House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was care.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I love the question that was just asked. It allows me to straighten out the facts.

The fact is that it was a Conservative government that abolished and scrapped all of the early learning and child care agreements signed with the provinces. Is that not interesting?

I would assume that members from Saskatchewan in the Conservative Party who are sitting in the House would have been protesting their own government because that meant cancelling the full universal pre-school program for all four-year-olds in the province of Saskatchewan.

The program was there. The money was there. The spaces were going to open in September 2006. It was because the Conservative government scrapped the agreement with Saskatchewan that those spaces did not materialize.

Let us talk about Alberta. We want to talk about choices for families. Yes, there are families that choose, if there are two parents, one parent chooses to stay at home. Many of those families and parents also wish their children, notwithstanding that one of the primary caregivers is at home, have access to early learning. Early learning is given at community centres, for instance. If the mom wishes and if she is the parent at home, she can get instruction, and share with other parents her experiences and benefits from it. The children are provided with early learning development.

Alberta was focusing primarily on training. Why? It was because almost 80% of early learning and child care is done in the private sector. Guess what? The operators who provide that early learning and child care in the private sector were welcomed. The Liberal government's agreement with the Government of Alberta would have meant that the operators of schools would have access to funds in order to be able to go back to school and receive training. Then they could qualify themselves as regulated child care space operators. There would be the understanding, yes, that parents have much more confidence in a place that knows public health requirements and such things like exercise, nutrition and the training of those workers.

No, there was no typo and is no typo in the official opposition's motion. It is that Conservative government that destroyed Kelowna, that destroyed the early learning and child care agreements, and that is destroying the independence and impartiality of our judicial system. The next thing is the Conservatives will have elected judges. Would that not be a nice sight?

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture.

I am pleased to rise to speak in response to the motion presented by the hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore. I note that the motion says specifically that the government is being criticized for “its budget spending cuts directed at aboriginal people”.

As I begin, there is no doubt that aboriginal policy is one of the most difficult areas of public policy in our country today. There are many areas that we can legitimately debate in the House. However, I do not think that budget spending cuts directed at aboriginal people is one of them because there have been no such budget spending cuts.

In fact, I am proud to point out that quite apart from cutting government spending directed toward aboriginal people, the government's inaugural budget in May 2006 provided for a total of $3.7 billion of additional funding over two years in support of aboriginal people and northerners.

The $3.7 billion by comparison is more than the previous four Liberal budgets had contained in total. It is hardly fair to say that there have been budget spending cuts directed at aboriginal people. To miscast the debate is simply not fair and I intend to speak to that.

This government has demonstrated time and time again to the members of this House that it is determined to improve the living conditions of aboriginal peoples.

Backed by the budget resources sanctioned by Parliament, this new government has been implementing a vigorous and tightly focused approach to dealing with aboriginal issues, the challenges that aboriginal Canadians have faced for far too long and the 13 years of inaction on the part of the previous government.

Our new approach has been based upon four elements, but only one goal, and that is real tangible improvement in the lives of aboriginal Canadians provide motivation and structure to what we are doing.

We have discussed this approach several times before the House. First of all, we are in the process of investing immediately in the urgent problems that are undermining the quality of life, such as unsafe water and inadequate housing. Next, we will also be introducing legal frameworks to promote programs for responsible, transparent governance. Furthermore, we are entering into agreements with aboriginal groups in order to resolve grievances and promote good governance.

Let me reiterate that this approach has been resourced by Parliament in last year's budget, and I will detail the disposition of this funding for the benefit of the House.

The budget, which presented to Parliament last year, allocated $3.7 billion for aboriginal and northern programs, including $3.2 billion alone for aboriginal investments. It includes funds for initiatives and priorities that are essential for healthy and sustainable aboriginal communities. I refer to areas such as housing, water and education.

In particular, a $400 million fund was set aside for northern and off reserve housing. Today houses are being constructed in Nunavut, for example, as a result of this. We see real improvements for the quality of life for aboriginal peoples. Much work is left to be done, but we have made progress.

To move to specifics, the budget committed a full $450 million to investments that will have an immediate and positive impact on the lives of Canadian aboriginal peoples. The money will be allocated to investments to improve water, housing on reserve, education and supports for aboriginal women, children and families.

The requirement for safe drinking water and adequate affordable housing I think is self-evident to all Canadians. However, the government also recognizes that it is through education and training that aboriginal people, youth in particular, can live prosperous lives either on or off reserve.

What is more, it is through an educated and employed population that healthy, stable communities are developed and sustained, and women play an integral part in the strength of the cohesiveness of the family and the health of the community. I think all fair commentators would observe that the government's agenda with respect to aboriginal women has been one that is noteworthy and very positive.

Additionally, as much as $300 million has been allocated to housing improvements for aboriginals living in off-reserve communities.

Up to another $300 million will go toward affordable housing in the three territories, $200 million of which will go to Nunavut where the need is greatest and $50 million each to the Yukon and to the Northwest Territories. Earlier I had referenced $400 million. It is $300 million in northern housing and off reserve housing.

Needless to say this funding will address the needs of and will be of benefit to both aboriginal and non-aboriginal northerners. There is more.

An additional $500 million will be devoted to community development, including that of aboriginal communities for the north, with which my colleague across the way is well familiar. These are the first nations that are affected by the Mackenzie gas project, the Inuvialuit, the Deh Cho, the Sahtu and the Gwich’in.

The goal of this funding is to support regional projects that will help alleviate socio-economic impacts on communities affected by the planning, the construction and the operation of this pipeline, which is so essential to our country's future.

These budgetary commitments speak to the determination of the government to address the needs of first nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada and to support them in the building of a healthy and prosperous future.

However, we also recognize, in terms of the way forward, that we also have to acknowledge the past. To that end, one of the first things we were able to achieve as a government was to negotiate a residential schools settlement agreement and to devote $2.2 billion to provide financial recognition of the often negative impact of the residential school experience. This will be buttressed by support programs to help former students, their families and their communities and to build a better future for themselves. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is an important part of that.

I would also like to add, with reference to aboriginal languages, that Canada's new government is committed to delivering real results for the preservation of aboriginal languages. We believe that language is a vital component of first nation, Inuit and Métis identity and an important part of Canada's heritage.

I want to emphasize that although the previous government had designated $160 million over 10 years ostensibly to support aboriginal languages, implementation of that fiscal framework was never completed and none of those funds were ever accessed by aboriginal communities, not one cent.

On the other hand, this government recognizes that aboriginal languages need stable funding so they can be protected and preserved. Therefore, we are providing long term funding of $5 million per year for the aboriginal languages initiative, to which the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Status of Women has spoken. This supports the preservation, the revitalization and the promotion of aboriginal languages. We are committed to develop a long term plan for the support and the maintenance of aboriginal languages. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Status of Women and her colleagues in the aboriginal community will develop a new and better approach that meets the needs of our aboriginal people.

Canada's new government has not cut spending aimed at aboriginal peoples. In that sense, the motion put forward by the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore is simply incorrect. It is erroneous. Quite the contrary, we have developed, implemented and resourced a disciplined and focused approach to the resolution of the issues that challenge aboriginal people and communities in Canada.

The first inaugural budget of the government provided significant new funds. No budget cuts were contained in that budget. We have pledged to make progress by working in partnership with aboriginal people. We can point with pride to the results that have been achieved.

We are committed to making progress by working with aboriginal peoples and we can take pride in the results we have achieved.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest and with some incredulity as the minister outlined the efforts of his department to address aboriginal issues.

Let us be clear about this. The issue of the $3.7 billion includes the residential schools agreement, which was negotiated by the previous government and ratified by the Conservative government. It is not part of the regular operating dollars of the Department of Indian Affairs. Therefore, that is misleading to the public and to aboriginal peoples.

The minister speaks with great enthusiasm about his efforts to remedy the wrongs for aboriginal women. While I support very much his interest and commitment to it, I question the manner in which he is going about it. The other night in the House we heard one of his colleagues disparage the whole consultation process. I am curious to know why Bill C-44 was introduced without any consultation process, dealing with the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act.

I am interested in his response to the fact that the Ontario chiefs have withdrawn from the matrimonial real property consultation process. I am interested in how he reconciles his desire for human rights for aboriginal women, without his real willingness to address the issues of housing, child welfare—

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, first, dealing with the residential school agreement, it brings to mind the old saying that victory has many fathers, failure is an orphan.

It is very interesting to see the attempt on the part of the former government to claim credit for the residential school agreement. That agreement was finalized, following extensive negotiations among myself, the National Chief of the AFN and respected members of the former judiciary. I recall being there. It was an agreement that this government resolved. To the extent that the former government wishes to take credit for it, that should provoke incredulity, about which my friend has spoken.

However, let us come to really what the government has faced and the motion.

No budget cuts have been directed by the Conservative government toward aboriginal Canadians. None whatsoever. There was a very substantial budgetary increase of $3.7 billion. My friend says that $2.2 billion relates to the residential school agreement. Fair enough, but it is part of the budgetary allocation of the Government of Canada and it is more than the previous government did in the four budgets.

What the previous government specialized in, with respect to the dire circumstances of aboriginal people, were empty promises, rhetoric, no delivery. That is the case whether we look at housing, or water, or the circumstances of women on reserve or the rights of women. Year after year of defalcation, the Liberals failed to deliver to aboriginal people. That is why we have the circumstance in our country, which I, as minister, and the Prime Minister are trying to address.

With respect to women's rights, I implore my friend to get on board, to help in terms of the building of the Native Women's Association of Canada, ensuring they have proper funding, in terms of repealing section 67. She says that there has been no consultation. This has been under discussion in Canada for 31 years. Now, that might not be enough consultation for the Liberals, but it is quite enough for this Conservative government to move forward. There will be further consultation at committee.

Matrimonial property is another case. This has gone on for over 20 years. The previous government allowed it to continue. We are dealing with the issue.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here again today.

Most Canadians have seen our Conservative Party ads that are on across Canada. They talk about the fact the new choice for Liberal leader is in fact not a leader at all, and I think the chaotic nature of this motion will probably demonstrate that to Canadians. The motion is all over the place. It includes about half a dozen different things and I think demonstrates again how hard it is for the leader to set priorities. He does not seem to be able to do that.

Even on the issue I am going to talk about today, I think he has demonstrated that he cannot focus on what he said he would do. He promised before the new year that the Liberals were going to be asking a question on the Canadian Wheat Board every day. I think we have had about two of them since we have come back. Obviously someone decided they were going to tack the Canadian Wheat Board onto the end of this motion, but we in the Conservative Party have a far greater commitment to agriculture than that. I want to talk about that this morning.

I want to talk about grain marketing. On this side of the House, we believe that western Canadian grain farmers should have the freedom to choose how they market their grain, with the Canadian Wheat Board as one of the options in the marketing of that grain.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food last fall announced that we would hold a plebiscite on the marketing of barley. That plebiscite is now under way and, let me ask members, how much more democratic could the process be than what we have put in place? Not only are we consulting those who are most affected by not having marketing choice, but we are giving them clear options to choose from.

I want to talk about the options that western Canadian farmers are being presented with in the plebiscite that we are setting forth now. The minister made a commitment that the plebiscite would be based on a very clear question. He listened to people's suggestions on what that question should be. Many producer organizations, members of Parliament from both sides of the House, provincial and local leaders and individual farmers were able to offer their views on what should be the content of the plebiscite questions.

After consideration, the government decided that producers would be asked to select one of the following three options. The first option on the ballot will be: “The Canadian Wheat Board should retain the single desk for the marketing of barley into domestic human consumption and export markets”. It is fairly straightforward. The second will be: “I would like the option to market my barley to the Canadian Wheat Board or any other domestic or foreign buyer”. That is straightforward as well. The third will be: “The Canadian Wheat Board should not have a role in the marketing of barley”. They are three very clear questions.

There are people who say that western Canadian farmers are not capable of understanding those three questions. Of course, we are not the people who say that. We believe that our farmers are intelligent people and good business people. They can look at those three questions and know clearly what they are saying and what they are about.

The three options are clear. They are simple and to the point. Farmers are more than capable of expressing their preference for the option of their choice. For the farmers who want to maintain the monopoly, the question is there. For those who want to see the Canadian Wheat Board out of the picture, the question is there. For those who want the option to use the board when they want to market directly nationally or internationally, that option is there as well.

I want to talk about voter eligibility, because it is something people need to understand. The minister has said repeatedly that the plebiscite would be based on a broad base of voters. Each farm operation, whether a single producer, partnership or corporation, will be eligible for one vote as long as it has produced grain during the last year and has produced barley in at least one of the last five years between 2002 and 2006 inclusive.

This attempt was to make sure that we are dealing with actual farmers, with people who are currently farming and who have grown barley in the last five years. If producers sold barley to a feedlot, produced it for use on their own farm, or sold it to the Wheat Board, they are eligible to vote. Active farmers who intended to produce in 2006 but were unable to do so, for some reason beyond their control, will still have the opportunity to obtain a ballot by contacting the election coordinator at the website: 2007barleyvote@kpmg.ca. They have until March 2 to arrange to get that package.

Those packages were mailed out February 7. The voting will continue until March 14. We are actively and positively encouraging barley producers to participate in the plebiscite to make sure their voices are heard.

Let me be clear about the government's intentions with the Canadian Wheat Board, because there have been some misconceptions about it. We believe it should be there as a marketing option for producers. We believe it should remain in place and continue to market on behalf of those who want to sell their grain through the board.

Our commitment to the barley and wheat producers of western Canada has been to give them the opportunity to seek out the best possible return for their product, and to give growers the chance to succeed and the freedom to make their own choices on how to produce and market their crops, whether that is through the Wheat Board or some other mechanism.

To get there, we need to meet the producers' needs, maximize their returns, maximize their choices and give them the options they deserve. That is what the barley plebiscite is all about.

This is quite a contrast to what we have seen in the past in the way that the Liberals dealt with western Canadian farmers when they wanted some changes to the system. I would like to take a few minutes this morning to tell members what happened when farmers in western Canada attempted to get some choice.

The member for Wascana has been involved in this issue for a long time. He was actually a minister at the time when five departments and agencies coordinated in an attempt to squelch and just basically squash the position of western Canadian farmers. Farmers were being faced with the possibility of having to deal with multiple government agencies at once. There were RCMP raids in the middle of the night on farmers' homes. I know of one story of a couple who had come home from the hospital when the RCMP raided their home in the middle of the night trying to confiscate their equipment. It was a terrible time for western Canadian farmers. Agencies such as the RCMP, customs, justice, Revenue Canada, and the Canadian Wheat Board all ganged up on individual farmers.

What was interesting was that farmers had enough guts to push back, particularly on the member for Wascana. They actually went to court and the courts ruled in their favour. That same day, the member for Wascana, as the minister, changed the regulations so that farmers were again in violation of the law. Most Canadians know that this action culminated in dozens of farmers being locked up in jail because they were trying to sell their grain and take it into the U.S. market.

It was a terrible time in western Canada. The Liberal government punished these farmers almost to the point of destroying them. I had the opportunity to be in Lethbridge on the day the farmers went to jail. It was a horrible sight, something I never want to see again. Women and children were crying as their husbands and fathers were being taken away. It was clear that even the law enforcement officers who were being forced to uphold the law that day thought it was basically a sham. It was an embarrassment, and it comes back onto the shoulders of the previous Liberal government.

All farmers really want is choice. They want to be able to do their own business and to be free to make their own business choices as they grow their grain and bring it to market. They want to have the opportunity to make a good living on the farm. They believe they are capable of making the decisions that will help them do that.

It is a great time for a plebiscite. We think this is the time for farmers to step forward and say they want choice. This is the time for farmers to say that they want the ability to run their own businesses as they choose. We have made democracy the centrepiece of our approach to marketing choice for western Canadian wheat and barley growers. We think that is very important for them.

We have been clear from the beginning that we believe in giving producers a choice. That is what a democracy is all about: having a voice in the decision making process.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of questions that I would like to ask the hon. member, but I know time is limited so I will ask two of them together and ask him to reply to both of them at the same time.

He finished his comments by talking about the respect the government shows for democracy. That may be a debatable topic, but I will not get into that now.

I would ask the hon. member how he interprets the results of the Canadian Wheat Board producer-director elections in his own constituency, where the producer-director elected in that area of southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta has been elected and re-elected several times. In fact, he holds the position in complete opposition to the position taken by that member of Parliament. It would appear that farmers in that area have expressed their view specifically on Canadian Wheat Board issues by repeatedly electing and re-electing the director in that area who supports the single desk. I wonder if the hon. gentleman could explain that contradiction.

My second question is this. On the barley plebiscite and the middle option, option (b), that he described earlier in his remarks and that purports to put forward the dual marketing proposition, can he assure producers that when that option (b) refers to the Canadian Wheat Board it is the Canadian Wheat Board that farmers know today with a single desk? Or is it some other concoction that is not properly named the Canadian Wheat Board in that middle option? I think that point of clarity is extremely important, because what that middle option purports to say is that we can have the open market and we can have the single desk together at the same time. I would be grateful if the hon. gentleman could clarify the point of whether or not under option (b) there will be any single desk.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member should be embarrassed, he really should. He was the minister in charge of the Canadian Wheat Board. He knows full well for single desk and choice that if we have choice the single desk is not in place, because by definition it cannot be.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Thank you for confirming that.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

He does not seem to understand that yet.

I want to point out first of all that he should be apologizing to western Canadian farmers for the fact that he was the minister in charge of the government file when farmers were locked up and put in jail.

We do not have a lot of time here, but I would like to direct him to a blog and “The Truth About Marketing Choice” at marketingchoice.blogspot.com. There, the member would be able to see answers to many of his questions, including the fact that if we bring in a voluntary wheat board, the Wheat Board will be one of those options; clearly, if we have a voluntary marketing system, we do not have a single desk. By definition, we do not have that. The member knows that, he understands that, and so do western Canadian farmers.

In terms of the three questions that we brought in, it is interesting that those questions are similar to the questions the Canadian Wheat Board asks on its annual survey. Last year's annual survey showed that 54% of farmers, even on wheat, wanted choice. They either wanted the board out of marketing wheat all together or they wanted a dual market. The majority of producers of wheat and the vast majority of producers of barley have indicated over the past few years in Canadian Wheat Board surveys that they want choice. We would like them to have that opportunity.

That is the best I can say about it, but I again would direct the member to “The Truth About Marketing Choice” at marketingchoice.blogspot.com. He will be able to get a lot of information about this issue so that he can understand it a little better.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of the motion that was put forward, I will ask a very brief question. The issue has to do with whether or not all Canadians, particularly those who are most vulnerable and most in need in our society, are being properly cared for and included in the priorities of the government.

The government cancelled or cut $18 million from national literacy programs, $55 million from student summer programs, $45 million from affordable housing programs, and $10 million from the Canadian volunteer program. There are ample examples of these kinds of things, but I think these four speak for themselves. Can the member explain to Canadians why we are cutting funding for programs and services for the most vulnerable in our society?

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think the member is aware that we are not cutting funding to any of these areas. What we have done is move them from advocacy to direct programming so that the people who are most impacted by these situations are able to benefit from the programs, rather than have them go to people who just want to talk about them.

Obviously that is something that drives Liberals crazy, because if there is one thing they love, it is to talk about things and never do anything. That is not the way we do things. We are going to move. We are not going to just talk about things, as they have done for 13 long years.

China-Tibet Dialogue
Routine Proceedings

February 15th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am seeking unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: urge the Government of the People's Republic of China and the representatives of Tibet's government in exile, notwithstanding their differences on Tibet's historical relationship with China, to continue their dialogue in a forward-looking manner that will lead to pragmatic solutions that respect the Chinese constitutional framework, the territorial integrity of China and fulfill the aspirations of the Tibetan people for a unified and genuinely autonomous Tibet.

China-Tibet Dialogue
Routine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The House has heard the terms of motion. Is there unanimous consent of the House for the member to move the motion?

China-Tibet Dialogue
Routine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.