House of Commons Hansard #45 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2004, No. 2
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was in attendance when we reverted to tabling that report but at the time it was simply described as some report on regulations. There was no indication as to what specifically the report is.

I assume the member is now asking that we revert to committee reports in order to move concurrence in a report, the content of which we know nothing about.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004, No. 2
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Mississauga South will recognize that we have a request to verify if there is unanimous consent for this procedure.

Does the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell have unanimous consent?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004, No. 2
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could advise the House on the nature of the items in the report.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004, No. 2
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Let us please get back to my original question. Does the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell have unanimous consent?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004, No. 2
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the 20th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004, No. 2
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to the question from my hon. colleague from Calgary with respect to the gun registry but I first have to comment on the intervention by the former solicitor general from Prince Edward Island. He used the number $1.1 billion. I acknowledge that there are other numbers out there, some as high as $2 billion, but I would be embarrassed to stand up and admit that I spent $1.1 billion on a database for law-abiding citizens in this country.

What could that money have been used for? In my hometown of Sydney, British Columbia, we have an RCMP detachment that has usually been about 20% short of officers. I know they are training more at Regina now but for years and years the government cut the RCMP training academy to the point that we were not able to fulfill the RCMP positions across the country. We could put more police on the streets.

How can the government spend $1.1 billion on the most useless registry that makes not an iota of difference and then try to spin it by saying that it does not want people carrying guns on the streets? Nobody on this side wants that either. People never did before they had this registry. It is not the Canadian way and it would never be accepted.

However, then, after spending $1.1 billion, to add insult to injury, the government wants to crank out another $120 million. At some point in time the government should cut its losses and admit that it did a stupid thing and that it was a really bad idea.

But, no, the Liberals try to torque and spin this issue so that it is all about people not walking the streets with guns, which is ridiculous. As I said, not a Conservative member of Parliament wants anyone walking around on our streets with guns.

The people the gun registry impacts are farmers who have rifles. My father was an avid outdoorsman and when I was a child he would take me grouse hunting. He was a judge for 30 years and I remember him having to register his firearms. He said that it was the most ridiculous thing.

I am absolutely amazed. I always thought it might have been the former prime minister's pet project. I thought the current Prime Minister would actually see the light and say that the money should be put into law enforcement or into our health care system where people have been struggling. The money could be put to good use in so many other areas but, no, the government continues to pour more and more money on top of bad money already spent and it is not making any difference.

I would urge members on the other side of the House, at the first opportunity they have, to kill the funding for this incredibly wasteful program

Budget Implementation Act, 2004, No. 2
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is once again misplaced priorities. Last year the government gave $50 million in aid to the People's Republic of China. That money is now being used to make offers to buy our mining companies. It is money that supports a regime that has egregious human rights violations, that uses and abuses children. It does all sorts of nasty things to Falun Gong practitioners and then goes ahead and commits cultural genocide against Tibet. The government is giving money to a regime that is corrupt.

How can the government justify taking hard-earned Canadian tax dollars and giving it to a government that abuses its own citizens, abuses other citizens and tries to abuse our own?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004, No. 2
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, being the caring and compassionate nation that we are, we do give out foreign aid I think we do a very good job around the world, but we could do a lot better. I think we should be tying the money to results.

Where there are oppressive regimes, where there are dictatorships and places for abuse and the money is not being spent the way it is supposed to be, we should be tying foreign aid to results. We have many examples of where that is not being done now and we need to look at that.

It is all about accountability and results. It is all about doing follow up to measure those results. When we send money we should ensure that it is actually helping the people it is intended to help, that it is not being swallowed up in administrative programs or bureaucracies or being used by various oppressive regimes or dictators.

There are regions throughout Africa that have horrendous human rights records. We are caught in a little bit of a catch 22 situation because some of the people in these countries live under terrible conditions. At the same time, it is our duty as a government to ensure that we take every step possible to ensure we see results.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004, No. 2
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will probably wind up being the last speaker before we break for Christmas so I want to make this speech about the Canada that could have been and the Canada that should be.

First, we should look at the problems the government is embroiled with. When I look at the bill, I see that it is all about taxation and priority. I look at the terrible tax and spend record of the government where it gives away hard-earned Canadian tax dollars to regimes that abuse their own citizens, abuse their children and do all sorts of nasty things with slave labour conditions, et cetera. Our government rewards those people for bad human rights practices by taxing Canadians in order to give aid to thugs.

Second, the Liberals suffer from elitism. They have a cabinet that disregards a lot of what their own backbenchers have to say on things. I think of the Minmetals deal. I know the cabinet is in favour of it but I also know a lot of people in their caucus do not want to see Canada's resources sold to a regime, which uses slave labour and has committed egregious human rights abuses, so it can go ahead and further its agenda.

Third, the Liberals suffer from top down problems as well. We have the Prime Minister's handlers who abuse and mistreat MPs and disregard them. I have heard complaints from many of the MPs across the way on the green buses as we travel about this place. They suffer from that too.

That brings me to my fourth point, which is the arrogance that is suffered on the other side. I look at the sponsorship scandal and how the Liberals can stand up day after day and defend tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars that were spent to advance their own aims and own little political agenda and how they lined the pockets of their friends and gave payola to their cronies.

Fifth, they suffer from broken promises on the other side. The Prime Minister promised there would be 5,000 new troops for the Canadian Forces, but he stood in the House today and on many days in the past defending the fact that they will not be putting those soldiers forward. We have many people, some being my former staff, serving in Afghanistan who are overworked, tired and do not have the equipment and the government chintzes them right, left and centre.

Sixth, the Liberals also suffer from being out of touch. They want to give the Governor General all sorts of ridiculous amounts of money so that she can gather dozens of her friends and fly to Russia to try to twist Vladimir Putin's arm. Can hon. members imagine the ludicrousness of that. The idea that government wanted to give Adrienne Clarkson, our Governor General, millions of dollars to twist a former KGB agent's arm on the idea of Kyoto by bringing artists to Russia is obscene.

I want the hon. minister who is heckling across the way to think of the millions of dollars that were spent on that and what that could have done for Canadian kids and for housing. It would have gone much further than housing the Governor General in Russia.

I come to the seventh point and that is the failed policies of the government. Over the last 30 years, we have seen the government pull funding from things that are core functions of government only to waste it on things that are non-core functions of government. I think of the RCMP. The Liberals have sucked money out of the RCMP and have deprived the RCMP of the resources to crack down on crime and do their jobs. To what end?

That only covers seven of probably fourteen points that I have, but my time is up. We will continue in the new year and I hope the priorities of the Liberals will change over Christmas.

Pension Ombudsman Act
Private Members' Business

December 14th, 2004 / 5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. I wish to inform the House that there is an error in today's order paper. Two identical private members' bills appear on the list of items outside the order of precedence under the private members' business section of the order paper.

Bill C-228 establishing the pension ombudsman act, standing in the name of the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, was introduced and read the first time on Monday, October 18, 2004. Yesterday, Bill C-320, a bill identical to Bill C-228, standing in the name of the hon. member for Winnipeg North, was introduced and read the first time. Only the first such item should have appeared on the order paper. I am directing the Clerk to remove Bill C-320 from the order paper.

I regret any inconvenience this may have caused hon. members.

It being 5:31 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

moved, seconded by the hon. member for Lethbridge, that Bill C-273, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction for volunteer emergency service), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great anticipation and a little excitement that I stand to speak to Bill C-273, a private member's bill which is being put forward and co-sponsored by my colleague from Lethbridge here in the House.

I want to recognize as well the work that has been done by my friend and colleague from Malpeque. In the 37th Parliament, the member for Malpeque put forward a similar piece of legislation toward recognizing the volunteer contribution of volunteer firefighters and first responders. At that time, I was the seconder of his bill as it went forward. Unfortunately, the bill died on the order paper. That piece of legislation died with the last Parliament.

However, the significance and the importance of the contribution that volunteer firefighters play within our communities, especially the rural communities across this country, have not died. The intent of this bill is to recognize the special status they hold within our communities, the important role they play and the sacrifice they make.

It is with that spirit of cooperation with the member from Lethbridge and the member from Malpeque, as well as in the conversations we have had throughout this House with members from all parties, really, who have recognized the importance of such legislation, that we go forward with this debate.

In order to understand the importance of the bill I think we first have to recognize the contribution of volunteer fire departments around our country.

Within many cities, services are provided by paid firefighters. In rural communities and smaller towns and communities, we do not have access to the same revenue or the same funds. For the most part, those services have to be provided by volunteers. Those of us who live in rural communities are very fortunate that there are these men and women who give of themselves to make sure that those services are provided to rural communities.

In my own constituency of Cape Breton—Canso, I have over 50 small volunteer fire departments dotted along the coast, from Cheticamp to Donkin and from Louisdale to Louisbourg to Canso. They are all different communities, but what we see is that their volunteer fire departments are really the heart and soul of those communities. We see it in so many different aspects of community life. If we go to any community festival during the summer, we see that it is the volunteer fire departments that are usually the ones carrying the mail and pulling the cart at the community festivals.

Where I have my office in Dominion, Nova Scotia, there is a great volunteer fire department. We have a seaside day celebration there with a spectacular fireworks display. Work is put forward by the volunteer fire department on that display, not only in raising money to put on the big display, but in actually putting in the volunteer training hours to get certified and then on the night of the celebration actually do the firing or the discharge. It is like a war zone down there, but the celebration is one that is enjoyed by the entire community and certainly beyond Dominion.

This past weekend I was in Glace Bay for the volunteer fire department's Santa Claus parade. Everybody in the community comes out and supports it. Those hours put in by those volunteers I think should be recognized.

Volunteer firefighters go far beyond just these community events. There is education. We see the firemen going into classrooms for preschoolers with their colouring book programs and their various initiatives to educate young children about “stop, drop and roll”. The firefighters take on these initiatives all the time. Different communities put forward different programs. But it is all time and all hours and time away from their families; it is all part of their commitment to that fire department.

Of course there is the training, because we want our firefighters and our emergency responders to be trained. In that way they at least reduce or limit the amount of risk they place themselves in when they actually have to respond to an emergency. It is those hours of training that I think really have to be recognized as well.

In most rural communities, I think, the fire departments receive some type of support from their municipalities, from their regional municipalities or their towns or counties. That is all well and good, but for the most part the firefighters have to go beyond that and they have to raise their own money for their own safety gear. It could be bunker suits or breathing apparatus. In a lot of cases, it is the actual fire trucks. They have to go out on an ongoing basis and do this.

We just had the dedication of a fire truck in one of the communities, in Bateston, where the community really rallied around the initiative. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality contributed a fair amount, about half, and the community raised the rest of the money. It was a significant undertaking.

I also have the Grand Lake Road volunteer fire department in my riding. It has adopted something that is really very novel. They have a number of very skilled welders, plumbers and tradesmen. They actually have started retrofitting old fire trucks and building new fire trucks. They sell them and the money they get is put into their own operation. It goes back into the department. It is very novel and it is really providing a great service to the other departments in my constituency.

When we talk about tax concessions for volunteers, I think it is important to note as well that in no way is this a slight against any other volunteer sector. I ask members to please understand that this is not a slight against any other volunteer sector, against the canvassers and the Cubs and Scout leaders; I have coached a fair amount myself in hockey and soccer. I think they are all noble undertakings. I think they are all important. We are very fortunate to have people who come forward to volunteer their time.

But let us identify the significance of the volunteer firefighter. Let us realize that firefighters go beyond what is asked of a normal volunteer. They place themselves in danger on an ongoing basis, on a regular basis. They place their own safety and well-being at the rear while they try to provide for somebody else. When everybody else is running out of the building, these are the guys who are running into the building. That is why they stand apart. That is why they deserve to be recognized.

That is what this bill is about. That is why we want to recognize their special contribution.

I do not think we can underestimate what we ask of these people. They place their lives on the line and in danger. Quite often the outcomes of these tragedies that these everyday men and women must face are tragic. We have fishermen, farmers, mechanics and plumbers, whatever they are in the community, who come forward and are asked to go face to face with a fire. Sometimes the outcomes of those situations are tragic.

Two weeks ago, the small department in Mabou had a fire related death. In Glace Bay back about a month and a half ago, we lost a grandmother and grandchild. These volunteers are the people who have to go in and gather the remains. They are the ones who have to go into the buildings and hear the cries.

Mentally and emotionally, these volunteers stand apart from others. As noble as other volunteers might be, they are not the same. Volunteer firefighters stand on a piece of real estate that is pretty exclusive. That is what we hope to do with Bill C-273. The intent of the bill is to recognize that departure.

I was in Port Hood, Nova Scotia, for an awards ceremony back two weeks ago at the volunteer fire department. I was invited by their chief, Donald Frances Beaton, to be part of their awards ceremony. As I walked in, Clarence Cameron, a long-time member of the department, pulled me aside and we entered into a discussion. The news had just been released that this private member's bill was coming forward.

Clarence and a couple of the other guys told me that a provision like this, in the Income Tax Act, had been talked about in Port Hood 15 years ago. The merit of this cannot be questioned; it is the circumstances around that. I think members on both sides of the House recognize the wisdom of the Clarence Camerons and the D.F. Beatons and see that these volunteers deserve special recognition.

What would Bill C-273 do? With any bill we want some intended outcome. In the rural communities in my riding young people are moving to bigger centres for employment opportunities, educational opportunities, or new experiences. There are fewer bodies to get the job done back at home, and that is really unfortunate.

Our volunteers are getting a bit older and we are asking a bit more of our more senior firefighters. They have to ask themselves how much longer they can stand in. Hopefully, my bill would retain some of those firefighters. I am going to put forward an amendment in a short while that will add some numbers to this even though they are only small amounts.

The other aspect of this involves some of the younger people in the community. There is so much to do. Young couples have a lot on the go, chasing their children around. I have three boys myself and I know how busy it is at home. There has to be some type of incentive. Hopefully, this recognition within the Income Tax Act would help recruit some new bodies to become volunteer firefighters.

I want Bill C-273 to recognize and reward those who are going to be there anyway, the people, the heart and soul, the guys who can be counted on to be at every fire and every function, and not miss a training session. These are the people who continue to put the fire department right after their family. We must reward them. There are three things we want the bill to do: retain, recruit and reward.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that you will find unanimous consent for the following amendment. I move:

That Bill C-273, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, be amended by replacing in the bill, 50 hours of volunteer service with 100 hours of voluntary service; replacing 100 hours of voluntary service with 200 hours of voluntary service; replacing the amount of $500 with the amount of $1,000; and replacing the amount of $1,000 with the amount of $2,000.

The substance of the bill itself is unaltered. Only the hours of service and the dollar values are increased.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso. His presentation focussed mainly on volunteer firefighters. But the legislation deals with those who perform volunteer service as ambulance technicians, firefighters or persons who assist in the search and rescue of individuals or in other emergency situations.

I must tell the hon. member that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill, because good measures are being put forward. We must not, however, forget the situation where, in disasters like the ice storm in Quebec and the floods in Saguenay, large numbers of volunteers are mobilized. In Saguenay, there were 1,800.

I would like the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso to tell me what control measures he is considering putting forward. We know that, to claim a deduction on their income tax returns, volunteers will no doubt have to provide proof of the number of hours of volunteer service. These control measures will have to be simple, uncomplicated and relatively hassle-free. Under the bill, I also know that the municipality or other appropriate authority will probably have to prepare a report or sign some document.

I would like to hear the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso on the types of control measures that could be put forward. Hopefully, they will be as simple as possible, for the benefit of the public.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from the Bloc for his intervention and his question.

The one thing that we do not want to do is create additional stresses or pressures, or complicate things for the local volunteer fire chiefs. We think that the tax aspect of it can be done with an attachment to the regular income tax form that can be filled out and signed off by the fire chief.

We think there may be an incentive here as well. Things vary from department to department, but there is always that solid core of volunteers that one can count on and that a chief can count on. So maybe now the chief holds a bit of a hammer. When we are looking for volunteers to turn out, to train or take part in whatever function it might be, the chief then holds some type of carrot or whip to ensure that the participation is there.

For the most part these elected fire chiefs, more often than not, are men of integrity and honesty. They will see the merit in this. They will see that it is to the benefit of their department. They will work to ensure that the rules and regulations are complied with.

It is important and I agree with my colleague from the Bloc that it must be simple, concise, and an attachment to the income tax form.