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 aboriginal.

Topics

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is our hope to conclude an agreement with the other House leaders to determine what date it would be called, on the basis of a fixed debate, and to sit as long as possible to complete it.

In terms of scheduling it, it will be on the schedule every day but with a number of other matters as well. Our hope is that we will do it on the basis of an agreement.

Academy Awards
Oral Questions

February 15th, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties and I am sure you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That this House congratulates and expresses its support for Water, a film by Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta to be fully recognized as Best Foreign Language Film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as this film is symbolic of Canada's diversity and rich multicultural heritage; the House also congratulates and expresses its support for full recognition by the Academy to the following Canadian nominees: Ryan Goslin, Best Actor for Half Nelson; Paul Haggis, Best Original Screenplay for Letters from Iwo Jima; Torill Kove for Best Animated Short Film for The Danish Poet; and Paul Massey for Sound Mixing for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

On behalf of this House, I wish them well.

Academy Awards
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Brampton—Springdale have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Academy Awards
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Academy Awards
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Academy Awards
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Academy Awards
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Brampton—Springdale had the floor. There are seven minutes remaining in the time allotted for her remarks.

I therefore call on the hon. member for Brampton—Springdale.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, in continuing my debate on this motion, I will talk about the Conservatives' inaction and about their failure in terms of the environment, in terms of child care and in terms of health care.

The government, since getting elected, has had no plan of action and no leadership when it comes to addressing the issues that are important to Canadians.

Before I begin, Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg South Centre.

When I was speaking previously, I was talking about child care and the fact that the government has failed to provide leadership. It has failed to have an action plan when it comes to addressing the issue of child care spaces.

I would like to give an example for the parents and families who are watching today. A two income family from Ontario, each of whom earns $40,000, will be in for a shock when they complete their taxes. They will need to pay back almost $31 a month per child to the government. That is almost a third of the money that Canadian families have already spent on child care. This tax grab of $224 million is in addition to the $400 million that the government has made by cancelling the young child supplement. This amounts to $624 million that the Conservative government will be making on the backs of Canadian families.

It is unacceptable to think of the impact that this will have on low income parents. How will low income parents and Canadian families be able to provide for their children and invest in early learning and child care? In the long run, I believe it will be the Conservative government that will cash in on this particular deal.

We all know that last week, child care advocates, Canadian parents and families released a report card. I received many calls from my own riding of Brampton--Springdale and listened to the frustrations of parents who live in Brampton. I also listened to the frustrations of parents who live out on the west coast, the east coast and up north. They were all frustrated with the fact that there are simply no child care spaces because the government has failed to deliver spaces, despite the fact that it promised over 125,000 spaces.

In this report card that was given by child care advocacy groups, it spoke about the fact that when it comes to a parent's choice, the government would receive a D-minus, because the Prime Minister had sent cheques, as promised, but the Prime Minister actually ignored parents who said that they needed quality child care spaces.

When it came to balancing work and family, they gave the Prime Minister an F. They believe that if he had done his homework, he would have known that research shows that parents want quality child care, universal child care, accessible child care and child care that will ensure the very best for the future of this country.

It was quite interesting that when they came to access, these child care advocacy organizations gave the Prime Minister an incomplete. They said:

[The Prime Minister] uses scissors and words carelessly. He cut funds to child care and hasn't delivered promised new spaces.

Their overall assessment of the performance by the Conservative government and the Prime Minister was:

[The Prime Minister]'s work on child care has been Unsatisfactory. He has failed Canada's children and their parents.

Now we take a look at the Assembly of First Nations and their leadership action plan for children on the aboriginal and first nations community. Their vision was:

First Nations children must have an equal opportunity to grow-up with their family, in their community and in their culture. No First Nation child should have to forgo this opportunity as a result of poverty or an inability to access basic services.

First nation leaders need to make a difference for this generation of children and redress the breach of rights for children of generations past, but unfortunately, we know that the Conservative government has failed the children of the first nations community by cancelling the Kelowna accord and by cancelling investments in the area of health, of education and of infrastructure. It has failed the first nations communities all across the country.

Now let us talk about the issue of homelessness, another area where the Conservative government has failed to deliver. As a result of its inaction and the inadequate leadership that has been demonstrated, millions of Canadians who are homeless will be left out in the cold. Shelters are being left in the limbo. The homeless are wondering what they will do next. All of this because the government has failed to demonstrate leadership. It has failed to have an action plan because the funding is in limbo.

When we talk about homelessness and having affordable housing, the Liberal government put forward the SCPI program, which helped over 150,000 Canadians who experienced homelessness each year. The SCPI program was an essential tool and an effective approach to ensure that the needs of homeless people were addressed. However, at the end of the day, the Conservatives once again have failed to deliver. They have failed to ensure that these types of great programs can address the people who need it most, the homeless in our society.

The Conservatives have made numerous cuts. They have cut over $1 billion to important social programs, important programs that matter to Canadians regardless of where they live. They have cut $18 million to the national literacy program, $55 million to student summer programs, $45 million to affordable housing and $10 million to the Canadian volunteer program.

We have to ask ourselves this. What does the minority Conservative government have against the most vulnerable in our society? What does the Conservative government have against the women in our country? What does the Conservative government have against children, seniors, visible minorities and first nation communities?

It is time for the government to step up to the plate and get the job done. Canadians are counting on them.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments, especially her last comment with respect to the work the government has done over the last year on aboriginal affairs. I would like to ask the member a question.

We did a lot of work together on the health committee in the area of understanding, from a health perspective, how we could ensure there was enough funding for the aboriginal community. As she knows, $450 million was put into the 2006-07 budget, which included funding for social programs for women and children. A bunch of the categories also included ensuring that we provided opportunity for education for youth and for aboriginal housing, both on reserve and off reserve.

Could she comment on why she thinks that $450 million, which was added to the budget in 2006-07 over and above what was already there, is not a good thing for the aboriginal communities across our country?

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we talk to the stakeholders across the country and the aboriginal community, there is a tremendous amount of frustration and disappointment at the fact that the Conservative government has failed them. It has failed them by not honouring the Kelowna accord. The Kelowna accord took many years to come into effect. It was in collaboration and cooperation with all the community leaders from the first nations.

The member for Winnipeg South Centre has done a tremendous amount of work in this particular area. The Kelowna accord would have provided on reserve investments in the area of heath, education, ensuring that children from first nations communities would have the very best. However, because the Conservatives cancelled the Kelowna accord, first nations communities have once again been left in limbo.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently the Prime Minister received an F for child care and for failing ordinary families. Since 1993, we know there have been a lot of promises for families and children. Whether it was a national child care program or funding, there have been numerous promises and yet to date there is no national child care program. We have seen funding agreements and broken records. Unfortunately, starting on April 1 this year, $650 million will be taken out of the child care plan.

Is it not time to invest in child care? Is it not also time to pass Bill C-303, the early learning and child care act, put forward by the NDP, so we can enshrine in legislation the concept of a national child care program that is accessible, universal, affordable and high quality? If we do this, every family that needs child care will be able to get it.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member has done work in this area. However, I find it quite ironic when she and the NDP speak about wanting a quality, universal, accessible, affordable child care plan.

When the Liberals were in government, we had put together an investment for an early learning and child care agreement. We had invested $5 billion over five years to ensure that Canadian parents and families would have the very spaces they needed.

If my memory serves me correctly, the NDP was in bed with the Conservatives and ensured that this never came to fruition. Because the NDP did not cooperate with the Liberals, because it did not cooperate on behalf of Canadian families and parents, parents and families across the country do not have the child care spaces they need.

In moving forward, I hope the Prime Minister, on behalf of every child in Canada, will step up to the plate, show some leadership and put together a plan of action to ensure that children in our country have the child care spaces they need.

The Prime Minister talks about the $1,200 that he has given to Canadian families. Many of them in the next month are going to be in for quite a shock when they realize that the $1,200 is taxable and they are going to have to pay the government back. I do not know anywhere in the country where one can get a child care space or child care for at $3 a day. This is not a child care plan. We need some action and we need some leadership.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am choosing to speak primarily to two areas of the motion. I do believe the government has failed to act. The two areas that I will focus on are aboriginal affairs and the Status of Women. During the previous election campaign, the Prime Minister made clear promises to honour the Kelowna accord and the CEDAW declaration, which promotes equality of women. He broke both promises.

As we all know, budget 2006 presented the Conservatives an opportunity send a strong signal to aboriginal communities that they honoured them, celebrated them and valued them. From the outset, they have done nothing but insult the aboriginal people, beginning with their refusal to honour the Kelowna accord. It is clear that the issues surrounding Canada's aboriginal peoples are not of primary concern to the government.

We know Kelowna was an important initiative. It was an initiative that was built on relationships among the Government of Canada, the leadership of first nations and the leadership of the 13 provincial and territorial governments. We had 18 months of consultation and 28 round tables, dealing with issues of housing, water, education, economic development, governance, capacity building, all of which the Prime Minister, in a radio ad during the election campaign, promised to honour. As soon as the time came for him to show that he meant what he said, it was gone.

I have to underline that we all know this money was booked. The Department of Finance confirmed it. The former minister of finance confirmed it. The commitment to aboriginal people is, at best, tepid.

In addition to program cuts, the Conservatives have abandoned the aboriginal procurement policy. They have abandoned, as my colleague said, child care funding for first nations. They have eliminated the first nations' stop smoking program. Aboriginal language funding, which the minister took pains to speak about this morning, has been slashed, and we have heard an outcry from aboriginal leadership across the country.

In my own province the doors of Aboriginal Literacy have been closed and people have been laid off.

Capital projects have been cancelled. Capital projects that have been promised and designated for schools have been eliminated. Just this week I heard of a school in which the walls were caving. The teacher has chosen to have the class at home in the living because the school is not big enough or conducive to education.

We are hearing a lot of rhetoric across the way and we are seeing a lot of inaction, a lot of juggling moneys around to make it look like they are doing something, but not much is happening.

We hear much about how the government is the champion of human rights. This party will not take second place to anybody on human rights. The Conservative government not only opposed the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, but it opposed it. Twenty years of work was done by our aboriginal communities to ensure it had a place at the United Nations and the government chose to lobby against it.

We now hear a great deal about the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act. I want to make it clear I have sympathy for the intent and I support it. However, the government is going about it all wrong. The minister said this morning that the act was introduced 30 years ago and he said that he thought 30 years of consultation was enough. That is an insult to aboriginal peoples.

We know that it is a complicated issue. We know that it deals with the issue of collective rights versus individual rights. We know that it has many ramifications in first nations communities and as I said in question period, we have this attitude of father knows best and we will tell them and they will do it. Aboriginal women from coast to coast to coast do not appreciate this.

I want to speak to the issue of women's programing. As I said at the outset, the Prime Minister, during the election campaign, along with other leaders at the request of women's organizations, signed a pledge that indicated that he would honour the CEDAW declaration to support women's human rights and agreed that Canada had to do more to meet its international obligations on women's equality.

What did the government do? Taking consultation from one particular group who I will quote from later, REAL Women, it determined that equality seeking organizations in this country have no place any more. Advocacy has no role. It is time just to provide services. It is a noblesse oblige charitable approach to women's issues. Women need the advocacy dollars. They need the support for equality seeking issues.

One of the presenters who appeared before the committee, Shari Graydon, President of the Women's Future Fund in Toronto, said:

John F. Kennedy once noted that things do not happen, they are made to happen. The equality gains that we've achieved in the last century, and there have been many, exemplify this. Governments didn't simply decide to grant women the vote, or declare us persons. Women's advocacy made that happen. Over the past 30 years the member groups of the Women’s Future Fund have also made divorce and sexual assault laws fairer, improved the matrimonial rights of aboriginal women, secured maternity benefits, and fair pay. We lament that the current government doesn't wish to continue funding this work which benefits millions of Canadians.

Again, it is a striking example of how the Prime Minister, seeking election, will choose to do anything to get votes, but really dismisses it when it is time for reality.

I cited REAL Women and we all know it has a direct pipeline into the Prime Minister's Office and the minister's office. Its comments are that the cuts are only offensive to the special interest groups of feminists whose extremist views are not supported by mainstream women. Mainstream women include the YWCA, the University Women's Club, provincial councils of women across the country, and the National Association of Women and the Law. There is a whole host of women's groups that would not like to be categorized as marginal feminist groups and that is who the government chooses to listen to.

We have heard said that there are members opposite who indicate that the court challenges program cut was their favourite cut. How dare they? The court challenges program, which provided an opportunity for women, aboriginal people, and francophone Canadians to challenge inequities, to provide the resources for them to have someone speak for them in the courts, has not only been reduced but absolutely and unequivocally cut.

I will be supporting the opposition motion. I find it reprehensible that government members are choosing only to listen to and govern for that narrow majority who will see them re-elected. Canadians do not want this kind of government. Whether they agree with the government or not, they expect their government to govern for all Canadians. Even Conservative supporters would want the government to govern for all Canadians. What we have is a very narrow casting of policy development and program initiatives.