped if the government had thought about violence against women and had invested some money in women to prevent the violence these women feel, instead of spending millions and millions on their campaign to undermine the very few protections we have.

There is a great deal that the government could have done and chose not to do. I regret that very much, because it had the opportunity. It has had many opportunities.

Mr. Mike Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac, CPC):

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for at least itemizing a number of things, both for and against, and also for her support for this bill.
I must ask the member, as she was talking about the $400 billion we gave away in tax breaks to profitable business, who does she think takes a tax break but a profitable business? Who does the member think keeps people working in this economy, but profitable businesses?
I want to ask my hon. colleague, does she really believe that the right thing to do is to overtax Canadian businesses, both small and large, so they do not have the capital to hire the people we need working in our economy?

Ms. Irene Mathyssen:
Madam Speaker, I wish the member had listened very carefully. I said $400 billion since 1996, which implicates the Liberal Party as well.

In terms of profitable corporations, it would seem to me that they are doing fine. I have a real problem with this notion that somehow the oil sands, and Imperial Oil and the Bank of Montreal need the largesse of the people of this country.

I have very significant problems when I look at the struggling companies, the struggling businesses. Small business creates jobs in this country at a rate far exceeding that of any of these big corporations, and yet there has been no mention of how they should be treated. There has been no benevolence to them in terms of the kinds of tax breaks that we have seen for the large corporations, the $60 billion from the government alone in the last couple of years.

We could have done a great deal to generate jobs and to secure communities. We could have built affordable housing for the 200,000 Canadians who are homeless. They are families with children. We could have done that. We could have put in place a national child care program so that young families could get back to work, get jobs, create wealth, but no, it had to be tax cuts instead. That is regrettable.