House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

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Bill C-34. On the Order: Government Orders

May 6, 2004--the Minister of the Environment--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development of Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

I rise today to discuss one of the ways in which human activity is affecting the future of nature, a problem that the bill before us is designed to address.

There are probably none among us here who do not remember the Exxon Valdez disaster in the northeast Pacific and the horrifying pictures of dead fish, birds, seals and other marine life that had no chance against this thick oil on top of the water.

What many here may not know is that more marine birds are killed every year by the oil discharged from ships on our east and west coasts than were killed by the entire Exxon Valdez disaster. These seabirds are killed by the chronic oil pollution in the ocean that comes from the discharge of oily waste from the bilges or ballast tanks of ships. And no, these ships are not supposed to dump this waste into the oceans. It is already against the law. But they do it and the impact is huge.

Some may think that in an ocean environment with millions of gallons of water perhaps a bit of oily waste would quickly disperse and be of little concern, but the opposite is true. It takes only a spot of oil or only a drop perhaps the size of a dime on the feathers of a seabird to kill that bird in the cold waters of the north Atlantic.

Like a pinhole leak in a diver's suit, the oil allows ocean waters to penetrate the natural protection of the seabirds. In the north Atlantic, where waters are frequently just above zero degrees, this means that the bird is soaked with cold water and, over a few hours or at the most a few days, all the reserves of its body fat and muscle are depleted and the bird simply dies.

The birds do not survive, and while we see a few struggling here and there on the beaches, we know for certain that the problem at sea is much, much larger.

It is not a matter of a few birds dying every year, nor even a few dozen or a few hundred. There are at least 300,000 bird deaths every year. Anyone who has seen birds washed up on the shore and struggling for survival can tell you what a sad sight this is. These birds are the ones for which Atlantic Canada is renowned. Some of them are specific to the waters of the North Atlantic: guillemots, puffins, dovekies, and gulls. Anyone who has seen just one of these birds gasping for life on a beach knows what a terrible sight this is, but what we have to realize is that we are not just talking of one specimen, but a bird population the equivalent of the human population of a suburb of a city the size of Toronto.

One reason we have this problem is that the level of penalties does not act as a sufficient deterrent for this kind of activity by shipowners and ship captains. Rather than pay the cost of legally disposing of wastes at port facilities, they simply dump at sea. If caught, some pay the penalty and just consider the cost as a cost of doing business. Fines have been quite inadequate in Canada in past years, even when the shipowner or ship captain is brought to justice.

I draw members' attention to the United States, where there have been some recent high profile prosecutions. Let me tell members about just one. In March, a Norwegian shipping company was fined $3.5 million after one of its ships discharged oil off the United States west coast. It is the largest fine ever levelled for this type of environmental violation. Not only will the company pay the fine, it will also launch a comprehensive anti-pollution program on board all its ships.

We need to be consistent with the United States. We share these coastlines and we share these oceans, and we certainly do not want to be viewed as an area where it is somehow easier to dump oil.

We have an opportunity now with this bill to make amendments to two key environmental laws that will address the tragedy that is birds oiled at sea, and I speak today in favour of these two amendments.

To complement provisions already found in the Canada Shipping Act, the government is proposing amendments to the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. These amendments will strengthen their enforcement powers and our ability to deal with this serious offence. With these changes, we can make early and decisive government moves that will provide immediate results and ensure that enforcement and judicial powers have what they need for proper deterrence.

What we are proposing here is not a new strategy nor anything that will be hard to do. It is a fairly simple solution and one that will help us beef up certain existing laws and take prompt action.

During the winter of 2005, it would be good to be able to report lower seabird mortality rates from oil spills, and to know that we made the right choice by putting together the right legislative tools. It would be good to know that, with a simple approach, we have been able to make a difference for the preservation of biodiversity today and in the future.

These amendments place no burden on those who already take their environmental responsibilities seriously, and I will add that most shipowners and ship captains do. There will be no additional responsibilities or obligations for the good citizens in the shipping industry, but what these amendments will do is ensure that those who feel free to pollute Canadian waters now, without thought or care to those 300,000 birds or more that die annually on the east coast, will no longer be able to do so with impunity. These amendments will help establish their environmental conscience.

None of this comes without cost, and the Government of Canada will increase its investment by some $2 million to $3 million a year to meet the additional requirements of this bill. The money will give us the surveillance and enforcement tools and people that we need, it will allow us to communicate more with the shipping industry, and it will help us pay for the science we need.

This is not a controversial proposal for the provinces. Indeed, we have moved forward with this initiative with the support of provincial governments on the east coast. I would in particular like to congratulate my colleague, the minister of the environment in Newfoundland and Labrador, for his support. We also expect that those in the shipping industry who understand the importance of environmental protection support the approach outlined here today.

With the support of this bill, we will have more of the tools needed to do the right thing and to urge those shipping interests who feel free to dump their waste in our waters to do the right thing. I urge support for this bill, and I know that all members look forward with me to the day when we can count more birds bobbing in the waves and not those struggling for life because of a thoughtless act.

If I may, I would like to add my appreciation for the members of the opposition on the environment committee who indicated the importance of this bill to them and indicated that they would be favourable to speedy passage of this legislation through the House. I think this type of cooperation will be very helpful in making sure this legislation comes into effect just as soon as it possibly can.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will echo what the minister just mentioned and say that the official opposition will be supporting the bill. When it gets to committee it will be passed quickly, I am sure. However, just to let the birds on the east coast know, the bill, unfortunately, will likely not pass into law before we head into the election.

I do have to chastise the minister just a tad for talking about the early and decisive government action on this topic. He has been the environment minister for approaching several decades now, I would think, and this is the first time we have seen this bill. An early and decisive move to protect these birds, this is not. This is a long overdue bill. I do not know why it was not in here a long time ago.

The bill is now before the House and, as the minister knows, it will pass through quickly. We have one speaker today because the bill is not controversial. The provinces are on side, we are on side and I think everybody is on side. It will go to committee but, unfortunately, it will not get passed into law before the House is dissolved and we go into an election.

Let me reiterate a little of what the minister said. There are hundreds of thousands of birds that face a terrible death. It is very agonizing for the bird and agonizing for us to watch it. The unfortunate part is when birds come into contact with oil and they get to the stage where they are struggling. Although a lot of people try to help, there are volunteers and efforts are made, once the bird is in that stage, seldom do they get saved. The fact is, they are done. We see volunteers scraping the oil off, trying to fluff the feathers and do what they can for these birds. The trouble is, once they have lost that protective natural coating because of their contact with oil, it is almost always a death sentence for them. That is why the bill needs to pass. Eventually, if the bill is not passed in this House, in this Parliament, then I hope early in the next Parliament the Conservative government will bring it forward again and we will get it into law, because it is long overdue.

One of the amendments to the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act would make stricter fines possible. The potential fines would be raised to $1 million for shipowners who pump their bilges or put oil into the water. This is a good move and a good idea that we support.

It is interesting that our laws will finally be harmonized with the United States. As the minister himself said, this is a good thing. We share a common coastline and what we do not want are shipowners who might try to make it a few more miles before they pump the bilge. This is not a get out of jail free card but it is certainly an easier and cheaper way to clean the bilge or pump the oil and not as likely to get prosecuted. That has to stop. This will harmonize our laws more consistently with the United States and make it neither profitable nor desirable to dump bilge oil within our 200 mile exclusive economic zone. It is obviously a good thing.

It is a positive example of how harmonizing our laws here in North America is a good thing. I imagine if Maude Barlow were here today in the House, she would be up on her hind legs squawking about the fact that there is a corporate agenda somewhere and it is a terrible thing to work with the Americans. I am sure it is in her mind and in many other people's minds that the Americans are part of an evil empire.

The truth is that the Americans are away ahead of us on this. We are playing catch up here. The fact that we can harmonize our laws with the Americans to make the North American coastline safer and a tougher place to pollute for all of us, is just a recognition that pollution does not know boundaries and good laws, good regulations and sound international law, the rule of law, is a good thing when we can work in harmony for the betterment of all. In this case it is for the betterment of both the environment, certainly the birds, and also our relations with the Americans.

I do think the minister is on the right track here again. Harmonizing these laws with the Americans is a good thing and it is a good thing for all the reasons I mentioned.

The bill also would iron out some of the past jurisdictional problems between the various government departments that claim responsibility for protecting our coasts. The minister mentioned that $2 million or $3 million would be involved in making these amendments workable, and that is a good start.

However we have concerns that the government will continue to augment in other departments the monitoring efforts on all our coasts and not be careful about how it manages both the Coast Guard and our other monitoring methods. No law will work without monitoring and enforcement.

I want to assure the minister that this is consistent with Conservative policy. I want to read for the record, for those watching and for members in the House, exactly what our policy says on this. It says:

A Conservative government will expand oil-dumping detection; prohibit ships from entering sensitive sea areas; legislate ship operators to account for their ships' waste; and offer incentives to dump waste at our port facilities, not in our waters.

A Conservative government will massively increase fines for illegal oil dumping, a practice that kills hundreds of thousands of sea birds every year along Canada's coastlines and is encouraged by current Canadian laws that make profitable the practice of dumping oil in the ocean instead of disposing of it legally at a port. Ship operators caught illegally dumping oil will face criminal charges and be prevented from plying Canadian waters.

In other words, the Conservative policy is a get tough policy for those who would pollute. In fact, it reminds me a bit of the policy of the current Prime Minister when he was the environment critic in 1990. He said at that time that people should face criminal charges for willingly and knowingly polluting Canadian waters with oil. He said that criminals like that should spend time in jail.

We know what has happened since then. The Prime Minister's own company, CSL, has been caught pumping bilge water over the side. Apparently another case is pending. I am not sure who he thinks should go to jail for doing that. However it is interesting to note that in 1990 he had a very tough policy when he was environment critic. I only mention this to point out to the minister that this early and decisive action that he talked about in his speech is getting to be decisive but it is not very early.

Back in 1990, 14 years ago, the Prime Minister said that this should be toughened up. Now, 14 years later, we have a bill that will not pass through Parliament in time and is not as tough as what the Prime Minister wanted 14 years ago.

We will be supporting the bill because it is the right thing to do and because it is a step in the right direction. However I will not be doing cartwheels on behalf of the birds on either coast because the legislation has been a long time coming. It is well overdue. I hope it is not window dressing for the upcoming election, like the headlines we read about the government getting tough on those nasty people who are overfishing on the east coast. I hope this is not another one of these bills where the government wants to show how tough it can be. It will not pass but the government wants to show people how tough it can be.

I hope the government will get tough and that the legislation will pass. The Conservative Party will get tough. We will legislate it as an early and decisive action of the Conservative government. We will not wait for an election call to do it.

This should happen. The bill will go to committee. We will support it and are happy to do so. I again point out that it is part of our strong environmental commitment. It is part of what we want to see happen, not just with CSL but with any corporate or private shipowner who might use our waters improperly. We want to make sure that the good ones have nothing to fear but that the bad corporate citizens and bad shipowners realize that Canada is not a place to dump their pollution.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Let me start by saying that the Bloc Quebecois will be supporting this bill in principle, especially since more than 300,000 seabirds are killed each year in the waters around the Atlantic provinces, in the St. Lawrence River and the St. Lawrence Seaway, because shipowners and sailors dump ballast waters there. Obviously, this creates very serious situations.

Earlier, the minister said we all remember the Exxon Valdez disaster. We in the Bloc Quebecois are also thinking about all those poison ships that run aground all over the world, and, too often, get off easy.

That is the situation. While the Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of the bill, it is clear that, in committee, we shall make sure that the owners, companies and officers in particular are held fully responsible for any damage caused.

It is all very well to say in the bill that fines will go as high as $1 million, and that the masters, chief engineers, owners and operators of vessels and directors and officers of corporations will be held responsible, but we want to make sure that it will be possible to follow up, especially with corporations.

We know that the Birchglen , a ship belonging to CSL, changed its flag overnight. It lowered the Canadian flag and raised that of Barbados, while in port at Quebec City. That is typical of this industry.

It is not enough to simply provide for fines in legislation; we must ensure that it is possible to follow up on these corporations and to take the necessary steps so that directors and owners are harshly sentenced and required to pay the fines imposed under this legislation.

A lot of work will be done in committee to ensure that the industry fully understands that we are determined to have the polluter pay. Never again will ships be allowed to dump bilge in the waters of Quebec—the St. Lawrence river, estuary or seaway—thereby causing pollution and leaving death in their wake. Again, some 300,000 seabirds are killed in our waters every year because of ship owners, crew and operators who do not respect the environment.

I repeat, the Bloc Quebecois will support the principle, but the true objective is to make the company owners, administrators and representatives pay directly.

I will indicate to hon. members the concepts with which the Bloc Quebecois agrees in this bill:

to protect migratory birds from the effects caused by deposits of harmful substances, such as oil, in the exclusive economic zone of Canada;

to state that that Act applies to vessels and their owners and operators;

What we are especially interested in is the following:

subject masters, chief engineers, owners and operators of vessels and directors and officers of corporations to a duty of care to ensure compliance with the Act and regulations;

We will insist on the fact that we want the corporation and all related entities—including of course CSL, Canada Steamship Lines, CSL International and all the subsidiaries of the Canada Steamship Lines consortium—to comply with the legislation. This is a model typical of that industry. Indeed, it is not just that they want to avoid paying taxes in the countries where they operate by registering their vessels in tax heavens to sail flags of convenience. They are also doing this to avoid having to comply with the environmental laws in the countries where they operate.

The Bloc Quebecois wants to ensure that all these companies, subsidiaries and consortiums will be accountable and that the managers who run these businesses will be convicted for any damage that they may cause.

Of course, it is said that the bill will:

—expand the enforcement powers to include orders to direct and detain vessels found to be in contravention of that Act or its regulations;

It goes without saying that we agree with the fact that, when this occurs, the vessel can be boarded and put in dry dock in a selected location.

It is also said that the bill will:

—expand the jurisdiction of Canadian courts to include the exclusive economic zone of Canada;

This is, of course, for reasons relating to international law.

We want to ensure that anyone causing damage within our territory will be prosecuted.

The bill increases the amount of certain fines. Members are certainly aware that we are in favour of fines that can be as high as $1 million, but we must ensure that the person who committed the violation can pay such fine.

I repeat, when we see that the Birchglen , this rusty ship sitting in dry dock in the Quebec City port, was able to switch its registration overnight from Canada to Barbados, it gives us a good indication of what the industry could do if environmental crimes were committed. It is amazing to see how quickly a change of flag, a change of allegiance or a change of owner can take place.

We want to make sure that these things are not tolerated and that the parent corporation can be prosecuted for any damage caused by its subsidiaries, even if they happen to be located in tax havens or in countries that do not have environmental regulations.

The bill proposes to permit courts to impose additional punishments in the form of orderscovering matters such as environmental audits, community service and thecreation of scholarships for students enrolled in environmental studies.

We are in total agreement with having corporations do community service in affected areas, on top of having to pay for damages. Of course, here again, if one wants to sentence corporations to community service, someone has to be made accountable.

It is always the same concern. We must make sure that the heads of corporations, their owners, and family-owned consortiums such as Canada Steamship Lines, are not able to escape the law just by changing the country of registration to Barbados, as the Birchglen , that rusty old ship moored in the port of Quebec City, did overnight. In that particular case, it was to avoid taxes. Nevertheless, it could be to avoid environmental responsibility.

We would never be a party to a bill that would allow corporations to avoid facing up to environmental crimes. We will make sure that, at committee stage, the bill is as specific as possible so that corporations, employees, management and all sister companies of a consortium are not above the law.

Of course, as members know, committee work has to follow the rules set by the Liberal government. Even though we agree with the substance of the bill, its introduction just before an election will not give the committee the time to do its job. Again, we are pleased to debate the bill today, but it will not be adopted before the end of the session because of the forthcoming election.

Since the Bloc Quebecois agrees with the principle of the bill, it will take part in the committee's work. We are ready to review the bill without delay so that it comes into force as soon as possible. We want to make sure that owners, board members and managers of corporations or consortiums pay for damages and are made to abide by the penalties imposed on them and that, if they do not, they are made personally accountable to the public for any damage they might have caused.

The Bloc Quebecois agrees with the principle of the bill, but it will defend the territory of Quebec. We will no longer accept the deaths of over 300,000 birds every year in our waters because of shipowners emptying their holds, dumping bilge water, and destroying bird life. All that these birds have done is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We do not wish to see this happen ever again in the St. Lawrence, the St. Lawrence Estuary or the St. Lawrence Seaway, or indeed in any of the other territorial waters of Canada.

We will be sure to bring the appropriate pressure to bear in committee. Regardless of which shipping company is involved, be it Canada Steamship Lines, Canada Steamship Lines International, or another, be it a consortium or conglomerate, we want to make sure that all shipowners, officers and shareholders will pay for the harm done to birds on the territory of Quebec.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. At the outset, the NDP very much supports the bill. It will go to committee for further discussion on it.

However, a question was raised earlier by the member from the Conservative Party as to whether the bill, which is so long overdue, was simply a matter of window dressing. There is a very serious question here. Why has the government taken so long to introduce what is fairly straightforward legislation to deal with a longstanding and chronic problem in Canadian waters: the dumping of oily bilge and ballast waters from some of these huge tankers. As we know, the estimates are that on the Atlantic coast alone about 300,000 birds are killed each year. I am from the west coast. We do not know what the estimates are on the west coast, but we know it is also a significant problem.

First, there should be a lot of serious questions. We in the NDP have some pretty tough questions for the government as to why the legislation is being brought in at the last moment. Clearly it appears that we are on the verge of an election and this will likely never be realized as legislation in this Parliament. What a shame. How many more birds will be victims of pollution dumping as a result of a failed environmental agenda by the government?

One of the principles that we have to advocate most strongly is the polluter pay principle, and the bill attempts to do that. Raising the fines up to $1 million is a step definitely in the right direction. However, we also need to have some serious concerns about whether the additional resources required for enforcement, for example, will actually be in existence.

We can have the legislation, we can have the fines laid out, but if we do not have the infrastructure or the resources on the ground to get out and see what is going on and to ensure that these violators are being caught, then the legislation is not worth the paper on which it is written. That will be a question that we pursue in the committee to ensure that the legislation is backed up by the kind of resources that are required to do the job.

The sad reality is that for many of these corporate polluters, it is easier for them to face a fine than it is to stop the pollution and to clean up the pollution. We know for example, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, that the average fine has been about $16,000. This is far lower than what the violation and cost of cleanup is. Again, it is important to ensure that there are adequate fine levels to send a very strong message to polluters that continually violate our laws.

In the context of the government's environmental record, while the bill is a good individual specific step, it has quite an atrocious record on the environment. Again, being from the west coast, there is huge concern about the government being willing to look at lifting the moratorium on oil and gas exploration off the Pacific coast, something that we very much oppose.

We in the NDP believe the people of Canada are entitled to an environmental bill of rights that gives us the power to protect our environment. We have had some discussion here today in this debate about these tankers. Some people have mentioned the Canada Steamship Lines. Maybe we should focus a bit more on what these tankers are doing and what CSL is doing. Not only have they had an anti-environmental haven, they have also had a tax haven.

The issue of the environment is very much integrated and a part of a broader discussion about our tax laws, about how we treat these corporations and whether we have a green screen, for which the NDP has repeatedly called, through which decisions for the budget, for budgetary priorities or for tax measures or for other environmental measures are seen through.

I say loudly and clearly that I think Canadians, by and large, are very disappointed with this government's record on the environment. While this bill, in and of itself, is a good bill in principle, it really begs the question why the government has waited so long to act.

I was curious to know why the Conservative Party spokesperson on the bill would attack Maude Barlow, from the Council of Canadians. First, here is a Canadian, the voluntary chairperson of the Council of Canadians, who has done probably more than most anybody else in the country to bring public attention, consciousness and awareness to what Canada has actually sold out. It has sold out in terms of its natural resources. Under NAFTA and the FTAA, we basically have moved into an agenda of corporate power that allows resources to be traded without any sense of democratic practice or democracy that would come from elected parliaments.

To attack Maude Barlow is quite unconscionable. She is the person who has made it very clear that Canada should not be allowing the bulk export of our water, just as we have done in the NDP. That has been a major issue for us too, and we have raised this in the House.

Let us get the record straight here and make it clear who the real culprit is. It is that Liberal government. It has in a very lackadaisical way given lip service to protecting our environment. We have not yet fully met our commitments to Kyoto, which is a very basic global commitment to protect our environment and to reduce harmful emission. The government has failed on that record as well.

One way for us to ensure these environmental standards are set and that we do indeed have a green screen through which public policy decisions are made is to ensure there is a strong contingent of New Democrats in this House. It sure as heck will not be the Conservative Party that pushes the government in that direction. If anything, it has limply gone along with the government's anti-environmental agenda.

There are tough decisions to be made for the protection of our environment. It must be made very clear to the corporate sector that violations will not be tolerated, not only in the protection of birds, but in human health as well. We only have to look at things like the Sydney tar ponds or other toxic sites in Canada. Look at the dismal record we have on public transit and the fact that we are pumping more poison and harmful emissions into our air. That is sending more kids to hospital with asthma.

All these things can be traced back to decisions on public policy that emanate from this House and from a political agenda. The government has a choice to make the environment a priority and make it clear that we have strong environmental standards which must be abided by. It has the choice to have public policy decisions that will emphasize green jobs, protection of the environment and transition funds for workers. These are all things for which our party is calling. However, we have not seen any of that from this government.

In closing, we support the legislation in principle. It will now go off to committee. We will examine the bill closely in committee, given the opportunity to do so. We will work very hard to ensure that resources required to ensure the enforcement is met under the bill does take place so violators will be caught and prosecuted. We will ensure that a strong message is sent out that on this score we will not see any further killing of migratory birds.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak and outline the NDP position on this matter.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Sydney—Victoria
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Mark Eyking Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of the Environment for bringing this very important marine issue to the House today. I am from Cape Breton Island which is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. We have so many different breeds of sea birds and too often we see them damaged by pollution.

Since the hon. member across the floor mentioned another issue that we have in Cape Breton, the tar ponds, I would like to mention that the Minister of the Environment has been at the forefront in the last few years in dealing with the tar ponds. It was evident in the budget and it was also evident this week in the negotiations that we are going to clean up this mess.

A silent disaster takes place every winter off the coast of Atlantic Canada. Hundreds of thousands of sea birds die every year in the winter. They experience a slow and struggling death, all because of the discharge of oil waste from ships that are making their way through the ocean waters. The ships are not permitted to discharge their waste in the ocean but many do. Let me explain what happens to the murres, the puffins, the dovekies and the gulls that share these waters with the big ships.

A spot of oil no bigger than the size of a quarter, as the minister stated before, can penetrate the natural defences of the birds against the cold waters of the Atlantic. We can liken this to a pinhole in a diver's suit. Over several days the cold soaks the birds and zaps their reserves of body fat and muscle.

Yes, there are laws against discharge of waste by ships at sea, but the problem has been that the fines for violating these laws do not provide a sufficient deterrent. It would seem that the polluters have concluded that it is cheaper to pay the penalties than to pay for disposing the waste in a legal manner. In other words, the way things work now, it is the cost of doing business.

We are proposing to give our enforcement officers the tools they need to do the job by the anti-pollution clauses of the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. We are also proposing that we make sure that those who purposely pollute our ocean waters and are responsible for the deaths of our marine life are brought to justice.

There are members here from Newfoundland and Labrador. They are also surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and have also seen the problem first-hand.

With the fairly simple proposals in this bill we could, within a year, be able to look back at the winter of 2004-05 and say that we have taken the action that was needed for fewer deaths of sea birds from oil. We could say that we have done the right thing by putting together the legislative tools. We could say that we have taken action on conserving biodiversity and have addressed an ongoing problem. We could say that we have lived up to our domestic and international commitments.

One of the most important parts of the legislation will be to make the investment needed to find the polluters who discharge the waste illegally and bring them to justice. We do not need to invent anything and we do not need to come up with much that is new. The technology is there. Satellites and technology on board aircraft can spot the oil slicks trailing behind the ships very soon after the discharge has been made. Acting swiftly in bringing these violators to justice will send a very strong message.

With the changes in this proposal before us, we could increase surveillance. We could partner with the Canadian Space Agency and use the RADARSAT technology as an eye in the sky. There is something quite fitting in using technologies for this purpose. Human activity is the reason our waters get polluted, but humans are also the creators and inventors of the high technology solutions.

Support of this bill to implement these legislative amendments will signal to all of Canada that we are committed to a conservation regime that works with industry, but also one that is backed by a strong legislative mandate and enforcement of the law. It is an essential move to ensure our natural legacy.

I urge members to support the bill, to reverse the yearly losses from the silent disaster of the oiled birds at sea.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak on this bill, which is overall an interesting piece of legislation. It imposes harsher penalties on shipping companies that illegally dump toxic substances at sea. When we get to committee, moreover, we will have to examine the issue very carefully to make sure there are no loopholes. We have already seen the loopholes that were left in Bill C-28, loopholes relating to tax perks for the shipping industry. We need to be sure that the same thing does not happen with this bill, and that there are no possibilities for certain companies to get around the law.

This bill also confers considerable authority on game officers when it becomes necessary to intervene with respect to shipping companies behaving in a manner that may or may not be illegal. Human rights must be protected, however. In committee, we will pay particular attention to these particular aspects of the bill.

Obviously prevention is also important. The focus should be less on the ability to clean up after an oil spill—take the Exxon Valdez for example—and more on imposing conditions to prevent this type of accident from happening. Constraints have to be strong enough to prevent companies from being in a major environmental disaster situation.

Nonetheless, I would have liked this bill to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act to address other issues as well. In my riding, for instance, the environment minister is currently trying to eliminate sanctuaries for geese that use the banks of the St. Lawrence as a place to stop on their migration north or south, depending on the time of year. The federal government had set up sanctuaries to keep hunters out of certain areas, L'Islet, in particular, where the sanctuary ended up being set up in a schoolyard. Hunters are particularly unwelcome in that setting because reopening the hunt would be dangerous for the children and the entire community.

The same kind of situation exists at Trois-Saumons. Everyone in the field agrees that the sanctuaries should be maintained in the future and that the federal government should withdraw its proposal to make them disappear. At one time, it was said that there were too many snow geese. The new spring hunt has taken place for several years and has brought things into much more reasonable proportions. It is as if the bureaucratic machinery had had the goal, three or four years ago, of using the disappearance of the sanctuaries as a way of decreasing the flocks of snow geese. Today, we no longer need this measure.

I would have liked this bill to give us much more serious guarantees. Of course, there is the question of maritime accidents. Action could be taken, nevertheless, under the bird protection legislation. They move from country to country; they have no borders. Therefore, I think it would have been relevant to have more of an omnibus bill covering other aspects of this field.

The same thing is true of the spring hunt. An experiment has been conducted and the results so far are clear. The pilot project could have turned into a provision in the law. Indeed, it has an interesting economic impact and an interesting ecological impact. The species had truly multiplied too rapidly and that could have created health problems for entire flocks. There is also an impact on the land where the geese stop over—obviously a negative impact—especially on farmland.

In recent years, there have been a number of problem situations. The UPA has had to argue frequently to ensure that, when the geese are migrating, the farmers are compensated for their losses. The explosive growth in the flocks has meant that the geese go farther and farther inland. They land in cultivated fields. In half a day they can easily destroy all possible production in that field. For a farmer, this has a serious economic impact.

There are currently programs to compensate farmers. However, we should have taken the opportunity provided by this bill to improve these programs and to involve farmers in the environmental operation that we are conducting. This could be done in a more concrete fashion and we must ensure that the federal government truly does its share in this regard. Indeed, it is ironic that, while the federal government wants to get involved in many areas in which it has no business, there are other areas—such as migratory birds—in which it is not fulfilling its responsibilities.

Earlier, I gave the examples of the sanctuaries that they are trying to eliminate. This is a bad decision. Incidentally, the whole community in my region shares this view, whether it is people from l'Islet, Saint-Jean-Port-Joli or, more generally, from the l'Islet RCM.

It is the same thing regarding the whole issue of spring hunting. The federal government is not doing enough. It should do more.

This is a bill which, on the whole, is interesting, but it should be much broader in scope, it should be a kind of omnibus bill to improve the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Also, when the bill is reviewed in committee, we will have to take a closer look at the issue of overlapping jurisdictions. It is important to respect provincial jurisdictions. Incidentally, we are told that the Quebec Liberal Party, which is not a sovereignist party, recognizes the existence of a problem in this regard. A document on the priorities of the Quebec Liberal Party includes a strong commitment to this effect. It says that the provincial government will have to:

Negotiate with the Government of Canada to obtain jurisdiction over Quebec's freshwater bodies (lakes, rivers, bogs, wetlands), which will allow us to better monitor aquatic activities.

This is a jurisdiction where things must be clearly defined. We must ensure that the federal government discharges its responsibilities without encroaching upon Quebec's responsibilities. Therefore, if the measures contained in this bill ever had an impact on areas under Quebec's jurisdiction, there would eventually have to be an agreement on what is acceptable. We must not create a situation where, on the one hand, the federal government legislates and, on the other hand, provincial governments are faced with court cases for something that is not their responsibility in the first place. Obviously, it will be very important to ensure that this kind of legal wrangling does not occur.

It is absolutely essential that we focus on prevention to avoid spills. We must ensure that rules set out to prevent spills, the fines and the various actions that can be taken are so clear and precise that all ship owners will understand perfectly that it is much better for them to make the necessary investments and take all the required safety measures than to have to suffer the consequences of a spill that could cause considerable environmental damage.

It is certainly very spectacular but, above all, very sad when environmental mishaps occur because adequate measures were not taken to prevent them.

Hopefully this bill will cover all possible situations. Hopefully there will be no loophole allowing people to get off scot-free. Nobody in the shipping industry should get special treatment.

In this respect, let us hope that the past will not be an indication of the future. Certain harmful behaviours proved that the federal government had granted special treatment to corporations. In so doing, it weakened the law making it less credible and less viable.

I hope that, at committee stage, we will meet witnesses who will tell us what should be changed in the bill. I hope the government will be open to amending the bill. I dare hope that it will even be open to broadening its scope to make it an omnibus bill and include changes to the legislation on migratory birds to answer the questions I raised before. I hope to see that kind of attitude on the part of the federal government.

For instance, the bill expands the area over which the law applies. It will be possible to inspect and search a vessel and direct it to a Canadian port if the offence took place within the 200 nautical mile limit. The current legislation is limited to 12 miles. I see that as an interesting improvement. The 12 nautical mile limit is the limit for the fisheries. It would be interesting to have a larger one for migratory birds.

The bill is also designed to deal with the uncertainty regarding the three departments that are involved when a polluting vessel is stopped. If things can be clarified it will simplify operations and it would be good to do so. In fact, it will allow for more coherent actions and will give much more satisfying results in the end.

As a whole, this bill is interesting. It remains to be seen if it goes far enough to make owners of vessels accountable. We believe that it is essential to get expert opinion. The shipping world is full of numbered and intermediary companies in charge of managing vessels. This opens the door to a lot of loopholes. The criminal responsibility of corporations must be very clearly defined.

There must be a balance between the powers given to game officers and the protection afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In conclusion, the bill is worthy of our support. It is important to send it to committee as soon as possible. We expect the government to be open-minded so as to make this a truly airtight bill that will cover all possible situations to prevent environmental accidents linked to waste being dumped by vessels.

Walk for Hope
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, May 2, I attended the eighth annual Walk for Hope in aid of Rwandan children, held in my riding of Parkdale--High Park.

This event was an opportunity to raise funds in support of the Hope for Rwanda Children's Fund Scholarship Program which is helping many Rwandan children to reach their full potential in life.

This year also represented the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. The recent declaration by the United Nations to recognize the 10th anniversary of the genocide brought heightened awareness to the importance of this year's event.

Significant work to commemorate the anniversary was organized in the GTA through the Remembering Rwanda Project, spearheaded by Dr. Gerald Caplan and Dr. Carole Ann Reed.

I wish to thank and congratulate all those individuals, community organizations, schools and association that have provided humanitarian assistance through the years to the young people who are supported through this very important scholarship program.

Fisheries
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, yesterday three ministers, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Natural Resources, now known as the three stooges, called a news conference to tell the world that DFO had issued--

Fisheries
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Fisheries
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member knows he cannot apply names to hon. members that are inappropriate. I think he knows that calling a member a stooge would not be parliamentary. I know he will want to withdraw that term.

Fisheries
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, they called a news conference to tell the world that DFO had issued two citations to foreign vessels for breaking the rules in the NAFO regulated area off Newfoundland and Labrador.

This is similar to the RCMP calling a news conference to say that it had issued another warning ticket to a perpetual speeder.

Foreign fishing vessels are contravening the law day after day on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. Over the past 10 years over 300 citations have been issued. These vessels are supposed to be reprimanded by the home port, but nothing happens. This week's action was no different from the past. Citations were issued and no action taken.

Why then did we have a press conference by three ministers? Could it be that we have an election on the way?

Caledon
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commend the Town of Caledon in my constituency for being named one of the two greenest towns in Ontario. On Earth Day last year, Caledon tied with Orillia for that honour. On this year's Earth Day, the two communities faced off again in a broadcast on TVOntario.

The judge, Colin Isaacs, again declined to break the tie. With all respect to my hon. colleague, the member for Simcoe North, I understand that Caledon did have the edge.

Caledon has moved aggressively to fight unnecessary use of pesticides. At the same time it recognizes that pesticides are necessary in some situations, such as agriculture. Community groups such as the Environmental Advisory Committee, the Caledon Countryside Alliance, and the Weedgie Kidz are working hard to raise environmental awareness in my riding.

I wish to congratulate Caledon.

Aboriginal Affairs
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to speak about the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples from 1995 to 2004. It was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 21, 1993. This was to address such areas as human rights, the environment, development, education and health.

The theme for the decade was “Indigenous People: Partnership in Action”. With this the United Nations couches the request to the member states to strengthen the role of the indigenous population groups.

These groups are the original aboriginal nations of Canada. The proper respect and recognition, and preservation of the aboriginal nations was the true fiduciary responsibility of our Canadian government through the Crown that flowed from the creation of the peace and friendship treaties. That is the foundation of our proud nation we call Canada.

Let us celebrate the final year of this decade. I call on my brothers and sisters of all aboriginal nations to gather as nations and show the world--

Aboriginal Affairs
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

Mission Pérou
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, Mission Pérou, a group in my riding, is in the process of finalizing details for its humanitarian trip to South America. This August, 11 young people from the Rockland area, and their adult leaders, will be travelling to the Peruvian village of Indiana , where they will build an aqueduct.

Last week, a rockathon and a silent action took place in our community, raising $25,000 for this excellent cause.

My congratulations to Denis Lalonde, the Mission Pérou fundraiser, and to all of the mission participants, for their dedication and civic spirit.

Taxation
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, another income tax deadline has just passed to remind the residents of Mackenzie, B.C., that the Prime Minister's promises are worthless.

Mackenzie, a small remote town in the Rocky Mountains, faces ongoing discrimination at the hands of the federal government. Although further north, more isolated, and with far less amenities than nearby cities to the southeast, Mackenzie residents do not qualify for the northern resident tax deduction.

When the Prime Minister visited my riding as finance minister, he promised Mackenzie citizens that he would review this blatantly unfair practice. Once back in Ottawa, he promptly forgot that commitment to the good people of Mackenzie. No more excuses. The Prime Minister has had a decade to review and correct this obvious error and now he is the one in charge.

Mackenzie residents want the Prime Minister to honour his commitment and tell them whether they will get the northern resident tax deduction when they file their income tax forms next year and if not, why not?

Black Jack
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, on May 2, 2004, Her Excellency the Governor General honoured 100 years of history with the rechristening of the brigantine Black Jack at the Britannia Yacht Club.

The Black Jack was first christened at Quyon, Quebec, 100 years ago as the G.B. Pattee II , a steam tug plying the Ottawa River for the logging trade. The abandoned tug was salvaged in 1952 by Captain T.G. Fuller, known for his wartime escapades as the “Pirate of the Adriatic”.

How fitting that he should refit the old tug as a brigantine which has delighted generations as it sailed the Ottawa River fully rigged as a pirate ship. Through the Bytown Brigantine Inc., the ship has provided sail training to hundreds of young people.

I wish to congratulate the Britannia Yacht Club, the Bytown Brigantine Inc., and to the Fuller family for a unique commemoration of Ottawa River history.

Gasoline Prices
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, despite the hike in gas prices, the federal government still refuses to do everything in its power to protect consumers and as a result, the price at the pumps has just reached an all-time high.

The public and members of the Bloc Quebecois are angry at the Prime Minister's lack of interest in how the oil companies are treating consumers.

Instead of intervening with constructive measures, such as implementing a petroleum monitoring agency, as requested by the Standing Committee on Industry, the federal government preferred to introduce tax changes that will save the major oil companies some $250 million. Yet, oil company profits have never been so high.

Clearly, the Prime Minister is much more inclined to promote oil company interests than consumer interests. Those are the true Liberal values.

George Balcan
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of George Balcan, whose endearing personality, lively sense of humour and friendly voice made him a prominent figure on Montreal's English airwaves.

George Balcan was for years the voice of CJAD, expressing every morning of every year the joy of life and that special ambience which characterize Montreal.

He was loved not only by his very numerous listeners but by all who were fortunate enough to have known him, always the true gentleman and ever the epitome of intelligence, fairness, wit and class. George leaves a wonderful example and memory.

May I extend to his family and all at CJAD my deepest sympathy on the passing of that special friend of all of us.

Australia and New Zealand Air Crew Memorial
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, on April 25 the Australia and New Zealand Air Crew Memorial was unveiled in Calgary. This memorial honours the heroism of the Australians and New Zealanders who came to Canada during World War II to participate in the British Commonwealth air training plan designed to train air crew members for the Allied war efforts.

During the early days of the war, citizens of the British Commonwealth knew the threat they faced would take all the bravery and valour they could summon to defeat it. When the British government asked Canada to host this new training scheme, thousands of Canadians, British, Australians and New Zealanders answered the call.

During the course of the training however many lost their lives or were seriously injured. Among those who died were 146 Australians and 83 New Zealanders, all of whom were buried in Canada.

I wish to congratulate Chairman Derek Appleford and the Australia and New Zealand Air Crew Memorial Committee for advancing the idea of this memorial, for raising the funds necessary to make it a reality, and for a job well done.

Cape Breton Volunteer Firefighters
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have been a member of the Cape Breton Firefighters Burn Care Society for the last number of years. This is a non-profit foundation comprised of police, firefighters, medical personnel and other volunteers who work endlessly on our behalf providing quality care and quick response time when called upon. It not only provides services to victims of fires but also provides information on the prevention and awareness of fire safety.

Every year the Cape Breton Firefighters Burn Care Society hosts the Atlantic Burn Camp. This camp welcomes children of burn injury from across Atlantic Canada. It is a chance for children who have suffered from both internal and external scars to meet with other children to share their stories. It also hosts the annual bowl-a-thon raising approximately $20,000 a year. This year's bowl-a-thon brought firefighters from as far away as Rothsay, New Brunswick.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of all the volunteers who contribute to the success of this society.

Statistics Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, for months the NDP has been objecting to the fact that Statistics Canada contracted out the next census to Lockheed Martin.

Questions in the House resulted in the usual non-answers, but I am pleased to say that as a result of our pursuit of this issue and as a result of the pressure exerted by all those Canadians who contacted Statistics Canada, we learned earlier this week that Lockheed Martin will no longer be doing the next census.

As a result of further pressure later in the week, the remaining role of Lockheed Martin in the mini-census was also identified and then dealt with, that is, eliminated.

I say hats off to the Vive le Canada website and to all those who persuaded Statistics Canada that the integrity of the census was at stake. It is one thing to buy software from a company. It is another thing to have it do what Canadians want done in-house by their own Statistics Canada.

The NDP is pleased to have played a role in changing this policy by working with its extra-parliamentary friends on this issue. Unfortunately, as usual the Liberals never got it and did nothing to help.

Mother's Day
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, it appears that the first Mothers' Day celebrations go back to the days of ancient Greece and were in honour of Rhea, mother of the gods. As for the Romans, they celebrated the matraliae day, from the Latin mater , which means “mother”.

However, it was in the 17th century that the English instituted a day to honour mothers, one Sunday during the year, and it was under Napoleon that such a day was instituted in France. In America, Mothers' Day first made its appearance toward the end of the 19th century, when that day was a day to mark peace.

In the same spirit, it was during World War I that this day truly became part of our traditions. Back then, it was a day whose objectives were somewhat vague. It was a day when, with peace in mind, we would pay tribute to the distraught mothers who were separated from a son away at war, or worse, mothers who had lost a son. It was also a celebration of maternal fertility, which really was a poorly disguised attempt to encourage them to contribute to the war effort and then to repopulation.

I am taking this opportunity to salute and thank my mother, to whom I owe everything, including life and a determination to excel, and I also wish a very happy Mothers' Day to all mothers.

World Heritage Sites
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a broad spectrum of issues this government values highly the advice of Canadian citizens who often work in obscurity and without any public acclaim.

It is with pleasure that I rise today to congratulate the advisory committee of experts and all those who contributed to the development of Canada's new tentative list for world heritage site designation. The list includes 11 sites that Canada may nominate to the world heritage committee over the next decade.

If accepted by the committee, these sites would join the Canadian Rocky Mountain parks and the historic district of Quebec, along with 10 other Canadian wonders, among the existing world heritage sites. Canada is truly a marvel of nature and culture, and these world-class sites will reinforce that fact.

I therefore congratulate all the provincial and territorial governments, the first nations, the organizations and the individual Canadians who cooperated with the Government of Canada to create this new tentative list of sites of outstanding value to all citizens of the world.

Sri Lanka
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, Sri Lanka has just successfully completed elections that saw democracy and a hopeful peace returning to the island.

We note that the Norwegian peace proposal has hit a roadblock.

The Conservative Party calls on all sides to work harder to achieve peace and end the decade-long war that has claimed 65,000 lives since 1983.

While we acknowledge the Tamil minority's grievances, we do not support the tactics of the LTTE. As a matter of fact, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE, should be declared a war criminal and brought in front of the international court. He has the blood of innocent people on his hands. We cannot let him escape justice.

Competitiveness
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, on May 4, the Institute for Management Development ranked Canada third in the world in terms of competitiveness for this year. Canada has moved up three places since 2003, when we were ranked sixth.

Our government's good management has something to do with it. Our budgetary prudence, debt reduction and our support for our researchers and research infrastructure have contributed to this success.

I am happy to say that the efforts we have made over the past few years have borne fruit. At the end of the day, all Canadians will benefit from this.

National Forest Week
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, this week various government and non-government organizations are sponsoring activities across the country to promote and support the 2004 National Forest Week.

The slogan for this year's week, “Canada's Forests--A Fine Balance”, sums it up. It is a reminder of the vulnerability of our forests and their inhabitants. We must ensure the continuing health and sustainability of our forests.

For generations, Canada's forests have contributed immensely to the quality of life in our communities and they will continue to be a major source of employment and recreational activity for thousands of Canadians.

In B.C., especially in areas such as my riding of Skeena, forestry is an integral part of the overall economy. Challenges such as the softwood lumber dispute and the devastating mountain pine beetle epidemic continue to face the industry, but these challenges are being met head-on through innovation, investment and research.

Canada's forests are a sustainable resource that we must use wisely and with respect. Our future lies with our resources, and our forests and the forest industry deserve continuing support and recognition.

Vacancy
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely, Mr. John Harvard, member for the electoral district of Charleswood St. James--Assinboia, by resignation, effective May 6, 2004.

Pursuant to section 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed my warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, no one knows where this Prime Minister stands on health care. He has been running away, has failed to implement a five year health accord that was signed with the provinces, and now he is talking only about a 10 year health plan that nobody has seen and nobody has agreed to.

Will the Prime Minister tell us before an election what, if anything, is actually in his hidden, secret health care plan?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing secret about it. We are working with the provinces at this time. We are building a plan, of course in cooperation with them, and we want to build on the health accord of 2003.

We believe we have to go beyond the health accord of 2003 in order to make sure that we can have a sustainable health care system in our country. Our government is ready to partner up with the provinces with predictable financing as well, as we have already talked about. There is nothing secret about all of that.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about where the Prime Minister is actually going. Not only has he allowed the expansion of private health care and chequebook medicine in Canada, we find out today that he actually uses it.

We have a health minister who says he supports private delivery one day and denies it the next. We have a Prime Minister who denounces the practice of chequebook medicine and it turns out that he is actually practising it himself, queue-jumping at private clinics.

I have a simple question: How is the government ever going to explain its hypocrisy on health care?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, let me set the record quite straight here. The Medisys Clinic is available to anyone with a medical need. The Prime Minister goes there because he has had the very same doctor for 20 years.

I can tell members one thing. He has never paid for an MRI. He has used his health card every time to pay for the medical services he was receiving there and for all of his treatment.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, according to reports today, the Prime Minister--

Health
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. We have to be able to hear the Leader of the Opposition's question. The Minister of Health will not be able to answer if he cannot hear the question. We must have a bit of order in the House. The hon. Leader of the Opposition has the floor.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, according to reports today, this is all paid for by a private executive insurance arrangement. The hypocrisy of those guys is absolutely breathtaking; they want to run a smear campaign against me on health care. Is the truth of the matter not this? The difference between us and them on health care is that when Paul Martin pays for health care it is with a chequebook, and when I--

Health
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

The Leader of the Opposition is fully conversant, I am sure, with the rules of the House. He knows he cannot refer to hon. members by name. He must use their constituency title or their title as minister or whatever it may be. He would not want to breach that rule. It would be in flagrant violation of our practice in this House. He should be setting an example for all hon. members in this regard. I am sure he will not want to make that mistake again.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I think it is very important that we clarify the record. In fact, the Prime Minister does not use and does not have any executive health plan. In fact, he uses his health card to obtain his medical treatment, like everyone else.

I also want to clarify the record in relation to the clinic to which the leader of the official opposition is referring. This is a clinic in the city of Montreal that is publicly accessible to anyone who needs medical treatment, and in fact, it is so listed here in--

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sure the hon. Deputy Prime Minister is trying to be helpful, but she knows she cannot use props in the House and she would not want to set a bad example in that regard.

The hon. member for Calgary--Nose Hill has the floor.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Yes, right, Mr. Speaker, that clinic is available to anyone who has the money, who has the cash.

The Prime Minister's bluster on health care has been exposed as nothing more than cynical electioneering. The man who pompously railed against chequebook health care conveniently failed last week to disclose his own cozy arrangement for elite health services purchased privately.

Why should Canadians trust this man on health care when he did not even tell them the truth about his own fast-track health care?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, again let me clarify that the Prime Minister has no executive health plan. When he goes to his doctor, his family physician to whom he has gone for over 20 years, he uses his health card to obtain those medical services, like all of us.

If we want to talk about hypocrisy in relation to our health care system, let me refer to a statement by the leader of the official opposition, made in August 1997, where he said, “The best health care system means having a system where you have as many tiers as possible...”.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, it really bothers a Liberal when someone is honest about what they think about health care so that they have to misquote the Leader of the Opposition in spite of the fact that he is trying to be honest and open about the fact he agrees with the five year plan on health care. This party supports the private--

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Maybe I should rephrase. This party supports the public health care system and does not support the Prime Minister taking out his cheque book and buying health care. Does this country not--

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I have not heard a more outrageous assertion or allegation made in the House. As I have said, the Prime Minister obtains his health care like all the rest of us. He uses his health card. He does not have an executive health plan. In fact, in the clinic he goes to, the family doctor he has gone to for over 20 years practises medicine in a clinic that is publicly accessible in the city of Montreal to anyone who needs health care.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, after Yves Séguin, the National Assembly has unanimously passed a motion calling on Ottawa to transfer the GST in order to allow Quebec to properly fund its health care system. However, true to form, instead of acting, the Prime Minister is buying time before the election to the detriment of patients.

Since Ottawa has abundant financial resources to meet these needs, what is the Prime Minister waiting for to tell Quebec to keep the GST and fund its health care system properly right now?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the provinces have made a number of suggestions about the future funding of health care. As they know and as this House knows, there is a process under way now examining the sustainability of health care for the future. The Prime Minister and the premiers will meet in the summer to answer that question about sustainability and how we ensure that Canadians have access to the care they need when they need it through our publicly funded system.

The Government of Canada has made it very clear that when that plan for sustainability is achieved, the Government of Canada will be a full participant in its financial obligations.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, in March the Quebec National Assembly called upon the federal government to acknowledge the fiscal imbalance and do something about it, but the Prime Minister is still refusing to admit that the problem exists. Yesterday, the National Assembly returned to the charge, this time calling upon the Prime Minister to transfer the GST to Quebec so that it can properly fund its health services.

Having blithely slashed transfer payments and created the fiscal imbalance, how many more times will the Prime Minister say no to the consensus in Quebec in favour of health services?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, again, there is a variety of ways through which the Government of Canada contributes to the funding of health care. We do so through the Canada health transfer and we do so in eight provinces through the money that is provided through equalization. There is a variety of other transfers as well that help the provinces.

We have made it very clear that once the first ministers arrive at a clear understanding about what constitutes sustainability and how we all need to work together to reform the health care system for the future, the Government of Canada will increase its financial participation on top of the $37 billion increase we have already provided.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has said he wanted to differentiate himself from Jean Chrétien and to do things differently. This offers him an excellent opportunity to do just that. Yesterday, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed a motion calling for the federal government to transfer the GST in order to correct the fiscal imbalance.

Does the Prime Minister intend to take advantage of this opportunity offered to him unanimously by the Quebec MNAs and does he plan to make his contribution to eliminating fiscal imbalance by transferring the GST to the Government of Quebec?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, again it is a repetition of the same question.

I would point out that the Government of Canada invests a very substantial amount in our public health care system, in the order of $34 billion or $35 billion a year, all things considered. Because of the health care accord in 2003 and the provisions in my most recent budget, we will be increasing the federal commitment by some $37 billion over the next five years. That amounts to an annual increment of 8% per year, every year, ongoing for five years. When we arrive at the agreement on sustainability, there will be more from the Government of Canada.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the government refuses to follow the path set out for it by the National Assembly unanimously, it will be contributing to prolonging the problem. The tools, the means, and the solutions exist.

Is the government aware that, if it refuses to act now, it will again be the patients, the people in need of health care, who will have to pay for this indecision?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting to see Minister Séguin, he who at one time resigned over the TVQ, now asking us to hand over the GST.

In any event, I can say that we are most definitely going to continue to invest in health care. The Minister of Finance has said so, as has the Prime Minister. We will be sitting down with the premiers over the summer and we will determine how best we can support our health system in future. As a government, we are determined to be a real, and predictable, financial partner.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health.

The Minister of Health says that the Liberal policy on health care is no secret. That is certainly the case now but it was not always so when the Liberals were trying to keep their real policy on health care from Canadians. The Minister of Health revealed some of it a few weeks ago, and now we see more of the connection between Liberals and private delivery of medicare.

The question is not about the Prime Minister. The question is about private for profit MRI clinics. Do these kinds of clinics have a place in the future of health care envisioned by the Liberal Party?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear at the outset that the Prime Minister has never paid for an MRI. Despite all the innuendoes, the Prime Minister has not paid for an MRI. He has always paid with his health card for the medical treatment he needed, like everyone else.

This government wants to continue to build a very strong, publicly funded health care system. We will continue to support the Canada Health Act and every one of the five principles of that act.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, that was a totally deceptive and elusive, if not dishonest, answer. I did not say that the Prime Minister paid for an MRI. I did not even raise it.

I asked the minister whether there was a place in the Liberal vision of the future of health care in this country for a private MRI clinic, for private for profit delivery of insured services.

Is there or is there not a place for that in your vision of health care? Answer the bloody question.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

Yesterday, the hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona suggested tranquillizers were appropriate in the House. I know he would not want to suggest that there was somehow blood on the floor about the question. That kind of language is slightly intemperate. I know it is a health question but the Minister of Health appears ready to respond. I hope he will not get into that sort of sanguine discussion.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I can tell members that our government stands very firmly on working with the provinces. We will cooperate with the provinces. Next summer, after the first ministers' conference, we will have a very solid plan, a plan that we will develop with the input of the provinces as well. What we want to promote is a public health system in this country, with a single public payer.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, here is what the Prime Minister's spokesman Scott Reid said:

All of [the Prime Minister's] treatment...was paid for by either the provincial health-care system or his private health insurance plan

In other words, the Liberal position appears to be public delivery is better but private delivery when necessary.

Why the hypocrisy? Why is it that when the Prime Minister says that he believes in the public delivery of health care it is not good enough for himself and he uses a private clinic?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, let me reiterate again that when the Prime Minister obtains his health services he uses his health card like the rest of us. The Prime Minister does not have an executive health plan.

I would ask the hon. member whether, in addition to his provincially insured health care, he has a supplementary plan.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

An hon. member

He does through the House of Commons.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Anne McLellan Edmonton West, AB

It is my understanding that all members of the House have supplementary health benefits.

Let me reassure everyone in the House that when the Prime Minister receives health care he uses--

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Fraser Valley.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the difference is that I am not going to a private MRI clinic. Here is what the Minister of Health said last week:

To put it as plainly as I can, the ambition of the federal government is not to encourage private delivery even within the terms of the Canada Health Act

That is what they say but the Prime Minister himself goes to a private clinic. Let us look at the hypocrisy here. He is receiving treatment from a doctor whose company had revenue of $56 million last year and who believes the rosy future for his clinic is in providing health care delivery services to wealthy corporate clients and people like the Prime Minister.

Why does the government claim to support the public delivery of services when the Prime Minister himself--

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, again let me clarify that the clinic in question is publicly accessible to anyone who lives in Montreal. In fact, as I have already indicated, the clinic in question is listed in the information provided by Info Santé. It is listed in local CLSC information as a clinic that provides publicly accessible services.

Let me reiterate again that our Prime Minister obtains his health care like everyone else. He presents his health card. He has no executive health plan.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's real position on health care is finally out and it should come as no surprise to us. Last April he said, “The fact is a substantial portion of our system is already privately delivered”.

However now we know that it is the Prime Minister himself who has access to private health care.

How can the Prime Minister explain his hypocrisy on health care to Canadians?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, the only people being hypocritical about where they stand on health care are members of the official opposition, as we hear from the Leader of the Opposition who seems to think that the best system of health care means having a system where we have as many tiers as possible.

This Prime Minister in fact receives his health care services the same way we all do. He presents his health card when he gets health services. The Prime Minister has no executive health plan.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is that government's neglect of the health care system that has created a multi-tier system in this country. Those people across the way are responsible. The fact is that the Prime Minister has access to special health care that is not available to most Canadians through the medicare system.

How can the Prime Minister pretend to be the defender of public health care when he himself is a user of private health care?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, that is a complete fabrication, what the hon. member has just said. As I have said in this House, the Prime Minister obtains his health care the same way we all do. When he goes to his doctor he presents his health card. He goes to a clinic that is publicly accessible. He goes to a clinic that is listed in local CLSC information and with Info Santé. He receives his health care the same way we all do.

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the sponsorship scandal, the Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts said, with a single voice, that they wanted to hear key witnesses. But the opposite is true, in fact. They no longer want to hear witnesses. They want the committee to stop working and produce an interim report as quickly as possible, even rushed through before the election.

Can the government deny that its ultimate goal is to put a lid on this affair and call an election before everyone finds out what really happened?

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Liberal

Walt Lastewka Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the public accounts committee has heard numerous witnesses over the past nine weeks. The position of the committee has been to get a synopsis and a report of what has happened in the last nine weeks that could be shared with Canadians.

There is no intention of cutting off any witnesses or debate but we have had nine weeks of many witnesses, many hours working through recess weeks to make sure that we had as much data as possible and that should be shared with Canadians.

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has already admitted that there was some political direction behind the sponsorship scandal. The Liberal tactics in committee just do not hold up to scrutiny. Just as the committee closes in on the political leaders, it is shut down.

Can the government deny that it is trying to lull the public's curiosity and that its real strategy is to call an election before the public can figure out exactly what happened in the sponsorship scandal?

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Liberal

Walt Lastewka Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, that opposition member, other members of his party and members of the opposition did not want to hear from Mr. Guité. They did not want to hear from Mr. Quail. They did not want to have the Auditor General back. In fact, they filibustered instead of having the Auditor General back.

The Auditor General was very clear in her advice that there were no moneys stolen. The $100 million amount is a track we are following making sure that all the invoices and all the events have been documented. That has been tabled by the committee and more documents will be tabled by the committee.

Automobile Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 2002, the GM plant at Boisbriand closed its doors, causing a net loss of 1,300 direct jobs in Quebec. Today we have learned that the government may be planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the Oshawa plant.

Can the minister confirm that, basically, the government dumped Boisbriand in favour of Oshawa?

Automobile Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that GM closed its plant in Boisbriand when it did. At that time, in fact, the ministers of the Government of Canada made every effort to try to support the situation, but GM made a business decision.

Since then, naturally, the automotive sector in this country has been evolving, and we know that in Quebec there has been very significant economic fallout for suppliers, too, and not necessarily with respect to assembly plants.

In the budget, our government said it would work on a strategic framework for the entire automotive industry across the country.

Automobile Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Ottawa, there is no money for Quebec, but there is some for Ontario. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister tells us that a tripartite agreement is being worked out for the Oshawa plant.

Can we have a guarantee that the same amount of money will be allotted for Quebec as for Ontario, in order to create new jobs in the Basses-Laurentides region?

Automobile Industry
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is concerned about economic development in all areas of the country and is using the economic strengths in every sector and in every region of the country. Quebec receives its fair share. The Bloc need not pretend they are victims of yet another federal machination; it is not true.

Quebec gets by very well economically, like most provinces do, and the Government of Canada will always be a partner to the businesspeople and Government of Quebec in stimulating economic development.

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, the facts are that the Liberal members on the public accounts committee are blocking the work of the committee. They have used their majority to vote against an opposition motion calling for more information, information that may shed light on the scandal. There are many witnesses still to come.

Why is the Prime Minister ordering his members to shut down the committee?

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Liberal

Walt Lastewka Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the public accounts committee has heard many witnesses. The public accounts committee has been trying to focus in on what happened.

We have three and a half feet of paperwork. The Prime Minister released information, cabinet documents that had never been released before. All the information is there.

On a day like today, when the public inquiry commissioner makes his announcement, to have that member say that we are shutting down the public accounts committee is totally ludicrous.

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, we know why the Liberals are trying to shut it down. It is because it is not playing well in the province of Quebec for the government.

Let me quote one of the prominent Liberal members in the province of Quebec. He said, “People who are active in the party in Quebec now are not representative of the mainstream.The Liberal Party in Quebec is a collection of has-beens”.

Who said that? It was Jean Lapierre, the guy who is running the Liberal campaign in the province of Quebec.

The reason the Liberals want to shut this committee down is that it is not playing well in Quebec and it is not playing well in the rest of Canada.

Why will they not let us call the rest of these witnesses, the witnesses who can get to the bottom of the scandal, like the Prime Minister promised Canadians?

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Liberal

Walt Lastewka Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, let me make it perfectly clear. There is a public inquiry in place. There is a special counsel in place. Any items that have to be referred to the RCMP have been referred to the RCMP. The responsibilities of the public accounts committee, as very clearly explained by the Auditor General, are to find out what happened and make recommendations to the House on how to proceed in going forward. That opposition party is the one that has tried to stop the Auditor General from coming to the committee.

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think anybody who has followed the hearings and listens to that response will know the member has some challenges in terms of communicating the truth.

The fact of the matter is he said that all the information is there. If that is true, why did the member and his colleagues vote against the release of the Gagliano papers? Why did they vote this week against the release of notes taken about what the Prime Minister knew and when he knew it about ad scam?

Why do they not want to hear from Warren Kinsella? Why do they not want to hear from the representatives of Groupaction or Lafleur Communications before issuing their whitewash report? Why are they jamming out a report--

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Liberal

Walt Lastewka Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that they are afraid of any synopsis or any interim report. It is not unusual for a committee, after working for nine weeks like the committee has, to issue a synopsis of the testimony that has been held. If there is a report to be put out of it, it is an interim report. The question is why do they not want to have the report? Because the report requires Canadians to see it.

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a suggestion to the government that it get a stronger member to answer these questions.

This is pathetic. The fact of the matter is that we released a summary of evidence three weeks ago. These have been public hearings. Canadians know what evidence has come to the committee and they know that no critical findings have come before us. They know there are over 90 witnesses yet to be heard from. They know we have not yet heard from the major ad agencies. They know the government voted against a motion to release the Prime Minister's notes on this issue.

Why the cover-up? Why will the Liberals not let Canadians get to the bottom of this? What are they afraid of?

Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Liberal

Walt Lastewka Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear. Part of the problem in the public accounts committee is the politicization of that committee by that party and the opposition members not wanting to get to the root cause of the problem, not wanting to take the testimony that they have heard and put it in a synopsis report and make that available for Canadians. The sooner we get that to Canadians, the sooner Canadians will understand that they have tried to politicize the complete committee and not get to the root cause of the problem.

Job Creation
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a very important question this morning for the Minister of Finance.

As we all know, Statistics Canada has today released its figures for last month. Can the Minister of Finance tell this House whether or not jobs were created in the past month? If so, how many? We all want to know.

Job Creation
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to see the strong gain in employment for April. There are 50,000 new full time jobs. The unemployment rate is now at 7.3%, the lowest rate since September 2001. This comes at a time when the participation rate in the Canadian labour market is leading all of the G-7 countries.

Today's report, along with healthy business and consumer confidence, continued momentum in residential housing markets, and low interest rates, bodes well for economic growth in Canada.

Employment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals give away more jobs than they create.

HRDC let Swiss workers come in to build the Halifax Chronicle-Herald printing press when there were 80 local millwrights available outside looking through the gates. It gave work permits to 50 foreign iron workers in B.C. when there were 200 available on the job board. Then it let technicians from India dismantle the Gold River pulp mill when the whole town was out of work and looking for jobs.

It seems that any company that does not like paying fair Canadian wages can get a permit from HRDC to bring in foreign workers. I ask the government, will it put an immediate freeze on foreign worker permits until it can be proven--

Employment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

The Speaker

Order. The hon. Minister of Social Development.

Employment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member, is he against equal opportunity for everyone? I would also like to ask the hon. member, is he against immigration?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the increase of HIV-AIDS within the aboriginal community is a huge health concern.

It is very disturbing to know that the government cut by 10% the core budget of the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network. This flies in the face of a standing committee report that called for more than a doubling of funds for the Canadian AIDS strategy.

Where are the government's priorities really? Is it more political window dressing on health care, or real resources and financial support to help our front line organizations, like the network, do their jobs and save lives?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, we have had for more than 10 years now an AIDS strategy in this country. We must say that we are very impressed with the network that we developed with the NGOs and their partners and the stakeholders in the industry.

It is a budget that has been stable over the years. Clearly, I hope very much that our government will be in the position to invest more money in that program down the line. I can tell the member that it will certainly be an important priority of ours because we are very pleased with the very good work of the stakeholders on the HIV-AIDS strategy.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the Prime Minister's hypocrisy in his use of private health care.

Let me be very clear. Will the Deputy Prime Minister admit that the Prime Minister goes to a clinic that accepts not only patients covered by public health insurance, but also accepts private payment for health services, yes or no?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, the clinic to which the Prime Minister goes is publicly accessible. In fact, it is listed on Info-Santé and it is listed with local CLSCs for anyone who needs health care in the downtown Montreal area.

The Prime Minister obtains his health care the same way we all do, which is by presenting his health card. I want to reiterate here this morning, the Prime Minister does not have an executive health plan.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the House will note that the Deputy Prime Minister did not answer my question because the clinic does accept payment for private health services and services privately delivered.

The hypocrisy is this: How does the Prime Minister justify going to a clinic he claims his government does not support?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister goes to a clinic that is publicly accessible to anyone who needs health care.

How does the leader of the official opposition think that this clinic gets listed with Info-Santé? How does he think this clinic gets listed with local CLSCs in the downtown Montreal area? In fact, the clinic is listed because the clinic is one that provides health care services to the public. It is publicly accessible to those who need health care.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, while I was in Trenton, Ontario over the past couple of days, I had the privilege of meeting 81 year old D-Day veteran James Montgomery. He asked why is it that the Liberal government seems to have unlimited ways to waste taxpayers' dollars, but cannot support our veterans like him who wish to participate in the 60th anniversary D-Day pilgrimage to Normandy, France?

In addition to months and months of preparation, the Minister of Veterans Affairs has now had another 24 hours to consider this. Will the minister provide an answer for Mr. Montgomery and other D-Day vets?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Compton—Stanstead
Québec

Liberal

David Price Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question because it gives me a chance to say that the minister is busy at this time looking for other options to assist D-Day veterans, the Battle of Normandy veterans who wish to return to France.

The member opposite has also criticized the people going over there. I would like to let the member know that the people who are going over there are going to help out the 60 veterans who are going. They are groups such as the Royal Canadian Legion, the army, navy and air force, cadets, the youth, pipers, the padres, medical people.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. I am criticizing the government, not our veterans.

The government and the Prime Minister pretend to care about our veterans, but nothing could be further from the truth. Billions have been blown on Liberal scandal after scandal over the last decade: HRDC; Shawinigate; the useless gun registry; sponsorship; extravagance by senior bureaucrats and even the Governor General.

Yet the vets we all owe our freedoms to have been left to pay their own way back to France. Why will the Liberal government not provide financial assistance for these Canadian heroes?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Compton—Stanstead
Québec

Liberal

David Price Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, obviously the member opposite was not listening to the announcement this week made on the new bill.

Besides that, as far as the Normandy trip, it was not decided by Veterans Affairs; it was decided by regimental associations, naval associations and air force associations who would go on the trip.

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, through its inaction the federal government is contributing to maintaining the unreasonable increase in gasoline prices, which is having a major negative impact on the economy of small businesses, transportation and taxi industries and on inflation in general.

Will the federal government, the Minister of Industry in particular, react in order to stop the negative effects of the fluctuating gas prices?

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian government is concerned by what is currently happening with respect to the steep hike in gas prices and the economic impact this may have on consumers and businesspeople. The government still maintains that gas prices are set by market forces and not by anti-competitive practices.

Yesterday, the Minister of Natural Resources said that he would contact his provincial counterparts to discuss this problem and determine with them what solutions could be implemented.

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, is it not the Prime Minister's responsibility to send a clear message to the oil companies by creating a petroleum monitoring agency or by launching a broad inquiry into the oil industry? When will the Prime Minister send them a clear message?

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, it is clear—and the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques has just given us an example—that the Bloc, by virtue of being in opposition for many years—and it will stay in opposition—thinks it has the magic recipe for solving highly complex international problems. The Canadian government is implementing a series of initiatives in order to be able to meet these challenges, but it also must cooperate with its international partners with respect to events happening on the oil market.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Janice Summerby was asked about the government's refusal to fund the war veterans' trip to D-Day ceremonies in Normandy. She was quoted as saying, “They can enjoy the overseas ceremony on television”.

My question for the minister is, why should World War II veterans watch from the sidelines today when they fought on the front lines 60 years ago?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Compton—Stanstead
Québec

Liberal

David Price Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, in actual fact what the member is not mentioning is that there will be ceremonies all across Canada on that day and they will have a chance to participate in those. As I said before, we are looking at ways to assist others to go.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, Veterans Affairs is obviously dragging its feet on the issue. Here we are at the 11th hour and it has still made no decision.

D-Day veteran Joe Galombos in my constituency received a letter from Veterans Affairs telling him to pay his own way to the Normandy ceremony. His question for the minister is, “I was good enough to fight for this country 60 years ago and the government supported my way over there then. Why now am I told to pay my own way to Normandy if I want to participate?”

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Compton—Stanstead
Québec

Liberal

David Price Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thought I was clear before that Veterans Affairs does not choose the veterans who go. This is done by the regiments and the different associations. It is not Veterans Affairs that chooses.

Mental Health
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. This week is Mental Health Week in Canada. Mental health indirectly affects everyone, whether it is through a parent, a friend or a colleague, regardless of age, education, revenue or culture.

What is the Government of Canada doing about mental health?

Mental Health
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his very important question. Along with all the provinces and territories across Canada, we are trying to find solutions to mental health issues. We have numerous programs in place to support this commitment. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research are currently investing over $30 million in research relating to mental health.

Hon. members can show their support by visiting the National Gallery of Canada, where an exhibit entitled “Mindscapes” is featuring works created by artists affected by mental illness. I had the opportunity to see it two days ago. It is very important. We must congratulate our artists.

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, yesterday three ministers called a press conference to announce that citations had been issued to foreign vessels fishing on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks.

My question is for the parliamentary secretary to the fisheries minister. What effect did these citations have and are these boats still fishing?

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Hillsborough
P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, this issue is being taken very seriously by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

What we saw yesterday was just a part of the continuum that is going on with air and sea surveillance, and international agreements.

The hon. member said yesterday that he thought this was a joke. If he thinks that for a fisheries officer to go on a foreign vessel for 35 hours is a joke, I say he is playing politics.

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, for two and a half years we have been beating this into their heads.

Let me ask the member, why over the last 10 years have we issued 300 plus citations and nothing has been done? Exactly the same breaking of regulations took place this week and just because it is a week before an election call we have a big hoopla.

Why was there special treatment given to the issuing of a citation yesterday and not over the past 10 years?

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

Noon

Hillsborough
P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, as I just said, this is being treated very aggressively as a priority by the government, the Prime Minister, and a number of ministers. It deals with our multilateral agreements.

Some 14 months ago we were talking about multilateral agreements. The opposition members led by their leader were screaming at us. They were telling us to turn our backs on international law, turn our backs on multilateral agreements, turn our backs on our international partners, and send our troops to Iraq.

We did not follow the opposition's advice then and we should be cautious about following it right now.

Acton International Plant
Oral Question Period

Noon

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the workers at the plant of Acton International in Acton Vale had some sad news yesterday: 240 of them, mostly younger workers, will be losing their jobs at the end of August.

In response to this massive layoff, will the minister at last decide to revive POWA, which, if available in this particular case, could have convinced the older workers to take early retirement, thereby limiting the layoffs affecting the younger ones?

Acton International Plant
Oral Question Period

Noon

Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Social Development

Mr. Speaker, as you know, the minister is working extremely hard on finding a solution to these matters. I know that he is focussing particular attention on the older worker issue, as he is on the issue of part time workers and, in the longer term, the entire employment insurance file.

Copyright
Oral Question Period

Noon

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Three days ago on May 4 the office of the U.S. trade representative released its special 301 annual report on the adequacy and effectiveness of intellectual property rights protection in trading partners around the wold and in fact placed Canada on its special watch list.

The fact is that Canada has made little headway in addressing long standing intellectual property issues related to copyright, such as ratification of the WIPO Internet treaties.

In fact, a recent Canadian court decision has found that peer-to-peer file sharing to be legal under our current copyright law, a position that underscores the need for Canada--

Copyright
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Copyright
Oral Question Period

Noon

Louis-Hébert
Québec

Liberal

Hélène Scherrer Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank my colleague, the chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, and all members of the committee for their excellent work on this issue. I am looking forward to receiving their report as soon as next week.

As my colleagues know, I am very much committed to introducing legislation on that issue as quickly as this fall. I intend to work very closely with all members of the committee to ensure that the music producers and the artists get the recognition and protection that they deserve.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Leeds—Grenville
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 13 petitions.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation to the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, OSCE.

This meeting was held during the third winter session of the parliamentary assembly of the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which took place in Vienna, Austria, on February 19 and 20, 2004.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 28th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, concerning the list of members of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

With leave of the House, I intend to move for concurrence in this report later this day.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in the House, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)( f ), your committee has completed a study on the impact of the suspension of federal government advertising activities on media operating in a minority environment in Canada.

On Wednesday, May 5, 2004, the committee agreed to report its conclusions and recommendations to the House.

Citizenship Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill S-17, an act to amend the Citizenship Act.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the first time)

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, that the 28th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier this day, be concurred in.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Walt Lastewka St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have several petitions to present to the House today. The petitioners appeal to the Government of Canada to uphold the legal definition of marriage to be the lasting union of one man and one woman.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I also have a petition to present whereby the petitioners ask that Parliament retain the definition of marriage to be between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my minister I would like to table a petition where the petitioners ask Parliament to pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being a lifelong union of one woman and one man to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have numerous petitions pertaining to the matter of a legal definition of marriage. The petitioners call upon Parliament to immediately hold a renewed debate on the definition of marriage, reaffirming, as it did in 1999, that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition dealing with the issue of two strikes legislation. The petitioners call upon Parliament to enact two strikes legislation, requiring everyone who is convicted for the second time of one or more sexual offences against a minor person to be sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility of parole or early release.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the pleasure of presenting a petition containing 1,445 signatures of people living in Verchères—Les-Patriotes and other Quebec ridings. The petitioners wish to inform the House of Commons of their opposition to the Canada-U.S. project to dredge and widen the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The petitioners feel that this widening and dredging project could have a significant irreversible impact on the shores, vegetation and waters of the St. Lawrence, in short on the entire delicate ecosystem of the region, particularly because of the risk of stirring up toxic sediment which is liable to contaminate the food chain and thus adversely affect human health.

As well, widening the channel might reduce the Seaway to nothing more than a means of channelling ocean-going supercargoes all the way through to the Great Lakes. As a result, they would no longer off-load in Quebec ports, Contrecoeur in particular, but would go directly to Ontario or U.S. ports, with disastrous effect on the economy of Quebec.

The petitioners are calling upon the House of Commons to take all necessary steps to ensure that this Seaway widening projet never takes place.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to table numerous petitions as part of the signatures of hope campaign.

The petitioners urge Parliament to use its influence on international financial institutions to cancel multilateral debt of impoverished countries, to increase Canada's official development aid to meet the goal of .7% of gross national income, to ensure that patents or trade related intellectual property rights do not block access to public goods like lifesaving medicines, and to double funding to the federal government's domestic program on HIV-AIDS.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 it is my pleasure and privilege to present five petitions this afternoon to the House of Commons.

The first petition is from residents in my riding of Prince George, British Columbia. These petitioners note with concern the possible impact of proposed amendments to section 318 of the Criminal Code upon freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

They call upon Parliament to take all measures necessary to protect the rights of Canadians to freely share their religious and moral beliefs without fear of prosecution.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is mainly from residents of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, but also from other communities in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

The petitioners note that adoptive parents make a significant social contribution to our society and that these parents often face significant adoption related costs, but out-of-pocket adoption expenses are not tax deductible.

They call upon Parliament to pass legislation to provide an income tax deduction for expenses related to the adoption of a child, as contained in private member's Bill C-246.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, finally, the last three petitions that I present today are on the issue of the high rent charged and the all too often substandard condition of housing for our military families found on bases across Canada.

These three petitions are signed by concerned citizens from all across the nation and they continue to pour into my office. These three petitions are from Brossard, Quebec; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and London and Walkerton, Ontario.

The petitioners note that housing accommodation provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency on bases serves as a valuable purpose by allowing families to live in a military community and have access to services to address their specific needs. The petitioners also note that the rent is increasing all the time.

They call upon Parliament to immediately suspend any future rent increases for accommodation provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency until such time as the Government of Canada makes substantive improvements to the living conditions of housing provided for our military families.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by people who live in the ridings of Témiscamingue and Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik. They are calling on Parliament to put pressure on the federal government to put an end to transitional measures, to increase benefits and to adopt a universal employment insurance program. This petition is being presented specifically because this region has been hard hit by the softwood lumber crisis and because of the particular situation of workers in seasonal industries.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Leeds—Grenville
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today in support of Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999.

Most Canadians remember only too well the devastating pictures after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in one of the most environmentally sensitive habitats in North America. We all remember the oil drenching of birds, fish, seals and other marine life, and most of us were alarmed at the damage this caused.

Yet as devastating as that incident was, we have a tragedy of larger proportion that occurs every winter off the coast of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland. We are quite certain it occurs in ocean waters elsewhere along the east and west coasts of Canada.

Some 300,000 seabirds die because of the illegal discharge of oily waste. The oil penetrates their natural defences against the cold Atlantic winter waters and they die a slow death. These birds have no hope of survival. Most of the time we find them alive, but they are totally exhausted from the struggle against the cold and they are beyond hope. This unhappy scenario happens every winter, and it does not have to happen.

In the shipping industry there are many fine environmental corporate citizens. They obey the law and they do the right thing by discharging waste where it belongs: that is on shore based facilities. Unfortunately, there are a few who dump their bilges at sea. They do this because our penalties are too low and they figure that a fine is better than doing the right thing. However, the cost to our marine wildlife and the environment in which they live is much too high. It is time for us to take additional steps to deal with this issue.

In the United States there have been some high profile prosecutions over illegal discharges at sea, prosecutions that have resulted in strong penalties. We now find ourselves in the position of having Canadian waters viewed as a safe dumping ground, or at least a cheap one. I am certain all of us here do not want Canada to be seen in this way.

Bill C-34 under consideration does not propose fundamentally new policy positions. Pollution of the oceans has been an offence in Canada under several acts. However, Bill C-34 proposes a strengthening of two important environmental laws and emphasizes our longstanding commitment in the area of biodiversity conservation through the biodiversity convention. These amendments also set the framework for close co-ordination among Environment Canada, Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard, so that together they can be even more effective.

The act makes good sense for conservation. It makes better sense for habitat protection. It makes good sense for us all, because a clean marine environment also means cleaner beaches, cleaner estuaries and a better future for wildlife and for ourselves.

There are also opportunities with the bill. The key opportunity we should remember is that we can act to make stronger two major pieces of environmental legislation that will equip us to get tougher with those in the shipping industry who are breaking the law and who are polluting the ocean waters and killing seabirds. Another opportunity is that we can send a strong message that Canada is serious about this issue and is prepared to take serious measures.

I must acknowledge at this time and praise those in the shipping industry, and there are many, who take their environmental responsibilities seriously and do not pollute.

These proposed amendments will have no impact on those good corporate citizens, and we applaud them. Let us verify their good actions by ensuring that those who disobey the law are brought to justice, and let all in the House join me in supporting this bill.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception
Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

R. John Efford Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House and take the necessary time to talk about the bill. First, I want to congratulate the Minister of the Environment for tabling this bill in the House. Those of us who live in Newfoundland and Labrador to understand the major tragedies caused by the careless dumping of bilge water on the ocean. We have seen this throughout our life.

Environmental disasters are common to Newfoundland and Labrador, a lot of them caused by nature about which we cannot do anything. However, the impact on the ocean, on wildlife and on the fish stocks by the companies being so callous as to dump their oil is unimaginable. One has to see it to believe it.

I have lived in Newfoundland and Labrador all my life. I have witnessed this happen. All of us are astounded at how people could be so careless in destroying our wildlife and our oceans. It just does not make any sense to anyone.

We also have another major environmental tragedy taking place on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador. The means of stopping it was led by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and myself yesterday. This environmental disaster has been taking place for the last 40 years. Fishermen from other countries around the world come to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador. They use meshes that are no larger than the hairnets worn by the workers in a fish plant to catch small fish in the ocean. They have caught so much fish that the scientific community has recommended that some species of fish be put on the extinction list. That to me is absolutely unimaginable. This is a renewable resource, but nevertheless this is being caused by large ships at sea.

We have two major environmental disasters taking place in Newfoundland and Labrador on which now the government, led by the Prime Minister and the ministers responsible, is taking immediate action.

Let me give an example of what happens to a bird when it gets in an oil slick on the ocean. The feathers become totally coated by the oil, That means the natural way of that bird surviving in the cold ocean waters of the north Atlantic is no longer effective because the oil prevents the natural insulation those birds have enjoyed.

What do those birds mean to the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and the people in Atlantic Canada? We all love the wildlife. However, we have to remember that when people came across the Atlantic Ocean, back 500-plus years ago, they came for a reason. They came to settle on the island off the east coast of Canada because of the rich environment in the fisheries and the rich fish stocks on the Grand Banks. Naturally, when they moved to the coastlines, a way of life was developed. They depended upon the fish stocks and the wildlife as a means and a way of survival. It was their food. For hundreds and hundreds of years, people living in the coastal communities of Newfoundland and Labrador have existed that way. It is part of our heritage, our culture and our environment. It is the reason why we live in the beautiful province surrounded by the north Atlantic Ocean.

How any captain of any ship could turn on a bilge and dump oil waste into the ocean is just unimaginable. The one thing we can be grateful for is that the people who are doing this are far fewer in numbers than the people who do respect the environment. Nevertheless, some ships, which are 700, 800 and 900 feet long, that sail the ocean by Newfoundland and Labrador, up through the Gulf of St. Lawrence and other places on the Canadian coastlines have absolutely no respect for the environment, for nature or for our wildlife.

Why has this been going on for so long? Why has not been stopped? There has been legislation in place for quite some time. Recently a major tragedy happened where a captain dumped his bilges and all that oil went into the ocean. The courts made a decision that would not deter captains of boats from continuing to do that in the future. The Minister of the Environment recognized that something else had to be done.

Changes needed to be made to the legislation. The first change concerned the penalties, which were not heavy enough. It was cheaper for a captain to dump the bilge at sea than to go and offload it into a port in a legal manner. Callousness, carelessness and the cost was not an impediment to a captain doing that.

The Minister of the Environment said that we had to make it so that the captains of these ships must stop. When operating a tanker or freighter the size that those ships are, we have to realize the fine of $15,000, $16,000 or $20,000 is not a lot of money.

The minister has increased the fines to make it so these people will not be able to do this anymore. The penalties that will be in place will certainly be a major impediment. When those captains have to pay a fine of $1 million, they will think twice about turning on that switch and dumping their bilges at sea.

There were questions raised in the House this morning by the Conservative member for Fraser Valley about this getting through the House in the next few days or in the very near future. All sides of the House support the legislation. I am very pleased as a Canadian and as a native of Newfoundland and Labrador to stand in the House with the total cooperation of all parties to get this legislation passed.

I want to say to the opposition members from all parties that yes, this can pass. With the cooperation of everybody, there is absolutely no reason why this cannot have speedy passage through the House. This is good news for all Canadians. This is a situation where all parties are putting partisan politics aside and working for the best interest of our environment.

We live in the greatest country in the whole world, bar none. I often say it many times and I suspect people from other provinces will also say that they live in the greatest part of Canada. Being from Newfoundland and Labrador, while we live in the greatest country in the whole world, I have to say I live in the greatest part of Canada.

I say that with a lot of pride because we are a large island. Newfoundland and Labrador is four times larger than Japan which has 125 million people. We have 510,000 people in all of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have a very pristine environment. The people of those communities protect their environment. The people of those communities do not do anything to destroy their environment. They are very careful over the land, over the beaches and over the ocean. They will not stand by while people from other countries come across our oceans and continuously dump waste and destroy our environment.

What is happening in the House today, with the Minister of the Environment having tabled the legislation, gives the people of eastern Canada, the people of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, confidence that this government cares about the environment, about Newfoundland and Labrador and about eastern Canada.

We are taking the necessary steps to ensure that the environment will be protected for the future of the people living in the communities. I am compelled to say that as one member of the House of Commons, and with cooperation on all sides of the House, we have made the right decision and are moving forward to protect our future that we must leave to our children and our grandchildren.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is only right that we say a few words on this bill simply because, as the Minister of Natural Resources just said, it is extremely important to our province and I am sure to Canada as a whole.

I do not necessarily agree with everything the minister said but on the whole we have seen a number of ships over the last few years polluting our waters on both coasts, in the St. Lawrence Seaway and on the Great Lakes. Absolutely nothing has been done and nothing is being done.

The government argues, by introducing this bill, that the fines are not high enough, that they are not a deterrent to boats that dump at sea, which is why they continue to do it. I am a bit skeptical. Perhaps it is because we are approaching an election and we see a rush of things happening, announcements here, there and everywhere. Yesterday we heard three ministers announce that they had issued two citations to two foreign fishing vessels for abusing the regulations on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks.

Over the last 10 years, as I have said, we have issued over 300 citations and the government would not even release information as to how many it had issued. People might say that 300 over 10 years is not a lot. However people must realize that we have very little surveillance and no enforcement on this gigantic area off the coast of my province. Therefore, if, with the minimal surveillance we have, we can detect and issue 300 citations for abuses, we have some idea how much is going on out there.

We do know, through the Access to Information Act, that over 300 citations are on record so why, possibly because it is a week before an election, do we have three ministers rushing out to tell everybody they issued citations?

A citation is like a warning ticket on the highway. It does nothing to stop the abuse. Five boats were boarded and two citations were issued. One of the boats they boarded had been issued three previous citations, one for fishing within our 200 mile limit. That boat is still out there fishing. What are the boats that were issued citations yesterday doing today? Are they in our port? Is the skipper being charged? Is the cargo being seized? Is the boat being seized? No. They were issued warning citations and they are still fishing and will continue to fish. It goes on and on.

Why the hoopla? You know, Mr. Speaker, I know and everybody else knows that it is only to draw attention to the fact that they are doing something. No, we did not do a thing that we have not done in the past, except that we are trying to make a story out of a non-story.

The same thing relates to this bill. For 10 years people have been pushing for stronger regulations in relation to pollution at sea. Year after year environmentalists in my province and the media have done some tremendous stories on wildlife, sea birds in particular, that are covered in oil, get to shore and die on the beaches because of pollution. We have seen some major disasters because ships completely and utterly ignore other people, other countries and just dump their bilge water and excess fuel at sea, and could not care less. We say that the deterrents are not there and the fines are not great enough.

The existing legislation we have is the Species at Risk Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, but let us look at the Canada Shipping Act. Under the Canada Shipping Act it states:

Any person or ship that discharges a pollutant in contravention of any regulation made under section 656

(a) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable

(i) in the case of an individual, to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty thousand dollars...

(i) in the case of an individual, to a fine not exceeding one million dollars, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both...

In reality, there are already fines, not under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, but under the Canada Shipping Act where those vessels can be charged fines anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million. Therefore, already in legislation we have exactly what the government is trying to bring in today to tell us it is going to bring in a strong enforcement mechanism.

There are two things. First, if the fine happened to be $200,000, how many examples have we had in the past where ships have been charged the maximum? It is not the amount of fine that counts if the courts are not going to impose the maximum fine.

We can all go back to a story that is thoroughly documented. CBC did a tremendous exposé of a boat called Tecam Sea which was charged with pollution in our waters. We had satellite tracking. We had over flights and clear cut pictures of the oil coming out of the boat. We had a foolproof case against that boat. The documentation was a mile high. The case was taken to court but, before it ever entered the chambers, on the steps of the courthouse, the day the case was supposed to start, the case was dropped. Why was it dropped? It was dropped because of an internal racket between the federal Department of the Environment and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Games were being played with internal fighting that led to a disagreement about a case where everyone, the officials and the legal people involved, all said that it was a foolproof case.

If we are not going to accept in court, satellite surveillance or the surveillance that we get from our provincial airlines that do such a great job out there, if we are not going to accept that kind of evidence when we are looking at the actual oil coming from the actual ship, it does not matter what size of fine we impose, whether we charge them $1 or $100 million because they will not be brought to court anyway, and if they are, the cases will be thrown out if what our own government people are saying is true.

The problem is not with the fine. The problem is not with the legal people who are there to prosecute. The problem is with the government on the other side of the House. The ministers, who are at the political end of it, do not have the intestinal fortitude to do what has to be done.

This is a sham, introducing a bill a week before an election call when the government knows that to get it through the House, to get it through the other place and to get it back here, there is not any time. It ain't gonna happen.

It is like the bills we saw last week dealing with aboriginal issues and the issue of driving while on drugs. The government can introduce them and go around the country and say that it is bringing in legislation but where has the government been for the last 10 years? The legislation before us should have been introduced sooner or, better still, the legislation that we have on our books should be enforced and we would not have this problem that we have in front of us today.

It is another day and another saga of the election preparation act which is what we should be calling this rather than the migratory bird act or the Canada Shipping Act.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, our colleagues the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Natural Resources and several colleagues on both sides of the House have spoken about the compelling reason to take swift action to protect our marine wildlife from oil pollution.

The intent is to integrate special enforcement and prosecution powers into two central pieces of environmental legislation so that we do not become a safe haven for illegal dumping of oily waste by the few in the shipping industry who have no environmental conscience.

What is so disturbing about this yearly winter tragedy is that the loss of 300,000 seabirds may only be the tip of the problem. Large as that number is, these are only the numbers we can verify off the coast of southeastern Newfoundland. We do know that there are birds oiled at sea in other parts of the Atlantic and indeed the Pacific coastlines. This means it is probable that the actual toll is tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands more than the recorded number.

These are not mere accidents. They are deliberate acts by a few individuals. We have to take note that this is not a new problem. It has gone on for many years. Some ship officials may just figure it is cheaper to break the law than to obey it. They figure that it is a cost of doing business for them.

There is a different cost, which I should address. While some of the species of seabirds affected by this problem are not those whose numbers are in danger, we also must take into account that deaths of this magnitude will begin to take a toll on the viability of these species. We certainly do not want to be adding murres and puffins to the list of species at risk.

Even more important, if the oil that enters our ocean waters has this kind of impact on seabirds, what is it doing to the fish, the shellfish and the marine mammals as well as the plankton and plant life which sustain all forms of ocean creatures in the ecosystem?

To take this one step further, we must acknowledge that there is an even greater impact than the death of 300,000 seabirds, sad as that is: namely, the serious impact on our continuing efforts to conserve biodiversity.

We are committed to conserving biodiversity not only because of international conventions that we have ratified, but because of our own agreements within Canada.

By making these commitments, we are confirming our obligation to sustain every type of living species. Ultimately, we have no choice because sustaining every form of life means we are also sustaining our own lives as human beings.

That is why—and also to take quick and definitive measures—we must adequately increase the penalties to deter the marine transportation industry from violating the law and inappropriately dumping their oil sludge.

I urge support of this legislation that amends, clarifies and reinforces the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. As we have heard, these are not new policy instruments. I would like to mention a few benefits of these changes.

By amending existing legislation--and this is proven and effective legislation--we are able to move early and decisively. We could see benefits as early as next winter. We are taking measures that will ensure enforcement and judicial powers that get results.

For instance, we need to make sure that captains and ships' officers are responsible for acts of pollution from their ships. We know that often ships' operators have mandated ships' officers to pollute our waters either intentionally or through failing to provide proper equipment or training. We know also that we must mandate specific enforcement measures such as the redirection of ships in certain cases.

As well, we will be able to prohibit falsification of records and harmonize our approach with that of the United States. This is especially important. Not only do we need to support the approach taken by our neighbour to the south with whom we share these ocean waters, but we also need to make sure that those who contemplate breaking the law do not think it is better to do so in Canada, where penalties are less stringent or where they are less likely to be caught. We will remove any notion that Canada is any form of safe haven.

Further, we will be able to make an investment in the science and technology we need to move even further ahead. We do not need any new invention. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. The technology already exists. We can see oil slicks behind ships that are breaking the law by using satellite and aircraft-borne technologies.

With some further refinements, we can use that existing technology to even better advantage. We can look harder for violators of the law by increasing surveillance. We will partner with the Canadian Space Agency and use Radarsat technology as our eye in the sky.

Anyone who has watched puffins floating on the waves off the coast of Newfoundland, seen graceful seagulls soaring over whitecaps, or heard the cry of murres knows that the disappearance of these birds would not only reduce biodiversity in Canada, but would diminish us all.

It is human beings who cause this annual disaster of 300,000 birds fighting desperately for their lives, because of the tiny hydrocarbon particles that penetrate their natural defences. And it is human beings who must do what is necessary to put an end to this disaster.

To paraphrase a famous saying, every death diminishes us all.

Our increasing knowledge of biodiversity makes us increasingly conscious of the serious impacts of human activity on living species. This bill is a significant step forward for the protection of our biodiversity. I urge all colleagues, regardless of party, to support it strongly and adopt it.

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to rise today and participate in this debate on the second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development of Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999.

Our biologists have told us about the hopeless struggle by over 300,000 seabirds every winter who die because oil waste is illegally discharged from some ships off the coast of Newfoundland. They have seen this struggle first-hand as the natural defences of the birds are worn away by spots of oil and by the winter cold of the Atlantic as it seeps through their feathers.

What we also have to assume is that these murres, dovekies, gulls and puffins are not the only forms of marine life that are affected by the practices of these few individuals on board ships. The oily waste that goes into the ocean also washes up on our beaches. It pollutes the habitat of fish and marine mammals such as seals and also whales. The deaths of seabirds are dramatic, but there are other costs to biodiversity.

We also must assume that the same kinds of problems occur on the west coast, where shipping and marine life often collide.

Through international conventions and agreements and through domestic laws, we have stated repeatedly that Canada is committed as a nation to the conservation of nature.

We must address the yearly deaths of hundreds of thousands of seabirds within that context and we must meet our commitments.

We should be proud of the fine tradition we have forged, through long hours of hard work and much study, in the area of environmental legislation. We have good laws. I support the bill before us, which amends these already effective pieces of legislation so that we can take dramatic and swift action to help these birds and other forms of marine wildlife. In fact, I see little need for prolonged debate here.

These are important amendments. They will bring quick results, and we are not only addressing the deaths of seabirds but our obligations in conserving biodiversity. By taking action, we will know that we acted and a polluter did not go free. By taking action through these strong pieces of environmental legislation, we can say we are living up to our commitments.

We have said we would protect the environment. We have said we would protect species. But if so many seabirds die every year, their viability as a species could be threatened.

With this simple approach we will know we did something to prevent some of our most unique marine life from becoming at risk. Put this way, we already have no choice. We are obliged and we should be willing to meet that obligation.

I have concentrated my remarks on the situation on our east coast, but we also know that there must be similar problems off our Pacific and Arctic coasts.

Not only does oil in the water kill seabirds, it affects plant life, marine mammals and fish. In essence, it affects us all.

Yet here is our opportunity to make a difference. I ask all members to seize this opportunity and help us see results as soon as this coming winter with fewer deaths of birds oiled at sea.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate for a few moments in the debate on the bill before the House.

When those of us from eastern Ontario think of migratory birds, the first ones that come to mind are the Canada geese. We see these beautiful birds every spring. They fly great distances toward the far north, probably to the tip—or almost—of Ungava Bay. They spend the summer there and come back in the fall with their offspring, returning south. We marvel at the sight of such splendid birds. We wonder how they are able to tell which direction is north and find their way back to the same location as the year before.

Of course, these large birds also cause problems for some of our farmers, and we know that. Environment Canada is working with the farmers on this. This is still not enough for me as an MP. Nonetheless, the department is making an effort to get rid of them. By that I do not mean kill them. Efforts are being made to drive them out in order to try to preserve the crops that are being damaged.

Despite this drawback, the fact remains that we want to protect these magnificent large birds that fly north. I have mentioned only this species, but there is also the snow goose. We could also talk about all the other birds, especially those along the coasts that have similar migrations. Some of the migrations are even longer because some of these birds go to the very south of South America and come back to Canada's north. That is an unbelievable distance. Anyone who has travelled such a distance, even by plane, can only marvel at the fact that a bird makes this trip twice a year.

Canada and the United States are working together to protect these species. We can be proud of that. We can also be proud of the personal determination of the hon. Minister of the Environment, who works tirelessly on government issues. I was a minister in the previous cabinet for a number of years. The current minister had the same portfolio back then. I had the opportunity to see him at work on these issues at the cabinet table. Without revealing any ministerial secrets, I can say that he is incredibly committed. No one is more dedicated to the environmental cause than the minister.

We can be proud of him and of the commitments made by Canada with other countries of the world. For example, we were the first to sign the Convention on Biological Diversity. We have a tradition that goes back almost a century, in cooperation with the United States, as regards the protection of migratory birds.

We contributed in a significant way, in cooperation with other countries, to the establishment of protected areas, through programs such as the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Canada has been a leader in this area.

Our laws and our international initiatives have served us well. That having been said, we still have a problem, which could even be termed a disaster or a tragedy. It occurs along our shores every winter, regrettably.

As a result of this tragedy that occurs every winter, we are keenly aware of the need to readjust certain legislation, to change our focus one might say, as far as our environmental legislation, of which we are justly proud, is concerned.

As other members have pointed out, some 300,000 birds die every winter because of something humans have done. Their plight is the result of oil spills from certain ships that ply our coasts.

Consequently, there is no question in anyone's mind, in this connection at least, of changing our policy or anything of the like. It is merely a matter of beefing up the commitment that is already in place, in order to prevent disasters from happening because of irresponsible human behaviour.

It is, of course, already illegal to pollute Canadian waters, and it has been for a long time. What is being proposed here is to strengthen the tools available to the government, in order to make our approach to the problems of chronic oil pollution more effective.

This measure is not focused on Ottawa. It is a plea from people who walk or work on the beaches of the east coast, from witnesses and from people who love the ocean view and the rich marine life that is found just off the shores of our coasts. This marine life is such an important part of our Canadian identity that it is found, as we all know, in our art, on our currency and, of course, in our souls. It is an integral part of who we are.

These people support the measures proposed by our government today. I hope that, at the end of today's debate, we can proceed quickly, so that this bill can make a lot of ground in the coming days.

Who supports this approach? On the one hand, we have provincial public servants, members of the House of Commons—perhaps unanimously, but we will see later on today—and, I hope, those who sit in the other place. Perhaps they too will want to pass this bill very quickly next week, if we can send it to them today. The broad support for this initiative includes environmental groups, fishermen in coastal communities, citizens and the media.

I must add that the debate in this House has so far been very constructive and all political parties deserve credit for that. We have a rather wide range of interested parties, and even the term “rather large” seems hardly all-encompassing enough. Such a wide measure of support cannot go unnoticed.

We now are in a position to actually do something about the support which has been voiced and the calls for action from the many stakeholders. As for myself, it is with pleasure that I support the bill and urge my colleagues to do likewise later this day.

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1 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the bill. We see it as a very worthwhile piece of legislation.

It is very difficult to speak against a bill that is designed to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, but speaks to the much larger issue of environmental protection. I would point out that it is one of the few bills introduced by the government specifically designed to protect the environment.

There have been calls from across the country for the government to be proactive and bold in its approach to environmental protection. We saw the government and the committee on the environment wrestle with the species at risk legislation. I think most people would admit that what came out of that process was not very satisfactory.

As I said, it is very difficult to speak against a bill that, if ever sworn into law, would protect the environment in any aspect. My reason for saying this and my introductory point is that I do not believe the bill will see the light of day beyond the opportunity to give it a full debate during second reading. It is a bit of a cynical move. My colleague from Newfoundland pointed out that it would be very difficult to see the bill go though the very steps of the legislative process and actually get royal assent if we are literally four or five sitting days away from a federal election.

It would appear that the Liberal government wants it put on the record that it cares about environmental issues. Here it is introducing legislation in order to dissuade its critics or to answer its critics who can quite rightly say the government never introduces environmental legislation. There is nothing on the Liberals' permanent record to indicate that they give a hoot about green issues.

The only environmental legislation that has passed in the House that has been bold has been put forward as private members' business by a number of opposition parties. They are usually the ones to use private members' bills. I should point out that in the 37th Parliament there were minor initiatives passed regarding environmental issues.

A tax deduction for transit passes, for instance, was an initiative put forward by my colleague in the NDP in the interests of trying to get people out of their cars and into public transit. Employers who gave transit passes to their employees could deduct that as they can deduct salaries and wages. That was tangible environmental legislation.

The other one was an environmental initiative that I put forward on the energy retrofitting of publicly owned buildings. That initiative actually did pass in the House of Commons. However, we have not seen issues of substance coming from the government.

I am not surprised that the sensitive issue of marine waters and ship source pollution has not been a top of mind issue for the Liberal government. I should point out that the current Prime Minister's company, when he still owned Canada Steamship Lines, was given the largest fine in Canadian history for ship source pollution. One of his ships, in polluting the Halifax harbour, was given the largest penalty in Canadian history, not something to which a sitting politician, much less a Prime Minister, would want to draw attention.

As an aside, on the same subject I should point out that at that time Canadian tax law was such that the fine was tax deductible. It is a shameful thing to have to point out. That has finally been remedied after constant pressure, five years of pressure from the NDP benches that we should never reward bad behaviour by allowing companies or individuals to write off penalties and fines imposed by law as a tax deductible expense. We think that is just plain bad public policy.

Finally the Liberal government in the most recent budget has amended the Income Tax Act so that any penalty or fine imposed by law is no longer to be considered a tax deductible expense. I suppose that is something to celebrate.

We come at this issue of ship source pollution, the discharge of oily bilge waste from passing ships, by way of its effect on sea birds and other sea animals as well, but specifically, the bill concentrates on the effect on migratory birds. As such, it seeks to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and in a subsequent way the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

It is true that our current environmental legislation does not address this issue very specifically or to anyone's great satisfaction. Interpretation of the various pieces of legislation left officials with few choices to deal with the problem effectively, even though it is a very visible problem to anyone who lives along our largest coastline, which is the largest coastline of any country in the world. They are well aware of the impact of the noxious habit of discharging bilge waters, especially close to harbours and settled areas, but that is not the point. The fact is that it has had a huge effect on the migratory bird population and certainly warrants being addressed here.

There have been numerous appeals from parliamentarians representing coastal communities to the federal government to deal with this chronic oil pollution problem. We heard the very passionate representations from my colleague from Newfoundland earlier who knows more about this issue than I ever will, coming from the prairie provinces, but that does not mean that the interest is limited to those who live in coastal communities.

Environmental groups have tried to bring this issue to the federal government's attention without bearing fruit until these twilight hours of this Parliament. It is no secret that we are in the final days, the final dwindling hours, of debate in this Parliament. We will all be very surprised if there is one more week of sitting within the 37th Parliament, and this is only the first hours of debate at second reading on the bill. There are many other pieces of legislation that are going to compete for those few hours that are left. I do not have any confidence that Bill C-34, dealing with migratory birds, will ever see the light of day.

As much as I appreciate that the hon. Minister of the Environment has finally convinced cabinet to introduce this type of legislation, it is not jaded or cynical to assume that it was done purely for the optics of leading into the federal election campaign. It really is not fooling anybody.

Environmental issues as they stand are ranked top of mind with most Canadians. It is even more top of mind when they see the prices at the pump. People are thinking about the environment and pollution issues more than usual lately, as they are reminded of the cost of burning fossil fuels compared with the environmental degradation that fossil fuels bring.

In this particular case, with the discharge of noxious substances from bilge water, this is a manageable problem that we can in fact deal with and bring satisfaction to, especially within our own 200 mile exclusive economic zone. As a nation we are calling for better enforcement of Canadian rights within that 200 mile exclusive economic zone. This is one aspect that we could police with far more vigour, with legislation crafted specifically for that reason.

Birds and oil at sea is an issue that brings emotion to most Canadians who have witnessed this problem. We will support Bill C-34, but we regret that we will probably not get the opportunity to vote it into legislation, given the fact that we are running out of time. If the government were sincere about introducing legislation of this nature, it should have done so months ago when it had some prospect of actually being voted into legislation.

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1:10 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have listened attentively and carefully to the member from Winnipeg Centre and his ascribing motives to the government on this. I would like to prove him wrong by stating that if the House were to give its unanimous consent, the government would be prepared to see this bill carried at all stages and referred to the Senate as early as today. If we could obtain that, we could report back to the House before 1:30 today.

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1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I need some guidance, so I will turn again to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. He is at this time not requesting unanimous consent?

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Correct, Mr. Speaker. Because we have a tradition of seeking and speaking with the House leaders of all parties, I will endeavour now to seek that unanimous consent. If we obtain it, I will report back to the House before the end of government business today.

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1:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, could the member assure us that in so doing and by referring it to the Senate, that it would go through the Senate and we could get it back here to deal with it before at least the end of next week or maybe earlier than that? To pass it through here is only a charade if we know it will not go through the other place.

Could he assure us that by letting it go through here now quickly, which we will certainly agree to do, that this will become legislation.

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1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I wonder if I can make a suggestion. I can understand that there are some very real questions to be asked and to be answered, but in a relatively tight timeframe in over the next 15 minutes. The Chair would prefer if these discussions, questions or answers, which are legitimate, would occur outside behind the curtains in the usual fashion. Then, if necessary, the Chair will entertain whatever motions might be put either by the government or by members of the opposition.

Therefore, I would like to now go back to debate on Bill C-34. Are there any further speakers?

Is the House ready for the question?

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1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
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1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

The House resumed from May 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

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1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As I understand it, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre has approximately four minutes left on Bill C-23.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe I have four minutes remaining and then the customary 10 minute question and answer period. I was looking forward to finishing my thoughts on this speech.

When I left off at the end of the day, I was about to say that some of the most draconian measures of Bill C-23 are designed to prop up the credit worthiness of the authority that is created by the bill, apparently almost at any cost.

One of the things that I caution is a gross surrender of sovereignty by first nations that get attracted to and caught up by this scheme. This was the whole point in my speech. For instance, a single missed payment can trigger the takeover of the local financial affairs of this newly created management board. I refer the House to clause 84, for anyone who finds fault with that thought. Once involved in this newly created financial authority, this borrowing club, the first nation can never leave without the consent of all the other borrowing members of the authority. It is locked in.

One elected band chief and council may decide to sign on to this new financial authority, but then they can never get out without the unanimous consent of all the other signatories to the authority. They have forfeited their sovereignty or their sovereign right to set up a different system perhaps or join some other alliance with other bands that may wish to join forces to get a better bond rating or borrowing and lending rates.

This is the caution that we bring to the debate on this subject. A first nation member of this newly created authority can never obtain any long term financing secured by property tax revenue except from the authority. Therefore, they forfeit their right to look at other options.

I am not sure that those who are the boosters of this bill are even aware of these cautionary notes that we bring to the table today. These unfortunate first nations that get seduced into this deal will be cut off from access to normal commercial financing available to all other Canadians because they are now bound by this very narrow prescriptive model.

This monopolistic practice we argue will stifle competition for financing and perversely may even lend to higher lending costs. If the original idea was uniting together as a group to share liability and thus get preferable lending rates, this may have the perverse effect, the opposite effect.

I have pointed out a number of issues. It is very difficult when I am interrupted in my flow of thought to jump back into where we were. The principal constitutional inherent right problem with the bill is the sweeping authority over local first nations laws delegated by federal statute to the federally appointed tax commission and management board.

Bill C-23 stands for the offensive proposition that in the year 2004 the constitutionally protected inherent right of self-government does not include jurisdiction to pass local laws on property taxation and financial management. In fact Bill C-23 asserts that such intimate local laws can only be approved by these federally appointed institutions. It speaks to the inherent right to self-government. We either support that concept as contemplated in the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982 or we do not.

The bill tells me that the government does not embrace the concept of the inherent right to self-government. Incrementally, bit by bit, it is stripping that away even before the courts have finished ruling on the subject and even before Parliament has given true meaning and definition to section 35 of the Constitution.

This prehistoric conception of the inherent right, which has been enshrined in federal statute now, prejudices all first nations whether they are scheduled or unscheduled. This has been our point all along. This is not a bill that will affect only those first nations that choose to put their names on some schedule. The bill will impact all first nations whether they sign on or not.

The optionality of the bill is a myth. I pointed out the last time I spoke on the this that the bill is optional in the same way a driver's licence is optional. It is optional until we want to drive a car and then all of a sudden we need one.

Therefore, if any first nation applicant goes to the government and says that it wants to exercise its right to fiduciary obligations, et cetera, the government would be able to simply tell the applicant to go sign on to the new fiscal institutions because that is the avenue of recourse. The government will be able to tell the applicant not to look for money from the government but to borrow the money on the open market by signing on to the agreement.

There is no optionality at all. I challenge that argument and I challenge anyone who says that it is.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member to maybe enlighten the House on the parliamentary process that the bill has taken. It is now Bill C-23, but in the previous sitting of Parliament it was Bill C-19.

Bill C-19 was taken into consideration by the Standing Committee of Aboriginal Affairs. Could he maybe enlighten the House, myself and maybe Canadians and first nations who may be listening, on the extent of that review of clause by clause and on the level of witnesses? Did the standing committee travel extensively to economically diverse communities, some of which may have been economically progressive, or geographically or economically challenged, in the far north geographical regions? I just wanted to know what level of activity took place during the standing committee's study of Bill C-19.

With regard to optionality, the member used the example of a driver's licence. I would refer him to something that is more near and dear to us as members, and that is the option program for us to get into our pension funds. A certain group in a certain party opted out of the MP pension plan.

Maybe the member can explain and enlighten the House a little bit more on why all members here are now part of the pension fund. There was a point in our history when members could consider opting into this pension fund as members of Parliament. I think that is a better example of this opting in program for first nations to buy into Bill C-23.

Maybe the hon. member could enlighten us on the Bill C-19 parliamentary process and on the option program that we have experienced as members of Parliament in this House.

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think it is useful to back up a bit and look at the chronology of the evolution of this bill. It did begin life as Bill C-19 as part of a suite of legislation that the former minister of Indian affairs pitched as his vision of the first nations governance act, I guess, or the fist nations governance initiative, as he called it, because it was really three acts.

Bill C-19 was one of the most controversial aspects of that. Bill C-7 was shot down almost unanimously across the country. However, when Bill C-19 went before the committee, no amendments were successful. The committee did not tour and embark on any consultation with communities.

However, what we do know is that the Assembly of First Nations passed resolutions opposed to Bill C-19. A small group of bands and chiefs in British Columbia were in favour of Bill C-19 and are still in favour of this bill, but that numbers approximately 30 first nations that stand in support of the bill. There are 633 first nations that are members of the Assembly of First Nations. There are valid current and recent resolutions at the Assembly of First Nations that oppose this bill.

In my view, that is all we really need to know. For us to go ahead and pass a bill that would affect the lives of aboriginal people without their full consent and without even full consultation with them is, in my view, the height of imperial arrogance, a colonial style imposition of our views as to how they should conduct their affairs.

The optionality issue is key and fundamental to this because the government's only answer to the many criticisms about this bill was to try and convince people that it would have no general harm to the inherent recognition of inherited aboriginal and treaty rights because it would apply to only those first nations that sign on and that it is completely optional.

I heard the minister say that first nations could sign on and sign off. I think that is completely incorrect. Our legal opinion suggests that one cannot simply sign on, drop in and drop out willingly. In fact, as I pointed out, as far as the lending authority, the finance authority, once a first nation has signed on, it cannot leave without the unanimous consent of all the other signatories, and that is a rare thing. If there are 30, 40 or 50 first nations that have signed on, they would have to all agree to allow another first nation to opt out and, arguably, weaken their organization. Therefore, the freedom to come and go is severely limited, if not impossible. I argue that this is not an optional bill. This affects all first nations.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate the member for his speech. As he pointed out, it is not easy to pick up where one left off after an interruption. However, it is sometimes a matter of time.

I would like to ask him if he generally feels that the current Prime Minister, who says that he wants to establish a new, more harmonious relationship with the first nations, effectively gives the signal of a new relation by introducing Bill C-23.

We know that he met with first nations chiefs during a Canada-wide forum just a few weeks ago. At this forum, everyone seemed to show some goodwill. I was very surprised that, in the Attikamek community of Manouane—which will be in my riding after the election, which should come soon—two projects that the community really wanted and in which it had invested a lot—one on telehealth and the other on high speed Internet—were rejected, either by the Department of Industry or by the Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones, in the days following the meeting between the Prime Minister and the first nations chiefs.

I would like to know whether the member feels that, with Bill C-23, we are heading towards a renewed relationship with the first nations and a true acknowledgement of their self-government; or are we simply taking the same approach Jean Chrétien did with Bill C-7?

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Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Joliette for a very important observation.

The current Prime Minister and the new Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development are occupying their time carrying on with the mess left to them by the previous Prime Minister and Indian affairs minister. There is nothing new, generous or innovative about a new fiscal relationship with first nations involved in dealing with a bill that was overwhelmingly turned down by first nations under the previous regime.

This is a continuation of the same assimilation strategy put forward by the previous Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, and his Indian affairs minister, whom I cannot mention by name because he is still a member of Parliament. This is a continuation of that colonial imperialistic mindset. It does not speak at all to an innovative and creative new fiscal relationship with first nations and aboriginal people.

The current Prime Minister brought in aboriginal people from across the country, three weeks ago Monday, and promised them that things would be different. Under his regime a new relationship would be forged. Yet, we are seized with and occupied by a vestige of the previous regime which most aboriginal people and first nations find offensive.

There is nothing new or creative about this. The Prime Minister is off to a bad start. I would argue that this is a missed opportunity. If I could speak directly to the Prime Minister, I would tell him that Canadians are ready, more than willing, and able to revisit our tragic history with first nations. He has missed the opportunity to do something innovative by continuing to push this bill forward that nobody wants.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I said earlier that I would see if there was consent, but I regret to inform the House that there is no unanimous consent to proceed with Bill C-34 today, so it will be referred to committee.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:30 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.

The House resumed from March 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-221, an act to amend the Criminal Code (no parole when imprisoned for life), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-221.

Canadians cannot imagine how much I would rather be speaking today on a different subject, which would be to remind Canadians of the gross mismanagement, the patronage, the payoffs and, yes, the corruption within the current Liberal government. I would love to be speaking on that and the newest thing, of course, the health care crisis that the Prime Minister finds himself in. That would be a great subject for today.

However, we have Bill C-221, the private members' bill put forward by my colleague from Calgary Northeast, which if passed would certainly clear up the question in the minds of so many Canadians. Why is a life imprisonment sentence given to offenders of the most serious and heinous type of crime, when in fact under the Criminal Code and the provisions that were introduced by previous Liberal governments, the term life imprisonment does not really mean in any way, shape or form life imprisonment?

I have received numerous petitions, letters and calls over the last 10 and a half years from constituents of mine, asking the question, why is the term life imprisonment used in the handing down of sentences for first degree murders and others that would warrant a sentence like that? In fact, it means that they can in some cases apply for parole, I believe after 15 years and some after 20 years. In any case, after serving 25 years of a life sentence they could automatically become eligible for full parole.

There are many Canadians around the country who bring to mind such people as Clifford Olson who many years ago committed multiple murders of young people in British Columbia and was given a life sentence.

We appear to be constantly reminded of Clifford Olson and his crime through the threat that he is going to be able to apply for parole and get out of prison. Canadians could walk down the street in any community, whether it be a city or a small town in rural Canada, and ask the question of people that they met: Do they think that Clifford Olson or people like him who commit such horrible crimes in this country should ever get out of prison? The answer, I am sure all members would agree, would be an overwhelming no. They should never be let out of prison.

Yet, every few years we are reminded of the fact that there is a provision that Clifford Olson can apply. It keeps bringing back the horrible memories of the crimes he committed to the families of his victims. It is something that Canadians in a very large part would like to have dealt with in an absolute fashion.

Life imprisonment should in fact mean life imprisonment for crimes that would qualify or would deserve to have that type of sentence handed down, where the penalty fit the seriousness or the heinousness of the crime.

Members will know that Bill C-221 brought forward by my colleague from Calgary Northeast is not something that is just an idle thought. I am sure members of the House know very well that my colleague spent many years in the service of protecting Canadians as a member of the police force. He was exposed to the most horrible types of crimes.

In serving as a police officer he was able to, of course, follow the proceedings of people he had arrested for committing first degree murder crimes or something that would be deserving of the most serious penalty that our system would provide. He watched these people go through the system--the guilty verdicts and sentences being handed down of life imprisonment--only to find that within a 15 year period people were able to apply for parole and in many cases were granted parole.

This, I am sure, led my colleague to wonder why we even have the term “life imprisonment” in the Criminal Code for sentencing if in fact it does not really mean what it says. I know that most members of the House, in the last three Parliaments since I have been here, have received letters from Canadians, particularly following serious and heinous crimes. Canadians say that it is time for Parliament to make a statement that the justice system and the Criminal Code are going to take a very hard line stance on people who believe that it is okay to kill people in this country knowing that they will have a chance for parole after serving only a portion of their so-called life sentence.

In 1976 the Liberals crafted the legislation which made these provisions. It brought in section 745, now section 745.6, which is known as the faint hope clause in the Criminal Code. This section, as I said, allows offenders to have their parole ineligibility period reduced after serving only 15 years of a life sentence.

In response to the number of criminals that were being freed under section 745, now section 745.6, in 1996 the Liberals brought forward Bill C-45, which introduced some changes to that section of the Criminal Code. Under the provisions of that bill, convicted murderers were no longer entitled to an automatic section 745.6 hearing, but rather there was a screening process put in place. There was also a provision that just boggled the minds of most Canadians. It stated that a person who had committed first degree murder could apply for early parole if only one murder had been committed.

The Liberal government, back in 1996, made a distinction that if someone killed just one person and was convicted of first degree murder, then that individual had a chance of getting out, but if someone killed more than one person, that individual's chances were eliminated.

Therefore, by extending that line of thinking, one could only arrive at the conclusion that it was not quite so bad in the minds of members of the Liberal government to maliciously and viciously kill one person because the criminal could apply for parole and some of the provisions would kick in, but if two or more people were killed, then somehow that was bad. Canadians are confused enough by some of the Criminal Code provisions that were put in by the Liberal government.

In wrapping up, I would encourage all members of the House to support private member's Bill C-221 because we must bring back to this country truth in sentencing and, indeed, life imprisonment should and must mean life imprisonment.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to support the bill introduced by my colleague from Calgary. It is a necessary bill and one whose time has come.

I remember asking my colleague a question about the bill when he first debated it not too many weeks ago. He talked about life meaning life, as my colleague from Prince George just alluded to as well. It is necessary in a criminal justice system to send a message to those who are going to commit a crime such as murder, that if they are convicted to a life sentence, then that sentence should mean life.

Too many times we have run into cases in our ridings where individuals, family members, have been victimized by somebody else's cruel action toward a family member. They have lost not only that loved one but they also have to live with the pain and feelings that go along with that. They are often victimized a second time when the offender who took their loved one's life comes up for parole. They have to relive the whole event over again.

I have been to a number of parole board hearings on behalf of families who have asked me to attend. It is just shocking some of the processes that go on there. I am not sure that many people know exactly what happens in a parole board hearing.

At a parole board hearing the perpetrator of the crime gets to speak to the parole board, to give his or her story about the crime he or she committed. A victim impact statement is allowed to be read by the family but the family has no real ability to have an impact on how the parole board is going to rule on that decision. There is no cross-examination of the offender's comments or testimony at the parole board hearing.

It is often laughable to hear about some of the things that are said. The family members will tell what actually happened in the crime that was committed against their loved one and then to hear the story of the offender, it is often very different, skewed and untrue in many instances. As a result of this kind of process, often individuals who are able to obtain parole are released into the community, often into the same community where they committed the crime and where the family happens to be.

I remember one case where an individual contacted me. His father had been killed by an offender, a family member. The person who committed this terrible, awful and horrible crime had then threatened the other family member that when he got out he was going to come after him and do the same thing to him. The offender was in the same community.

The victim of the crime had lost his father, had been terrified by the other person in the family who had committed the crime. He was being told that this person was very likely to be released into the community under early parole. The family member ended up moving from the community. He was victimized by losing his father and then lived in fear that the individual was going to get out.

The individual was released into the community even though there had been a threat uttered against the victim. The victim ended up having to move from British Columbia to another province to get away from the perpetrator of the crime.

That kind of thing highlights a real problem in our system. My colleague's bill goes a long way to ensuring that victims of crime who have faced this kind of event in their lives will not again be victimized by the early release of someone who was convicted of a life sentence. Life should mean life.

I am sure we could all draw on many examples in our ridings that would highlight the need for this bill to go forward. It is not a difficult bill to understand. It is not long. It is not overly involved. It is very clear.

Other jurisdictions are asking for this kind of bill to be put in place, for these changes to be made to the Criminal Code. My colleague referred to the premier of Manitoba, Gary Doer. He is asking for this kind of change to the Criminal Code, where life means life.

It is for that reason that I would encourage my colleagues from all parties to support this common sense amendment to the Criminal Code. It would, in effect, have the impact of meaning that a life sentence would be a life sentence. The victims of crime would not be further victimized by individuals being released into the community. We would have an enhanced and safer criminal justice system in our country. That would be worthwhile.

We should support our colleague's bill. We should make sure this is something that happens, that the bill is passed into law before we leave this place for the upcoming election.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair is taking note that no other member is rising. Under the right of reply, we will now give the floor to the hon. member under whose name the motion stands for a maximum of five minutes.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, again I feel privileged to speak to my private member's bill on this particular issue.

The bill, if passed, would ensure that those sentenced to life imprisonment would serve the remainder of their natural life behind bars. Too often, criminals convicted of heinous crimes are released onto our streets after serving only 10, 15 or 20 years, unless they are designated as dangerous offenders, and that really does not define the length of their sentences at all.

When I speak about 10 to 15 years served on a life sentence, we could look at first degree murderers, second degree murderers, maybe those who have committed hijackings or treason. Even acts of terrorism could come under parole eligibility after 25 years, if the courts and the government do not change the existing legislation.

Again I am going to refer to something that happened in my riding recently. This point was brought home to me again last Friday when I attended the parole hearing of Oskar Chan, who had murdered 18 year old Jonarhey Olivo back in 1994 in a drive-by shooting. The young fellow was just standing in front of the Marlborough Mall. Two rival gangs were at one another. He took a bullet in a drive-by shooting and was killed, and the only son of Regina Olivo was gone.

Chan was released on parole after serving his mandatory 10 years, and that was a life sentence for second degree murder. It was a very emotional time, I dare say, because even the mother of the youngster who was killed was not allowed to see the perpetrator, the accused, because he was kept behind a barrier. She was not allowed to look at him and look at his body language. Finally she did have an opportunity, after she gave her impact statement. It was a very emotional time. Ten years after the murder, Chan is now on the street, free to go about his business, while members of the Olivo family still suffer with that pain.

I do not think that is quite the way it should be. That is why, after a time, I brought this bill forward. It has been in the House before. I am not the only legislator who is calling for life to actually mean life in a life sentence. The Doer government in Manitoba, as my colleague from Dewdney--Alouette has mentioned, is asking Ottawa to get tougher on killers by making life sentences real life sentences. It is specifically pointing to the shootings of several police officers in the province of Manitoba. This was two years ago. It sees that there is a need to step down on that kind of offence, to indicate to those contemplating any kind of action, whether it is a deliberate action against a police officer as it was in Manitoba, or a retaliation shooting which would reflect first degree murder, that it is unacceptable. That deterrent is in the legislation.

A real life sentence would send a strong message to those in society who would commit such crimes, that they would spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

The bill is about deterrence and about protection. It is about protection from those who otherwise would be released onto our streets to commit another criminal act.

I trust that the members in the House on all sides will lend their support to this bill. In so doing, we will send a strong message to criminals that there are serious consequences, consequences that are not too often used in the justice system, for taking the life of another person, the worst of which is life imprisonment.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 12, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 1:52 p.m., the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until Monday at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:52 p.m.)