House of Commons Hansard #154 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cultural.

Topics

The House resumed from November 17 consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion by the Leader of the NDP concerning supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Supply
Government Orders

7 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, if anything demonstrates the reason why the current government has lost the moral capacity to govern and why it cannot be trusted by the Canadian people in general and, more specific, the men and women in uniform who are members of Canada's armed forces, it has to be the government's record when it comes to military procurement and, more specifically, helicopters.

At the time I posed the question to the Minister of National Defence, military families were waiting for the public release of the final report on Rescue 420, the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of two Canadian Forces pilots, Captain Colin Sonoski and Captain Juli-Ann Mackenzie. They died in a helicopter crash on July 18, 2002, returning from a search and rescue mission in central Labrador at the controls of a C-146 Griffon helicopter.

My concerns were heightened by the fact that as a consequence of the unreliability of the CH-149 Cormorant helicopter, due to the premature wear of certain parts causing their breakdown, Griffon helicopters were being used to replace the Cormorants in search and rescue operations.

There is continuing concern that the additional stress, which search and rescue operations put on the components of a helicopter not intended to be used in search and rescue operations, will result in the deaths of more pilots.

The Liberal Party was made aware years before the tragic accident that claimed the lives of two Canadian pilots that the search and rescue role was inappropriate for the Griffon helicopter, since it was not outfitted for that role. It is a testament to the skills of the soldiers who administer the airworthiness program for Canadian aircraft that there have been as few deaths as there have been.

The risk management process for the safety of equipment should never have been politicized the way helicopter procurement has been politicized in the country. My concern is for the safety of the pilots.

The 412 Bell Commercial helicopter, which is what the CH-146 Griffon helicopter is patterned on, is in use with 1,800 of these helicopters in service worldwide with over 15 million hours of accumulated flight time. It is important to explain to Canadians that the Bell 412 helicopter can be purchased in a search and rescue configuration, certified by the FAA for that role.

What should have occurred when the Bell Model 412 HP was purchased, was when the political decision was made by the Prime Minister, as Chrétien's finance minister, to cancel the EH-101 search and rescue helicopter contract, the search and rescue version of the Bell 412 should have been added or substituted in the original order for 100 helicopters.

This we know was not done. Now the Liberal Party must be held accountable for the deaths of air force pilots who have lost their lives as a consequence of the political decision to cancel the search and rescue helicopter contract for the worst of reasons, political expediency.

There is no way the Prime Minister would not have known the consequences of cancelling the contract to purchase the search and rescue helicopters. There was a financial cost of over $800 million of taxpayer money and a human cost in the lives lost, which is still being paid today.

This issue is very important to all Canadians. As a result of Liberal Party political interference in the military procurement process, the helicopters that are in use today are ill-suited to the demands being placed on them.

Since that decision was made by the Chrétien government and his finance minister to play politics with helicopter purchases, pilots have lost their lives. More pilots will lose their lives until the government stops playing politics with our military. Lives will continue to be at risk as a consequence.

I understand the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority could provide no analysis of the safety of the Bell 412 helicopter in use by the Canadian military due to the extensive modifications made to suit the military roles of the helicopter in Canada. The difference is the extreme usage of this helicopter in military applications in Canada as opposed to the way this helicopter is used in the commercial applications, for which it was intended, accounting for the problems that have been experienced by the Griffon fleet.

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government and all members, our hearts go out to the families of those CF members who died in the tragic Griffon helicopter accident.

However what the member is doing is shamelessly using this as a political tool. I will talk about the facts.

The Canadian Forces search and rescue system operates several types of aircraft on nine different bases in Canada. The Cormorant helicopter, which was acquired in 2002, the Buffalo and the Hercules serve as our primary search and rescue aircraft. However the Sea King and the Griffon are used in search and rescue as well.

The Griffon fleet is comprised of 86 helicopters that were purchased between 1995 and 1997. They have served the Canadian Forces very well here at home and all over the world. They perform a wide range of functions, including troop transport, casualty evacuation, surveillance, reconnaissance and, yes, search and rescue.

In addition to the capabilities offered by the Cormorant, the Hercules and the Buffalo, we use the Griffon to assist the Canadian Forces to provide a robust search and rescue capability across the country. The Griffons provide this valuable service, along with the brave men and women who operate those helicopters.

The Griffons and their crews are equipped and trained for search and rescue. I want to emphasize that under no circumstances would the air force deploy any aircraft in any type of mission that would put the members of our forces in harm's way or in any danger. We will not put choppers in the air if, in any way shape or form, we thought they would compromise the safety and capabilities of our forces and neither would the air force.

The 2002 Griffon crash occurred, and helicopters do sometimes crash, but we engaged in a long investigation of that. The recommendations from the investigation have been adopted by the forces and are being used in the private sector and by other countries. These include several preventative measures that were proposed by the flight safety investigation, including changing the tail rotor inspections and increasing their frequency. We are also looking at strengthening what is already a rigorous examination process.

The Griffon, along with all of our Canadian Forces aircraft, is subject to thorough examination before each mission. State of the art maintenance equipment is used and combined with a thorough inspection process.

The Griffon is a safe helicopter. The member across the way should be feeling very shameful at using this particular tragedy for political purposes.

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the experience for the commercial pilots of the Bell model 412 helicopter is different than the experience that our pilots have.

The federal government has in the past been warned about the problems of taking an untested, off the shelf commercial helicopter and using it in ways that it was not tested to operate.

In the 1998 report of the Auditor General into the purchase of major capital equipment for Canada's military, the Auditor General was particularly critical of projects that were fast tracked or sole sourced, such as the Griffon helicopter. He observed that when the procurement process was fast tracked or sole sourced important tasks and evaluation steps were often not completed and problems were only discovered after a particular piece of equipment had been put into service.

This problem was made worse by the cancellation of the EH-101 search and rescue helicopter. If only the government would have acted on the recommendations of the Auditor General then.

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have 86 Griffons that are being used across the country. After this tragedy took place we did a thorough investigation. I know for a fact that those findings were shared privately with the families at their homes so they would understand what took place in this tragedy before any of this was made public. They were involved in the process and found out the information before anything went out.

Those recommendations have been implemented by the forces. They have been shared with other countries and with the private sector and they are being adopted.

Involvement and engaging in search and rescue activities is a dangerous activity. Our job is to ensure our forces have the equipment to do the job and that the equipment is safe for them. We ensure that and the air force ensures that too. I want all Canadians to understand that we will not send our troops out in unsafe helicopters.

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, almost a decade ago the government made a decision to deny compensation for hepatitis C victims from tainted blood outside the pre-1986-1990 window. This decision of the government has caused a great deal of grief. It had been shown years ago that the government had made the wrong decision to the Krever inquiry, yet despite numerous pleas, the government steadfastly stuck by its decision to deny these victims their proper compensation.

Since then the Conservative Party has fought very hard to ensure that these victims are provided with a voice to ensure that they will be compensated, as it is the right thing to do. In the short time that I have been the health critic for the Conservative Party, we have been trying to force the government to compensate these victims. However, all we get back is delay and rhetoric.

The first question I asked in the House was on hepatitis C. That was over a year ago. I asked a question several weeks ago on hepatitis C and when compensation would come. I still get nothing but rhetoric and delay.

A motion was brought forward by the Conservative Party insisting that these victims should be compensated immediately. That motion passed. Here we are many months later and the victims still have not been compensated.

We understand there is a memo of understanding between some victims and the government regarding a compensation package, but these people still have not been compensated. Is it not interesting that this memo of understanding occurs on the eve of a federal election.

The minister said recently that compensation for these victims is the right thing to do. Then why has it taken 10 years for the government to realize this fact? Why has the government denied these people the compensation, in spite of numerous legal arguments and inquiries that insist that these people deserve compensation?

The fact is the government is not only corrupt, it is also callous and uncompassionate.

I ask the parliamentary secretary, will these victims outside the window be compensated fairly and equally? Will the government apologize, say it is sorry for the untold suffering that it has caused these victims and their families?

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, on November 22, 2004, the Minister of Health announced that the Government of Canada was giving a mandate to its negotiators to discuss all available options for financial compensation to those infected with hepatitis C through the blood system before 1986 and post-1990.

Discussions have now advanced to a point at which finalization of a settlement is dependent upon both sides obtaining additional information as to the current size of the class and the likely progression of the disease in the class. It is expected that the process of obtaining the necessary information and conducting the negotiations will require a minimum of several months.

To begin to gather this information, a letter has been sent from the pre-1986, post-1990 class counsel to the class, seeking consent to obtain medical information to inform the negotiations. It is important to note that the letter written by the counsel states that “all parties involved are committed to dealing with this issue as quickly as possible”.

I understand the impatience being expressed about the pace of discussions; however, both parties in the discussions agree that we are doing our utmost to resolve some very complex issues as quickly as possible. The federal government has consistently maintained that compensation can only be made once the appropriate information is available.

While the necessary information is being gathered, it is important to note that progress has been made at the negotiating table. I am pleased to report that both parties have entered into a memorandum of understanding, committing the federal government to compensate the class with the amounts and categories of compensation to be negotiated in the coming months.

It is important to note that the MOU was signed by the government and the pre-1986, post-1990 class counsel and represents a consensus as to what steps need to be taken. We are working together in good faith and we both agree on what needs to happen in order for a compensation package to be reached.

The memorandum of understanding sends a clear signal about the federal government's commitment to provide compensation. A settlement is not dependent upon a surplus in the 1986-1990 settlement fund. The federal government recognizes that there are people awaiting an outcome and is committed, along with class counsel, to conclude the discussions as soon as the appropriate information is available.

The Government of Canada has taken the important step of committing to compensate the class. We must now let legal counsel for both sides gather the necessary information to build a settlement. We are working with the pre-1986, post-1990 class counsel in good faith to reach a successful conclusion that takes into account the actual and legal circumstances of the claimants.

We are taking the necessary steps to explore all available options for compensation and we should let the participants in the negotiations continue their hard work on this difficult issue. We understand that there are individuals and families involved who are awaiting an outcome. It is the right and responsible approach to let the discussions proceed as quickly as possible toward a satisfactory outcome.

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, what I just heard is outrageous. There is no apology and the victims have no compensation. The parliamentary secretary has the nerve to stand up and say now that compensation is not contingent on an actuarial surplus. The Conservative Party agrees with that. We have been saying that all along, but the Liberal Party has been hiding behind that defence for years.

I think the fact that there are people in the Liberal cabinet today who were in the cabinet 10 years ago and made the bad decision in the first place has a lot to do with the fact that these people are not being compensated. They are not being compensated because of internal Liberal politics. Any commitment is completely disingenuous.

Will the parliamentary secretary and the government apologize to the victims and compensate them immediately?

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the House and refresh the memory of the member that his motion, presented at the finance committee, referred to the fund and linked compensation to the surplus in the fund. The government, from the outset, said that it would look at all available options for compensation.

Second, on the question that the compensation is not there now, I remember that when the government changed in 1993 we had huge deficits. I have been a member of a province under a Conservative government that accumulated huge deficits. As for thinking that we would compensate without a process, without knowing how much, I do not know how the member would suggest we do that. Perhaps in true Conservative fiscal management we would send a cheque to everybody in Canada and have them fill in the amount they think is right, if they think they are members of that class. If they do not, of course they would return them to us.

We could compensate that way or we could choose the way that we have: entering into an agreement with the claimants and obtaining all the relevant and pertinent information that gives the proper compensation to the claimants and has due respect for the taxpayers of our country.

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Independent

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to indicate for clarity to those listening that the question that I have for the late show today is in regard to a question that I put to the government on October 20. This was the question as I put it:

Mr. Speaker, education is critical to improving the social and economic strength of first nations people. The community of St.Theresa Point has over 700 nursery to grade eight students attending school in trailers and satellite rooms that were supposed to be temporary. They have no gym, no library and no playground. Indian Affairs says it will start design planning in 2009 for a new school. In the next five years 500 more children will reach school age. Would the minister and the Liberal government accept their children receiving their education under these conditions?

I was absolutely appalled at the answer I received from the government. The government indicated that it spends millions of dollars for first nations. Fair enough. There is no question that millions of dollars are being spent. The reality is that there is still a huge need within first nation communities considering the situation we have seen in Kashechewan and numerous other communities throughout the country.

The reason that need is there is the fact that for years there have been shortfalls and no proper funding provided by the government. The government has provided no accountability. I am not suggesting that it was first nations who were at fault. I firmly believe that in the cases I am dealing with that is not the case.

I put a question on the order paper asking for the capital funds that had been spent in first nation communities in my riding over the last 10 years. I was astounded when I received the figures. What really jumped out at me was the great disparity among first nation communities. There seemed to be no set reasoning as to how the funding would be done in the communities.

What upset me was that we could have a situation with 700 students in portables and yet the government was not looking at putting in a school until 2009, and that is only the design plan. We all know it takes two or three years after the design plan to get a school in place.

What upset me the most was looking at the 10 year fund. I am not denying any community the right to have a beautiful new school. I am not denying any community the right to have a school that it probably needs. What jumped out at me was the fact that in 2000-01, $86,812,000 was spent in the Churchill riding. The next year 2001-02, the year after the election, $61,956,000 was spent. That amount then increased again tremendously over the next three years, but it went to the Liberal candidates home community.

I do not deny that this community needed a new school. However, when a community has 700 students in portables, how does the government justify putting $38 million toward a new school in another community that already had a school? Granted, the community needed a new school, but a priority factor came into play. It was also the fact that $15 million had been cut from the budget to put additional facilities into our riding.

When I hear of the situation in Saugeen First Nation where the government representative absconded with money that should have been there for first nations, I begin to question the accountability of the federal government in these communities. I also question its commitment to first nations people. It is not acceptable to play one community off against the other.

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, the member has put forth a number of very good questions. I commend her for continuing her work for her constituents, which she has always done well.

I am pleased to take this opportunity to talk specifically about the government's commitment to first nations education, which was the major part of the member's question.

I want to point out that the department is aware of the situation in St. Theresa Point and is actively looking at a sustainable long term solution to this issue.

I would like to describe a few of the promising changes under way in Canada with respect to aboriginal education,but before I do I should point out the ongoing commitment of the government to improve educational outcomes for the first nations, Inuit and Métis people of Canada through a series of steps which began some 18 months ago.

To my mind, the best leaders are those who challenge the status quo. When he took office, the Prime Minister vowed to improve the often miserable and unhealthy conditions experienced by far too many aboriginal people in Canada. It was a promise heard many times before, yet it was often abandoned when budgets were tightened and political will evaporated.

This time, though, the Prime Minister followed through on his commitment. He began with a series of changes to the highest echelons of government, all devoted to aboriginal affairs. The government then did something that had never been done before. Aboriginal groups were invited to help devise and implement government policy. For the first time in history, aboriginal people in Canada would participate in a major drafting of the urgent policies that directly affect their communities.

The Canada-aboriginal peoples round table began in April 2004, when representatives of aboriginal organizations from across Canada sat down alongside cabinet ministers, senators and officials from the provinces and territories. The meetings were productive and focused. Timetables and performance measures were established. A series of sectoral follow-up sessions began shortly after the round table adjourned. Last May, representatives of five national aboriginal organizations attended a policy retreat with Prime Minister and cabinet.

The next step in the process--securing the support of the provinces and territories--is already under way and will culminate in the first ministers meeting later this week. From the outset of this process, the parties appreciated that they shared a responsibility and needed to seize this unique opportunity to improve the lives of aboriginal people. Everyone responded with honesty, selflessness and passion.

I am convinced the collective will now exists to make such needed improvements in the first nations school system. The collaborative approach to leadership, adopted through the round table process, one that has fostered progress on issues related to housing, economic development and self-government, has also inspired a fresh start on aboriginal education.

Officials from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada are working closely with aboriginal groups and other key partners on a series of transformative changes to aboriginal education. While the Government of Canada has spent more than $1 billion on first nations elementary and secondary education in 2004-05, all parties agree that a sustainable solution to aboriginal education will require more than just money.

The current atmosphere of cooperation and partnership, or collaborative leadership, makes me optimistic about the future for aboriginal education. The parties recognize that they must work together to succeed in making the most of this opportunity. I hope the member will be supportive of global initiatives over the whole aboriginal system and I hope her particular case advances as well.

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

November 21st, 2005 / 7:30 p.m.

Independent

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is no question about it, I do support changes that take place, but the reality, with all due respect to the government and my colleague from the Yukon, is that I listened to the same thing in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005, and heaven forbid, we are going to have a meeting at the end of this week and we will get to hear it again in 2006.

It is not okay to keep mouthing those words and not putting into place concrete action to really make changes in first nation communities. It is not okay to place small first nations communities against large ones because one can get more votes out of the large communities. The majority of first nation communities number less than 500 people. Who will be their voice? Not the Liberal government.

Let me come out and say it. It is not okay just to get votes and put money into this Liberal candidate's riding when there are all these other communities that are struggling so their children can get their educational facilities and have gyms and libraries, the things that a small white community in Canada would not tolerate doing without. It is not okay just to say the words.

Supply
Adjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member was reiterating the point that I made, that this has been said before and nothing happened. As I said in my first four minutes, we had the remarkable and historical meeting, watched by many Canadians, that was attended by leaders of aboriginal associations in Canada. It was the first time in history that we had taken action.

It was not just a meeting for show because we then followed up by breaking into round tables on the high priority issues, education being one of them, as well as economic development and self-government. I know the member is a big supporter of self-government. Aboriginal leaders from across the country, including my riding, sat down and developed solutions on those issues.

All Canadians agree with the member's sentiment, the sentiment of all of us, that much needs to be done to bridge that gap. All Canadians should be very proud of what is happening this week when aboriginal people will put forward their own solutions to federal, territorial and provincial governments who will support those solutions.