House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business

7:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Message from the Senate
Private Members' Business

May 10th, 2005 / 7:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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.

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

Message from the Senate
Adjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to follow up on a question I asked on February 18 about museum funding. It is interesting to note that this would come up at this time because we have just spent the last hour talking about heritage lighthouses across Canada. Now we will be talking about another aspect of our heritage.

I was alarmed when I came across statistics in Heritage Canada that showed that Quebec receives 37% of all federal museum funding and the province of Nova Scotia, part of which I represent, receives just a little over 1%. I could not believe this was the case. Quebec received 59 individual grants last year while Nova Scotia only received four. The statistics are about the same for the year before.

When I previously asked the minister my question she said that some provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec where several national museums are located, required greater support.

I take total exception to that. It is simply not fair that one province gets 37% of all program funding for museums. It would not be fair for one province to get 37% of funding for anything but especially not for museums.

Even though the minister said that Ontario and Quebec have important historic facilities, I beg to differ. Nova Scotia shares some of the oldest parts of our federation. We share history from the French, the Acadians, the English and our first nations peoples throughout the whole province. We have dozens of museums and heritage sites that deserve just as much attention and just as much from the federal budget as the province of Quebec. Nova Scotia has a unique seagoing heritage. We have shipbuilding throughout the province of Nova Scotia, which is unique.

In my riding, in which there is a lighthouse, Spencers Island is the community where the Mary Celeste ship was built. This ship was found sailing on the sea with all its sails up and all the tables set but nobody was on board. It has been well documented in the Age of Sail Museum which is also in my riding. This museum is manned by volunteers who do an incredible job of gathering up information reflecting the history of the area. They have captured it well. This museum is one example of the 33 museums in my riding, and it is a dandy. I take my hat off to the people and the volunteers who work so hard e to make the museum a success.

After I raised the question in the House, I had a visit from officials from Heritage Canada. They explained that this funding was demand driven and so on but I still say there is something very wrong with the system when one province receives 37% of the funding and my province of Nova Scotia receives 1% of the funding. There is no justification for that. If it is application driven, then Heritage Canada is doing more to obtain applications from Quebec than from Nova Scotia and the other provinces.

I will continue to push on this issue. Perhaps I could get a clarification on why one province receives 37% of the heritage funding for museums while Nova Scotia receives 1%.

Message from the Senate
Adjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to clarify that. Just before I do I would like to pay tribute to Kelly, Leslie and Brian who are in Ottawa today from my constituency in Yukon.

The government is very proud of its commitment to arts and heritage. In 1972 it announced its first ever federal museum policy and as a part of that policy, created the museums assistance program. Today there are 2,500 museums and related heritage institutions across the country. They range from the tiniest historical societies entirely staffed by volunteers in areas like mine in Yukon to the largest institutions with encyclopedic collections and international reputations.

The museums assistance program is focused on projects being undertaken by those institutions that operate year round on a professional basis. The program has three components under which museums and service organizations can apply for project support: access in national outreach, aboriginal museum development and organizational development.

Applications to the program are first reviewed by program staff for compliance with program requirements. Following that, applications are reviewed by peer committees, committees composed of professionals drawn from the museum community itself. Like most programs in government, the museums assistance program receives more applications than it can fund each year and applications are therefore judged on comparative merit.

The role of peer review committees is to provide objective external assessment of the merits of projects and the extent to which they meet the criteria that have been established for the program. These criteria are not mysterious. They are included in the program guidelines that are posted on the website of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The number of applications submitted by museums in different regions varies considerably. For example, in 2004-05 six applications for new projects were received from Nova Scotia museums and related organizations and 94 applications were submitted by Quebec museums. Following a review of the applications, two-thirds of the Nova Scotia applications were approved and two-thirds of Quebec applications were approved.

In 2003-04 seven new projects were submitted in Nova Scotia and they were all approved. An additional multi-year project approved the previous year was also funded, bringing the total to eight. Ninety-four per cent of the total funding requested for the seven new projects was approved. By contrast, only 73% of Quebec projects were approved that year and they accounted for only 24% of the total funding requested by institutions in that province.

In 2002-03 three new projects were submitted in Nova Scotia and again they were all approved together with the second year funding for a previously approved project. Based on the record, eligible museums in Nova Scotia that submit applications have an excellent chance of having their projects approved.

There are many reasons for the differences in the number of applications the Department of Canadian Heritage receives in the different provinces and territories. It is important to remember that not all museums in the country are professionally managed and thus meet the eligibility criteria for MAP.

To meet the level of professional practice required by the program, museums must have ongoing local support. Different municipalities in provinces and territories provide different levels of support and there are variations in the percentage of professionally managed museums. One component of the program is dedicated to aboriginal heritage. Obviously the demand for that component will be higher where there are more aboriginal people.

It is important to note that the Government of Canada does not provide 100% of the costs associated with the projects. Museum related organizations must find other sources and this is easier in some areas than others.

The criteria for the program is open and transparent. The rules apply across the country and I can assure the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley that Nova Scotia museums are treated fairly under these rules.

Message from the Senate
Adjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to welcome Kelly, Leslie and Brian to Ottawa if they are here. We certainly want to make them feel welcome.

Just in rough numbers, Quebec has seven times the population of Nova Scotia, but it gets thirty times the museum funding. That is not right and it is not acceptable.

I do not know whether the Department of Canadian Heritage has skewed the regulations and the criteria to favour Quebec or what, but it does not make sense, it is not fair and it is not acceptable for Quebec to have 37% of the funding and Nova Scotia to have 1%. It has thirty times the funding and seven times the population. Something is wrong.

I would put my volunteer museums and their quality up against any professional museum in the country in management and the ability of the curator to bring in quality displays that reflect our heritage and history. I do not see any reason why those Nova Scotia museums--

Message from the Senate
Adjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources.

Message from the Senate
Adjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, as I said, a majority of Nova Scotia applications and a higher percentage were approved in Quebec. I would just like to improve on the positive assistance that this program provides to Yukon, Nova Scotia, Quebec and across the country. It plays a very important part in the quality of the nation's cultural life.

While the Government of Canada makes its greatest investment in museums, as the steward of national collections, it also recognizes that all across the country our collective memory finds a home in museums.

Through the program, project funding is provided to non-federal and related institutions. Some projects, such as the program for Nova Scotia heritage, benefit all the museums in the province.

With the support of the museums assistance program, the federation is currently implementing an education strategy to strengthen the capabilities of museums in Nova Scotia and target key priorities for community museums.

In closing, to paraphrase the words of the great Nova Scotian Joseph Howe, “A wise nation preserves its records...and fosters national pride and love of country”. The MAP ensures that tradition continues.

Message from the Senate
Adjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask the government to give an account regarding the compassionate care program.

As we know, the compassionate care program is a program that was established and announced in the Speech from the Throne in 2002 and again in the budget speech of the following year. It has been with us for about two years now. It is there to provide financial assistance, EI benefits, to those who qualify and those who have a dying family member, so that they can spend the last six weeks of the life of that dying person providing compassionate care. It is a program that is built on the right premise but, unfortunately, the government has to give an answer, hopefully tonight, why it is not implementing that in a fair and compassionate way.

I have a 43-year-old woman in my riding of Langely who is dying. Her sister, Sue, had been taking care of her mother. Then she became diagnosed with cancer. Her sister came down from the Okanagan to take care of her and applied for compassionate care. As I said, it is a program for family members to take care of loved ones. Sue's family was told that her sister did not qualify for this program because the government did not consider a sister or a brother a member of the family. The family members were devastated by that news and they appealed it.

Since I brought this to the attention of this House, we have found numerous Canadians who have had the same treatment from the government, where it has said, “No, sorry, you're not going to be able to have that compassionate care. Sisters and brothers do not qualify. They are not considered family”.

We even had a dying woman whose sister-in-law was denied the compassionate care. She had no family left. Her husband and children had died. The sister-in-law was the only one to provide the care and the government said no.

We brought this to the attention of the minister in January. It will take about four months, by regulation, to make the changes. Actually, I am asking to let the dying person choose who is going to provide that care. The government has had ample time to solve this problem, to fix the legislation, and it keeps refusing.

We have been told that it is under review. So I asked to meet with the persons who were doing the review. I met with them last week and was told that they were aware of these problems and that the minister had the discretion to start the proceedings to fix the problem. The question is, why is the minister not doing anything?

Almost every week, I talk to the minister and I ask, “Are you going to do something now?” And it is always the same answer, “I'll deal with it when I want to deal with it”. These people do not have an unlimited amount of time for the government to dither. These people are dying and they need a loving one to take care of them. When will the government do the right thing?

The appeal board is called the board of referees. It made a decision which said:

The Board finds that there is no compassion in a piece of legislation that would not specifically prescribe a sibling to be a family member--

This Board believes that the failure of the Commission and the Minister to act swiftly in these matters of Compassionate Care amendments has only served to exacerbate the suffering endured by families as they care for a dying family member.

The Board believes the Minister and the Commission, in their failure to act urgently to rectify the inadequacies of the Compassionate Care legislation, can be viewed as being neglectful of the trust reposed in them.

I have met with the chairs of these boards of appeal. Both chairs are criticizing the government. Everybody is waiting. When will the government do the right thing?

Message from the Senate
Adjournment Proceedings

8:10 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the hon. member. I truly welcome the fact that he has asked for an adjournment debate on this issue. I have followed his interest in this particular matter, a matter that is of interest to all of us as members of Parliament who see these terrible personal situations from time to time.

I welcome the debate because it is important that members of the House and all Canadians understand the government's commitment to ensuring that Canadian workers are not forced to choose between their jobs and caring for their family during a serious medical crisis. That is why the compassionate care program was introduced. Let me remind members that our compassionate care benefit was introduced only last year to help Canadian workers face these tragic situations.

I have to emphasize that even though our program was introduced only last year, Canada is a leader in the international scene in the area of compassionate benefits.

While some countries have income support measures for these types of situations, most are restricted to parents caring for sick children. For example, Denmark and Portugal integrate the provision of income replacement for parents caring for seriously ill or sick children into broader regimes of sickness benefits.

Some jurisdictions in the United States offer unpaid leave to eligible workers, but no income support. The State of California offers six weeks of paid family leave insurance benefits under its state disability insurance. This paid leave is for individuals who take time off work to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner. It can also be used to bond with a new child, the equivalent of our EI parental benefits.

The vast majority of Canadians facing these types of crises are caring for a spouse, a parent or a child. These benefits ensure that eligible workers can take a temporary leave of absence from work to provide care or support to a gravely ill child, spouse or parent who has a significant risk of death.

The six weeks of benefits can be shared among family members and can be taken consecutively, concurrently or one week at a time by family members over a 26 week period. This is a flexible program. This provides families with greater choices that will contribute to the care and the quality of care for gravely ill Canadians. The six week benefit was found to represent a balanced approach that would meet the needs of Canadian families and establish a sound foundation for a compassionate care benefit.

An evaluation is being conducted this year. Part of this evaluation will include an assessment of the adequacy and scope of the benefits.

The member should also know that a policy review is now under way which will assess the benefit parameters in a comprehensive way, including the range of family relationships currently recognized under the benefit. The member's points and arguments will be taken into account in that review, which is taking place the year after the benefit was introduced, so it is not a long time. This would direct any program adjustments in the next few months.

Any amendment to the recognized relationships under the compassionate care benefit program is done through regulation. The process for regulatory change takes at least six months in a still new program.

The government is committed to remain a world leader in the area of compassionate care. It is a sound management practice to evaluate any program after a year or so. We have started a full evaluation of a program that has been in operation for a year. Amendments will be based upon that evaluation.

Message from the Senate
Adjournment Proceedings

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is the third fiscal year that we are in regarding compassionate care. It is not a brand new program.

The review has been going on for a year now. The appeal board said that the minister needs to review this issue as an urgent and critical matter because time is sensitive.

This is an example of why Canadians have lost trust in the government: empty promises and empty words instead of action.

These people cannot wait. The government cut the funding from $191 million last year to $11 million this year. That is the type of review that the Liberals are doing: empty and broken promises.

When will the minister do the right thing and bring about the changes? The review board staff said she has the discretion to do that. We are waiting for her. When will she do it? I get empty answers. Something has to happen and it has to happen now. When will it happen?

Message from the Senate
Adjournment Proceedings

8:15 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must repeat that Canada is one of the very few countries in the world to offer compassionate care benefits for workers. This is still a very new field and Canada is leading in it.

I am very sensitive to the ramifications of cases of compassionate care which could exist out there, but proper management requires that we run this program as we are doing now and that we assess it fully as we are doing now before making considerable changes to it.

The policy review is underway. It is dealing with a number of issues. As I mentioned, those issues include, and because of the work of this member, the range of family relationships including siblings currently recognized by the benefits.

Message from the Senate
Adjournment Proceedings

8:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:17 p.m.)