Budget Implementation Bill, 2016, No. 1—Second ReadingPublished on 16 June 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Joseph Day, Lillian Eva Dyck, Wilfred Moore (retired)
Hon. Joseph A. Day:
Honourable senators, I’d like to begin by identifying where we are. I believe we’re debating Bill C-15, budget implementation number one, and this is second reading debate.
It’s sometimes helpful to discuss the budget, but we don’t vote on the budget here. We’re not asked to support the budget other than within our respective parties, but we are and we have a very important role to play in what flows from the government’s enunciated promises and initiatives in the budget. The two things that flow from that are the estimates and budget implementation in the form of a statute.
We will talk about the Main Estimates and the supplementary estimates. I believe Senator Smith will introduce those. Both reports are on our record now for discussion, and they will be up for discussion when introduced by the Chair of the Finance Committee.
This is the first budget implementation bill that flows from the new government and from the budget itself that was introduced in March.
What we see in the budget implementation bill are those initiatives that relate to finance in large part, and that’s another issue I’d like to talk about, but we see those initiatives in this budget implementation bill.
I understand that finance has almost become our practice because we get these documents late and we want to get them done because they’re critical to the government. The Finance Committee is doing a pre-study of budget implementation number one, and once this document and this bill have been referred to Finance, then that pre-study can morph into the work that the committee is doing. That is the traditional way that we’ve handled this, and then the bill will come back for third reading.
Second reading is to talk generally about the principle of what’s in the bill. That’s our usual first look at the document. I want to remind honourable senators that because this is a budget document, it flows from the budget and it’s a matter of confidence in the other chamber, in the other place. Being a matter of confidence, we have a tradition that we treat budget implementation and supply bills in a somewhat different fashion from Bill C-14, which we’ve been dealing with for the last three weeks.
We can make comments. We can complain about the fact that it’s too long. We can complain that there are too many things in budget implementation that don’t relate to the budget or to the finances, and we have done that year after year after year. But very seldom would we consider amending the budget implementation. We may make comments, but if we ever did amend, it would be to reduce expenditure. We can’t increase expenditure.
We defer to the House of Commons and the executive in relation to these kinds of documents, and that’s what we should have in the back of our minds when we’re dealing with this particular budget implementation bill.
Traditionally, the government will come forward with two budget implementation bills, one before we leave — this one that we’re dealing with — and another will typically come in the fall that we’ll deal with before the Christmas break.
The Senate Finance Committee is extremely busy with a lot of different initiatives because, as I mentioned earlier, flowing with budget implementation is the estimates, and they tend to be flowing along together. This isn’t written in any rules, but by tradition there tends to be three different supplementary estimates in addition to the Main Estimates.
We’re going to be dealing shortly — tomorrow, this afternoon, this evening — with the Main Estimates for the year. We dealt with interim supply to give the government some money to run from April 1 through to the end of June. Now we’ll deal with the rest of that. We’re also going to be dealing with Supplementary Estimates (A). We have Supplementary Estimates (A) coming down the line, we’ve got Main Estimates coming down the line, and we’re now dealing with the second reading of budget implementation, Bill C-15.
I want to mention that the government should be given some accolades for not making this an omnibus bill.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Day: We have complained about that year after year and we’ve thought about strategies to deal with it. We have a bill that’s fairly extensive at 177 pages, but virtually everything in this bill deals with what flowed from this particular budget and what relates to the financial aspects. If you look at the bill, honourable senators, you can see that.
I could spend a bit of time referring to the bill itself. I haven’t had a lot of time to work on it, but you can see I have the pages tabbed here to help me through it.
There are four parts to this bill. Part 1 deals with amendments to the Income Tax Act; Part 2, amendments to the Excise Tax Act; Part 3, further amendments to the Excise Tax Act, excise measures and excise tax 2001 and related matters. They are all finance issues. In Part 4, the typical “Various Measures” appears.
There are 15 different divisions within Part 4, but seven of those divisions had, by our tradition, been sent off to other standing committees of the Senate that have expertise in the area that appears there.
The three committees have looked into the divisions of Part 4 that were referred to them and we have received reports. Each one of those reports is in our Order Paper as well. You can see what that particular standing committee felt was important in relation to the portion that had been referred to them.
They’re all referred back to the Finance Committee, which brings the three reports together, plus the work that it has done, into an overview of Parts 1, 2 and 3, and those portions of Part 4 that were not done by other committees.
The other committees, honourable senators, for your information, such as the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, did some work with respect to Employment Insurance and gave a good report and raised some important issues.
The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce looked into a quite a few different divisions and its report is before you.
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence and its Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs looked into initiatives to change some of the items that are of concern to veterans. Veterans have raised a number of issues, and a lot of them are being dealt with in this budget implementation bill.
I hope to have an opportunity to go over those reports, at least the two that I was deeply involved with, to help you understand what appears in the budget implementation document.
That, honourable senators, is a general overview of what you should expect with respect to the work that was being done by Finance. I think we should commend the members of the Finance Committee for the extra work they typically have to do in June and again in December.
I’ve had some experience with that extra workload and the work that they’re doing. I know that it takes the entire team to commit to doing good work, because this is probably one of the most fundamental functions of this chamber, to oversee expenditures of the executive and the government, especially when we learn how cavalierly the other place deals with a lot of these documents. Maybe it is because they’re whipped; maybe it is because they want to go home for the summer. I don’t know the answer to that, but I can tell you if you look at the time that is spent on estimates in the other place, you will be very disappointed.
We should, we do, we have and we will spend the time so that the people of Canada can take some assurance from Parliament as a whole and, in this case, the Senate portion of Parliament, that we look into the impact of some of these initiatives. We won’t spend a lot of time talking about what’s in the budget and what the promises are. What we will look at is what is in the budget implementation bill and the Main Estimates to see just what, in fact, is being done — not what is being promised, but what will be done.
That’s our role, and I’d like to thank the Finance Committee for their role in this regard. I look forward to third reading debate on this particular matter where we can get into some of the initiatives that are actually implemented here. I also look forward to the debate with respect to the other aspects of what flowed from the budget in the estimates.
Thank you, Your Honour.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
I thank my honourable colleague and deputy chair of the committee for bringing that up. As he indicated, we are nearing the end of our study on the Inuit housing situation, and one thing that I would like to add to his comments is that we are not concerned only that the money is well spent and that the money doesn’t necessarily get eaten away by administrative costs. The other thing that was brought up very clearly was that by not involving the Nunatsiavut Government, the government has contravened the treaty. That is extremely serious. That is a fundamental right that is written into their treaty.
They were not involved; they were not consulted. The money is being directed toward CMHC, and it should not be directed towards CHMC according to their treaty. It is a direct contravention of their treaty. That should be noted because they have a right to that money, to be consulted and manage that themselves, and they have shown that they are capable of managing that money.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore:
Honourable senators, I want to follow up on the comments of my committee colleagues, the chair, Senator Dyck, and the deputy chair, Senator Patterson. We heard many stories of inefficient use of government monies by CMHC. This stuff will make you cry. I will give you an example.
We were in remote reserves looking at housing, and one reserve needed money for some repairs and, hopefully, to build one or two new houses. The only way in there is by airplane. There are no roads. They were told that if they spent $200,000 on road size within their community — and they have been there for a couple thousand years probably — they would get money for housing. So they do it. They get the money in December and it has to be spent by the end of March. Now how do you build houses? How do you get the materials in? You are in conditions of minus 30 and minus 40.
The demeanour of that CMHC institution with regard to our First Nations people is to keep them in bondage: culturally, economically, housing and education. It’s terrible.
I subscribe to what Senator Patterson said. This money should go to the local authority. Let them spend it; they know how to do it. They don’t even talk to the people about how to build a house, the design. They have them all facing north, where the wind blows from, with no porch, no windbreak and no proper ventilation. This will all be in our report, but if you could do something about that.
Another thing is that the overcrowding in these homes leads to the deterioration of health, social demeanour and education.
We had a young man before our committee the other day.
Senator Dyck: Natan Obed.
Senator Moore: Yes. He has a university degree from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. I was sitting there thinking this is hopeful. We asked, “How did this happen to you, but to others in your community it didn’t?” Quite simply, he said, “I had a bedroom. I had a place to go to study. I had some privacy. I wasn’t crowded like my neighbours. I could think and I could work.” That is what happened.
Housing isn’t just about a roof over your head; it is about the whole thing. It is at the root of education or lack of education. These are smart, intelligent people. They just need a chance. They need a hand up. The money in housing has to be spent well, and you have to talk to the people, whether it is the First Nations or the Inuit. Thank you.