Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Parliament In Review: October 5, 2011

After the previous day's relatively non-partisan and specific focus, October 5 saw a return to broad debate on the economy - thanks to both a day of debate on the Cons' budget bill and a number of queries in question period.

The Big Issue

Under the economic theme, the most noteworthy development was a strong challenge against the Cons' free trade boosterism. Thomas Mulcair pointed out that reciprocity is sorely lacking in Canada's trade relationship with the U.S. Brian Masse noted that the Cons were not only putting appearances ahead of substance in valuing a photo op with Barack Obama more than the actual terms of any deal but getting rebuffed even in that pitiful pursuit - raising serious questions about their negotiating mettle. And Bob Rae demanded that the Cons give Parliament a chance to debate any agreement before locking Canada into it.

Meanwhile, Irene Mathyssen commented on the need for both public and private investment to build a strong economy. Eve Peclet challenged the Keystone XL pipeline by noting that her riding actually saw its refinery close down - putting to rest the spin that Canada doesn't have unused refining capacity. Sadia Groghue asked what the Cons plan to do for Canadians who haven't found the jobs promised as the benefit of corporate tax slashing, to about as little response as would be expected. Mulcair pointed out the environmental, social and financial debts being increased by the Cons as the cost of supposed fiscal prudence, and observed that the Cons' public-private partnerships seem to have a conspicuous habit of transferring resources from the former to the latter. John McCallum repeatedly questioned the Cons' refusal to make their tax benefits refundable such as to help those who need them most. Peggy Nash noted that if the Cons wanted to run government like a business they'd be looking to invest in a period of low interest rates and high unemployment, and also challenged the Libs to focus more on the availability of EI benefits rather than the cost of premiums.

Finally, the statement of the day went to Pierre Dionne Labelle:
They say that cutting corporate taxes will create jobs. That is not true. It is entirely untrue. The facts complete disprove such claims.

Just look at the example of Ontario, where the combined federal-provincial corporate tax rate was cut by 45% between 1999 and 2010. During this same period, investments in equipment and machinery dropped from 8% to 5%. The money these companies saved in taxes was not reinvested in the economy, did not create jobs, and was not used to buy machinery. Where did this money go? It went into hedge funds. It went into speculative bubbles. And what happens to bubbles? Sooner or later, they burst.
Private Interests

Facing questions from Joyce Murray about his party's choice to slash Audit Services Canada, Jacques Gourde revealed what the supposed cost-cutting measure is really all about:
Audit Services Canada is provided as an optional service for government departments that wish to acquire private sector audit expertise.

The services that Audit Services Canada provide are completely optional and provided on a fee-for-service basis, which is similar to the private sector. Many departments already acquire supplemental audit services directly from the private sector instead of using Audit Services Canada.
That's right: what was spun as a cost-cutting measure won't actually save the federal government a dime. Instead, the goal is to make sure that the cost of auditing is passed into corporate coffers - and any decrease in public auditing capability is only a side benefit.

Planning to Fail

In keeping with Megan Leslie's recent criticism of the Cons' environmental backsliding, Cheryl Gallant claimed that the Cons' decision to pour over $400 million into AECL at the same time as it's being sold off for a fraction of that amount is somehow an environmental program.

In Brief

Peter Julian re-introduced corporate responsibility legislation, while Scott Simms introduced a private members' bill to allow for CPP and OAS benefits to be paid bi-weekly at the election of a recipient. Marc Garneau offered the Cons a chance to answer honestly that they'll have to buy less F-35s than promised in order to stick to their supposed price figure - only to be met with a refusal to acknowledge even that seeming inevitability. Linda Duncan slammed Joe Oliver for his bizarre claim that the land where oil sands development is taking place is otherwise uninhabitable. And John Baird once again stood to answer a Charlie Angus ethics query only to say that it had nothing at all to do with him.

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