House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was veterans.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-50, an act to amend the statute law in respect of benefits for veterans and the children of deceased veterans, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

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10:05 a.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul
Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Science

moved that the bill be concurred in.

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10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

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The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again on behalf of the Government of Canada to speak to Bill C-50.

The fact that we are debating final reading of the bill so soon after second reading and deliberations by the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs speaks volumes about the concern all members have for Canada's veterans.

I thank the standing committee for its thoughtful study and unanimous approval of the bill. Indeed, I thank all members for sharing my passion and determination to get the urgently needed measures contained in the bill passed in the House as quickly as possible.

Since the bill is reported back to the House without amendments, I need not debate further the details of its three basic components, except that I would like to give some added, but brief, overview comments on them.

The provision that re-establishes the education assistance program for the dependent children of Canadian Forces members killed in the line of duty, or whose injuries would later lead to death, cannot be more timely.

It is clear that as Canada continues her peacekeeping and peacemaking role in the world, where there remain countries that cry out for peace, it is only right and just that we offer peace of mind to the servicemen and servicewomen who go into harm's way to achieve peace for others. Their children's access to post-secondary education is assured through the assistance of this program. The deaths in Afghanistan, earlier this month and before, of some of our finest in uniform as a direct consequence of duty to country bring to our consciousness the importance of re-establishing this program.

The other components of the urgent needs package, which I had announced earlier, and the other components of the bill will provide further assistance: to wartime veterans with a pension disability of 48% or greater, without regard to whether their needs are related to the pension disability or not; to overseas veterans while they are on a wait list for a priority access bed; to allied veterans with 10 years post-war residence in Canada; and to former prisoners of war with shorter or longer periods of incarceration than now provided for in the regulations and in law. Bill C-50 also clarifies in law the definition of “member of the forces” for the purposes of the War Veterans Allowance Act.

Indeed, the provisions in this bill will help us address some of the key urgent needs of veterans and their families.

The one other urgent need, which has caught the most public attention, relates to the veterans independence program, more popularly known as VIP. I am pleased, as are all members of the House, that we have been able to already put in place soon after my announcement last May of the package of initiatives, a change in the regulations which now allows eligible spouses of deceased veterans a lifetime extension of certain VIP services, that is, those presently in receipt of the one year extension of benefits following the death of their veteran spouse, as was then the provision in the regulations prior to the change, would henceforth continue to receive the benefit for lifetime as needed, as well as for those whose spouses die after the change in regulation.

Let me reiterate a couple of points about this specific matter for greater clarity and precision. First, the net effect of this particular change to the regulations is not to remove anyone, and I underscore “not”, from the VIP rolls. Unwittingly but regrettably, it has come to be portrayed in some quarters that some have been cut off. That simply is not true at all.

Let us be very clear. What we have done with this particular change is allow more than 10,000 eligible survivors, at a cost of some $65 million over five years, entry onto the VIP roll of veterans on the program, in addition to those still on the one year extension when the change in regulation occurred.

It must also be made very clear that there remains an unanswered challenge, namely, making the new regulation applicable to all surviving spouses whose one year extension of VIP benefits had already ended before the commencement of the new regulation.

This has been acknowledged by all. As I have said on a number of occasions, both in the House and outside, this unanswered challenge remains in the heart of this minister, and I am sure in the hearts of all, and in the hearts of veterans and their families.

That is why this was a matter that this minister and veterans groups alike struggled with before we decided that I would announce, as I subsequently did announce last May, the package of initiatives that also addresses the other urgent needs of veterans.

That is why I raised this very issue with the leadership of the Royal Canadian Legion, the RCL, the largest organization for veterans in the country, and with the leadership of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada, Anavets, the oldest association of them all, as well as with the National Council of Veteran Associations, NCVA, during our meeting last May.

We were all in a dilemma. Should we wait until we had all the financial resources we needed or should we proceed with what we had? We all understood--RCL, Anavets and NCVA--that we did not have the resources to include the surviving spouses, those for whom the VIP extension had earlier been ended.

On balance, we unanimously agreed, without any dissent, that the best course of action was to target existing resources immediately to help surviving spouses who were currently in receipt of VIP or who would be at some future date and pledge to continue to work for the others. Thus, we have been able to immediately provide, following my announcement, not only VIP benefits to some 10,000 eligible surviving spouses, but as well, we have been able to help advance in the House the other forthcoming benefits contained in the bill before us.

That is why I also respectfully and gratefully acknowledge in the House the special motion moved at the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, by the member for Nipissing, to the effect that, and I quote:

...the Government should take all possible means to provide lifetime VIP benefits to all qualified surviving spouses, of Veterans receiving such benefits at the time of their death, not just to those now eligible for such benefits following the amendments made in June 2003 to the Veterans Health Care Regulations.

That is why I share and take most seriously the more recently expressed sentiments of Jennifer Kish from London, Ontario, and Patricia White of Charlottetown, among many, many others who have to date reflected the same sentiments on this issue, not to mention the universal sentiments of those in the House. This is a non-partisan issue.

Mr. Speaker, we enter public service from whatever career we had before in the hopes of serving the broader public good. As a former pediatrician and lung specialist in practice, I had the privilege of caring for our youngest and, by definition, some of our neediest citizens, and now, as Minister of Veterans Affairs, I say that our very senior veterans are also among the neediest from a health care perspective.

It is in part in this context that I stand before the House to ask that we once more summon our resolve and give swift passage to Bill C-50. In addition, there is another context in which to frame our resolve and that is from the perspective of the veterans themselves, from their own lips. I have come to know from veterans I personally have met one to one or in groups that health needs are one of their pressing priorities.

At this juncture, I once more convey my many thanks to the leadership of the Royal Canadian Legion, the association of Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada, and the National Council of Veteran Associations, for sharing with me and my departmental officials the insights of their fellow veterans.

As hon. members know, my department has a long-standing collaborative relationship with Canada's veterans groups. Since I came on board nearly two years ago, I have been determined to make sure that this tradition of consultation and cooperation continues. From my very first meeting with the leadership of the veterans associations to today, it has been very clear what their priorities are.

I would like to conclude with the comments that have come from the largest and the oldest veterans organizations. Said Dominion President Allan Parks of the Royal Canadian Legion, the largest group:

In catering to the needs of prisoners of war, surviving spouses, and the long term care of veterans, Canada remains at the forefront of support to its veterans.

Said Dominion President Robert Cassels of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada, the oldest group:

I am very pleased with the Minister of Veterans Affairs' announcement that he will be introducing proposed program changes to meet today's most urgent needs of Canada's war veterans...We were fully consulted at every step of the process.

I indulge in these commentaries to indicate the excellent working partnership we have had with them as we pursue our common goal, namely, to advance the well-being of veterans and their families, and as well, to convey to all three major veterans organizations our appreciation for their continuing input and insights, that we may have a better understanding of the needs of our veterans, and particularly to the RCL and Anavets for publicly conveying their unfailing support in our common search for a solution to our pressing challenges.

Lest we forget, let us also convey our gratitude to the staff of Veterans Affairs Canada, whose dedication and service continue to make a positive difference in the lives of our veterans and their families.

Colleagues, let us get Bill C-50 into the law books as quickly as possible so that the intended recipients, our heroes of war and peace, can benefit from its provisions as soon as possible.

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10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question about which I want to be perfectly clear. Are the 23,000 veterans' widows whose spouses died before May 11, 2003, going to receive the same benefits as the other widows with the passage of this bill, or not?

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot comment on the number. I am looking and searching for the exact number as close as is possible. The number that I may give the member today may change tomorrow, because we continue to work for the solution. So as to the number, I will not comment.

To the substance of the question, whether we would provide benefits to those who at the time of the announcement were not included because they had ended their benefits under the program, let me assure the House this issue will continue to remain in the heart of this minister, as it remains in the hearts of all members of the House. I will continue to work hard, as the government will continue to work hard, on this very issue.

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10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister's speech surprises me considerably. He tells us that he has listened, but I think he has not understood.

He tells us that no one has ever been struck off the lists. The problem is that there are some 27,000 widows and widowers who never have been on those lists. That is the reason they have not been struck off.

The bill introduced by the minister will result in some 27,000 widowers and widows not benefiting from the veterans independence program.

Is the minister prepared to say today that he is going to offer compensation or encouragement to these survivors of veterans?

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, let me state that the member has the same goal as this minister has.

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10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very confused. The questions seem to be fairly clear and succinct. In this legislation, is there a clause that will in fact have benefits for those people, and the number is not important, who do not comply with the legislation prior to the date of May 12? If it is not here, will the minister accept an amendment from the Senate that will include those people in this legislation?

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing confusing, if the member has read the legislation.

The issue is not in the legislation, with all respect. The issue has been addressed in the regulatory changes that have already happened. As we know, there is a bill, an act of Parliament, and that is the law. There is a set of regulations that equally has the force of law, but the regulations are in another document of Parliament, of the government of the country.

As to whether we would accept an amendment or not, it is very difficult to answer a hypothetical question. However, let me assure the member that the issue remains in the heart of this minister and we will continue to search for the right solution.

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10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear to us that the minister is waffling on answering this very direct question. The question is very clear.

What the minister has said is that perhaps it is the regulations that do not allow all widows to be covered under this program. My question to the minister is, will he see that the regulations are changed by order in council to include all widows, so that all widows, regardless of the timing of their husbands' deaths, will qualify for this program?

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting in debate in Parliament--

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10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Yes or no? Change the regulation.

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, if he would be respectful and listen to the answer, he may want to hear the right answer.

The member claims that I was waffling. I have always been forthright in the House. If I do not have the answer today, how can I say yes?

Just let me say that I will continue to search for the solution and when that solution is found, of course it will be made in the proper document of Canada in the regulations.

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10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, let me ask the minister a simple, basic question.

Is the minister going to assure that every widow of every veteran is treated alike, regardless of whether her husband died on May 12 or after? Are they all going to receive the same benefits regardless of what the minister has to do to assure it? Are they going to receive like benefits across the board?

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how else to describe it. I do not know how else to share the depth of my sentiment toward this issue, but we have to be realistic. We cannot pre-empt the decision of Parliament, the decision making process. Let me assure the members of the House, let me assure the Canadian public, and let me assure veterans and their families that this minister will continue to work hard so that we achieve the proper goal, so that we achieve the objective.

I can see nodding heads. They like to play the heroes. I will continue to work hard so that we can achieve the proper solution for this particular issue. This is not a partisan issue.

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, let us just try a different tack on this one.

I do not think there is an issue that can unify more parliamentarians than that of a widow grieving over the loss of her husband. The reality is that this widow will soon be into abject poverty unless the government and that particular minister do something.

We understand there are regulatory frameworks that need to be worked out. We understand there are fiscal concerns to be worked out, but all we are really asking is, will the minister get his department together and change the regulations?

You have the power to do this, Mr. Minister. You can easily do it. If there is a political will to do it, you can do it. If we can change the boundaries--

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10:25 a.m.

The Speaker

Order. The hon. member knows he has to address his remarks to the Chair. He is going way off the straight and narrow this morning.

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to you. Through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, will he please look at changing the regulations so that indeed every single widow, on, or before, or after May 12, will be entitled to the benefits they so rightfully deserve?

The reason we say that is that members of the military sign up for the ultimate liability. We as members of Parliament have the ultimate responsibility to see that their needs and their families' needs are met. The government should not be dicking around with things back and forth and little regulatory frameworks. If we can give ourselves a raise in two hours, we can look after the widows.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I share the sentiments expressed by the members. What I ask of them is, let us continue to work together. Let us remain optimistic. Let us not speak of gloom and doom. I am an optimistic person and I will remain optimistic.

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the issue totals some $8 million. This week the Minister of Finance stood up and said that we have a surplus in this country of $7 billion. What is the problem?

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will not comment on the figures.

When we have found the solution, which it is my hope and prayer, we will declare the figures, we will declare everything. When a solution is found, all members will know.

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10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak to Bill C-50 on behalf of the official opposition and more particularly, on behalf of the official opposition critic for veterans affairs, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain.

After what the minister said, I am overwhelmed on behalf of the widows across Canada who will not be receiving the same life benefits as other widows. There is an overwhelming sense of betrayal. The widows who will be without benefits have the same grief that the widows of Corporal Beerenfenger and Sargeant Short feel today. There is no difference, but because of a decision, which can be changed, those women will be left out in the cold.

There was opposition to Bill C-50, even though by all accounts it appeared that the bill was going to further the cause of all veterans and widows.

Cliff Chadderton, chairman of the National Council of Veterans Associations, had concerns and wrote to the media. He talked about being scheduled for laser surgery on one eye and being unavailable for comment. Nevertheless, he stated that he was surprised to see comments in the National Post by the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

Mr. Chadderton had written to the minister on at least three occasions about the matter and never received a reply and now he knows why. He said that he would be bringing up the matter at the annual meeting of the NCVA but there was no indication that the government would be doing anything. At the last meeting they had specifically asked that the top brackets of widows be covered even though the funds were scarce. He said that other veterans organizations made comments to the effect that they would like to see all types of widows covered.

As far as Mr. Chadderton and his researchers are concerned, they stand by the comments in the letter to the minister of October 23, 2003 and the release of that date. He feels that it is up to the minister to give him specific replies. He certainly was not satisfied to hear the minister say that he was disappointed that Mr. Chadderton should ask for his resignation, bearing in mind that the minister has given no indication that anything will be done despite a promise from the Prime Minister.

We were hoping to be able to speak of a victory today. Our critic for veterans affairs would have been so pleased to share the happiness with the thousands of military widows who have been patiently waiting for the changes that are part of this legislation. Year after year the member for Souris—Moose Mountain has pursued the goal of equality. That is what it is about, equality. It is about equality for military widows.

This year my caucus colleague set November 11 as the special target date for achieving this goal. The Speaker knows there is a great likelihood that the House will rise on November 7, prior to November 11. This causes great concern for all of us in the House that any changes will be made to ensure that the benefits go to all of the widows.

I have to wonder whether the command from the prime minister in waiting that no more funds be allocated is a stall until he rises to the throne. Could it be that his new caucus is trying to create the illusion that he will be the great saviour of these widows, or is it just simply that they are waiting for more widows to pass away and never be able to receive the benefits that are rightly theirs?

We on this side of the House feel that these widows and dependants of deceased veterans have waited long enough for equality of treatment.

For these individuals, Remembrance Day will take on a new meaning. They will not have a grateful nation recognizing their sacrifice and that of their families in the service of their country.

The official opposition will continue to press for the changes outlined in respect of benefits for veterans and the children of deceased veterans.

Actions to be taken or that have been taken since the minister's May 12 announcement include the extension of health programs for veterans on a disability pension. This will provide veteran independence program recipients the health care benefits to overseas service veterans at home when they are waiting for a priority access bed in a long term care facility. However it provides nothing for the widows whose husbands passed away prior to May 12.

The legislation would provide long term care and health care benefits to allied veterans with 10 years post-war residence in Canada but it provides nothing for the widows whose spouses died prior to May of this year.

The bill would extend, from one year to a lifetime, the period of VIP benefits that cover the costs of housekeeping and ground maintenance, and would be given to widows after the death of their spouses or partners who were veterans and receiving such benefits. However it provides nothing for the other widows whose spouses died prior to May.

It is with hesitation, particularly because of who the bill was intended to help, but it is with a sense of urgency that I would like to be acting on these matters. The aging population of our veterans, their widows and dependants means that they will not benefit from the changes being announced in Bill C-50. Remembrance Day this year will be a yearly reminder that not only have they lost a loved one but their government was not prepared to act in a timely fashion. They will remember that the government turned its back on them this November 11.

I know our critic, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain, received over 1,000 letters from widows, including letters from constituents in my riding, who wanted to be able to thank the minister for going forward with those benefits. Why has the federal government not had a change of heart in all these years?

After years of lobbying for the changes outlined in Bill C-50, what gave the final push on this? I have no hesitation whatsoever saying that it was the hard work of the official opposition critic for Veterans Affairs, who brought this issue to the forefront in the first place.

I have never been one to believe in coincidences. Canadians cannot help but wonder about the timing. It just happens that passage of the bill would coincide with the deaths of Sergeant Short and Corporal Beerenfenger in an Iltis jeep in Afghanistan. If some good could have come from this tragic loss of life, it would have been to honour veterans' widows and make the announcement today that all widows will receive the lifetime benefits. Corporal Beerenfenger and Sergeant Short would have been heroes a hundred times over, more than they already are.

If the minister had announced that all widows would receive these benefits, perhaps I would have tempered my cynicism and that of many Canadians who have come to expect a government that can never be counted on to do the right thing unless someone else, either the media or the official opposition, pushes it in the right direction.

When the government does act it is by some half measure, as we have heard today, that is more designed to silence its critics than to actually solve a problem. This brings me to the issue of the thousands of widows who are excluded from the VIP benefits.

As recently as yesterday, the chairman of the National Council of Veterans Associations called for the resignation of the Minister of Veterans Affairs for not responding to their specific concern about the shortcomings in the legislation. Today I too must call for the minister's resignation. This is betrayal of the worst kind.

It is our desire that the issues raised by the National Council of Veterans Associations in Canada, in a letter to the minister dated October 23, 2003, will be dealt with in a timely fashion and that in the future there will be no confusion on behalf of the 23,000, more or less, widows whose spouses died prior to the May date. I hope these points will be clarified in writing, not this wishy-washy doublespeak that we are getting here in the House today.

As the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, it is my pleasure to represent the women and men in the Canadian Forces who are based at CFB Petawawa.

Many individuals who experience the lifestyle in the upper Ottawa valley, choose to retire here. As a consequence, a significant number of retired military personnel now call Renfrew county home. Many military widows and their dependants in my riding follow this issue of equality of treatment with individual interest. Today I dearly would have liked to have shared in the joy that should have been forthcoming. Sons, daughters, brothers and sisters all write and phone in on behalf of the widows.

I know the opposition is united across the benches on this side of the House and will continue to force the issue on behalf of the widows until we all share in the joy and stand up and congratulate whoever the minister is at that time.

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10:40 a.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul
Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Science

Mr. Speaker, the member quoted one leader of a veterans organization who, regrettably, and which caused me pain, asked for my resignation, as did the member when she echoed the same sentiment.

I want to quote from the press release put out by the Royal Canadian Legion and the Army Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada Association with respect to this particular issue and took issue with a statement made in the media. I want to put on the record the statement made by the two oldest and largest organizations for veterans and their families. During the May 7, 2003 meeting, they stated:

At that meeting it was made clear by [the] Veterans Affairs Minister..., and fully understood by all in attendance, that the extension of the VIP for widows beyond the one year period would not be retroactive.

I read that statement because the particular leader, who the member quoted, was at that meeting and, in all modesty, I was the one who raised this particular issue. However, everyone, with great dilemma, decided to proceed and immediately effect a change in the lives of surviving spouses.

However we could not do everything at that time. As I have said in the House repeatedly, because I am a very forthright person, we did not have the fiscal resources.

However, unlike the member, who, until toward the end of her debate, spoke only about her party as though the other opposition members did not matter, I am trying to come up with the word. Is that selfishness on my part?

As I indicated, this is not a partisan issue. I want to read again from the press release of those two major organizations. They state:

We respect the current Minister of Veterans Affairs for his honesty and forthright approach in dealing with veterans issues.

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10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

They were double-crossed.

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10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

You wait. I waited for my time. Mr. Speaker, I would like respect in this House.

The member in her debate was trying to create an illusion while alluding to the Prime Minister. It is sad when we have a pressing issue on which we cannot all work together. It is not one group trying to find credit. That is not the way I work. I work in a quiet way and when I get results it does not matter if my name is attached to it or not.

Let us remind ourselves that the nobility of politics is best measured when we continue to do our best, to achieve results, and when we go to the great beyond it does not matter that our name is remembered. It only matters what we have achieved for the people of Canada.

The member alluded to the fact that there is nothing for the widows. There are pensions for the widows. These are additional benefits and we are working for them.

There has been no betrayal, and I can lay my record before the member. Who, with all due respect and in all modesty, has spoken harder and stronger for veterans and their families than I?.

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10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government can purchase $100 million luxury jets for the Prime Minister and his cabinet to flit around in. It can do that in the link of an eye. However, we have deserving people who have earned the benefit being left out.

Concerning respect in the House, we in opposition want respect for the widows.

The minister talked about who would get credit. I know the member for Souris—Moose Mountain has been pressing for this for years. If there is a singular issue, it is this. However, this is not about who is taking credit.

I had prepared a speech today praising what would have been the success of finally providing justice for these widows. We truly believed that the minister was going to do the right thing and announce that all widows of veterans would be treated equally.

Therefore, I stand by my request. This is not only a betrayal of the widows. It is a betrayal of the currently serving personnel and their spouses as well. For this reason, I will ask again for the minister to resign.

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10:50 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the hon. member's request for the minister to resign, as upset as I am and as upset as people like Cliff Chadderton and many others are over the minister's stalling tactics on trying to get a change in the legislation, the member knows very well that if the minister resigned today, there would not be a new minister probably until April to get the problem solved because of the change of leadership within the Liberal party. That will delay the proceedings even longer which would delay our fight.

I commend the member for her speech with regard to the widows. I am just as upset as she is over this, but if the minister resigned today, that would delay the proceedings even longer. As upset as the member is, and rightly so, would she not think that it would be just as good for all of us, including those Liberals on the backbench who support the changes to this, to keep pushing the minister as hard as we can on behalf of the widows to get this done? Would she think that it could be a better approach to this ongoing discussion?

I agree with the member's anger about this. She is justified. The fact is there is no reason this cannot be done. There is absolutely no reason these widows cannot be looked after.

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10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the other opposition parties on this side of the House. The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party of Canada, the Bloc Quebecois, all of us have fought valiantly for these widows and for all veterans.

I find it difficult to believe that if a minister were incapacitated that it would hold up an entire bill. Just do the right thing, do the paperwork and have these widows included.

The Liberal Party of Canada says it stands for equality. There is no equality on this issue. This would be a fine time to see whether the Liberals stand for anything.

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to summarize this matter. If I understand the minister correctly on this point, he has said that they are in agreement on the objective. Therefore, I presume the objective is to provide justice for the widows and to overcome this problem. In question period I heard him say that the cupboards were bare and that the resources were not there.

I have many problems with that. The Governor General's budget went up dramatically in the last few years, by millions of dollars. The trip to Russia alone would pay for a lot of widows' pensions.

I think of some of the cronies that we have heard of lately, like Mr. Radwanski. I did some calculations on his budget. We could probably cover 2,000 widows just with what he has squandered away through excessive overspending. Then something like $20 million went to the former finance minister's Canada Steamship Lines. That would probably fund this program for its duration.

Could the member accept the argument that there really is not any government resources to fund the pensions?

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for making such fine points. We need only take a look at government waste to see that the money really is there. For example, $2 billion was lost in HRDC and $1 billion went out the window for the gun registry. I think an estimated $500 million is available to keep the registry going and to get it working, but it really will not save lives. It will serve only to generate artificial work and if anything, trample on the rights of Canadians.

We also saw a waste of money in the issue involving Mr. Radwanski and lunches for the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the tune of $28,000 a year.

If we really look at the spending habits of the government, individual ministers and the mandarins, we would find enough money to take care of the women whose husbands fought so valiantly for the freedom we now enjoy.

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am here today primarily because of Bill C-50. Like many members of Parliament, I have been seized with the issue of widows' pensions.

As members know, the bill was tabled at first reading on September 18 and it would amend a number of acts. Therefore, to find some continuity to it, we have to look at the existing acts. In the current act the date at which widows become eligible for pensions is in the regulations. The bill therefore would not amend the regulations; it would amend the acts.

I want to assure members, and I would ask the member if she would agree, that the effective date of widows' pensions is a matter which is incorporated in the regulations which can be changed by order in council at any time. Therefore, it is still possible for cabinet to make the announcement of an amendment to the regulations without any further amendments to the current bill. If the member is not sure of that, she may want to at least consider asking that formally of the minister in writing.

Would she agree that if it is by regulation, this can still happen by November 11?

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are many good things in Bill C-50 and we want it to pass as quickly as possible.

The member himself said that this is a matter of changing regulations and this can be done by cabinet at any time. Why has that not been done? What are we waiting for?

All veterans and widows are concerned that if the bill goes forward, the government will forget about it after November 11. These people will be forgotten again for another year. That is why we want to ensure that the issue is addressed now, not after November 7, but now.

Paul Martin Sr. Award
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Tony Tirabassi Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Ralph Griffin, a resident of the city of Thorold in my riding of Niagara Centre, who has recently been honoured with the Right Hon. Paul Martin Sr. award for his dedication and commitment as an Ontario March of Dimes volunteer.

Mr. Griffin, who first became involved with the Ontario March of Dimes in 1987, has been volunteering continuously for 16 years, lending his support to various programs, particularly the befriending program which fosters friendships by matching a physically disabled adult with a volunteer who share common interests.

Mr. Griffin also organizes annual social events and fundraising activities.

Congratulations to Ralph and thanks for his devotion to the Ontario March of Dimes.

Foreign Affairs
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, while the Prime Minister is hobnobbing with Chinese leaders, Dr. Wang Bingzhang, whose parents live in Surrey, serves a life sentence in a Chinese prison.

For five months in detention, Dr. Wang was not told of the charges against him. He was denied legal counsel and the right to judicial review of his arrest and detention. He was denied the presumption of innocence, the right to prepare a defence, the right to a fair and timely trial and the right to cross-examine witnesses.

In July the United Nations arbitrary detention working group declared Dr. Wang's detention to be arbitrary and in violation of international law. It found no basis for charges of espionage or terrorism against him. He is being punished for advancing the cause of democracy.

Meanwhile, our Prime Minister was greeted with a 19 gun salute along Tiananmen Square, the site of China's most infamous violation of human and civil rights.

Dr. Wang's family in Canada is frustrated to tears and ashamed of the Prime Minister's glad handing ways with the regime that has jailed their son for life.

Correctional Service of Canada
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week my wife and I attended a rather unusual event organized by the Correctional Service of Canada. It was the fourth charity auction of offender art, an opportunity for offenders serving federal sentences to use their artistic talents and give back to the community. The auction featured 61 pieces of art created by 27 offenders.

I am pleased to tell the House that over $20,000 was raised, some of it from me, and that proceeds will benefit the Illitiit Society of Nunavut, the United Way and the Prison Arts Foundation.

I wish to applaud the Correctional Service of Canada for taking this initiative, the National Art Gallery for providing an excellent venue and, most important, the men and women who contributed their art and thus participated in a novel way of giving back to their community.

Well done and I look forward to the fifth such auction next year.

Canadian Forces
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House today to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Forces communications and electronics branch.

From its humble beginnings, the signal corps, as it used to be known, has emerged as a leader in the development and use of new technologies that have enhanced the communications and operational capability of the Canadian Forces.

Past and present members of the branch have been hard at work this year organizing an impressive array of events to mark their centennial. This August in Kingston, the branch's home station, a reunion celebration was held. The branch's Colonel-in-Chief, the Princess Royal, honoured participants with her attendance over the celebration weekend.

On behalf of the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands I wish to congratulate the centennial 2003 organizing committee and all who played a part in making the 100th anniversary celebrations such a solid success.

Canadians are very proud of the accomplishments of the C and E branch and wish them the very best for the future.

Science and Technology
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the decision by the federal government to give $15 million to a U.S. neutron research laboratory is a slap in the face to Nobel Prize winner Dr. Bertram Brockhouse.

As the only Nobel laureate who has born, educated and completed his life's work, in Canada, he was able to do this because the research facilities exited at the Chalk River laboratories. He will probably be the last.

To maintain and continue the international reputation that Canada has developed, thanks to the work of individuals such as Dr. Brockhouse in nuclear research, we must properly fund and build research facilities in Canada. Even non-nuclear countries such as Australia operate research reactors because of the enormous application to science and technology.

By relying on other countries for a modern neutron source, Canada will find itself falling behind other countries in this type of research where once we were world leaders.

A Canadian neutron facility is essential if Canada is serious about developing a knowledge based economy. Let us keep Canadian research dollars in Canada.

United Nations Day
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is United Nations Day. It is a pleasure for me to tell the House how important this organization is to Canada.

We feel that multilateral cooperation is the best way to ensure long term international security.

The UN has experienced numerous difficulties in the past year. As a result, there are many questions about the organization's role and operation.

It is essential that the UN remain at the centre of the international response to the challenges the world is now facing.

Canada will continue to support it in that role.

Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, FRAPRU, a community organization for urban renewal, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week. This organization has led many battles for housing rights, particularly the right to social housing.

According to a recent press release by FRAPRU, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard co-signed a Liberal report in 1990 that accused the Conservative government of having slashed housing budgets and programs.

However, the former finance minister went even further by failing to provide a single penny for new social housing in Canada eight years in a row, which, in Quebec, deprived individuals living in inadequate housing and the homeless of 40,000 social housing units.

The Bloc Quebecois will continue to support FRAPRU's demands that the future prime minister reinvest substantially in social housing, once he emerges from behind the curtains.

On behalf of all my colleagues, I want to congratulate and thank FRAPRU and its coordinator, François Saillant, for many years devoted to defending the most vulnerable members of our society.

Toronto and Region Islamic Congregation
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the 25th anniversary of the Toronto and Region Islamic Congregation, TARIC, and to congratulate it on the launch of phase 2 of its building project.

I was honoured to be invited to the recent 25th anniversary celebration.

TARIC was first registered as a non-share capital corporation in 1978 and over the last 25 years has grown into a large multipurpose organization, serving the Muslim community in the GTA. TARIC has since become a significant presence in our multicultural community.

The TARIC centre was opened in 1991 and now has a membership of over 10,000. The new building will meet an increasing demand for space and services.

I ask members in this House to join me in congratulating the chairman, Haroon Salamat, and the board of directors on this very special occasion, and to wish them much success in their new facility.

Agriculture
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, inconsistent foreign restrictions on the importation of beef products have caused great harm to Canada's beef industry.

The Liberal government has been unprepared for this problem and since the worst has occurred, the government has taken minimal and inadequate remedial action.

What is needed is for the government to immediately institute internationally recognized protocols. We need to replace damaging political posturing relating to borders with sensible, agreeable rules for all concerned.

Farmers in my riding are not simply experiencing a slowdown in their business, they are going under. For many of them, this is the most disastrous time of their lives and the most distressing time for their family members. But the government has remained virtually silent.

We cannot even say that the government is missing in action because the government is really not a part of the action.

Cattlemen across the country have given up hope that the Liberal government will do anything and have had to take it upon themselves to deal with U.S. officials directly.

Liberal Government
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Yolande Thibeault Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to acknowledge a very important anniversary.

Tomorrow, October 25, is the tenth anniversary of the Liberal Party's victory under the leadership of the right hon. member for Saint-Maurice.

Because of the proactive agenda of the government he has led, the country has enjoyed tremendous economic growth and been able to maintain quality public services.

On this tenth anniversary, we have much to celebrate and we should be proud of our achievements. The future will be built on our successes because we have put this country on solid footing.

We are now ready for a new mandate.

Conservative Party
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the biggest democratic deficit in Canada is the lack of opportunity for the electorate to change the government of the day.

The success of a proposed merger between the Alliance and the PC Party will stop the Liberals from winning successive elections by default through vote splitting. There are too many parties in the House of Commons fragmenting the votes to the point that the Liberals formed the government in 1993 with only 37% of the votes.

Canadians need a real option to the Liberals in the next election capable of forming a government. That is why a merger of Canada's two conservative parties is good for both our country and democracy. With a reunited Conservative Party our votes will really count. We will have the potential to throw out an unwanted government.

The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and the leader of the official opposition have earned our thanks for putting the country and democracy first. They deserve the support of all Canadians.

United Nations Day
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Sophia Leung Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, today is United Nations Day. It was 58 years ago today that the United Nations charter came into force. It was a coming together of countries in the hope of creating a better world based on common principles and rule of law.

The challenges facing us in the world today are no less daunting than in 1945. In some areas, we have progressed immeasurably; in others, we face new challenges. These only underline the vital role and importance of collaborative international efforts and institutions such as the United Nations.

Canada was a leader in the creation of the original UN charter in 1945. We continue to play a leading role in the world. I am sure all Canadians will join me in celebrating this year's United Nation's Day.

Imprimerie Dumaine
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 20, the Saint-Hyacinthe chamber of commerce, the Local Development Centre and the BDC named Imprimerie Dumaine small business of the year.

It is an honour to join the entire community in congratulating Marc Dumaine, his associate Mario Haineault, and the entire team at Imprimerie Dumaine on the excellent work they have been doing since 1988.

Over the years, Imprimerie Dumaine has taken advantage of the creativity of its managers, and new technology, to build an increasingly larger client base.

Dynamic companies such as this one have helped Saint-Hyacinthe enjoy continued economic growth and a very low unemployment rate. We should thank more often these small businesses and the people running them for generating wealth and thousands of jobs in the area.

Once again, I would like to commend Imprimerie Dumaine for contributing to the fame of the Saint-Hyacinthe area.

Prime Minister of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ivan Grose Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is the Prime Minister's 10th anniversary.

He has led the government to three consecutive majority governments. Since day one, the government has pursued a bold, forward-looking agenda that has never faltered, and has been devoted to building a healthy and prosperous Canada.

We have much to celebrate and much to be proud of. As one who was here in those early, heady days in 1993 I share with so many of my colleagues a sense of accomplishment. As the Prime Minister said back then, we had a lot of work to do. Well, we have done a lot of good work.

In the past 10 years Canada has progressed as a nation and secured a strong future in our ever changing world. Canada's children get a better head start, our national parks system is growing, our books are balanced, our taxes are lower, and millions of jobs have been created, and those are just a few examples.

I know my colleagues will join me in congratulating the Prime Minister on 10 good years of government.

Aboriginal Affairs
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, for 25 years the early childhood intervention program has provided services to families of children from birth to school age who were developmentally delayed or a risk for delay.

Until now, families residing within first nation communities have had equal opportunity to access these services, either through provincial funding off reserve or federal funding on reserve.

Incredibly, as of next March, the on reserve access through the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs will be cut off. Why? Because federal bureaucrats have erroneously concluded that these services duplicate the aboriginal head start programs. They certainly do not, as the professionals who work in this specialized area have attested.

Hundreds of on reserve families in Saskatchewan alone will be negatively impacted as a result of this decision. New Democrats are pleading with Health Canada and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to relook at this program and the clientele it serves.

It would be readily apparent to them that there is no duplication and that the continuation of these programs is both urgent and imperative.

Small Business Week
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise today to recognize the 2003 small business week, which runs from October 19 to 25. This year's theme is, “You're the power behind the Canadian economy, let's share the energy”.

Small business is the fastest growing business sector in Canada and in this sector women-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment. Based on the 2001 census, the number of women entrepreneurs grew by 208% from 1981 to 2001 compared to a meagre 38% increase for men.

In fact, there are more than 821,000 women entrepreneurs in Canada and their businesses contributed over $18 billion to the Canadian economy in 2001. According to the OECD, Canadian women have the highest participation rate in the world for owning their own businesses.

To focus on this burgeoning increase in women who own businesses, I have been honoured to chair the Prime Minister's task force on women entrepreneurs and I am pleased to inform the House that our report will be released next Wednesday.

Justice
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, Perry Fontaine comes from a privileged background. He is the former chairman of the Virginia Fontaine Addictions Foundation, and was responsible for the care and treatment of solvent addicted aboriginal children.

Mr. Fontaine is now facing eight charges of bribery and fraud for allegedly funnelling over $600,000 from the addictions foundation and away from those very children. He is accused of stealing from the most vulnerable, the most fragile, and the most deserving of our compassion.

Because Perry Fontaine is aboriginal, he can ask the court for special treatment at sentencing. Liberal amendments to the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act instruct judges to place the rights of aboriginal criminals above the rights of aboriginal victims. That is wrong.

We must end race based sentencing and say yes to the equal rights of aboriginal victims to justice in this country.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday for the first time the Minister of Industry finally admitted freely that he accepted a free gift by going fishing at the Irving fishing lodge. A forced, half-hearted, eleventh hour apology is simply not good enough.

I ask the Deputy Prime Minister, does he still care about integrity in government? Has he intervened on behalf of Canadians, and when will the Minister of Industry be asked to resign?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the minister has answered these allegations fully in the House. He has dealt with each of the issues that have been raised.

There are a couple of outstanding items that have been referred by the minister himself to the ethics counsellor. He will deal with those when the ethics counsellor has completed looking at them.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the fact remains that the ethics counsellor has not a shred of credibility with Canadians or with members of the opposition certainly and, I suspect, members of the government.

The Minister of Industry since 1993 filed six gift declarations. He had to understand the provisions of the code of ethics. Yet there is a suspicious eight year gap during which he filed nothing.

Why did the Minister of Industry not come forward sooner with this declaration? Why does the Deputy Prime Minister not care about responsible government and ask the Minister of Industry to resign?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to credibility, he is a member who ought to be careful where he treads. He did sign a document not that long ago and then kind of threw it aside.

In respect to the matter that he is raising, it is clear that the minister has dealt with each of the allegations. He has dealt with them in the House. He has dealt with them in public. He has issued an apology for some aspects of his actions. That should leave the matter closed.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will take no lectures from a former junior rat packer who while in opposition used to care about responsible government. I will take no lessons from a Deputy Prime Minister who stands in this House day after day and defends the corrupt, sleazy actions on behalf of cabinet ministers that cost Canadian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the absence of leadership from the Prime Minister, when will the Deputy Prime Minister step forward, show some leadership and ask the industry minister to resign?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it has been many years, but I recognize the dulcet tones of a rat packer myself in that question.

What we have here is a desperate attempt on the part of the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party to attract some attention to himself. He is a leader who has decided to abandon the history and traditions of his party and turn the brand and its reputation over to the Alliance Party, and who does not have the support of key people in his party, including the previous leader. His desperation shows in his tone of voice.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the government continues to throw muck on people.

We do not accept the industry minister's half-hearted apology he gave yesterday. It was too little and it was too late. He was wrong to accept the trip. He was wrong to hide it from the ethics counsellor. He was wrong to lobby for the Irvings.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister do the right thing today and ask the industry minister to resign?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, to hear the Alliance say that it cannot accept, or it is too little, too late, this is not exactly a surprise. Have they ever said that it was enough or that it was in time?

The Minister of Industry is a person of great personal integrity. He has been a minister for 10 years. He has demonstrated his personal integrity.

The matter has been dealt with in compliance with the instructions of the ethics counsellor who is still seized with a couple of issues. I think it is fine that we just wait and see what the ethics counsellor has remaining to say.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, integrity is something that the government frontbenchers lack.

The industry minister is not the only minister accepting free flights on corporate jets. There is the defence minister, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of defence, the fisheries minister and the labour minister. How many other ministers have broken the rules and accepted free flights?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this is a sad commentary on the state of the Alliance's interests in the affairs of state. Those members have asked more questions in the last week on a fishing trip than they have asked in the last year on the fishing industry. That shows where their priorities are. They are trying to throw mud. They are trying to undermine the credibility of institutions. Those members have nothing else to talk about except to pursue minor matters.

Equalization Payments
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring of the future Liberal leader, it seems clear that the Minister of Finance is not in control. In fact, he himself has said he did not control everything himself, as justification for his inability to negotiate a new agreement on equalization payments before the next prime minister takes up the reins.

While Quebec and the provinces are demanding changes to the equalization payment system, is the government's wish to extend the present agreement not just one more confirmation of how appropriate our motion was, and of the fact that the government is at a total standstill until the new Liberal leader is in place?

Equalization Payments
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, when I met with the finance ministers on October 10, I proposed such a bill to them, and they were in agreement. There have been requests for changes to the formula, but there is no agreement among the provinces on these. Quebec, for instance, wants changes British Columbia does not find acceptable, so the Quebec minister has proposed that he could perhaps take the time to hold discussions himself with the B.C. representatives. This would take time, so—

Equalization Payments
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Longueuil.

Equalization Payments
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a rule, when the government is functioning properly, negotiations on equalization go along smoothly and no partisan precautions are necessary.

Will the Minister of Finance admit that, by getting the bill on equalization passed, what the Liberals really want is to shut down the House ASAP, so that their new leader will not have to be accountable to the public?

Equalization Payments
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, do all representatives of the ten provinces share that opinion? They have all accepted the idea of having a little reassurance, if possible, of the federal government's ability to make payments starting in early April 2004. It is simple, in my opinion. It is possible to make the changes and renew equalization payments before the start of the next year, but it is not necessary to do away with that assurance.

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, the intrigues of the future leader of the Liberal Party are paralyzing the business of the House and the government as a whole. After the Minister of Transport announced $700 million for VIA Rail, we learn that the future leader does not intend to follow through. Supporters of the member for LaSalle—Émard were shocked to hear that the current Prime Minister was making decisions that could tie the hands of his successor.

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Does the government realize that, by their comments, the supporters of the future leader—who are constantly harping in the House—are asking that the current government stop governing? What is going on?

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to announce once again that the Canadian government is prepared to invest nearly $700 million in the rail network we share in Canada. This is good news for Canadians from coast to coast. This is a commitment stemming from the work of the Standing Committee on Transport. This is a new era for passenger rail service.

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. Minister of Transport that this is still far from the original plan for high-speed rail service in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor.

On the one hand, the Liberal members say they will not support the BQ motion because they do not want to bring down the government and, on the other hand, they make one statement after another asking that the current Prime Minister not take any new decision that could be binding on the future prime minister.

Does the government realize that the words of the supporters of the future prime minister, who claim to want to let the current government govern, are contradicted by their actions?

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is getting excited and a little agitated. He is making a plea in support of a motion of non-confidence in a government. It is clear that it is not the intention of the government to support a motion of non-confidence by the Bloc Quebecois, even if this motion is congratulatory and presumably wishes long life to the future Liberal government.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, another day, another scandal. This time it is the fisheries minister, a fly-in to an exclusive, Irving-owned salmon resort just so that he could be lobbied, an overnight stay on the Restigouche with 13 employees at his beck and call, a free night's stay for the minister. Now he tells us that this is within the guidelines.

How can Canadians possibly believe that this free gift was worth less than $200?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the fact that there is a sawmill in the minister's riding that he visits in order to observe the operations is not inconsistent with complying with the regulations. The ethics counsellor has made it clear that he accepts that.

This is another example of those members dredging for minor things in order simply to throw mud. It brings the whole system into disrepute. They should think about that.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is one excuse after another why the cabinet does not have to abide by its own rules.

The labour minister broke the rules. She apologized and received a standing ovation from her colleagues. The industry minister broke the rules and gave a half-hearted apology. Now he is waiting for absolution from the ethics counsellor. The government House leader broke the rules and he was fired.

I would like to ask the government House leader, does he believe that this was fair?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as far as I know the government House leader is still in cabinet. He is sitting right beside me.

This kind of question has trivialized important matters of ethics. It has debased the currency to the extent that nobody can take any of those members' allegations seriously any longer.

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, every once in a while the Liberals do something right, so I would like to commend the Minister of Transport for his commitment to passenger rail in this country.

I want to ask the Minister of Transport if he could explain the behaviour of some of his colleagues who seem to be at odds with him on this. I hope it is not because they are enthralled with the new Liberal leader who has a history of supporting bus companies rather than crown corporation rail companies.

Could he explain the behaviour of his colleagues and explain how he intends to make sure that this actually happens?

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I want to publicly thank all my colleagues for the hard work that they have done on the passenger rail file, going back to the “Renaissance of Passenger Rail in Canada” report, under the leadership of my colleague, the member for Hamilton West, when he was chairman of the transport committee some years ago. This was followed by the $400 million announced in the budget a couple of years ago. This follows on from a program that the government is committed to and it preserves the option for VIA fast by the next government.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it seems odd that some of those who support the new Liberal leader complain when a crown corporation gets money to do something that is long overdue in this country, but they are silent about the awarding of a contract to Lockheed Martin to do the census or for that matter, the contract that was awarded to Lockheed Martin to do health information services for our Canadian armed forces.

Has the Deputy Prime Minister had a chance to look at the Lockheed Martin file? Can he tell the House today that this contract will be rescinded and the census will be done in Canada, by Canadians, where it belongs?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Secretary of State (Rural Development) (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that it is a Canadian subsidiary that will be conducting the census. The information will be maintained in Canada. It will be conducted in Canada. It will be a Canadian enterprise that provides a valuable service to Canadians, which we have always done in terms of the census.

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was just putting the finishing touches on it.

Sometimes one lands on the corner that says, “Go to jail. Do not collect $200”. But when Alfonso Gagliano found himself cornered, the Prime Minister said, “Step out of cabinet. Step out of Parliament. Step out of the country. Go to Denmark. Collect millions”. Then Mr. Gagliano had the gall to say on CPAC, “I am neither in government nor in politics any more--”

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

I am afraid the finishing touches were a little too lengthy. Perhaps the hon. member could let us have a supplementary question.

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, he says “I am not in government. I am not in politics any more. I am an ambassador”.

Why can we not get him back here to Canada where he is wanted?

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

I think it requires some continuing work, Mr. Speaker. What we are seeing now in a series of questions is a trivializing of issues that could be important instead of looking at things of serious importance.

The hon. member says that corruption is not important. Corruption is important. These people have so debased the currency of that word that they would not recognize corruption if they ever did see it.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Quebec's finance minister, Yves Séguin, declared that it would be completely reprehensible for the federal Minister of Finance not to pay out the $2 billion he has promised to Quebec and the provinces for health.

As usual, Canada's finance minister states that he is in the red. Still, at the end of the year, surprise, surprise, we will find out that he has underestimated the surplus and that the money is there.

Since he has the money, will the Minister of Finance make a commitment, right now, to spend the promised $2 billion on health?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I know this is rather complicated for many people.

However, the surplus we announced was for last year. The conditional commitment was tied to a surplus in the current year. In January we will calculate the expected size of the surplus and then we will make a decision on the basis of the conditions under which the commitment was made.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, they keep singing the same old tune. They even use disasters to renege on their commitment.

I would like to remind the Minister of Finance that, despite the events of September 11 and the extra financial burden they imposed, the surplus did appear as expected. Instead of trying to put us to sleep, what is the finance minister waiting for to respect his commitments with respect to health? It is vital.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, apparently the hon. member was asleep when the agreement was signed, because it was an agreement with a conditional commitment. That means there is a condition. The condition relates to the state of our finances in January 2004. Today is only October 24; it is not January yet.

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the $692.5 million announced by the Minister of Transport is nothing more than a thinly disguised down payment on a multi-billion dollar high-speed rail boondoggle. We know the minister went through cabinet, but that cabinet will not be in place in 2004.

Has the minister consulted with the incoming Liberal leader about the future spending commitment?

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the announcement today follows on the policy of the government for the last five years to revitalize passenger rail. There was general support for this on all sides of the House over the past number of years.

The deliberations on this announcement have gone on for about 18 months. We felt it was only right that a future government make a commitment to such a large expenditure as VIA Fast, but the work that will be done under this program will certainly facilitate VIA Fast at a later date.

I would like to thank my colleagues in my party and in cabinet for all the support they have given on this venture.

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian taxpayers have shelled out $3 billion for VIA Rail since the Liberals took office, exclusive of this new funding announcement. That works out to $10 million per riding. That is money that those ridings should have had go to things like hospitals, highways and their civic infrastructure instead of taking that money out of those ridings.

How much longer can the Canadian taxpayers be expected to subsidize the transport minister's personal rail fetish?

Transport
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the announcement today and the announcement of a few years ago of $401.2 million flowed from a unanimous report of the transport committee in the House of Commons that called for the revitalization of passenger rail.

I cannot understand why we are being accused of not following Parliament's will. I think Canadians want good passenger rail.

Part of today's announcement will refurbish the western transcontinental fleet that will serve the hon. member's province.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the close ties the industry minister and his cabinet colleagues have maintained with the Irving family make them more tolerant toward oil companies.

Are we to understand that the reluctance of the Minister of Industry to launch an inquiry into dubious practices involving oil companies, such as the preferential treatment the cabinet is preparing to give major polluters under the Kyoto protocol, can be explained by ministerial ties to the Irving oil companies?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Secretary of State (Rural Development) (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, that is absolute nonsense. The Competition Bureau will do investigations as people bring up issues surrounding the price of gas. That has always happened in the past and it will continue to happen in the future.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, first there was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence, then the Minister of Industry, then the Minister of Labour, and now we find that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was also a guest of the Irving family.

Are they trying to tell us there was a Liberal cabinet meeting on the banks of the Restigouche River?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it has already been agreed that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has the right to visit people in his riding. Does the hon. member believe that it is unacceptable for a minister, who is also a member of Parliament, to visit anyone who is a shareholder in his riding? Some constituents are also important employees.

Airline Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the International Air Transport Association notes that landing fees at Toronto's Pearson airport have increased 300% since 1997. Toronto's landing fees are now 50% higher than those in Hong Kong, which airport was built on a man-made island, and four times that of London Heathrow.

On April 11 the transport committee across all parties unanimously demanded that the government suspend airport rents across this country to help the air industry survive.

If the government can find $700 million for corporate welfare for a train boondoggle, why can it not find $200 million to help the air industry by relieving airport rents?

Airline Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

I should explain, Mr. Speaker, that all these airport authorities entered into negotiations in good faith with the federal government and knew full well that airport rents had to be paid. That is the first point.

The second point is that we have been reviewing the regime because we have been concerned as to whether it has been fair in the long run, and that is now before cabinet. I have some particular concerns with aspects of the rental policy of the national airports policy and I would hope that my colleagues will make some changes.

The significant amount of money involved really would be a budgetary item and would have to be considered by the Minister of Finance in a subsequent budget.

Airline Industry
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the transport minister announced $700 million in VIA Rail funding despite the fact that there is no money in this year's budget in order to finance his fetish for trains.

The minister's refusal to bring a concrete proposal on high speed rail and the money required for it will find him no friends in the transport committee and will probably not find him as a cabinet minister of the next Liberal leader. Like the Prime Minister, he will not be a major player in the next government. If he wants to be remembered favourably, he should put his toy trains away and focus on the real transport issues of this country.

Why is he persistently and constantly putting the rail industry ahead of all--

Airline Industry
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Transport.

Airline Industry
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to get into the silly rhetoric of the hon. member, but I would like to point out that in the last couple of years the government has made significant investments, in particular, in the air industry, not just passenger rail.

On the war risk liability, we have saved the industry $100 million. There was a $100 million payment after 9/11. There was $35 million for the cockpit doors to be refitted. It was a $72 million saving to the airlines for air screening at airports. We have done a lot for the air industry and other transportation industries, as well we should, but we do not apologize for helping the rail industry.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

In my riding of Etobicoke North, in an attractive residential area known as Thistletown, many very old and majestic trees are being threatened by a pest known as the Asian longhorned beetle. Affected trees will have to be cut down, but healthy trees could be saved by safely injecting them with the insecticide Imidacloprid. This product was successfully used as part of an overall eradication strategy in the city of Chicago.

Could the minister advise the House if a similar strategy will be used in Thistletown and when will Imidacloprid be available for use on trees in Canada?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, we are all very disappointed that the Asian longhorned beetle has infested parts of the metro Toronto area.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is preparing an application to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency in the Ministry of Health for registration for the use of this chemical in this situation. If it is registered, it will be part of an integrated approach to the eradication of the Asian longhorned beetle in the Toronto area and in Canada.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, this one might be a little tougher. The Minister of Agriculture promised producers that the BSE recovery program would ensure that cattle priced by August 17 and slaughtered by August 31 would be covered by the program. Producers in my riding were promised compensation in good faith. They have slaughtered their animals in good faith but they are still waiting for their money. They have been told that the program has to have an audit first.

Is this just another broken promise by the minister, and if not, when can my producers expect their money?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed that the hon. member is indicating that we should not do an audit. The opposition sits over there and tells us that we should mind and be careful of how moneys are spent.

Unfortunately, we found there had been some applications for cattle that were slaughtered that were paid twice. The applications came in twice.

There was an unlimited amount of money and everyone in the industry knew that there was a bookend, if I could put it that way, on the end of the program. As applications continue to come in after that, the applications will be reviewed. I can assure the hon. member that after the audit to ensure that the money was paid out properly, all the applications applicable--

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Brandon—Souris.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, the minister cannot speak out of both sides of his face, unfortunately. The problem is when he was asked in this House if it was a matter of money, he said “no, under the APF program there is $5.5 billion and we can bring that forward”.

We know there is a $7 billion surplus, so money cannot be the problem. The problem is not the audit. The problem is the minister has lost all confidence at the cabinet table. He has no influence at all. If that is not the case, then Mr. Speaker, show me the money, Mr. Minister.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Brandon—Souris knows he must address his remarks to the Chair and although it was a clever ploy to call both Mr. Speaker and Mr. Minister, he knows he only intended to address one of us. However, the question is directed to the minister and he will now be able to reply.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member wants a briefing on the difference between the BSE recovery program and the business risk management program, I would be pleased to give him one.

The BSE recovery program was an additional support to the beef industry on top of the business risk management program of another $312 million from the federal government. That will go to the producers.

The other program that is there for producers to apply on an interim basis, because his province has signed the implementation agreement, and at the end of the year is still there as the business risk management program and it has an unlimited amount of money.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, woodlot owners in the Halifax regional municipality have been suffering for over three years because of the quarantine placed on them by the CFIA on the brown spruce longhorned beetle. Now after hurricane Juan, thousands of these trees must be commercially harvested immediately to have any viability at all when it comes to economics for those woodlot owners.

My question for the minister responsible for the CFIA is this. Will he now work with the province to designate a mill that can handle the quarantined lumber so these woodlot owners can gain some economic viability from all the trees that have been blown down?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, in eradicating this insect, the hon. member I think is aware of the fact that hardwood trees, with a certificate, can be moved out of the ministerial quarantine zone. Softwood trees must be processed within that zone.

However, if the outside of those logs are removed and the inspection shows that the core of that log is not infected, with a certificate, they can move those out and we will work with the province on this. We have and we will continue as well to assess any alternate or suggested process of doing this with the province of--

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Windsor West.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, a Canadian was held in jail for many months without trial because he crossed the U.S. border to get gas with a hunting rifle in his trunk.

Meanwhile this past summer we had two incidents in Windsor where American Detroit police officers came across the border and in the plaza of Canada Customs discharged their weapons. One incident actually had a victim.

What has happened over there is that both the Minister of National Revenue and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have ignored this American gunplay, not even asking for an apology.

I ask the Deputy Prime Minister, why the double standard? Why not stand up for Canadians? Is it acceptable to have Windsor as a gun range for American officers?

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, if there is one thing the Canadian government is very proud of is the moves we have made since September 11.

We have set up 12 out of a potential 14 integrated border enforcement teams which work with local police forces with jurisdictions on both sides of the border, and with customs and immigration. We are continuing through those IBETs to ensure that there is compatibility on both sides of the border.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the minister why the government continues to allow children to go to schools that are in appalling condition on some remote reserves.

These schools would be closed until fixed if they were anywhere else. The minister wondered why I had not given him a heads up.

How about a three year heads up of formal inspections by Health Canada that have repeatedly pointed out these problems? When will the government stop discriminating against our children on reserves?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Miramichi
New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am again really surprised with the tone of the hon. member's question.

Our government works very closely with first nations people to see that there is an adequate system of education.

He is asking about a small remote community in northern Ontario, of some 300 people, who have a chief and a council. They attempt to operate a band and a school in the best interest of their community.

I am sure that if the hon. member would work with first nations people that we would have more progress in their educational system.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, why do any inspections at all if Health Canada is going to fail to enforce anything?

Health Canada has been giving performance bonuses to corrupt officials who are now charged with fraud, bribery, waste and corruption, and yet we cannot get the basics right for our children.

When will the minister get the priorities right for our children?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Miramichi
New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I was a principal of a school for years. I know that Health Canada can close a school and it has not closed this school.

I am surprised. We are dealing with education. We are dealing with a band council. The chief and council have not, as of this date, brought this matter to our attention in terms of Health Canada.

I am surprised that the member has the information. I hope that he will table it with our minister and we will certainly look into the issue.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, although Quebec signed the agricultural policy framework, Quebec producers of cull cattle, the unwilling victims of the mad cow crisis, are on the verge of despair. They can no longer make ends meet. They are threatened with losing their farms and urgently need assistance.

The policy framework is not providing them with any assistance, so what is the minister waiting for to announce a specific aid program?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I will continue to work with the Liberal caucus members from the Province of Quebec and the cattle industry across Canada in every province.

The BSE recovery program was used by the beef industry and dairy industry in the Province of Quebec with considerable success.

My own staff, officials and I were in meetings this week with cattle representatives from the Province of Quebec representing both the beef and dairy industry in specific reference to older animals. Any program that comes forward will be available for both beef and dairy older animals.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, just as the SARS crisis was important to people in Toronto, the mad cow crisis is important to cattle farmers in my region and throughout Quebec.

When will the minister understand that he has an obligation to help them, that the Quebec government appears to be running out of resources and that the federal government must now do its share?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I have certainly understood that.

That is why the government has put forward its support to the beef industry by 60% and the provinces put 40%. We are doing our share. When the Constitution says it is a shared jurisdiction, most people would expect that to be fifty-fifty.

The process and programs have been there in the past. In any program that will be developed in the future for older animals, Quebec dairy or beef producers will have equitable access to that program as any other beef or dairy producer across Canada.

Trade
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, recently, CAE, a Canadian firm, lost out on a $1 billion U.S. defence contract despite the fact it was the low bidder by 16%.

Derek Burney, the firm's president, fears that his company will have a very difficult time securing future defence contracts in the United States because of the damage caused by the Liberal government's anti-Americanism.

I ask the Minister for International Trade whether other Canadian defence contractors are now suffering the same fate?

Trade
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, we continue to work very closely with our defence industry.

We have set up a technology partnerships program at Industry Canada which works with many of them. It is a program that the official opposition likes to criticize a great deal.

We continue to work with our defence industry. We believe that the CCC, the Commercial Corporation of Canada, continues to serve our defence industry in the United States market very well. It is an activity that we will continue to support as a government.

Trade
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, if the softwood lumber dispute were a measure of the minister's competency, I would suggest that the 6,000 employees of CAE have much to be fearful about.

I ask once again, what specific steps is the minister taking to assist CAE and Canadian defence contractors through difficult times caused by the government?

Trade
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, on the softwood lumber issue, the government, supported by the British Columbia government, the Quebec government, and the industry in both the east and west, has been doing an outstanding job in the United States in promoting our interests, so much so that the official opposition fails to raise it regularly in the House. It is just interested in throwing mud at the minister who is leading this exercise with the support of the whole country.

We will do the same thing with the defence industry in the United States and everywhere else on the planet.

International Cooperation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Yolande Thibeault Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of International Cooperation is leading a Canadian delegation to the Madrid conference on reconstruction in Iraq, attended by donor countries contributing to this cause.

Could the parliamentary secretary to the minister tell the House how the Canadian International Development Agency is contributing to efforts to restore stability and prosperity to Iraq?

International Cooperation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord
Québec

Liberal

André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her interest in the Iraqi people.

Canada was one of the first countries to signal a major commitment to helping the Iraqi people rebuild their lives. Some $300 million was allocated for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. This morning, the minister, who is representing us in Madrid, announced a $100 million contribution to a multilateral fund for reconstruction and $10 million to train Iraqi police officers.

Canada is increasingly committed to multilateral interventions throughout the world. I thank the hon. member once again for her interest.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, in May of this year I contacted the finance minister asking for an explanation as to why the northern resident tax benefit did not apply to such remote areas as Kitkahta in Skeena riding. To date I have not received a reply.

Why do many truly remote areas, such as Kitkahta and in fact the entire Queen Charlotte Islands as well, not qualify for this deduction? Believe me, they really deserve it.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the boundary line for the northern deduction is one that was arrived at as a result of work that was done by committees that reviewed everything.

Of course any time a line is drawn somebody will be on one side of it and somebody will be on another side of it. I understand that all the factors of remoteness and isolation were taken into account in determining where the line should be drawn.

I am always open to submissions that can be passed on concerning factors that may influence the location of the line.

Energy
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, the line is very questionable, but I will approach that later.

My supplementary question is for the Minister of Natural Resources.

There is a huge potential in Canada for clean green power generation through the use of wind driven generators. Legislation to provide clear direction and guidelines to the industry is not readily available.

Why will the Minister of Natural Resources not recognize the clean power generating opportunities of this industry and put in place the needed guidelines instead of allowing his bureaucrats to create difficulties for the growth of this industry in Canada?

Energy
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources and the government have made it very clear that we see the opportunities and advantages of wind power and wind energy.

Some dollars have been designated in budgets and in actions of the department in the past. It is an area that has tremendous opportunity ahead. It is an area that many people are looking at and it is an area where investments are being made.

We can continue to do that with the support of all Canadians in order to reduce greenhouse gases, provide other sources of energy, and build upon the requirements of those fossil--

Energy
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

Jacques Cartier Bridge
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Jacques Cartier Bridge ranks second only to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge for the number of suicides annually. Recommendations have been made, not only by the coroner, but also by a group of experts, that the Federal Bridge Corporation install suicide barriers. The Corporation is opposed to this.

Does the Minister of Transport intend to get the Federal Bridge Corporation to re-examine the situation and comply with the task force recommendation for suicide barriers to stop this loss of human lives?

Jacques Cartier Bridge
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this is a problem with many of the world's bridges, particularly those in Canada. There is nothing to prove, however, that this will solve the problem.

In this case, moreover, it is the responsibility of the Federal Bridge Corporation to determine whether to install barriers on the Jacques Cartier and other federal bridges.

Shipyards
Oral Question Period

Noon

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the corporate paid fishing trip for the industry minister, the $55 million contribution to Irving already fails the smell test. Add to that two more foul odours.

Before employees can receive their severance pay they must first vote to decertify their unions. Second, a diaper manufacturer is rumoured to be interested in the shipbuilding property.

Fish, diapers and offensive labour practices, it is the big stinky. Will the government table all the details of this truly odious agreement?

Shipyards
Oral Question Period

Noon

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, that is a pretty convoluted question.

Let us understand one thing. The situation that we faced, certainly when I was the industry minister, was that we were simply not succeeding on a competitive basis in that industry. We had a very modern yard and well-trained workers in Saint John with no work.

As a result of decisions taken in this year's budget we hope we will see productive labour return to the site of the Saint John yard. That will benefit greatly the people of that region.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on October 2, 2003, by the hon. member for St. Albert, concerning his claim that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner had overspent funds appropriated by the House. I would like to thank the hon. member for St. Albert for raising this issue, as well as the hon. government House leader for his comments.

In support of his charge, the hon. member for St. Albert cited the Auditor General's “Report on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada”. The report notes that despite the requirement for organizations in the federal government to make financial statements that are complete, accurate and fair, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner had failed to do so.

Paragraph 111 of the report states:

We found that despite these requirements, the preparers of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner's financial statements for the fiscal year ending 31 March 2003--the Director, Financial Services, the Chief of Staff, and the Executive Director--knowingly omitted about $234,000 of accounts payable at year end.

The report concludes in paragraph 112 that:

The effect of the omission was to mislead Parliament by creating the impression that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner had spent only the amounts authorized by Parliament for the 2002-03 fiscal year.

On October 2, the hon. government House leader indicated that he would endeavour to verify that information communicated to the House had been accurate. On October 6, the hon. minister returned to the House to clarify the procedure the government uses in cases such as this. In his remarks, the hon. government House leader pointed out that the procedure for dealing with the overspending of an appropriation is well established both in Treasury Board guidelines and in the Financial Administration Act.

Subsection 37.1(4) of the Financial Administration Act states:

Where… a payment is made that results in an expenditure that is in excess of an appropriation,(a)the amount by which the expenditure exceeds the balance then remaining in the appropriation constitutes a first charge against the next appropriation of the immediately subsequent fiscal year;

The hon. government House leader stated:

Therefore, the $234,000 will be recorded in the Public Accounts for 2002-03 since that is the year in which the expenses were incurred.

This will result in reporting in the Public Accounts 2002-03 an overexpenditure on that vote, in this case Vote 45 of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, by approximately $234,000--

As hon. members are aware, funds requested in the estimates must be approved by Parliament. The government can only spend funds in the amount that Parliament has appropriated and only for the purpose for which the funds are appropriated. With respect to the oversight of government expenditure, House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 698 states:

First, Parliament must assent to all legislative measures which implement public policy and the House of Commons authorizes both the amounts and objects or destination of all public expenditures. Second, through its review of the annual departmental performance reports, the Public Accounts and the reports of the Auditor General, the House ascertains that no expenditure was made other than those it had authorized.

Both the hon. member for St. Albert and the hon. government House leader agree that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner overspent the appropriation in vote 45 for 2002-03 by some $234,000. That point is not disputed.

The hon. member for St. Albert contends that this will pose difficulties for the President of the Treasury Board. The government House leader counters that the situation will be dealt with in due course when the Public Accounts for 2002-03 are published in accordance with existing Treasury Board guidelines and the provisions of the Financial Administration Act.

As hon. members know, the role of the Speaker is a restricted one. House of Commons Procedure and Practice , p. 261, states:

Despite the considerable authority the Speaker holds, he or she may exercise only those powers conferred by the House, within the limits established by the House itself. In ruling on matters of procedure, the Speaker adheres strictly to this principle—

The question that I must address as Speaker is whether the rules or practices of the House have been infringed in any way. The timing of this complaint is somewhat problematic for the Chair since it anticipates potential difficulties. Thus, for example, the Auditor General has suggested that the House will be misled while the government House leader has assured the House that the item in question will be correctly set out in the public accounts. Even the hon. member for St. Albert seemed satisfied that the interim privacy commissioner is taking the necessary steps to ensure that this will be so.

On June 12, 2003, as part of its approval of the main estimates for 2003-04, the House granted the Office of the Privacy Commissioner $9.8 million as the appropriation for Vote 45. Members will no doubt want to inquire as to whether the $234,000 has been charged against that appropriation, as required by the Financial Administration Act.

While the Chair can find no evidence of a direct attempt to mislead hon. members, I find it regrettable that once again members have found it difficult to obtain the information they require from the estimates documents. Although the overexpenditure will be set out in the Public Accounts for 2002-03, those Public Accounts are usually not available to hon. members when they consider the main estimates for the subsequent year. I know that many members would find it useful to be informed of cases such as this before they have completed their consideration of the main estimates.

I congratulate the hon. member for St. Albert for his continued vigilance in these matters, which is a credit both to him and to the House. At the present time, however, I can find no grounds on which to find that any breach of our rules has occurred.

Oral Question Period
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Secretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for St. Albert, to whom you just referred, asked a question of me in the House yesterday with respect to one of my employees. In addition to the answer I provided to him yesterday, I have provided him with a detailed letter this morning setting out the comprehensive issues with respect to that employee.

Pursuant to the Standing Orders of the House, it is my wish to now table it in the House as it is a matter of interest to the House. I do so with two copies of the letter in each official language.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

York West
Ontario

Liberal

Judy Sgro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 35 petitions.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to table, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Transport. Pursuant to its order it reviewed the supplementary estimates under Votes 10a, 20a, 40a and 45. A copy of the relevant minutes of the proceedings of meeting number 38 is also tabled.

I want to thank all the members of the committee from both sides of the House for carrying out their duties and spending a great deal of time on scrutinizing government spending.

I wish I could also thank the Minister of Transport for making himself available yesterday during four hours of questioning, but at that particular time he failed to inform the committee that he was going to leave the House and make an announcement of $692 million for VIA Rail which had never appeared before the House.

I make that report on behalf of the committee.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today.

The first is a petition submitted primarily from people living in the riding of Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant through their member of the provincial parliament and given to me to deliver on their behalf. It is a petition against the federal gun registry. It points out that the registry will not save lives and is costing billions. This raises to almost 11,000 the number of signatures I have submitted in various petitions relating to Bill C-68 and the gun registry.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition relates to stem cell research. It points out that adult stem cell research shows promising results and encourages parliamentarians to focus our energies upon promoting adult stem cell research and not embryonic stem cell research.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is one that has been circulated quite widely in my own constituency. It draws the attention of the House to the fact that Bill C-250 has the effect of placing dangerous restrictions upon freedom of expression in religion. I note, of course, that Bill C-250 is no longer before this chamber. It is, however, before the Senate and I am sure that members of that chamber will want to take note of the fact that this petition has been submitted.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I would like to present two bundles of 10 petitions each containing many hundreds of names from my riding of York West and from the greater Toronto area. The petitioners call upon Parliament to take all necessary means to maintain and support the definition of marriage in Canada as a union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Point of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order and apologize to the hon. members for interrupting, but I waited for the first appropriate opportunity.

I let my colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North finish his presentation earlier, under Presenting Reports from Committees. This colleague made comments about the presence of the minister at the Standing Committee on Transport yesterday, and is clearly showing discontent with the announcement made by the Minister of Transport.

You allowed him that much leeway. What I would like to know is whether a member is allowed, under Presenting Reports from Committees, to voice a position contrary to the majority of, if not all the members of the Standing Committee on Transport.

I would appreciate your input on that, Mr. Speaker, because the last remarks by the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North should be withdrawn, because he was certainly not speaking on behalf of the committee as a whole.

Point of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Our hon. colleague from Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans is raising an interesting point; it is in order though and, as such, calls for a short clarification.

With respect to the substance of the member's point of order, I agree that it is unusual for a member to add comments about his opposition to a majority decision by the committee. This may raise a question for debate. However, it is not contrary to our rules. No rule specifically permits or prohibits it. It is the exception rather than the rule.

As far as our procedure is concerned, I indicated earlier that there is nothing to say it can or cannot be done. Therefore, I must say that this is more a matter for debate than one governed by our rules.

If any further clarification is necessary, I will gladly give the floor to the hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans.

Point of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand very well what you are saying and you know how much I respect the institution that you represent. That said, I am not in any way challenging your decision. I simply want to make you aware of the following situation.

When the section “presenting reports from committees” is called, it is my understanding that the point of view of the entire committee is presented. The member who has the opportunity to table a report on behalf of a committee represents the consensus reached by that committee and if comments are added that he disagrees with—

Point of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. I respect everyone's opinion, but this is entirely a point of debate.

That said, with respect to this point, if members want to study the situation further, perhaps the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs could address this issue and provide clarifications as to what is accepted or not in our procedure.

At this time, there is no set rule. I cannot put the Speaker in a position where he would have to rule one way or the other. As I said earlier, the committee chair usually presents the report, and the subject is closed for now.

I understand full well the point raised by the hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans. The Speaker addressed the issue to share his personal opinion.

I would add, and I repeat, that this is perhaps an issue that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs would like to address to provide more specific clarifications.

Is the hon. member for Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan rising on the same point of order?

Point of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is related to that.

Point of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am reluctant to continue what is clearly becoming more of a debate. I will simply repeat myself. According to our rules right now there is nothing that precludes what just took place. If the parties in the House wish to further investigate, study, reflect and come up with some additional standing order clarifications, or whatever the case may be, to tighten up this practice, that is something for the House. However for the time being the Chair can only interpret what it has on the books, and there is nothing in our standing orders right now that says it can or cannot take place.

Accordingly, I leave that in the hands of the membership of all parties of the House to delve into this matter further. I would submit the possibility might be the procedure and House affairs committee.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege to present a petition which requests Parliament to pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being a lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Tirabassi Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions today.

The first petition is on behalf of some of my constituents in Niagara Centre who condemn the creation and use of child pornography. They wish to draw to the attention of the House that the courts have not applied the current child pornography law in a way which makes it clear that such exploitation of children will always be met with swift punishment.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Tirabassi Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with the situation involving rural route mail couriers who often earn less than the minimum wage and who have not been allowed to bargain collectively to improve their wages.

The petitioners are asking that section 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act be repealed.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present petitions on behalf of many people from northwestern Ontario who implore the House to abide by the decision of the House of Commons made on June 8, 1999, by a vote of 216 for and 55 against, defining the terms of marriage; that marriage is an institution that pre-exists the state; and that marriage is an institution so basic to the human condition and the common good that its nature is beyond the reach of any civil law.

Therefore the petitioners, from all the small areas of northwestern Ontario, petition the House to use all necessary means to maintain and support the above definition of marriage pursuant to the motion of June 8, 1999, that being the union of one man and one woman.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by a number of Canadians, including from my own riding of Mississauga South. It also has to do with the issue of the definition of marriage.

The petitioners would like to remind the House of the June 10, 2003 decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal that ruled the current definition of marriage to be unconstitutional under the equality provisions of the charter.

They also want to remind the government that section 33 of the Constitution provides an override, also known as the notwithstanding clause, to simply override the decision of a court.

Therefore, the petitioners petition Parliament to invoke the notwithstanding clause so that the definition of marriage remains the legal union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition from many of my constituents and constituents from across Canada who are concerned about the beef industry.

They call upon Parliament to immediately constitute internationally accredited protocols to reinforce international confidence in Canada's healthy beef products and thereby replacing damaging political posturing relating to borders with sensible agreeable rules for all concerned.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

York West
Ontario

Liberal

Judy Sgro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 251 will be answered today.

Question No. 251
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

From the Export Development Corporation, and since October 25, 1993: (a) what are the programs, policies and circumstances under which a Canadian manufacturer of aircraft could apply for and obtain credits to sell airplanes to a Canadian airline; and (b) excluding the names of the producers and purchasers, what are the instances in which this actually happened, including dates, dollar amounts, number and value of aircraft?

Question No. 251
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Since October 25, 1993, with respect to (a), financing from Export Development Canada is used for transactions relating to exports and must be in accordance with EDC’s mandate. EDC may provide support for a sale of aircraft by a Canadian manufacturer to a Canadian airline if doing so would support or develop Canada's export trade or Canadian capacity to engage in export trade or to respond to international business opportunities. With respect to (b), EDC has not provided support for such a sale. Nevertheless, in 1995-96 EDC supported certain export transactions that involved the purchase of Canadian made aircraft by foreign entities, which subsequently leased them to a Canada based carrier. Like all EDC transactions, the details are commercially confidential.

Question No. 251
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

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

Question No. 251
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 251
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 251
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order in relation to a question of privilege that I hope to bring forward. I am aware that the House requires one hour's written notice.

The matter arises out of an apparent contempt of Parliament where a witness refused two requests by a committee to answer questions on a matter that was of substantive importance to the committee and to its work.

Mr. Speaker, it will take some time, as you know, to get the transcripts and, indeed, to ask the committee to consider the matter and determine whether a report should be made by the committee to the chamber in regard to an apparent contempt of Parliament.

I find this to be an important issue and I raise it for the attention of the House. This matter does not come forward very often, in fact there is very little current precedence, but I believe some consideration should be given to it.

I rise on a point of order because there is a requirement that the matter be raised at the earliest possible time and it would appear that the earliest possible time will not be until after the committee can consider it. I rise simply to give notice that I intend to bring a point of privilege as soon as all the relevant information is available and the environment committee has an opportunity to consider a report to Parliament.

Question No. 251
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

That certainly does not require the Chair to make a decision at this moment on this matter but certainly, as the member has already mentioned himself in his few remarks, with the appropriate notice the question of privilege will be raised in due time.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, an act to amend the statute law in respect of benefits for veterans and the children of deceased veterans be read the third time and passed.

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-50. This is a very important debate for the future of the support programs, including that for widows and widowers. Because there are more and more women in the Canadian Forces, there will be an increasing number of veterans' widowers who will be entitled to certain benefits.

The advantage of this bill was that it would make certain improvements to the existing program. That was the goal. Obviously, we all would have liked to see the improvements to the existing program made in the right order and with respect for all the people, all the women and men who become the widows and widowers of veterans. But this was not what happened.

For instance, there is a very specific program that provides support to veterans to give them help with housekeeping and grounds maintenance. It has been a much appreciated program, so much so that many requests were made by widows and widowers, because it was a time-limited program. The veterans who qualified for this program could have help with household tasks and grounds maintenance, and it would continue for one year after the death of the veteran.

Therefore, the majority of surviving spouses can receive this allowance under the veteran's independence program. The program goal is clear from the title. Its purpose was to provide veterans suffering from health problems due to war wounds, for example, with assistance so they could remain independent and continue to live at home and take care of their property. Those unable to do so were entitled to assistance under the veteran's independence program.

This program provided an allowance for housework. As a result, this meant someone could be hired to do the housework or yard work. This program took care of that. Under the old rules, once a veteran died, the surviving spouse could continue to receive this allowance for one year.

Obviously, if veterans were no longer able to do this work while still alive, it was quite logical to cut off this allowance one year after their death. The need was there, it was urgent while the veteran was alive and then, after one year, the need suddenly disappears.

There were long discussions, great debates and the program was amended. Everyone in the House wanted this program to be provided on a permanent basis. Therefore, when a veteran receiving this allowance died, the surviving spouse would be entitled to it for life. That was the objective.

Once again, when the regulatory changes were made, for purely budgetary reasons, one entire portion of the program for surviving spouses of veterans was shelved. A cut-off date was introduced. Surviving spouses of veterans who have died within a certain period of time could benefit from this program for life, and those no longer receiving this allowance would not be entitled to it.

All the complicated explanations from the minister or the Liberal members make no sense whatsoever.

A person either is or is not a veteran's widow. This bill and the regulations create two categories of widows.

Some will be entitled to the program for life, while others will not be entitled to it at all. Here, I am talking about those who are no longer entitled to it. Those who were subject to the previous legislation and received benefits for a year and complained, the widows who received nothing or lost this assistance after a year. They are the ones who put pressure on the government, explaining that the reason their spouse received benefits from this program was that they were unable to take care of their home.

The program's objective is to help veterans live independently. It is only normal that in our society, our veterans, those who fought for us and defended us, at least have their independence. That was the objective.

Several widows and widowers felt that the program was completely unacceptable. They wondered why they were getting benefits for only one year. The government, in its wisdom, has decided to study and analyze the program and say yes to all those who complained about it ending one year after the veteran's death.

The government says that, effective May 12, 2003, widows of veterans who were entitled to the program will receive benefits for life. However, people complained for 10 or 20 years, and said that the program was worthwhile and important. They used the program because they were unable to be independent at home. These are the people who managed to move this issue forward. Yet, because the government was short of funds, it decided to deny benefits to widows whose husbands had passed away before May 12, 2003. In fact it is May 12, 2002, because those who had been receiving benefits from the program since May 12, 2003 would continue to do so for life.

According to the figures available to us, benefits are being eliminated for 23,000 surviving spouses, mostly widows. Often these women are the ones who fought to obtain the program. They are the ones who led the battle to let the government know it made no sense to provide assistance for a year and then do away with the program. Loss of their husbands has meant the loss of their independence. They are often compelled to sell their homes because they cannot carry out housework and yard work. Yet the specific purpose of this program was to provide veterans and their spouses with peace of mind. That was the reality.

We agree with the new measure whereby, after the death of a veteran, his or her surviving spouse could go on living as before. We support the measure, but what we do not support is the regulations setting a cutoff date. It will, according to our estimate, make 23,000 widows ineligible for the program.

The minister has criticized members for stating in the House that certain people would no longer be on the list. He is the one who drew up this new list. It encompasses the surviving spouses of veterans effective May 12, 2003 or 2002, depending on the technical calculations.

He is the one who drew up the list, and some people will no longer have any entitlement. What is even more serious, I repeat, is that these are the people who fought for this program to be maintained, the people who have been trying for decades to get the government to understand the objective of the VIP program. Its purpose is precisely to allow veterans' families to remain in their homes in peace.

This is a serious matter. We will be told that care must be taken because of the money involved. I will spare hon. members a repeat of all the money the government has wasted. There has been plenty of media coverage, and plenty of reference in this House to all the scandals and overspending in all departments, not to mention the constant surplus, which they underestimate in order not to have any money left for the provinces. We are told that the surplus will not be more than $3 billion, yet in the end the figure is said to be $7 billion.

It is not true that there is no money. It is a matter of putting money in the right place. That is the reality. What the opposition wabts is simple. There is a good veterans independence program in place, and wives, widows and a number of widowers have been requesting for decades that it be maintained indefinitely so that veterans' widows and widowers can continue to enjoy the same quality of life they enjoyed when their spouse was with them.

I repeat that not all veterans were eligible for this program, only those who were unable to look after their housekeeping or groundkeeping for any number of reasons, be it health reasons, war injuries or what not.

Again, this is an indication that the Liberal government is not spending wisely. We could give a long list of examples of departmental expenditures. Departments could be told to start putting money in the right place. Compensation should be provided to these 23,000 widows and widowers. We in the Bloc Quebecois sincerely believe that this would be spending the taxpayers' money wisely.

This is the simple rationale we are trying to get across to the government. The bill contains many other measures to improve the situation of veterans, former POWs and others. In that respect, we agree. We are also pleased that there was broad consultation on this bill.

The only problem is that no one has ever held consultations saying that a cutoff date would be introduced for the veteran's independence program and that there would be two categories of surviving spouses: those who lost their spouse prior to May 12, 2003, and those who lost their spouse after that date.

It is wrong to say that it was discussed. The minister is saying that broad consultations were held. However, all the stakeholders challenge this. We cannot have two categories of surviving spouses. But that is what the government is doing today.

The minister can insist all he wants that he is trying to find solutions, but there are none. The only solution is for all the surviving spouses of veterans to be entitled to the veteran's independence program. That is the only solution. No other solution is possible. The minister wants discussions, but about what? Does he want to move back the date from May 12, 2003, to May 12, 2000, or 1990?

There are no other solutions. The only solution is to put the money on the table to ensure that all the surviving spouses of veterans are entitled to this assistance program. That is the only possible answer.

The minister would have us believe that he is not hesitating, but he is. There is no other alternative. Thinking that an opposition member would rise in this place to set a new cutoff date or to exclude widows and widowers is wrong.

The solution is for the minister—that is what a responsible minister would do—to move an amendment to his own bill. He would have to admit that he made a glaring error in setting a cutoff date that creates two categories of widows and widowers of veterans, and to eliminate it. There is no way that this date should be maintained and that two categories of widows and widowers of veterans should be created.

That is all we are expecting from the Liberal government. At the end of the day, that is all we are expecting from all the Liberal members who will rise in this House to speak to Bill C-50. Do not tell us that efforts are being made to find a solution. We want to hear that the bill is fair to all widows and widowers of veterans.

That is the only outcome the opposition, and the Bloc Quebecois in particular, expects. Why? Because all widows and widowers of veterans are entitled to the same quality of life they enjoyed when their spouse was alive. It is as simple as that. It is a matter of quality of life and humanity, no more no less.

The problem is that the government side is not listening; it does not want to listen. Once again, the minister is trying to hide and to have us believe that he is not hesitating. He is boasting about being able to clearly communicate such a simple idea. The questions opposition members put to him all boiled down to this: Will you make money available so that all widows and widowers of veterans have access to the same program? That is what they were asking him.

The minister tried his best not to answer the question. The bottom line, as we know, is a budget issue. We are told that there is no money for these 23,000 widows and widowers who lost their wife or husband before May 12, 2003. That is the reality.

With the federal government surpluses, cost overruns, everything that happens in the public service, and the money the Liberal government has wasted, we do not believe there is no money for this. We believe it is simply a matter of the minister not wanting to spend that money. He habe better not try to make us believe that veterans and groups have sent him letters of thanks.

I would say that indeed, important provisions have been included in this bill. However, there is no reason for having two categories of spouses of deceased veterans.

We must be careful. We have to be able to talk about what is good in this bill, but also agree on what does not work in this bill.

The Liberal government must move calmly and gently. Moreover, all the Liberal members in this House should sit down with the Minister for Veterans Affairs and tell him that the money will have to be found and ask him to pressure the Minister of Finance to do so.

Before this bill is passed, he will be able to tell us that it will be amended and that we will guarantee all the spouses of deceased veterans that the veterans independence program will be maintained so that they can continue to enjoy the quality of life they had before their spouse's death.

That is all the Bloc Quebecois is asking for.

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that there are many important elements of the bill which have the full support of the whole House. Unfortunately this debate has focused on the VIP particularly with regard to whether or not a certain group of widows will be covered. This raises an interesting question.

The member just said that the minister should take appropriate action to correct the bill. The bill is at third reading stage and there is no way at this point to make corrections to it unless the bill is recommitted to the committee for a specific purpose. I do not think that would be useful simply because it may kill the whole bill. I doubt that anybody would want to see that happen. The alternative would be to have assurances that the Senate would make the appropriate changes laid out by the House.

Since members have known about the matter of extending benefits to all widows for some time, why is it that the committee did not make an amendment deleting the existing regulation which set a date to which benefits would be paid and replacing it with a clause in the bill that would make a clear statement that benefits would be available to all widows? That is where members want to see this going. That is a statement of intent of the bill. The real question is why is that statement of intent of the bill buried in the regulations instead of being in the legislation itself for all to see? We cannot get out of this at this point in time. We need a compromise.

Would the member agree that the compromise would be to seek assurance from the minister through collaboration with members in the House to seek those changes in the Senate? The bill would then reflect that which I believe the House would support.

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12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Mississauga South knows very well how the committee operates. He knows very well that it is controlled by the Liberal majority.

So it is not that the opposition members did not try, but rather that the Liberal majority refused to follow up on the discussions.

All we were asking the minister to do was to provide us with the assurance that funds were available and that he would do everything in his power to see that the bill included those widowers and widows excluded by the bill as he had introduced it.

We never got an answer. The hon. member for Mississauga South is absolutely right. It might have been good for the minister to give us an answer today. It is not that the opposition members have not tried to get one.

I would advise him, since he is a Liberal MP, to go to see the Minister of Veterans Affairs and ask the question, to ensure that he gets an answer and that the minister will issue a public statetement of his intention to immediately support a Senate motion to ensure inclusion of the widows and widowers who,unfortunately, have been excluded by his very own bill.

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I understand there would be unanimous consent that as soon as the parliamentary secretary completes his remarks on Bill C-6, the House would see the clock as being at 1:30 p.m. and would proceed directly to private members' business.

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12:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the deputy government whip have the consent of the House for his proposal?

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12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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12:45 p.m.

An hon. member

No, Mr. Speaker, I want an explanation.

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12:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There is no agreement and perhaps if there are any explanations maybe the members in question could meet somewhere and discuss the matter.

In the meantime we will now proceed to questions and comments.

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12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the questions and comments have been interrupted by a request for unanimous consent which may actually impact on my questions and comments.

I am a little concerned that we were told in the last question from the member for Mississauga South that there was no other option. There is an option. The option is for the minister to do the right thing in terms of widows' pensions by asking this place for unanimous consent. That could have been done earlier. It was done just now, but that was only for the convenience of the government and not for what is right for the widows.

Why has the House been held up problematically on this issue for such an extended period of time and now we are being asked to do something here in the very late stages?

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12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is entirely correct. The procedure is controlled by the Liberal Party. That is why they are the government. They decide, as they see fit, whether a motion applies or does not apply, whether an amendment is made or not. There are ways, as the hon. member explained, for the government, if it wants to, to get its point across, if it wants to.

Our problem right now it does not want to do this. I repeat what I said earlier. The real problem is that the real struggle that has gone on for this veterans independence program was fought by the widows—and the widowers—who will not be eligible for benefits under this program. They are the ones who were entitled to these benefits for a year, and who complained that the quality of life they wanted was the same independence they had when their husband or wife was alive. That is what they were asking for.

The government agreed to modify the program. The problem is that it has forgotten, deliberately decided not to help the women and men who were receiving the benefits before May 12, 2003.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the problem I perceive is that veterans affairs is actually a subcommittee of the defence and veterans affairs committee.

The member knows very well that members, especially those from the smaller opposition parties, rush back and forth trying to attend the various committees. When we speak veterans and their families many of them ask why veterans affairs is a subcommittee. It gives it a lesser meaning than a full committee.

Would the member support having the veterans affairs committee become a full standing committee as other committees are in the House of Commons in order to give the veterans and their families the respect that they deserve?

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, veterans and their survivors deserve better, in terms of quality of life. Parliament should create a committee to deal only with veterans affairs.

I completely agree with my colleague. That is the only way to settle disputes and defend the interests, in the knowledge that they will not get tangled up in too much red tape.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the previous questioner had suggested that unanimous consent was going to somehow deal with this. I am not sure, but I think the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel would know that this particular provision is not in the act. It is a matter which is dealt with in the regulations and notwithstanding anything, the order in council can still make a change to the regulations.

From the debate that happened at second reading it appears that this is not a matter of will, it is a matter of money. Certainly it is not a matter that unanimous consent could somehow change regulations I would think. Maybe the member would care to comment on that.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Mississauga South for giving me this opportunity to talk about this. He has finally put his finger on the problem. The problem is money. I had said that I would not talk about the Liberal Party's shameful waste of public funds. But the Liberal member has given me an opportunity to renew the debate on the sponsorship scandal, the Radwanski affair and the major spending by this government.

We have a problem. The government has money coming out of its ears. That is the reality. The Liberal government has a lot of money and is throwing it around like there is no tomorrow and like the veterans have no tomorrow. That is what we are realizing today. Money is being wasted. Money is being invested in areas where administrative cuts should have been made, particularly when it comes to senior civil servants and the upper echelons of the federal public service.

Today, a Liberal member said that the real problem is money. That is true, the problem is that the Liberal government is wasting money, investing every which way but where it should, and then fails to have enough to help the surviving spouses of veterans who only want one thing: to maintain the quality of life they had when their spouse was alive.

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12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party and my caucus colleague the member for Saint John who sits on the national defence and veterans affairs committee. I will represent her but certainly not in the capacity that she could have spoken to the bill.

I do not think there is anyone in the House who would disagree that she passionately supports and defends the rights of veterans as well as the military. She has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that if there is anyone in the House who has the feel for what is happening in the veterans portfolio and certainly with the widows of those veterans, she is certainly the one who could put forward a very passionate plea to the government.

I am a poor stand-in but I will attempt to put our position forward. I hope to convince the government that it has an obligation, a right and a responsibility to change Bill C-50, if not in the legislation, then in the regulations as was explained by the minister this morning. And if it is not changed in the regulations and the legislation, then perhaps it should be fixed when the bill comes back from the Senate. There is an opportunity to sit down with the Senate and negotiate the necessary changes that could fix the injustice that has been articulated by previous speakers.

There is always good and there is always bad in any piece of legislation. However, the omission in this legislation is not only good or bad, it is repugnant. It is targeting a portion of our society that we should be assisting in their years of retirement. We should be providing those individuals with the VIP pension benefits. We should be showing them some respect for the sacrifices they have made and the losses they have experienced on our behalf.

There is good and there is bad. There is no question that Bill C-50 should go forward. We know full well that we would not want to stand in opposition to the bill because there is an opportunity to correct some wrongs in it. However, when the minister stood today and recognized that there is this sad omission, I did not feel confident that the minister would be able to correct it.

I do not have to explain the situation as it has been done before. However, for the purposes of those people who may be joining us just now, the problem is there is a large group of individuals who are excluded simply because of an arbitrary date that has been chosen in this legislation. I said a large group of individuals because I heard that the number is 23,000 but today the minister today said that he does not know. He does not know what the number is. He has to get confirmation of the number before he can actually mention what the number is. That is fair ball. I am okay with that.

Let us assume that the number is 23,000 plus or minus a few. The minister is not prepared to make that commitment to those 23,000 individuals because of an arbitrary date.

There is a mirror image here by the way. The mirror image is the hepatitis C compensation package that was put forward by the government. Maybe there is a model that the Liberals follow. Maybe there is a manual that is put in front of ministers. Maybe they are told that they have to follow this model which makes some people second class citizens and treats others not as second class citizens.

That model is that there is an arbitrary date. That date is May 12, 2003. Before that date those 23,000 people would have obtained these benefits but one day after that date those people do not obtain those benefits. It is not fair. It is not equitable. It is not right.

Quite frankly, we have to make sure that it is equitable, that it is made proper and that it is made right. The way to do that, as has been suggested in a number of fashions, is to change the regulations. Now I hear that maybe it is not just the regulations. Maybe it is not just the legislation. Maybe it is not just a change from the Senate coming forward. Maybe it is a matter of money.

Twenty-three thousand people are being excluded from this. I am told that the dollar amounts may well be anywhere from $23 million to $40 million. It is a lot of money, make no mistake about that, but it is not a substantial amount of money that the people excluded should not take advantage of it.

We have heard that there is ample opportunity for the government to find $43 million or $23 million. As a matter of fact, as I understand it, if we take the lower number, the Governor General spends more than that on an annual budget. I believe that the Governor General, because of her position in our society, should certainly have the ability to have funding. But I also agree that the widows of veterans or the widowers should have the ability to achieve a certain standard of living and a certain level of independence. To not allow that $23 million or $43 million to flow to those individuals in my estimation would be tragedy and a travesty for the government.

Maybe would could look at some of the areas to save that $23 million to $43 million. I think it is there. We are told there is a budget surplus.

However, it may not be money. If it is not money, then the minister must tell us what it is because I did not get an answer to my question.

I have a lot respect for the Minister of Veterans Affairs. He is a fellow Manitoban. I believe he is here for the right reasons and he does what he does for the right reasons. The problem, however, is that perhaps he does not have the influence to put proper legislation forward right now to correct a tragedy and a wrong.

Maybe the minister should get cooperation from his backbenches because I know there are many backbenchers in the government right now who support making this equitable and right. Maybe he should get that support to go forward with the regulations and come to this House today, tomorrow or next week and say he has taken the recommendation and has found the necessary money and, in fact, those 23,000 people will be looked after the way they should be.

There are others who agree with me. There are people who have sent letters to the minister and suggested he resign. Frankly, I do not subscribe to that. I believe that the minister should do what is right. He should fight for the veterans and their widows and widowers as one of his last duties in this House, as his last duty perhaps as a member of Parliament. We do not know. We may going into another election.

He should do what he believes in his heart is right. I believe, in his heart, he is concerned about those people, but unfortunately, he has not delivered. Not to deliver is not doing a job properly. Let us give him the opportunity to make that change and do it properly.

We are approaching Remembrance Day in the not too distant future. As a matter of fact, I have a poppy which is not a prop. I was told poppies can be worn only at a certain time. It is not true that we should not consider what the poppy really represents and what we as Canadians should consider when we consider our veterans and our military.

I can speak from experience. I have a Canadian Forces base in my riding. I can put faces to the people that are responsible for what we wish them to do in the military. We send them to Afghanistan and other areas throughout the globe on our behalf, and they do it willingly. Members of our military are the most professional individuals of any military anywhere in the world and they carry our flag on their arms with pride.

The reason why I mention the poppy and the military is because sometimes, other than November 11, we have a tendency to forget exactly what it is that they provide Canadians. Unfortunately, that is what is being reflected in this legislation. We are forgetting a segment of that military dependency and it is not in the best interest of Canadians.

I suggest that the legislation go forward because it is a good small step in the right direction. However, within the next month or so--if it will be that long that we are in the House and because it involves a small number of people--the minister should find out what that number is and the financial implication. He should then return to the House and tell us that either the change has been made in the regulations or that it will be fixed in the Senate when it comes forward.

It would make me very happy. It would make the Royal Canadian Legion and the widows of veterans very happy. It would make Canadians in general extremely happy to have this terrible injustice fixed. When that happens, we would all congratulate the government and certainly the minister for a job well done. All the calls for his resignation would be moot at that point, as well they should.

On behalf of my colleague who sits on the committee, who fights as hard as she possibly can for the rights of military personnel and veterans, I would suggest that the sitting backbenchers of the current government let their voices be heard and that they cooperate with the minister.

By the way, this should not be so difficult. The Prime Minister is already on record saying that he will fix this problem. Well, he is leaving soon, we think, but I do not think anybody knows just when. I do not even think the backbenchers in the Liberal Party know when, but he has said he will leave and he has said that he will fix this problem.

With his support and the support of backbenchers, and certainly with the Minister of Veterans Affairs having his heart in the right place, this should not even be an issue. This should simply be a slam dunk. The government should be able to come to the House next week and say that the problem is fixed and it is really happy to have fixed the problem.

I congratulate the government for going forward on that basis and I certainly wait with anticipation to hear that it has fixed this terrible injustice to the VIP benefits. I wish government members the best of luck in their deliberations in the not too distant future.

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1:05 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Liberal

Ivan Grose Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I will not prolong this, but I am going to defend my minister. The hon. member opposite said some nice words about the minister, but I do not think he said enough.

Let us get this thing in perspective. We have been flogging this horse for so long now that I think it is down to a burrow. What happened was that we reassessed our budget. We had money assigned to programs that we figured we could get away with taking because the programs were not using up all that money and we wanted to use the money to put it where we could best use it.

We had five or six things that were on our “we would love to do” list. We took that money and we managed to do five of the six things. There was enough money left in the VIP to look after the widows of those veterans who died before June 2002. There was a bit of misinformation there. If the widows were on the program on May 12 then they would continue on the program.

That is all the money we had within the budget. Inasmuch as I am not one of these proverbial spendthrift Liberals, I believe we should stay within a budget. It was a re-apportionment of money within a budget. I do not want to go outside that budget, neither does the minister and neither does anyone else on this side. That was all the money there was.

That having been said, the veterans' organizations said, “That is too bad, but let us do what we can”. We might have been better off to say that we would not do anything with the VIP because, after all, there was not much fuss being raised about it so we could have left it alone, but we did not do that. We looked after who we could.

I know the minister is lobbying hard outside the budget to look after those other widows. The Prime Minister has made a commitment to look at it and between the two of them I have hope that it may be done, but all we have at the moment is a hope. There is no commitment, no guarantee, but we did what we could within the budget.

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1:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate those crocodile tears coming from the government side of the House.

The parliamentary secretary must know that with the support of this side of the House and all opposition parties there would be support if the government were to come forward with an additional expenditure of $23 million.

We all know that budgets are guidelines. We all know that there are extraordinary budget expenses. We all know this from a previous life. We all know that there are things here called supplementary estimates. We know there are ways of getting additional funds into additional budgets. We see it every day in every department.

Is the parliamentary secretary saying that the Minister of Veterans Affairs does not have the influence to get $23 million to correct what is seen as a terrible oversight, an injustice and a wrong? Is he saying that the government cannot come up with $23 million from departments that have expenditures of some hundreds of billions of dollars? Can the government not find $23 million to come forward and get the support of all opposition parties in this House to help support widows and widowers?

That is probably one of the most insignificant arguments I have ever heard in this House, to say, “It is simply a matter of money. We have done the best we can. There is no way we can do it”.

If that is the amount of fight in the Minister of Veterans Affairs, then I may have to take back some of the nice things I said about him. Frankly, if I were given 15 minutes on that side of the House, I could probably find $23 million to fix this injustice.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague from Brandon—Souris. To blame the budget is simply nonsense.

I would love to ask the government, where did the Prime Minister allocate $100 million for two jets? I would love to see the budget item on that one.

One of the problems veterans and their families have is the fact that veterans affairs is a subcommittee. Many veterans groups are saying it is almost like they are being treated differently than, say, a full committee. What happens of course is that members on this side of the House are rushing from committee to committee.

Would he consider the possibility, in the next Parliament, that veterans affairs become a full committee? RCMP officers are now falling under the veterans' benefits. We have a tremendous number of people and their families under the guise of veterans affairs and it definitely warrants the attention of a full committee.

Would he not agree, or at least agree to look into something of that nature for the very near future, so that veterans and their families could get the respect and attention that they deserve?

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1:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, I do not sit on the defence committee or the subcommittee on veterans affairs, so I do not feel that I am qualified to comment on that.

I do not know what the workload is. I do know that my member puts an awful lot of energy into protecting and supporting veterans. I would suggest that she would have a better understanding as to whether the member's proposal should come forward.

As a caucus member of the Progressive Conservative Party, I would support her recommendation. If it were to go forward with a full committee as opposed to a subcommittee, I would certainly give her my full cooperation.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know of anybody in this place that is not supportive of Bill C-50.

The problematic issue comes down to a matter which happens to be buried in the regulations. I do not know how it was allowed to stay there when, in fact, members of the House were seeking to bring the spirit and the intent of the act as it existed, and incorporate it into the act and not leave that information buried in regulations. It is really unfortunate that it is there.

I do not believe that even the Senate has the authority to make the amendments because it has to do with money matters. I would have to inform myself a little bit more about the purview or the scope of the Senate.

It would appear that the best that we can do now, and I wonder if the member would agree, and not risk losing the rest of the bill, is to collectively make the sincere representation to the minister and cabinet to amend the regulation to provide benefits to all widows.

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1:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is probably one of the easiest softball questions I have ever had. It sounds like a Liberal asking a question to a minister during question period.

The answer to the question is obvious. Yes, of course, let us get the assurances from the Minister of Veterans Affairs. Let us get the assurances from the finance minister. Let us ensure that the regulations will be amended, rewritten properly and that they will incorporate these forgotten few. That is all there is to it. It is a no-brainer. I guess that is why Canadians maybe a little cynical about politics right now.

The member for Mississauga South said that it was an oversight, that the legislation was meant to come forward to take care of these issues. Maybe and maybe not. Maybe it is a simple thing like money that the parliamentary secretary has put on the table at the present time. Maybe it was not meant to be funded. Maybe with the pressure that is being applied currently by the veterans themselves, veterans organizations, the opposition, and for that matter, very conscientious members of the backbench of the government has forced the hand of the Minister of Veterans Affairs in a positive way.

Yes, let us ensure we have those assurances. I have said at the onset that we will not be voting against Bill C-50. There is too much good in the bill to stop it. That is not the intention. The intention is to fix what is wrong in the bill and if that is the way we can do it, then by all means the member for Mississauga South will have our support in ensuring that takes place.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on behalf of the federal New Democratic Party in this very worthwhile debate. Any time is a good time to speak about veterans and their families.

I want to congratulate the minister as well the parliamentary secretary and the government for moving ahead with Bill C-50. We in the NDP support many aspects of the bill unequivocally.

As has been heard during previous debate in the House, there is one very serious flaw with the legislation. Is it money or is it the regulations in the legislation? It is probably a combination of both.

I do not think the government can be so cruel that it would intentionally leave out some widows or widowers. At the same time, it cannot hide behind budgetary remarks or legislative remarks. If the government has the will, with the full support I would assume of many of its own members as well as those in the four opposition parties and the support of many veterans organizations and their families, then there should be a way of moving the issue forward so all of them are protected under the same umbrella.

If the Prime Minister of Canada can, in record speed, allocate $100 million for two jets that even the defence department has said are not necessary, then surely he or the future prime minister can easily make it happen. I do not care what they have to do, but they have to make it happen so all widow and widowers are under the same umbrella. There is no reason in the world why it cannot be done.

We on this side of the House are encouraging the government to proceed with this legislation. It has our full support. Opposition's basic role is to oppose that which is worthy of opposition. However, we will support legislation brought forward by the government that is proactive as is Bill C-50. Many parts of this legislation are worthy of support and worthy of rapid approval to get this through the House.

The reality is all of us in opposition and many members on the government side have noticed a serious flaw in Bill C-50.

I know Mr. Cliff Chadderton quite well and he is not easily prone to asking ministers to resign. Out of pure frustration and out of what I would assume is anger, he has felt the need to do so. I would not want to see the minister resign because he is a decent human being and his heart and his efforts are in the right place. If he resigned, we would have to wait quite a while for the next veterans affairs minister. Then we would have to go through this debate all over again. We cannot ask the minister to do something and then at the same time ask him to resign. That is defeating our own argument. The minister should stay right where he is and a general election will clear up any problems in the future.

The present minister can do this if there is a will within Treasury Board or the finance department or if the Prime Minister says that is should happen.

In my riding of Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore, approximately one-third of my constituents are either in the military, or have retired from the military or are associated with the military in a civilian capacity. These people are constantly calling me on various issues with regard to the military.

There is no question that all of us would like to have more money to do all the things we would like to do. I know the government has to work within fiscal frameworks, but there are certain times when the obvious slaps us on the head.

The obvious situation in this regard is those of the widowers. Many people who are not even in the military have called my office and asked what is going on. They have asked why the Prime Minister has said that he can correct this deficiency and we are still debating it today in the House.

Symbolically, November 11 is coming down the pike. It is what I would call almost a holy day in Canada when we take the time to seriously reflect upon those who have gone before us in terms of defence of freedom and democracy. It was not just the soldiers, airmen, merchant mariners and sailors who fought for our freedoms and victories. What about the people who stayed home, kept the home fires burning and kept the families going?

Those men and women of the military, past, present and those yet to join, pay the ultimate price. They are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us. It does not just affect them, but their families as well. Many of us in Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada sometimes wear what we call the invisible ribbon. That is the invisible fourth arm of the military, the families.

The parliamentary secretary knows very well the great job our military family resource centres do across the country, looking after many of the situations that we are discussing right now, many situations that we hope Bill 50 will correct. However there is one glaring omission. The military family resource centres know very well what this will mean if it is not corrected.

I give credit to the previous admirals, generals and people who made the military family resource centres a very prominent aspect of our military life. I give credit to the previous defence minister who accepted many recommendations in the report of the Standing Committee on Defence and Veterans Affairs on the quality of life. My previous colleague, Mr. Gordon Earle of Halifax West, worked on it with others. The government accepted many initiatives from that. Thus we are, albeit quite slowly in my opinion, improving the quality of life for veterans and their families as well as current military personnel.

We cannot forget the ones who were here before us. When individuals in the military lay their lives on the line and those lives are unfortunately taken, then, as members of Parliament on all sides, we have to ensure that we respect and accept the ultimate responsibility to those individuals and their families. That responsibility is to ensure that when members of the military go overseas or do their duties in the country, if they die because of their actions or their duty, their families will not have to fight with the government to get proper benefits.

Individuals in the military have to worry about their own training and defensive capabilities in order to promote peace and security around the world. The last thing they need is the lingering thought in the back of their minds is if their families will be okay if they are not. That should not even be debatable.

This is something we can correct. I know the parliamentary secretary, himself being a decent individual, would want this corrected. There is nothing stopping him and his colleagues from going to the Prime Minister when he gets back from his trip and telling him they need this corrected now.

The parliamentary secretary and colleagues could explain it to the Prime Minister in their next Wednesday caucus meeting if they have to, but they should get it done. All we are asking is that it get done. Then we will stand up and sing the praises of the government's in this regard. There are many other issues on which we would not. However it is extremely imperative that this be done.

In closing, I thank all the opposition members and those on the government side who have brought this issue forward. I also thank Mr. Cliff Chadderton and all the organizations that have brought this issue forward in defence of veterans and their families.

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1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke very eloquently on this subject and pretty much covered all the bases.

One thing continues to concern me. We have a very strong inkling that the minister will make a decision and that he will make an announcement. However, he will make it in his time, not in a time that is convenient for this legislation, not in a time that is convenient for the House of Commons and not in a time that is convenient for widows and widowers, but in a time that is convenient to government members, their electioneering and spin doctoring.

I think that speaks volumes. I ask my friend and colleague if that would sit well with him, if that were the case.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it appears that may happen. I do not know if it is a political game to show everyone what they have done but the reality is that announcements of that nature should be done in the House when we are sitting. All members of Parliament from all sides of the House representing military families and veterans widows should be able to share in the immediate information that is required.

To announce something outside and wait for Parliament to rise, or to do something of that nature, would be cheap political theatre. I think that would be beneath the current minister from my understanding of the qualities that he displays.

I hope the hon. member for Vancouver Island North is incorrect. I suspect he may be, but I hope he is incorrect and that the announcement will be made very soon right here in the House when we are sitting.

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, throughout this debate people have been speculating about numbers: that 23,000 veterans are being left out; and that costs range, I assume, anywhere from about $200 million to some other number, but only about $20 million to $23 million a year.

I do not know if the member has any information on this, but it has come to my attention that part of the problem may very well be, and I intend to follow up on it because I do support the extension of benefits to all widows, that the total projected costs to widows and widowers would have to be booked in the year in which that decision was taken. All of a sudden it is not so much about finding $20 million this year and $20 million for next year. It is about finding $400 million in one year. This is problematic.

The member may have some ideas on how we can do this. I will certainly pursue this either with the Auditor General or with departmental officials to determine how we, as a Parliament, can get around the accounting obligation to book the entire amount so that we can get on with the objectives that I think we all share, which is to extend pension benefits to all the widows and widowers.

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is the exact cooperation for which we on the opposition side are looking. I congratulate the hon. member for mentioning that.

The reality is that whatever it takes we should do it. Whether it is the Prime Minister, the leader of our country, or the Privy Council, we should do whatever it takes to get it authorized, get it done and look after these people because it needs to be done. Hopefully the requirements of it will be done right away.

I understand what he is saying and I understand the technicalities around it, but if the Prime Minister of the day really wants this to happen, it can be done. It is as simple as that. If we in the House can rush through pay raises for ourselves with the snap of a finger, then we in the House should be able to look after widowers and widows extremely quickly as well.

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Everyone present in the chamber on both sides of the House understands the impartiality of the Chair. I am seeking guidance, and I mean this sincerely. As we get closer to private members' business is it the will of the House to put the question or is it the will of the House to move to private members' business and resume this debate on another day? I simply seek everyone's guidance.

Is the House ready for the question?

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

moved that Bill C-338, an act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker,I am pleased to rise today to debate the private member's bill I have brought forward on behalf of the citizens of Surrey North.

The bill proposes to amend the Criminal Code with respect to the activity commonly referred to as street racing. It was introduced because Canadians want the federal government to address the problem.

Street racing is killing or seriously injuring innocent people. The carnage caused by this reckless behaviour is on the rise in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and other cities.

Bill C-338 proposes to do something about it and today I ask the government to take action to stop street racing by supporting its passage.

Bill C-338 would amend the Criminal Code to provide that street racing is to be considered an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing a person convicted of an offence committed by means of a motor vehicle under section 220, criminal negligence causing death; or section 221, criminal negligence causing bodily harm; or subsection 249(3), dangerous operation causing bodily harm; or subsection 249(4) dangerous operation causing death.

The bill also provides for mandatory nationwide driving prohibitions to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.

On a first offence, a judge must suspend driving privileges for a period of one to three years; for a second offence, two to five years; and for subsequent offences, three years to life. Also, if death was caused on the first or second offence, a lifetime prohibition will be imposed on the second conviction.

Canadians want anyone who seriously injures or kills as a result of street racing to be prohibited from operating a motor vehicle for a significant period of time. They do not want individuals convicted of this carnage to serve a sentence and then be allowed to immediately get behind the wheel of a car. Neither do they want such individuals to simply move to another province to obtain a driver's licence.

Letters, phone calls and e-mails to my office from across Canada have expressed outrage over the carnage caused by street racing and lenient sentences being imposed, including conditional sentences. The victims do not support using house arrest for anyone convicted of being responsible for a street race crash that has either killed or seriously injured someone.

The British Columbia Automobile Association has advised me that its members are clearly in favour of swift and severe penalties for street racers. In its 2002 member opinion survey, its members expressed support for all penalties used to punish racers, including two year driver's licence suspensions, vehicle impoundment, fines and demerit points.

Last February 6 I received an e-mail from Margaret-Ann Blaney, minister of justice for New Brunswick. She has forwarded my bill and accompanying information to her officials in the justice department. She said that the suspension of driving privileges was of particular interest to her officials.

On February 4, Gord Mackintosh, minister of justice and attorney general of Manitoba, wrote me an e-mail concerning Bill C-338. He said the following:

Since the current Government of Manitoba was elected in 1999, it has introduced strong new measures to deal with dangerous drivers such as tougher driver's licence suspension provisions, including lifetime suspensions, and vehicle forfeiture for the most serious offenders. Amendments made to our Highway Traffic Act this past session have given our provincial street racing offence the highest maximum fine and the highest demerit point level available for provincial driving offences under that legislation.

I agree that it is important to ensure that there are appropriate measures to deter individuals from engaging in reckless driving behaviour that puts others at risk. I perceive that the challenge in pursuing Criminal Code changes is to weigh the effect of what may be inconsistencies in treatment between impaired driving and street racing offenders and to ensure that they are all workable.

You have raised an important issue.

In a January 21 letter to me, Robert Runciman, the then minister of public safety and security in Ontario, declared the following:

Street racing is a serious offence that puts all road users at risk and we must not tolerate it on our roadways. I am pleased that your proposed amendment to the Code would address the issue of street racing during the sentencing process. Mandatory driving prohibitions need to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed by the courts. I hope your initiative will succeed.

Ontario responded to street racing by proposing legislation empowering police officers to immediately seize a vehicle and suspend a driver's licence for 48 hours. It also proposed to prohibit the use of equipment and substances, such as nitrous oxide, used to boost the performance of engines for the purpose of racing. Unfortunately, the legislation was not enacted due to the recent election. Hopefully the new Ontario minister of transport will reintroduce this legislation.

Jamie Muir, minister of justice for Nova Scotia, wrote to me on January 22 stating:

Although the police have not reported any particular problem enforcing the Provincial prohibition of street racing in this area, this appears to be an effective tool for helping to control the problem where it exists.

Dave Hancock, the minister of justice for Alberta, wrote on January 9 to say:

Street racing is a dangerous practice, which should be an aggravating factor for sentencing certain offenders.

He reminded me that Alberta has significantly increased the penalty for the provincial offence of street racing in the traffic safety act.

The Alberta justice minister went on to suggest that Bill C-338 could be amended to include impaired driving cases. I would have no problem considering amending Bill C-338 to apply to anyone convicted of impaired driving causing death or bodily harm where it can be established that street racing was a factor.

In my home province of British Columbia, Surrey-Green Timbers MLA, Brenda Locke, called on the federal government to crack down on street racers in a motion she introduced in the B.C. legislature.

With the passage of her motion on April 7 of this year, B.C. sent a strong message. Locke's motion calls on Ottawa to remove conditional sentencing for street racers who kill or maim innocent victims. An amendment was introduced to encompass all criminals convicted of a serious violent crime. Both the amendment and the motion passed in the B.C. legislature.

The motion was brought forward in honour of the lives of innocent victims of street racing: Jerry Kithithee, Constable Jimmy Ng and Irene Thorpe. Those three individuals were brutally killed by young men whose reckless, selfish, irresponsible and deliberate actions stole their lives and broke many hearts. There have been more since.

The motion was an important step in urging the federal government to make the necessary changes to the Criminal Code to make our roads safer. It was a de facto endorsement of Bill C-338, which I introduced in this place months earlier. Bill C-338 proposes the Criminal Code changes that B.C. seeks.

Street racing is the height of recklessness and a deliberate endangerment to communities. British Columbians understand the magnitude and the consequences of this activity and question why the courts treat it so lightly and ineffectively.

British Columbians seek justice for street racers and their victims. There have been numerous incidents where victims simply do not see justice.

A number of support groups in British Columbia support a crackdown on street racing. They include Family Survivors Against Street Racers, Our Angels in Heaven and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

B.C.'s solicitor general and minister of public safety, Rich Coleman, confirms that 60 vehicles involved in street racing have been seized and 180 driver's licences were suspended since amendments were made to provincial legislation in 2002.

Mr. Coleman stated the following:

This government has for some time been telling the federal government that in cases of offences involving violence, death and sexual assault, we don't believe there should be the opportunity for conditional sentences within the law. We have taken that to the table of the federal justice ministers.

Geoff Plant, the attorney general of British Columbia, says that conditional sentences have no role to play in street racing offences. He states:

The Criminal Code needs to be tightened up in the area of conditional sentencing so that conditional sentences are rarely, if ever, available for a crime of this nature.

MLA Locke concluded her remarks on the passage of her motion by saying:

It has been my privilege to work alongside Nina and her family as well as the Member of Parliament for Surrey North and other volunteers. I want to thank the Member of Parliament for Surrey North for aggressively raising this issue in the Parliament of Canada.

I should point out that the Nina referred to in this case is Nina Rivet who is a sister of Irene Thorpe, the woman who was run down by a street racer while out for a walk one evening.

What is the position of the Liberal government?

In response to a letter from me late last year, the Minister of Justice does not appear to be interested in helping to stop street racing. He says that mandatory minimum criminal penalties “do not work from the point of view of general deterrence and recidivism”.

There is no empirical evidence linking deterrence and recidivism as they relate to street racing. In fact, in a recent B.C. case, the driver who was eventually convicted for the street racing crash that caused the death of Irene Thorpe was arrested for speeding while he was out on bail, even though his licence was suspended as a condition of that bail. This counters the minister's contention because it shows clearly that there is a need for legal deterrence. There is a recidivism problem.

The minister also says that driving prohibitions should remain discretionary. He says that sometimes they may not be necessary because of long terms of punishment handed down to street racers who kill or seriously injure. The problem with the minister's contention is that no one has ever received any of these long prison terms for convictions resulting from street racing.

House arrest is being used for street racers who kill or injure people. This is inappropriate from the standpoint of the victims or their survivors and the protection and safety of communities that have a serious street racing problem.

The government also maintains that there are only a few minimum sentences provided for in the Criminal Code and that it is not willing to add more, such as the mandatory drivers' licence suspensions called for in this bill, but there are many areas in the Criminal Code that provide minimum sentences. I counted 26 offences in the 2004 Martin's Annual Criminal Code that carry a minimum sentence upon conviction. And many Canadians agree that there should be more minimum sentences for many more offences in the Criminal Code. Our criminal justice system needs more teeth.

The government also believes that taking account of aggravating circumstances for the purposes of sentencing is a very rare tool provided for in the Criminal Code. The justice minister suggested that aggravating circumstances for sentencing are virtually limited to hate motivated crimes, abuse of position of trust and authority, spousal and child abuse, criminal organization and terrorism.

In fact, there are other examples. Bill C-15A, passed in June 2002, made home invasion an aggravating factor in sentencing for certain offences. A judge sentencing a person for unlawful confinement, robbery, extortion or break and enter must consider it an aggravating circumstance if the offence was committed in an occupied dwelling where the offender was either aware that it was occupied or was reckless in this regard, and where he or she used violence or threats of violence against a person or property.

I point out that when I presented a motion to that effect at the justice committee a year or more earlier, government members called me silly, and yet they enacted it themselves a year later.

Bill C-46, currently before the justice committee, in clause 3 sets out four aggravating factors for sentencing purposes with respect to fraudulent manipulation of the public markets.

The minister's lame excuses betray a lack of serious consideration being given to this issue by this government. There is no requirement to equate street racing with other crimes in order to allow it to be considered as an aggravating circumstance.

I expect that the government will hang its argument against my bill on its refusal to consider minimum sentences and the use of aggravating circumstances when sentencing. Those are not good enough grounds for the government to fail to address the problem of street racing.

Sanctions should reflect the fact that street racing is an activity that goes beyond the regular criminal activities involving motor vehicles that are covered by the Criminal Code. Driving prohibitions must be nationwide to prevent anyone convicted of causing death or serious injury while street racing from simply moving to another province and continuing to drive.

As street racing incidents causing death and serious injury continue to occur in our major cities, passage of Bill C-338 would serve as a deterrent. This is a proactive legislative measure that would provide one step in the fight to stop street racing.

Today the government has the opportunity to support Bill C-338. It has an opportunity to stand up for the victims and to hold the perpetrators properly accountable.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on Bill C-338.

I will read the summary to facilitate understanding of the bill.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to provide that “streetracing” is to be considered an aggravating circumstance for the purpose of sentencing a person convicted of an offence committed by means of amotor vehicle under section 220 (causing death by criminal negligence) or 221 (causing bodily harm by criminal negligence) or subsection 249(3) (dangerous operation causing bodily harm) or 249(4) (dangerous operation causing death).

In addition, it provides that any person convicted of an offence under any of these provisions by means of a motor vehicle that was involved in street racing at the time the offence was committed be subject to amandatory driving prohibition, which shall be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed in respect of that offence.

In short, the bill introduced by the hon. member of the Canadian Alliance is intended to increase the gravity of offences if they were committed during street racing.

We, and young people themselves, are beginning to understand that youth often see cars as a means toward freedom, getting out, getting away. WIth a car, a person can do just about anything he wants.

Young men and women—for both sexes are now attracted by cars—see cars as a means of empowerment, but they need to understand that parliaments are enacting legislation to stop them from abusing that power. If, for one reason or another, this member's bill is not passed by this House, one day another Parliament, whether the House of Commons or a provincial legislature, will pass far more stringent measures on street racing.

It is important for young people to understand that no matter how fine the car is—it can become a toy—it can also become a deadly weapon. The races that fascinate young people and raise their adrenalin are dangerous and can cause death. Politicians cannot allow this to happen. We cannot risk having people injured or killed because they happen to end up on the street where the race is being held. We cannot allow this.

Parliament must send a clear message to those who indulge in these excesses. That is the message we must send our young people. The text of the bill before us, at first glance, seems once again to focus on criminalizing the situation. However, the role of Parliament is to try to get society to show self-respect. Young people have to understand that.

It is true they have fabulous machines. Thousands of dollars are spent on these cars. That is great for shows. However, a person who owns such a vehicle wants to see it in action. Increasingly, companies are giving consumers the opportunity to test drive these vehicles on race tracks. I encourage people to use such tracks to see how well these cars perform.

However, young people must understand that they should never use their cars to race on the streets, roads or highways.

Speed limits must be respected. That is the message. It is more important than criminalizing certain activities.

Some may think people are still out to get them. That is not the message. We simply want them to be able to live with the other people in our society, with those who do not choose speed.

Society is making a choice when it puts speed limits on highways and streets. Everyone is expected to obey them, the young, the old, and those in the middle like me. It is important that we all be able to respect each other.

That is, generally, the message we are trying to send. It is important. If there had been no speeding, if there had not been street racing, if there had not been accidents, and often, accident victims, we would not be here today discussing a bill such as that introduced by the hon. member. We are doing so because there have been excesses.

Often, young people do not discourage each other. That is, they encourage each other, when they should be doing the opposite. If they respected themselves and respected their cars, they would tell their friends who speed, “Do not do that, because one day, they will stop us from doing it.”

And that is exactly what is happening. In fact, legislatures are discussing and banning the use of nitroglycerine and many other things.

In my opinion, in some respects, the young people themselves must be able to help each other obey the laws. When the laws are not respected, we, as members of Parliament, must ensure that the majority of the public can lead a peaceful life. That is the purpose behind this bill.

Obviously the method often used to discourage is the stick, not the carrot. An offence must be punished. So we have legislation setting out offences. The bill introduced by the hon. member from the Canadian Alliance proposes to toughen the penalties for street racing.

In that regard, we must commend the bill. Obviously, if it is before us today, it is because there have been problems. However, aside from the fact that laws like this lean heavily on the stick, I hope that young people understand that they have to spread the word among themselves that existing laws must be obeyed.

Obeying the law means going to places specifically designed to accommodate this kind of activity. I commend the business people who, increasingly, are developing facilities for car racing. Yes, they are doing that. There are such facilities. I therefore encourage young people to race in appropriate facilities. Elsewhere, on our streets, roads and highways, they must obey the law.

Obviously, this would have the advantage of preventing similar bills from being introduced and legislation passed because there has been abuse.

That is the point I am trying to make to the young men and women who see their cars as a means toward freedom. That is true and that is good. It is true that you can do anything you want with them. These small cars have more powerful engines than the biggest cars we had in the days when I enjoyed speeding. I am not saying that we did it all the time, but occasionally we went over the speed limit. Still, offenders must be punished. That is how we end up with this kind of bill.

Naturally, I urge all hon. members to support the member for Surrey North, but more importantly, I urge young people to obey existing laws to make sure that bills like this one are never passed in our parliaments.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-338 proposes to amend the Criminal Code to specify that street racing must be deemed to be an aggravating factor when a court is sentencing an offender in relation to four offences. These offences are: criminal negligence causing death; criminal negligence causing bodily harm; dangerous driving causing death; and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Currently when performing the very difficult task of setting the appropriate and proper sentence, the courts must take into account the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the offence and the circumstances of the offender. This is the law. Where the Crown or the defence or both believe that the sentence is not appropriate, each may appeal from the sentence.

For the many offences in the Criminal Code, there will be widely varying circumstances under which each offence might be committed.

Mitigating and aggravating factual circumstances, including any street racing, are already placed before a sentencing judge. Unless there is some compelling reason to specify that certain circumstances are aggravating, it is better not to multiply the instances where the Criminal Code spells out that a particular way of committing the offence will be an aggravating factor. In my view, we are not seeing any such reason emerging from decisions of the trial courts and the appeal courts with regard to the four offences when street racing is a part of the circumstances of these offences.

Bill C-338 is not proposing to alter the periods of imprisonment available to the courts for the four offences. I am in agreement that the available periods of imprisonment for these offences are already very serious.

The Criminal Code makes it an offence to cause death by criminal negligence. This is a very serious offence, which could be committed, for example, when driving a motor vehicle in a street race.

The crown prosecutor is required to prove that the accused's behaviour showed a “wanton and careless disregard for the lives or safety of others”, and that this behaviour caused the death. The maximum penalty for causing death is a period of life imprisonment. This is equal to the maximum penalty for manslaughter and the maximum penalty for impaired driving causing death.

For dangerous driving that causes death, the crown prosecutor is required to prove that the driving which caused the death was dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle was being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time was or might have been expected to be at that place. It is easier for the crown prosecutor to prove the elements of the dangerous driving offence than the elements for the offence of criminal negligence causing death. The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years' imprisonment.

The maximum penalties for the offences of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and dangerous driving causing bodily harm are the same as the maximum penalty for impaired driving causing bodily harm. All are set at 10 years' imprisonment.

Without going into detail, I would simply observe that Bill C-338 would replace the discretion a court now has to impose a driving prohibition order, which would start after any period of imprisonment had been served with a mandatory order of driving prohibition.

I think there is logic to the present law, which gives the court discretion on whether to impose a driving prohibition order. If a court imposes a long period of imprisonment, the court may believe that there is no need to have the offender prohibited from driving at the point of release from imprisonment, which will be far in the future. In such cases, the offender will have been off the streets and away from the wheel for a very long time.

Also, I note that Bill C-338 proposes to put the street racing factor alongside the impaired driving provisions in section 255.1. Even if the bill were advisable, which I do not believe it is, the provision would more logically be placed within a new section 221.1, criminal negligence, and within a new section 249(5), dangerous driving.

In closing, I will say that unless we have a strong indication that the courts are not treating street racing as an aggravating factor for these four offences, restraint ought to be exercised in specifying that street racing become an aggravating factor.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that street racing is injuring and killing innocent people, besides those in the vehicles. I am honoured to rise to speak on Bill C-338 on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

This legislation treats street racing as an aggravating circumstance when sentencing anyone convicted of killing or seriously injuring someone with a motor vehicle if it is established that street racing was a factor at the time of the incident.

This legislative change will provide tougher sentencing. Bill C-338 also proposes a nationwide mandatory driving prohibition to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.

For many young thrill-seekers, street racing is a popular pastime that has taken its toll in lives lost. Statistics on street racing crashes vary by region. Some police forces and insurers keep track of numbers and some do not. Recently in Toronto, for example, 17 people have died in a one year period as a result of street racing.

Street racers put more than their own lives at risk. In many cases, passengers, pedestrians and other motorists are killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When things go wrong, the causes are common: driver inexperience, excessive speed, and variables such as traffic and road conditions.

Street races take a number of forms. Some are highly organized and can involve tens of thousands of people. Some are spur of the moment, based on two willing motorists in traffic. Penalties for street racers who kill range from a suspended sentence to life in prison. It is up to the judge, as we know.

Each province has its own motor vehicle act which deals with non-criminal street racers, those who neither harm nor kill anyone but are caught in the act. It is hard for police to catch racers in the act, since they race in brief spurts and can outdistance squad cars quickly. Instead, drivers are usually caught on equipment violations such as the relocation of the car's gas tank to the trunk or the addition of tanks containing nitrous oxide, which helps achieve higher speeds.

This summer, the CBC spent a considerable amount of time covering street racing in the province of British Columbia. Vancouver and the surrounding areas had an active street racing scene, which has left a trail of death in its wake in recent years and certainly did this past summer. Police in Vancouver do not keep records on the number of street racing deaths, but a look at insurance records gives some indication.

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia says that from 2000 to late 2002, 86 people between the ages of 18 and 21 were killed in car crashes in that province. Most of the crashes involved high speeds.

Amid growing public outcry and a mounting death toll, the B.C. government responded by enacting the toughest laws in Canada against street racing. In 2002, the province introduced legislation that gave police the authority to immediately impound any vehicle used in a street race. A vehicle can be impounded for 48 hours for a first offence and for up to 30 days if the driver is caught again within two years. It also allows police to suspend street racers' drivers' licences on the spot. As well, it sets a maximum fine for street racing: $2,000 plus demerit points.

Ontario's hot spot, as we know, is Toronto. It also is the deadliest area in the province. Between May 24, 2001 and May 24, 2002, according to police, there were 17 deaths in that city attributable to street racing.

In my own province of Manitoba, under section 189 of the province's motor vehicle act, no person shall race a motor vehicle. It carries a fine of up to $5,000 upon conviction, plus 8 demerit points, which also means that a driver's insurance goes up by $250 and a driver's licence can be suspended for 6 to 9 months. There are also prohibitions against inappropriate modifications to vehicles, although some exemptions are made for raising and lowering suspensions, mostly for heavy loads and mobility vehicles.

We know that the United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom also have put in provisions to deter street racing, but as members know, a lot of youths do not understand at this point in their lives how dangerous street racing is. I think that every generation since the invention of the motor vehicle probably has had some kind of racing phenomenon or experience, but the problem is that the cars youths have today are not like the cars we used 40 or 50 years ago.

In closing, let me say that this party certainly supports the bill. We will certainly vote for Bill C-338 down the road.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my friend from Surrey North who lives in what I think is a very great part of the country as I used to live there myself.

Anyone who knows the hon. member for Surrey North, knows that he does not present private members' bills in a frivolous manner. We all know the hon. member for Surrey North does his homework and his research and for that he has to be commended. I think he is quite an articulate individual in the justice committee, as well as in the House of Commons. He stands up for what he believes in, and it comes from the heart.

What he and his supporters are attempting to accomplish with this bill, and I rank myself as one of those supporters, is preventing more people from being killed. He is trying to prevent the carnage on our highways and in our cities. He is trying to save lives. That is the entire essence of the bill.

If I may digress for just a few minutes, the entire Bill C-68 gun legislation was sold on a bill of goods. We were told that if this one billion dollar legislation, which is a one billion dollar boondoggle, saved one life, then it would be money well spent. If that is the thinking of the government, then why would the government not support the enactment of this legislation because it will save lives and prevent people being killed or seriously injured.

I know I am a member of the NDP Party in Nova Scotia. People may ask why I am singing the praises of this member. It is because I know this individual and he does not bring these things in frivolously. He does his homework.

I know that there will be cross-country support for this. We know Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports it. We know police associations, once they have had an opportunity to digest this information, will support it. We know attorneys general in various provinces support it. Political members of Parliament from other parties support it because it will save lives. Why not give the justice system another tool in its tool box to say to anyone in this regard that thou shalt not street race?

Allow me to read the executive summary of the legislation. It states:

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to provide that “street racing” is to be considered an aggravating circumstance for the purpose of sentencing a person convicted of an offence committed by means of a motor vehicle under section 220 (causing death by criminal negligence) or 221 (causing bodily harm by criminal negligence) or subsection 249(3) (dangerous operation causing bodily harm) or 249(4) (dangerous operation causing death).

In addition, it provides that any person convicted of an offence under any of these provisions by means of a motor vehicle that was involved in street racing at the time the offence was committed be subject to a mandatory driving prohibition, which shall be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed in respect of that offence.

Just going through the summary of it should give qualified support, even if someone is hesitant at all. The reality is drunk driving laws in Canada have increased in severity as we have gone along, not enough for some folks. People like myself would like to see even harsher restrictions on drunk driving laws.

This bill is very similar to that. Why not use this tool to prevent street racing, to give these young people or anyone else who considers street racing something to think about by telling them that if they race and something goes wrong or they get caught, these will be the consequences. I think it is a very rational bill.

Let us look at the financial argument to this. We all know the cost of health care when someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident. If that accident can be prevented, right there we would save money. What about insurance costs? I am sure insurance companies would love to have this type of legislation knowing full well that if it reduces the number of incidents, it will reduce the number of claims they have to pay out.

In fact, this bill associates itself, rightly or wrongly, with a lot of young people who are involved in street racing. I too watched the CBC special about that. I think that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation did a very good job in exposing what happens on our streets, especially late at night in the vacant areas of our towns, as was mentioned by my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River.

The reality is that we in Parliament are here to enact and bring forward this type of debate. That is exactly what the member for Surrey North is trying to do. He is trying to encourage debate and dialogue to see how we can fix the problems within the justice system.

This is one of the concerns he has brought forward. For that he should be congratulated, and we should let him know that we fully support this. If it saves one life, it is a good bill. I suspect that this would save many lives down the road. It would prevent many people from being injured and it would bring more sanity to our streets than is there now.

I can honestly tell the member for Surrey North that he has my full support. I will continue to work with him, in the House or anywhere else, to promote this very fine initiative.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-338 proposed by my colleague from Surrey North, which is an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to street racing.

In addressing the bill I am both saddened and concerned. I am concerned about a problem that is a major killer of young Canadians right across the country and in my riding. I am saddened that the government has done absolutely nothing about it.

Bill C-338 was first read in the House on December 11, 2002. One would normally have expected that in the intervening 10 months someone on the Liberal benches would have seen the obvious merit in the bill and would have proposed the necessary changes to the Criminal Code.

Even if the Liberals had slept through the introduction of Bill C-338 on December 11, one might have expected them to wake up the very next day when the hon. Norm Sterling, then Ontario's minister of transport, tabled in the Ontario legislature Bill 241, an act to enhance safety and mobility on Ontario's roads, 2002.

Bill 241 proposed cracking down on street racing by removing aggressive and unsafe drivers from the road by adding vehicle impoundment and driver's licence suspension both for 48 hours to the current tools available to police. The Ontario government could not go further because amending the Criminal Code is not something that a provincial government can do. It requires someone in this House to act.

It is important to address the glacial pace of progress in the House under the Liberal government. Bill C-338 was written in reaction to a February 2002 decision of the British Columbia Supreme Court to sentence two street racers to two years less a day of virtual house arrest, three years probation and five year driving prohibitions despite the fact that they had been doing twice the legal speed limit and had killed a pedestrian, Irene Thorpe, on November 13, 2000.

In an earlier case another street racer had received a four year prison sentence when his car hit and killed pedestrian Jerry Kithithee in June 2000. The only real difference between the two cases was that the driver who killed Kithithee was going a little faster and had run a red light.

British Columbians and Canadians do not make such distinctions. If a person is doing twice the legal limit and is involved in a race with another car on a street, an act in itself that ought to be illegal, and kills someone, the person should face more than just house arrest. That in essence is what Bill C-338 demands.

If the Liberal government had its finger on the pulse of British Columbia, it would have quickly reacted to the outrage that resulted from the lenient sentence given to Irene Thorpe's killers by changing the Criminal Code just as Bill C-338 suggests.

If the Liberal government was not deaf to the concerns of British Columbia, it would have changed the Criminal Code on September 15, 2002. That is the day after RCMP Constable Jimmy Ng, who was 31, was killed when a street racer hit his RCMP cruiser. The Liberals should have made the change, if only to make sure that such a tragedy would not happen again.

If the Liberals had reacted to the death of either Irene Thorpe or Constable Jimmy Ng, Bill C-338 might not have been necessary to table.

It gets worse. Even when the bill got first reading in the House, the government decided to continue to sleep. Instead of recognizing the important issue raised by the member for Surrey North and the official opposition and adopting his very reasonable solution, the government chose to do nothing.

As Canadians are quickly learning, inaction by the government often has a cost. In this case Liberal arrogance and inaction has an astonishingly high price: the lives of young Canadians, mostly between the ages of 18 and 21.

In British Columbia alone in 2000-01, according to the Insurance Bureau of British Columbia, 86 young people between the ages of 18 and 21 were killed in car crashes, most involving high speed.

In Ontario in the past two years, more than 17 people have died in street racing related accidents. Police say that there are more than 20,000 street racers in the Toronto area.

Even in Saskatchewan four people have died since 1999 in street racing accidents.

In Manitoba no one has died yet but convictions for street racing doubled from 1997 to 2001.

While the Liberals have continued to ignore what is a growing problem, the provinces and municipalities of the country have acted.

In Saskatoon the police operate a program called Street Legal using Saskatchewan International Raceway as its official race venue.

In Edmonton since September 9, 2002, the police have opened up Budweiser Motorsports Park to the public for racing. The public can even race the police. It is another effort to get racers off the street without using a tow truck and a heavy fine.

Montreal also allows street racers to race legally on designated tracks so that young drivers who really want to race can do so safely without risking their own lives or the lives of others.

In British Columbia three weeks ago, on October 3, solicitor general, Rich Coleman, introduced tough new modifications to B.C.'s graduated licensing program, in part, to combat street racing. In August 2003, his department unveiled its driver improvement program policies and procedures. It defines a street racer as “an individual who has engaged in high speed or unsafe racing in competition or on public highways”, and states that the police will impound any vehicles used in a street race.

Saskatchewan police have similar powers to impound vehicles under that province's highway traffic act. In Regina, during the weekend of August 15 to 17 this past summer, 12 vehicles were seized for street racing and 58 tickets were issued. In fact, a candidate in the Regina municipal election was recently quoted as saying that street racing was the number one issue in his ward.

The issue of street racing concerns Canadians from coast to coast and even though the provinces and municipalities are trying to address the problem, in many cases, through innovative new programs, the fact is that unless Ottawa acts all provinces can do is suspend licences and impound cars. Therefore it should come as no surprise that street racing continues to be a real problem.

This past Tuesday in Vancouver, two 2004 Subarus and a 1999 Mercedes SUV were racing neck and neck at speeds close to 140 kilometres an hour until one vehicle hit the guardrail at the Fir Street off-ramp. The drivers, two 18 year old Vancouver men, and a 21 year old Richmond man, were issued speeding tickets, 15 day driving suspensions on the spot and had their cars towed. Vancouver police have issued, this year, eight driving suspensions to street racers and speeders.

Unless Bill C-338 passes, races like the one we saw last Tuesday will continue because street racers are not seeing any action from the Liberal government. In fact, in the month of September the press reported three high profile cases of street racing, including two where people were killed.

On September 29 a man convicted of driving one of the cars involved in a deadly road race that killed 17 year old Payam Yaghoobi in February 2001 was sentenced to eight months in a youth facility and four months supervision in the community. The driver of the second car involved in the street race was earlier sentenced to three years probation and nine months house arrest after he was convicted of dangerous driving causing death.

On September 27 in Vernon, a 19 year old Kamloops man had his vehicle seized and his driver's licence suspended after a street racing incident in which speeds reached 120 kilometres an hour after two vehicles accelerated from a street light.

On September 4, Ariel Lipovetzky was charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death. Daniel Kordis and Michael Mizun, both 16, were killed in a July 11 crash in Mississauga. The car they were in lost control, crossed two lanes and hit a tree.

Quite frankly, the way the Criminal Code works, unless Bill C-338 is passed, street racing is just a provincial traffic offence unless someone dies or is seriously injured. If we want to really address this problem we will encourage cities, like Edmonton, Saskatoon and Montreal, to give young drivers a safe place to race, and we will pass Bill C-338.

Bill C-338 would define street racing and treat it as an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing persons convicted of criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death, or convicted of a dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm or death, as per sections 220 and 221, and subsections 249(3) and 249(4) of the Criminal Code.

It would also require mandatory nationwide driving prohibitions to be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed. First offenders would lose their licences for one to three years, second offenders for two to five years, and subsequent offenders for three years to life.

The driving prohibitions in Bill C-338 are not always as tough as provincial standards but apply nationally, so that a street racer in one province cannot race again anywhere in Canada for the duration of the probation. Bill C-338 is balanced, well thought out and necessary to secure safety for Canadians.

The government did not react to the lenient sentence given to Irene Thorpe's killers in February 2002. It ignored the September 14, 2002 death of RCMP Constable Jimmy Ng who was killed by a street racer. It slept through the introduction of this bill on December 11, 2002, and remained sleeping when the Government of Ontario tabled legislation dealing with street racing the very next day on December 12, 2002.

While the government has slept, roughly 100 young Canadians aged 18 to 21 have killed themselves in street races in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario, terrorized Canadians and countless others have been injured as a result of these actions.

It is time the government woke up to the need to work with the provinces and cities to deal with the problem of street racing, to pass Bill C-338 and make our streets safe again for young drivers and for those who share the roads with them.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to the bill brought forward by my colleague and neighbour, Bill C-338, on street racing.

I will not duplicate what others before me have said but I will talk about what street racing is. I do not think it is a new phenomenon. It is not something that is just here now. Movies like Grease and others show that it has been around. What is really different about street racing today is the cars and the attitudes. In today's world we have young people who perhaps have a little bit too much money, a little bit too much time on their hands and very little regard for the people outside their own circle of friends.

The situation calls for much more than this legislation. However what I think my colleague is attempting to say is that where it is happening and where the courts and police are able to convict the perpetrators, the courts must deal with it in a more serious way.

We must send a message to our young people that if they want to race their cars they should go to an area that has been set aside for racing vehicles and which has safety measures in place in case something goes wrong. That would take them out of a situation where innocent people could be hurt or killed.

Vancouver has had more than its fair share of incidents where young people, usually in the evening, have prearranged locations where they race each other down city streets with regular traffic. Young people, generally, do not have the experience to handle the situations in which they find themselves and sometimes they lose control of their cars. These situations are dangerous, not only for themselves and their passengers, but also for people who happen to be crossing the street, walking down the sidewalk or who are driving their own vehicles and just happen to get in the way.

I am also a little concerned that in some situations, although the cars are being impounded and therefore there is a financial cost to street racing, what has not been said is that those impounded cars generally go back to the family, usually the parents because they own the car. Therefore the cars are not being taken away and impounded for long periods of time.

The actual penalty these young people are receiving is having to stay home for a couple of months or receiving probation and having to talk to a probation officer. From incidents that have been recited earlier, a lot of these young people, who have the attitude that causes the problem in the first place, totally disregard the fact that they do not have a driver's licence any more and are on probation, go out and are caught speeding again without a licence. There have to be tougher penalties for those who have a reckless attitude and who think they can flaunt the law and the court orders given to them.

A stronger message has to be sent to these young people but it cannot be done through the police. The police are doing all they can. They have increased the unmarked police vehicles which have video systems so that they can record the activity for evidence in court appearances. All the detachments in the area have new radar units, at least in British Columbia. They are getting more equipment like spiked belts so that speeding cars can be stopped. However unless the courts follow up on activities in which the police are involved, how on earth are we to send a lasting message to these young people?

I have read articles where places are being created for these races in Ontario. There is a place in Mission, B.C., where they can race in a safe environment. It is not that they cannot get it out of their system somewhere. It is that they have a reckless disregard for the safety not only of themselves, but of other people by racing on city streets. It will take a lot more effort than what the government has seemingly been willing to do.

My colleague from Surrey North gave a very logical reason of why he is doing it. He gave a dissertation of the support that he has received from all provinces across the country. Yet the response from the government was that because it was not a government bill and because it did not come up with the idea, it will find some reason not to support it.

Frankly, I am becoming tired with that kind of attitude from the Liberals across the way. Not all good ideas come from the Liberal Party and it is about time that it accepted that.

When Liberals deliberately take an issue such as this and find some small, irrelevant reason not to support the concept, then they should present a better form. If there are problems with the fact that they do not like the minimum sentences and that they do not like this or that, then why do they not come up with some amendments or some way that it can be advanced in a better form?

I think Canadians want minimum sentences. Canadians are tired of seeing the courts disregarding the feelings that Canadians have toward their laws and where their laws should be going. I do not think Canadians want to see young people who are caught racing convicted of reckless driving. Causing bodily harm or death is another thing.

With reckless driving, Canadians do not want young people locked away and the key thrown away. However, Canadians want to have a serious enough penalty that young people are not going to be reoffending. Canadians want them to see that this is not a fun and cool thing to be doing. This is a criminal act and there is a criminal price to pay.

I am sorry that the Liberals do not seem to think that Canadians have the right to care. However, Canadians do care. Canadians understand that the next time they are on a city street they may be the ones ending up in a wrecked vehicle with a loved one dead beside them at the side of a road caused by young people racing in cars with a total disregard for other people on the road.

Canadians are concerned about this issue and the Liberal government should also be concerned.

If the Liberals have some concerns about the way this legislation is put together they should not just defeat it for the sake of defeating it because it is not their idea. The government should help put it in a form that will be acceptable to all. I think I am right in assuming that the government would find that most of the opposition parties would support the bill. Instead of turning it down point blank, let us get it in a form that would be acceptable to the government.

Let us ensure that the reason that we are doing this is to protect Canadians. We are not only protecting Canadians but protecting the young people who are becoming involved in this reckless activity. Let us ensure that the message that is given to them is a very strong message in order to discourage that kind of behaviour.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hour provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

It being 2:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday next, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)