House of Commons Hansard #151 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ndp.

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A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting Supplementary Estimates (B) of the sums required for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2002, was presented by the hon. President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting Estimates for the sums required for the service of Canada for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003, was presented by the hon. the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present this morning.

The first petition requests parliament to resolve the issue of residential school litigation outside the court system, specifically for the federal government to assume the responsibility for the Mohawk Institute lawsuit thereby recognizing that the Anglican Diocese of Huron was never a party to the operation of that residential school.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition requests parliament to ban human embryo research and to direct the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to support and fund only promising ethical research that does not involve the destruction of human life.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I am pleased to rise and present a petition to the House of Commons regarding professional skilled immigrations, specifically Mr. and Mrs. Premakumaran from Edmonton. They have rights according to the charter.

Several constituents in Edmonton who are very concerned about the fact that Nesa and Prem, as they are known, are a couple who were misled by immigration, via the Canadian High Commission, into believing that their education, skills and experience would be recognized in Canada and that they would readily acquire decent jobs within their field. These are both professional people and there are constituents who are very concerned about that.

Seemingly, the government welcomes these people into the country and yet this couple has had a great deal of difficulty.

The petitioners call upon parliament to request that their plight be looked into very seriously; for the government to change the misleading point system for immigrants; to look into the false advertising that induced such immigrants as this couple to come to Canada; clear present labour standards and resources; make sure there are sufficient jobs available before bringing more skilled labour into Canada; to pass a legal precedent with regard to professional skilled immigrants that avoids unnecessary misrepresentation; and finally, to adopt a new position on globalization where a uniformed standard system with regard to recognition of qualifications, skills and experience can be accepted nationwide.

Nesa and Prem are in a difficult position and the petitioners beg parliament to do something about it.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, petitioners from my riding express concern about the exclusion that was made in the case of John Robin Sharpe, dealing with child pornography, particularly the number one self-created expressive materials.

The petitioners feel that this fails to uphold the rights of children to autonomy and dignity as guaranteed in the charter of rights and they therefore request that parliament reinstate section 163.1(4) of the criminal code.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supply
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

moved:

That, in response to Canadians’ desire to save Canada as a sovereign nation and strengthen our distinctive contribution in the world, this House calls upon the government to reflect in its budgetary policy the New Democratic Party 12-Point Plan to Save Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased on the NDP opposition day to introduce the motion which you have just read. As you were reading the motion my colleague sitting next to me, the NDP House leader and member for Winnipeg--Transcona, said some things are worth doing. What he was responding to was the motion which simply puts forward the proposition that Canada is worth saving and that as parliamentarians we need to get on with seriously addressing that question.

Today we are putting forward this motion in recognition of what we believe is a growing sentiment of Canadians: they desire to save Canada, they care passionately about the future of Canada as a sovereign nation and they want to see us strengthen our distinctive contribution in the world as well.

I intend to set out a 12 point plan that the NDP proposes which we would like to put on the table for debate. Not just debate here this morning within the Chamber but debate among Canadians about how we will reinforce Canada as a sovereign nation. I will outline what are some of the ways to do that.

The NDP does not pretend that it has the only program. We want to challenge members of the House and Canadians from coast to coast to coast to take up the project that ought to engage the passions, energies and attention of us all.

Before I outline the NDP proposal I want to say a few words about why my caucus chose today to devote our opposition day business to this topic. Over the last couple of weeks we saw an incredible outpouring by Canadians of what would be described by anyone looking on as a passionate display of enthusiasm and love for the country. Some will say that was just because Canadians love sports and were cheering our Olympic athletes to do their best.

It is true that Canadians love sports. Some may say they particularly love hockey, which is known as our national sport. When we won both the men's and women's world Olympic championships there was a lot of cheering and flag waving.

What we saw from Canadians over the last couple of weeks was something far more profound than that and far deeper than that. It was not just about nationalistic fervour in support of our Olympic athletes.

It unleashed in Canadians something they have been wanting to have reason to do for a very long time. They wanted to cheer not just for Canada's successes in the Olympics but for the Canada they love, a Canada that truly stands for something and has a unique contribution to make to the world. It is a set of values that they care deeply for and passionately want us to preserve. They want us to get on with building Canada based on those values.

I believe that the celebrations of the last couple of weeks in every village, town and community, whether anglophone, francophone or allophone, were very important, very special and very deep-seated. As parliamentarians, we must build and rebuild our commitment in order to reinforce special values and the Canadian sovereignty for the future.

That brings me briefly to the second reason why we chose to introduce this motion today and to launch a debate on what we need to do to save this country that we love so dearly.

Two weeks ago there was an op-ed article in the Toronto Star submitted by a new Canadian, someone who chose to come to this country, by the name of Charles Pascal. I would suggest that all members, in fact, I would like to see all Canadians read that article of February 5 because it puts a very important challenge to all of us. Mr. Pascal said:

I have been a proud Canadian citizen for well over half my years, but that pride of late is giving way to frustration. When I jumped over the 49th parallel to sign up to be part of this great experiment called Canada, I couldn't believe there was a country so committed to ensuring a balance between individual and community, between nation and enterprise.

But now, thirty years later, I am asking myself, why should we save Canada? It is hard to find one Canadian political leader who is asking, and answering, this query. The Canada I signed up for, the Canada that informs our nice press clippings around the world, is dying on the vine.

From where I sit, there seems to be too much political management and not enough leadership. I think it's time to put our leaders to the test regarding the Canada they say they want and how they plan to get there from here.

The Canada I fell in love with was one where an active respect for diversity trumped the more passive concept of tolerance, where what we owed each other as neighbours was expressed by our investment in universal health care and public education. I chose a place where peacekeeping was valued as a strong and significant role to play in the world. And of course I chose a Canada with Quebec as a key feature of the Canadian experiment.

When I first read the article I had a bit of a defensive reaction as did my New Democrat colleagues. We asked how this commentator, observer of Canadian political events, could say that no political leader or no political party was addressing the questions?

I quickly parked that defensive response. It is a challenge that each and every one of us in the House of Commons, all 301 members, must take seriously. Canadians want us to address the question of how to make Canada a better place, how to reinforce Canada's special contribution to the world each and every day, in each and every piece of legislation we pass and in each and every budgetary decision we make. That is the point of our motion today.

I challenge all members to address the questions that have been set out in that very provocative article. That is not the only person asking these questions. The questions that have been put to us, that we must take seriously, are in a way both brutal and unsettling. I can only assume they were meant to be brutal and unsettling.

I hope that in response to our putting that challenge to all members, particularly government members, there will not be the sound of a shrug from 168 shoulders from the government benches opposite.

We all know that on September 11 the horrible terrorist atrocities that occurred in the United States shook the world. They certainly shook Canadians. In addressing the question of Canada's role in the world and our commitments to ourselves as well as people around the world we have failed to respond to the true call for leadership. We have reacted, we made it clear that we abhor terrorism, and yes the Canadian government leaped to respond to become part of a military offensive in Afghanistan.

However, as the events unfolded and the government made decision after decision, building on a record of far too many years of decisions that eroded the very sense of what Canada is all about, Canadians have slowly begun to say we could and must do better than this. This is why we have a federal government.

Canadians have moved from a sense of frustration and disappointment. In talking with people there is a strong sense of exasperation. They ask: what good is government anyway if it is so systematically eroding the things that we as Canadians care about?

That is not the whole story. I took the article from the Toronto Star and sent it to a number of people. I asked them what they thought after I outlined the 12 point program which is our response to the question of why save Canada and how we can do it.

I will share a small number of excerpts from some of the responses to the question from people and also some of the commentary in the public domain where people are genuinely and earnestly trying to address the question.

I will briefly address our program, the program put forward by the NDP to improve Canada, reinforce our values, our place and our position in the world.

First and foremost, enhance Canada's environment, including a national implementation plan for reducing greenhouse gases, and before the end of 2002 ratify the Kyoto accord. If we cannot protect our environment, then there is no future, and that is not hysteria. That is a fact.

Second, strengthen the role of aboriginal, Metis and Inuit people in the Canadian family. Let us never forget that the first people, the first nations of this country, continue to occupy a second and third class status in the Canadian family. If we are not up to the challenge of tackling that problem, then we do not deserve to exist as a parliament.

Third, reaffirm Canada's international peacekeeping role and rehabilitate Canada's reputation as respected internationalists. The government has squandered away that reputation, but it is not the reputation that we are concerned about so much as the fact that we are neutering ourselves, we are eroding our very credibility as a true internationalist in a world that cries out for international co-operation and international solutions.

Fourth, the federal government must be again an equal financial participant in public and non-profit services in the areas of health and post-secondary education.

We have built something very precious in the country and it is under severe strain. It is a system of public services, health and education foremost among them, which held in them the promise of what it truly meant to be a Canadian. No matter where we lived, no matter what our financial circumstances we could depend upon these vital services. They have been a critical part of the Canadian dream and the Canadian reality that has been slipping away because of government decisions.

Fifth, we must develop a comprehensive strategy to eradicate child poverty.

It is a national disgrace of monumental proportions. The government came to power on a promise to eliminate child poverty. Every member of parliament stood in their place and voted to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000. I will not dwell on the disgraceful record of the failure of the government to seize this challenge. However let me remind all members that poverty during this period has remained at 18% among children. Let us compare this to Sweden, as an example. When parliament voted in 1989 to eradicate child poverty, Sweden's child poverty was 19%. Today it is at 2%. Why? Because its government understood that it was the programs, the services and the economic and social policies it adopted that were the means of eradicating child poverty.

Sixth, we must make sure that all commercial agreements provide protection mechanism for labour standards, human rights and the environment.

I am very briefly going to summarize the remaining elements of our 12 point program.

Seventh, enable primary producers and Canadian farm families to compete with foreign subsidies and reject continental energy and water policies that endanger Canadian control over our natural resources.

Eighth, strengthen Canadian communities, large and small by reversing the deterioration of our municipalities with stable funding and strategic infrastructure investments.

Ninth, celebrate immigration as a cornerstone of Canada, restoring respect for diversity and humanity in our immigration practices.

Tenth, reaffirm fair taxes, sound monetary policy and full employment as critical tools for accomplishing our collective economic and--

Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

We have a fire alarm. The House is suspended to the call of the Chair.

(The sitting of the House suspended at 10.32 p.m.)

The House resumed at 11.05 a.m.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

When the House was suspended the hon. the leader of the New Democratic Party had four minutes left in her speech.

Supply
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will resume almost in mid-sentence to outline the 11th point in our 12 point NDP program for saving Canada and reinforcing our sovereignty.

Eleven, strengthen the pluralist and democratic speech by limiting corporate concentration in the media and by supporting arts, amateur sport and culture.

Twelve, strengthen the Canadian democracy through a reform of the parliamentary institutions and of the election process that would include proportional representation.

Today the NDP has called for a debate on the whole question of why and how to save Canada. However let me also say that we are inviting every Canadian who cares about this to enter the debate by logging on to the NDP website at www.NDP.ca to contribute their ideas, solutions and policies because the government and the country need all the help we can get.

Last night I attended a wonderful event on Parliament Hill, the celebration of the Canadian Muslim and Canadian Arab community, which holds out the dream of what Canada can be perhaps more brilliantly these days than anyone because they are a community under attack.

Respected journalist Haroon Siddiqui shared some very wise advice when he pleaded for parliamentarians to understand that criticism of American foreign policy ought not to be confused with anti-Americanism. I think that is the same sentiment we heard from the former foreign affairs minister, Lloyd Axworthy. He said that we were on a slippery slope speeding toward integration with the U.S. and that we needed a full scale debate on whether this was the future Canadians want.

If integration is what Canadians want most, then we had better get it over with quickly and decisively. However, if most Canadians would prefer to be Canadian, then we had better decide, in the post September 11 environment we now find ourselves in, what it means to be Canadian.

I hope Canadians, as they tackle the challenge of this subject, will take inspiration,as I have from the many messages that are being shared with Canadians. Let me just finish with one very brief such message from a distinguished author and filmmaker by the name of Munroe Scott who said the following:

The key thing is that the success of the Canadian experiment is of great importance not just to ourselves but to others. Strangely enough, those most likely to benefit directly from our success are the people of the USA. They, even more than ourselves, are in the grip of a corporate-driven materialistic ideology that exploits, and can ultimately destroy, both humans and the environment.

He went on to say:

At the moment the world is trapped between Eastern religious fanaticism as personalized by Osama bin Laden and Western economic fanaticism as personalized by George W. Bush. It is in the Canadian laboratory that we can prove that neither one is viable and there are alternatives.

That is our challenge. I believe Canadians are up to the challenge. I believe Canadians want their elected members, all 301 of us, to rise to that challenge. If we are incapable of doing that, not only have we failed in our responsibilities as politicians but we have failed our children and future generations who will be deprived of a Canada that they can love as deeply as we do.