House of Commons Hansard #158 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farm.

Topics

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Liberal

Joe McGuire for the Minister of Industry

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this morning to begin the House consideration of Senate amendments to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act.

Bill C-37 would help protect Canadians from unwanted telemarketing phone calls by establishing the legislative framework for the creation of a national do not call list. To achieve this end, the bill would provide the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, with the powers necessary to establish a more effective regime to protect consumers against unsolicited telemarketing, while at the same time protecting their privacy.

Bill C-37 would enable the CRTC to do three fundamental things. First, it would allow the CRTC to impose administrative monetary penalties similar to fines for non-compliance; second, it would allow the CRTC to establish a third party administrator if it so desires to operate a database; and third, it would give the CRTC the ability to set fees to recover the costs associated with maintaining the do not call registry list.

The costs of maintaining such a list would include database maintenance, complaint processing, and investigation and enforcement costs. The CRTC has recommended that a third party administrator should be selected to maintain the national do not call list.

Bill C-37 would amend the Telecommunications Act to allow for a third party administrator and to allow also for cost recovery. It is expected that costs will be recovered from the telemarketing industry itself. Although the precise cost of running such a list will be dependent on the implementation details that will be determined by the CRTC, proven examples from the United States and the United Kingdom demonstrate this to be a straightforward, easily implementable and cost-effective system.

Bill C-37 seeks to balance the wishes of Canadian consumers for privacy and protection from unwanted calls while, at the same time, recognizing the need for legitimate telemarketing companies to conduct their business in a regulatory framework that enables them to do so.

As such, Bill C-37 contains a number of legislative exemptions, including organizations that would be exempted from the national list for calls. These exemptions include: registered charities, companies with existing business relationships with Canadian consumers, and calls from newspapers and from political parties. These exempt organizations would be required to maintain individual do not call lists.

In addition, survey and polling firms will also be exempt from a do not call list and would continue to be allowed to collect the views of every Canadian.

The other place has recommended two fundamental amendments to Bill C-37. The first is that the annual report which the CRTC would file on the operation of the do not call list be tabled by the minister before each House of Parliament. This amendment simply extends the requirement to table an annual report on the operation of the national do not call list to both Houses of Parliament, the House of Commons and the Senate.

The second amendment would allow flexibility in the dollar amounts imposed for infractions for fines of a do not call list. The amendment recommends that the administrative monetary penalty provision be changed from fixed or set amounts of $1,500 per offence for an individual and $15,000 per offence for a corporation to making these amounts the maximum amounts of the fine per offence.

By passing this bill we would enable the CRTC to do its job and to move forward on this issue. The CRTC would undertake further consultations to address issues such as fees and the selection of an administrative organization for the list. The CRTC expects that it would have a national do not call list up and running 19 months after Bill C-37 becomes law.

Bill C-37 requires that after three years a committee of the House of Commons or the Senate or both would be designated to review the administration and the operation of the national do not call list. This means that there would be parliamentary review of the do not call framework once the list has been operational for a little more than just one year. Parliament would at that time be able to consider the effectiveness of the list.

We have heard from Canadians from coast to coast to coast on this issue. The reality is that the inability to control telemarketing continues to be a pervasive source of frustration.

In 2003, Environics conducted a survey on consumer attitudes toward telemarketing. It concluded that 97% of respondents reported a negative reaction to unsolicited calls. Let me repeat that: 97% of respondents reported a negative reaction. Of those, 38% said they merely tolerate the calls, 35% reported being annoyed by them, and 24% said they simply hated receiving them.

Bill C-37 responds to the concerns of Canadians. They are fed up with unwanted, unsolicited telemarketing calls and they want an effective solution.

I will end my remarks with the following. Canadian consumers are overwhelmingly in favour of a national do not call list for controlling unwanted telephone solicitation. Survey results indicate that 79% of respondents support the creation of a national do not call list. Some two-thirds have indicated that they would likely sign up for the do not call list.

The time has come for an effective approach to regulating unsolicited telemarketing, an approach that would benefit both consumers and the telemarketing sector, and striking, I believe, the appropriate balance. I urge all hon. members of this House to pass this bill, as amended by the Senate, to give individual Canadians an easy way to curtail intrusive telemarketing and to protect their privacy.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's speech. At the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology, I worked on this bill for which the desire of parliamentarians from all parties to come up with legislation that reflected the will of the people of Canada and Quebec was obvious.

To that end, we have worked constructively. I think it is important to point that out. We are on the eve of a potential election call, a time that brings the differences between parliamentarians into sharper focus. But there are also times when we successfully work together, when we have a common goal and no special agenda.

Two Senate amendments resulted in this bill coming back to us today. One requests that the report on the operation of the system also be tabled before the Senate. It is already to be tabled before the House. Whatever one might think of the relevance of the Senate, the fact is that, at present, we have two houses. It is understandable that the Senate would want to make sure that it will have an opportunity to see the report on the operation of this legislation, which it has examined and which will be reviewed.

I am more interested in the second amendment, and I have a question to ask the member in this regard. We are talking about mandatory penalties. So, in the initial bill, this offence carried a $1,500 penalty for individuals and a $15,000 penalty for corporations. With this amendment, the Senate is calling for the penalty to be up to those amounts. I do not necessarily intend to vote against the amendment, but I want my colleague to tell me if the regulations will be specific and well-defined. In fact, we must ensure that this does not result in legal wrangling. We must ensure that those fined $1,500, for example, do not appeal that decision, and that this does not lead to a huge legal debate on this issue. As the member described so well and so vividly, the legislation has sought from the start to protect the many people who want to avoid undue calls. This is quite understandable.

This bill seeks to minimize such calls as far as possible, and we have put in place a system to do just that, including a review of the legislation in three years. Is there no way to ensure that there are appropriate benchmarks for the Senate's amendment, which will likely be adopted? Otherwise, we risk setting the stage for legal complications or a legal debate on the amount of the penalties, thus encouraging those who have to hand out the fines not do so because of the problems this could create down the line.

I want to know what my colleague thinks of this.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Bloc Québécois colleague for his preliminary comments. I congratulate him for being here so that we may all work together in this House. That is precisely the objective the government has pursued for the past 18 months. We are trying to maintain a constructive agenda as parliamentarians and as a government. I hope that the vote held on Monday will be in favour of the government so that we may continue to work as colleagues in the House. That remains to be seen.

With respect to the amendment of the Senate that effectively caps to a total of $1,500, for example, for individual offences, far be it from the House to question the wisdom of the Senate with respect to that amendment.

I would probably say that it has more to do with, and perhaps everything to do with, the flexibility that the system will require. Sometimes the best way to start with a major system like a do not call registry is simply to start. Once the system is up and running, we will be in a position to review it, hopefully within a year of its operation, and as the member rightly points out, with mandatory three year reviews built into the act.

I think the balance that has been struck in the registry, which also gives the CRTC the right to hire a third party to create it, will tell us fairly quickly, particularly if it is a private sector third party, how well the fining provisions are actually working. We need to slowly ramp up the system across the country. It will be new. There would be some onus on average citizens who do not want to receive such calls to register themselves on the list. I like the fact that even those exempt parties would be required to maintain a list.

I think that what we are really getting to here, and what my colleague rightly points out, is that there is pretty well unanimous support in the House for some type of system to really deal with the commercial telemarketing problem that we have in the country.

That reminds me, of course, of the famous scene from the comedy Seinfeld , in which Mr. Seinfeld receives a phone call in the middle of his dinner from an unwanted commercial telemarketer. He picks up the phone and says, “I'm sorry, I can't speak to you now but if you give me your number at home, I will call you at dinner hour”. The point is that Canadians are quite intolerant of the system now. I think this actually strikes the right balance. I welcome the Senate amendments.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how the member is going to answer my question because in a way it is a rhetorical question, but in another way it is a very serious question.

Obviously, having hundreds of thousands of names on a list requires considerable administration and a computer system. Members know where I am going with this. The gun registry, which presumably had a list of potentially seven million Canadians and I do not know how many individual firearms because most firearms owners have more than one, cost $2 billion.

I wonder what assurance the government can give us that having a registry is going to be within the fiscal capacity of the people of Canada, who will pay for it. The last thing we want is another computer boondoggle like the gun registry.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting comment from the member of the Conservative Party. I share his concern with respect to the costs when it comes to operationalizing the system.

If he has read and understood the bill, he will know that in fact the costs of maintaining and running the registry list are passed off to non-government actors. Therefore, and first, I think we and the Canadian public should keep in mind the fact that this is a very good balance between a government setting a regime which will regulate and help control the problem, this nuisance, in fact, while at the same time striking the balance in terms of costs.

I think it is very difficult to draw any kind of logical cause and effect relationship between this kind of system and the gun registry and the trials and tribulations in setting up a very difficult system across the country to regulate something as potentially dangerous as unregistered firearms.

To repeat myself, I also like the fact that the CRTC has recommended, and it is possible, that a third party actor be called upon to administer this. Given the Conservative Party's propensity for believing that all things in the private sector happen to be more efficient than all things in the public sector, a notion that I do not particularly accept, as I say, given that party's preponderance for such a belief, which informs that party, it should be quite happy with the fact that there is a strong possibility that the third party running the list will be a private company.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member about one concern that has been expressed to me by some of my constituents. Right now if one wants to have one's name removed from the phone book, a monthly fee is charged. Some people out of necessity must have their names out of the phone book and quite often cannot afford to make that monthly payment.

I am wondering if the member could the advise the House about this. The member talks about a third party to administer the program. What if people choose to have their names removed or put on the do not call list? Is he suggesting that those people who want their names on that do not call list will be subject to a charge?

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

My understanding of the bill is clearly that the cost of maintaining this list will be passed on to the telemarketers themselves, except those exempt parties, which will be forced to maintain their own lists. Those exempted parties like registered charities or political parties will be forced to maintain their own separate lists.

I think this is an apples and oranges scenario. I think we are talking about two different things. We are talking about Canadian citizens who decide not to receive unwanted telemarketing calls actually having to register themselves with the do not call registry operator, whether that is the CRTC itself or a third party. I think the whole question of access to telephone numbers in phone book white pages is another matter.

My understanding of the bill is that it does not treat the question of delisting one's telephone number from standard white pages. That is another matter. I am quite sure, if I understand the bill in its entirety, that no cost will occur or accrue to the average Canadian citizen who wants to get on such a list and stop being harassed, particularly at dinnertime.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-37 before the House at this time has gone through all the stages here in the House. Its primary intent is to allow people to request not to receive unsolicited telephone calls. A number of surveys, as well as the general perception of our constituents, have in fact indicated that there has been a growth in unsolicited calls. I myself have received calls trying to sell me something at all hours, weekdays and weekends. If I do not want to be called by these telemarketers, it is quite logical for there to be a way to avoid it. That is the objective of this bill.

The bill has gone through all the stages in the House of Commons. We tried to strike as satisfactory a balance as possible by allowing a number of exclusions. Moreover, the Bloc Québécois focussed particularly on exclusions for not-for-profit organizations which need to carry out campaigns by phone. We wanted to be sure that a bill so filled with good intentions did not have the terrible consequence of stopping not-for-profit organizations from soliciting donations, when they depend on this type of campaign.

We proposed amendments to deal with that. In committee we also considered other types of amendments and exemptions needed with respect to business relations, for health professionals, for instance. Under the government's initial plan, health professionals would have been unable to contact their patients again. After a number of discussions, we all agreed that the best solution was to add them to the list of exemptions in the bill.

The bill has now come back to us after being examined by the Senate, as per procedure. We know how much the Senate, a chamber of unelected representatives, in a way fills a role that has become obsolete. When it was created a long time ago, some felt there were educational inadequacies among the elected members in the House of Commons. That is why they wanted a chamber of sober second thought. These days this is no longer the case, but the Senate remains an integral part of the system nonetheless.

Two amendments proposed by the Senate have been submitted for approval by the House. After they are considered, if we accept them, we will allow the bill to come into effect.

The purpose of the first amendment proposed by the Senate is to ensure that a report is submitted to both Houses of Parliament, according to the legislation review process. In reality, this bill concerns a new domain, a sector in which there is little expertise in the world. Similar legislation came into effect in the United States just a few years ago.

Accordingly, the Canadian law will be re-evaluated after three years. To do so, an annual report will be tabled in both the House of Commons and in the Senate, at its request. When a bill is re-evaluated, both the House and the Senate will have all the information at their disposal.

We can understand the logic behind this argument in terms of the system we use and the way it works. This method will also help in examining this bill and in revising it in a more logical and rational manner. We will not have to repeat in the Senate all the explanations about the annual report when the recommendations are received. The Senate committees addressing the issue will already have the information. Furthermore, we could thus avoid undue delays during the legislative review.

In my opinion, the second amendment weakens the bill somewhat, even though this will not make us vote against it. We had established the need to prohibit unsolicited calls and to impose a penalty on those who did not comply with these provisions. We had set the amount of the fine at $1,500 for individuals and $15,000 for corporations. I think that a $1,500 fine is a significant amount. Therefore, imposing a stiff enough penalty would dissuade people from breaking the law.

The Senate thought that these penalties may have been too stiff. Now it proposes maximum amounts of $1,500 for individuals and $15,000 for corporations, which could lead to some debate.

Whenever a fine is imposed, if the basis for imposing that fine is challenged, the amount of the fine could be challenged as well, which could create some problems.

At the same time, the size of the corporations or the financial situation of the individuals involved will be taken into account.

In this sense, I think it is worth giving this a try, especially since a review of the act will take place after three years. We will then be able to determine if these and other provisions are appropriate.

These are the two reasons why the bill is before us today. The Senate has proposed these two amendments. We must examine them and decide whether or not we should adopt them. We can do that by looking at the bill as a whole and see if these two amendments are indeed acceptable and if they are in keeping with the general thrust of the bill.

Let us remember that this legislation seeks, obviously, to avoid unwanted telephone calls. It also seeks to allow the CRTC to administer databases for the purposes of its power. A section of the act sets out this power to prohibit or regulate the use by any person of the telecommunications facilities of a Canadian carrier for the provision of unsolicited telecommunications to the extent that the CRTC considers it necessary to prevent undue inconvenience or nuisance.

We are talking, here, about telephone calls. In all likelihood, we will need to examine what will happen with regard to the growing use of the Internet. As a result, we have had to consider when the do not call list should not apply.

We have the right to not receive unwanted telephone calls and to put our names on the do not call list. However, we also want to ensure that this legislation does not apply to some people—meaning some organizations and individuals. It is important to strike the right balance here.

Under subsection 248(1) of the Income Tax Act, registered charities are, for example, excluded. So, we are talking about people who truly need to hold fundraising campaigns, meaning they need to solicit funds to ensure the survival of their organization.

We are talking about charitable organizations. We know that there is great pressure and many such phone calls. At the same time, these people fulfill an essential role in our society. If charities did not do this work, the government would be responsible for picking up the tab. I think that this exemption is something that all of the committee members consider reasonable and fair.

This is also true for business relationships. I said it earlier, this is particularly true for health care professionals.

Then there are political telecommunications. In order to be able to ensure a democratic quality of life in our society, it is essential, in our opinion, that such communications be allowed. Without such an exemption, political telecommunications during election campaigns, including the one we expect shortly, would not be allowed. Many voters would have found this quite interesting. However, overall, this would have led to other actions or illegal actions. I think however that legislation must reflect our reality.

As regards the quality of the democratic debate, those who run for office must make themselves known, present their views and have an idea of how they are perceived by voters. It seemed perfectly normal to us that this should be the case. The same goes for opinion polls.

An amendment was also made to exclude the media, so that they can still contribute to the quality of our democratic life.

According to the data provided by the Canadian Marketing Association, the telemarketing industry employs 270,000 people and has a sales figure of some $16 billion. The interesting thing about this legislation is that those who work in the telemarketing industry find it relevant. It would be useful to them because, right now, when they approach all the consumers, some of them are already on that list and do not want to receive calls.

These consumers already object to receiving calls. In fact, the calls made to these people are neither interesting nor profitable for telemarketing companies. There is a will to ensure that the list works properly so that, ultimately, companies end up dealing with people who do want to get such calls. We understand that this will was expressed by the companies themselves. We would then kill two birds with one stone, because we would exclude those who do not want to receive calls, while ensuring that telemarketing companies contact only those people who could be potential clients and who are open to listening to them.

The bill was put forward after the public expressed a will to have this industry legislated. This measure will allow us to deal with a situation that has developed over the last few decades and has now become somewhat anarchic. This industry is not yet regulated, but the situation will soon improve with this bill.

In fact, a recent Environics Research survey shows that 79% of those surveyed would support a national do not call list, and 66% likely would sign up for the service. This goes to show that there is popular support for this kind of legislation.

This bill came to be, not necessarily on the initiative of the department, but much more because the public wanted it. In that respect, in 2002, a member from the Canadian Alliance put forward Bill C-301, which died on the order paper, but paved the way for this bill. The member described the purpose of his bill as providing, and I quote:

A means for anyone who does not wish to receive telemarketing calls or faxes to place their telephone number on a list maintained by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

So, the will already existed, and the government jumped on the bandwagon. I think that the work done in committee reflects the will of all members of Parliament to legislate in that area. Furthermore, this bill was adopted in this House at various stages. The Senate amendments, however, clarify aspects which are not fundamental elements that affect the bill. As I said earlier, these amendments will be subject to review after three years, like the rest of the bill. They will not necessarily create problems.

Allow me to digress briefly to say that parliamentarians can agree on some things. But on some others, it is not possible. My colleague suggested earlier that this might be a sign that the House of Commons should keep on working. There is a consensus about the matter before us. What is at issue with respect to the motion of non-confidence is something completely different.

It is a normal thing in our society for things to be done this way. Everyone can express his or her point of view, and then today all opposition parties can judge that the government no longer has the confidence of the House. This is a reality that a minority government has to face, and this is the outcome we expect to see early next week. We cannot assume that this desire to debate subjects on which opinions differ does not at the same time allow discussion when there is consensus. That is what has happened in the case of this bill.

The mechanics of how this will be done are rather complex. Basically, however, it can be summarized as follows. There will indeed be a do not call registry, a list people can get themselves put on so that they will have the satisfaction of no longer receiving unsolicited calls.

The system will be set up so that there will, of course, be no cost to the consumer. There are economic advantages for telemarketers and also for our fellow citizens. The goal is to make people's lives easier and improve quality of life.

There is, however, one important component of telemarketing that was not addressed in the bill: telemarketing scams. This will need to be addressed at some point. There have been charges laid on this. This can be a broad-scale operation, often all over North America. Unfortunately, some of these boiler rooms are located in Canada. This is an aspect that is not addressed by the bill, possibly because it comes more under the Criminal Code. The legislators do need to do something about this, however.

What is a telemarketing scam? It is a fraudulent solicitation of certain groups of society using telecommunications or misleading advertising. The term “fraudulent” is used in this case because the victims have been persuaded to send in money in exchange for something worth more. Often this kind of scam targets more vulnerable clienteles, people who are perhaps less well informed and more easily persuaded.

We are told that all telemarketing schemes require that the victims send money in the form of a certified cheque or money order to receive a prize. Anyone receiving a phone call asking for that kind of payment should be very cautious. Indeed once the money is sent, it is very difficult to get it back. These operations can be moved very quickly and are not easy to trace after they have changed location.

We are also told that criminal organizations involved in this type of fraud are usually structured according to very specific roles. They have a chief financial officer, a manager, front-end staff, back-end staff and a mail clerk. These operations using front-end and back-end workers are also known as boiler rooms. They operate as long as the fraud continues to work. When things get too hot, they fold. This aspect has not been dealt with in the bill and should be dealt with eventually.

We have come to realize that Canada is somewhat of a paradise for fraudulent telemarketing. Right now, the amounts of the fines are too low and the prison terms are too short. In most cases, it is very difficult to convict a repeat offender. To fight against this type of crime, we try to extradite some offenders to other countries that have tougher laws, but that does not really work as we would like it to.

There is a whole aspect of fraudulent telemarketing that will have to be dealt with in legislation by the government in the months and years to come. In the meantime, the purpose of the bill before us is essentially to ensure the best control possible over unsolicited calls.

Some people are greatly affected, including the Canadian Marketing Association, which is the largest association of marketing businesses in Canada. Its members provide 480,000 jobs and generate over $151 million in annual sales. It is a powerful lobby within the marketing sector. It spoke in favour of Bill C-37 because of what I said earlier. In fact, telemarketers like the idea of having legislation that would deal with this situation.

The committee also gathered information on what was going on in other countries, particularly the United States. I think there was even a conference call with people in that country to find out what approach they developed. The approach being taken does not follow the same model, because it is more in line with our situation. Considering the large American market, there may be calls from the United States and other countries.

We have to ensure that our legislation is logical in terms of what is put forward. The bill is going in the right direction. That is probably one of the elements that will have to be studied in more detail when the bill in question is reviewed.

Consequently, we will soon be at the stage of passing this bill so that it can come into force. That includes the Senate amendments. At the same time, there has to be monitoring—the most appropriate monitoring possible—so that we know when the law is reviewed whether the entire model that is developed is adequate.

I recall the comment by my colleague in the Conservative Party who said that there should not be a repeat of what happened with the Canadian firearms registry.

We have to be vigilant. There should not be another firearms registry. We have already spent enough money on that initiative. The idea behind it was a good one. I honestly think there is a real need for a firearms control system. However, what the government did with it, the way it was set up and the costs it generated are completely unacceptable. I hope that the Auditor General will report to us quickly so that we get the most complete picture we can.

In the case at hand, we have to ensure that the new registry works in a way that avoids that type of excess so that we do not suddenly find ourselves looking at high costs a year or two down the road when the act is reviewed. When mechanisms are being put in place, the government has a responsibility to ensure that the job is done right.

It is very obvious that Canadians want a law that prevents unwanted telephone calls. However, it is also certain that they do not want a law that will generate wild expenditures far beyond what they would like us to spend on this type of system.

I therefore urge the House to vote in favour of the amendments so that the bill can be put into effect as quickly as possible.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for two things.

First, he talked about some of the tricks used by people who are into fraudulent marketing. I believe this was very important. He also reminded the government that it had to be diligent to ensure that costs would not escalate.

That being said, my colleague talked earlier about some sectors that are exempted from the bill, including charities and political parties. Perhaps my colleague could explain this a little further, because I did not follow this bill as much.

Also, there is another question which he may be able to answer. Some businesses contract out their telemarking operations. The firm doing the operations is a private business. Within these particular charities operations, will these private businesses be exempted from the bill?

Telecommunications Act
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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier for his two questions.

I will first answer the question on telemarketing, because it is indeed an important consideration. The Christmas season is approaching and we will undoubtedly witness an increase in such calls during the forthcoming days and weeks. Many people will receive calls of this kind, in which someone asks them to send money in the form of a certified cheque or money order in order to receive a prize. In such cases, a red warning light should start flashing to prevent them from following up on this type of action and urge them to notify the authorities as quickly as possible. In this way, it may be possible to eliminate at least some of the negative aspects of telemarketing.

With regard to the second question, the creation of database so that anyone who wishes may request that their name be placed on a do not call list, which that would apply to all telemarketers. This activity will no longer be permissible.

It can happen that people give contracts to specialized companies, but these will be covered by the bill, in the same way as all companies are. The aim is to ensure that it is done as simply as possible.

According to statistics from the United States an impressive percentage of people have asked that their names be taken off the list. We expect that similar numbers of Canadians will support the creation of this list and that there will be a considerable number of calls at the outset from people who want to have their names removed from the list.

In return, the government will also have a responsibility to publicize the exclusions. People will continue to receive telephone calls from charities registered under the Income Tax Act. These people will be making their calls perfectly legally. Canadians must be made aware of this to prevent these organizations being viewed in a negative light when they make their calls.

Other cases will be self-evident. For example, in existing business relationships, specifically those with health care professionals, retaining the initial wording, according to which such people would no longer be able to make these calls, would have caused more problems. It could have led to aberrant situations. People would have been calling members’ offices to tell them that they had wanted to call their doctor, but he did not have the right to call them back. We have avoided this type of situation and we hope that the problem has been corrected.

Over the course of the next few months, we will probably have an opportunity to test in a fairly meaningful way the extent of the exemption granted to political organizations. Furthermore, the law as a whole will be reviewed after three years. While obviously, nothing in this world is perfect, let us hope that we have drafted a bill that will prove its worth in practice, provided appropriate amendments are made from time to time.

I will conclude by stressing the need for fairly close monitoring to ensure that the costs do not become excessive beyond reason. We must not throw out the baby with the bath water. The way in which the act is administered must not be such as to cast doubt on its fundamental principle.

Telecommunications Act
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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I recently spoke with a business that I had dealt with in the past, which is involved in telemarketing, I was quite surprised. I assumed the business would be opposing this sort of bill but after further discussing the issue with the owner, he said that the reputable businesses in the telemarketing field welcome legislation like this. He said that it was the people who were doing the dishonest telemarketing, the people who were trying to flog a product or the small operators who were against the bill.

The member opposite also mentioned that the Canadian Telemarketing Association welcomes this bill. Maybe the member can explain a little further how the bill deals with specific industries, such as windows or lawn care telemarketers that will be starting to call in December for lawn care in June and July of next year. In his view, perhaps he could tell us how the bill looks after this issue.

Telecommunications Act
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10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see the hon. member mention the value of this legislation in countering fraudulent marketing. However, I remind him that additional legislation, and amendments to the Criminal Code, will be required, since we are dealing with a very organized industry. There may be cases of fraudulent marketing which do not, strictly speaking, involve bad faith, but which do not respect the law. So, this is included in the bill.

As for the whole telemarketing industry, the basic principle is mentioned in the legislation. This means that a person whose name is on the do not call list will not receive any unwanted call, unless the call is made by one of the sectors for which amendments were deemed appropriate. In the examples mentioned by the hon. member, which are more of a commercial nature, such exclusions would not be possible, except to allow a reasonable exchange between the parties, after a transaction.

I want to point out that if a telemarketing company is pleased, as the member indicated, it is because we are providing an advantage to the whole industry by ensuring that these companies will only call people who want to receive their calls. Until now, a very significant percentage of calls were fruitless and time consuming, because people would hang up or say, after a minute, that they were not interested at all. So, the costs to these companies will be reduced, since these consumers will be excluded.

On a different note, we would like the do not call list to be managed by someone outside the Canadian marketing industry, to ensure the greatest possible transparency. In conclusion, we will see how this process is managed in the coming years, until the act is reviewed, in three years, as provided in the bill, which should be passed today.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, we will not disagree much today. We have reached consensus and I think we have covered the issue.

The name of the game is simple. Are we fed up enough to be bothered? The issue is we have to respect the citizen.

We have all been interrupted by phone calls during supper time or when we are watching television. It is irritating. At some point consumers need to be protected. Obviously there are important situations that we must continue to protect.

My colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques mentioned the health care sector. When business relations have been established, whether in insurance or life insurance, it is essential and important to keep them. It was time to clean house with this type of bill.

You will not be surprised to learn today that, unless I am mistaken, all the political parties were in favour of these two amendments. They are two simple amendments regarding protection that will impose harsher penalties on certain people who might abuse the public. Some might say it is more flexible in terms of dollar amounts, but we now have a maximum fine. In that vein, it is important to mention that the fines for offending companies can be between $5,000 and $15,000.

All this telemarketing is intrusive and almost abusive. Personally, I think the consumer is king and needs to have an opportunity to protect himself. Canada is not the only country with a national do not call list. It is a good idea to provide a tool like this.

There is something else that I also find interesting. I am not a great fan of the CRTC. In my opinion, it is in need of an in-depth reform. There are certain things that should be done differently. However, we do need a body to manage telecommunications and cultural institutes. At some point, we will have to take a very serious look at this issue.

We all remember the satellite radio issue. That really bothered me, and I was not afraid to speak my mind, as usual. With the tools that we currently have, the CRTC will, of course, have to ensure that it implements this bill and its proposed amendments. I think that fines are a very good idea. It goes without saying that having administrative monetary penalties will help us deal more effectively with these people. We will be better equipped.

I will not go so far as to say that it is a cure-all, because we should show some restraint. When my friend and colleague from the Bloc Québécois has an opportunity to make a remark on Canada, I suppose it is only fair to let him do so. However, we should not forget that some good things are done on the North American continent. There is real cohesion as regards crime or certain other issues.

The purpose of these amendments was not only to increase transparency and accountability—and I will discuss this later on—but also to provide tools to really protect the public.

The other thing is that we have a do not call list. We all agree on this. Why? Because we gave ourselves reasonable verification tools. We also made sure that after three years we will be able to conduct the required review not only of the fines, but of the bill itself. We will see how well everything worked and then we can make changes as needed.

It is good to have this national do not call list. Obviously there are exemptions for the health sector and for existing business relations, as was mentioned earlier. The intention is not to impede the business sector. I am a former life insurance agent. Selling life insurance is a long process that does not happen overnight. Changes occur in our personal lives. There are needs in the financial services sector. It is necessary to maintain constant contact and to distinguish that from the abuse and irritating people who call proposing all sorts of things. There is nothing more irritating than listening to a machine. At first it seems like we are talking to a person and then, two minutes later, we realize that a machine is trying to make us jump through all sorts of hoops. At some point, things need to be done properly.

I want to say one last thing. I am entirely in favour of both amendments and I wish the hon. members of this House a good weekend.

Governor General's Literary Award
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate Anne Compton on having recently been awarded the Governor General's Literary Award for her work in poetry.

Miss Compton is currently living in Rothesay, New Brunswick. However, she is a native of Bangor, Prince Edward Island. Miss Compton has credited growing up in a busy and happy rural farmhouse filled with family members as the inspiration for her book Processional . The Compton family has deep roots in the Bangor-Morell area.

Miss Compton is to be commended for receiving one of the highest literary awards in the country. I am sure that all Islanders are extremely proud of her. She is certainly a most deserving recipient of this prestigious award.

Wine Industry
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, history was made here in Ottawa recently at a very exclusive wine tasting featuring Canadian and French wines.

I am delighted to report to the House that the experts and the general public both rated Canadian wines in the top categories over competitive wines from Bordeaux.

A Platinum Reserve Meritage from Cedar Creek in British Columbia scored number one over 17 other wines, both domestic and French. Experts ranked Reserve Merlot from Colio as their number two choice, while Canadian public tasters ranked a Meritage from Burrowing Owl in British Columbia as their number two choice.

This was a great day for Canadian vintners and their wines and it was a great day for Canada. We can take pride in the fact that our Canadian produced wines have been tested and judged as among the best in the world.

More must be done to inform Canadians of the fine quality domestic wines that are available to them. Canadians must be encouraged to choose Canadian wines when the price and quality are comparable.

On behalf of the official opposition, the Conservative Party of Canada, I want to extend congratulations to the Canadian vintners for what they have accomplished and wish them continued success in all their future endeavours.

They deserve our applause for producing wines that compete internationally against the best that France has to offer.

Electro-Federation Canada
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on behalf of Electro-Federation Canada and its efforts toward promoting innovation.

I wish to recognize the federation's efforts in addressing issues that demonstrate its concern for the environment, in which it develops more energy efficient and environmentally friendly products. By improving these products it is helping the environment.

The federation is also working with the Canadian Appliance Manufacturers Association to help minimize the effect that household appliances have on our environment and to improve Canada's performance in the world through training and education.

Thanks to the federation's efforts, many problems are being addressed to help Canada compete on a global level in every sector of our economy and to keep valuable manufacturing jobs within Canada.

Olivier Soapery
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate Isabel Gagné and Pierre Pelletier, who officially opened their second soapery in the old Saint-Alexis rectory in La Baie. The Olivier Soapery is a therapeutic and tourist operation providing biodegradable and environmentally-friendly products.

The company's rapid success and constant growth have prompted its owners to settle in the riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, in the home town of the company's founder and president, Isabel Gagné.

This unique tourism initiative is not only creating jobs but also teaching our young and not so young people about our history.

We are all extremely proud to welcome back Ms. Gagné, so that she can get in touch with her roots and create her local products in Quebec.

Rural Youth
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about the second Young Leaders in Rural Canada Awards. These awards are the Government of Canada's way of recognizing young people who have used their passion, spirit and skills to benefit their community. Three awards are given out to celebrate the outstanding achievements and contributions of rural youth between the ages of 18 and 29 in three categories: innovation, leadership and partnership.

The second Young Leaders in Rural Canada Award winners are: Dylan Green of Tofino, British Columbia for innovation; Miguel LeBlanc, originally of Scoudouc, New Brunswick for leadership; and Mallory Statham of Powell River, British Columbia for partnership.

Honorary mentions were also given to Joël Delisle of St-Gilles, Quebec for innovation; Jason Leonard of Whitehorse, Yukon for leadership; and Lana Cowling-Mason of Warren, Manitoba for partnership.

Please join me in congratulating these young leaders of today who will also be our leaders of tomorrow.

Member for Peace River
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, today being November 25, it is 12 years and one month since I was elected to Parliament along with many others here in the chamber. It is with mixed feelings today that I rise and say my farewell to this place and to my constituents.

I have certainly met some wonderful people on both sides of the House as well as wonderful people through my jobs as international trade critic, finance critic and industry critic in the last 12 years.

It is a time to say a special thanks to some wonderful people, the constituents of Peace River who have elected me in four elections. I will be going back there to spend time in retirement. I also want to thank my colleagues for the tremendous support that I have enjoyed in my 12 years in this place. I want to thank as well my family and my wife Bernice. Without their support I could not have done this job.

History will judge us as to what kind of a commitment we made. I just want to say it has been a great privilege to have had this job for 12 years.

Business Plan Competition
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to congratulate the students of three schools in my colourful riding of Oak Ridges—Markham who won the Markham secondary school business plan competition for 2005.

These awards encourage young people to hone their entrepreneurial spirit and potential. The students are from Brother Andre Catholic High School, Markham District High School and St. Augustine Catholic High School where two of my kids attend. Way to go on a job well done.

Also at this time, I would like to thank the constituents of Oak Ridges—Markham for having supported me in 2004. I look forward to continuing my work with them in the future.

Violence against Women
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Denise Poirier-Rivard Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The UN first declared this day in 2000. However, since 1981, this has been a day of remembrance for women's rights advocates as a result of the 1961 murders of the three Mirabal sisters, who were women's rights advocates in the Dominican Republic.

Governments and organizations are invited to hold events and activities on this day to raise public awareness of this problem.

Violence can take many forms: it can be psychological, verbal, physical and even economic. Some 87% of women identify themselves as having been victims of sexual harassment and 25% as victims of spousal abuse.

The Bloc Québécois condemns violence of any kind and reiterates that each and every woman has the right to live without fear and to be treated fairly and with respect.

Veterans
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, last January this government designated 2005 as the Year of the Veteran. Our goal was to pay tribute to our veterans, to honour their achievements and to recognize their sacrifices. It has been a success.

My riding is home to CFB Greenwood and I represent many veterans who live in a beautiful part of our country. This year West Nova organized a number of events to commemorate our veterans. I was pleased at the number of young people who came out and had the opportunity to learn of their history from those who served their country in war and in peacekeeping service.

As this may be one of my last opportunities to rise in this Parliament, I would like to take the opportunity to say thanks to all the veterans of West Nova and to wish them all the best in the years to come. I add my congratulations to the Royal Canadian Legion and all volunteer organizations who honoured our veterans this year.

Braun Scott Woodfield
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, how does a parent say goodbye to a son, or a sister to a brother? I rise today in honour but with immense sadness to say goodbye to Braun Woodfield. This bright 24 year old followed in his father's footsteps to serve his country.

Braun was killed yesterday in Afghanistan. This amazing young man belongs to an equally amazing family that is close to my heart. To learn that one of our own has made the ultimate sacrifice and others have suffered injuries is a reminder to us here in the House and in this great land of the dangers facing those who serve in the name of democracy and freedom.

On behalf of myself and the people of Canada, I extend my deepest sympathies to Dan, Bev, Lyndy and the entire Woodfield family for their sudden and tragic loss.

We shall never forget Braun. We are forever grateful to him for serving this country with pride and integrity.

Les Jardins Inn
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to two entrepreneurs from my riding, who recently won a prestigious award.

Last weekend, Francine Landry and Valmond Martin, the owners of Les Jardins Inn, in my riding of Madawaska—Restigouche, received the New Brunswick Economic Council Business of the Year Award.

Francine and Valmond have been involved in the community for a very long time, and they make a significant contribution to our region. This is to say that the award they received last weekend was fully deserved. I want to congratulate them on this honour.

Again, my congratulations, Francine and Valmond.

Health Care
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, we know the upcoming election will be on ethics. No place will that be clearer than in the debates around health care.

A few weeks ago the NDP presented the Liberals with its proposals to stop the erosion of public health care: prohibit provinces from using federal transfers to pay for private health care; ensure doctors working in the private system do not have billing privileges in the public system; and make it mandatory that provinces report on how transfers are used.

The Liberal response was disappointing. It began with the words “when private involvement threatens the integrity of the public system”. Doctors know private involvement already threatens our public system, which is why it was the focus of their annual general meeting this year. Nurses know the public system is threatened. That is why they are calling on all parties to support conditions on federal transfers that limit spending to not for profit health care. Health care advocates know a private system threatens universal access to care. That is why they are calling for strategies that support publicly delivered care.

The Liberals do not get it. After giving away $41 billion, they said that only future funding would have conditions attached. Their bold plan to protect health care was to fully enforce the Canada Health Act--

Health Care
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

Liberal Government Policies
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Grey—Bruce—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, although the Liberal Party of Canada has officially been named in a judicial inquiry into corruption, the culture of entitlement continues with untendered contracts to friends, exorbitant severance to insiders and the Liberal Party's stubborn refusal to pay back stolen ad scam dollars. They have continuously dropped the ball on the softwood lumber dispute and the Auditor General says they are not providing adequate training to RCMP officers.

Canadians know the time for change has come. They will soon have that choice between a clean, honest Conservative government and a tired, arrogant and scandal-ridden gang of Liberals.

The Prime Minister, the finance minister and the revenue minister were flying on an executive Airbus together. The Prime Minister said to the finance minister, “I could throw a $1,000 bill out the window and make someone very happy”. The finance minister responded by saying, “ I could throw 10 $100 bills out the window and make 10 people happy”. Then the revenue minister said, “I could throw 100 $10 bills out the window and make 100 people happy”.

I say let us throw the whole Liberal government out and make 30 million people happy.

Braun Scott Woodfield
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, we were saddened to learn that a Canadian soldier from Victoria, Braun Scott Woodfield, was killed, while four others were injured.

He is the eighth Canadian solider to die in Afghanistan since 2001. This tragic event highlights the dangers faced everyday by these men and women who risk their lives for freedom, peace and democracy.

To the soldiers injured in the accident, we wish a speedy recovery. To the family and friends of Private Woodfield we extend our deepest condolences.

Violence against Women
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today in the House on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

There is so much more that the Liberals could be doing to protect women and children from violence. I know this because for several years I served as a crisis intervention volunteer.

Today as a member of Parliament I sit on the status of women committee where I presented a motion to deal with the fact that aboriginal women living on reserves do not have basic property rights. I am also proud to be working with Ilona Binns, Loretta Gismondi and Mona McFarlene of the Catholic Women's League of Canada on the C.A.S.E. campaign, Canadians Addressing Sexual Exploitation.

In my riding of Simcoe--Grey, I have two excellent shelters that are working hard to protect women and help them cope as they rebuild their lives.

In Alliston, My Sister's Place has an excellent new executive director in Judith Stevens. In Collingwood, My Friend's House continues under the superb leadership of Alison Fitzgerald. Then there are the countless staff and volunteers who give so generously of their time and energy.

I am grateful for the opportunity that I have had to serve women as a member of Parliament. I look forward to being in a Conservative government that will stand up for women.

Gabriel Filippi
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw hon. members' attention to an amazing exploit.

As the saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way.

This past spring, a Montrealer named Gabriel Filippi mounted an expedition to conquer the world's highest mountain peak, Mount Everest, a climb of over 8,850 metres.

Not only did he achieve this remarkable feat, but he earned the title of Angel Gabriel by coming to the assistance of a Scottish climber who was suffering from pulmonary edema.

You will understand that this is a very rare accomplishment and one that is noteworthy regardless of the circumstances. That is why we must mention it here in the House today and congratulate Mr. Filippi for his bravery and persistence.

Mr. Filippi is an example of what a Canadian can accomplish with great determination.

Cassandra Poudrier and Sébastien Bisaillon
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is no denying, the young people of Laurentides—Labelle are making names for themselves in the sports world. This time, it is our hockey players.

Cassandra Poudrier, a female player only 12 years of age from Rivière-Rouge, has been chosen to play on the Europe 2006 team in the Christmas Cup tournament in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Then, on the male side, we have Sébastien Bisaillon, a young man from Mont-Laurier, who plays defence for the Val-d'Or Foreurs. He was invited to the Montreal Canadien pre-season training camp, and recently played two games against the Russian national team as a member of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League all-stars.

Congratulations to you both. May your hard work continue to bring great results both now and later on in life.

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to share with the House and those watching the work that has gone on for quite some time, in one instance for over a year now, to have the immigration minister and the ministry recognize the legitimacy of two cases I hand delivered to him for minister's intervention this past week.

The minister has been crossing the country in the last couple of weeks making announcements about how he is going to make his ministry more efficient, more responsive and more generous to people trying to make Canada their home.

I need an intervention on compassionate grounds in one instance, in keeping with his recent announcement to normalize quickly people already within our borders who are making a very positive contribution without asking them to leave and to reapply.

I urge the minister to put action to his words. I have delivered many letters in both cases in support of these applications. I have put my own political reputation on the line. Will he do the right thing and give these families the best Christmas present ever?

Finance
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, in its dying days, the Liberal government has resorted to trying to bribe Canadians with their own tax dollars on an unprecedented scale. According to media estimates, the Liberals have made over $20 billion in bogus pledges over the past two weeks, new spending that was not included in any of the three budgets that the minister brought in over the past year.

Is it not true that the Liberals have thrown away any fiscal plan they may have had in their desperate effort to distract voters from their decade of corruption?

Finance
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, on fiscal matters, the hon. gentleman is flatly wrong, but let me deal with another issue.

I understand today that the opposition leader is travelling to British Columbia, where the Prime Minister is at the aboriginal summit. I hope the opposition leader will take the opportunity to apologize to the Prime Minister for the outrageous smears that he made in the House yesterday, and that members of his shadow cabinet repeated outside the House.

We have seen this kind of thing before from the Leader of the Opposition. This time I hope he shows a little dignity.

Finance
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is still $40 million missing. Nobody knows where it went. There is nothing to apologize for on this side of the House.

No one can keep track of how many billions of tax dollars the Liberals have made in bogus promises this week. According to the former senior finance official Don Drummond, “The fall update isn't even two weeks old, but already we need a scorecard”. Liberal insider Warren Kinsella says that it is “like 100 monkeys on drugs, writing cheques”.

How do the Liberals plan to pay for this reckless pre-election spending spree? Do they plan to raise taxes, run up deficits or just ignore their promises?

Finance
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the opposition members cannot get away with a diversionary tactic. Their leader in the House yesterday made absolutely unacceptable remarks. Those remarks cannot stand.

The Leader of the Opposition is on his way to British Columbia. He should take the opportunity to meet there with the Prime Minister, apologize for his remarks, retract the offensive comments and for once, depart from his pattern of meanness and show a little dignity and courage.

Finance
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is quite interesting to hear the gentleman and that party talk about meanness after what they have done to our country over the last 10 years. In less than 60 days, there will be a prime minister in the House who has the respect of all Canadians.

The Liberals continue to threaten to punish Canadians if there is an election soon. They threaten to withhold benefits from seniors and soldiers if there is an election. Now the member for Vancouver Centre is claiming that the 2010 winter Olympics will be jeopardized if Canadians go to the polls. That makes as much sense as their previous accusations that British Columbians were burning crosses on their lawns.

Why do the Liberals not stop trying--

Finance
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Minister of Finance.

Finance
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the opposition does not intend to retract, so let me just deal with the record over the last 10 years.

Under Conservatives, the federal debt was very nearly 70% of GDP. Today it is less than 40%. Under the Conservatives, our foreign debt was 43%. Today it is 15%. Under the Conservatives, debt servicing costs were 38%. Today they are 17%. Under the Conservatives, unemployment was 11.2%. Today it is less than 7%.

Income Trusts
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, after months of dithering and indecision, the finance minister signed on to the Conservative Party plan to leave income trusts alone and instead cut the double taxation on dividends. However, on the same day, the parliamentary secretary was on national television telling Canadians that the Liberals had a new plan to slap a new tax on income trusts.

Why does the government continue to threaten seniors and Canadians saving for retirement with a new tax on income trusts after the election?

Income Trusts
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is amazing that everybody in the country can get it except those guys across the way.

The head of the Yellow Pages income trust has said that what we did this week showed managerial courage. Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan said, “ this will go a long way toward eliminating the current arbitrage among businesses. The minister and his advisers appear to have listened to the concerns of the pension community”. BMO Financial Group said, “By our yardstick, the minister of finance has come to the best public policy outcome, and for that he deserves credit”.

Income Trusts
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, a deathbed conversion, but it will still not give seniors back all the money they lost in their income trusts as a result of the Minister of Finance.

The parliamentary secretary was absolutely clear. He said, “The trusts will be taxed going out or starting, I think, around 2007”. When will the minister reveal his hidden agenda and admit that the Liberals are on the same track? If they are re-elected, seniors and Canadians saving for retirement will be subjected to a new tax on their income trusts in the future.

Income Trusts
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, wrong, wrong and wrong. The opposition clearly is trying to put the country on the road to an election, but I wonder why that party always insists on the low road to anywhere.

The Canadian Association of Income Funds said, “We believe the government's decision is very positive.” The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said, “...the government recognized that there are inequities in the tax system. They're going after the right target here”. The Canadian Tax Foundation said, “It's good news for investors, and it's good news for people who raise capital in the market”.

If everybody else can get it, why can that party not get it?

Economic Statement
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this past May, Ontario announced an agreement with Ottawa on climate change, totalling $538 million. Imagine our surprise to read in the Minister of Finance's economic statement that the amount Ontario will be receiving from Ottawa is, instead, $738 million.

I would like to know whether the figure is $738 million or the $538 million as announced. Has a $200 million error slipped in somewhere, somehow?

Economic Statement
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the correct figure is $538 million.

Economic Statement
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, in other words, we have just been told that the economic statement, seemingly so seriously prepared, contains a $200 million mistake. Does this not smack of improvisation? We do not want to hear that, just by pure chance, $200 million too much has somehow gone missing. Might there not be some millions more, as was the case with Human Resources in 2000? Hon. members will recall that a trifling $1 billion went missing that time.

Can we count on the other figures given in the statement, when there is $200 million too much for the agreement with Ontario. Can somebody explain that to me?

Economic Statement
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

No, Mr. Speaker.

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Finance launched into one of his tirades in order to try to make Canada's stance on international aid look better. What the minister failed to mention is that Canada's share of its GDP devoted to international aid is far from increasing; it has, in fact, decreased over the years.

Does the Minister of Finance admit that, when the Liberals assumed power in 1993, that share was 0.45% of gross domestic product, while today it is 0.32%?

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Barrie
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's comments. She is an excellent critic and a strong supporter of what we are doing.

However, I need to draw her attention to the fact that we have received an 8% increase in our budget. That is higher than any other department in the Government of Canada. It will see our budget doubled. We have taken excellent initiatives. We received compliments from Stephen Lewis on our leadership in the HIV-AIDS battle. Many times it is the quality of what we do as well as the quantity. I am very proud of our record.

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question is very clear. I want only a yes or a no.

Was the share of GDP 0.45% and is it now 0.32%? Are those the correct figures or are they not?

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Barrie
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit confused, because I am not sure of the figures at this time. I would like to know where the hon. member got her information, in order to verify it.

As I have said, we are proud of our planning. As the Prime Minister has said, he can explain to Canadians how he plans to achieve the 0.7% mark. He will be announcing his plan and we will be there.

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is on the same topic.

U2 singer Bono has said that he hopes his music will last for 100 years. I think Bono himself will have to last for 100 years if he wants to see the Liberals keep the commitment they keep making over and over again. In fact, they now will not even make a commitment to 0.7% of GDP for overseas development assistance, unlike many of the other more progressive countries in the world.

I want to ask the Minister of Human Resources, who is throwing a reception for Bono, how the Liberals even have the nerve to hang out with the guy when they are so distant from what he wants of them.

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am not sure there is any question to a ministerial responsibility but I do see the Minister of Finance on his feet.

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, let me just make a point, which the Minister of International Development has pointed out. In the last budget there was an increase of $3.4 billion, which will serve to double Canadian aid to Africa over the next two years and double Canadian aid, generally, around the world between now and the year 2011.

In the meantime, we are also investing $342 million in special measures in relation to diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS and others. We are putting $500 million into global peace and security that is being used in places like the Sudan and Darfur.

This government is very actively engaged.

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, these alleged increases come on the heels of the Liberals having gutted these programs in the first place, but the minister never acknowledges that.

He mentioned AIDS. I wonder if the minister or someone else could explain, why, in spite of all the hoopla about the Jean Chrétien AIDS in Africa bill, not one single pill has been delivered to Africa. People are dying every day and the pretense that the Liberals have actually done something about this continues.

Why do they allow that pretense to continue? Why do they not fess up and say that it was a fraud and nothing has happened?

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it was not indeed a fraud. As a matter of fact, as I made mention in my earlier answer, $342 million is going into the relief of diseases in Africa, specifically including AIDS.

I would also point out to the hon. gentleman that one particular area where Canada has been especially active is in the alleviation of the debts of the most heavily indebted poor countries of the world. We have put the better part of $4 billion to $5 billion into that over the last number of years. Canada was not a johnny-come-lately on that file. We were indeed the very first and we led the world.

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, we could describe the Liberals' billion-dollar-a-day spending spree in a lot of ways: pathetic, pork-barrel and desperation come to mind, but we cannot say it is secretive. There is nothing hidden about this agenda. It is pure old-fashioned vote-buying.

Maybe there is one thing they are hiding and that is David Dingwall's severance. We understand that David Dingwall has now negotiated his severance deal in anticipation of a change in government.

Since the government is so very open about its spending, perhaps it could assure Canadians today that the amount of money it is paying David Dingwall will be made public.

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, there was a very telling news report last night on one of the national networks that reviewed a number of the announcements that the government has made: labour market partnership agreements, new military equipment, help for farmers, help for softwood lumber, help for senior citizens, residential fuel, aboriginals and so forth. The reporter pointed out that the member's party, which criticizes the government every day in the House, has made not one commitment to retract any one of those investments that the Government of Canada has made.

I only take it that it supports every one of those investments.

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians will note the evasiveness of the minister's answer and the fact that he absolutely avoided answering the question. Also, they will note the fact that before every election Liberals pretend to care about Canadians and after every election they only care about Liberals.

They gave David Dingwall a big, fat patronage post, they let him spend like a drunken Liberal and now they are proposing to pour even more money into the trough that Dingwall eats from, a public trough.

If the Liberals are going to do that, they should at least have the decency to be public, honest and forthright about what they are going to pay him in severance.

Can Canadians finally hear a commitment from the government as to how much--

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Minister of Finance.

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge, that matter is in the hands of the lawyers and the government will be guided by the appropriate legal advice.

Liberal Party of Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, when Canadians owe the government money, it pursues them relentlessly. When law-abiding citizens are caught up in some tax dispute, the Canada Revenue Agency will hound and threaten them until every last cent is paid. In many cases, they will be sued for any amounts owing, plus interest, plus costs.

However, when the Liberal Party actually steals taxpayer money and gets caught red-handed, the government does nothing. Why the double standard?

When will the government sue the Liberal Party to recover the millions of taxpayer dollars that are still missing?

Liberal Party of Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am sure everyone has known right from the beginning that when Gomery did his work he worked hard to get it done. In January the opposition and other people insisted that Gomery do his work. Gomery has done his work. Gomery has reported. The Liberal Party of Canada has acted. The opposition knows that we acted as soon as Gomery made his report. We look forward to Gomery's second report.

Liberal Party of Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the Liberal Party did not do its homework.

On the eve of the next general election, Canadians are entitled to know whether the Liberals are preparing to conduct a fourth campaign with dirty money. Eighteen riding associations in eastern Quebec received dirty money during the 1997 election campaign.

When will the Liberals put an end to the culture of secrecy and publish the list of those 18 associations that violated the law by accepting dirty money?

Liberal Party of Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the ministers of this government are confused. The Minister of Transport is confirming the commitment of the $20 million taken from forestry associations and says that the government's word is as good as gold. However, the minister responsible for regional development is saying that only the loan guarantees are included in the $1.5 billion aid package for the softwood lumber industry announced earlier this week.

Can the government tell us if the $20 million will be allocated, yes or no?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:35 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, there were two major aspects to yesterday's package. The first is the $800 million in credit insurance. These funds can by quickly freed up because legislation on industry allows this.

As for the other amounts, Parliament must decide. It is not my fault that the opposition is in such a rush to go to the polls it prefers to put partisan interests before the interests of the public, which is waiting for these funds.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is widespread confusion and there are contradictions galore. The minister is saying the opposite of what the Minister of Transport said yesterday. I think I will trust what the senior minister said. Whatever the case may be, the aid package is clearly insufficient.

Does the minister realize that the $800 million in loan guarantees over five years is only 16% of the $5 billion the industry has already paid in countervailing and anti-dumping duties to the U.S. government? Will anything be added to this insufficient package?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:35 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, barely a few days ago in the House, the Prime Minister was extremely clear. The goal is to tell our American friends that we will support our industry and our workers despite the absolutely unacceptable measures imposed on them by the Americans. We will stand by them no matter what, even if it means increasing what we are currently offering them. This is clear. This question follows on the answer already provided.

I must say that the opposition, in its rush to the polls, is preventing us from voting the supplementary estimates, which include the $20 million in aid to help the industry cover its legal costs. They should not try to suck and blow at the same time.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, for three days the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has been unable to answer a simple question about whether or not prison planes landed on Canadian soil.

Here is a very simple question for her. Can she confirm that a Kyrgyzstan airlines DC-9, registration number N822US, identified as a U.S. prison plane, landed in Frobisher Bay on December 7, 2002, in Goose Bay on March 12, 2005, and again in Goose Bay on June 1, 2005?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister has answered that question. We have no reliable information proving that the United States is conducting activities in Canada that are in breach of Canadian or international law.

As I myself said in this House, if we find out that Canadian territory is being used in contravention of Canadian or international law, we will of course raise the issue with the United States. Canada expects its territory, including its air space, not to be used by foreign governments for activities that are in breach of Canadian or international law.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is enough. The minister is unable to tell us whether a plane landed in Canada or not because she has something to hide. After what happened to Maher Arar, we are right to be worried.

What is the minister hiding from us?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the minister has answered this question very clearly.

We have no reliable information to support the suspicions the Bloc Québécois is trying to stir up once again. There is no reliable information to confirm that Canadian air space was used in breach of Canadian or international law.

Health
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal health record is abysmal. After 12 years of mismanagement, wait times have doubled. The government cut $25 billion from the health care system and cut medical school enrollments.

The Quebec federal Liberals have endorsed privately funded health care. Too many Canadians have no access to the health care system.

The Supreme Court has condemned the Liberal record. We still have no science based benchmarks, despite promises that they would be in place by year's end. It is just one broken promise after the other.

Will the government finally admit that only a new Conservative government will fix the Liberal health care disaster?

Health
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, if the past can be a gauge of the future and we had a new Conservative government like we had in the old Conservative government, we would go back to $40 billion annually in debt.

Forty-two billion dollars is the exact amount of money that the Minister of Finance negotiated with the provinces to improve the health care system, working to reduce wait times in five key areas. We are awaiting the agreements and the benchmarks that were negotiated with the provinces.

This government has done its job responsibly in taking public access to health care into the future.

Health
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, even the parliamentary secretary admits that we are waiting to deal with the wait times.

The government is not only incompetent, but it lacks all compassion. Tainted blood victims continue to suffer, waiting for compensation that they justly deserve.

Aboriginals living in remote communities endure substandard living conditions and inadequate health care. The government refuses to fully fund and implement the Canadian strategy for cancer control, even though all cancer stakeholders support it and it is the will of the House.

How can the government claim to be on the side of Canadians when it demonstrates so little compassion?

Health
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the government reached a memorandum of understanding with those suffering from hepatitis. We are negotiating with them, working alongside them to ensure our money goes exactly where it is needed.

We have invested in research: $300 million into the Canadian chronic disease strategy that includes cancer, diabetes and all other chronic diseases in Canada, a record amount of money and have reversed the brain drain. We have invested in the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The Canadian research system, medically and otherwise, is working very well.

Agriculture
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, for 10 years the government has supposedly had its 12,000 hopper railcars for sale. Apparently the government was looking forward to resolving this issue next year.

All of a sudden, just before the election, the government has accelerated and finalized the approval process.

Was this rushed through because the finance minister's Saskatchewan campaign manager is involved in this project and the government knows his days at the trough are soon over?

Agriculture
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, do I take it that the opposition is congratulating the government for having made this agreement in principle that has been reached for the transfer of the federal hopper car fleet to the Farmer Rail Car Coalition for a total of $205 million? I think this is good news for Saskatchewan farmers and the western farmers.

I think the opposition should be acknowledging that after much effort on the part of this government we have finally delivered something that is going to be very important with the sale of these hopper cars for our western farmers.

Agriculture
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we will see how this works out for farmers.

For 10 years the FRCC has been funded by farmer and taxpayer money. The finance minister's good friends have been involved in this project from the beginning. Farmers have been billed for a decade by his buddies.

Now that an agreement has been reached, will the government or the finance minister inform the House how much money his Saskatchewan campaign chair has made off this project since its inception?

Agriculture
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that the idea for this particular transaction originated with the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities. It is currently supported very strongly by SARM, the president of which is a former Conservative provincial cabinet minister in Saskatchewan.

It is also strongly supported by people like Nettie Wiebe, who is a former president of the National Farmers Union and a prominent New Democrat. This is not a partisan matter.

Social Development
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities who recently signed two agreements on sharing gas tax revenues with communities in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

It seems there is more good news for these provinces. Will the Minister of Social Development outline how recent agreements with these same provinces will benefit Canadian families?

Social Development
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Ken Dryden Minister of Social Development

Mr. Speaker, this all began with a campaign promise of $5 billion over five years for a system of early learning and child care in every provinces and territory in the country. After all the years, after all the hope in this past year, there were ups and downs, but yesterday was a good day.

We have not yet reached the third coast but we will. However, now, from coast to coast, after all the efforts of so many for so long, we have for parents agreements for the preparation, learning and development of their children: 10 provinces, 10 agreements.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Bush administration keeps up its attack on Canadian softwood jobs, holding thousands of workers in British Columbia, northern Ontario and Quebec hostage. Now Kinder Morgan wants to buy Terasen Gas to ensure its pipelines are available to carry Canadian gas to U.S. markets.

When will the government take the NDP's advice to link energy exports to fair play in softwood lumber?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, everybody knows that all of these investments are subject to the provisions of the Investment Canada Act and must be in the net benefit of Canada.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is the rubber stamp agency. There were 11,000 applications and not one turned down.

The United States has been refusing to play by the rules of free trade for years now. It is the Liberal government that has taken no action to protect our forestry workers. There have been 20,000 jobs lost.

Is the government finally willing to consider the NDP's suggestion that we look at the possibility of export charges on our oil and gas, so that the U.S. administration knows that we are serious?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, that would be a real winner and would certainly serve to unite Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Having said that, we have taken very seriously the plight of the forestry workers in this country. We came out with a package for $356 million earlier. We have a package to help the associations with $20 million. Yesterday we put forward a package of $1.48 billion in order to help the workers, the communities and the companies.

We are standing behind the softwood lumber industry. We are standing behind the workers.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that agent orange was used at CFB Gagetown. However, the defence minister has initiated a long study that will just delay compensation to ailing victims.

The wheel need not be reinvented. We can learn from the experience and the proven approach of the U.S. military who have adopted a presumptive model.

Why will the government not presume that military personnel and civilians, who were in Gagetown at the time and are suffering from ailments associated with agent orange, were exposed and are entitled to compensation?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, this is exactly why we put together a team, not only Dr. Furlong who is an expert to consult with the community but also a scientific team to determine exactly the associations between diseases and the use of agent orange.

I repeat what I said in the House many times before, agent orange itself was used on some days in 1966 and some days in 1967. The inquiry has spread well beyond that of agent orange and is looking at the use of herbicides generally on the base. I think that as a responsibility to the victims and to the taxpayers, we must get this right.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, in May of this year the Minister of Veterans Affairs stood in the House and said, “We will always go the extra mile to assist any veteran in need”.

When it comes to making sure that veterans know the risks to their health, apparently a mile is a pretty short distance. The Veterans Affairs website has two short paragraphs on agent orange and an article from Salute .

It has been six months. Will the minister inform the House when she expects her department to deliver a comprehensive publicity campaign for veterans regarding agent orange?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Mississauga East—Cooksville
Ontario

Liberal

Albina Guarnieri Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct the record. Earlier the member asserted that the U.S. used the presumptive model on U.S. bases where agent orange was sprayed. The member knows that the claim he made is not factual. We are using exactly the same criteria as is used in the U.S. for spraying on domestic bases. We recognize exactly the same conditions.

The member would have us believe that a department that has awarded 10,000 pensions so far for veterans this year is not doing everything it can for our veterans. We have awarded 14 pensions for agent orange--

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Niagara Falls.

Wine Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, throughout this Parliament, I and other members of my party, plus the Canadian Vintners Association, have been calling for a reduction of the federal excise tax on wine. I should point out that this has the unanimous support of the finance committee, including all the Liberals.

After three budgets and tens of billions of dollars of promises, would it be too much to ask for this small break to support the Canadian wine industry?

Wine Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, that, like many other representations, will be taken into account by this government when we consider our next budget.

Ridley Terminals
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport's response on Tuesday to my question about his intended fire sale of Ridley Terminals in Prince Rupert to Fortune Minerals was completely inadequate.

Millions of dollars in future investments in northeast B.C. are threatened by his continued dithering. To protect long term contracts and future investment in the northern B.C. coal industry, Don Krusel, President and CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority presented a timely solution yesterday.

Will the minister now commit to cancelling the sale of Ridley Terminals and instead turn ownership over to the Prince Rupert Port Authority?

Ridley Terminals
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly bring the member's question to the attention of my colleague, the Minister of Transport. I understand that he already made it quite clear that there have been no negotiations with Northwest Bulk Terminals, no agreement has been reached, and the government has not committed to any purchase price for Ridley Terminals. The request for proposal process resulted in--

Ridley Terminals
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

That's the point. You're dithering.

Ridley Terminals
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Papineau, QC

Well, I will make sure that my colleague, the Minister of Transport, is seized of the very important situation there and he will certainly act.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, about the prison planes, we are asking the government a very simple question: Did Kirghizstan airline planes land in Goose Bay on two occasions and in Frobisher Bay on another occasion. I cannot conceive that the minister could answer that he has no information. The fact is that any aircraft landing in Canada has to be logged; it is in the logs of the airports concerned, namely Goose Bay and Frobisher Bay in this case.

How can we be told that there is no information when it is a legal requirement to log flights? I would like to know if the ministers have checked to see if these flights were logged.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, if the Bloc has specific information, it should bring it to the attention of the public.

The Deputy Prime Minister was very clear. She said that there was no reliable information concerning any flight that would have been in violation of Canadian and international law. Now that specific flights have been brought to our attention, I am confident that she will do her job, as always.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have been mentioning specific flight numbers for a few days now. We are asking whether or not there were any such flights. Each airport keeps a log. If we are told that there is no information, this means either that these particular flights were not logged, or that they never happened, that the logs were not checked—and I suspect this was the case—or that the ministers do not want to say.

We have been putting the question very clearly for the past four days. There have been newspaper and television reports. These ministers must read the paper and watch the news once in a while. Could they commit to provide on Monday an answer to our very specific questions? We have indicated the flight numbers, the registration numbers, the names of the airlines and airports involved, and the date when this happened. Could they answer on Monday? It is easy to check.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness will certainly have an opportunity to look into this matter again and to determine whether the information from the Bloc is relevant and how it might have been useful.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, since the Liberals came to power in 1993, federal employment in Newfoundland and Labrador has declined by 39%. Now we see another example of cutbacks.

During this season when many people are filing for EI benefits, Service Canada has a backlog of about 4,000 applications. Why is Service Canada providing neither overtime nor extra help to deal with the backlog?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Belinda Stronach Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal

Mr. Speaker, the aim of Service Canada is to provide better service to more Canadians in more communities. Over the next 18 months we are going to be doubling our points of service across the country from 320 points of service to over 600 points of service. This should mean better service to Canadians and more resources to better deal with those backlogs.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, this is the peak time when people are applying for unemployment insurance benefits. It is also approaching Christmas. Instead of a four or five week wait, which is too long anyway, they are now waiting eight to ten weeks. These facts and figures are coming right from the minister's own department.

Every other province has received either overtime benefits or extra staff. Why is the government discriminating against Newfoundland and Labrador?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Belinda Stronach Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal

Mr. Speaker, let me assure the House that all available employees are assigned to the processing of claims to minimize the wait times and to ensure cheques go to those employees who have filed for EI claims.

Cultural Diversity
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Godbout Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the Minister of Canadian Heritage for her excellent work in connection with cultural diversity at UNESCO. Unlike the party over the way, she does more than talk; she has acted and achieved some concrete results.

In a world context as favourable as this, our artists cannot help but flourish, and yet the minister has done still more for the cultural community.

Can she tell the House how she will be supporting our country's artists more than ever through the Canada Council for the Arts?

Cultural Diversity
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

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

It is true that this was a historic week for culture. First of all, our government announced that it was doubling the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts, to $300 million. This is particularly good because of the Council's upcoming 50th anniversary in 2007. What is more, Canada has become the first country to ratify the Convention on Cultural Diversity, as promised.

We therefore have every reason to rejoice at these two announcements because this is, to quote the MAL, the Quebec movement for arts and letters, a stunning, total collective victory.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Grey—Bruce—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister in his role as finance minister took over $25 billion out of health care. Last May the Chippewas of Nawash were told that there was no money available to grant their application for $250,000 to provide health care for their community.

In its recent mad dog spending spree, the government has announced billions in bogus promises for every group in the country. Why are the Chippewas of Nawash being left out?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, members will remember that the first ministers and the Prime Minister met with the leaders of the native community and negotiated some extra funding for health care. These very same leaders are meeting at the present hour I believe. The funding is available. The Government of Canada is working with the communities, directly getting to the needs in those communities, and we will continue to work in that direction.

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday a Make Poverty History witness stated at committee that the democratic deficit of the government goes much deeper than anyone had thought. Just two days after the Auditor General reported how the government took $69 million in matching funds money and spent it on non-tsunami programs. The Auditor General also stated that $30 million for debt relief in tsunami countries never retired one dime of debt.

What did the Liberals spend the money on, and when are they going to report to Parliament and repay this money like the Auditor General has recommended?

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Barrie
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I have to share with the House how proud CIDA was to read chapter 8 of the Auditor General's report, to have her tell Canadians how accountable we were in our response to tsunami, and how flexible we were under the pressure of that incredible horror.

I would also share with the hon. member that the $69 million is merely a marginal transfer from one fiscal year to another. The $69 million will be spent on the reconstruction of tsunami affected--

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.

Health
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Denise Poirier-Rivard Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, Salvia divinorum is a hallucinogenic plant sold legally across the country. This substance, banned in Australia, Italy, Finland and Denmark, causes hallucinations and may cause mental health problems in those who use it.

Can the Minister of Health tell us why this hallucinogenic substance is still not controlled in Canada and is freely sold and readily available in ordinary stores?

Health
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but with so much muttering and yelling from the members opposite I did not hear the first part of the question. Nonetheless, I have noted this question and the Minister of Health will be pleased to give the hon. member a complete response.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The people of Haiti are still suffering despite the help of several countries including ours. Has the minister recently announced additional help or will he do so in order to provide the Haitian population with all the help Canada can offer to the poorest country in our hemisphere?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this morning, together with my colleagues responsible for international cooperation, and the Francophonie, and with our special advisor to Haiti, we have announced a new contribution of $33 million for Haiti. This contribution will be used essentially to support projects aimed at security sector reform, social and economic reconstruction, reconciliation and the resumption of the democratic process.

We are also proud to work with the many organizations in Canada and with the Haitian diaspora that will see these projects through.

Canada will support Haitians as long as it takes.

FedNor
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for FedNor. Yesterday he was in Sault Ste. Marie and made the very important announcement of a new $7 million waterfront research facility for fisheries and oceans. It was a much anticipated announcement and I wish I could have been there to celebrate with him.

The announcement yesterday missed one key piece: a new invasive species management centre to coordinate national efforts to combat invasive alien species threats and make Canada a world leader in invasive alien species management issues. Species such as the Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer threaten domestic biosecurity. Projected annual losses of $13 billion to $34.5 billion--

FedNor
Oral Questions

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

FedNor
Oral Questions

Noon

Egmont
P.E.I.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I will take that question under advisement. I am not familiar with the total package that was announced yesterday, but we will get the answer for the hon. member today and get back to him.

Liberal Party of Canada
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, in recent weeks members of the government have made reference to a payment of $1.14 million that was made from the Liberal Party to the Government of Canada in partial repayment of illicit moneys received as a result of the sponsorship program.

I would like to ask if the government could please table a copy of the cancelled cheque, both sides of it, so we can indeed ensure that this money was received by the Government of Canada.

Liberal Party of Canada
Oral Questions

Noon

St. Catharines
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, we have answered questions from that member a number of times in the House, but let me repeat what the deputy leader of the Conservative Party said just a few weeks ago: “We know that every recommendation that will come out of the second Gomery report will already have been adopted and acted upon and all the transparency and accountability mechanisms already in place”. That came from the deputy leader of the opposition. I thank him very much for having confidence in Justice Gomery.

Justice Gomery did his work in his first report and he will do his work in his second report--

Liberal Party of Canada
Oral Questions

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Louis-Hébert.

Transportation
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, no doubt during his last visit to Quebec City, the Minister of Transport saw the terrible and rusty condition of the Quebec Bridge. Renovating this bridge is a regional priority.

Instead of boasting about having read CN the riot act, why does the minister not get his department to immediately make the repairs, and then demand repayment from CN? It would go much faster, unless the minister is as rusty as the Quebec Bridge.

Transportation
Oral Questions

Noon

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we appreciate the Bloc Québécois members' humour this morning. It is a change from their usual bad mood.

Transport Canada intends to take the necessary steps to ensure that Canadian National completes the bridge repairs in accordance with its obligations and commitments in this regard.

Message from the Senate
Oral Questions

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed certain bills, to which the concurrence of this House is desired.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

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

Order in Council Appointments
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, an order in council appointment made recently by the government.

Gender Equality
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, a report entitled “The Expert Panel on Accountability Mechanisms for Gender Equality: Conclusions and Recommendations”.

Green Municipal Fund
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the Green Municipal Fund Annual Report for 2004-05 and the revised 2005-06 Green Municipal Fund Statement of Plans and Objectives.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-82, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms).

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

Food and Drugs Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale for the Minister of Health

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (drug export restrictions).

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

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. The title says it all: “Northern Cod: A Failure of Canadian Fisheries Management”.

I wish to thank the staff and researchers, who did a tremendous job, along with the members of the committee. It is a unanimous report from the all party committee.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report within the 120 day limit.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-457, An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Simcoe--Grey.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to have the opportunity to rise in the House and present my private member's bill, which would change the name of my riding from Simcoe--Grey to Simcoe--Town of The Blue Mountains.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound for seconding my private member's bill.

The Town of The Blue Mountains is virtually the only part of Grey county that is in my riding. I want to thank and congratulate Mayor Ellen Anderson who worked so hard for the people of Blue Mountains and invite all Canadians to come to our beautiful four-season resort area.

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

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great honour today to present two petitions on behalf of the people of Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar.

The first one deals with Canadian National Railway's decision to remove the terminal from the town of Biggar. It greatly affects the community and its citizens and there is a lot of worry about the environment and the employees of CN.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the House of Commons and the present Liberal government to remove the GST on gasoline prices. It greatly affects all of our communities and affects the people in the riding very much.

I am very grateful and privileged to present these petitions on behalf of my constituents.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the petitioners state that a tax exemption was issued for soldiers serving in high risk overseas missions and excluded service members who served on roto zero Operation Athena in Afghanistan between July 2003 and December 2003. Because those soldiers who served on roto zero established the mission in Afghanistan, stabilized the area of operation and handed the area over in good order to the soldiers of roto one, these petitioners want them to also be included in the exemption and they petition the government that they receive the same tax exemption as the soldiers of roto one Operation Athena.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with prize fighting. According to the petitioners, the government is outlawing encounters with fists or hands between two persons and exempts boxing contests. However, there is no exemption for martial arts and these petitioners would like to amend section 83 of the Criminal Code so that the exemptions include aikido, Inoue grappling, judo, jiu-jitsu, karate, kickboxing, kung fu, muay thai, taekwondo, tai chi and wrestling.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the first petition I present comes from my constituents who wish to see an increase for parental sponsorship admissions and reduced processing times for sponsorship applications in our immigration system.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the government to hand over the land on which the Queensway Carleton Hospital sits for the price of one dollar.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third petition that I present is from a number of my constituents who wish to see criminal prosecutions for members of the Liberal Party who were involved in the vast criminal conspiracy we know as the sponsorship scandal.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to present petitions on behalf of people with children with autism, calling for amendments to the Canada Health Act to include specific therapies as medically necessary.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, the petition that I present on behalf of my constituents today deals with the twinning of Highway 63 in northern Alberta. Currently, the highway is only two lanes going north and south. There are tens of thousands of people who travel that highway every week and sometimes every day sometimes.

The petitioners ask, since $123 billion will come out of my riding in the form of taxes over the next 15 years and some 150,000 people will be living there in approximately 10 years, that this highway be twinned because of the type of traffic that uses the highway. This is the first of many petitions on this subject, which has over 1,500 signatures.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is it agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, November 23 the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert raised a very important point of order with regard to form and substance of the supplementary estimates (A) for 2005-06.

The parliamentary secretary to the government House leader responded that he would get back to the House with the government's position in due course.

Given that this Parliament may be short lived and that the government may seek to use Governor General special warrants during a dissolution for spending that the member for Edmonton—St. Albert argued was not properly before the House, I would like to know if the government has determined a position yet?

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would point out that the parliamentary secretary to the House leader was very sincere when he said “in due course”. It will not be this party that is voting to end Parliament prematurely.

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

We have to remember that Monday will be a sitting day.

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my point of order is a quick administrative error. Yesterday I referred to Charles Bird as the vice-president of CTV News. In fact, he is the vice-president of Bell Globemedia, which is the parent company of CTV and the Globe and Mail .

I thank Paul Sparkes, the vice-president of corporate affairs at that company, for raising that administrative error with me.

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, on the point of order I raised earlier, I did not determine a response from the member, whether the government has a position or it has not.

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

My understanding is the answer was that it would be answered within due course. My comment was that to my knowledge Monday is a sitting day and so is Tuesday for all we know.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Telecommunications Act

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

12:15 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?

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to, amendments read the second time and concurred in)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-36, An Act to amend the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler for the Minister of Natural Resources

moved that Bill S-36, An Act to amend the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act, be concurred in.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler for the Minister of Natural Resources

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking all parties for the support they have provided for this bill. There are some minor administrative amendments that would allow the diamond industry, which is so important to Canada, to keep functioning.

Bill S-36 is designed to amend the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act. The act provides controls for the export and import or transit across Canada of rough diamonds and enables the implementation in Canada of the International Kimberley process certification scheme for the trade in rough diamonds.

Before discussing the bill itself, I will give a brief overview of the steps that have been taken by Canada in the international community in connection with the rough diamond trade.

The international community is still greatly concerned about the link between the illegal rough diamond trade and the financing of armed conflicts, particularly as occurred in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While conflict diamonds constitute a very small percentage of international diamond trade, they have a devastating impact on peace, security and sustainable development in the affected countries. With leadership from Canada, the United Nations has taken several initiatives to address this problem. As far back as 1998, the Security Council imposed sanctions prohibiting the import of rough diamonds from Angola that were not controlled through an official certificate of the original scheme.

During its term on the UN Security Council in 1999 and 2000, Canada played a key role, as chair of the Angola sanctions committee, in pressing for measures to strengthen implementation of these sanctions. These measures laid the foundation for the adoption of additional sanctions on Sierra Leone, which placed similar restrictions on rough diamond imports from that country.

In December 2000 and again in March 2002 the United Nations General Assembly passed resolutions, of which Canada was one of the sponsors, calling for the creation of an international rough diamond certification program to tighten up measures to control the rough diamond trade and prevent illicit diamonds from getting into legitimate markets.

At the June 2002 Kananaskis summit in Canada, under the G-8 plan for Africa, G-8 leaders reiterated their support for the international efforts made to identify the link that exists between the development of natural resources and conflicts in Africa, including the monitoring measures developed under the Kimberley Process.

The Kimberley Process was initiated in May 2000 by several south African countries. In addition to responding to the international pressure to address peace and security concerns, the process protects the national economies of several south Africans countries, including Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, that are highly dependent on the diamond industry.

Over the course of nine plenary sessions and two ministerial meetings, the process developed detailed proposals for an international certification scheme for rough diamonds.

In March 2002 Canada hosted a meeting of the Kimberley Process that achieved consensus on the proposals in the scheme. The scheme was seen as taking the form of an international political understanding rather than a legally binding international agreement.

At the meeting held in Switzerland in early November 2002, participating countries made a commitment to simultaneously implement the scheme at national levels on January 1, 2003.

In order for Canada to follow through on this commitment and implement the Kimberley Process certification scheme on a solid legal foundation, the Government of Canada established the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act. The act came into force January 1, 2003, under the authority of the natural resources minister.

Canada's Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act provides the authority to verify that natural rough diamonds exported from Canada are non-conflict. It also gives the authority to verify that every shipment of natural rough diamonds entering Canada is accompanied by a Kimberley Process certificate from the exporting country, again certifying that diamonds have a non-conflict source.

There are also trade restrictions whereby trading rough diamonds from non-participating countries are prohibited.

I might just stop to answer a specific concern with respect to persons only having a certificate by weight. People could mix valid diamonds with low quality blood diamonds so that system would not work. However certificates in Canada also have the value and carats of the diamond. It would be very hard to replace one shipment with the other because it has to add up to the same weight and value. There are also a number of other certificates in the process so that items can be matched.

The importance of these amendments is so we can publish our statistics and compare them with other countries and our imports will match with their exports.

The Kimberley process remains today as the principal international initiative established to develop practical approaches to the conflict diamond challenge. The process now includes 45 participants, including the European Union, involved in producing, processing and marketing of rough diamonds. The participants account for 99.8% of the global trade in and the production of rough diamonds. They include all of Canada's major diamond trading partners.

The implementation of the Kimberley process has demonstrated significant benefits in curbing illicit trade in rough diamonds. For example, Sierra Leon's certified exports in 2004 were valued at $155 million versus $10 million in 2000.

Although Canada's status as an important diamond producing country is recent, this industry currently provides an estimated 4,000 direct and indirect Canadian jobs. Mine production in 2004 is estimated to be valued at $2.1 billion Canadian, ranking Canada as the world's third most important producer of diamonds by value.

This only marks the start of Canada's diamond history. More mines are scheduled to come into production in the coming years. These include the Jericho mine in Nunavut in 2006; the Snap Lake mine in the Northwest Territories in 2007; and the Victor mine in Ontario in 2008. These and other advanced exploration projects located in the same areas, and also in Quebec and Saskatchewan, will ensure prosperous times to come for the economy of many regions. These include aboriginal communities as well as major Canadian cities as hubs for the financial markets, equipping and manufacturing companies and allied industries.

Coming from a northern riding I am very delighted that many of the jobs in the diamond mines at the moment are provided to northerners and to aboriginal peoples of the north.

In addition to diamond mining, a small diamond cutting and polishing industry has grown in Yellowknife, Vancouver, Toronto and in Montreal and Matane, Quebec.These operations have important training components which include a number of aboriginal apprentices.

Because the Kimberley process is in its early phase of operation, shortcomings which impede its effectiveness were noted and addressed at the Kimberley process plenary meeting in Gatineau, Quebec from October 27 to October 29. I attended those meetings and it was wonderful for Canada to be hosting such an important initiative.

For Canada to be compliant with the Kimberley process as per the modifications brought forward at the plenary meeting, the following amendments to the act are required: introduce a provision to enable the publication of the Canadian Kimberley process certificate, based import and export statistics collected through the Kimberley process certification scheme; and change the definition of the term “rough diamond” as defined in the act to provide ministerial powers to exclude classes of diamonds prescribed by regulation from the scope of the Kimberley process certification scheme.

With regard to the first amendment, under the Kimberley process scheme participants are required to submit trade data in order to facilitate the identification of irregular trade activity. This is a foundation of the certification scheme. Most participants submit trade data based on Kimberley process certificates. However Canada is currently one of only a handful of participants who do not submit Kimberley process certification based trade data as it does not have the authority to do so. Canada submits the official trade statistics published by Statistics Canada, which, because of definitions, differ from Kimberley process certificates.

Statistics Canada's rough diamond trade statistics are customs based and measure rough diamonds imported and exported from Canada as a result of a financial transaction. On the other hand, Kimberley process trade statistics, derived from information on Kimberley process certificates, measure the flow or movement of all rough diamonds entering and leaving the country.

For example, exploration samples, technical valuations or rough diamonds that are shipped for events such as trade shows are not included in Statistics Canada's trade volume data because the rough diamonds have not been sold to anyone, that is, no financial transactions have taken place. However they are included in the Kimberley process certification based trade data since all rough diamonds entering or leaving the country must be accompanied by a Kimberley process certificate.

At the Kimberley process plenary meeting in October 2004, participants recognized that the statistics derived from different sources are hindering the comparability and analysis of the trade data and, consequently, the effectiveness of the Kimberley process certification scheme. For this reason, Partnership Africa Canada has been quite vocal in having Canada amend its act to enable the publication of Kimberley process certification based trade data.

Further, as Canada chairs the Kimberley process working group on statistics, it is important that we lead by example. NRCan has confirmed with Statistics Canada that the latter does not have any problems with the Kimberley process certification based trade statistics being published in addition to its trade data as long as they are appropriately sourced, which they will be.

The second amendment, to change the definition of the term “rough diamond” as defined in the act, and to provide ministerial powers to prescribe the classes of diamonds to be excluded from the definition of “rough diamond”, is required to comply with a change adopted by the Kimberley process plenary meeting, which limits the applicability of the Kimberley process certification scheme to diamonds equal to or larger than one millimetre in dimension. This decision was made to remove unnecessary administrative burden on the Kimberley process certification scheme as the smaller diamonds are of too little value for illicit trade.

As concerns the exclusion of the smaller rough diamonds from application to the Kimberley process, we propose to set the sizing criteria through a regulation.

Some concerns have been expressed about addressing this issue through regulation rather than in the legislation itself. There are four important reasons why this should not be an issue.

First, changes to the Kimberley process certification scheme are adopted by all Kimberley process participants on a consensual basis. Canada has no discretion on whether to implement these changes if it is to remain a participant in the process and not to disrupt Canadian trade in rough diamonds. Therefore any regulation will have to conform to the requirements of the international process.

Second, dealing with the Kimberley process guideline through a regulation provides additional checks and balances as the regulation development process requires public consultation, as well as a review by the Standing Joint Committee for Scrutiny of Regulations which reviews and scrutinizes regulations on the basis of legality and procedural aspects.

Consultations will take place with all stakeholders, including producers, importers and civil society, to ensure that the regulation is practical to implement and that, at the same time, it meets the intent of the Kimberley process guideline.

Third, the regulation is technical in nature and will require input from the industry to ensure the wording of the regulation meets the intent of the Kimberley process but at the same time is practical to implement and enforce.

The diamond industry uses sieves to separate its diamonds into different size fractions, and we understand that the sieves currently in commercial use do not result in 100% separation between diamonds one millimetre or longer and those less than one millimetre. Therefore the wording of the regulation must address this issue.

Finally, should the Kimberley process decide to alter the technical guideline related to the size for any reason, Canada would be in a good position to comply without going through a legislative process.

Because the bill is technical in nature, it was first introduced in the Senate on May 19, 2005. It was eventually referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources and passed by the Senate without amendments on June 20, 2005.

Both the mining industry and the diamond cutting and polishing industry are dependent on access to export markets and this access depends on Canada's participation in the Kimberley process.

I am looking for support for this bill in order to signal to Canadian stakeholders and to the international community that Canada is moving ahead to comply with the evolving requirements of the Kimberley process certification scheme.

A mandatory review of the Kimberley process certification scheme will be held next year and led by foreign affairs. Meetings will be held the following year where it will be looked at again. In 2007 the plenary would approve it and it would get back to Parliament in 2008. Any other improvements that come out of that whole process and our experience over the years will be added at that time.

However these two amendments are critical to getting it right so we are not out of compliance with other countries. They would protect Canada's important diamond industry.

The only other point that has come up in debate related to whether the elements of the certificate were concrete enough. The Kimberley process is not the only way diamonds are monitored in Canada. Criteria such as value and weight are also involved. Various other documents accompany diamond transactions in Canada. As a result of what is already in place, it is hard to exchange illegal or blood diamonds for other diamonds.

I would like to commend opposition and government members for taking part in this debate. A number of members have added some very important background information with respect to the terrible tortures, amputations and murders that have occurred because of blood diamonds. All parties have supported this legislation in order to get it through quickly so Canada can remain a leader in ensuring we have a valid and successful diamond industry which is important to our economy, some of which is in the big cities but most of it in the north, and the economy of our aboriginal peoples.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak to Bill S-36, a bill that amends the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act, which is the domestic enabling legislation for Canada's participation in an international certification and regulation process, known as the Kimberley process, which is designed to counter the trade and transportation of illicit rough diamonds that are used to finance armed conflicts in Africa. The previous speaker spoke of the murder, torture and strife that is carried out there and which the illicit rough diamond trade finances. These illicit diamonds are referred to appropriately as conflict diamonds.

The bill makes two technical changes to address shortcomings in the international process and Canada's participation in it. The bill gives the Minister of Natural Resources the authority to change the definition of “rough diamond” to enable exclusion of diamonds less than one millimetre in diameter from the scope of the Kimberley process. Countries in this international certification scheme have concluded that diamonds less than that size are of too little value for the illicit trade and of course would not be referred to as conflict diamonds and therefore placed an unnecessary administrative burden on the mining industry.

Bill S-36 also introduces a provision to enable the publication of Kimberley process certificate based export and import statistics. Currently Canada only publicizes official trade statistics established and published by Statistics Canada which are based on customs export and import declarations. This latter move is designed to facilitate the identification of irregular trade activity which is important when trying to counter, or look for ways to decrease, the illicit trade in rough diamonds. Bill S-36 comes into force on a day to be set by cabinet.

The Kimberley process was initiated by South Africa in May 2000. It includes 43 participants involved in diamond production and trade. The participating countries account for 99.8% of the global trade in rough diamonds. They are prohibited from trading in rough diamonds with non-participating countries and must implement laws and regulations against such trade in their respective countries. In addition, rough diamonds must be shipped in tamper-proof packaging and accompanied by a forgery resistant certificate.

Something comes to mind when considering that rough diamonds must be shipped in tamper-proof packaging and accompanied by a forgery resistant certificate. Would it not have been a wonderful idea if the money that was directed to the sponsorship campaign of the Liberal government some time ago had been sent out in tamper-proof packaging accompanied by a forgery resistant certificate.

Perhaps there would not have been the huge scandal and all the diversion of taxpayers' money into the coffers of the Liberals' campaign and the Liberals would not be facing an imminent trouncing at the polls in a very short time. Canadians would probably be sleeping a lot better too, knowing that several hundred million dollars had not been fleeced from some of the programs into Liberal coffers. I know my colleague from the Bloc probably agrees with me that if the money had gone in tamper-proof packages, it probably would have been better spent.

Getting back to Bill S-36, Canada has participated in this agreement since its inception in May 2000.

As a Canadian I am proud to say that in 2004 Canada ranked as the world's third largest producer of diamonds by value. That is amazing. I can remember not too many years ago no one really knew diamonds existed in this country. Those who did know about it considered that maybe it was too expensive to actually mine the diamonds. That has certainly changed over the last couple of decades.

The production is estimated at about 12.6 million carats, or approximately $2.1 billion. Diamond mining provides approximately 4,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada, and they are well paying jobs. They are permanent jobs because there will be a very good resource harvest of diamonds for many decades to come.

The Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act is under the authority of the Department of Natural Resources and serves as the legal foundation to implement the Kimberley process in Canada. As well, the Canada Border Services Agency assists Natural Resources Canada in verifying that imports of natural rough diamonds are accompanied by a Kimberley process certificate from the exporting country. This is very important when we are trying to discourage and counter the trafficking in illicit rough diamonds.

At the Kimberley process plenary meeting held in Gatineau, Quebec in October 2004, several modifications were brought forward to improve the effectiveness of the process. As a result, amendments are required to Canada's domestic legislation to ensure that Canada remains compliant with the international agreement.

The government is scheduled to undertake a full-scale review of the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act in 2006, which will be concurrent with a similar review of the Kimberley process in the same year. The amendment related to the diamond size will help remove an administrative burden to Canada's mining industry. It is possible that non-quantified economic benefits could accrue to Canada's diamond mining industry by this measure which could indirectly benefit federal revenues. That should be music to the ears of the Liberals in the House. The government does not appear to be over-inflating any expectations with respect to economic benefits.

As well, the publication of Kimberley process certificate based import and export statistics and the associated improvement on the monitoring of irregular trade activity would in a minor way help improve the Kimberley process's overall objective of addressing the negative impact that trade in conflict diamonds has had on the peace, security and sustainable development in affected countries.

Consultations on the proposed amendments were carried out with provincial and territorial governments through the Canadian Intergovernmental Working Group on the Mineral Industry, Canadian diamond industry stakeholders and NGOs participating in the Kimberley process certification scheme. All stakeholders support the proposed amendments to the act. No major adverse consequences of proceeding with the amendments were identified.

It is true that all Canadians have a direct interest in a more peaceful and stable world. As such we need to support international efforts to end the financing of armed conflicts by trade in illicit diamonds. Canada must continue to play, and increase the role it plays, in countering the trade in illicit diamonds.

As well, we need to ensure that government agencies and bodies designed to enforce the aspects of these international efforts, such as the Canada Border Services Agency, are properly resourced in both manpower and equipment. We know that the Liberal government has cut back the resources and the manpower to the Canada Border Services Agency to a point where it is starving for more resources and manpower in order to do its job more effectively.

We have heard the leader of the Conservative Party and many of my colleagues in the House recognize time after time the importance of the Canada Border Services Agency and commit that a Conservative government will provide all the necessary resources and manpower so that it can be as effective and more effective than any other border agency in the world. That is the commitment of the Conservative Party in a Conservative government after the next election.

In total value, Canada is the world's third largest diamond producer. Any measure which fortifies the legitimate trade in diamonds and reduces regulatory and administrative burdens on our diamond industry is good for jobs in Canada and good for the future of Canada.

The Conservative Party will be supporting the bill. We will ensure that the Canada Border Services Agency will have the adequate manpower and resources to carry out the responsibility we have by being part of the international organization that oversees the export and import of rough diamonds. We will ensure that the resources and the manpower are provided to keep Canada as a leader in fighting the illicit diamond trade, the profits of which support so much strife and terrible conditions, for example, in countries in Africa.

We will be supporting the bill. After the next election we will look forward to a Conservative government pushing as hard as it can to ensure that the Kimberley process act is as effective as all the participating countries need it to be.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to speak today on Bill S-36, in which I have a special interest. In fact, I had the opportunity, during various parliamentary missions, to visit countries and meet people living in countries affected by war. Often “war” means “money” and “buying weapons”, which was unfortunately the case in some African countries.

If I may, I want to come back to Bill S-36, which makes essentially administrative amendments to the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act. Essentially, this bill will have two effects. First, it will authorize the government to compile and distribute data on international trade in diamonds. The adoption of this amendment, which would make the diamond trade more transparent and easier to control, is necessary for Canada to remain in compliance with its international obligations pursuant to the Kimberley process. Second, it will exclude very small diamonds from the Kimberley process requirements.

In number and in weight, the great majority of the diamonds dealt on the market are tiny. They are not used to make jewellery, but have more of a utilitarian function. They are to be found, for example, in turntable needles, in watchmaking and in certain industrial knives.

Unlike large diamonds whose scarcity makes their price exorbitant, these diamonds are of no great value, and the administrative burden associated with the Kimberley process can be prohibitive. I might mention that Canada recently became the world's third largest diamond producer. In Quebec, even though no diamond mine is yet active, seven mining companies hold licences on such mines, basically in Abitibi, Témiscamingue and the Northwest.

Deposits of kimberlite, the ore in which diamonds are found, have been discovered in five sub-regions of Quebec. As far as the Kimberley process and conflict diamonds are concerned, I will read an excerpt from Partnership Africa Canada:

In 2000, the international diamond industry produced more than 120 million carats of rough diamonds with a market value of $7.5 billion U.S. At the end of the diamond chain this bounty was converted into 70 million pieces of jewellery worth close to $58 billion U.S.

Of total world production, rebel armies in Sierra Leone, as well as in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are estimated by De Beers to traffic in about 4 per cent. Other estimates place the number higher.

The Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act ensures that Canada is in compliance with the Kimberley process, an international agreement which has established a process for certifying the origin of rough diamonds. The Kimberley process is basically designed to limit the trade in conflict diamonds, which are sold by armed factions to finance their wars.

At the beginning of my speech I mentioned these countries that have gone through harrowing wars, and that often have a high poverty rate.

Because they are small and highly valuable, the diamonds are easy to market and can be very profitable.

Now I will provide some statistics on wars funded by diamond trafficking. In the 1990s, this trade was a veritable scourge, and a major component in the funding of wars that displaced about 10 million people in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

When this issue first came up, only NGOs were critical of this funding. In 2000, the UN broke the story and published a report on the funding of the war in Angola, confirming everything that the NGOs had been proclaiming for years: the diamond trade was being used to finance the war.

These two events, that is publication of the UN report and of other information on the war in Sierra Leone, demonstrated that African conflicts and their connection with the diamond trade had now, unfortunately, become common knowledge.

That is when countries and companies that produce diamonds began to be concerned. Obviously, when this became common knowledge, everyone started wanting to solve the problem. But it was already too late. The moment that diamonds become synonymous with war, rape and murder and not with dreams and wealth, they lose their core value.

Responding to the invitation of two NGO groups, 37 countries and the principal diamond merchants agreed to sit down together with the NGOs to find a solution to the problem.

Continuing with the historical background, the first meeting was held in May 2002 in the city of Kimberley, South Africa: hence the name the Kimberley process. At the end of a series of meetings, they agreed that the best way to civilize the diamond trade was to put in place a system for certifying the origin of diamonds. Under this system, all diamonds exported from a country participating in the Kimberley process must be placed in a sealed container and accompanied by a government-issued certificate of authenticity called a Kimberley certificate.

There is plenty I could say about Bill S-36. I will, however, raise a few of its minor weaknesses before closing. First of all, the bill ought to have been evaluated, and this was not done with the first version. Now we are coming to amend the bill but it has not yet had a concrete evaluation in this Parliament.

The law will have been in effect for three years this coming January. The government wanted a prompt evaluation of its application and any shortcomings, but that was not done.

In conclusion, I would just like to add that the principle of Bill S-36 is a highly important one and that the Bloc Québécois will continue to follow developments in this sensitive situation with interest.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1 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?

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

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

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am in agreement and the Conservative members in attendance are in agreement with the government whip's request.

Before we go to that, I understand there have been discussions in the other place with respect to Bill S-19, a bill dealing with criminal interest rates. This particular bill is up for discussion on Monday. I am rising to indicate that the Conservative Party supports this bill should the government decide to move ahead with it.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Thank you, I will take that into consideration. There was a point of order from the chief government whip in regard to seeing the clock as 1:30 p.m. Is there unanimous consent to see the clock as 1:30 p.m.?

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 20 consideration of the motion.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant. The motion proposes that the government take action to make a number of amendments to the Income Tax Act to support the transfer of family farms from one generation to another and facilitate retirement savings by farmers.

In addition, the motion asks the government to take action to transfer a recurring envelope of funds to the Government of Quebec and other provinces to encourage young people to take up farming.

Let me begin by commending the member for her efforts on this file. She has undertaken extensive consultations with various stakeholders in the industry with the goal of improving the lives of farmers and encouraging future generations to enter into farms. She has also demonstrated a spirit of cooperation by agreeing to meet with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance in an effort to better understand the Government of Canada's position and the policy implications for her proposals. The member should be applauded for what she is trying to accomplish.

That being said, while I and all members of the House share the hon. member of Châteauguay—Saint-Constant's goal of supporting family farms in Canada, I cannot support the motion. The hon. members of the House should also reject the motion because the Government of Canada already provides significant assistance to farmers, including assistance to facilitate the intergenerational transfer of farms as well as the federal-provincial-territorial cost shared program that delivers the major component of government support for agriculture. This substantial support for farmers, delivered by the Government of Canada, the provinces and the territories, explains why these measures are unnecessary.

Support for agriculture comes in three different types of measures: tax measures, loan support measures and direct support programs. Today, I would like to outline the scope of existing Government of Canada direct support for farmers for the hon. members of the House.

I am confident that when hon. members understand the extent of these existing programs, they will concur that they also cannot support the motion. With all the provinces and territories as full partners, a recurring envelope of funds already exists for cost shared programs that provide support for farm families and beginning farmers through programs under the agricultural policy framework, the APF. The APF is a multi-billion dollar, multi-year program.

Under the APF, the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program provides protection for farmers in need based on the decline in their production margin which is their farm income minus eligible expenses. Beginning farmer margins are also being used to provide support to farmers who do not have a financial history. This means that beginning farmers can access income stabilization and disaster coverage under this program at the start of their careers.

Another component of the APF is the renewal program. It is one of the major programs that the Government of Canada, along with the provinces and territories, uses to support farmers and to ensure that young people, especially young people from farm families, are able to get started in farming.

The APF's renewal component offers a suite of programs to provide farmers with business advisory and skills development services that are available for new or beginning farmers. These programs include: the Canadian farm business advisory services, the planning and assessment for value added enterprises program, and the Canadian agricultural skills services which has been launched in two provinces and will be available across Canada during 2005.

The Canadian farm business advisory services, CFBAS, provide eligible producers with access to financial consultants to help them set goals for their business and to develop plans to meet these goals. The farm business assessment component of this service consists of the development of a farm financial assessment and action plan. The service, valued at up to $2,000, is available to producers for a $100 consultant fee. In the program, established producers receive a one day follow up to assist in their progress while beginning farmers receive up to three days of follow up.

The Specialized Business Planning Services, another component of the Canadian Farm Business Advisory Services, provides participating producers with specialized business plans in areas such as diversification, marketing, human resources, expansion, risk management or succession. It provides up to $8,000 in matching funds to an individual producer.

In addition, Planning and Assessment for Value-Added Enterprises provides up to $10,000 in matching funds to an individual producer to develop a comprehensive business plan for establishing or expanding a value-added enterprise.

Finally, the Canadian Agricultural Skills Service provides assistance to producers and their spouse for a skills assessment, development of an individual learning plan and financial assistance to access training.

While only established producers with a net family income of under $45,000 are eligible for training benefits, all beginning farmers, regardless of income, will receive a skills assessment and an individual learning plan.

These programs are strong evidence that the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories are already working together and will continue to work together to ensure appropriate levels of support for family farms and to encourage young people to go into farming, in particular, through the existing joint federal-provincial-territorial agricultural policy framework.

Farm policy is a matter of profound importance to this government and to Canadians in general. The hon. member for Châteauguay--Saint-Constant's motion has provided an excellent opportunity to consider the excellent existing support that the Government of Canada, along with its provincial and territorial colleagues, provides to the vital farming sector.

When hon. members of the House consider that all measures in support of farmers, whether tax measures or spending programs, are paid for with tax dollars of other hard-working Canadians, I am sure they will recognize that not every measure can be supported.

I am also sure that when hon. members consider these comprehensive programs that I have just described and consider as well the existing tax measures and loan support programs, which I did not have the opportunity to describe in detail today, it will be clear to them that adding new tax and program measures to the generous support that is already available to Canadian farmers is not something that the House should endorse at this time.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to speak to the motion that seeks to make the intergenerational transfer of farms easier for everyone.

The statistics do not lie. In the past decade the number of farms has drastically declined. This is not because farm couples are not having children. It is because increasingly it is financially impossible for those couples to pass the farm on to their children.

For many families, the farm assets are the only savings they have. They do not have a pension plan. They do not have RRSPs. Their life savings are tied up in the farm. In order to retire, as most Canadians do and deserve to do, sadly, they must sell the farm and its assets to an outside party.

This motion addresses only one of the many challenges that face rural Canada. These challenges are only made worse by the Liberal urban-minded government. Ordinary goods and services that urban Canadians do not think about twice have become luxuries for too many rural Canadians. I am speaking of the availability of such things as health care, postal services, infrastructure and protection from crime.

Our rural communities are finding it tough to attract doctors and even tougher to attract specialists, especially when we do not have the sophisticated diagnostic tools to which these doctors have ready access in the big cities.

Postal service is something that most Canadians do not think twice about. This is not the case in my riding however where I am fighting to maintain or restore rural postal service in not one but three of our communities. Despite the government's pledge in 1994 not to close rural post offices, 50 of them have been closed in the last four years.

The minister responsible for Canada Post tried to convince the House on February 23 of this year that there was no such plan to close 750 rural post offices. However, as we know, they are being closed in Atlantic Canada, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and they are being closed in Haldimand--Norfolk.

We should not be fooled. The same minister has been quoted defending the closures, the ones he says are not happening, because, as he sees it, “even grandmothers send birthday messages electronically”. Perhaps it is difficult for that urban member to understand that there are many homes in Canada that do not even have access to the Internet much less the skills to use it.

The government claims that there is a moratorium on post office closures while Canada Post says that it is in fact closing them. I am not going to stand by and believe the Liberal government when it says that something is not happening and it is in fact happening right before my very eyes.

It is no wonder that our farm families are having a hard time convincing their children to take over the farm. Aside from the fact that they cannot afford to, the quality of life in many of these communities is being degraded to the point where we have to wonder if the government is doing it on purpose.

When we talk about defending rural Canada, I am not talking just about the sustainability of individual farms and the succession of those farms to future generations. I am talking about the sustainability of the communities of which these farms are part. It is a task that the federal government must be willing to take on, one that a Conservative government will make a priority and achieve.

Rural Canadians deserve basics and necessities just like any other Canadian. They deserve infrastructure, safe communities and a healthy way of life. Anything less is a sign of inequality in this country and, in effect, is an insult to all Canadians.

Good roads are something that we see everywhere in the cities. They are, however, becoming a luxury in my neck of the woods. My rural riding of Haldimand--Norfolk is home to hard-working, innovative entrepreneurs but they need roads. They need four lane highways that will allow companies to bring in materials for manufacture or processing. They need those roads to ship out their finished goods. They need communications networks and adequate hydro transmission lines.

My constituents need an environment that is friendly toward business, not one that forces them to close up shop and move to Mexico, as my area is about to face with the withdrawal from this country of Imperial Tobacco.

Jobs are being lost and this is only the tip of the iceberg. The real challenge for my constituents will be the loss of the farms that this closure by Imperial Tobacco will result in and the negative spinoffs that will be created.

The tobacco farmers of Haldimand—Norfolk have only one more harvest assured to them and then they may be left without a buyer. Canadian smokers will not be smoking Canadian cigarettes. They will be smoking offshore tobacco with who knows what chemicals in it. Canadian tobacco farmers will be left with nothing but non-transferrable, heavily financed equipment.

There are crops that can be grown in this sandy soil but there is no assistance for these producers to transition into specialty crops or to transfer their farms to the children so that they may do so. For this reason and for other farmers across Canada facing similar challenges, I welcome this motion today and I support the goal it intends to achieve.

The average age of farmers is increasing and our young people cannot afford to get into this business. Many of them are having to leave the farm and our rural communities. Existing large farms and farming corporations are in much better financial positions to purchase the farm assets and quotas of retiring farmers.

Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with efficiency resulting from large economies of scale, but I do have some concerns about this bill. It is the family farm, not the corporate one, that will preserve traditions and values. It is the family farm, not the corporate one, that will participate in our communities and improve them for future generations.

While technology improves the efficiency of our farms, it is still a very labour intensive industry in many cases. Regardless of the size or ownership of a farm, our communities need the basics that I have talked about to sustain the workers needed to produce our food. After all, without our farmers who is going to feed us? Who in the world would Canadians trust to feed us if not our farmers, and I mean our farmers. We must do everything we can to help our farmers stay in business, especially our family farms.

Today's motion seeks to make the transfer of farm assets more affordable for our farm families. The Conservative Party of Canada supports some of the specifics of this motion. We recognize the need for the federal government to take concrete steps to promote the intergenerational transfer of farms. However, that being said, any actions taken by the federal government in this regard must be fiscally responsible and within the federal government's capacity.

I would now like to address the issue of RRSPs and farmers. It is known that most farmers do not have RRSPs for, as I mentioned earlier, the bulk of their savings are tied up on the farm. However there are some producers who do.

The Canadian home buyers' plan provides an option of using RRSPs to purchase a house if it is a first time buy. However farmers cannot use their RRSPs to acquire ownership of a residence on a farm because the residence is considered to be a farm asset and is part of an agricultural business.

This motion today seeks to give farmers the same option that other Canadians have, that is, using the capital that they have invested in their RRSPs to acquire a home that is now classified as a farm asset. This is only fair. For those producers who do not have RRSPs, the establishment of an agricultural savings plan is a novel idea, a tax friendly concept that a Conservative government would welcome discussion on.

Enabling farmers to accumulate tax sheltered retirement funds could have the greatest effect on farm successions. By promoting the accumulation of farmers' retirement savings in a fund that is independent of farm capital, farmers may have the ability to accumulate enough savings to retire.This would allow them to enter into more favourable financial arrangements with potential young successors without compromising their own financial security.

In regard to transferring funds to the provinces to promote the transfer of farms, we in the Conservative Party understand that agriculture is a shared jurisdiction of the federal government and the provinces. This section may require an amendment to the agricultural policy framework. Such amendments require the agreement of two-thirds of the provinces representing 50% of Canadian agricultural production.

I close by assuring all of Canada's hard-working resilient farm families that their next government, a Conservative government, will welcome discussion with the provinces to improve rural Canada and its way of life.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to this motion presented by the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant. She has been an hon. member in this House for a year and a half and has made an interesting, important and concrete contribution both with her experience in agriculture and her ability to bring people together on ideas like the one we are discussing today. We know in this House that the motion she is proposing has support from a number of members. Furthermore, she is responding to a very serious concern of the entire agricultural sector in Quebec and Canada and even the world's entire rural population.

Agriculture is the cornerstone of our regional economies. Programs like supply management have helped our villages to develop in interesting ways and have assured them some degree of financial security. Now, if we want to be sure that the supply management system is maintained, then we must also talk about the problem of succession.

Even though our farms have increased in value over the years, they now employ fewer people than they did 50 or 60 years ago. However, their economic impact is still just as significant.

Since today's families are smaller, there is now a problem when parents want to transfer their farm either to their children or, if the latter are unable to buy the farm or have no interest in it, to other potential buyers. Since the parents put a lot into these farms—which have often been handed down from one generation to the next—the latter are now worth a great deal of money.

The most eloquent example is someone who wants to work in agriculture but who is not from a farming family. The financial requirements that need to be met in order to buy a farm are significant. Purchasing a farm is almost impossible. That is why we need to find solutions to this problem.

We also need to find a way to help the children of farmers who want to purchase the family farm but who, given its considerable value, are forced to accept a compromise. Temporarily, the parents have to make a significant concession with regard to the value of the farm they are transferring to their children. For their part, the children have to accept what almost amounts to co-management, so that their parents can transfer them the farm and still feel good about it.

At the same time, human aspects are not the only major factors that need to be considered. There are also tax implications.

The Bloc Québécois held a forum on this subject in fall 2004 at the agricultural technology institute in La Pocatière, in cooperation with the UPA, which has agreed to look at this issue with us during the election campaign.

This is the kind of issue on which the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant has worked hard. She has worked to develop ideas and turn them into concrete plans that could be considered in the House. That is an interesting and smart approach. I hope that it will produce results in the short term. I hope that, in the next legislature, we will be able to ensure that the government elected will again implement measures that reflect the work done by the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.

I want to mention, among the motions we hope to make, the one to enhance rather than destroy the financial advantages associated with transferring a farm. The Bloc is proposing the following:

(a) increasing the allowable capital gains deduction for agricultural property from $500,000 to $1 million, exclusively for transactions as a result of which a farm remains in operation—

We would like to provide greater incentive for transfers, provided that such transfers ensure that the farms remain in operation. In fact, we want to prevent situations where farms are bought and immediately sold, in an attempt to control the market based on initial production. We want to prevent such business practices which are sheer capitalism. In connection with agriculture, we have to try to find somewhat different approaches.

We are also asking that the federal government extend the rollover rule to transfers other than those between parent and child. We are proposing “extending application of the rules governing rollovers to all members of the immediate family under 40 years of age”, to brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces, for example. This would better reflect today's reality. There are children who want to take over their parents' farm. But there are also many who do not. That is why we have to provide for the possibility of transferring a farm to relatives of the family that owns the farm, such as brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces.

In addition, we would like the following idea to be considered:

(c) setting up a farm transfer savings plan that would enable farmers to accumulate a tax-sheltered retirement fund;—

Governments could contribute to this plan as they do to registered education savings plans. This contribution would be conditional upon the farm remaining in operation following its transfer.

It has become apparent that parents were reinvesting all their money, all their profits, in their farm and that, when it was sold, that was their retirement fund. With a farm transfer savings plan, they could put money into this plan. This way, when the farm was transferred, the money amount transferred would be smaller. The burden on the young people taking over would be smaller, while the parents could rely on a decent income.

We are proposing that the possibility of putting this kind of measure in place be considered, to ensure the survival of our farms and meet one of the UPA's very ambitious primary objectives: preserving the 32,000 farms on all of Quebec's agricultural land by giving access to the farming profession to any young person who demonstrates the abilities, capabilities and skills required.

This body of taxation measures—the list of which I will complete shortly— would be the foundation for this system's operation. They would ensure a tangible result in ten years. The next generation of farmers would be assured. Children wishing to acquire farms would have been able to do so, and otherwise the continuity of the farm could have been ensured through more distant relatives or others interested in agriculture but lacking the means to make a start in it. Thus we would be spared from being left with nothing but vertical integration in agriculture.

This is important and is something that worries people, young farmers in particular. People in my riding have suggested having a national commission on agriculture which would hold general assemblies on agriculture, obtain a clear picture of the situation and propose solutions. That could certainly be part of this framework.

The fiscal plan would be complemented by what I consider a fourth proposal:

(d) make the rules governing property ownership more flexible so that young farmers can obtain a larger share of a residence held by a company and use their registered retirement savings plan to acquire an agricultural enterprise;

Let us take the case of a young man or woman out in the work force, perhaps a graduate of an institute of agricultural technology. The parents are still of an age to run the farm for a few more years, so the young man, let us say, works as a salesman for agricultural implements or feed or that sort of thing. He is able to put a bit away into an RRSP. When the time comes for the parents to want to retire, he would have to be able to transfer his money out of the RRSP in order to buy the farm without a penalty, rather than have to leave it there until he retired. The way things are at present, if he cashes out his RRSP, he will have to pay tax on it, so that is a disincentive to buy the parents' farm. We would like to see a measure along those lines adopted.

Then there is this fifth constructive proposal we are making to the federal government:...

(e) transfer a recurring envelope to the government of Quebec...for encouraging young people to go into farming

For example, the Government of Quebec could extend access to the start-up subsidy, improve interest rate protection and raise eligibility limits, introduce a start-up subsidy for young people starting up in agriculture part time and gradually moving into full time, and create a single-window approach to match farms with no succession and young aspiring farmers without farms.

This last proposal essentially comes back to the fact that agriculture is more of a provincial responsibility because of the tax system. I do not want to get into a debate over it, but the fiscal imbalance is the reality faced by the provinces, which do not have enough money to provide realistic, satisfactory help to their agricultural sector. Money transferred from the federal government to the provinces and Quebec would help them implement this type of program.

Given the tax framework we are working with, we may contribute to solidifying the topic for discussion at next year's UPA meeting on agricultural succession in La Pocatière, a topic firmly raised in the House by the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.

I hope that when we come back to the House, she can continue to work hard. Her arguments are very convincing and she knows the agricultural world in her riding quite well. I hope that we can continue to rely on her services in the years to come.

I invite all the hon. members of this House to support this bill.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak again about farming in this country, particularly in my own region of Sault Ste. Marie and East Algoma, because there is a crisis. I would say that as a result of that crisis what we are speaking to here today is trying to put in place some small measure that would help save the future of the family farm.

However, even though we can support this motion and we will, I do not think it goes far enough to really restructure the whole farm industry so that it becomes a viable economic sector in our country once more.

I think that we have to look at our own experiences of meeting with farmers in our particular constituencies and our regions. When we sit down with them and hear from them, we hear the desperation and the pain in their voices today as they speak about their future, the investments they have made, the investments they have lost and the hopelessness they feel. In turn, they are passing that hopelessness on to their children. It is not often done by direct conversation, but the children look at the hard work that goes into farming, at the 24/7 commitment and at the investment made, for so little return anymore.

If there is anything we can do in this place to make it more profitable to move the farm on from one generation to the other, we certainly should be doing it. That is why I will support any initiative here which will move in that direction.

In the few minutes I have today, I want to talk about the situation that confronts farmers out there, both in my own region of East Algoma and across this country. The fact is that farming today, like so many of our other economic sectors, is being taken over by fewer and fewer corporate interests, which have seemingly no interest--and I do not understand this--in the profitability or the success of the small family producer. They are more interested in the bigger operations where they can squeeze every ounce of profit out of everybody and everything and every resource that is involved in farming, for their own profit margin but certainly not for the profit margin of the farmers themselves.

I want to speak for just a few minutes and put into the context of this discussion an article that was in Straight Goods magazine just recently, written by Dennis Gruending, a member of this place at one time. He titled his article this way: “Agri-food industry very profitable, but producers have to find day jobs”. That is the conundrum that farmers find themselves in.

Today we are talking about passing on the family farm to the next generation, to our children who, more and more, are going to school so they can better themselves and take a more learned approach to that which they do for a livelihood and an income. They look at what their parents are doing and see their parents working as much as they can in the early morning and late evening to keep the farm going, and then they see them going off to someplace else in the town or the city during the day to earn a little money so they can keep bread on the table, continue to pay for the energy to heat the house in the winter, and clothe themselves. All of that does not look very attractive.

What Dennis Gruending focused on in his article was a report that this government should actually be very interested in, although he says in this article that this report has actually been archived. It is the report written by one of the Liberals, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food (Rural Development), a person who at one point was a farmer and thus knows this industry very intimately. To give him as much credit as possible, let me note that he travelled this country to sit in farmers' kitchens and community centres to talk to farmers across this country. I would say that what he found was very disappointing and alarming.

After looking at the situation that confronts many farmers, he said that food processing, for example, earned a 12% average return between 1990 and 1998 and was more profitable than the manufacturing sector, with an 8% rate of return, and food retailers averaged a return of 12% between 1990 and 1998. Yet the average farmer was losing between $10,000 and $20,000 a year in that time period.

I have spoken to some of the farmers in my area of East Algoma. They tell me, particularly with the impact of the closing of the border on beef farming and BSE, that they have lost about three generations of equity in their operations. I talked to another farmer who said that he had now probably lost between $150,000 and $200,000 over the last three years.

How long can farmers continue like that? How can we expect children to be interested in the family farm if that is the reality confronting them? Who wants to take on a losing enterprise or operation? I do not think many people are lining up for that.

What recommendations has the parliamentary secretary's report made, and Dennis Gruending through his article? He says that we need to limit the market power of corporations in concentrated industries by restructuring the Competition Bureau and strengthening the Competition Act. The impact of corporate consolidation on the producer can be taken into account. He also says that Ottawa should take a balanced approach to international trade negotiations, recognizing the legitimacy of some subsidies while stressing the importance of free trade. He says that we should defend the interests of Canadian producers.

I remember talking about supply management in the House just a few months ago. Dairy farmers were in attendance in the visitors gallery. They told us that they felt very much abandoned and alone in this fight. They want the government to recognize and understand the challenges they face and to stand with them shoulder to shoulder in trade disputes, discussions and negotiations. They want the government to defend the interests of those in the country who simply want to make a living by working hard and investing that which is necessary to be successful. They have been confronting this growing wall. There is a concentration of corporate ownership and an international trade regime that does not seem to understand the challenges of Canadian farmers, and the government does not want to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

The parliamentary secretary's report says that we need to defend the interests of Canadian producers, including an aggressive defence of supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board. It also goes on to say that government should encourage and support the intergenerational transfer of farms as a key factor in maintaining the viability of rural communities, which is what we are talking about today. We are talking about putting in place vehicles and support mechanisms that will make it more viable and lucrative when a farm is passed on so children do not have to suffer because of the difficult times and challenges of parents.

To put a fine point on the reality of the whole issue of the concentration of ownership and control of the agriculture industry in Canada, let us take a look at what the parliamentary secretary found and reported in his report. For example, Cargill controls about 50% of the Canadian beef packing capacity. Just two companies, Cargill and Tyson, control 80% of capacity. We need to do something about that. We need to reorganize and restructure the way the food business works so more money stays in the hands of the person who produces it in the first place, which is the farmer. If we did that, it would be easier to pass the farm on to the next generation.

Three companies retail and distribute the bulk of Canadian oil, gasoline and diesel. I spoke about the concentration in the Canadian oil business and how the price of oil from time to time goes through the roof, which impacts on sectors like farming. Three companies dominate the farm machinery sector, four companies mill most of our flour, three make our soft drinks and six control food retail.

If the government is serious about the future of the family farm and wants to see it passed on from one generation to another, it has to stand shoulder to shoulder with the small producer and challenge the powers that be and restructure it in a way that gives back some of the profitable returns made by others in the industry to the farmers themselves.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Gaudet Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant on her motion. I hope it will be adopted.

I would like to discuss the issue of the next generation of farmers. This is a major problem that requires some serious thinking and some solutions.

People in the farming business are getting older. Today, for one young producer, there are two who are aged 55 or more. Nevertheless, there is a keen interest among young people to take over their parents' farms. They would like to become farmers. However that interest dwindles when they find out about prices for farm property. Theirs is a particular situation in that they must buy land, buildings, quotas and various pieces of equipment. They must also think about improvements, and about the fact that they have to invest $6 to generate a profit of $1.

These young people have the skills, but they do not have the money to buy at a high price, and their parents cannot give them their property, because they must continue to make a living. In order to have an integrated approach, the state has to provide more support to these young people, so that the number of family farms can be maintained.

In 2004, the UPA, the union of agricultural producers in Quebec, published a report on young people in agriculture. This document includes 16 recommendations, including: launching an awareness campaign on the importance of female aspiring farmers; establishing tax leverages to promote financial security for retired producers; maintaining and developing a network of advisors on how to transfer and start a farm; implementing various measures to help train young people; improving financial assistance; and reviewing the quota transfer mechanisms to limit price increases.

Quebec has set up a system of bonuses to encourage young people to take over farm operations and become producers. Start up costs are very high for someone who wants to buy a business. This small amount of $20,000 or $40,000 that can be obtained from the Quebec government may make a big difference between deciding to make the sacrifices and efforts required to take over the business, or giving up because of insufficient funds to buy the operation.

It is not very complicated, but there must be a political will on the part of the various levels of government. That is essential. The federal government must set up a program, otherwise it will be the end of family farms for Canadian and Quebec producers.

The danger is close at hand, because the small and medium sized businesses with no one to take them over will close down. It is predicted that, by 2025, the number of farmers is liable to drop considerably. The big agribusinesses will get bigger, and others will sell off by dismantling their holding, because it is more tempting to accept a big offer than to sell to one's children. Some will prefer selling at a lower price, but may have a hard time in their retirement or may even be destitute. Fewer and fewer people are making this choice. If things continue this way, there will no longer be family farms, because the big businesses that buy them out will specialize.

Because of the mad cow crisis and the low prices in effect since 2001, a number of farms that are up for sale are not finding any takers. The people who are still there have enough on their plates already, and the people who want to buy have to try to bring the price down. Young people who want to take over from parents who have had enough do not have the money to do so, because agricultural products are not selling at a price that compensates for the cost of production.

So who will be taking over our family farms? The Mexicans? The Americans? How can we restore status to this profession, when the situation is so complicated and the government does not provide as much support to agriculture as other countries do? This is an obstacle for our farmers.

A low birth rate, low farm revenues, the need for an extremely high initial investment and an uncertain future mean that the succession problem is always one of the most important issues. This is the case in agriculture. Furthermore, environmental conditions, people's unhappiness with farm odours, and consumers who do not want to pay higher prices are among the most important reasons young people give for refusing to take over the family farm. The prices of agricultural products are lower than they were 20 years ago, but the cost of gas, electricity and other things is significantly higher.

Farmers are sending out an S.O.S. asking the government to help transfer farms to the next generation, our farmers of tomorrow.

Small farms need tax advantages in order to survive the battles caused by free trade and competition invading our markets, often due to the lower labour costs, warmer climates and less rigorous environments elsewhere.

We need all our farms. When we look at where farm families live, we see well kept buildings. When farms merge, are sold or dismantled, these buildings quickly fall into ruin.

Nowadays, thanks to the work done by farmers, Canada's capital assets may appear to be proof that we are rich. Nowadays, the next generation does not have the means, as they start out, to pay the asking price.

“We need to find the means to help the next generation take over, otherwise we will lose what we have and become poor and maybe suffer as much as the Norbourg investors”.

“We need a program to ensure that the government will be a major ally for the next generation. Our young people need to know that we have faith in the next generation responsible for feeding our planet, as our ancestors showed us”.

This comes from a brief written by a farmer and her husband whose four children had left the land because of the very high costs involved.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

The hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Denise Poirier-Rivard Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to close the debate on this motion in what could possibly be the last hours of the 38th Parliament. Although the vote on this motion may never happen, the debate on the future of agriculture in Quebec and Canada will have begun.

In the next few minutes, I want to come back to the origins of this motion and the fundamental reasons why I moved it.

This motion is the result of a broad consultation that my colleagues from the Bloc and I had a year ago and which brought us to the La Pocatière convention. Farmers made it imperative: if we want local agriculture to continue to be part of the Quebec and Canadian landscape, if we want young people to become interested in agriculture enough to spend their lives in it, we must propose innovative measures that will get convincing results in the next few years. Time is of the essence and if the governments do not soon commit to revitalizing farm life, then the family farm will soon become a thing of the past.

During its 2004 annual convention, the UPA set a goal to keep the 32,000 farms in Quebec in operation. This historic minimum of farms still in operation is indicative of a strong trend in the current global economy, which is to create mega-farms that utterly disregard the realities of local life and land use. As far as agriculture is concerned, our autonomy to feed Quebeckers is also at stake. Standing idly by would be giving in to the brute force of a market that considers only words like profit and efficiency.

What can we do to revitalize an essential occupation in our society? At the La Pocatière convention, politicians and farmers came up with ideas for improving the increasingly difficult situation farmers are in, especially when at the end of their career they want to leave their farming business and hand it over to a new generation of farmers.

First, in order to ensure that it is more profitable for a farmer to transfer or sell his farm to the next generation, rather than dismantling it, the allowable capital gains deduction for agricultural property should be increased substantially. We are proposing to increase it from $500,000 to $1 million, this exclusively for transactions as a result of which a farm remains in operation. Since taxes paid on transactions would decrease, this measure would allow the seller to dispose of his assets at a lower price, while guaranteeing him the same amount of money and encouraging young people to go into farming.

We are also proposing that the federal government extend the application of the rules governing rollovers to transfers other than those from parents to children. These would include transfers to brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces, provided they are under 40 years of age. The government would then be assured that the agricultural heritage remains in the family, and that the farm operation has long-term development potential.

Moreover, savings are often considered to be the Achilles heel of farm transfers. It will be much easier for a farmer to transfer his farm to the next generation if he has a retirement fund other than his farm as such. The sale of the farm's equipment and land is often the main source of money for a farmer's retirement fund. If we want to reduce the number of farms going out of business, we should have a mechanism that encourages selling to the next generation. We are proposing that the government make a contribution to a kind of “registered farm savings plan” that would be conditional on keeping the farm in operation at the end of the farmer's career.

Finally, the federal government should transfer an envelope to the provinces for encouraging agricultural succession. This envelope could be used for the following: extending eligibility for the start-up subsidy; improving interest rate protection and increasing eligibility ceilings; providing grants for young people who are starting up a farm; and improving local sources of information on farms available for transfer in the short and middle terms.

I want to conclude by thanking colleagues from all parties who have asked me questions and contributed to the debate. We must quickly find solutions that will allow the next generation of farmers to take over. Time is of the essence. There is no longer any reason to avoid debating this issue. We have launched that debate, and now the time has come to take action.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:55 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?

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 30, 2005, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

(The House adjourned at 1:57 p.m.)