Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Question Period Lowlights

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in a reasonable and measured way the Leader of the Opposition raised four important issues yesterday. The Prime Minister responded by offering a meeting which is taking place now.
The issues were these: the isotope crisis, employment insurance improvements, the federal deficit and actual spending on infrastructure. On this latter point who in the government has a complete tally of actual infrastructure expenditures to date, not just announcements or promises or wishful thinking but hard expenditures already made? Who can give those numbers specifically?

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is very simple. We need only go to actionplan.gc.ca to see 3,200 projects in various stages of implementation and not just on the side of stimulus spending for infrastructure. There is an extra $10 billion that we have announced that we are now in the process or our partners are in the process of hiring the construction workers, the architects and so on.
What this is really about is the fact that the Leader of the Liberal Party cares more about himself than the future of these projects, cares more about himself than the future economic recovery of this country.
That is a shame. Worse than that, it is an abomination.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the minister still cannot give the numbers.
Conservatives allege wrongly that unless their financial estimates are approved on Friday the stimulus package will grind to a halt, but that is not true.
The budget was approved in February. The budget implementation bill was passed in March. So were the supplementary estimates and the interim supply bill. The government even gave itself extraordinary power to allocate money in April, May and June for spending through the rest of the year. So it has the money.
However look at the record. The Conservatives left billions of approved dollars idle that last year. Why can they not admit those facts?

Hon. Vic Toews (President of the Treasury Board, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Canadians do not want an election. Neither does our government.
If the opposition votes to bring down our government negotiations on infrastructure contribution agreements between the various levels of government will immediately cease. Thousands of projects will not go ahead in this construction season.
An irresponsible decision by the opposition to bring down this government will jeopardize our economy, will jeopardize tens of thousands of jobs across this country.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, that answer is only a confession of incompetence.
The government's Treasury Board official confirmed that 93% of stimulus spending is totally unaffected by anything that happens this week. The tiny remainder is easily covered by the blank cheque in the government's interim supply bill which is already law.
Therefore the votes this week pose no threat to stimulus, not a penny. The threat is the government's inability to get approved money out the door, shovels in the ground and jobs created.
I ask this again. How much was actually spent in the first 120 days?

Hon. Vic Toews (President of the Treasury Board, CPC): Mr. Speaker, let us make this perfectly clear for Canadians across the country.
If the opposition votes to bring down the government the infrastructure negotiations, the contribution agreements between provinces, municipalities, NGOs and private sector organizations will immediately cease. Tens of thousands of jobs will be in jeopardy and our economic recovery will be in jeopardy.
The opposition members are being irresponsible. Shame on them!

L'hon. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.): Monsieur le Président, c'est totalement irresponsable de ce président du Conseil du Trésor et il le sait bien. Lorsqu'on a voté pour les budgets, on était en mesure de négocier. L'argent, on l'a accepté. Alors, tout ce qu'il dit, c'est faux! Qu'on le dise en anglais ou en français, ce qu'il a dit est faux!
Maintenant, puisqu'il y a un plan pour l'automne en ce qui a trait à l'assurance-emploi, qu'est-ce qui retient la ministre de le déposer immédiatement?

Hon. Vic Toews (President of the Treasury Board, CPC): Mr. Speaker, who is misleading the House but that member? That member is misleading the House when he says that. In fact who will negotiate all of the contribution agreements when the government falls? All of those negotiations end at that point. There are hundreds of negotiations on projects going on at this very moment and the irresponsible decision by that opposition party to bring down the government brings those jobs, brings those projects, brings our economy into jeopardy.

L'hon. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.): Monsieur le Président, j'ai été ministre pendant plus longtemps que lui et je sais comment cela fonctionne. Quand on est en campagne électorale, ce sont les fonctionnaires qui négocient, pas le monsieur avec sa valise qui s'endormira dans son coin. Je veux toutefois poser une question sérieuse.
Tout à l'heure, la ministre hésitait à se lever. Peut-elle nous dire pourquoi, au niveau de l'assurance-emploi, ne peut-elle pas déposer son plan immédiatement? Cet été les gens crèveront de faim et ils veulent savoir ce qu'ils feront par rapport à l'assurance-emploi. Qu'attend-elle?

Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we did make substantial improvements to the EI system to help those Canadians who need and deserve our help: five extra weeks, expanded the work sharing program, now protecting 130,000 jobs. We are looking at a promise that we made during the 2008 campaign, one that would allow access to EI benefits for self-employed workers on a voluntary basis, but that is a major design change to the system. It cannot be done within a week, but we will have it ready for the fall.

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