MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Speaking on Budget Bill C-38 including border issues, seniors, tax cuts and trade




Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):

    Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to Bill C-38. We New Democrats oppose the bill for content and process. I will get into both of those themes during my deliberations this afternoon.

    I would like to carry on with a little discussion with regard to the Great Lakes. People in Windsor live along the Detroit River. There has been a lack of action by the government on the Great Lakes despite the U.S. Obama administration addressing some of the issues. The Americans recently made a $500 million investment into the Great Lakes, and in the budget prior to this one, put $800 million into it. In fact, because so little was put into our Great Lakes system, the fake lake in Muskoka got more per capita contribution than any of the Great Lakes did.

    That is important, because we are deficient not only in terms of environmental practices but also in services. We do not have some recovery services for men and women in distress on the Great Lakes. Our Coast Guards do a very good job of responding when they can, but at the Ambassador Bridge, for example, there is no recovery immediately available there when work is being done, and something needs to be done about that in case somebody falls off, a worker in particular. We had another death recently when a worker fell off into the Detroit River.

    I want to move toward some of the content of the cuts that are taking place with regard to the budget. I will start with the OAS and the GIS, and in particular the raising of the age from 65 to 67.

    Just so the public is aware, individuals have to apply for the GIS, the guaranteed income supplement. It is not automatically provided, so if people do not know this—and we deal with this situation all the time—they would not automatically receive that additional supplement. I would encourage the viewing audience out there to look at their pensions and, if they are past the age of 65, to inquire of their members of Parliament as to whether they are eligible for the GIS. It is a very important supplement that does not always get moved through to them.

    Similar to that is the disability tax credit. If people do not actually apply for it, they will not get it. Both the GIS and the disability tax credit could be retroactive. It is important to know that, and people should contact their local members of Parliament.

    A number of years ago I had the opportunity to go across this country on what was called the seniors charter of rights. It was a motion that was put forth to this House for a number of years, and it built up enough support over that time that it was eventually carried by another member, the member for Hamilton Mountain. The motion was then passed, but sadly, this has not been brought to fruition.

     Many of the elements of the seniors charter of rights called for increasing the government's contributions to the pensions. It noted that we had to look at this issue because many seniors were in poverty. It called for housing as an adequate strategy to deal with poverty and issues like that, and for more inclusion in society by making sure that seniors were not left out of government policy. It even looked at a seniors minister as a potential solution to making sure seniors' voices would be heard as the demographics of the aged increased. As well, there were provisions related to pharmaceutical and other costs that we identified.

    We heard quite clearly across Canada that seniors were very concerned about all of these issues, and never would I have imagined at that time that the government would be looking at increasing its date for acquisition of benefits.

    The Parliamentary Budget Officer and other experts have noted that we are not in a crisis with regard to that issue. With proper prudent fiscal management, we will be fine.

    Second, we are opposed to a corporate tax cut. Right now, a corporate tax cut basically goes to the corporation. There is no guarantee it will actually be spent in Canada. In fact, some corporations are taxed on worldwide profits, so Canada does not actually benefit from some of the taxation on those corporations that takes place in other countries.

    We still have continuation of subsidies to the oil patch. That is unacceptable and should be stricken right away. As well, the OAS and the GIS supplements, in the vast majority of cases and unless individuals leave the country with the money, are generally spent in the country, providing a multiplier effect much higher than the corporate tax cut.

    I know it has been argued many times that the corporate tax cut is a job creation strategy; it is not. It could be used as one of several tools to try to spur investment, but the reality is that it has not. It is actually counter to what has been happening in the manufacturing sector. Over the years that the Conservatives have been reducing corporate taxes since coming to power in February 2006, we have lost around 365,000 manufacturing jobs. That is shocking.

    It is shocking because it also speaks to the Conservative trade policy, which has failed this nation significantly and continues to do so. I especially want to note the auto industry. What we have seen, counter to that, is higher corporate taxes in U.S. states, as well as higher federal taxes, and the United States has been growing its manufacturing jobs. The Obama administration has a job strategy to win back jobs, including jobs from Canada, and we have done nothing on that.

    The auto industry was again ignored in this budget. The automobile is the number one value-added item traded throughout the world. Sadly, the government is looking at some trade agreements that actually threaten the auto industry. I would note, on the Canada-European trade agreement, that right now the EU has a $20 to $1 trade surplus with us, so they are dumping autos into Canada.

    South Korea has a potential trade agreement. South Korea sells literally hundreds of thousands of vehicles in Canada, and we barely sell any at all—maybe 50, I am told—in South Korea. They have tariff and non-tariff barriers. We also have the potential of a Japan agreement, where again we cannot enter their market.

     Japan, Korea and Germany have state-supported auto industries. They are actually involved in crafting policy, providing resources and making sure the jobs are going to stay local. Some of these countries actually have shares in the companies.

    The government originally ran away from the auto bailout, the auto loans that were needed. Thank goodness for the public pressure to reverse that decision. Now we have success, but it is still very fragile. The auto industry is very fragile right now.

    I would point out the government's lack of interest in the auto industry and the fact that the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council has not met in years. Only the executive has met. There have been very few meetings, and they have not been very robust. It is very unfortunate, because that model brings in the suppliers, the auto workers, the companies, the tool and die mold makers and the dealerships. They crafted a plan that provided a benchmark system to cherry-pick the top items we could actually work on to create a robust auto strategy.

    The government's response to the Bush administration's $25 billion auto and energy act was basically a $250 million fund over five years, which is virtually an empty tank right now. That is a big problem.

    I do want to talk a little bit about process, as much of that legislation did not come to the chamber. One of those pieces of legislation is a shiprider program. A shiprider program is going to allow United States officers to participate and actually arrest and detain Canadian citizens. That is actually not going to go to committee. A similar bill went to the Senate. It was very extreme. It did not distinguish the new teams. We do not have the details on it. It is sad.

    Right now 1,100 jobs at CBSA are being affected through the cuts that are taking place. It is $143 million cut from our Canada Border Services Agency. We are now going to be doing more work with less resources. It involves the investigators, who take drug smuggling, child pornography, human smuggling and all those things very seriously.

     The government is actually cutting 25% of the dog teams; 19 dog teams are being eliminated. They cost $100,000 for the investment in training for the human and the animal. Those are going to be sunsetted. That is unfortunate, because they are very specific and get the things that got past the original set of border officers.

    It is very important that those positions remain. By allowing this to happen, we are certainly going to see more guns on the streets and more drugs on the streets, and organized crime will benefit. It is terribly unfortunate, because the evidence is there.

     The government is cutting a number of the investigators who work with U.S. and other officials to break these cases open. They are undercover, in many respects. They are going to be affected as well.

    As I conclude here, it is rather unfortunate that this is taking place, because t is not acceptable for Canadians.