House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, we know that the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act states that the government must carry out a full review of its operations and impact three years after the act took effect and must submit the report to Parliament. Next January, the act will have been in effect for three years.

How can they say that they are going to introduce amendments to the act without having reviewed the entire process and made the report in order to introduce amendments which, first and foremost, will enable us to continue to be part of the Kimberley process and also respond to various deficiencies that may be identified during this review?

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question and I hope it does not mean the member will not be supporting the bill. There will be a review coming up, it appears, in the near future. We could, in theory, make these amendments plus any other amendments that are determined by the operation of the act, keeping in mind that we have to be consistent with the international scheme.

The problem is that just because things are scheduled for amendment does not mean they occur that quickly. We know how things happen in the House. If we have a particular bill, it does not necessarily get through as quickly as we want and there are all sorts of delays.

These two small technical problems are occurring right now. We have to be consistent with the international community, and we are not. I am sure there is not a single member in the House who would like diamonds to go out that help ruthless dictators murder people for one more day after today. By simply allowing us, for instance, to publish our trade statistics so they can be compared with other countries will ensure that there is no illegality going on and it will also ensure the smooth functioning of the process, so we do not have to do certificates for the tiny diamonds worth a few cents.

Some countries may have less resources than us in their bureaucracy or administration to do statistics which might cloud some really major criminal or bad political groups taking advantage of the diamonds.

It has already been decided internationally. We are a little bit out of step. We can improve the process right now with these minor amendments, but I agree wholeheartedly with the member that when the act comes up for review, we will do that as quickly as possible. We need to maintain consistency with the international bodies and will make improvements to the act at that time too.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-36. It is a fairly straightforward bill, but there is a lot behind it in terms of how we got to where we are today. It is part of the Kimberley Process certification scheme of which Canada is an active member. Actually, Canada chaired the scheme in 2004 and is an ongoing chair of the statistics working group and the participation committee.

One would assume that we would be a leader in this process and here we are dealing with some fairly minor legislation. We are one of only a handful of 48 member nations that are part of this scheme that are not yet in compliance.

This goes to the heart of what has been happening in governance issues emanating not just from the government of the day but from a general malaise at the sponsoring department, Natural Resources Canada, where we certainly had a leadership problem for some time. This is very symptomatic of once again Canada struggling to match its words with its actions. This should have been dealt with in a very straightforward way much sooner.

The truth of the matter is this action has been supported by industry. It is supported by all of the participating territories, provinces and no one is suggesting that this not something we should do and yet it is slow to happen. I asked the parliamentary secretary about Bill C-259, which is a bill I sponsored and has passed the House of Commons, which removes the 1919 tax on jewellery on value added. I understand that bill is now languishing in the Senate. There is some concern that the government is not supportive of the bill despite the fact that the majority of non-cabinet members of the Liberal caucus and basically all of the opposition members voted for that bill.

This is a major concern for the industry because it affects the mining sector and the value added sector. Any of the value added sector which is dealing with producing a product in Canada is actually going to produce for domestic purposes a product that is more expensive than the identical product imported into Canada. That is no way to grow a domestic industry, especially one with the economies of scale that can become a player in the export market.

We have all of the ingredients for a very successful industry in Canada. We produce precious metals. We produce precious stones including diamonds. We have tremendous design and artistry skills. We have jewellery manufacturers, many of which have had to downsize because of increasing global competition.

However much of that is related to either the financial penalty imposed by this excise tax, the hidden tax, or by external investors who have chosen not to invest in the Canadian jewellery sector because they do not like the implications of that tax, how it is imposed and its complexities. It is sort of a double whammy.

The time has long since passed when it was needed. It was to pay for the war effort in the great war, World War I, and yet we do not hear a commitment from the very department, Natural Resources Canada, that should be fighting in cabinet for the speedy passage of that bill. I am quite concerned about that. We have an opportunity here to do something that is very right and I am concerned that instead the government is headed toward doing something that is very wrong.

If we have the right kind of leadership in Canada, we will have, not the world's third largest diamond industry, which has been stated here by Liberal colleagues, but the second largest industry by 2012 if we can give the right kind of assurances that the diamond sector will not be somehow penalized. This is one way to do that.

Another way to do that is to demonstrate, through the budgeting process, that there is a commitment to the mining sector, a commitment to the future and future development of new mines.

The last budget passed by the government was a major disappointment on this front because the mining industry and the prospectors had been assured of significant funding for geoscience. A joint federal, provincial and territorial cooperative geological mapping survey was well developed and there was a strong feeling that the government had bought in, but when it came time for delivery it was not there. This would have cost the federal government a commitment of $25 million annually for 10 years and basically would have mapped great parts of the north, which are not currently mapped, to a level that would have allowed it to be useful.

This is a major infringement on our ability to find and develop new diamond mines and other kinds of mines. We need better leadership on that kind of issue from the government than what we are getting.

Another major disappointment was that the super flow-through, which also applied to the mining sector, was not renewed in the budget. What we now have is some of the provinces actually finding themselves doing more than the federal government, but of course that does not help us in the north where we are into the territories rather than on the provincial scene.

Much needs to be done. We have reached where we are in the Kimberley process because of this whole issue of blood diamonds. It is most appropriate that Canada takes a very significant, strong, positive role in doing everything we can to avoid the issue of blood diamonds.

I have very dear friends who are constituents in my riding who were long time residents of Sierra Leone. I have talked with them about the issue of blood diamonds and it brought it home in a very real way to me. One of the things that was happening is that these diamonds are not mined. These are alluvial diamonds that are basically found on the surface and Sierra Leone is very wealthy in these things. Presumably, if one were to look long enough one could find these things in an exposed fashion without even the need to dig for them.

The areas where these diamonds were found were being controlled by rebels who were largely from Liberia. This was being used to create violence and to control territories in a way that was very ugly. One of the ugly parts was that children were being conscripted by the rebels and then forced to commit atrocities against their own people. The children were often drug addicted by the rebels or placed in compromising positions to spare their own lives or amputation, which is a common terrorist approach used to force their will upon the oppressed youth.

For example, Sierra Leone has the highest rate of amputations in the world and part of the problem is that thumb prints have been used as identification in elections when dealing with people who are illiterate. The rebels used this draconian method to ensure that a portion of the population could not cast their ballots.

When we talk about the Kimberley process and when we talk about how all these measures stack up, we have to be thinking in terms of what it does to address the core issue which is the blood diamonds and ensuring we are not doing anything to compromise the international ability to stomp out these illegitimate diamonds.

I think the Kimberley process has actually accomplished a fair amount on that front but it is certainly not perfect. One thing Canada wants to be sure of is that our production does not get tainted with any suggestion that our system does not have complete integrity because that would affect the marketplace.

We have a country where blood diamonds completely changed its social dynamics. Sierra Leone was once the hub of West Africa, featuring the first university in the region. It was a leader in many cultural and social trends. It also has the third deepest and largest natural harbour in the world. We saw this natural harbour being used in any number of conflicts in the 20th century and most recently by the British during the Falklands War. This has been changed quite dramatically all because of these illegitimate diamonds.

The governance of a country actually becomes compromised in that type of situation and the national treasury, once it is deprived of hard currency, whether it is U.S. dollars, Euros or other forms of currency, is placed in a very impossible position in terms of purchasing commodities on the world market and so on. This is what happened to Sierra Leone. This is what made it so very difficult. We even had situations where we had United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone who became part of the problem rather than part of the solution. I am certainly not suggesting that was the case with any of the Canadian peacekeepers who were there but there was certainly compelling evidence showing that did occur with peacekeepers from other nations who threw their lot in with the rebels in terms of controlling some of the territories.

In terms of what we can do in Canada, another crucial issue is the fact that the Canadian government has been reluctant to enter into any kind of good faith, long term renewable resource sharing with our territorial governments. This discussion, debate, dialogue, discourse has been going on too long and it has made it more difficult to achieve the kind of forward progress that would lead to natural resource development on all kinds of fronts. In my view this is contributing to the ongoing impediments that are now in the way in terms of the development of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline proposal and any number of other projects. It is often difficult to pin down lost opportunity but we have had lost opportunity and that lost opportunity often does not knock again or we may not see it again for generations.

This is an area where we need leadership and an area where the federal government could do a lot but has chosen not to. As a matter of fact, I think the agenda is to slow that entire process down rather than to accelerate it. This is just a different vision of federal-provincial relations from the one shared by the official opposition. I think, once again, we could see some major new developments if the government would change its behaviour.

This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Yellowknife and then to fly in to one of the two operating diamond mines in Canada in the Northwest Territories, which is about 300 kilometres by air from Yellowknife. I travelled to the Diavik operation which is very impressive. There is a $1.3 billion investment in a place where we have hundreds of highly paid, highly skilled, well trained and mostly northerner employees who are building dikes, pumping out lake water in an environmentally sound and very sustainable way and then removing rock and overburden and then getting into the kimberlite pipes and processing the diamonds which are all used for cosmetic purposes.

This is a huge industry with huge employment benefits and it is all based on this presumption that people will buy these diamonds for cosmetic purposes. That is why the integrity of the system is so important.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the member's speech on the Kimberley Process. It was very thoughtful, as many of his speeches are. He added some good background for the House about the actual situations on the ground.

Unfortunately, I have a couple of disagreements with what he said in his 10 minute preamble. The first is about leadership malaise. Of course we have some of the most dynamic leadership in the history of this country. In my 20 minute speech, I explained how unparalleled historic agreements have been signed and a large volume of success has been accomplished in the first year of this Prime Minister's time in office. That has never been challenged.

His other comment related to the department itself. The department has a very dynamic minister at this time, who is making great progress, and that is exciting. I have been at a number of meetings with him. Also relating to leadership, I should tell the member that the department has a new deputy minister. I have spoken on at least two occasions to industry associations when he has been involved in the presentations. They are extremely impressed by and satisfied with him.

Now that there is strong leadership in the department and because the department is important to the country, I know the member would not want to do anything to change that, such as changing the government.

In relation to geoscience, I am delighted that the member and the opposition are supportive, because it is a big item for the government and for our department. The government has funded significant geoscience in the past, with great rewards. As the member said, more work needs to be done, especially in Nunavut and other areas in the north. We are continuing to support this because we would like to have more as well.

Finally, on renewable resource sharing, I would like to note that the government has already concluded a very successful devolution agreement with Yukon Territory. Almost all the remaining residual provincial powers were transferred to Yukon. It was amazing how smoothly it went. There were virtually no problems in the implementation. We are undergoing negotiations with the Northwest Territories and Nunavut as well.

There is a question that I would like to ask the member. I mentioned that new diamond projects are coming along and it will be very exciting for Canada. We are already third in the world and we have new projects in Saskatchewan and Ontario, potentially in Quebec, and in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Does the member know of any potential diamond projects in his province?

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, rather than go directly to the question I will talk to the preamble a bit. Natural Resources Canada has been a very professional department. It suffered under two years of rudderless leadership and then for a period of time went without a deputy minister. It now has a deputy minister. The former minister continues to be paid not to be minister, and the department now has half a minister who is not being paid to be minister. This is a crazy set-up. This department deserves much, much better. That is my response to the preamble.

In terms of the diamond industry, I am aware of interest in the northern parts of the provinces. I am not aware of anything specific in British Columbia. Perhaps some of that mapping money would help and we could pin that down a little better.

Heritage Thorold
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to attend the designation of Trinity United Church in Thorold, Ontario, under the Ontario Heritage Act. This attractive Gothic Revival or Regency Gothic style stone church, with beautifully detailed stained glass windows and impressive exterior, was completed in 1849 and remains on its original site, making it a landmark in the community. It is the oldest church continuously used for worship in Thorold.

Noteworthy features are the three-bay front facade with central tower and the attractive two-tone walls combining grey limestone and red sandstone. The current seating arrangement reflects the Akron plan, typical of post-1870s Methodist churches, with curved tiger-oak pews facing a communion table set centrally within the choir stalls. The incised Gothic decoration on the pews mirrors the slope of the church windows.

The first sermons were preached by the Reverend Egerton Ryerson, the renowned Methodist minister and pioneer of public education in Ontario.

I compliment Heritage Thorold LACAC for its interest in the history and architecture of our region. I salute Trinity United Church for helping to protect and steward the heritage of Thorold, our province of Ontario and our country, Canada.

Public Service
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to welcome a group of students from my riding to Ottawa today. They are here as part of a program I call a “Capital Experience”, where two student leaders from each of the seven high schools in my riding come to Ottawa for three days each October to learn about career opportunities in public life.

As someone who grew up in a small town myself, I am very aware that young people from rural areas do not always have the opportunity to learn about the many interesting career opportunities that could await them in public service.

Today I welcome to Parliament: Bonnie Thornbury and Meg Carruth from Fenelon Falls; Lindsay Code and Natalie Jamieson from LCVI; Sabrina Kuhn and Jessica Rich from Crestwood; Aileen Robertson and Ashley Higgins from St. Thomas Aquinas; Nicole Rallis and Tristan Ellis from Haliburton; Stephanie Chapman and Katelyn Harrison from I.E. Weldon; Dan Westerbon and Gwen Elliot from Brock; and Christine Everett from St. Peter's.

I hope that all my colleagues will join me in wishing these young people all the best as they make decisions regarding their future careers.

Community Development
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow I will be hosting a community round table on the development of Shannon Park in my riding. These lands offer huge potential and an opportunity that must be managed carefully.

Located in Dartmouth North, this area is already home to a huge percentage of ad hoc high density development. We must ensure that whatever development takes place is something that the people of Dartmouth North will be proud of. I believe it could include affordable housing as part of a mixed development plan, which may well include being the location of Halifax's 2014 Commonwealth Games bid.

A key issue is the future of Shannon Park School, which ably serves local residents and is the French immersion elementary school for Dartmouth. Its future must be assured.

Working closely with provincial and municipal officials, we can develop Shannon Park in a way that brings pride to Dartmouth North, recognizes the potential of creative affordable housing and protects Shannon Park School. As host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, it can be an attractive venue for international visitors and leave a legacy of community recreational facilities for local residents.

I ask everyone to join me and the District 9 Residents' Association tomorrow night to further discuss the development of these lands.

Citizens of Terrebonne
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I am paying tribute to my constituents in Terrebonne, a municipality abounding in ingenuity, talent and savoir faire.

Terrebonne, the administrative seat for the Des Moulins RCM, stands out for the services it provides to its citizens. Its public policies emphasize community action, providing vital support for all aspects of residents' lives, both personal and environmental. Just recently, a family policy has been added.

Recognized as the second most significant historic site in Quebec, Terrebonne is determined to achieve a Canadian first: the development of an international industrial city.

The Bloc Québécois is very proud to represent Terrebonne and commends the achievements of all those responsible for its success.

Disaster Preparedness
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, recent tragic events in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina and the recent earthquake in Kashmir should give us reason to reflect on human impotence in the face of nature's savage wrath.

I know that it has rudely shaken us out of complacency in B.C., because for us it is not a question of whether there will be a massive earthquake in B.C., but when. Unlike Katrina, there will be no warning. It will be sudden and brutal and the lives of 32,000 schoolchildren in certain B.C. schools will be in danger.

These particular schools are not structurally capable of withstanding even a moderate earthquake, so the provincial government has set aside $1.5 billion over 15 years to upgrade schools. Yet scientists tell us we are overdue in B.C. for the big one, so we may not have 15 years.

We can help to speed up the restructuring project by designating B.C. schools as critical infrastructure and putting the funds in place to do so immediately. This presents a real opportunity for our federal government to show its disaster preparedness plan in action.

Year of the Veteran
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, recently I met with Liliana Jones and Margaret Nielsen of Kennedy House Seniors' Society in North Delta. The society is spearheading a drive to construct a memorial wall honouring the residents of Delta who died for our country.

North Delta does not have a memorial for its war dead and veterans have never had a place of their own to observe Remembrance Day. The provincial government provided a grant of $95,000 for the project. The residents have contributed $32,000. The city has chipped in with the land and landscaping.

However, in this Year of the Veteran, the federal Liberal government has refused to assist. A letter received from Veterans Affairs only offers advice.

This work in progress must not be left incomplete. It deserves to be finished.

The people of Kennedy House have a good idea. The North Delta memorial wall merits support, including support from this Liberal government.

Urban Inuit Conference
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, in Ottawa this Wednesday and Thursday a national Urban Inuit Conference will discuss the plight of urban Inuit. For a variety of reasons, more and more Inuit are living in major centres in the south and often are not able to access programs and services which they are entitled to, whether as Canadians or land claim beneficiaries.

Raising awareness of this growing problem and examining mechanisms to rectify the many issues faced by urban Inuit, this conference is a positive first step and another example of responding to the current realities of Inuit adaptation to today's world.

I would like to thank the Inuit Relations Secretariat of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs for sponsoring the event and Tungasuvvingat Inuit, the Ottawa-based Inuit centre, for arranging the event. I know that the facilitator, Mary Simon, and the organizer, Shani Watts, will do a great job and I thank everyone who has worked hard to make this a reality.

I look forward to meeting, listening and sharing with urban Inuit from St. John's to Yellowknife.

Rosa Parks
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the woman affectionately referred to as the mother of the civil rights movement in the United States died yesterday at the age of 92.

December 1, 1955, was a landmark date in the fight against segregation laws in the United States. On a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, a black seamstress took a seat reserved for whites and refused to give it up to a white man. That woman was Rosa Parks.

For her act of defiance, she was arrested and fined $14. A campaign to boycott the bus company ensued and lasted 381 days. The campaign was orchestrated by a young minister who would become famous in his own right: Martin Luther King. The following year, the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional. Rosa Parks will forever remain an inspiration in our struggle to achieve peace, equality and freedom.

Rosa Parks
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, on December 1, 1955, in the segregated city of Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a black woman, was ordered to make room for white passengers on a city bus. She refused to give up her seat. For this, she was arrested, tried and convicted of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. Her case ultimately resulted in a decision by the United States Supreme Court declaring segregation unconstitutional.

Rosa Parks did not have the luxury of being able to take her freedoms for granted. She fought on behalf of all those who believe that all men and women are created equal.

Last night, Rosa Parks passed away. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of my constituents, and I believe all Canadians, to salute her efforts as a pioneer within the civil rights movement and to express our deepest sympathies and condolences to her family and friends. Her contribution to equality and social justice will never be forgotten.

Infrastructure
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, if there is anything these Liberals are good at, it is recycling announcements and making promises they do not keep. The Liberals again made phony promises for the Gateway and South Fraser Perimeter Road projects.

The lower mainland is Canada's gateway to Asia. Potential trade worth billions of dollars represents Canada's economic future and well-being and yet our ports, borders and highways are all in disrepair.

Traffic is at a standstill as our businesses suffer. Asthma and other illnesses increase as smog chokes my constituents.

British Columbians have been asking the government to show them the money for 12 long years. Because of this government's dithering, smog, congestion and road rage have all increased.

When will the Prime Minister finally show British Columbians the money? Or is he too busy showing the money to Mr. Dingwall?