House of Commons Hansard #169 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was million.

Topics

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business

June 12th, 2007 / 6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour to rise and wrap up speaking on Bill S-220. In doing so, I thank my colleagues from all parties present for their work and input on this private member's bill. I thank them for their support of the intent of the bill.

As well, I recognize the support and the input from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of the Environment. I would be remiss if I did not recognize Senator Carney and her sponsorship of the bill in the Senate. In mentioning Senator Carney, I would be remiss if I did not mention the late Senator Michael Forrestall who sponsored the bill not once but five times in the Senate. I am sure he is looking down today thinking that finally this has some opportunity and some chance of coming to fruition.

As well, there is a number of other individuals to thank such as Barry MacDonald of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society for his input into the bill. Hopefully, after second reading, the bill will proceed to committee. There are some amendments that we are looking to bring at committee, and I am sure there will be some discussion on those. It is important, for the first opportunity after many years and many people working on the bill, that we can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I will point out one of the amendments that we will consider in committee. I will not belabour this tonight because I think most of the members understand it. However, so people who are lighthouse supporters and who are listening to this will understand, I will mention it briefly.

As the bill is currently drafted, it takes an inconsistent approach to public notices and public meetings. It would require a public meeting for decisions related to conservation work, despite provisions in the bill that already require any alterations to protect heritage value to be of a high standard. At the same time, the bill does not require a public meeting if a lighthouse were to be demolished or torn down. This was simply an oversight. This needs correction.

It is our intent to bring substantive, reasonable and sensible amendments like this to committee. We are hopeful that there will support from all the members, who have supported the bill to this point, at committee to make these types of changes.

The other aspect that must be understood is the overall cost has to be reasonable and within DFO's budget. As it now stands, we are expecting that DFO will have to find more money in its budget than it intended for some type of reasonable and orderly divestiture process.

Both the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of the Environment are all right with that. They know they will have to find some more dollars. For the first time, I think we have a golden opportunity to preserve lighthouses and lighthouse infrastructure in coastal Canada in perpetuity, whether that is east, west, north, south or the inland waterways. That is the point of this bill.

One more time, I would like to recognize the outstanding work of the late Mike Forrestall on this bill, and thank him for that.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business

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NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

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

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business

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Some hon. members

Yea.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business

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NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business

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Some hon. members

Nay.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business

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NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 13, 2007, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

7 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak during the late show this evening about the court challenges program.

On September 26, 2006, almost a year ago, the Conservative government abolished the court challenges program, which provided minorities with the means to defend their rights in court. When we say “defend their rights” we must not forget that it is extremely expensive to go to court, so it was a way to help minorities.

Let us remember the facts about the court challenges program. Initially, this program was introduced by the Liberal government. After Brian Mulroney's Conservative government was elected, the program was cancelled, only to be reinstated by Jean Chrétien's government several years later. Then this program was once again abolished. By whom? It just so happens that it was by another Conservative government, in September 2006.

There are some myths to debunk. The court challenges program is very useful, as I mentioned earlier. In terms of official languages, it helped francophones outside Quebec. We must look further than that. This program also helps anglophones in Quebec, religious minorities, the disabled, women and all other minorities. I say “women” despite the fact that women in Canada are not a minority, but a majority. But this is still the reality. This was what the court challenges program was for.

We can see the benefits of this program for all minorities across Canada. Under the court challenges program, several groups were able to defend their language rights with respect to their schools or hospitals, or to obtain French-language services. This has allowed many communities and many families to obtain services in French. This has also helped many young people in various communities, often rural ones, to receive services in French. Previously, it was difficult to obtain them because governments—federal and provincial—did not take the issue seriously and decided that they would not provide services to the minority, even though this is a right in our country. The court challenges program was definitely a useful tool and should definitely be reinstated.

We have the example of French-language schools in the regions and ensuring that services are offered in both official languages. There is also the example of Montfort hospital, located in Ottawa, which would not have survived had the court challenges program not been available, as is the case today. The reality is that people need such a program to assert their rights. It is not so much about respect for the law as it is about asserting one's rights.

The Conservative government has trampled people's rights. In addition, it is contravening the Official Languages Act. As you know, since Bill S-3 was passed in the 38th Parliament, the Official Languages Act has been amended. As it stands, the government must take positive action to ensure that official languages communities have the requisite tools to advance the cause of the French language in their community. By positive, we mean making progress. By eliminating the court challenges program, the Conservative government—

7:05 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I will read from the hon. member's question referencing improved access to legal aid. This was a question he put to the Minister of Justice and he asked that if the minister refuses to budge and does not save the court challenges program, would he at least improve access to legal aid to provide Canadians with justice.

It is the question's premise, that somehow this government is not paying its share for legal aid, that I want to completely reject. I want to speak of the contribution that our government is making toward the court system and ensuring that accused in our system have access to justice and access to legal aid.

One of our government's key priorities is to protect Canadian families and communities through a strengthened justice system that is accountable, efficient, accessible and responsive. Criminal legal aid ensures that an accused will not go free simply because in the absence of being able to pay for a lawyer himself or herself, the right to a fair trial would be violated.

Since the 1970s, the federal government has been contributing to the cost of criminal legal aid through agreements with the provinces. The federal government has also provided resources to the territories for both criminal and civil legal aid through contribution agreements.

In recent years, growing pressures on the legal aid system have led the federal government in collaboration with the provinces and territories to conduct extensive research to examine the needs and to consider innovative ways of ensuring that the legal aid needs of economically disadvantaged Canadians are met. I think this speaks to some of what the hon. member was saying in his speech to ensure that there is access to justice.

The agreements respecting legal aid covering fiscal year 2003-04 to fiscal year 2005-06 initiated a legal aid renewal strategy. These agreements were subsequently extended by one year by our government.

With regard to the provision for civil legal aid, which is quite distinct from criminal legal aid, the federal government has contributed to the provision of civil legal aid since the early 1970s. Initially, funding to the provinces was provided through the Canada assistance plan. Then in 1995-96, the Canada assistance plan was absorbed into the Canada health and social transfer, known as the CHST. Now the Canada social transfer has replaced the Canada health and social transfer.

Canada's new government in budget 2007 extended the CST to 2013-14. The budget also provides that support for social assistance and social services, including civil legal aid, will increase to $6.2 billion in 2007-08. As a result of the 3% annual CST escalator, this funding will increase to $7.2 billion by 2013-14.

In addition to civil legal aid resources contained in the CST, since 2001-02 the federal government has also provided through the legal aid agreements an additional $11.5 million annually for immigration and refugee legal aid to the six provinces currently providing these services. Those include British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Canada's new government is committed to continued funding for criminal legal aid. That is why for the first time in over 10 years, and this is important, we are increasing permanently the ongoing funding for criminal legal aid by the $30 million provided as interim resources--

7:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I fully understand the message that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada would like to send, but my question had nothing to do with legal aid for criminal matters.

However, one has to wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada does not think that official language minority communities wishing to defend their rights should apply for legal aid in the criminal court system. I do not think the government fully understands the needs facing minorities in terms of defending their rights. Such comments are completely unacceptable.

Will the government finally show some understanding and bring back the court challenges program in its entirety—not partially, but in its entirety? Do we have to elect a Liberal government for the court challenges program to be fully reinstated, and not only for official language minority communities, but for all minorities, including linguistic minorities, people with disabilities and all other minorities?

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, we can have that debate also on the court challenges program.

The member said that unless there is proper access to legal aid and to the court challenges program, only the rich will have equal rights which is unacceptable. He asked if the Minister of Justice would improve access to legal aid to provide Canadians with the justice they are guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is based on that question that I am providing this answer on what our government is doing to enhance legal aid and therefore enhance access to justice for the individuals whom the member referenced in his question, those who need help through legal aid.

The permanent funding over 10 years is unprecedented. It provides the provinces with stable funding for their legal aid programs. Over the next five years, the government will contribute $560 million to the provinces--