Senator Woo - Budget Implementation Bill, 2017, No. 1 - Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Budget Implementation Bill, 2017, No. 1

Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

June 13, 2017


The Honourable Senator Yuen Pau Woo :

Honourable members, it gives me great pleasure to speak today about the Budget Implementation Act, Bill C-44.

This bill implements key measures from the government's 2017 budget and it represents the second phase of the government's plan to promote economic growth by stimulating investment and job creation.

As an independent senator, I am not here to defend or knock down the policy directions that a duly-elected government has chosen or the measures that they wish to employ in implementing those policy directions.

This is the first time I am sponsoring a bill. It is also the first time that an independent senator is sponsoring a budget bill. I am doing so in the context of a modernizing Senate that is looking to do things differently.

It is a great honour for me to rise today as the sponsor of a bill, knowing that this is a whole new experience.

The fact that we are in new territory presents an opportunity for the Senate to experiment with a different modus operandi that is, on the one hand, consistent with our constitutional role and responsibilities and, on the other hand, demonstrative of the value that we bring to the review of legislation and development of public policy. We are all aware of the growing public interest in what some have been calling a more "activist" Senate and its greater "unpredictability." Whether you accept or reject this characterization, it is out there and it will increasingly be applied as a yardstick for whether Canadians like or dislike their evolving Upper Chamber.

That is why my speech focuses more on the deliberative process of the Senate on issues surrounding C-44 and less on what the bill is about. You do not need me to describe the bill to you, much less repeat the talking points of the finance minister in the House of Commons or the criticisms of the opposition. We are not here to replicate what happens in the other place. I hope, therefore, that the ensuing debate in this chamber will demonstrate the value-added that we bring to the bill before us.

I want to start off by acknowledging the work of the committees on National Finance; Banking; Social Affairs, Science and Technology; Foreign Affairs and International Trade; National Security and Defence; and Legal Affairs for their work on the pre-study of various divisions of C-44. A total of 15 committee meetings were convened for the pre-study of the bill, lasting a total of 28 hours and involving 85 witnesses. I thank the chairs of the committees, Senators Mockler, Tkachuk, Ogilvie, Andreychuk, Lang and Runciman, as well as all committee members for the special hearings they convened to review the sections of the bill relevant to their mandates. Some committees, notably Banking, increased the number of meetings originally scheduled in order to receive more fulsome testimony on the issues they were considering.

Honourable senators, the pre-study reports arrived in our chamber last week and will soon be considered by the National Finance Committee in its review of C-44 as a whole. I will return to the pre-study reports later in my speech.

Before I go on, however, it is important to recognize that the Senate had an impact on Bill C-44, even before the committees began their pre-study of the bill.

Honourable colleagues, I put it to you that the Budget Implementation Act, in its original form and as amended by the House of Commons, has Senate fingerprints all over it.

Take for example Part 4, Division 2 on the borrowing authority of the government. Bill C-44 will restore the need for parliamentary approval of borrowing by setting a legislative limit on total borrowing by the government and by agent Crown Corporations. If this idea sounds familiar, it is because the Senate raised it nearly ten years ago. It started with Senator Tommy Banks, who noticed that the government of the day in 2007 eliminated the requirement for parliamentary approval over borrowing authority.

Senator Lowell Murray subsequently introduced Bill S-236 to restore the requirement but his bill died on the order paper with the 2008 election. After Senator Murray retired, Senator Wilfred Moore picked up the torch and he introduced Bill S-217 in 2013. It too died on the order paper but was re-introduced as Bill S-204 in 2015. The idea was poached by the current government in its 2016 budget, and brought to life at last, in the current bill C-44.

In a similar fashion, the changes to caregiver tax credits, funding for mental health and home care, benefits for veterans and support for families through employment insurance have antecedents in ideas and recommendations that came from the Senate. For example, some of the recommendations in the November 2016 report on dementia by the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology have now found their way into Bill C-44. Specifically, the report called on the federal government to explore fiscal options to reduce the financial stress on informal caregivers, including expanding the Employment Insurance compassionate care benefit beyond palliative care.

Division 11 of C-44 indeed creates a new caregiver EI benefit, allowing workers to claim up to 15 weeks in order to care for adult family members who are critically ill or injured. Previously, workers were limited in only being allowed to claim time for "terminally ill" adult family members, which did not cover most cases of dementia. Furthermore, the newly designated Canada Caregiver Credit consolidates and expands three previous schemes: the Infirm Dependent Credit, the caregiver credit and the family caregiver tax credit. This new consolidated benefit will provide better support to those who need it the most, and will apply to caregivers whether or not they live with their family member.

Mental health is another subject area where we can trace the impact on Bill C-44 on the Senate's previous work. The justifiably famous report named after Senator Michael Kirby has already had profound impact on the way in which Canadians understand mental health, and in the response of governments to research on and the treatment of mental illness across the country. Bill C-44 can be counted as another big step in following through on the recommendations of that report, now 11 years old. Budget 2017 allocates $5 billion in targeted funding for mental health services over the next 10 years under the federal government's Health Accord with provinces that have signed on to the deal. That funding is expected to help treat up to 500,000 young Canadians under the age of 25, a critical time to address mental illness for better long-term results.

Senator Kirby recently described the federal investment in mental health as "a phenomenal step forward. A sea change."

In addition to the commitments made to mental health services, the budget also allocates $6 billion over a 10-year period for home care services. This funding will expand home, community and palliative care services, as well as support for informal caregivers. The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, in its current study on the implications of Canada's aging population, recently heard from former Senator Sharon Carstairs, who provided us with an update on the state of palliative care in Canada seven years after the release of her landmark report entitled Raising the Bar: A Roadmap for the Future of Palliative Care in Canada.

While there has been greater use of home care and palliative care services since the release of that report, our health care services are still overly reliant on hospital-based care which, in many cases, is more expensive and less efficacious than home care. The new $6 billion in funding will give provinces additional resources to bring about a shift toward more home care and better palliative care.

Budget 2017 also includes a host of measures to support Canada's veterans, specifically in their transition from military service to civilian life. It will also increase support for the families of ill and injured veterans, as well as investments in mental health services and care for veterans at risk.

I will not go into the details of these measures except to say that many of them stem from recommendations found in the 2014 report by the Senate Subcommittee on Veteran Affairs entitled The Transition to Civilian Life of Veterans, chaired by Senators Roméo Dallaire and David Wells. The suite of new budget measures to support veterans' well-being also draw on ideas found in the subcommittee's 2015 interim report entitled Interim Report on the Operational Stress Injuries of Canada's Veterans, chaired by Senators Day and Stewart Olsen.

Colleagues, the Senate's fingerprints can be even found on new measures introduced in Bill C-44, such as changes to the Parliamentary Budget Office and the creation of a Canada infrastructure bank. When Bill C-44 was first tabled in the other place, much of the attention was directed at the section dealing with the Parliamentary Budget Office. Some of the most cogent arguments pointing to flaws in the proposed legislation and calling for improvements in its drafting were heard in this chamber and by our committees.

I recall Senator Day speaking passionately, pre-pre-study, about the need to strengthen the independence and functioning of the PBO. We heard testimony from experts, including the current and past parliamentary budget officers, on how to improve the legislation at hearings of the National Finance Committee.

Public understanding of the proposed changes to the PBO was amplified by media coverage of our hearings, and a consensus was quickly forming around the need for revisions to the legislation. From the perspective of the government, it was very clear from the way our pre-study was proceeding that changes to the PBO legislation were needed and that these changes would be proposed if Bill C-44 arrived in the Senate in its original form.

As it happens, the government took note of rumblings in the Senate and beyond, and made the initiative to amend the PBO legislation, resulting in what I believe is an improved Bill C-44 that has now arrived in our chamber. To cite just a few of the changes that have been made, the revised legislation removes the requirement for approval of an annual work plan by the Speakers; it requires that reports be made available to the public one business day after they have been provided to Parliament and committees; it provides for a review of the legislation by committee after five years of the legislation coming into force; and it provides for the PBO to seek a reference opinion from the Federal Court in cases where arbitration and clarification are required.

In this vein, the proposed Canada infrastructure bank can also be said to have the Senate's fingerprints on its underlying purpose. As you know, the National Finance Committee is in the midst of a study on infrastructure investment in Canada. The committee was motivated to conduct this study because of the current government's emphasis on infrastructure investment, known as the Investing in Canada Plan, which amounts to $180 billion over 12 years.

National Finance has already heard testimony from many experts and I daresay the main concerns expressed so far are, one, the slowness in identifying projects; two, ambiguity in the selection criteria of projects; and three, value for money, from a taxpayer perspective.

I see the Canada infrastructure bank as one mechanism the government is putting forward to address those concerns. Rather than deploying the entire $180 billion in infrastructure spending using the traditional model of "design, build and operate," with full assumption of risks by the government at each stage of that model, the Canada infrastructure bank offers a way of procuring projects in the public interest that potentially lowers the cost to government, increases the efficiency of the project and reduces the risk to taxpayers. In so doing, it stretches the dollars available for infrastructure projects that have to be financed and built in the traditional way.

While the bank is not a response to the work of the National Finance Committee's study on infrastructure investment as such, the committee can take pride in having anticipated the challenges that are inevitable in implementing such a massive spending program and in having established a framework for assessing the success of the program, whether in the form of traditional procurement or through projects funded by the proposed Canada infrastructure bank.

A pre-study of the Canada infrastructure bank was conducted by the Banking Committee, which heard from many expert witnesses. They included government officials, institutional investors, bankers and project finance specialists, labour organizations, academics, business organizations, think-tanks and others.

My reading of the pre-study report is that the committee supports the bank but has questions about its governance structure. To quote the report:

. . . the committee is not convinced that the right balance between the need for the proposed bank's decision-making to be free from political interference and the need for the federal government to maintain adequate oversight of the use of public funds has been achieved. The committee believes that the federal government should ensure that the proposed governance framework attracts highly qualified board members and senior managers, as well as private-sector investors. As well, the federal government should ensure that the proposed bank's investment decisions are made by the bank's senior management, and not private-sector investors.

I was at most of the Banking Committee hearings, and I believe that this statement accurately reflects the mixed views of members on whether the proposed governance model has struck the right balance. It is, of course, about balance. As the only shareholder, and hence 100-per-cent funder of the bank, the government should jolly well have oversight of its functioning. I can well imagine a different proposed governance structure in which the government has very limited ability to appoint and remove board members, and much less say over the types of projects that are supported. In that situation, the criticism of this bill would surely run in the opposite direction; namely, that taxpayers are not sufficiently protected for the investment they are putting into a bank that should be supporting projects in the public interest.

In a recent opinion editorial, the former Parliamentary Budget Officer gave voice to the other side of the coin:

A lack of oversight and financial due diligence at the front end rarely ends well. A long list of failures, such as the gun registry in the nineties to current problems related to pay systems, shared service and military equipment, show up in the newspapers on a daily basis.

I ask senators to consider this question: If the Canada infrastructure bank shows up in the newspapers in years to come because of governance problems, will it be because there was too much government oversight and financial due diligence, as some of you are suggesting, or because of too little, as the former Parliamentary Budget Officer has asserted?

Keep in mind, after all, that the development of large infrastructure projects using innovative financing methods such as public-private partnerships and their derivatives is not a core competence of government, especially not at the provincial and municipal levels where most of the infrastructure investment will take place.

There is a very good chance that project ideas and the funding formulas that come with those ideas will originate from private sector proponents. That is not a bad thing, but let us not be naive; a private sector investor will seek to maximize its position in any given project, and the government counterparty will have to be very alert and skilful in order to not overpay. In the same way that there is a risk of political interference, so too is the very present danger of regulatory capture by private sector interests.

The solution, of course, is to have a highly competent executive team at the bank and an equally top-notch board of directors that bring credibility to the organization and strong oversight of its operations. There is nothing in the current legislation that suggests that we will not have this kind of leadership team at the Canada infrastructure bank. If the government is short-sighted enough to appoint a half-baked board of directors and CEO, it will immediately pay a credibility premium by scaring away private sector partners and public sector proponents of much needed infrastructure projects.

It is my impression that the government is well aware of this credibility challenge for the Canada infrastructure bank and of the need for a fine balance between oversight by government and independence of the organization. They will learn very quickly whether they got the balance right. If projects are not put forward or if private sector partners are not forthcoming, we, and the Canadian public, will hear about it, which is why I am pleased to see a clause in the legislation that calls for a five-year review of the provisions and operation of the statute.

The results of the review will be reported to Parliament and then studied by a committee of the House of Commons or the Senate, or even by a joint committee.

The questions raised about the governance of the Canada infrastructure bank are legitimate and we must give credit to the Senate for having raised questions with the various parties wishing to take part in the debate and for having urged them on.

We have, in effect, pointed a spotlight on the bank that it will not be able to hide from. But it is less clear to me that we are in a position to prescribe a different governance formula for the bank at this embryonic stage of its development.

I think we all agree that a balance has to be struck between government oversight and organizational independence. Are we really in a position to micromanage that balance in this chamber, absent any operating experience of the bank or knowledge about deal flow? "Second thought" is well and good, but in this case the operative word should be "sober."

There is one other issue concerning the bank that was brought up at Banking Committee hearings and which I know a number of you will have a special interest in. It has to do with jurisdiction over projects supported by the bank and a concern raised by one witness that these projects might be exempt from provincial laws because they are funded in part by a Crown corporation.

The pre-study report of the Banking Committee did not take a position on this issue, but it did include in the annex of the report a letter from the Deputy Ministers of Infrastructure and Finance stating that the bank will not ordinarily be an agent of the Crown insofar as the invested projects are concerned, and that those projects will be subject to all applicable provincial and local regulations.

In its pre-study, the Banking Committee also looked at proposed amendments to the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act and the Bank Act, proposed amendments to the Investment Canada Act, and the enactment of the invest in Canada act. These divisions of Bill C-44 were uncontroversial, with the only question mark concerning the creation of an invest in Canada hub. The hub would be a new federal departmental corporation along the lines of the Canada Revenue Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which would serve as a "single-window concierge service" to attract foreign direct investment working closely with provincial and municipal investment attraction agencies.

The Banking Committee made the observation that it was "uncertain about the need to establish a new agency to promote foreign investment in Canada." Witness testimony, however, was unanimously in favour of the creation of the hub, including testimony from municipal and provincial investment attraction agencies and from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Honourable senators, allow me now to address the reports prepared by the other senate committees as part of their pre-study of this bill.

The Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee looked at Part 4, Division 1 of the bill concerning changes to the Special Import Measures Act and expressed its support for the proposed legislation.

The Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee reviewed Divisions 10 and 17 of Part 4 concerning the Judges Act, the Canada Labour Code, and the Wage Earner Protection Program Act. It expressed support for both divisions but made observations on the high number of vacancies among federally appointed judgeship positions across Canada and on the need for any future changes to federal labour legislation to include prior consultation with the affected parties.

The pre-study report of the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee covered Division 5, 9, 11, 13, 14 and 16 of Bill C-44.

Division 5 seeks to authorize the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to provide up to $125 million to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to establish a pan-Canadian artificial intelligence strategy.

Division 9 provides funding authority for the Minister of Finance to allocate funds to the provinces and territories for home care and mental health services to the tune of $11 billion over 10 years. The committee supported both of these divisions.

Division 11 seeks to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Canada Labour Code to adjust and expand benefits for maternity, parental and caregiver leave. In supporting these amendments, the Social Affairs Committee flagged the need to monitor the gender impact of the expanded benefit regime, especially with respect to the hiring of women. The committee also stressed the importance of communicating these changes widely so that potential users of these benefits can make informed decisions about the various options available to them.

Finally, the committee also supported proposed changes to the Employment Insurance Act found in Division 14 of the bill.

On Division 13, the committee supported amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to clarify certain provisions and to improve the functioning of the Express Entry system, as well as to exempt several fees from application under the services fees act. There was also support for a similar measure under Division 16 to allow the Minister of Health to fix and amend by order the user fees charged by his department on products regulated under the Food and Drugs Act.

Moving on now to the National Security and Defence Committee, which examined Division 12 — on the well-being of veterans — and Division 9 — on money laundering and terrorist financing. They, I am pleased to say, recommended the adoption of both without qualification.

To round off my review of pre-studies I can report that the National Finance Committee looked at Parts 1 to 3 of Bill C-44, as well as Divisions 2, 4, 6 and 7 of Part 4 of the bill. Their study included the proposed changes to the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer which, as we have already noted, were subsequently amended in the other place, in part due to the early warning signals that were sent by the committee and by colleagues in this chamber.

The National Finance Committee also dealt with amendments to the Income Tax Act and related legislation, to the Excise Tax Act and to the Excise Act and Excise Act, 2001, as well as the Economic Action Plan, No. 1.

These included the proposed increases in excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol products. The increase in excise taxes on tobacco is to compensate for the elimination of a surtax on profits of tobacco manufacturers, also proposed as part of Bill C-44.

In the case of alcohol, which has been discussed already in this chamber through a question to the Government Representative, the proposed increase is 2 per cent, which amounts roughly to an increase of one cent for a one litre bottle of wine, five cents for a 24-pack of beer and seven cents for a 750 millilitre bottle of spirits. In addition, the excise tax on alcohol, as has been mentioned in this chamber, will be automatically adjusted each year to take inflation into account, starting on April 1, 2018. The purpose of the so-called escalator is to maintain the effectiveness of the excise tax as prices change over time.

Colleagues, I've provided you with not much more than a broad scan of Bill C-44, and I've tried to do justice to the areas of concern that were flagged in pre-study reports. I look forward to other senators joining the debate on Bill C-44 in the days to follow and to their views on the issues I have flagged, as well as other issues that may have escaped my attention.

Let me turn now to an issue that has not come up in any of the pre-study reports but which I know many of you are thinking about. It is the question of Bill C-44 as an omnibus bill and whether parts of the bill should be considered as separate pieces of legislation. The current focus of this debate — admittedly a debate that has so far been conducted in the media rather than in this chamber — is on the Canada infrastructure bank. When the bill was first tabled in the house, most of the calls for splitting Bill C-44 were not directed at the bank but were directed at Part 4, Division 7, which refers to the Parliamentary Budget Office. That was six weeks ago. Today, I hear no one calling for Division 7 to be separated from Bill C-44. Why is that the case? The answer is, of course, that the government has made substantial amendments to the PBO legislation, greatly improving it compared to the original version. These changes came about because Parliament had the time and opportunity to review the original legislation, to understand its implications and to propose changes.

Now, one could argue — notwithstanding the amendments that have strengthened the PBO legislation — that this division, the PBO division, is still an aberration in the context of a budget implementation bill and therefore should still be dealt with as a separate piece of legislation. But that would have to be an argument based on a very specific understanding of what belongs in a given omnibus bill. Perhaps someone will make this argument, but I suspect that for most of us, the question of whether the PBO belongs in Bill C-44 is not based on a well-defined rule but on whether or not we had the time to review this piece of legislation and to have our views heard.

The fact is we do not have a clear-cut definition of what an omnibus bill should or should not include. Make no mistake; we will forever and always have omnibus bills — in the sense of different pieces of legislation combined in a single bill for the sake of thematic unity, convenience and/or efficiency. Budget bills lend themselves to an omnibus approach precisely because of the wide-ranging nature of budgets. "Well," you say, "then anything and everything can go in a budget bill." But not anything and everything does go in a budget bill, so it is not sufficient for one to argue that the very existence of an omnibus bill is a reason to split parts of it.

In the same way that we will forever and always have omnibus bills, I predict that we will forever and always debate whether a given item belongs in any particular omnibus bill. Much as we may crave clarity, the resolution of this question has large subjective elements that cannot be codified. Just ask the Rules Committee, which recently released its report on the division of bills. After much discussion, that committee wisely decided not to provide a set of hard criteria — in fact, they provided no criteria — on what is a legitimate use of omnibus bills and what items in such bills are clearly offside.

Please understand — I am not arguing that there are no situations under which a bill should be split. If the government had proposed a health issues bill that combined the legalization of marijuana and provisions for medically assisted dying, I would strongly advocate for the splitting of those two items. Or if a deeply contentious issue, such as the recognition of transgender rights, was to be inserted into a budget bill as a way of forcing through the contentious item under the cover of a Royal Recommendation, that would strike me again as a flagrant abuse of an omnibus bill.

We should always be on the lookout for abuses of omnibus bills, but each case of abuse has to be argued afresh and not assumed to exist simply because there is a complex bill before us with many different elements in it.

This brings us back to the Canada infrastructure bank act. We will soon be debating Senator Pratte's motion as to whether Division 18 should be orphaned from Bill C-44. Having this debate is right and proper, but let's be clear on what we should be debating. In my opinion, the key issue to consider is not whether or not omnibus bills are acceptable but whether the inclusion of the Canada infrastructure bank act in Bill C-44 constitutes an abuse of that omnibus bill.

Given that we have no hard-and-fast criteria on how to identify an abusive use of omnibus bills, I suspect there will be a wide range of opinions on this question. But given that our own Rules Committee has not been able to define what amounts to an inappropriate use of omnibus bills, I believe the onus will be on those who believe that an abuse has taken place to argue afresh that an abuse indeed has happened. I am not a lawyer, but I think a certain presumption of innocence should apply in our consideration of omnibus bills.

Now, there is another reason why an omnibus bill should be split, and it has to do with the length of time it takes for the Senate to properly study all the elements of that bill. Here our Rules Committee offers some practical advice:

. . . your committee has considered practices relating to omnibus bills in the Senate . . . [and] notes that there already exist processes allowing the Senate to initiate the division of bills, although they are rarely used.

So, yes, says the Rules Committee. If you have to split a complex bill, by all means split it. Here is how to do it, but the Rules Committee goes on to say:

In addition, your committee notes that the Senate has developed a practice whereby, in the case of complex bills, different committees may be authorized to pre-study specific parts of the bill, in addition to one committee being authorized to study the entire bill. This practice has been applied to budget implementation bills, as was noted in a Speaker's ruling of February 3, 2015. In this way, committees can deal with specific parts of the bill relevant to their mandates, while one committee . . . retains a comprehensive view of the entire bill.

The point is that we have more than one tool in our toolbox; and sometimes, colleagues, maybe most times, it is better to use the fine sandpaper of a pre-study than the blunt edge of a splitting chisel.

This means that even if you believe that there may have been an abuse of the omnibus Bill C-44 by the inclusion of the Canada infrastructure bank, you have to ask yourself if the tool of pre-study that we've gone through the last six weeks has addressed the practical matter of having sufficient time to study that part of the bill. Here I want to again pay tribute to the Banking Committee for recognizing the strong interest of the Senate in getting a full hearing on the proposed bank and substantially increasing the time for hearings to make that possible. I did not see in the Banking Committee's pre-study report any sense in which they felt that they had not sufficient time to study the proposed bank legislation. Let me say that again. I did not see in the Banking Committee's pre-study report any sense in which they felt they had not had sufficient time to study the proposed bank legislation.

I would further add that the agitation around splitting this bill has had the unintended but positive consequence of drawing the media's attention to the creation of the bank, resulting in extensive reporting on the bank legislation over the last two months. I should note parenthetically that some of that reporting was misleading, for example the story on a confidential KPMG report that was alleged to be critical of the proposed bank and which subsequently fuelled a lot of anxiety on the part of some senators. Read it if you haven't and draw your own conclusions.

My larger point is that the exchanges among us even before pre-study, some of which were leaked to the media, have been positive in terms of bringing the issue to the attention of the broader public. When we think about whether a bill has had sufficient review, one of the considerations should be the extent to which our discussions have been picked up by the general public, so that they might also weigh in. Now, it would surprise me if the average Canadian wants to dig much deeper into the minutiae of the infrastructure bank, but I think it is fair to say that the issue has been given a decent airing in the mainstream media.

Recall again the situation with the Parliamentary Budget Office section of the bill, which many here just six weeks ago felt did not belong in Bill C-44 and were adamant that this section had to be considered separately. We seem to have overcome that initial reflex. Might not the same apply to the Canada infrastructure bank? I believe it does. Based on a very plausible case that the bank legislation is not an abuse of a budget bill that is inherently omnibus in its structure, and on the substantial effort by honourable colleagues that has been put into reviewing that legislation, I think there are very few grounds for splitting Division 18 from the budget implementation bill.

Colleagues, as I conclude my second reading remarks on Bill C-44, it occurs to me that I have spent most of my time talking about concerns raised by senators and have said very little about the clauses in this budget bill that are generally uncontentious and which many Canadians are looking forward to, such as expanding the tuition tax credit eligibility to include vocational courses, or the investment in a national strategy on artificial intelligence research, or lowering the threshold for review of foreign investment into Canada, or the greater flexibility in Employment Insurance for parents to take time off following the birth of a child. It's all there — the big document you received — and notwithstanding my lack of cheerleading, I hope you will give at least as much attention to those parts of the budget implementation bill as to the more controversial bits.

Thank you for your attention, honourable senators. I look forward with great enthusiasm to future debates on Bill C-44.