House of Commons Hansard #153 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

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(Bill C-71. On the Order: Government Orders)

November 2, 2005--The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Bill C-71, an act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

moved:

That Bill C-71, an act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

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10 a.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, a primary goal of the Prime Minister and the government is to close the gap in socio-economic conditions between first nations peoples and other Canadians.

The bill, the first nations commercial and industrial development act, FNCIDA, would allow first nations to participate more actively in the Canadian economy and to access engines of economic development.

In working toward fulfilling this goal, the government signed an accord with the Assembly of First Nations at the May 31, 2005 policy retreat, which underlined a shared commitment to helping first nations exercise greater control over their social and economic aspirations.

The government is committed to working with first nations to build stronger indigenous economies leading to greater economic independence.

The legislation represents a bold step forward in the partnership between the federal government and first nations. It builds on the success of previous legislation in this area, the First Nations Land Management Act and the proposed first nations oil and gas and moneys management act, Bill C-54, which is currently before the House.

This bill, like these two legislative initiatives, will give first nations who opt into the legislation the confidence that comes from accessing and developing the resources on their own lands. As such, it represents a very powerful tool to build economic opportunity and improve the quality of life on reserves.

First nations across Canada are considering development opportunities that will improve economic and social conditions on their own reserves. For example, Fort McKay First Nation in northern Alberta is pursuing over a billion dollar oil sands development to be developed by and with Shell Canada Limited. The oil sands in general represent enormous economic opportunity for all Canadians, including first nations like For McKay. Billions of dollars of investment will be flowing into the oil sands in the next few years. We know this and first nations want to be players and participants.

The investment in Fort McKay would create unprecedented job and revenue growth, along with vast opportunities and quality of life and social and cultural development on reserve and employment opportunities in the region. We are very pleased to move forward on this.

For these types of projects to proceed on reserves, first nations need effective regulatory regimes and existing federal legislation currently does not provide the authority to establish them, creating a regulatory barrier or gap.

The Constitution Act, 1867, gives Parliament exclusive authority in respect of “land reserve for the Indians”. Also, the Indian Act, the Canadian Environment Assessment Act, the Canadian Environment Protection Act and other federal legislation were never intended to provide a complete federal land regime on reserve. In her 2003 report, the Auditor General found that regulatory barriers like this are one of the main impediments to first nations economic development.

Therefore the government has responded to these concerns and is making legislative and regulatory renewal a priority. FNCIDA is an important part of this legislative and regulatory renewal and is designed to remove barriers to first nations economic development. This legislation is also consistent with the government's smart regulation initiative.

In its 2004 report, the external advisory committee on smart regulation recommended that the federal government “accelerate its agenda to modernize the regulatory regime in first nations communities and address regulatory gaps that inhibit the development of commercial and industrial projects on reserve land”.

For companies that were considering locating major commercial and industrial projects on reserve, like the multi-billion dollar oil sands development at Fort McKay, the bill would provide the authority to establish regulatory frameworks to address regulatory gaps, offering certainty and transparency for industry proponents and tearing down this barrier to economic growth.

First nations themselves have asked the federal government to help them attract and facilitate economic development on their lands by providing a framework like FNCIDA, which would enable the federal government to regulate large scale complex commercial and industrial projects. I can attest to the fact that the leaders on these reserves, who are the proponents of the bill, are capable, willing, able and anxious to get on with this legislation.

FNCIDA would allow the federal government to replicate provincial laws and regulations to apply to these projects on reserve. This would ensure that as first nations and investors or industry at large move ahead with these major projects, they are regulated in a fashion similar to similar projects off reserve. It would give the added benefit of stability for investors and developers as they deal with the same provincial regulatory regime that they already know and understand. It makes sense.

How does FNCIDA work? Consideration of regulation under FNCIDA for a specific project would be triggered when a first nation itself passes a band council resolution requesting regulations related to a specific project on the reserve, not a generalized project but a very specific major development project. Next, the federal government would conduct an analysis prior to making a final decision on whether to proceed with the development of regulations for the project.

If the regulations are to proceed for the project, the Government of Canada would in most cases seek an agreement regarding the administration and enforcement of the regulations with the province and the first nation. An indication of support from first nation members for the project and the use of regulations under FNCIDA would also be required. Typically, this support would be shown through a community vote.

First nations are leading this initiative. Five partnering first nations have passed band council resolutions in support of this legislation and have been eloquently advocating the initiative in other first nations communities. They have done so because, as we know, they are the best advocates for their proposals.

The five partnering first nations are Squamish Nation in British Columbia, Carry the Kettle First Nation in Saskatchewan, Fort William First Nation in Ontario, and Tsuu T'ina Nation and Fort McKay First Nation in Alberta. They have been assisted, with other partnering first nations, in getting the message across the country. I know that they have written at least twice to all the chiefs across the nation to carry the message to every province and every first nation. I have seen letters showing this.

A resolution of support for the legislation has been received from the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations. As well, there have been letters of support from the Uchucklesaht Tribe and the Skeetchestn Indian Band of British Columbia.

In addition, the government has been actively engaged in discussions with several provinces, particularly Alberta and Ontario, where first nations are actively advancing specific projects. In committee, we heard from an Alberta official that Alberta is particularly responsive to this particular proposal, as others would be.

There are active engagements with officials in other provinces, particularly in Alberta and Ontario, as I have mentioned, where first nations currently are advancing specific projects. Officials in both of these provinces have expressed support for a federal approach that would create as much regulatory compatibility as possible for on and off reserve commercial and industrial projects. They are very willing to discuss provincial involvement in monitoring and enforcing regulations for specific projects.

More recently, Saskatchewan and British Columbia officials have also expressed interest in this legislation. It is very much expected that other provinces will develop greater interest in the proposed legislation as first nations and industry partners begin to advance projects in their jurisdiction. Representatives of the oil and gas industry have also indicated strong support for this bill.

By moving forward this important piece of legislation, the government is demonstrating its commitment to work in partnership with first nations communities toward the goal of improved social and economic conditions. I must underscore how necessary this is for economic and social development on reserves. One is a partner with the other. We cannot get the increased viability of a community, the wealth of its culture and the enhancement of services to the people on reserves if there is not a land base to give the economic base. Then they can be a full partner and take it from the initial exploration or exploitation to the delivery.

Across this country, there are very fine leadership examples of first nations that are ready. This is what we are enabling. We all know that there are other first nations, places and communities across this country that have their challenges. They have different needs at this time, but some will be ready at a later stage and some first nations are ready now. As a government, we have to work with all levels of readiness and we have to facilitate. That is what the first ministers meeting next week will do, on some levels, but right now we also cannot forget and leave behind all of this important legislation that we need to move forward for the advancement of economic opportunity.

I encourage all members of this House to move this piece of legislation forward by the end of the day. I think that would be extremely positive.

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10:15 a.m.

Miramichi
New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, certainly I want to compliment the parliamentary secretary and the department and the minister for the leadership that he is offering in this initiative.

We know that there are over 600 first nations across this country. From our point of view, and probably from their point of view, it is unfortunate that much of the legislation under which they work and live was developed back in the 19th century. Today we live in the 21st century and across this country first nations leaders and people are attempting to improve their economic activity. I know that for too long they have had to try to promote this in this House, but the new legislation that is being introduced today will enable them to make the best efforts in terms of their own initiatives to develop an economy for their people.

In the gallery today we have some of those people who have led this issue. I have met with them before as the parliamentary secretary. We know that they are very much interested in having this legislation move forward.

We have a great number of very important items before this House, this being one of them, and we know, of course, that there are those who want this House to end. I would hope that in terms of the people who are gathered here today and see this as important that we as a group of legislators can attempt to bring this to a vote and that we can see it through committee, and hopefully not only for the five that were mentioned by the parliamentary secretary, because in my own area of Atlantic Canada we have initiatives there and we have leaders who are doing great work in terms of developing the economy for their people.

As a member of Parliament from Atlantic Canada, I want to join with those in the other parts of this great nation to see that opportunities are created for the first nations people who are the original people, the indigenous people of Canada. It is great to support Bill C-71. Hopefully it will be fast tracked through this House and we can see the results of legislation which we have approved.

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the vast part of the credit for this legislation goes to first nations themselves. We have worked with them inside government, and we and I believe all parties in the House are working to move this legislation forward. I hope that by the end of today not only will people be voting to get this to a committee, but they will be considering getting this through the House later today. We are looking for all party consent to do that. That is in the hands of my colleagues in the House. If we hear that information, I will do all those things that are necessary with my other colleagues.

I want to say for the benefit of Canadians that we need to appreciate the sophistication of what is possible on the reserves and we need to appreciate the leadership on reserves. We know we can go forward with very specific projects rights now. We need this legislation to move forward. We will need it for other first nations so that they will be able to follow in those footsteps, to follow that path in the future.

We look forward to working with first nations. We have had great initiatives, not only by the five proponents but also by actively partnering first nations that are going out to other first nations and have tried at the regionals to have the conversations that are necessary. At some point, even though this will be legislation that will quickly enable one, or two, or five first nations to move forward, it will be the path for others. There will be a uniqueness available, though, because the regulatory framework will have to be developed for each specific project. This is not widely templated, per se; it is just enabling.

It is a very powerful tool. It fills a gap that exists right now. These first nations have gone forward with their vision for their communities to fill that gap and get onto the path that puts a level playing field in the places where they live so that there can be economies of large scale. This is possible today in some first nations. Let us make it happen.

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10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with great pleasure to indicate our party's support for the proposed first nations commercial and industrial development act. I echo the comments of my colleague that the legislation clears the House of Commons immediately, hopefully today. We will be working on that and discussing it over the course of the day.

As I rise to speak to the legislation, I wish to begin by pointing out that the legislation originates less with the Government of Canada, or this hon. House, than it does with the first nations communities themselves. It is extremely important legislation, and I will talk to the details in a few moments.

The legislation originates with the leadership of the Squamish First Nation in British Columbia, the Fort McKay First Nation in Alberta, the Tsuu T'ina First Nation, which is part of the Calgary community in Alberta, Carry the Kettle First Nation in Saskatchewan and the Fort William First Nation at Thunder Bay.

These communities have taken the leadership to move toward sectoral self-government, to create opportunities in their own communities and to advance the social and economic well-being of the people who live in those communities and who are members of those first nations. Their efforts are to be applauded. They have fought vigorously over the last five years to develop the legislation. On behalf of our party in particular, we acknowledge the efforts they have undertaken and the success that they will experience.

If I might be forgiven, with respect to one of the first nations, the Fort McKay First Nation, as the critic of our party, it is of particular satisfaction to me to see this matter move forward. I was involved, in a prior life before coming to the House, in the resolution of the land claim settlement of the Fort McKay First Nation. I think Canadians need to understand just how far we have moved in a very short period of time in our country with respect to the progress of some first nations. Much more needs to be done, but if we look at the situation in Fort McKay, it is very telling and useful for all Canadians.

I first became involved with the Fort McKay First Nation when I was a treaty commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission. We travelled to Fort McKay in the early to mid-1990s. We conducted a treaty land entitlement inquiry and ascertained that the Fort McKay First Nation had never been given the land it had been promised when it signed treaty. I do not have time at this juncture to go into all the details of that. However, in the days that followed, the Indian Specific Claims Commission released a report, which I co-authored. That report resulted in a treaty land entitlement settlement. As a result of that, the Fort McKay First Nation is in a position to proceed with oil sands development on their first nation.

It is with pleasure that we now are moving toward legislation that would allow the Fort McKay First Nation, the Tsuu T'ina, Carry the Kettle, the Squamish First Nation and the Fort William First Nation to proceed with comprehensive economic development in their communities. The stumbling block to this development has been the Indian Act. The Indian Act was a compilation of pre-confederation statutes. It is at this point close to 150 years old. There is no way the Indian Act provides a sound basis for industrial development of this complexity and the Conservative Party has been very clear. I will just quote from our policy framework. It states:

The Indian Act (and related legislation) should be replaced by a modern legislative framework which provides for the devolution of full legal and democratic responsibility to First Nations...within the overall constitutional framework of our federal state.

This is precisely the type of legislation that our party has been supporting on a philosophical basis. The legislation provides full control of their own legal and democratic decision making authority to those first nations that determine they wish to opt into the legislation, and the legislation is optional, in a manner which indicates considerable prudence and wisdom, once again using the situation of Fort McKay.

It is clearly incomprehensible that we would attempt to develop federal legislation and regulations dealing with environmental and reclamation issues, air and water quality, all the panoply of issues that involve the development of oils sands, when that framework already exists. It exists in law in the province of Alberta. Very comprehensive legislation has been developed to permit oil sands development. In the case of Squamish, we are dealing with port development, as well as in the case of Fort William. In the case of the Tsuu T'ina First Nation, we are dealing with very comprehensive commercial real estate development, et cetera.

The legislation allows Canadians to opt in to the existing well developed provincial legislative framework to regulate that industrial activity. Presumably, it is possible to opt out as well. It will require, under the legislation, the consent of the first nation itself. It has to originate with the first nation and it is its decision. It requires consent of the province and of the minister as well.

I think one can see how this will permit economic development to proceed immediately and it will eliminate the need to develop an entire duplicative regulatory regime for much of this development.

Congratulations to the first nations. The legislation is well thought out and developed. It has been carefully crafted. It is certainly in a position where it can clear the House very quickly.

The legislation enjoys wide support. It was made clear at our committee that both the governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta are supportive of the legislation. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has reviewed it and considers it to be very advantageous as well. The legislation arrives in the House, having been followed very closely and having been supported by first nations. The Assembly of First Nations, as I understand it, has indicated its general support as well.

The regulations that would be developed under the legislation would be site specific. They would follow upon the framework of the legislation. One question that needs to be addressed is the whole issue of federal liability in this context. The legislation deals with that. The federal crown is not responsible once the provincial regulatory regime comes into place. The decisions made under that regulatory regime do not increase any federal legal responsibility.

In a general sense, I would point out that this is excellent legislation. It will permit first nations that opt in to it to move ahead very quickly with commercial and economic development. There are those who are critical of it. To be sure, it does not solve all of the issues that we face in this nation relating to self-government. There are many first nation communities for which this legislation will not be advantageous. We have to continue to move forward developing economic and social opportunities and social justice for those first nations as well. This is a start.

For those first nations to which this applies, it is very important legislation and warrants the support of the House. It will contribute to regulatory certainty, economic development and most important, it will encourage significant investment on these first nations.

The legislation has been developed in close consultation with first nations. That is a first precondition insofar as the Conservative Party is concerned. Self-government legislation, whether it is sectoral or otherwise, cannot be developed in isolation by the federal government. Consultation is required. Second, this legislation will have an immediate positive economic impact on the first nations that wish to see it developed. Third, philosophically, the legislation is extremely important to where we are headed in the country. It is important that first nations have the opportunity to assume control of their own lives and to lead the country in a positive direction.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have many first nations in the northwest of British Columbia. More than 30% of my constituents are first nations, proud groups with thousands of years of history. A remarkable event happened over the last two years. Through the leadership of one of our colleges, an all nations poll was created. Seven nations came together. For the first time in any of their histories, they built and designed a poll together. They put together the images that represented the strongest parts of their nation. There was a true and deep sense of compromise at one of the most basic levels possible for a nation to achieve.

I listened to the parliamentary secretary's speech. A member of her government, in a question to her, referred to the motion put forward yesterday by leader of the New Democrats, which would have us return in January to deal with important bills such as this one and consider them properly in the full light of committee. There was the suggestion that this was somehow a lack of compromise and that somehow the New Democrats were doing something otherwise.

That poll in my riding represents people working together for a common cause, establishing new relationships and working toward something positive, as has been described by this legislation. The legislation has been driven by first nations, but it needs to have proper scrutiny by parliamentarians. We should not rush through this.

Could the member comment on the implied remark from the government that the opposition parties have any interest other than allowing a proper review of the bill, by allowing for an election some time in the beginning of January? We have heard the blustering and machismo of the government in the last couple of days?

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the fine work my colleague has done in advancing the cause of first nations, not only the first nations in his riding but elsewhere.

I was a little saddened to hear that comment. This legislation is being dealt with in a non-partisan way, as my learned friend points out. I wish to point out for the record that this Parliament has perhaps been unique because an enormous amount of legislation has arrived at Parliament from the doorsteps of first nations, not legislation developed by the Government of Canada but legislation developed by first nations.

I speak of Bill C-54, the oil and gas legislation that was brought to the House, developed by the first nations themselves; Bill C-71, which we are speaking to today, again developed by first nations; and Bill C-20, the fiscal and management package legislation, also developed by first nations.

All the legislation has been brought to the House and it has been moved through the House expeditiously, with a minimum of partisanship. There has been no partisanship from any of the opposition parties on any of the legislation. That needs to be pointed out because there is an attempt being made right now to suggest that somehow Parliament has blocked the advancement of aboriginal Canadians or that Parliament has not been in favour of the legislation that has been brought forward to improve their economic and social conditions.

Parliament can be very proud of the work it has done. The Indian affairs committee can be very proud of the work it has been done over the course of the last 18 months. There is, at this point, not a single piece of aboriginal legislation backlogged in the House. The opposition parties have not blocked any legislation that the Government of Canada has brought forward on aboriginal Canadians. Therefore, to somehow suggest that the opposition parties are being partisan is unfair in the extreme.

This legislation was brought to the House by the government today. The opposition parties are indicating their willingness to have it moved expeditiously through the House of Commons before any election takes place. At the end of the day, Canadians will be the judge of who is responsible for many of the difficulties and grievances that we see in aboriginal communities. It has not been the opposition parties.

I congratulate the proponents of this legislation, who are in Ottawa today, and they have our support.

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10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are talking today about a bill that I am extremely proud of and which seeks to recognize the rights of aboriginals and provide them with the legislative framework they need to develop. This is something we have long called for.

I was a member of the Quebec government under René Lévesque. In 1984, Quebec became the first province to recognize the rights of the first nations and also to recognize that they had the same rights as all other nations, more, in fact, since they were here before us. They helped us to settle in this country. It is thanks to them that we managed to survive, but they have long been forgotten and they are still being forgotten.

I did not appreciate what the minister said at the start of her remarks just now. She said that if an election is called, the first nations will pay the price. I would point out that it is November 2005 and that this party has been in power for quite some time now. Whenever I talk to aboriginal people in my riding and throughout Quebec, they tell me that they have long been forgotten. This is nothing new. Just because an election call is only days or weeks away does not give them the right to say that, if everything is not agreed to today, there will not be enough time to properly consider a bill affecting the first nations, thereby depriving them of legislation they need.

I can say that we have worked hard. I have worked hard in my riding as a member in Quebec City and now here, in order to give the first nations the rights to which they are entitled.

We need only visit the first nations' territories in my riding or elsewhere in Quebec to see the terrible conditions in which they live. I do not want to hear that a legislative framework was needed to help them. Political will was all that was needed.

CMHC has amassed billions of dollars, but does not spend what is necessary to provide the first nations with decent housing. It is very close to indecent, the way the first nations are living in my riding, in Quebec, and in Canada

Of course we are in favour of this bill. We would, however, like to have the time to consult the first nations. Some have been consulted in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, but not in Quebec. A letter has been sent to the chiefs indicating they were consulted, but this is false. I think they will probably agree. Let us stop this paternalism. These people are capable of deciding what they want.

Two weeks ago, I met with the first nations chiefs in my riding and the neighbouring ones. They asked me when we were going to realize that they are human beings with all the rights of any other human being on this planet and in this country. They asked me when we were going to stop thinking for them and deciding what is good for them, and start asking them what they want instead.

This is a good bill and had input from a number of first nations, but I would like to see the input of the first nations of Quebec and of my riding included. We are therefore consenting to adoption of the bill at second reading, because we will be able to continue to improve it when it gets to parliamentary committee, and particularly will be able to ask the first nations of Quebec what they think of it.

I do not know if some of my colleagues watched the report on the first nations of Abitibi on Radio-Canada's Le Point this week. I had phone calls this morning from some people who had not seen it but could report to me on the situation there.

There are people living off reserve and cramming in huge numbers into houses 20 feet by 24 feet. Their children are taken away from them at the beginning of the week and returned to them for the weekend. The houses do not have running water or electricity. Now, do not come and tell me that this is showing respect for the people who have been living on this land for 12,000 years, who were here before us and helped us settle in this country.

It is an attempt to hide this government's incompetence and mismanagement when it comes to the first nations to claim today that we have to rush this bill through for them. I recognize that some things need to be fixed, and we, in the Bloc Québécois, will certainly not stand in the way of that. However, I find it rather indecent to be told that, by having an election called, the opposition would be depriving the first nations of the tools they need and that we would be to blame.

I think we can never do enough to give back to the first nations all that is owed to them. In my riding, we have aboriginal people living approximately 100 kilometres from La Tuque, in the northern part of the riding. It is the nearest town to them. The Weymontachie aboriginal people, for instance, have hardly any decent roads or means of transportation. A train goes by from time to time. I am trying to ensure that they at least have a paved airstrip on which planes can land anytime. At present, if a disaster happened in the north in the spring, no plane could even land because the airstrip is gravel. It is dangerous. There is just no way.

It would have cost $200,000 to build an airstrip over the summer. I did everything in my power to get that strip, but was told no every step of the way. And now, they are telling me that, by delaying passage of this bill, we are denying aboriginal people the assistance they need. That is not true. There is a little too much hypocrisy in that.

I still support passage of the bill as quickly as possible. However, could native peoples in Canada and Quebec please be considered as adults? They are entitled to be consulted and not at the last minute or by government letter? If they do not answer the letter, they are assumed to be in agreement. The time must be taken to go and visit them and ask them what they need. Time has to be taken as well to help them out once their needs are known. Their housing, road and airport requirements are known. There is no need to consult them on these, as they have been bringing them to our attention for quite a while. In terms of health care and education and the right to retain their culture and their language, their needs are known and the right is theirs. It enriches us at the same time.

Nothing is more extraordinary than going into a native community that has next to nothing for its development and seeing that everyone in the community, 125 km from La Tuque, is bilingual. They speak their first language and either French or English, sometimes both. Despite us, they have retained their culture and share it, enriching us. That is really extraordinary and makes us proud.

Why are they so neglected? Why not give them what they need to develop their community? Why say today that this legislation is urgent, when it has been urgent for decades to respond to them and especially to consider them an integral part of Canadian and Quebec society? They have the same rights as everyone and, I would add that they perhaps even have more, since they were here before us.

The fact that we are here now is very much because of their help in the past. So they have the right to develop their community in a way that preserves their culture, their language and their economy.

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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Gaudet Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question for my colleague from Champlain.

The government opposite, in power since 1993, has been concerning itself with every provincial field of jurisdiction instead of its own responsibilities, namely Indian Affairs, Veterans Affairs, the guaranteed income supplement, Kyoto, National Defence, helicopters and submarines and especially the fiscal imbalance.

Why is the government not minding its own affairs? I would like my colleague to say a few words about that.

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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for giving the floor back to me for a few minutes so that I can express how disgusted I am at how much money has been wasted just because there is an excess of it. The sponsorship scandal saga has shown us that there was no shortage of money. The government does not take care of its own affairs because it prefers to interfere in provincial jurisdictions.

The government interferes in provincial jurisdictions such as education and health by refusing to give money back to the provinces. If we do end up getting any money it is only because we have been begging for it for years.

The federal government does not take care of its own affairs. However, it is not shy about interfering in jurisdictions that do not belong to it, including aboriginal affairs. It was mentioned earlier that Alberta, like Quebec, has a legislative framework for taking care of aboriginals. However, a big part of that framework is the federal government's responsibility. The purpose of this legislation is to correct this problem that has been ignored for years.

I mentioned the landing strip. I am incensed by the economic and sanitary conditions aboriginals are living in. Some of them say, “We cannot repair our house because it does not belong to us. We cannot use our land as collateral for a loan because it does not belong to us”. They are living in hardship conditions. This problem is the responsibility of the federal government and the CMHC, which have the means to help, but refuse to do so. They are ignoring aboriginals.

With just a few weeks before an election, we urgently need to pass this legislation, even if it is already too late. Nonetheless, I hope the government will not be boasting about this, since it has no reason to brag about the work it has done for aboriginals.

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10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to put a question to the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, but first I want to congratulate him on his speech.

Of course, he mentioned that a number of claims had been made by aboriginal communities, including the one in de La Vérendrye Park and the one in his riding which, I believe, is located about 100 kilometres from La Tuque. All these claims go back several years, up to 20 years or so in some cases.

Could the hon. member explain why successive governments have been procrastinating on this issue, to the point where, 20 years later, no concrete action has been taken to meet the needs of these aboriginal communities?

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10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member is saying is so true.

I had the opportunity to tour Quebec regarding the seniors' issue. When I visited the aboriginal community, I realized that, out of a population of 2,000, only 2 or 3 people were over 65. As we can see, life expectancy among aboriginal people is not very high, and this is because our failure to act.

The hon. member is right when he says that we have been neglecting them for the past 20 years. In fact, it has been longer than that, but over the past 20 years, we have been more aware of their plight. We have greater means now, but they are also better able to see to what extent they are being neglected. In my opinion, it is very urgent to look after these people and give them back part of what is owed to them.

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10:50 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-71.

Let me set the record straight from the get-go. If this bill gets held up or bogged down, I do not for one moment accept that it has anything to do with the opposition parties. In fact I, for one, as the aboriginal affairs critic for the NDP have been waiting for three months for this bill to come to the aboriginal affairs committee in order to deal with it properly. We cleared the slate for it to come here. So, if there are any misconceptions out there about our democratic right to call the Liberals to task in the event of an election happening, it certainly does nothing to undermine this initiative.

Having had the fullness in time, now, to deal with this bill, I am glad we are having this debate today. We would not be having this debate today because as of a week ago there was an all-party agreement to fast-track this bill. However, this bill has fallen as collateral damage to other negotiations taking place about fast-tracking other bills. Now we are told that, until we get all-party agreement on how we vote on those other fast-track bills, there will be no cooperation on this bill.

So, let us be clear on what is really driving the lack of progress on Bill C-71.

Speaking to the merits of the bill, let me begin by saying that we have had feedback from some first nations around the country who are concerned about the bill. I agree with my colleague from the Bloc that there is justification to have this bill go to committee and hear some of these concerns. Even the government's own briefing note starts by saying there is some opposition to this bill. I can tell members the Indian Resource Council of Canada is thoroughly opposed to this bill.

Looking at the bill, the summary begins:

As Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction to make laws in relation to Indian lands,--

We know that is simply not true in either tone or in content. Parliament's jurisdiction may make provincial jurisdiction ultra vires, but now that we have subsection 35(1), there is a first nation jurisdiction the government wants to squelch. It could be said that provincial regulatory laws do not apply on reserve, so why this preamble? I believe it reveals the true thinking of the authors. This is one of the points that is being made in competition here.

The preamble states:

WHEREAS existing Acts of Parliament do not provide sufficient authority for Canada or first nations to establish such regimes;

There are two concerns I have with that statement. I should point out as a historical note that we would not have subsection 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, were it not for the specific efforts, in fact the stubborn obstinance, of the NDP of that time. I am sitting here with my colleague from Ottawa Centre who as the leader of the NDP at the time made two personal visits to Prime Minister Trudeau imploring and urging the government, emphasizing that we must acknowledge existing and inherent aboriginal and treaty rights in the Constitution Act, 1982, or it would be incomplete and we would have lost this opportunity.

So, we would not have subsection 35(1) were it not for the efforts of people like the member for Ottawa Centre, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, who was fully engaged in that negotiation and debate, the member for Skeena at that time, Jim Fulton, the aboriginal affairs critic, and Jim Manly from Vancouver Island, the NDP critic also at the time. All these members urged and dragged the Liberal government of the day, kicking and screaming, into recognizing the inherent existing aboriginal and treaty rights.

It is in that same context that I am here to defend subsection 35(1)of the Constitution Act, 1982, to ensure that nothing is passed and certainly not fast-tracked in such a way that would undermine or diminish the tone and content of this piece of legislation.

That is the concern that I raise here today. When the bill states that Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction to make laws in relation to Indian lands, how is that recognizing the inherent existing rights of aboriginal people to self-determination? We are off to a bad start before we even get to the substance of the bill.

That tone is worrisome because there is a fear in Indian country that we are fast-tracking pieces of legislation through that incrementally diminish the inherent right to self-determination. When such time as self-government does come about for first nations, there will be nothing left to regulate because it will all have been incrementally chipped away and handed over to other pieces of legislation.

The preamble in the legislation states:

WHEREAS existing Acts of Parliament do not provide sufficient authority for Canada or first nations to establish such regimes;

An act of Parliament is not needed to provide this sufficient authority for a self-governing first nation to regulate its own internal affairs such as establishing a regulatory regime. First nations can do that now under self-determination.

There already is an act of Parliament, the Indian Act, which could have been used in this case where there are no secondary motives at play. A first nation could simply establish a bylaw which would incorporate provincial law as its own law. That would have been a simple way under an existing act of Parliament to harmonize the regulatory regime on a reserve to the regulatory regime of a province without undermining or chipping away the right of self-determination or putting another law in effect which could erode that first nations jurisdiction.

It is good that we are having this debate today because I have another concern to raise. These ideas have developed since--

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre has run us to 11 o'clock and I have to interrupt proceedings at this point to deal with statements by members, but the hon. member will have three minutes left when this debate resumes, plus the five minutes questions and comments at the conclusion of his speech.

HAGI Community Services for Independence
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House to extend congratulations to HAGI Community Services for Independence on the occasion of its 30th anniversary.

HAGI Community Services for Independence is recognized as a leading community service agency in Canada. Under the direction of its members and consumers of its services, the organization offers a broad range of programs to persons with disabilities, including transportation, housing, independent living services as well as enrichment activities.

Please join me in wishing Executive Director Al Buchan and the board of directors every success as they continue to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities.

Special Events
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the year 2005 has been a special year in Canada. In conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the victories in Europe and the Pacific that ended the second world war, 2005 was named the Year of the Veteran, giving Canadians an entire year to say thanks to those who fought and still fight for our freedom.

This year also saw centennial celebrations in Alberta and Saskatchewan, marking 100 years since these two great provinces joined Confederation. Thousands of centennial medals were presented to hardworking Albertans. The Queen even stopped by for a visit and helped us celebrate our western heritage, and our place in Canada.

In response to these two special events and wanting a permanent reminder of the year, the Alberta government has renamed two of our highways. Highway 2, running north and south through Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary has been renamed the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, while Highway 36, running north from Warner, through Taber, Brooks, Hanna and points north has been renamed the Veterans Highway.

Now we have permanent reminders of this special year and these historic events.

FedNor
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to emphasize the importance of regional development programs such as FedNor. Constituents in my riding and throughout northern Ontario have benefited greatly from the stable, long term investment that FedNor provides.

While the opposition has made it clear that it would scrap regional development programs such as FedNor, the federal Liberals have demonstrated time and time again their commitment to FedNor. In budget 2005, the Government of Canada reiterated this commitment by increasing FedNor's base budget to almost $52 million.

FedNor funding has gone toward many worthwhile projects in my riding, including a new retirement facility in New Liskeard, waterfront development in North Bay, a feasibility study for a new observatory in Powassan, and a feasibility study on wind power generation in the Temagami area, to mention a few.

Regional development programs such as FedNor are vital to the economic growth and prosperity of northern Ontario, and by supporting this program, the federal Liberal government remains committed to the people of northern Ontario.

Port Saguenay Oil Handling Facility
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the construction of an oil facility at the port of Saguenay is a priority for our region and will lead to the future economic development of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region.

To date, three partners, including the Quebec government, have confirmed their participation in this project. However, the federal government is still refusing to do its share, even to the point of refusing to allocate $420,000 for preliminary design studies.

The people of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean are urging the Minister of Transport to be receptive and open-minded and announce today that his government will do its share and help fund these studies for this important project for this region.

Inuit Land Claims
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, after 12 long years the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement negotiations have been successfully concluded and all the outstanding Inuit land claims in Canada have now been concluded.

I would like to congratulate Makivik Corporation, which represents some 10,000 Nunavik Inuit, the government of Nunavut, and the Government of Canada for initialling this unique and modern treaty which resolves all outstanding aboriginal claims of the Nunavik Inuit of northern Quebec.

They now have certainty to the area offshore Quebec, northern Labrador and an area offshore Labrador. This provides them with clearly defined land and resource rights, and important overlap arrangements with other aboriginal groups. We can now say there is certainty to the Nunavik marine region.

Congratulations to Pita Aatami, President of Makivik Corporation, and the Nunavik Inuit for a job well done.

Illicit Drugs
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize and applaud the efforts of the city of Leduc in uniting to address challenges posed by drug use and drug trafficking in its community.

Concerned citizens have come together to form a community drug action committee. I met with some committee members last week in Mayor Greg Krischke's office. They asked that the federal government do the following: first, institute mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug trafficking; second, empower our police men and women to fight the growing problem of crystal meth by enabling them to deal with the materials that are the precursors of this harmful drug; third, institute mandatory treatment for a minimum of three months as a part of sentencing; fourth, withdraw the legislation dealing with marijuana currently before Parliament; and fifth, provide adequate resources for policing in communities like Leduc to properly deal with the problems caused by illicit drugs.

On their behalf, I call upon the federal government to take their concerns and their suggestions seriously and to work with them to fulfill their vision of making Leduc a drug aware and drug resistant community.

West Island Women's Centre
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate the West Island Women's Centre, a non-profit organization in my riding whose countless volunteers have worked tirelessly since 1975 to improve the quality of life of women living in the West Island of Montreal.

Each year the centre supports hundreds of women through courses, seminars, fitness training, wellness clinics, support groups and special events. The centre acts as a resource for mothers with young children, women with part time or full time jobs outside the home, seniors, and women in financial difficulty. The centre also provides free day care for women participating in its many day classes.

The West Island Women's Centre has greatly expanded and changed over the past 30 years, but it has always remained true to its fundamental and intrinsically Canadian values: everyone deserves to be treated with respect and have equal access to essential programs.

One of the keys of the centre's success is that every woman who is a member is also a volunteer. The organization is therefore predicated on the principle that communities are strongest when each of us gives something back.

AlimenTerre Cooperative
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to pay tribute to the initiative shown by a group of producers and consumers who have started a food co-op called AlimenTerre cooperative.

Taking place in Pont-Rouge, this initiative is extremely innovative—and the first of its kind within the Portneuf RCM.

Members of this new co-op share a set of values, including, of course, solidarity, but also a concern for environmental protection and the promotion of local resources and products.

Members can obtain various local products at the co-op, thereby helping to sell new agricultural products from the beautiful Portneuf region.

The Bloc Québécois congratulates all the founding members of AlimenTerre. We wish it every success.

Dartmouth
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, Dartmouth is known as the city of lakes. Those of us privileged to grow up in that community cherish our lakes for aesthetic, environmental, recreational and economic reasons. Above all, they are part of our natural surroundings that are open to all without a membership card or an entry fee.

Dartmouth is also home to a vibrant community that welcomes prudent development and economic growth, but that development must recognize above all else the importance of our lakes and the importance of protecting them.

Today much development is occurring close to our valued lakes and it is imperative that all of us in public office ensure that appropriate protection be part of any planned development prior to development, and not after mistakes are made when apologies and fines will do no good.

Many community organizations made up of concerned and informed residents are taking a leadership role in ensuring the protection of our lakes, and governments should follow their lead. This applies, of course, to lakes along the Shubenacadie system, to Russell Lake where there is an active residents association, to Morris Lake and any of the lakes under threat.

Dartmouth prides itself as the city of lakes. Let us give them the protection they deserve.

Veterans Villa Southgate
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, one week ago today many of us were back home honouring our veterans and the sacrifices they made on the field of battle. While many of our vets faced their greatest challenges in foreign lands, for some veterans in my riding, their greatest challenge lies ahead of them.

On Remembrance Day the Veterans Villa Southgate in my riding of Edmonton—Strathcona caught fire causing smoke and water damage to many of the apartments. The fire also killed war veteran Walter Grocholski and left many more homeless.

Fortunately for many of the residents, Rocky Hanson and Brad Smith, both visiting relatives living in the building, did their best to pull residents out of the fire and save as many lives as possible. However, many of these residents are now without a home. I have instructed my office to take all the steps necessary to help these residents with any problems they may be experiencing, find them temporary housing and any other difficulties along the way.

On behalf of my constituents of Edmonton—Strathcona and the official opposition, I want to honour the memory of Walter, and thank Rocky and Brad for their heroic efforts. Without heroes like these men, where would Canada be on days like November 11?

Status of Women
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the chair of the Liberal women's caucus, I am pleased to report on a number of measures taken by our government with a view to fostering gender equality in Canada.

Among these are: extension of parental leave to one year; a national child care and early childhood education system which will see 250,000 spaces created by 2009; ongoing improvements to the Canada child tax benefit, which, by 2007, will have increased by over 100% since its inception in 1996.

Each year, with a view to counteracting violence against women, the government devotes $32 million to the national crime prevention initiative and $7 million to the family violence initiative. As well, the government recently approved the allocation of $5 million to the Native Women's Association of Canada to combat violence toward aboriginal women.

Women's health is one of this government's priorities. The government has created five centres of excellence for women's health, as well as the Institute of Gender and Health.

These are just some of the initiatives taken by the government in favour of women. It is therefore obvious that—

Status of Women
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Ottawa Centre.

Concert Hall Proposal
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Ed Broadbent Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the city of Ottawa is already the proud home of the world's largest chamber music festival. It now has the opportunity to become the home to a splendid new concert hall.

This hall has been proposed by the Ottawa Chamber Music Society and has been endorsed by the City of Ottawa which has committed $6.5 million in funding. The project is dependent, however, on both the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada matching this amount.

Many of us in Ottawa are excited at the prospect of a badly needed new concert hall. Ottawa is the only capital city in the western world without such a facility. It would be a major benefit for the cultural life of the citizens of Ottawa and for all those thousands of tourists who make Ottawa their destination.

I urge the government to decide in the coming week to provide the Ottawa Chamber Music Society with the matching $6.5 million which is essential for this important project.

Canadian Heritage
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the heritage committee met with the CBC president and its senior management to discuss the impact of the seven week lockout on Canadians.

In response, my motion asking the government to establish an independent task force to review the mandate, role and services of CBC-SRC was passed by the committee. The Conservatives in this House support Canada's public broadcasters.

Last week the government's heritage minister was against a similar motion for review of the CBC by Liberals in Quebec. Will she not support the CBC, listen to Quebeckers or the heritage committee?

She also claims the opposition does not support the UNESCO declaration for cultural diversity. We support UNESCO's declaration. The minister is misleading Canadians and our cultural industries.

Is the minister so out of touch with Canadians and even her own party in Quebec? How can Canadians have faith in the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the government when in desperation they mislead and deceive?

Liberia
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to draw to the House's attention one more victory for democracy and a return to peace for the millions of citizens of Liberia.

Last week marked the second round of balloting in the first democratic election held in over 15 years in Liberia. The turnout was 74%.

This poor west African country has endured more than 14 years of civil war, which left more than 300,000 dead and forced many thousands more into exile.

Not only was this democratic election a historical event, but it was also proof that things are changing for the better in that part of the world, as evidenced by the victory of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first black woman to be elected to such a position in Africa.

The Bloc Québécois salutes the women and men of Liberia for their determination to open the door to democracy, and extends its best wishes to the new president as she assumes her duties.

Prime Minister of Canada
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has sent so many different and interesting signals on whether or not he wants an early election that it is hard to keep up.

On the one hand he said, “Under no circumstances will my government attempt to precipitate our own defeat and force an early election”. With those solemn words still ringing through the hallways of this hallowed place, the Prime Minister then chose to introduce four different motions that he specifically declared were confidence motions, motions that could precipitate their own defeat.

Perhaps this was just a mistake because, as we know, the Prime Minister is deeply concerned that an election not happen around Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza because what he would never do is politicize these holidays. As he himself said, “Christmas is for families” and as we know, Christmas, families and I suppose puppies are his number one priority.

Canadians, I am sure, are touched by the Prime Minister's concern, but what they really want and need is a fresh, clean Conservative government.

Jewish Law Students
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to inform the House that the Canadian Jewish Law Students’ Association will be holding its 19th annual conference at the Château Laurier, here, in Ottawa, from January 13 to 15, 2006.

Students will gather from across Canada to explore the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, repairing the world. Prominent members of Canada's legal community will speak to law students about how they relate their work to social justice. The CJLSA has invited all members of Parliament to participate in this important conference. I know from my participation in last year's conference that this is a terrific platform with which to reach out to young Canadians.

We should never underestimate the impression that we make on law students when we talk to them about public commitment and social justice.

I urge all my hon. colleagues to support this activity.

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, a federal court judge has just reinstated Jean Pelletier as chairman of VIA Rail. He says that the government was unfair in the way that it fired him last year. The judge, apparently, has now turned the whole sordid mess back to the federal cabinet to try to straighten out. Apparently the government cannot even fire someone properly.

My question is for the Prime Minister. In light of this, which Liberal crony will get the biggest severance package, Jean Pelletier or David Dingwall?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I will not respond to the imputations by the hon. member. I will respond only to the court judgment. With respect to the court judgment, the court asked that it be reconsidered by the cabinet and that is what the cabinet will do.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, knowing how fast the Liberals move, we can expect them to dither on that for awhile, at least until they decide which Liberal will get the biggest payoff.

It has now been 18 days since the Gomery report confirmed what Canadians already knew, which is that the Liberal Party is corrupt. However it has also been 18 days that the Prime Minister has refused to hold the Liberal Party to account over the money that it stole from taxpayers. The right number is not $1.4 million. Justice Gomery revealed that at least $40 million were still missing.

When will the Prime Minister stand up for Canadians and sue the Liberal Party for the missing millions?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Minister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, that is totally preposterous. On the day the report was issued, the Liberal Party refunded $1.14 million to the taxpayers. This was based on the evidence provided by Justice Gomery from his analysis of the millions of pages of documentation and the testimony of 172 witnesses. The Liberal Party of Canada responded immediately on the day the report was tabled.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know and the Canadian public knows that $1.4 million is a drop in the bucket of what the Liberal Party stole.

Canadians are asking the Liberal government to show them the dirty money. The Prime Minister has promised to pay back what the Liberal Party of Canada stole from taxpayers but he will not say when. Canadians want their money back now and they want to see the criminal element within the Liberal Party brought to justice.

Justice Gomery revealed $40 million were still unaccounted for. It cannot be traced. When will the government ensure that the Liberal Party of Canada pays back every red cent that it took?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Minister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada has done exactly that. Based on the facts that were presented by Justice Gomery in his first report on November 1, the party immediately refunded $1.14 million to Canadian taxpayers for moneys that might have been inappropriately received.

I would invite the member opposite to step outside and repeat the question he just put because he might find himself in some deep trouble.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, in a democracy there is no worse crime than an attempt to steal an election, and that is exactly what Mr. Justice Gomery has concluded. Dirty money was funnelled into ridings for the sole purpose of fixing the election.

The Prime Minister and the government know the 18 ridings where this happened. Will the government finally do the right thing and name these ridings so Canadians will know in advance of this election that the fix was in for the last election?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Minister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, here is what Justice Gomery concluded:

[The Prime Minister], whose role as Finance Minister did not involve him in the supervision of spending by the PMO or PWGSC, is entitled, like other Ministers in the Quebec caucus, to be exonerated from any blame for carelessness or misconduct.

That is the conclusion of Justice Gomery.

The Conservatives have been trying to character assassinate the Prime Minister for a year and a half. This is the conclusion of Justice Gomery and they just do not want to accept it. Canadians will accept it.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, just before the next election, the Prime Minister and the members of his cabinet are racing across the country in a desperate attempt to raise the money that was stolen through the ad scam mess.

Could the minister make sure that the money raised will only come from cronies, patronage appointments and Liberal hangers-on and that none of the money received will get a tax credit so Canadians will not be subsidizing the repayment of stolen money? Could he give us that assurance?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Minister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, I have said it already. On the day Justice Gomery presented his report, the Liberal Party of Canada cut a cheque for $1.14 million for moneys it has properly receipted.

However, if we are going to engage in this type of thing, how long will it be before the Leader of the Opposition reveals who contributed to his campaign?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the dismissal of Jean Pelletier as chairman of the board of VIA Rail has been overturned by a Federal Court judge on the grounds that the dismissal based solely on Myriam Bédard's testimony was unjustified. The judgment concluded that Jean Pelletier ought to be reinstated in his position at VIA Rail.

Does the government intend to comply with this judgment and reinstate Jean Pelletier, despite the fact that he was seriously fingered in the Gomery report?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the court has ordered that Mr. Pelletier's case be reviewed by the governor in council under a different process. That is something cabinet plans to do.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, what the court said was that the grounds for the dismissal were wrong.

In light of the commission's findings demonstrating Jean Pelletier's unequivocal involvement in the sponsorship scandal, does the government not think that there is more than enough evidence to uphold his dismissal?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the government is in the process of reviewing this decision. Following the court's judgment, everything was referred to cabinet. We will do as the court indicated and examine the decision.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the person who partially controlled the political direction in the sponsorship scandal was harshly blamed by Justice Gomery for his infringements and omissions and the fact that he “arrogated to himself the direction of a virtually secret program of discretionary spending”.

Given Justice Gomery's very harsh criticism, is that not more than enough grounds to uphold Jean Pelletier's dismissal?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the court has ruled and we will respect that ruling. The cabinet will examine the process and the ruling, as the court has recommended.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can the government continue to defend Jean Pelletier, who denies any responsibility in the sponsorship affair and still does not accept the blame assigned by Justice Gomery?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat what I said. It is not a question of defending Mr. Pelletier, but of respecting the court ruling. That is what we are going to do.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday evening, the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs heard very compelling evidence from the Agent Orange Association of Canada; the MLA from New Brunswick, Jody Carr; and many others about the extent to which Canadian armed forces personnel, civilian personnel on the base and other civilians who worked on the base in various capacities over the years were sprayed over a period of 20 years with cancer causing chemicals and herbicides.

I wonder whether the Minister of National Defence would now agree to call the public inquiry that many have called for, while at the same time taking seriously the recommendations for how they could deal better with the situation in the meantime.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we do take very seriously both the committee work that was done last night and the recommendations, and we will be looking at these.

The evidence last night at the committee demonstrated precisely the amplitude and the nature of the complexity of this task, which is why we put Dr. Furlong in place to do a study. This gentleman has impeccable credentials. He has had both political and medical experience. I think we should allow him to deal with this and work with it so we can get the right answer, both for the victims and the Canadian public.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, if anything, the evidence last night demonstrated that the problem is far more extensive than the government has been willing to admit.

However I want to ask the Minister of National Defence another question with respect to those who were deemed not to have served in the second world war by order in council. The department now seems to admit that perhaps as many as half of the 14,000 or so who were deemed not to have served did in fact serve with distinction and were not deserters.

Having acknowledged this now, I wonder if the minister could tell us what the department intends to do about that. Will it be moving another order in council to make these kinds of benefits available to those who are still alive?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the hon. member phrased his question the way he did because he clearly indicated that this is a complicated issue. The fact is that of those who were deemed not to have served included those who had gone AWOL, those who had deserted and those who had deliberately chosen not to be engaged.

Unfortunately, others, for personal reasons or bureaucratic reasons, did not file the necessary papers. What the order in council of the day sought to do was to turn a page on the issue.

There are those who believe they were unjustly treated. The way to deal with this injustice is to let them apply and we will deal with it on a case by case basis, and we will rectify the injustice.

Government Contracts
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government seems to have trouble figuring out where the government ends and where the Liberal Party begins.

Liberal Party campaign manager, David Herle, received an untendered contract to write the Liberal Party platform that was then tarted up and called an economic update. Talk about gall, Mr. Speaker.

How can we believe the Prime Minister is serious about getting past the culture of entitlement, the sponsorship scandal, when he continues to be a sugar daddy for Liberal friends?

Government Contracts
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentlemen's allegation is outrageous. Mr. Herle did not write the document. The contract in the case here was with and by the department. It was fully within all the rules and guidelines.

It was indeed disclosed and published on the Internet. With respect to public opinion polling generally, that matter was reviewed by the Auditor General and she concluded that it was properly handled.

Government Contracts
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the truth is that the rules were written so Liberal insiders could take advantage of them. That is what has happened here.

The Prime Minister and the Liberal government claim to be outraged at the sponsorship program and then they turn around and funnel money to their friends, right in the wake of everything that Justice Gomery has said. It is just like they cannot help themselves.

Will the finance minister promise Canadians right now, while he has a chance, that the money that went to David Herle will not in some way find its way back into Liberal coffers?

Government Contracts
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, that allegation is quite beneath contempt. There is absolutely no basis, no substance and no foundation to that whatsoever.

The fact is that in the interest of transparency and disclosure, the government followed, in this case as it follows in all cases, the rules that require the disclosure of all contracts over $10,000 publically on the Internet. That is a new rule in the public interest and it is being followed assiduously.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently we learned that aboriginal women in northern Quebec are 37 times more likely to be victims of violence. The Minister of Indian Affairs claimed that the issue was on the agenda for the first ministers' meeting in Kelowna. We now know that it is not true and it is not on the agenda.

Was the minister just making it up or is he incompetent?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Canadian Heritage, I am pleased with our government announcement of the $5 million to the Native Women's Association for the response of Sisters in Spirit. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada also provides $70 million a year to the family violence prevention program for community based projects and operational funding for 30 shelters across Canada.

We were supposed to have a federal-provincial meeting to put all our needs together to answer this problem of violence against women but, of course, it is in January and those irresponsible people over there are probably bringing us to an election.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

No, Mr. Speaker, that just is not good enough. We have an opportunity next week to address this important issue.

The lack of action and support for women and children in crisis situations is appalling and the Liberal government, after a decade of federal-provincial meetings, has a lot of nerve blaming anyone else but itself for this problem.

Why will the government not take immediate action to address the problem and assign someone other than this incompetent minister who clearly has no idea that he is even responsible for the file?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I would like to report to the member opposite that the first ministers' meeting, the first one that will deal with health, housing, education, economic development and strengthening relationships, those things are vehicles for dealing with the issue.

Nineteen groups fed into the agenda last June; the leadership, the provinces, the territories and our government. We will do our job. The Native Women's Advisory Committee, NWAC, was talking to our minister yesterday on this subject. She knows things that the opposition cannot even understand.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's softwood lumber strategy merely consists in criticizing the Americans' attitude abroad, while neglecting the plight of our domestic industry. Yet, Tembec's CEO underlined his company's difficulties in borrowing money from the banks because of the government's refusal to provide loan guarantees, as it could, through Export Development Canada, for example.

Will the minister continue to ignore this plea by the softwood industry, which is fighting for its survival? What is he waiting for to provide loan guarantees, as the industry has been asking for?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, first, the Prime Minister is making all necessary efforts to ensure that the United States respects the rule of law. Second, as regards helping businesses, the idea of providing loan guarantees deserves to be examined, based on the impact that such a measure would have on the entire industry. We must find a way to help the industry as a whole. This is what we are working on.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, for Tembec alone, we are talking about $320 million in countervailing and anti-dumping duties that are lying dormant in the United States.

Can the government assure us that the plan it has been announcing for the past three years, which, incidentally, does not require any legislation to take effect, will include enough loan guarantees to compensate companies for all the duties that are unfairly being kept by Washington?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, we are working on this complex issue with a view to determine what would be best for the public and the affected industries. We are not here to engage in propaganda and find simplistic solutions to complex issues. I would ask the member to show some patience. He will see that the work we are doing is much more comprehensive than anything he can ever do.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé on October 20 as to whether he intended to follow through with the conclusions of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, which recommended that the government apply safeguards to protect Canadian bicycle manufacturers facing competition from China, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade was evasive.

I ask him once again whether the government plans to act on these recommendations and impose safeguards.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman knows the normal procedure here. The government is following that procedure. We have the matter under consideration. We will make a decision in the best interests of Canadians just as quickly as we can.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the minister that the tribunal tabled its decision in September and concluded that the rapid increase in imports of bicycles under $400 threatened the survival of the Canadian bicycle industry.

Is this an example of government impotence, as has been the case with clothing, textiles, shoes and softwood lumber, or will the minister finally decide to do something and save the bicycle industry and the 800 jobs it generates in Quebec?

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the government always acts in the Canadian public interest. We will weigh all of the factors. Of course, one of those factors that will be very important is the opinion of the CITT. We will report to the House on further developments as quickly as we can.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have a terrible election scandal involving vote buying, influence peddling and election rigging, but for once this does not directly involve the Liberal Party of Canada.

During the last three band council elections on Manitoba's Peguis First Nation reserve, voters have been intimidated, bribed and defrauded. Mail-in ballots were illegally purchased. Others were stolen from the post office. All of this has been declared by over 270 band members.

Why has the Minister of Indian Affairs not intervened to ensure that democracy is preserved in our first nation communities?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, the investigator has completed his investigation. Officials of the department have received the report and are currently reviewing it. We take this process very seriously. We need to ensure that we have reviewed all the documents and information prior to making a decision.

The department is committed to working with first nations to strengthen their governments' procedures, including elections. We will do so because we know that in this country our future is dependent on having good relationships and giving all of the support that is needed to raise the democracy--

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Selkirk--Interlake.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, if the Liberals are serious about that, they would not have scrapped the Indian governance act.

The Peguis First Nation for Democracy requested the RCMP and INAC to investigate the past two elections. The first investigation is just coming out now and found election irregularities, yet the same chief is still in power today and has continued with the same practices to win the last election in March by only 29 votes.

The government makes phony claims about fixing the democratic deficit and improving accountability. People in first nations communities deserve better. The minister was made aware of this months ago and has done absolutely nothing about fixing the problem that is on the reserve right now.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, we have no lessons to learn from those members opposite. The first nations councils appoint an electoral officer who is responsible for administering the general band election. Any first nations elector or candidate may appeal an election held under the Indian Act. Once an appeal is filed, all candidates and electoral officers receive a copy and are provided with an opportunity to respond to any allegations.

If the information received is not sufficient to make a determination, an investigator can be appointed to conduct further investigation. This minister has followed procedure.

Airports
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, Toronto's Pearson airport is being asked to pay two-thirds of the country's airport rent even though it carries one-third of the traffic. Because of this usurious rent, Pearson has the highest landing fees in the world.

Seventy thousand jobs and $14 billion in economic activity are at risk because of the government's irresponsible rent policy. Instead of gouging Toronto and telling us that Montreal's Dorval would happily take away Toronto Pearson's business, why will the minister not give Toronto the same deal he gave the rest of the country?

Airports
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Miramichi
New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, Toronto Pearson is one of our great international airports. It has nearly 25 million people visiting it each year as passengers. Our minister is working closely with the members of the greater Toronto caucus to see that the problems at Toronto in terms of finances and landing fees will be addressed in the very near future.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Grey—Bruce—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, Transport Canada has jurisdiction over navigable waterways. The Saugeen River flows through the village of Neustadt, the birthplace of the Honourable John Diefenbaker. It has eroded the riverbank and is moving dangerously close to two sewage lagoons. The local municipality is left holding the bag.

The lagoons are not moving. The river is moving. Does the government want another Kashechewan? Walkerton is downstream. I am sure its residents do not want two lagoons floating past their front doors.

Why will the minister not take responsibility? Will he fix the erosion and will he do it now?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Miramichi
New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member opposite is aware of things that are happening near his constituency. Quite often we do not get that response in the House.

We will take it under advisement and I am sure we will get an answer back to him in the very near future.

Health
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, on November 22, 2004, the Minister of Health announced the launch of discussions to explore options for financial compensation to Canadians infected with hepatitis C through the Canadian blood system in the class before 1986 and after July 1990.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health update the House on the status of these important discussions?

Health
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to inform the hon. members of the House that the Minister of Health and legal representatives for individuals affected with the hepatitis C virus through the blood system before 1986 and after July 1, 1990, today announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding committing the federal government to provide compensation to those individuals.

Discussions will continue on both sides as both sides negotiate the amounts and categories of compensation. By entering into this MOU, both sides have made a clear commitment to the ongoing negotiation process. The federal government will compensate the pre-1986, post-1990 class because it is the right and responsible thing to do.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the amount of false bluster being displayed by the Liberals over the past few days has been nothing short of astonishing for Canadians. It is the same sort of attitude the government has shown toward the environment over the past 13 years.

While everyone knows the Liberals are masters of spin, Canadians are starting to learn the truth about what is happening in our environment. Yesterday the Commissioner of the Environment expressed justifiable skepticism at the government's latest promise to develop a sustainable development strategy for the environment, asking, “How will this effort succeed where others have failed?”

The result is that we are on the eve of an international conference on the environment where Canada's record will be held up as what not to do when it comes to the environment. My question is for the Minister of the Environment. What makes him think that he has any credibility with Canadians on this file?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that my hon. colleague from the NDP would ask a question on the matter of the environment today, the day after respected Canadian environmentalist Elizabeth May, president of the Sierra Club of Canada, publicly stated that it is critical that the government be fully functional for the COP 11 meeting in Montreal on climate change.

In fact, she said yesterday that for an election to be going on during the course of this conference would be the nightmare scenario that every environmental activist around the world has been hoping would not happen.

Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, under Liberal and Conservative governments, more than 11,000 Canadian companies have been lost to foreign ownership, even though 97% of these takeovers have resulted in job losses.

Why did this government sell out Canadians and rubber stamp the takeover of Terasen Gas? Losing control of our natural resources is losing control of our sovereignty. Why are the Liberals allowing this to happen against the wishes of Canadians? Why was Kinder Morgan allowed to take over Terasen Gas?

Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the minister removed himself from this situation because at one point he was on the board of Terasen Gas.

However, Kinder Morgan is a large company that certainly has a great deal of expertise. In all of its operations it will have to operate under Canadian law. The fact is that it will be able to advance our situation in Canada far more with the capital it has, the resources it has and the expertise it has. I believe Canada, on the measure, is going to be the big winner with this takeover and, quite frankly, Canada will move forward very well.

Income Trusts
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, in September, the Minister of Finance recklessly and irresponsibly cancelled advance tax rulings on income trusts. This has destroyed the savings of seniors, pension funds and some teachers' funds, the funds of ordinary Canadians saving for retirement. The minister does not seem to care at all about seniors and hard-working Canadians.

Will the Minister of Finance continue his attack on seniors, teachers and other Canadians saving for retirement? Or will he tell us specifically on what day he will announce his decision on income trusts?

Income Trusts
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, many of the allegations embedded in the hon. gentleman's preamble are just plainly, flatly false.

I would remind him that this government raised RRSP limits. We removed the foreign property rule. We are increasing the GIS. We are reducing taxes. We are removing 240,000 seniors from the tax rolls. We have revised the CPP to make it actuarially sound for 75 years. We have indexed the entire tax system to protect against inflation. We have acted, we are acting and we will indeed continue to act in the best interests of Canadian seniors.

Income Trusts
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that this minister and his government continue their attack on seniors. It is sad and disturbing. First his government steals millions of tax dollars from these hard-working Canadians to fund Liberal election campaigns and now he slashes their savings by irresponsible action against their savings in income trusts. That is the truth.

Canadian seniors know they can never trust this government again. Is this minister going to continue to beat up on seniors or will he announce his decision on income trusts? When is he going to make that announcement?

Income Trusts
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman's repeating of a falsehood louder and louder still does not make it true. The fact of the matter, among many other things, is that this government has taken 860,000 low income taxpayers off the rolls altogether, including 240,000 seniors. We are increasing the GIS as of January 1.

That is an interesting point. Who acts for senior citizens in this country? Is it the party that is proposing to increase the guaranteed annual supplement as of January 1 and again on January 1 of the next year or the party that would propose to cut that off?

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the minister in charge of the Canadian Wheat Board continues to drag his feet on raising the initial price of board grains. A month ago, he advised this House that he was addressing the issue “as we speak”, and “I will be responding...immediately”, he said.

He said the same thing yesterday. The minister's idea of soon is adding unnecessarily to the stress and bankruptcy of western Canadian farmers.

The government has promised election goodies to everyone except cash-strapped farmers. Why will this minister not do the right thing and just give farmers back their money?

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, the Canadian Wheat Board is independent and acts at arm's length from the Government of Canada. In fact, 10 of 15 members of the Canadian Wheat Board are members of the farm community and five are appointed by the Government of Canada.

The hon. member's question is better posed to those farmers who control the Canadian Wheat Board.

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, farmers, farm groups and the Canadian Wheat Board have asked the minister to raise the initial prices and the minister has failed to do so. He is putting a veto on the Canadian Wheat Board, which is still controlled by the government. It is time that he act and act now.

There is absolutely no reason why this minister cannot make a decision here and now, today. Where I come from, immediately means within 24 hours, same day, not months.

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member can be certain and have confidence in the fact that the President of the Treasury Board, who acts as minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, takes every issue of advice and information into account as he makes the important decisions that are necessary to promote the interests of farmers in our country.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment changes his speech according to whether he is talking to the Montreal or Toronto media. He tells the francophone media that rushing into an election will hurt the conference in Montreal and the Canadian press that he will avoid campaigning in order to ensure the success of the conference.

Will the minister admit that if he fails to reach a fair agreement with Quebec, one that respects the efforts that have already been made, he will send a very poor signal on the eve of the Montreal conference?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is honoured to be hosting this very important conference. The Minister of the Environment is doing an excellent job preparing for this event.

Canadians know the impact of climate change. Canadians know what it will be. They want politicians to work together to do something about it. The international community gets it, the government gets it, but that party wants to bring the government down and prevent us from playing a full leadership role at that meeting.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his negotiations with Quebec, is the minister prepared to make a formal commitment to compensate Quebec fairly for the hydro-electric projects that improve Canada's record, the cost of which was borne exclusively by Quebec?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, at the moment, the federal and Quebec departments are involved in intense discussions. We hope to reach a conclusion shortly.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, this week a 30 year old sex predator from Texas who was charged with luring a 14 year old Ottawa boy to a hotel for sex and the production of child pornography was let go with a slap on the wrist. Canada has become a destination for sex tourists who prey on our children by exploiting weak Liberal laws. We repeatedly have warned the minister about the threat to our children.

In light of this alarming reality will the justice minister now commit to protecting our children by raising the age of sexual consent?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to yet another case of fearmongering at this point. I want to make it clear that there can never be any consent to any sexual assault regardless of age. We have adopted legislation with those members' approval so that no such crime can be committed.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in response to a question from my colleague from Yorkton—Melville, the public, safety minister said that she had no outstanding formal requests for RCMP officers. The day before the minister told the subcommittee on public safety, “I've received a formal written request from the Minister of Justice in Manitoba for an increase in complement”. She also said, “The Solicitor General in the province of Alberta after the Mayerthorpe tragedy asked for a significant increase in complement”.

Which of the minister's statements is false, the one made in committee or the one made in the House?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I think I was absolutely plain yesterday, and I will repeat what I said. The police services agreement is very clear. Article 6 provides that it is the contracting province, territory or municipality that determines the number of RCMP officers they need in their jurisdiction and are prepared to fund. The RCMP has answered positively to every single request from provinces under contract policing. There are no outstanding requests.

Social Development
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, in recent years the Government of Canada has made significant progress in lowering the so-called welfare wall, most notably for families with children through the national child benefit initiative. However, obstacles to work remain in the system, particularly for single parents who take low income jobs.

Could the Minister of Finance explain what the Government of Canada is doing to foster better paid work for low and modest income Canadians?

Social Development
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman is indeed right. The so-called welfare wall needs to come down before true economic opportunity can go up.

I was therefore very pleased on Monday in the fiscal update to announce our intention to work with provinces and territories to develop a new working income tax benefit that would help people in this situation keep more of the money they earn and encourage them to take those critically important steps toward employment and self-sufficiency.

The Government of Canada is prepared to invest $2.25 billion in this important innovation in social and tax policy.

Canadian Heritage
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, our broadcasting system must serve all Canadians, including our multicultural communities. The heritage minister welcomed the CRTC's announcement to allow more foreign language services in Canada.

Pakistani Canadians are desperate for Pakistani T.V. The Portuguese community, including the 20,000 who wrote the commission over nine months ago, still wait. The application process was completed four months ago. Why the delay?

What will the minister do to get this and the 32 other foreign languages services, waiting for approval, to thousands of Canadians now?

Canadian Heritage
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, does the hon. member suggest I phone the president of the CRTC and tell him what to do?

National Revenue
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Betty Hinton Kamloops—Thompson, BC

Mr. Speaker, a recently retired constituent had a very interesting question for me to ask the Minister of National Revenue. Could the minister explain why the Government of Canada feels the need to charge a retiree tax on a going away gift presented by the company for his years of service?

Why does the government play Scrooge with a retiree? Are there plans afoot by the Liberal government to also charge Canadians a taxable benefit penalty on the Christmas gifts they exchange between one another this Christmas?

National Revenue
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of National Revenue, this obviously is a question of technical tax interpretation. I would be more than happy to take it under advisement and to provide the hon. member with a written explanation, including the rationale behind the tax policy.

Seniors
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, rather than interfering increasingly in areas belonging to Quebec and the provinces, the Minister of Finance should invest his huge surplus in areas under his own jurisdiction.

Why has the Minister of Finance not used his huge surplus to treat seniors fairly by paying them the billions of dollars it owes them in guaranteed income supplement benefits?

Seniors
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, a number of measures are before the House right now, brought forward by the government to assist senior citizens.

First, we propose to increase the GIS on both January 1, 2006 and January 1, 2007, assuming the House stays in session and does its business. Second, we have implemented an energy rebate program to help offset the high cost of energy for those who are in receipt of the GIS.

Again, if the House pays attention and passes the necessary legislation, we will make our best effort to ensure all eligible seniors get their money.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration or the Minister of Finance.

In the greater Toronto area, the construction industry is one of the most vital and active sectors of the economy. Within it there are thousands of undocumented workers. Labour unions and management recognize that without these workers, the industry would be unable to function. For over two years I have worked to bring a resolution to this issue.

In view of the importance of these undocumented workers to the economic health of our country, will the minister let us know what action is being taken to resolve the issue of undocumented workers?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his concern. It is an ongoing expression of his desire to solve a problem that everybody recognizes must be dealt with. We are doing the very best we can to bring together all the government departments and agencies, some 11 of them, and the employers, the labour groups and the NGOs that are involved in the process of integration and settlement.

I compliment the Minister of Finance for having brought with the economic update a $1.3 billion contribution over the course of the next six years precisely for integration and settlement. It will allow people to come here and be productive, almost--

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Year of the Veteran is almost over. We have made reparations to aboriginal war veterans and to merchant marines, but there is a significant block of veterans who have still fallen through the cracks and those who were deemed never to have served because they did not fill out their discharge papers properly.

The minister's answer that they can come forward individually and be dealt with is not good enough. We need to reinstate their service records by order in council so when they apply, there is a record of them having served.

Will he not agree to give justice to this last group of forgotten veterans?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has suggested that go through the service records of some people. By his own colleague's statement, they even admit that over half of those people were either absent without leave or would perhaps have been prosecuted as deserters.

Is the hon. member really suggesting that we should take 14,000 names, determine who should have been prosecuted and who should not? I suggest that would be an unjust way to approach this. We are approaching it by allowing those who feel unjustly treated to come forward. We will rectify the records and work with them to solve it. That is the just and Canadian way to deal with this issue.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, since the time that I arrived in this Parliament, we have been asking the government to take action with respect to stopping violence against aboriginal women. We have heard today a shameful performance from the government on this issue.

Why will the government not answer the question? No more dodging, no more obfuscation, tell the House of Commons why violence against aboriginal women is not one of the agenda items at the first ministers meeting?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat my answer perhaps a little slower so it can be understood on the other side. Last June we had meetings where the federal government and the regional, territorial and provincial ministers came together with the aboriginal leadership, including NWAC. We together worked out the agenda of major items. We have health, housing, economic development and relationships. All these things will incorporate many different topics that could be included, and that is under discussion. These are the general--

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

The hon. member for Saint-Maurice--Champlain.

Seniors
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us not forget that the GIS concerns the most vulnerable members of our society. We are talking about seniors who barely have enough to get by on.

Second, the Minister of Finance is swimming in a surplus of over $11 billion. This is shameful.

What will it take for the government to show a bit more heart and, above all, a bit more honesty with regard to seniors and pay them what they are owed?

Seniors
Oral Questions

Noon

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, what is shameful is that the Bloc wants to defeat the government and that all seniors, including those in Quebec, will not even get the GIS increase. That is the real shame. Its interests—and not those of Quebeckers—are the only ones that matter.

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, there has been a strong reaction to recent comments made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Could he clarify his thinking for us?

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

Noon

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have the greatest respect for each of the former premiers of Quebec, even those rejected by the PQ and the one they booed the other evening.

Political life is so demanding that anyone who devotes himself to it deserves our admiration. I am very sorry to think I may have hurt the feelings of one of them. I was referring to the losing speeches by the PQ—their speeches in defeat—when I passed comment on the tributes being paid one after the other, the other night. I certainly do not think that the people who held such office were losers.

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

That concludes question period for today.

The hon. member for Prince George—Peace River is rising on a point of order.

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, apparently the misrepresentations and untruths are starting even before the election campaign gets under way. Today, during question period the Minister of Finance stated that if an election were to occur, then it is clear that the official opposition would have denied seniors the increase in their guaranteed income supplements. The hon. Minister of Finance knows full well that the increase was already under Bill C-43, the original Liberal government budget before we got into the NDP budget, so he should correct the record.

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

It does not sound like a point of order to me. It sounds very much like a matter of debate. The hon. member for Prince George—Peace River knows that if he wants to debate questions and answers he can do so in the late show. He can make an application for a debate in the late show and have some fun then.

Do we have another point of order? The hon. member for Cariboo--Prince George is rising on another point of order.

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, on the same point of order if I may--

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. It was not a point of order. The hon. member must have heard me. I said it was a matter of debate.

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

A new point of order.

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member is rising on a new point of order.

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I watch you get up and down in the House during question period and caution people about making statements that misrepresent facts. I did not know that on some days of the week that members of the cabinet can in fact rise in the House and misrepresent the truth on issues. Am I to understand that this is permitted?

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I think the hon. member knows that the Speaker may correct language, but whether a member is misrepresenting facts or not is something the Speaker has no opinion on and never makes any conclusion. Language, yes, but whether the statements contained in a question or an answer are factual or a matter of dispute is beyond me.

I know the hon. member would enjoy a debate perhaps on some of these matters and I invite him to apply for a late show debate the next time he asks a question and gets an answer he does not like. It is the best approach.

The hon. parliamentary secretary on another point of order.

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if I mentioned education and I do not want to mislead the House. I want to ensure that education is also part of the FMM agenda.

Premiers of Quebec
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sure no hon. member wants to mislead the House.

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 the 52nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding its order of reference of Wednesday, June 22, in relation to Bill C-312, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (appointment of returning officers).

The committee has considered Bill C-312 and reports the bill with amendments.

I also have other reports from the same committee. We have been very busy. I have the honour to present the 53rd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding its order of reference of Tuesday, October 18, in relation to Bill C-63, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act.

The committee has considered Bill C-63 and reports the bill with one amendment.

In addition, I have the honour to present the fifty-first report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the question of privilege relating to an inquiry conducted by the ethics commissioner.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 18th report of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-57, An Act to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions and agreed on Thursday, November 18, 2005, to report it with amendments.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, as of January 3, 2003, thousands of law-abiding Canadians, through no fault of their own, have become criminals through the possession of unregistered firearms. Any individual who now tries to register a firearm is exposed to federal prosecution.

Conflicting statements made by the Minister of Justice and the Canada Firearms Centre regarding the threat of prosecution is only adding to the confusion. It is recognized in 9 out of 10 provinces, as well as by MPs, senators and the Auditor General of Canada, and all agree that the firearms registry is completely out of control.

The people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke who have signed this petition are asking that there be an immediate amnesty for all owners of long barrel firearms registered after January 1, 2003.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my duty today to table in this House a petition signed by many citizens of Quebec, asking that Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport be returned to its original name of Dorval International Airport.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau was responsible for expropriating some of Quebec's finest farmland to build Mirabel airport. He was the Prime Minister who enacted the War Measures Act in 1970, a very sad page in the history of Quebec. In 1982, he unilaterally patriated the Constitution in spite of the fact that the Quebec National Assembly was unanimously opposed. Therefore, the undersigned petitioners ask that this Montreal airport be returned to its original name of Dorval International Airport.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to present petitions from thousands of my constituents who support the Queensway Carleton Hospital's bid to obtain a land deal of $1 rent per year. Currently, the Liberal government has charged tens of thousands of dollars a year, amounting to almost $1 million in rent, and is planning a massive rent increase at the termination of the existing lease, all the while charging only $1 to a local golf course that also sits on NCC land. I am proud to introduce this petition on behalf of my constituents.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from citizens of British Columbia, who rightly believe that IBI-ABA therapy can dramatically help children with autism. They are calling upon Parliament to amend the Canada Health Act and corresponding regulations to include that therapy for children with autism as a medically necessary treatment, and require that all provinces provide and fund this essential treatment for autism.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Miramichi
New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 219 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 219
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

With regard to the position and most current appointment process of the Parliamentary Librarian: ( a ) what specific criteria are used to evaluate applications and prepare the final list from which a successful applicant is selected; and ( b ) is there a final list of candidates for the position and, if so, on which specific criteria and for which specific reasons did the unsuccessful candidates fail to make the final list?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 219
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Miramichi, NB

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

Question No. 219
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is that agreed?

Question No. 219
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will try to summarize my comments on Bill C-71.

The point I was trying to make was that any parliamentarian of any party should be very concerned about the regulations that would be permitted by Bill C-71. Imagine, by regulation the government can “confer any legislative, administrative, judicial or other power on any person or body that the Governor in Council considers necessary”. Can we imagine this being acceptable anywhere else in Canada in any other jurisdiction? It is beyond me. How could a decision ever be appealed? One could not go and appeal this in federal courts.

While some subsections of the bill require that the powers exercised be done in a manner that is consistent with the provincial regulations, other sections seem to give it unbridled power. This is my fear again of this bill being seemingly simple, but actually a Trojan horse seeking to accomplish some secondary objective that is not clear at the front end.

Knowledgeable people have come to us saying that for the five first nations who sponsored Bill C-71 there were ways for them to accomplish what they needed to accomplish to allow the economic development to take place in their communities without this legislative change in Bill C-71. In other words, within the parameters of the existing acts of Parliament that have jurisdiction, these first nations probably could have taken these steps.

I do not have time to go through all of my party's concerns, but subclause 2(o) in Bill C-71 is of concern as well as subclause 2(p) and 2(q), clause 5, and subclause 9(2). I am registering my concern about all of these clauses and subclauses for further investigation when the bill gets to committee.

My party is very concerned that the tone and the content of this bill may take communities to places they do not realize they are going. I simply point to the summary of the bill on the cover which states:

--Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction to make laws in relation to Indian lands--

That is worrisome in and of itself because it does not respect section 35 of the Constitution. The preamble states:

WHEREAS existing Acts of Parliament do not provide sufficient authority for Canada or first nations to establish such regimes;

I challenge that because under the Indian Act a first nation could have simply established a bylaw which would incorporate the provincial law as its own and this bill would not have been necessary.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, to help my friend, who has in the past been supportive of bills that have helped first nations, I would like to point out to him that this bill itself does not have any direct implication for aboriginal and treaty rights. However, regulations for large scale and/or complex commercial and industrial projects could have some effect on aboriginal and treaty rights. For this reason, authority would be provided in the proposed legislation to permit the inclusion of provisions to accommodate proven or asserted aboriginal or treaty rights in the project specific regulations made under the proposed act.

The partnering first nations and their legal counsel have indicated their strong support for this approach of addressing specific aboriginal and treaty rights in the regulations, specific to a given project brought forward by a first nation.

Overall, the proposed act permits regulations, and I will quote here, to “provide for the relationship between the regulations and aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, including limiting the extent to which the regulations may abrogate or derogate from those aboriginal and treaty rights”.

We have a situation where the provincial regulation has to be able to come in when the community has so desired this to be able to do industrial development. This is with the consent of the first nation. All of the legal experts, not only in the first nations communities but also in the Government of Canada, felt that it was necessary to proceed in this way to give the utmost protection to existing inherent rights, but also to allow development where the first nations who are leading the projects specifically request it and require it.

If we had a complete, fulsome non-derogation clause, it is unlikely that any of this development work would be able to occur.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is one of the concerns I was going to raise in regard to the lack of a clear non-derogation clause.

More specifically, in answer to my colleague's comment, she and the department have characterized this legislation as being self-government. I want to ask how and where they came to this conclusion, because what is really happening is entirely contrary to the concept of self-government.

They state that there is a gap in the Indian Act. Is that true? I would like them to point out to me where, because what about bylaw power? I believe that whatever gap they are trying to identify in the Indian Act could be accommodated by bylaw power, and if there is a gap, if it is not there now, why not just amend the Indian Act and provide that power?

Let us take an exercise in correcting the flawed legislation of the Indian Act. Why not use this as an opportunity to do some real self-government building and encourage first nations to pass regulations which they consider to be to their advantage?

I am not satisfied. I appreciate that the parliamentary secretary is trying to address some of my concerns. I think she is honestly trying to defend a bill and an act that she believes in. I want to be convinced. I want to pass legislation that enables first nations to participate in true economic development. I would not ever stand in the way of something that I truly believed to be in that light.

I hope that at committee I can get answers to my questions regarding, and I will serve notice, the possible regulation (o) which I do not fully understand, and (p) and (q), and clause 5 and clause 9(2).

Clause 9(2) provides for appeal by the provincial courts, unless otherwise provided by regulation. In other words, by regulation, the right to appeal could be totally withheld. That is a problem for me and it is a legitimate concern.

Maybe it is just as well we did not fast-track this bill and do all three stages in one day as was originally contemplated, because these legitimate concerns are coming to the surface now and deserve to be addressed.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my support for Bill C-71, the First Nations commercial and industrial development act. I sincerely hope that members on both sides of the House will support the bill because it is a logical and sensible step forward from a business perspective. Also, essentially many of the issues that we debate in the House really come down to two essential elements: to improve the quality of life of people and their standard of living. There is no question that the bill will also improve the quality of life on reserve and better equip first nations communities with skills and resources to invest in their future.

This chamber is indeed about that. This chamber is about providing and expanding opportunities for individual Canadians to provide them with greater hope for the future, to give them a sense that they can fulfill what I define as the Canadian dream, that tomorrow can indeed be better than today. We collectively in this chamber have a responsibility to make it so. People in Canada need to be given these opportunities.

This bill, the FNCIDA, is a progressive piece of legislation. It will remove significant barriers that are currently denying first nations communities access to major commercial and industrial projects on reserve land.

When we think of public policy, when we think of ways to improve our society, it is very important to remove barriers. That is a very positive step that we as legislators should endorse, to remove barriers for great economic growth, to remove barriers to maximize one's own potential, whether as individuals or as communities.

A significant barrier to this access is inadequate legislation that was put in place under an entirely different economic reality. It is now time to recognize the economic potential for commerce and industry on reserve land and to consider the invaluable benefits to the quality of life that the FNCIDA will help to facilitate.

With existing barriers removed, projects governed by the FNCIDA would mean more active participation by first nations in the economy. The bill would be a gateway to increased revenues that could be reinvested to stimulate further growth and help propel prosperity in first nations communities.

The best example of a project that will benefit from the bill is the multi-billion dollar oil sands mine being pursued by Fort McKay First Nation in northern Alberta. Over the life of the project, direct and indirect economic benefits for Fort McKay First Nation are expected to be $1 billion to $2 billion.

It is easy to see how increased revenue and economic growth are tangible and positive outcomes of this legislation. It is easy to see how really liberating the economic potential of an area can bring about the type of prosperity, the type of renewal of all the energies that exist within a community to improve the quality of life and standard of living.

The projects the bill would enable would do more than bring in just more money. They would improve the quality of life through ensuring industry-wide standards in environmental protection and public health safety, creating more jobs on the reserve and offering opportunities for capacity building for the future.

With new jobs come more education, training and skills development. It is the way to enlarge the pool of opportunity. It is the way to give people the types of incentives that increase the opportunities that exist. With the new jobs there are short term outcomes. Employment and earned income translate in the long term into improved quality of life, a better future and access to other opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.

Essentially the bill provides opportunities that are not present. It is clear to see that the bill improves the situation on these particular reserves. Why is that important? That is what we do here. It is what this chamber does. It is what members of Parliament and individuals try to do in building a better society. It is the raison d'être of parliamentarians.

What is really important about this piece of legislation is that in many ways it is a result of great input from people who will eventually benefit from the bill. The fact that in a democratic process we have people from all over Canada saying that these measures would help them improve their quality of life and standard of living and to move forward with change speaks to the fact that people are engaged. The bill is an example of such action, of what can be achieved when people pool their resources, share in a common vision and bring about positive change to their lives.

For first nations communities like Fort McKay, more active participation in the Canadian economy facilitated by the FNCIDA will mean a significant improvement in the quality of life on reserve in other ways as well. Revenues generated through large scale commerce and industry can be directed toward upgrading road, water and sewer infrastructure, and building playgrounds, schools and medical centres.

The benefits of the bill are self-evident. We have expanded opportunities, generation of revenue that will be directed toward education, which will provide people with skills. We are also building infrastructure necessary for future generation of wealth which in turn will also improve the standard of living, quality of life in many ways, in health and education which I think are elements of our society that people really care about. What about the great improvement we will see when children have access to greater educational opportunities, when we see young people who will look to the future with a sense of optimism because there are jobs available? What do we see when we see playgrounds springing up on reserves where children can play and have a great childhood experience? What does that mean in real terms? To view the bill in isolation would be a mistake.

There are five partnering first nations who have been actively involved in the development of the FNCIDA: Fort McKay; Fort William First Nation in Ontario; Squamish Nation in British Columbia; Carry the Kettle First Nation in Saskatchewan; and Tsuu T'ina Nation in Alberta. They are a perfect example of what can be achieved when we as individuals want to build a society where positive change takes place. For that reason I congratulate the first nations.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague has been looking at economic issues in the country over many years. I know he appreciates the necessity of this, not only off reserve but on reserve. The partnering first nations have been advocating this initiative passionately and eloquently, both with the Government of Canada and other first nations. They have sent information packages regarding the proposed legislation to all first nations and first nations organizations.

Support material was provided, including a bulletin for first nations, a document on the functional principles of the proposed bill as well as a technical working paper.

First nations were also informed about the 1-800 toll free number, the website address www.fncida.ca for information in either French or English, and the e-mail address info@fncida.ca for additional information.

Following introduction, the bill kits were distributed to all first nations as well. The bill kits also included a cover letter, a numbered copy of Bill C-71, a backgrounder, a bulletin, a press release and frequently asked questions.

Once again, first nations were invited to use the toll free number or the website address or the e-mail address for comments and additional information.

Partnering first nations have conducted presentations, addressing the proposed legislation with officials from the Indian Resource Council and the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business. Similar presentations also were conducted at several national first nations meetings, including the first nations summit in September and the Alberta chiefs summit in October. Information packages were provided at the Assembly of First Nations economic first nations summit in November.

Ultimately, we can always have a first nation that has not read some of the material or has not felt that they have been engaged enough. What we have is legislation that will be an economic business tool for the development, a sectoral self-government.

I know the member has been very much engaged in productivity discussions over the years. How does the member feel about economic productivity and how that allows first nations and their communities to work on the social and cultural activities, that engagement of services within those first nations?

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and I have had the opportunity to work together on a number of committees, particularly committees that have dealt with the issue of productivity.

I am often told to stop talking about the issue of productivity because many people across the country really do not relate to it. However, I know for a fact that they relate to the benefits of productivity.

Productivity essentially means that if we increase it, we end up with better jobs and higher paying jobs. We generate greater wealth for our country, which essentially means that for all those programs we care about, whether it is health care, education or ensuring we have the infrastructure in place to enhance productivity, those funds are available.

How do we connect that to this bill? To shape a society that is productivity and innovation based, we need to liberate the market forces as well. We need to maximize the human resources potential at hand. That is what gives the impetus to the economy to grow, and the bill does that.

When we have the first nations groups that pushed to obtain the bill, those individuals have recognized that to provide future generations with greater hope and opportunity, they have to generate the type of wealth required to bring about that change.

I know the hon. member across the way would want me to continue in this vein. I know he agrees with most of the things I am saying. He understands full well that, not only with this bill but with other issues, whether it is investing in human resources development, as we do on this side of the House, or in youth programs, or in areas like research and development, where we have seen an actual brain gain occurring in this country, all these things add up to a productivity enhancement innovation based society.

That is why we lower taxes because there is a net benefit in the productivity formula. Why is that? Because people understand that they want the government to send a signal that means--

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Do they understand?

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Vaughan, ON

I think they do, and they will understand in the coming weeks, I am sure, when they recognize that our standard of living and quality of life has improved since 1993.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to represent the constituents of Edmonton—Sherwood Park in the debate on Bill C-71. It is an important bill. I think probably most people here will regret the fact that it is being given a rush job. It is very important in these instances to get things right. In general I concur with and support the intent of the bill.

Before I talk about the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands, I would like to make a brief comment about the process we are undertaking. I know probably most Canadians who are watching this on CPAC are not aware of the fact that we are doing this under a slightly different procedure from the norm. That is, whereas usually a bill is introduced by the government and then receives second reading, which is called the debate on agreement in principle, in this instance we are debating the bill prior to it coming to second reading. We are debating a motion that the bill will be sent to committee before second reading.

The intent of that is, or at least it is advertised to be, the parliamentary committee will have greater and more flexible input into the wording of the bill. It sounds wonderful in its concept. However, in the 12 years I have been in the House I have observed that more often than not the government has used this to stifle debate. I hate to say that, but that is what has happened.

One of the things that occurs is that we get this debate where we have 10 minute speeches, and it is not really possible to get into the depth of it. Then it goes off to committee and the committee deals with the bill in hopefully a more flexible fashion because it has not yet received second reading in the House.

Unfortunately, in previous occurrences of this process being used, there have been instances where the government has used it to limit debate and the power of the committee to change the different clauses in the bill is not as great as it should be under these circumstances.

On numerous occasions I have been very frustrated in committee. Even though opposition members have tried to make meaningful, reasoned and defensible amendments to bills, they have been shot down by the majority government. Sometimes members on the committee have not fully understood what is being debated and the ones who have given the orders from on high have not been in committee to hear the arguments. That is a potential problem. It is less of a problem when we have a minority government, but it still is a difficulty with which we need to continue to grapple.

With respect to this bill, it is long overdue. I am not sure that it is a perfect bill. In fact, I have a couple of questions about it myself, just in a cursory reading of it. It is a situation that we have in Canada which is unique and it needs to be addressed.

We like to say that we are a nation of equality, that we treat all our members in our society equally. Yet over the last 135 plus years we have had two different sets of rules for different segments of our population. When settlers first came to the country from Europe and other parts of the world, the natives were here already. For some reason, the powers that be at the time during Confederation set up quite a different way of allowing them to run their society from the way the rest of us could, those of us who immigrated to Canada more recently.

I always say that Canada is made up of all immigrants. Any person who has studied the history of our continent will say that even the natives came here from elsewhere, albeit a number of centuries earlier than the rest of us. However we are all immigrants on this continent and those who arrived here first, for some reason, have over the years suffered from a set of rules governing their activities that were substantially different and to their detriment. I for one would like to see this corrected.

I have had a number of really good relationships with different first nation individuals. Way back, when I was teaching at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, I taught a number of first nation students. They were very fine people. If I can generalize, they have a gentle nature. I found them to be very cooperative most of the time, certainly on par with my other students.

It is unfortunate that these individuals had a completely different set of rules and one of them with respect to ownership of their land. There are different rules, such as ownership of mineral rights on lands that are usually separate from surface rights. However the natives on reserves have not had the ability to capitalize on the potential that some of their resources had. If they did, they were under separate rules and this gave, in some instances, an advantage and, in some instances, a disadvantage. In any case, I think it would help to promote the well-being of our country if we treated natives and non-natives alike when it came to the use of the resources they have on the land on which they live.

One of the things not in the bill that has distressed me over the years is that natives generally are not permitted to own their own land. They are on reserves and the land is held in a commune style way. None of us who are used to living the other way would tolerate for a minute not being able to own our own house or the land it sits on, or that the money designated to us by the government would go to other people who then could use it to control our life and determine whether we can fix a broken window in our house.

Unfortunately, over the years we have had too many instances where what I call the grassroots natives have asked for help. They tell us what has happened and they say that they have absolutely no power to influence the outcome. It could be the electrical system in their house that is not right or the plumbing system that is not working but they cannot get the money to fix those things. We hear a lot these days about water and sewage systems. Those things need to be corrected.

This bill in particular deals with the development of natural resources and is rather specifically directed toward oil sands development on reserve land in Alberta and elsewhere. I am somewhat familiar with this. Before the Electoral Boundaries Commission made such a terrible job of re-drawing the boundaries in my riding, my previous riding of Elk Island included, among other things, the Shell upgrader plant just outside of Fort Saskatchewan in the province of Alberta. I know the issues being dealt with here are very important because of the fact that they will allow not only the natives on the reserves but also Albertans and, indeed, all of Canada to benefit from the development of these resources in an orderly way.

I have some serious questions which I hope the committee addresses, especially, as my colleague from the NDP mentioned, questions with respect to regulations that are really wide open. We speak of self-government for our native people and yet these regulations are totally under the control of the minister.

If we had a good, benevolent minister and a good, honest government I know these things could work for the benefit of the natives but there needs to be a system of checks and balances. Even when we form government and we have a Conservative minister of Indian affairs we should have a system whereby there is a great deal more accountability than this particular bill provides.

Unfortunately, my time is up. I had a good introduction, and this is what I am talking about. These 10 minute speeches do not really allow us to develop the thoughts that we want to. I hope the committee will do some good work in analyzing and correcting the few flaws that are in the bill.

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12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that my colleague from Edmonton--Sherwood Park pointed out the shortcomings of the Liberal government in how it has dealt with first nations.

While the Liberals talk about how the Liberal Party has been and is a friend to first nations people in this country, I think my colleague would agree that it is important to point out some of the Liberals' high points over the last 12 years.

First, violence against women on reserves has not diminished over the last 12 years under the Liberal government because it has not taken any steps to diminish it.

Second, we have had two incidents come up in the House within the last weeks about corruption in a band at the council level because the Liberal government has not dealt with the issue.

Third is the issue of poisonous water conditions at the Kasatchewan reserve and now we hear about another reserve. This is because the Liberal government has not dealt with unhealthy living conditions in the last 12 years.

Drug and alcohol problems on reserves have increased under the Liberal government over the last 12 years because it has not dealt with these issues either.

The quality of life in our first nations communities in the last 12 years has not improved under this so-called friends of first nations people Liberal government because it has not been willing to address the issues.

I have one last thing to mention which is near and dear to me. The Liberals talk about commercial-industrial development. The Liberal government has stood by for 12 years watching the pine beetle in British Columbia devastate the forestry industry, an industry that provides economic value for every first nation in the province, and withheld any aid to the province of British Columbia to fight the devastating pine beetle infestation, taking away a very valuable and important means of economic development for first nations in British Columbia.

That is the record of the Liberal government over the last 12 years. Friends of first nations they certainly are not and first nations will tell us that.

I would like to ask my colleague from Edmonton--Sherwood Park if he would agree with some of my comments.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has reiterated a number of the concerns we have in the province and in the country about the way in which the Liberal government mismanages pretty well everything that it touches. It has what we call the inverse golden touch: everything turns to lead when the Liberals touch it.

I remember, probably three Parliaments past, when we were debating issues in the Criminal Code, that the Liberals had the gall at that time to introduce sentencing regulations that differentiated between natives and non-natives, where they said that the judge in passing sentence must take into account whether the individual was a native.

What was wrong with that and what the Liberals just could not get into their head at the time was the fact that most native women happened to be abused and assaulted by people from within their own group. However they refused to listen and, because they had a majority, they rammed the legislation through without amendment.

A number of those women contacted us and asked us why, if another woman who is not a native gets attacked, her attacker gets a more stringent sentence than the one who attacks a native woman. The Liberals did not twig on that at all. They just missed it.

I go back to the basic principle that is so important. We have a set of rules which applies to Canadians, whether they are in this province or that, regardless of their cultural or ethnic background, the rules should be consistent so people are treated equally and have equal respect.

It is a known fact that over the years Liberal governments have dominated the government of our country, unfortunately. If we were to go back to when Jean Chrétien was the minister of Indian affairs, we would see that they were totally insensitive to the needs of the natives then and they still are. The fact is that in 12 years of Liberal government, 11 of them in majority, the Liberals have taken so few and so tepid steps and the things that they have done, in most instances, have been totally misdirected and going in the wrong direction. It is either inaction or going in the wrong direction.

I certainly concur with my colleague in the fact that in so many areas the Liberals have just failed to act or have acted incorrectly and, unfortunately, it is the natives and, indeed, all of our citizens who have had to bear the brunt of it.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today in support of this legislation. This initiative represents a true partnership between the Government of Canada and first nations.

This first nations-led initiative has been actively and aggressively promoted by five first nations, including Fort William First Nation, which is located adjacent to the city of Thunder Bay in the great riding of Thunder Bay--Rainy River. All of these communities have significant proposals for economic development on reserve and all of these first nations have passed band council resolutions in support of this initiative.

Fort William First Nation has several projects ready to roll once this legislation is passed. Large scale commercial and industrial development projects now being contemplated on reserve, like the Fort William energy project, require transparent, consistent and effective regulatory regimes. Addressing regulatory gaps on reserve will offer the stability and transparency necessary for those considering these major projects.

In the case of Fort McKay in Alberta, the community is pursuing a multi-billion dollar oil sands mine to be developed by Shell Canada Limited. This legislation is critical in allowing this project to move forward, create jobs and build prosperity on the reserve. As we know, the oil sands in general represent an enormous economic opportunity for all Canadians, including first nations like Fort McKay.

Billions of dollars of investment will be flowing into the oil sands in the next few years. For places like Fort McKay, and similarly for Fort William, this investment will create unprecedented job and revenue growth, along with vast improvements in the quality of life and social development on reserve.

These partnering first nations, including Fort William, are working with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to develop a comprehensive outreach and implementation strategy for this legislation.

In addition to the advocacy by first nations themselves, the Government of Canada has had discussions with provincial governments. This engagement process with provinces is important, because the Government of Canada will seek, in most cases, agreements under which provinces will administer and enforce these regulations.

Representatives of the oil and gas industry in particular have indicated support for eliminating the regulatory gap that acts as a significant barrier to economic development and investment on reserve.

Consideration of regulations under FNCIDA for a specific project would be triggered when a first nation like Fort William passes a band council resolution requesting regulations regulated to a specific on reserve development project.

Next, the Government of Canada would conduct an analysis prior to making a final decision on whether to proceed with the development of a regulation for the project. If the regulations are to proceed for the project, the Government of Canada would, in most cases, seek an agreement regarding the administration and enforcement of the regulation with the province and the first nation. That makes sense.

The regulations created for specific projects would be part of federal law and the provinces would be acting on behalf of the Government of Canada in administering and enforcing them, eliminating any questions of jurisdiction.

An essential requirement for economic development in any context is transparent, consistent and effective regulation. While it is true that over-regulating activity can discourage investment, it is also true that under-regulating or uncertainty about regulations can have the same effect.

We all know how many people have been discouraged because of this apparent quagmire. A regulatory gap creates uncertainty about process, time and costs associated with a project and can divert potential investors from reserves to other jurisdictions where an established regulatory framework exists.

FNCIDA will allow the Government of Canada to replicate provincial laws and regulations to apply to these projects on reserve. This will ensure that as first nations and companies move ahead with these major projects they are regulated in a fashion similar to similar projects off reserve. It gives the added benefit of stability for investors and developers as they deal with regulations that they already know and understand.

It is only through a true partnership that we can succeed. The people of Fort William and indeed all aboriginal people are looking forward to the successful passage of the bill.

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1 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Edmonton—Sherwood Park pointed out, this bill does have some points that we are very supportive of. It is lacking in many areas, but I believe that we are going to be supporting it anyway.

I want to get back to some earlier comments, if I may. I would like to ask this member to see if he can rationalize or justify some of these absolute facts about the quality of life on some of these first nations reserves, on so many of them, so many more than is imaginable in this country. If he could make some notes and then respond, I would appreciate it.

First, the fact is that the violence against women on first nations reserves has not decreased in the last 12 years under this very caring Liberal government, as the Liberals say they are. It is even at the point that the issue of violence against aboriginal women is not on the agenda of the first nations summit next week in Kelowna. A question during question period about why it has not been included was not answered.

Second, there have been all too many incidents of corruption at the band and council level and in regard to the mismanagement of money. Every year the Auditor General brings to the attention of the House the fact that the accountability factor is not there. In the last 12 years this issue has not gone away. It is still present under the Liberal government.

Third is the quality of life, the living conditions and the health conditions in first nations communities, including the Kashechewan issue with the poisonous water and the mould in the houses in the communities. That has not been addressed by the Liberal government over the last 12 years.

I hope the member is making notes and will be responding to all of these points.

Fourth, the fact is that the drug and the alcohol problems on first nations reserves, under this very caring and concerned Liberal government over the last 12 years, has in fact not decreased but increased under the Liberal watch.

Last, the sad fact is that the Liberal government has unfortunately been in power for most of the last 35 years and there have been billions of dollars put into first nations programs in this country, yet today the sad answer to the question on the quality of life is that it indeed is perhaps not as good now on the first nations reserves as it was 30 years ago, prior to all the billions of dollars having been put in.

As well, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has developed into a huge conglomeration of bureaucrats who apparently do not seem to want these problems to ever get solved. There have been a lot of suggestions. Why would they simply want to work themselves out of a job by solving these problems?

This is the legacy of this so-called caring Liberal government, which puts itself out as a friend to first nations. Yet it has the saddest possible legacy over the last 12 years of its reign that one could ever imagine as far as the issues and the concerns of first nations people being addressed by the government is concerned. It has shirked its responsibility to first nations people in this country.

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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for a question that is 80% longer than the allowable time limit for an answer.

First, right off the bat I want to thank the member for his support in passing this bill as quickly as possible. It only confirms that we are on the right track.

Second, when we talk about the 11 first nations of Thunder Bay--Rainy River or the 640 first nations throughout the community, or whether it is the Métis or other groups, there is no government that has done more than the federal Liberal government over the past number of years. That has been recognized everywhere I go. First nations groups that I work with work in a spirit of cooperation and in a positive way, especially first nations women's associations that I have been involved with in my previous life as mayor and now as MP, understand that the guideline for this government is compassion and understanding and we have delivered on the financial component.

I do not know how much time is left. I know that the other speaker ran out the clock for me. I do have much more qualitative and detailed responses that I would be able to present, but I do know one thing in regard to passing this bill: the people of Fort William First Nation look forward to it as quickly as possible.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will keep my comments brief, because I know there is interest in this place in getting the bill before the committee for some proper review.

To comment on some of the remarks that have been made by the government in terms of the NDP's intentions around election timing and other things, let me say that the New Democratic Party stands second to no one in this country when it comes to our history of supporting first nations rights and title in this country.

We can go back through all the history of our party and find our champions, such as the current member for Ottawa Centre, enforcing, pushing, coddling and imploring the government of the day to include the whole notion of rights and title in subsection 35(1) of the 1982 Constitution Act, thus ensuring that first nations have a voice.

I think back to Frank Howard, an MP from my riding at the time, who filibustered this place for three years on Fridays to ensure that first nations had the right to vote when they were living on reserve, a fundamental right that all Canadians enjoy. That was pushed by the New Democratic Party. There were Frank Calder and Jim Fulton and the list goes on. The New Democrats have stood with first nations through the ages, through time, and in debate after debate. And we stand with them today in strong support.

The idea of playing politics with important first nations issues is something that I find personally offensive. I find the tone being used by some of the government members toward the Kelowna meetings, this bill and other acts offensive, as do many of our first nations allies. The New Democrats' sole intention is to improve, once and for all, the quality of life of first nations in our country

With respect to that, I have often mentioned in this place the strong cultural history of first nations in my riding. Thirty per cent plus of the people I represent are of first nations origin. We have incredibly strong first nations that every day present their culture, their history and their hopes for the future. Too many times, these hopes have been ignored by the government over the last 12 years.

I have implored the government to change its basic understanding of how it deals with first nations by no longer using the number of announcements made and the number of dollars promised and rarely spent as the indicators for whether it is dealing with first nations problems or not.

We all know the horrendous state of affairs when it comes to the quality of life of first nations in this country, right across this country and in my riding in particular. We know that the rates of suicide, type 2 diabetes and poverty are absolutely deplorable. These are the indicators that the government would use, if it actually had any courage, when dealing with first nations and first nations issues.

One of those issues is teen suicide rates. The Lax Kw'alaams Band is a small band village in my riding. I have attempted to visit there three times in the last six months. All three times we had to cancel trips because of teen suicides, successful, if one can use that term, teen suicides. There were three. These villages, these communities, are being eroded in the most important way possible, through their young people, their young people who are not feeling any sense of hope whatsoever toward their future. They feel no sense of hope toward prosperity.

The reason New Democrats are looking forward to having this bill pass is that in some small measure we have come forward with another small step in trying to improve the quality of life of first nations across this country. We simply cannot play politics with this.

I also implore the government to stop playing politics with our Kelowna meeting. The member for Toronto--Danforth has proven time and time again that first nations are front and centre in our minds. When we renegotiated the federal budget last spring, many Canadians noticed that in each of the four main areas of the renegotiated budget, first nations were front and centre. Whether we were talking about the environment, affordable housing or education, whatever it may be, we ensured that in each of those areas first nations held a place of importance, thereby demonstrating yet again the New Democrats' passion and commitment to improving the quality of life for first nations in our country.

Highway 16 runs through my riding. For a number of years women, particularly first nations women, have gone missing year after year. This incredibly tragic issue has been absolutely ignored by both the Liberal provincial government and the federal government. It is awful and truly devastating. Due to economic poverty, people are forced to hitchhike and use other methods to get back and forth across the vast territory which is my riding. Year after year the missing persons posters go up for young first nations women who have gone missing. There is no public cry in this place or in the legislature of the province of British Columbia that resounds properly to the tragedy that we are watching unfold before us.

When it comes to the need to consult and accommodate, there is one finding that has come out of the courts time and again. I mean this in all sincerity, but I do not believe that the government has caught up to the court cases that have been presented in front of it, whether it was the Haida case or the Taku River Tlingit case, in truly understanding what it is to properly accommodate and consult. I could go through case after case that we are seeing in my riding where the government has come in and has allowed either industrial projects to go ahead or has initiated its own without that first step of proper consultation and accommodation of the first nations. I see it time and again. At some point the culture within government must change to finally come to terms with what the courts have told us for a number of years, that particularly in places where no treaty has been signed, there is a need to properly accommodate and consult.

For the country to truly prosper in the true sense of prosperity, we will need our first nations people on board. We will need them to prosper with us. No longer will it be acceptable to have all of the key indicators of quality of life improve for Canadians in general, but continually slide for first nations. The Liberals have some accounting for this. For the last decade or so on the key indicators, the ones to which we pay the most attention, first nations continue to fall further and further behind what all Canadians should come to expect, which is a high quality of life living in the greatest country on earth.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague simply to react to the following. Just before he spoke, we heard comments from the hon. member from Prince George, a member with whom I usually agree on many things, except today he spent a good part of his discourse criticizing the civil servants who work in the Indian affairs department, the many hard-working people who work very hard for the people of this country. Does he share the view of the member, or does he agree with me that those comments were unfortunate, uncalled for and undeserved by our loyal civil servants?

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not about to intercede in the debate between the two members, only to say that when we have looked at the treaty tables that exist within my riding, the incredible thing is when I ask those first nations facilitators and mediators what is the hold-up when it comes to treaty talks, they suggest that even though Gordon Campbell started off his mandate in the absolute opposite direction in terms of first nations' interests, it is the province that is actually allowing many of these things to go ahead and it is the federal government that has not come to the table with a clear mandate. I find this stunning and confusing.

At some point we need to settle the land question and have certainty for both the people and the industry there. I implore the government to send those hard-working Indian affairs bureaucrats to those tables in such a way that they actually have a mandate to negotiate, a mandate to settle these things so that industry can prosper and the communities can prosper. That seems to be the block in holding us up from future prosperity.

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1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, I am sure he would have liked to have heard my comments the way he thought he heard them. However, my comments were to the effect that it is first nations people themselves who are sitting in their communities wondering where the so-called help from the federal government is coming from, wondering where the so-called assistance from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is coming. They are suggesting to me, considering the plight of our communities, that it appears to the first nations people themselves that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is more concerned with building its bureaucracy than with actually doing something to help first nations communities. That is what they are telling me. The hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell knows that is what I said, notwithstanding the fact he would have liked to have interpreted it the way he spoke.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure there was a question in that comment. I will allow the two hon. members to work out their dispute, perhaps outside this place. I know we have some need for haste in terms of ending this particular discussion.

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1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, in answering a question, the hon. member mentioned that we should get people involved, the bureaucrats who do good work. All our bureaucrats do. It is the direction they are more concerned about. He mentioned we should get them at the table to really get the job done. I totally agree with him.

We talk about all these big conferences, and we heard the Prime Minister talk about how important this conference is. I remember when we had another crisis, when we talked about foreign overfishing, the Prime Minister convened a big conference. He goes around the world and wherever there is an issue, the Prime Minister invites people to come to Canada for a big conference. The conference occurs, he gets coverage and nothing ever happens.

I am with the hon. member. It is not the Prime Minister I want to see at the table, it is the people who can get the job done. I am just wondering if he feels the same way.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, in a brief reply, the Auditor General, through the commissioner of the environment, has noted a number of times the government's addiction to announcements. However, it is gone, in her words, before the confetti has hit the floor. It is almost like a child with attention deficit disorder who cannot seem to focus long enough on an issue to see it through to the end of the day and to its proper conclusion.

I suggest the first nations issues as well as the environment and many others are very similar to this.

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1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I ask the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, considering he has pine beetle damage to quite an extent in his riding, is he and his party aware of the devastation that the Liberal government has allowed to go on and just how much of a threat it is to the economic prosperity of first nations bands in his area of the province?

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

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1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

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1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it you will find unanimous consent of the House to see the clock as 1:30 p.m.

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1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is that agreed?

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1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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 October 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-301, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (monthly guaranteed income supplement), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks in support of Bill C-301, which was introduced by the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, I must say that I was deeply offended and saddened by the present attitude of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Until now, even though she is an adversary, I had some respect for her. However, I was very upset by her attitude earlier and by how she phrased her attacks and told shameless lies.

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1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. I wish to point out to the hon. member that we have rules preventing us from addressing colleagues in the House to criticize them or to make allegations of bad conduct. I would ask the hon. member for Laval to get on with her speech.

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1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are here today to discuss Bill C-301 concerning seniors who have been disappointed by this government. They thought they would be getting the Guaranteed Income Supplement in its entirety with the full retroactivity they were entitled to.

Since the end of 2000, we have discovered how many people were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement. Just look at how many people my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain was able to inform about their right to the supplement. Unfortunately, they are entitled to a mere 11 months of retroactivity when they should be entitled to full and complete retroactivity.

The government boasted about wanting to give seniors an additional $18 a month in the guaranteed income supplement effective January 2006 and another $18 a month effective January 2007. For the next five years, this government will invest $2.7 billion for this additional money, while it currently owes $3.2 billion to the seniors we found who are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement.

Despite the fact that the government would currently have people believe that if there is an election, if the government falls, seniors will not be entitled to receive the guaranteed income supplement, we all know that is not true. It is their most fundamental right. Bill C-43 has already been passed, confirmed and is already in effect. I do not see why we would want to start up the fear campaigns again and upset seniors, who have already suffered enough and are still suffering because of this government.

The suicide rate in seniors 65 and older has gone up by 85.4%. It is unimaginable not to acknowledge those who fed us, fed our bodies, spirits and souls during the depression, during unbelievable crises, people who sent children to the war of 1939-45, people who went to that war, to the war of 1914-18, the Korean War, people who fought for this country, veterans' spouses, women who are now 85, 90 or 95 years old. Today, we do not acknowledge them, yet they were the ones who gave us the system, the wealth and the opportunities we have today.

I find it very hard to believe that, with the surpluses mentioned earlier this week, which the government is promising for the next five years, it does not have money to correct the situation and give back to these people what is owed to them, before they die. Will it take as long as it did with the hepatitis C issue? All of a sudden, on the eve of an election campaign, the government decided to sign the papers, after we had been discussing the matter for a year in the House.

Enough is enough. Seniors need that money now, not in five or ten years. They need it right away. Currently, some of them are living in their home or apartment, and they have nothing to eat. Some must choose between buying their medication at the end of the month or paying their rent, between heating their apartment or paying their rent, between eating or getting their medication.

In a former life, I was a community activist. As members probably know, I worked with seniors' organizations. As part of my work, I often had to visit elderly people in their homes. If only hon. members knew about the distress of many of them, if only they understood how important it is to help these people, perhaps we might get the government to reverse its decision and act more responsibly.

When I visited seniors to see how they were doing and assess their needs, I would open the pantry—where dry food is kept—and find only crackers and cans of pet food.

But these elderly persons had no dog or cat. When a person must feed on dog or cat food because it costs 99¢ a can, we know that our society has a major problem.

In fact, this government had an opportunity to show that it wants to be fair and decent with seniors before we introduced a bill, before my colleague had to rise to present a bill to ensure that the rights of these people are respected. Instead, the government chose to invest in provincial jurisdictions, in armament and in goodies for companies, while letting down seniors.

I have no idea of what my colleagues can buy with an additional $18 per month under the guaranteed income supplement, but I personally cannot buy anything. I cannot pay any bill with that amount. It is appalling.

Let us not forget the fact that, these days, seniors have to spend over 30% of their income on housing and pay much of the cost of their prescriptions. They are no longer able to travel by bus or other public transit, but rather have to take cabs, a service they can hardly afford. When they need to go to the hospital or any other appointment, they have dig into their wallets yet again. They are denied the paltry amount that would make a difference in their lives. This government is denying seniors a sense of security and serenity in their golden years. I find this abhorrent.

I want to read an excerpt from a letter I got from a senior citizen about the GIS:

As a senior, I fail to understand the federal government's attitude in this regard. This week, the Minister of Finance announced a series of election goodies, each better than the last.

Clearly, seniors are no longer fooled; they know the truth. The letter continues as follows:

Given the billions announced, I had hoped that the government would take this opportunity to right an egregious wrong done to seniors who should have received the GIS for a number of years. But no, nothing, not one dime.

I received another statement. However, since I only have one minute left, I will read a beautiful poem entitled The Grasshopper and the Minister :

Her endless round of work complete,Madame was much dismayed When, on retirement, it appearedThat she would not get paid.Although she much deserved some help,And all her life had worked,Her pleas upon deaf ears did fallAnd she was truly hurt.The freshly minted ministerIgnored all she had done,And though they were her rightful due,Of payments there were none.“But what about my kids,” she cried.“Is no allowance made?Without them you would all be lost, And others would need aid.”“What did you do all day at homeWhen others were out earning?We can't support the likes of youWith economy downturning.”Those who held the purse strings were a heartless lot it's clear“You never filed the form”, they said.“You're on your own, my dear”.

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Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment on Bill C-301, introduced by the Bloc member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain. It pertains to the monthly guaranteed income supplement .

Our country recognizes the tremendous debt that we owe our seniors. Theirs was the generation that survived the Depression.

Quebeckers deplore the atmosphere that appears to reign in this House. I personally respect dissenting opinions. I listened attentively to the Bloc member who spoke for ten minutes, without attempting to interrupt her. Another Bloc member—for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, if I am not mistaken—is constantly interrupting me, however. I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to ask him to treat me with the same respect.

As I was saying, theirs was the generation that survived the Depression, went to war to protect our liberty and built the Canada and Quebec we know today.

To address their evolving needs, this government makes significant investments across a full range of seniors' programs, from health care to income security, from retirement savings to assistance for their caregivers. We currently spend about $67 billion a year on seniors-related programs.

Seniors, particularly those with lower income, are a top priority. We believe that Canada's poorest seniors deserve a better quality of life and more money in their pockets. That is why we are addressing the immediate needs of low income seniors by increasing the guaranteed income supplement by 7%.

It is the GIS that provides low-income seniors with a fully-indexed benefit to ensure a basic level of income throughout their retirement years.

We will invest $2.7 billion, and the promised improvements will be fully in place in less than two years. The GIS will go up by more than $400 a year for a single senior and by almost $700 for a couple. Over 1.6 million seniors will benefit from the increase—most of them women.

This increase represents the biggest income hike in a generation for Canadian seniors who need it the most.

In Quebec, about one million seniors benefit from Canada's retirement income system. Half of them are low-income seniors who receive the guaranteed income supplement.

Through Social Development Canada's outreach program, the government is helping Quebec seniors, particularly those with low incomes, become more aware of all the benefits they are entitled to.

Let me give you an example from the northern part of the province. In northern Quebec, many seniors live in small, isolated communities, posing a particular challenge to the outreach team. That is why outreach has forged a strong partnership with the regional government of Kativik. This aboriginal government oversees 14 communities from the Kuujjuag region of northern Quebec. The government's local employment officers are helping the most vulnerable citizens of this remote region apply for benefits.

By working closely with the regional government, the outreach team is helping to overcome the barriers presented by geography and, more importantly, to establish trust.

Over the past year, our outreach efforts have also focused on working with community groups. Our goal is to partner with these groups to contact Quebec seniors where they live, where they play, and where they work because there are seniors who do work even if it is just a day a month or part time.

By working with a growing team of partners, Outreach has been able to take advantage of the “multiplier effect” and reach many more seniors than it could on its own. Partners include the Fédération de l'âge d'or du Québec, the farm women's clubs and women's centres.

Let me give you another prime example of partnership in action. Outreach has teamed up with Quebec's vocational training centres to reach the most vulnerable seniors right in their own homes.

Under this program, we are training caseworkers to understand our programs, particularly the guaranteed income supplement. Remember, these caseworkers are in direct contact with our poorest seniors, visiting them in their homes and developing close, trusting ties. They are quickly becoming one of our greatest allies in boosting awareness of our benefit programs.

To date, Outreach has conducted training sessions with 25 vocational training centres, sending more than 450 caseworkers into the field and reaching more than 4,500 seniors at home. Its success is growing as it develops new sessions to target more aboriginal communities.

The Government of Canada, through this outreach program, is making every effort to reach the seniors who may qualify for the GIS and encourage them to apply.

Through the Outreach program, the Government of Canada is making every effort to reach the seniors who may qualify for the guaranteed income supplement and encouraging them to apply.

We are also reaching out to Quebec's ethnic communities—through ethnic associations and community newspapers—to find seniors who may have fallen through the cracks. We are even taking to the airwaves, on the TV show La Belle Vie , to broadcast details of seniors' benefits across the province.

Since 2002, over 75,000 letters and personalized application forms have gone to seniors throughout Quebec, to inform them about the availability of the guaranteed income supplement. This has resulted in almost 50,000 new GIS recipients.

The federal government will continue to inform Quebec seniors of their rights to collect the GIS by attending seniors fairs and functions. What is more, we have been simplifying and will continue to simplify our application forms to make it easier for seniors to fill it out or to get help to fill it out to receive the supplement if they qualify. We want all seniors to get the benefits to which they are entitled. We all want the best quality of life for our seniors.

The Government of Canada is ensuring the necessary supports are in place, so that all seniors can live with respect and dignity. Providing seniors with income assistance is just one of the ways this government is working to strengthen Canada's social foundation.

For all these reasons and more, I cannot support Bill C-301.

If passed into law, the bill would bog down Canada's retirement income system in reams of red tape. It would create an undue burden on the system, from both a fiscal and technical perspective. And without the checks and balances found in the current application process, it would lead to increased fraud and abuse.

With respect to retroactivity, I think it is more important that this program be totally consistent with existing provincial income supplementation programs. On the issue of retroactivity for one year, there is no discrepancy between this program and the provincial programs, which are income supplementation, security or support programs.

The Bloc Québécois contends that one year retroactivity is shameful. I would like them to tell me when they made the same remark to the Government of Quebec.

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Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Betty Hinton Kamloops—Thompson, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-301, an act to amend the Old Age Security Act, monthly guaranteed income supplement.

At the beginning I would like to make it very clear I have some serious reservations about some of the things that have been happening lately. The Liberals claim that spending outlined in the supplementary estimates will be lost if an election is called before Parliament is able to pass the supply bill. Examples of the spending cited by the Liberals include a pay raise for the military and the increase in the guaranteed income supplement.

I would like to make it very clear for all seniors that this is not the case. This is not true. They will not lose the guaranteed income supplement. The money was voted on by Parliament early last summer as part of Bill C-43, the budget implementation act. It never needs to be voted on again. Rest assured, this will take place for every senior in Canada, regardless of the rhetoric they may hear due to a pending election.

The bill before us today amends the Old Age Security Act to allow eligible pensioners to receive a monthly guaranteed income supplement without having to make an application every year. It also repeals the restrictions respecting retroactivity. I applaud any legislation that enhances the quality of life for Canada's seniors. The intent of Bill C-301 does this. Although a few details require a review, I am quite prepared to support the intent of the legislation and look forward to it being discussed in committee.

Amending the Old Age Security Act to ensure eligible pensioners receive their monthly guaranteed income supplement is something that should have been done a long time ago, but it was not. Therefore, let us get moving forward with this and make it happen.

We continually see the Liberal government making every attempt to extract every last nickel from Canadian taxpayers. A perfect example is the attempt to freeze income trusts and the resulting uncertainty for investors. This uncertainty has cost seniors money that they are dependent upon. These responsible seniors have invested in money for their retirement years and the government cannot stand not having its hands in their pocket. Liberals feel they are entitled to a portion of the pie. They are not and they should be ashamed of itself.

Canadian seniors now live in fear that their nest eggs will be eroded by the government's indecisiveness on income trusts. Because the government has cast a shroud of uncertainty over them, Canadian seniors deserve to see this bill go forward for further study. There must be some degree of certainty for seniors.

Seniors and low income families are facing unprecedented hikes in home heating costs this winter and it is incumbent upon the government to mitigate these increases as much as possible. While Bill C-66 seeks to do this, we all know what happened in a similar circumstance five years ago when deceased persons and prisoners received cheques while many in desperate need received nothing.

Under Bill C-66, single seniors must be receiving the guaranteed income supplement to get their paltry $125 in assistance. I would suggest that very few seniors are aware of this fact and are expecting this assistance from government. Imagine their disappointment when they discover, because they did not fill out a form to receive GIS, that they will not receive any assistance.

This brings me to another point. It has been reported that between 300,000 and 380,000 eligible seniors do not receive the guaranteed income supplement because they do not know if they are eligible for it. Why is this? Many do not understand the eligibility requirements. Nor do they understand they must apply for it annually.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “guarantee” as “a formal assurance that certain conditions will be fulfilled”. There is no guarantee that they will receive the supplement. There is no guarantee that they will receive the home heating rebate. The only guarantee seniors have is the incessant paper work required to get what is rightfully theirs.

As shadow minister for veterans affairs, I know all too well the hoops that veterans are required to jump through to get a disability pension or any of the benefits to which they are entitled.

Imagine having the double whammy of being a veteran and a senior, and trying to deal with the bureaucratic quagmire to get even the smallest bit of assistance? Instead of enjoying their retirement in dignity and comfort, many Canadian seniors are struggling to meet the most basic of life's needs.

It is incumbent upon us as a nation to ensure that those who helped build this nation live out their lives in relative comfort. Neglecting to ensure that seniors eligible for the GIS are receiving it has other repercussions as well. They are also losing out on the programs offered by many provinces, such as prescription drug plans, other income supplements, heating oil subsidies, and home care assistance programs that are available only to individuals receiving GIS. This is unacceptable.

It has a trickle down effect. When eligible Canadian seniors do not receive their guaranteed income supplement for whatever reason, they also lose out on other services that are essential to their quality of life.

This legislation would enable automatic processing of the guaranteed income supplement based on information from the Department of National Revenue, thus ensuring eligible pensioners receive their monthly GIS and without the annual application. I support this measure without question.

There are other aspects of this bill that require and deserve further investigation. With respect to the retroactivity, we need to look at how far back this would go, who it should apply to, and how it will be implemented. They are all important questions that need to be studied and this can be done best at committee.

I would like very much to see this bill go to committee, so it can be carefully examined and given the detail it needs. We need to ensure that it is a strong and viable piece of legislation that endures the test of time, as have our seniors. They deserve no less.

I am certain this legislation can be reinforced and strengthened for the benefit of our seniors. The need is unquestionable. As the Conservative critic for veterans affairs, I have consulted with seniors across Canada and can say unarguably that there is a broad consensus from coast to coast to coast that seniors need to automatically receive any and all benefits as they become eligible.

Let us not deny seniors their rights. I ask that we as elected representatives do what is right and necessary to ensure that those individuals who helped build this nation receive what is rightfully theirs.

For clarification, I will repeat my earlier statement. There is no need for any senior citizen to worry about the loss of GIS income if an election were to proceed. Those are scare tactics that are being used in a very unconscionable way against one of the most vulnerable groups of Canadians in this country. This money was voted on by Parliament early last summer as part of Bill C-43, the Budget Implementation Act. It never needs to be voted on again and it is assured for the seniors of Canada.

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Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-301 as put forward by my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain.

I want to begin by recognizing and paying tribute to the dedication and commitment that my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain has shown to this issue. He has been tireless and has not given up in the face of adversity. Where many would have tired from running into the brick wall, he has persisted, and I appreciate him giving us this opportunity to have this debate today.

As the member for Winnipeg Centre, I also want to recognize and pay tribute to a former member from my riding of Winnipeg Centre, who we can safely call the father of the Canadian pension system. In 1925 the member for Winnipeg Centre, J.S. Woodsworth, was the founder and first leader of my party, then called the CCF. In fact, in those days it was called the Independent Labour Party.

J.S. Woodsworth was in a minority government situation with William Lyon Mackenzie King. In exchange for supporting Mackenzie King's government, he obtained a letter to the effect that to get the Independent Labour Party's votes, Mackenzie King would bring in an old age pension plan.

It is ironic that only a few years before this, the Government of Canada wanted to send J.S. Woodsworth to prison for his role as a leader of the 1919 Winnipeg general strike. However, in 1921 the good people of my riding sent him to Ottawa to be their member of Parliament, and within four years he had negotiated a pension plan for Canadians.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention another member who represented the riding of Winnipeg Centre from 1942 to 1984. That was Stanley Knowles, who many people will recognize not only built on the work J.S. Woodsworth had done but had the Canada pension plan indexed so it would grow with inflation.

The people of Winnipeg Centre are very cognizant of who was the champion of their pension system. I think they would appreciate, in the twilight days of the 38th Parliament, that we are again seized of the issue of old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, thanks to my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain.

The government has known for years that 380,000 seniors who were eligible for the guaranteed income supplement were not getting it because they never applied. It knows this because of income tax records. It has known full well who these individuals were and even how much they were eligible for, but it never told them.

When we learned this, partly through the research of my colleague, we were shocked. These are the poorest of the poor. To be eligible for the guaranteed income supplement, one's income has to be around $12,000 a year. That is to get the full income supplement. These are desperately poor seniors.

The excuse the government gave was it would be a violation of their privacy rights for Revenue Canada to inform HRSD that certain individuals were eligible for the plan. What an absurd notion that anyone would complain the government misused privileged information in order to give seniors a benefit.

A glaring contradiction exists. If people collecting employment insurance cross the border, the border crossing officer tells EI that these people are leaving the country and the individual should not be because they are collecting benefits. Therefore, the government does not mind violating a person's privacy to rat them out, but it will not violate a person's privacy to give them a benefit. That was absurd. I reject that position and I condemn the government for that position.

Now we have heard the parliamentary secretary, a Liberal from Montreal, say that one of the reasons the government does not want to provide the retroactivity that is called for in Bill C-301 is because the government is worried about opening the floodgates to fraud. Are the Liberals serious? Are they seriously trying to maintain that it is a bad idea to give seniors money that is rightfully theirs because they are worried about fraudulent activity?

These are desperately poor Canadian seniors. If that is the barrier, let me dismiss that out of hand immediately. The government should go back to the drawing board to try to come up with a more credible excuse because that one is spurious.

I do not think we should be having this debate today. I believe the two things that are called for by my colleague's bill are eminently justifiable. The first thing is that eligibility should be based on one's income, not on whether or not the proper paperwork has been filled out. In other words, the guaranteed annual income supplement should be guaranteed, not subject to crossing the right t 's and dotting the right i 's. That is the first point my colleague makes.

The second point he makes is retroactivity. In those cases where people come to the realization that they have been eligible for the guaranteed income supplement for a number of years and, for whatever reason, failed to apply, that benefit should be retroactive to the date they became eligible, not 11 months as stipulated under the Old Age Security Act. It may be three years or five years, who cares? We should give them what they are owed.

Members can just imagine what a difference that would make in a senior's life. Let us think of the constituents we are talking about here, the poorest of the poor of our Canadian seniors, the people the social safety net has left behind. Imagine that small influx of money. It may be $20,000 or $30,000 in some cases, if the retroactivity went a few years. It is not a huge amount of money but it would improve the quality of life for those seniors in their remaining years. It would seem like a windfall to them and it would not break the bank of the federal government, as my colleague, the Liberal member from Lachine, would have us believe.

Let us go through the barriers thrown up by the Liberal government in trying to argue against these eminently good ideas.

First are the privacy provisions. I put it to members that any senior who was eligible for a benefit and was not getting it would thank someone for informing the officials that they were eligible and would not be filing any complaints with the Privacy Commissioner that somebody violated their right to privacy.

In terms of worrying about fraud, I do not even think that deserves my time here. Eligible seniors would come forward and make it known that they were making application for this benefit and the government should deal with it as any other eligibility for a government program.

The last thing concerns the retroactivity being an undue burden on the federal government. We have just learned it has a $13.5 billion surplus. Liberals are flying around the country as we speak in a spending spree that is hitherto unprecedented in this country. A Roman orgy of spending is going on as we speak. Am I being told that we cannot find enough money to provide for the basic needs of seniors to survive, to pay them the money that was owed to them, money that, by trickery and deceit, was kept away from them?

I do not say that to be romantic or to use exaggerated language. It was by deceit that these people were denied the benefits to which they were entitled. I can defend the use of that language because the Government of Canada knew who they were, and has known for years that they were eligible, and failed to tell them. If there is any fraud taking place here it is on the part of the Government of Canada for not doing the right thing for the senior citizens who were eligible for this benefit.

I am glad we are using this day, maybe one of the last sitting days of this 38th Parliament, to do something to augment the quality of life and the standard of living of our seniors. I compliment my colleague from Saint-Maurice--Champlain for bringing it forward. I will be voting with enthusiasm for this bill and out of respect for those who came before me representing the riding of Winnipeg Centre.

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Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been looking at this matter in considerable detail for some time.

I would like to first of all assure the public that the Government of Canada shares this objective and is taking the necessary steps to ensure that Canadian seniors receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

Like most, if not all, Canadians, the members of my party believe we need to show our gratitude to the seniors in our communities for all they have contributed through the years, which has made Canada the great country it has become.

I can also assure my colleagues that seniors, low-income seniors in particular, are a priority of this government. We are, for instance, well aware of the commitment of the Minister of Labour and Housing, who has worked so hard to improve the RRAP program and other similar programs to ensure that seniors may remain in their homes as long as possible. We are very much aware of this.

I have just heard an NDP member say that people ought to be able to receive benefits even if they have not applied for them. Nothing could be more ridiculous. Anyone who has worked on similar cases in his or her riding must know that sometimes seniors are in receipt of a lump sum payment at some point during the year.

This may be a source of income they were not expecting, and could be any amount that improves their quality of life: a new pension or a new benefit to which they were not entitled earlier. This will, of course, disqualify them.

When it comes time to apply at the end of the year, they do not do so, because they know their income was higher in the current year. That is why many people do not apply.

We cannot say this happens in every case where a person has forgotten to apply for the supplement. That is ridiculous. Both cases certainly exist. However, to claim that no one's income changes throughout the year, as the hon. member who just spoke suggests, is absurd. Things can change. My income is about to change if the government falls.

That said, the Guaranteed Income Supplement for people of low income will help meet their immediate needs, if they apply for the supplement, of course.

Every year in my riding, I send a mailing to my constituents. We arrange information sessions and help people fill out their forms. Nonetheless, some people are forgotten and we know that. However, we are working on increasing the number of people wanting to apply for benefits. I think we have succeeded in many cases.

In his bill, the hon. member is asking for an element of retroactivity. On the eve of an election it is easy to want to give money retroactively to large groups of the public. Far be it from me to attribute motives. However, if my colleagues opposite think about the interests of seniors as often as they say they do, then I invite them to come up with another option.

In a few days, they will get ready—I hope not—to trigger a mid-winter election. Some 750,000 Canadians, mostly seniors, will be out of the country and practically all of them will therefore lose their right to vote.

These same hon. members are telling us today that they have seniors' interests at heart. I am not running in the next election. I would not want to lose my right to vote because I happened to be out of the country. Of course this could be a theoretical right. For instance, a person might live in Daytona Beach in the winter. We are told they can go to Miami to vote—the distance from Daytona Beach to Miami is the same as Quebec City to Windsor—and that that is reasonable, but what happens to these 750,000 Canadians does not matter.

I suggest that people should think about it, because this is about to happen.

Apparently, this bill is an effort to help. While not knowing everything, I do know a thing or two about parliamentary procedure. Everyone knows that this kind of bill requires a royal recommendation. This bill will not even reach third reading. I challenge hon. members to find one person knowledgeable in parliamentary law who can tell me otherwise. It cannot be done. A royal recommendation is required, and the member knows it. In fact, the bill's title is in italics, indicating that it cannot be passed at third reading.

Claims are being made to want to help, when it cannot be done. Next week, we will be forced to vote, knowing that it is pointless. The bill cannot be passed because it cannot get a royal recommendation. Such is parliamentary law. This is not my invention. The Constitution was written quite a while ago, and the British parliamentary law that we are familiar with applies. No one even considered amending the Constitution to change that. It is the prerogative of the Crown, the governor in council, which means the government, and no one else.

Even as a member supporting the government, I cannot propose that measure myself. I am a member of the Privy Council, but that does not allow me to do it, either. A royal recommendation is required. It is therefore up to cabinet to adopt a royal recommendation, and that is then submitted to the House. This is not a private member's bill from the opposition that can go to third reading. We all agree on that.

Some may claim today that we will get this bill passed. They can try to convince the public of that, but the reality is far different. There are some 10 or 12 bills like this on the order paper. They are all bills that cannot be considered at third reading. Everyone in this House is getting riled up about getting this bill passed, saying that if a critical mass of MPs votes in favour it will be passed. Really now. We know very well that the Speaker would rise at third reading stage to say, “I regret to inform the House that the motion, lacking royal recommendation, cannot be put to a vote”. That is more or less what you would have to say at that point, Mr. Speaker. Not that I want to put words in your mouth, but I have some idea of how the procedure works.

So, whatever claims are made, there is a difference between wanting a bill to be passed, saying it will be passed, and actually doing it. Hon. members know the difference. If they really want to take concrete action. let them stop trying to deprive our seniors of their right to vote, as the NDP, the Bloc and the Conservatives may be plotting together to do.

What amazes me about this is the support of the Conservatives. It is all very well for the other parties to say that seniors never vote for them any way, whether in the dead of winter or not, so they are not particularly bothered. That is one thing, and I can, unfortunately, almost understand that reasoning. Not completely, however, because I feel a voter must never be deprived of his right to cast a vote, even if he does not vote for us. What I do not understand at all, however, is the Conservative Party's willingness to be a party to this. I have the impression that the ones who will pay the price for this will, in fact, be the Conservatives over there.

There can be no division at third reading on the bill we have before us. I am sure of that, because there is no royal recommendation.

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Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The mover of the motion now has the floor for five minutes to reply and end the debate.

The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.

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Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too, like the member speaking before me, am probably making my last speech. I am familiar enough with the standing orders for having sat in and chaired the Quebec National Assembly and been a member here since 2000. The arguments the government has raised will not convince seniors that it cannot give them back their money. That is very clear.

I am not asking for new money, but rather what belongs to them. This bill was not introduced last week. It has been before Parliament for over a year. If this is in fact my last speech, I will have the great pleasure of telling seniors that I at least got this far. With the help of the NDP and the Conservatives, we could give them the $3 billion taken from them. It was not perhaps done on purpose. However, the people the other members working on this and I met were well aware of the fact that it was for those who had not been informed that we were calling for the reimbursement.

Jane Stewart, the minister at the time, acknowledged the situation, improved it and provided more information. She told me, however, that it was impossible for her to pay the people back retroactively. Why? If I owe the government money, how is it that it can claim the money from me retroactively as far back as five or ten years and make me pay a penalty? That is perfectly legal. It is a whole different matter, however, when seniors, living in miserable conditions I can attest to, forgot it or were not told of it and realized five years later that they had been owed money for five years.

The government did not want to be robbed, but seniors are not robbers. Without saying where they are to be found, I will say the robbers are readily recognizable. These people are not robbers. They simply lacked information. In fact, we were put onto the trail by a Toronto journalist. It was not even our idea. He discovered that a number of seniors were short of money, when there was money here in Parliament that belonged to them. This money was wasted. Look at the sponsorship scandal. We can see where the money went. It was wasted. You should be ashamed.

When they say that—

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Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. I want to remind the hon. member that he must address the Speaker of the House. I do not think he is suggesting that I should be ashamed of anything.

I give the floor back to the hon. member.

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Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that you are not ashamed and I am not ashamed of you. I will speak to you directly, but about people I am not proud of.

They are bragging that of the $3.2 billion, they will be giving out $2.7 billion over the next five years. By then, those to whom the money is owed will be gone. The government will say it was being generous to give out $2.7 billion of the $3 billion that did not belong to it in the first place. Perhaps, since the government is so generous, it will throw in a bouquet of flowers and an apple turnover. And then brag about. I think this is very sad.

There is a story I have told many times and I will close by telling it again, since it illustrates the situation well. A woman, 88 years old, from Sherbrooke had 8 or 10 children. She lived out her golden years on $6,000 a year. At the time of her death she was owed $90,000. The government says that a backlog of paperwork is preventing it from handing out the money. That is why that woman from Sherbrooke did not get her money. I find that very sad.

If this is indeed my last speech, I want to address seniors. Please, watch your government more closely, stop being had, and look out for your own interests because the government here in Ottawa is not doing so.

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Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

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Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

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Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker(Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, a recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 23, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:18 p.m.)