House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was port.

Topics

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise in the House for the third reading debate on a bill that is critical to the realization of some of Canada's key economic, transportation and trade priorities: amendments to the Canada Marine Act. This act is the economic framework for, among other entities, Canada's port authorities.

It has been well recognized that while the implementation of the Canada Marine Act has greatly contributed to the success of the marine industry, in order to better respond to the future market demands, changes now reflected in Bill C-23 are required, and they are required as soon as possible.

Bill C-23 is extremely important to our Canadian ports and, indeed, it is very important to Canada's economic prosperity.

I would like to remind members that the bill is the result of extensive and very broad based consultations that date back to 2002 with the Canada Marine Act review.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Communities and Infrastructure, of which I am a member, heard widespread industry support for Bill C-23, not only unanimous support from the membership of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, but also from the Shipping Federation of Canada and the Chamber of Marine Commerce. They have all endorsed these positive changes that our government has brought in under the bill.

The Association of Canadian Port Authorities has been very clear in its submissions. While the Canada Marine Act has worked fairly well overall since its inception in 1998 and has been beneficial for the users of the ports, now the time is right to make changes that will allow port authorities to respond to shifting global supply chains and trade markets and to play an even larger role in Canada's economic prosperity. This is very important to us.

The Shipping Federation of Canada, representing virtually all of the trade moving between eastern Canada and ports overseas, has urged the government to move swiftly in ensuring its passage. It has stated:

--the amendments...will go a long way towards addressing the financial constraints under which Canada's ports have operated since the Canada Marine Act was passed in 1996, thus ensuring that Canada has a strong and competitive ports system that can fully meet present and future trade objectives.

The Chamber of Marine Commerce has stated:

--Bill C-23 appears to be the badly needed next step in the evolution of the competitiveness of Canadian ports and the future prosperity of Canada's system of marine commerce.

Those are the chamber's words, not ours. It has also encouraged all parties to act toward the swift passage of the bill in the House of Commons and the Senate.

We have heard from witnesses appearing before the standing committee that the various port labour interests also support these changes. We have been informed that the unions view these proposed changes positively as facilitating port growth and in turn creating jobs for their members from coast to coast to coast.

The message to the standing committee from industry stakeholders was very clear: we need to move quickly on Bill C-23.

When asked during committee how urgently the bill is needed, Mr. Sean Hanrahan of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities responded:

If all of this could be done with final proclamation by spring [of this year], that would be the best.

Mr. Hanrahan elaborated further:

Trade is projected to double by 2020, and that is 11 years away. We simply have to dovetail everything that encourages commercialization and development at the same time as we hit this impending growth.

Those are not my words. They are not the words of members of the government and they are not the words of members of the opposition. They are the words of the people who operate in our ports and they are saying that we should pass this bill quickly, that Canada needs it.

Indeed, I am pleased to inform the House that the standing committee concluded its clause by clause review very swiftly, somewhere in the range of 30 minutes, resulting in only one minor change to the bill to correct a typographical drafting error. This change in fact was a government sponsored amendment to bring the French and the English into consistency.

I should note that a minor consequential amendment to correct a drafting oversight is also in the works. This consequential amendment will simply fix a reference to the new numbering of paragraphs that is necessary to the acceptance of the government sponsored amendment.

I would now like to briefly address some of the key provisions of the bill.

Bill C-23 will recognize our ports as the significant economic contributors that they are to this economy. It acknowledges the role of marine transportation, signifying the government's recognition of this sector's vital contribution to Canada's economy, especially by ports that are critical to international trade. We are a trading nation and our success, the success of our economy and the success of our future generations, depends on the efficiency and effectiveness of our ports.

Many stakeholders have requested these amendments, suggesting that in order to respond to the challenges ahead, an explicit recognition of the marine industry's vital contribution to Canada's economy is essential to fostering further growth and the future success of our marine transportation industry.

Trade, capacity pressures, aging transport infrastructure and increasing pressures on transportation lands in urban settings are now part of the marine environment. Canada port authorities are critical components of trade gateways and require new tools in a new era of trade to respond to market forces in a timely manner in order to support Canada's international and domestic trade.

“Advantage Canada”, introduced by this government, made “modern transportation infrastructure” a core element of the government's agenda and recognized that Canada's ability to compete on the world stage is highly dependent on the efficiency of larger ports such as Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax. This bill takes great steps toward their efficiency.

We must ensure that Canadian port authorities have the tools they need in the years ahead, not just today but in 10 and 20 years from today. Bill C-23 introduces much needed flexibilities, enabling Canada port authorities to compete and prosper in this global market.

Bill C-23 will facilitate trade and complement our gateway and corridor initiatives such as the Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiative, the Ontario-Quebec continental gateway and trade corridor, and the Atlantic gateway, all three very important to jobs in this country. The flexibilities it will provide are absolutely imperative for Canada to take advantage of trade opportunities, both today and in the future.

It is imperative, as you know, Mr. Speaker, that our ports have access to a suite of modern financial instruments. How can they be successful without that flexibility?

In a speech delivered in British Columbia on May 4, 2007 at the International Conference on Gateways and Corridors, the Prime Minister indicated that the government would “make it easier for them to obtain financing for expansion and improvements”, referring to the ports.

New measures are required if ports are to expand their capacity to meet new demands.

Refining a framework, as proposed in Bill C-23, to provide more borrowing flexibility and access to relevant contribution program funding would also encourage the private sector and would encourage it to invest. This would enable governments to make targeted infrastructure investments that are in the public interest where important funding gaps in the system cannot be met by other levels of government or private investors.

Currently, Canada's port authorities are prohibited from accessing contribution funding, while other transportation modes do not have these legislative restrictions. We are bringing in an even playing field. Does it make sense to treat our ports differently from other modes knowing that it will limit their opportunities at a time when ensuring sufficient port infrastructure is absolutely critical to our success and to the success of our gateway and corridor initiatives?

Bill C-23 would permit CPAs to access federal contribution funding specifically for three things. The first is capital infrastructure projects. The second is security, which is so important since 9/11. The third is environmental initiatives, which are important to all Canadians.

More and more, we see the significant impact that transportation has on our environment. This is certainly true when we speak of our major marine ports, where a convergence of rail, road and marine transportation is part of everyday business and operations.

Many ports are already exploring new, greener ways of doing business, covering both land and waterside operations, from a greater use of diesel electric gantry cranes to more efficient and effective lighting and incentives for cleaner marine fuels and the exploration of alternative shore power.

Given the future economic benefits of more energy efficient transportation systems and improved quality of life for our local communities in particular, which all in this House are trying to do, this is an area where it makes eminent sense for the government to allow for strategic, focused funding at ports that is related to environmental sustainability. We want to encourage the environment in every aspect of Canada's economy, and we are doing that.

I would like to remind members that as of the end of November 2007 contribution funding for security enhancements through the Marine Transportation Security Act was in fact discontinued, yet security enhancements continue to be required for Canada's port authorities.

Canada's port authorities, shipping lines and shippers have all made it very clear that the federal government should continue to contribute toward the cost of national security, particularly in light of the funding being provided to ports for increased security in the United States. We should have and give to them a competitive environment so they can succeed against their competitors in the United States.

It is essential that the government maintain a sound security posture to reassure the travelling public and its partners, to ensure the continued flow of international trade, and to make our country more secure.

Without question, the Canadian port authorities must be able to operate their assets in a commercial manner. They need to be able to set fees and negotiate commercial leases and contracts that are market driven and competitive. They also need a more dynamic and responsive borrowing regime that is adaptable to changing circumstances. This is paramount if our ports are to take advantage of the anticipated increase in trade.

This amendment is important not only for the ports, but for Canada's entire economy. That is correct: the economy of Canada. We all know that major financial investments require the collaboration of a number of parties, be it the port authorities themselves, the municipalities, the provinces, other modes of transport or private sector investments.

Currently, port authorities can only seek an increase in their borrowing limit by making a request to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to amend their letters patent. It is quite the process. It takes a long time.

With this new amendment, those ports that meet certain conditions, and have the capacity to do so, could assume a larger debt obligation consistent with a borrowing code, to make sure they can pay it. Such a regime would maintain the accountability this government stands for, yet would allow ports to respond to opportunities more efficiently and recognize their changing financial circumstances as our trade doubles in 11 short years.

Recognizing that many of our ports are already operating at capacity today and feeling the pressure of increased trade, it is not difficult to imagine the capital infrastructure funding that will be required for our ports to respond to the anticipated growth in trade in the coming years.

Patrice Pelletier, CEO of the Montreal Port Authority, told the committee that the authority would need to invest a minimum of $220 million to maintain existing infrastructure and an additional $500 million to make necessary expansions to the port over the next five years, and that is only for the port of Montreal.

Captain Gordon Houston, CEO for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, told the committee that this port has $350 million worth of commitments on its $500 million borrowing capacity in addition to a $1.3 billion terminal that is to be built, bringing the total up to somewhere around a $1.7 billion requirement, potentially. Those are the port authority's words, not ours.

These amendments to the Canada Marine Act will also strengthen governance. It is hard to argue against strengthening long term stability and continuity in the governance of our Canada port authorities.

Although the Canada Marine Act already allows for amalgamation of ports, as was evidenced in the recently amalgamated Vancouver Fraser Port Authority which we see as being very successful in meeting the demands of international trade, it is recognized that certain amendments would make future amalgamations easier and these amendments are welcomed. When a strong business case exists for the amalgamation of ports in the future, Bill C-23 would ensure that the process is clear and the transition transparent and streamlined.

In conclusion, Bill C-23 is extremely important. The ports have been waiting for these changes and are encouraging all parties, from the Liberals to the Bloc to the NDP, to pass this bill as soon as possible. I would, therefore, encourage all members in the House to pass this bill as quickly as possible, so that our colleagues in the Senate can start the process of reviewing this bill without any delay and we can get one step closer to this bill, a very important bill and the future of our economic prosperity, becoming law.

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Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the parliamentary secretary's comments and I suspect his exhortation to the House for support will be favourably received in most quarters. I have two questions.

Throughout the member's remarks and in previous debate I have heard words like “efficiency, flexibility and facilitation”, all of which probably add up to potential increased productivity for our port authorities and ports, period, whether there is a port authority present or not. Forgive me if I am wrong on this, but I did not hear the word “productivity” mentioned very much. That may or may not have been the case.

Has the ministry done any kind of a workup on productivity and does it plan to do one? This is always an issue for us in Canada as the productivity of our country is compared to other economic competitors.

Second, the member talked about flexibility for our port authorities but, as most of us know around here, from time to time our port authorities, which are federal instruments, can go rogue. They can cease to be good partners with their municipal and provincial counterparts or they can fail to be accountable. I recall the Hamilton Harbour Commission at one point having to do some somewhat serious accounting at one of our committees.

These port authorities can go rogue, can cease to be good partners, and can be empire building little entities in their federal instruments. Can the parliamentary secretary assure the House that within this legislation there are adequate measures to assure accountability by the port authorities and to make sure that they are good partners with our provinces and municipalities?

Canada Marine Act
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10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member, first, that I like the word “productivity” as well. Indeed, if one looks deep into the speech that I just finished delivering, one would see that it allows flexibility in borrowing for more infrastructure to keep up with the times.

If they do not have the infrastructure necessary to meet the capacity, then they do not have the ability to hire more employees and meet the capacity. I would suggest, without doubt, that productivity would be increased as a result of this, which can only help Canada and Canada's economy.

I would also like to say that we never had one city, town, municipality or province speak out against this bill. In fact, there were ongoing consultations with many of the cities across Canada and I would be pleased, when I have an opportunity, to talk about some of those in particular.

However, I can assure the House that not only would there be productivity but some changes in the ability to use land in the consultation process necessary for municipalities and, indeed, there is wide-based support for these changes.

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10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities knows very well that one part of the bill will enable port authorities to apply to different infrastructure programs. The Bloc Québécois agrees with the port authorities that they should have more powers, but the problem is that we do not trust the Conservative government.

In this year's budget and in the fall economic statement, the government mentioned that there was $33 billion available in the infrastructure programs. Of this money, $1 billion was for the Pacific gateway, the Asia-Pacific corridor. It is already earmarked in the budgets. For the other port authorities in Quebec, such as Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Port Saguenay and Sept-Îles, that means if no money is allocated to the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes corridor, they will now be able, with this bill, to apply to other infrastructure programs. But municipalities and other organizations also apply to the other infrastructure programs.

This means that if money is not set aside, which is what the Conservatives have done, there will be tension between the municipalities and port authorities applying to the same programs. The committee saw the tension between the Toronto Port Authority and the city of Toronto. It is an open war. I hope that the Conservatives do not want to create open wars between municipalities and port authorities. Now, apart from the Asia-Pacific corridor, the $1 billion set aside for Vancouver, there is nothing for the others in the budgets, nothing in the statement. This means nothing for this year. It also means that port authorities will be allowed to apply to the same programs as municipalities. That worries me.

Canada Marine Act
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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that a competitive environment first of all ensures accountability. This is the government that came forward with $33 billion, the largest investment in six years, for infrastructure across this country.

Now we are changing many pieces of legislation to encourage productivity across the country, to make it possible for ports to compete with their American counterparts by being able to borrow money.

I know the member is interested in Quebec specifically and I can assure him that this government is not going to look at any one region more than another. We are going to make sure that we are fair to all Canadians.

That is why we allocated $350 million to Quebec for climate change, so it can make its own investments to have a cleaner and better environment for Canadians. We also have an Ontario-Quebec gateway initiative that is moving forward and we are moving aggressively with that initiative.

We are taking steps to make a fair, transparent and more accountable system that is going to be for the benefit of all Canadians and be fair to all Canadians.

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask a question of the parliamentary secretary which is not unlike the concerns of my Bloc colleague who raised the issue of the changes in the financing arrangements for port authorities that the bill would allow and would also allow them to compete with municipalities for infrastructure funding.

We know that the Canadian Federation of Municipalities has said that there is a $123 billion deficit in infrastructure funding in Canada, far short of what the federal government has provided in infrastructure funding. Now it is opening that pot of money to competition from port authorities who have significant funding needs, it has to be said, all across the country. This is a serious problem with this legislation.

Also, there is the expanded borrowing powers generally of the port authorities. We know that they will now be able to collectively borrow billions of dollars. The NDP members are concerned about that because we were trying ensure that the Auditor General would have oversight over the port authorities given these expanded financial powers that are proposed in this legislation.

I would like to ask the member: What will the Conservative government be doing to ensure that there is appropriate funding in infrastructure to accommodate all of these extra and competing needs for infrastructure funding, and for the appropriate oversight of the Auditor General into the port authorities?

Canada Marine Act
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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, the difference in this case between the Bloc and the NDP is that the Bloc heard the broad-based support from the provinces, from the cities, and from all Canadians, especially the port authorities. Indeed, the member's own city of Burnaby was a municipal group that was consulted. The cities of Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Port Alberni, Port Moody and Richmond were some of the cities that were consulted and I have a bigger list here.

The difference is that the Bloc heard the broad-based support and is supporting the bill. The NDP of course is delaying, is not helping this matter go forward, and is working in every way it possibly can to stop the bill.

That is not what we heard. We heard that all parties want the bill to move forward efficiently and effectively. I would ask the NDP to stop delaying this and to move forward to support this great initiative by the government.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate today from a Liberal Party perspective on Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence. This bill is mainly comprised of technical changes and amendments.

Normally, when the House receives bills of this technical nature, members of Parliament will often rely on the bureaucrats to highlight deficiencies in the present act or acts. In this case it is my understanding that the transport committee has made changes based on consultation with all stakeholders and this bill has everyone's support.

It is common knowledge that transportation in Canada is essential. And when I talk about transportation, I am talking about all types of transportation, including water, road, air transportation and so on.

Transportation has always been an essential part of building this country from the beginning, when our forefathers came here by boat and continued to use seaways as a primary mode of transportation until the invention of airplanes.

Furthermore, let us not forget that water was one of the few efficient ways of travel in Canada's formative years. And then, how can we forget, the building of Canada's railway from east to west which was the cornerstone of unifying and keeping this country together.

Things have evolved and our way of doing things has changed, but the transportation sector is still essential to this country's economy. The Liberal Party has always been a part of the transportation sector's evolution.

There is no denying that the Liberal Party, whether in government or in opposition, has always been a part of laying the groundwork to ensure that we have a network of infrastructure and transportation to allow this wonderful country to reach its fullest economic potential.

Our Canadian ports are fundamental to the development of trade. They enhance the opportunities for every Canadian to access our abundant natural resources across the country, so that they can be sold to foreign markets that can utilize the product for value added or for direct consumption.

Trade is a key factor in the Canadian economy and without the necessary infrastructure and means of transportation, Canada would be unable to reach its maximum potential to benefit all Canadians.

With that being said, as parliamentarians we cannot afford to miss opportunities to promote our Canadian ports. These kinds of initiatives would compel us to utilize portions of our infrastructure funds, in addition stimulate our rail network and a pan-Canadian road network to encourage growth, and to develop an economy that goes beyond a micro-economy and expand it to a regional and national one.

In 1998, under 13 years of successful Liberal government, the Canada Marine Act received royal assent. The Canada Marine Act was the first comprehensive piece of legislation to govern several aspects of Canada's transport legislation.

The Canada Marine Act was a component in the commercialization of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the framework for a strategic gateway and trade corridors, and included provisions for the further commercialization of federal ferry services.

In 2003, a review of the legislation was compiled to ensure that the government continued to make all the ports in Canada economically competitive, specifically ports in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

May I remind the Conservative government that the bill before us comes from a Liberal bill, formerly C-61. I am pleased that the Conservatives have the ability to recognize good fundamental pieces of legislation that are beneficial to the Canadian economy and place partisanship aside.

If it were not for the NDP and the Bloc forcing an election, good pieces of legislation such as Bill C-23, Bill C-7, Bill C-3, Bill C-11 and Bill C-8, all based on Liberal transport bills which died on the order paper, could have been passed much sooner.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities heard from port authorities, other stakeholders and read written submissions to the committee on Bill C-23. An overwhelming consensus between stakeholders seems to exist, indicating that the committee should move forward and adopt Bill C-23 which is why we are debating this in the House today.

Some of the benefits of Bill C-23 include access to contribution funding. The fact that access to contribution funding will now be permitted, the Canada Port Authority can apply for contribution funding for infrastructure and security for environmentally sustainable projects.

The bill also addresses governance. With the changes in the governance policy in the Canada Marine Act, the port authorities would now be more in control of their destiny as they would have the ability to promote a more stable, long term management framework.

Bill C-23 would also allow for borrowing limits. With this act, the port authorities would now have the ability to borrow and, thus, would directly allow the Vancouver Port Authority, the Montreal Port Authority and the Halifax Port Authority to move to a commercially based borrowing system.

Bill C-23 would also allow for amalgamation. In the act, the Fraser River port, the North Fraser Port, would be allowed to amalgamate with the Vancouver Port, which would allow for a centralized body and would, in turn, be beneficial to all British Columbian ports in terms of efficiency, whether it be financial resources, human resources or other benefits that would arise from centralization.

The bill also addresses enforcement. Bill C-23 would also give the port authorities the ability to enforce minor violations by having the ability to impose monetary penalties, making it easier to enforce and manage minor violations.

Again, it is my understanding from members of the transport committee, and I cannot stress this enough, that all the stakeholders appearing before the committee spoke positively toward the bill. Members in the House should not confuse the positive aspects which came out of the committee that considered, deliberated and debated Bill C-23.

I urge all members to support the legislation for the good of the Canadian economy.

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10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure we all are impressed with the objectives of the legislation, in terms of rationalizing part of the most competitive infrastructure needed for a healthy economy, be it marine, air, managing, for example in the Montreal and in the Toronto areas, the various forces. For example, in Toronto there is a bit of a competition between the development of the waterfront and the future of the island airport and rationalizing those against transportation investments. I am sure it is similar in Montreal.

Would the bill facilitate the coordination and the cooperation among the various entities at the municipal level to achieve the objectives of the legislation, which is to have a rational and integrated response to transportation realities, in particular, along the St. Lawrence Seaway as it relates to the new gateways to the Pacific and to the Atlantic? Would the bill satisfy that kind of objective?

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10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my understanding is the bill does not specifically say that the municipal bodies will have a say. However, like any crown corporation, whether it be at the municipal, provincial or federal level, if it wants to move ahead with a certain project, I think it would want to get the cooperation of the municipal and provincial authorities to ensure everything was in sync and running properly.

The direction the Toronto Port Authority would be to sit down with the municipal levels of government to ensure that whatever expansion or projects it would undertake would be in full agreement with the municipal authorities. Montreal does not seem to have that problem, and it is way ahead.

Looking at some of the numbers, Vancouver and Halifax are way ahead and Toronto is barely in the top 10 in terms of port business. I recommend the member of Parliament from the Toronto area get his municipal counterparts to ensure they qualify for some of the infrastructure money that will be allocated to the port authorities.

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10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel that, as he said, this bill comes from a former Liberal bill. Once again, that worries me. The Liberal Party created the Asia-Pacific gateway, while the Conservatives invested the $1 billion. But, the Liberals did not consider another very important maritime development corridor—the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor.

Once again, I see that the Liberals will support this bill, but I hope that they will listen to reason: we must subsequently provide the necessary funding to develop the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor. I hope that they will not be supporting the Conservatives, who created a $1 billion envelope for the Asia-Pacific gateway.

It now seems that if all port authorities are allowed to set up infrastructure programs, other ports such as Montreal, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Sept-Îles and Saguenay would have to apply to programs, to other infrastructure programs that the cities themselves are applying to, because there is no funding set aside for the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor.

I hope that the Liberals will not buy into the philosophy of developing the port of Vancouver but leaving nothing for the others.

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10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. This certainly shows once again the difference between the Bloc Québécois and the other parties of this House. The Bloc can do nothing but criticize. We saw last year what happened under the Liberal government and we are now seeing what is happening under the Conservative government.

By simply looking at the revenues of Quebec ports, namely, in Montreal, Quebec City and Trois-Rivières, the Liberals saw that they were the fastest growing ports in Canada from 2003 to 2006. That was thanks to investments made by the Liberal Party in the past. I hope to see this continue.

If there is a change in government, everyone can rest assured that the Liberal Party will take the needs of the province of Quebec into consideration, as it has always done.

As for the investments and this bill, it is important that the Port of Montreal be able to continue to grow in terms of increasing revenues.

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10:40 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to come back to the whole question of the ability of port authorities to work with the local municipalities wherein they are located.

It is a very serious issue, certainly in the metro Vancouver area, where the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has a significant number of municipalities and significant holdings. The development of the port is a serious development issue for those communities and the people who live in them. It is also a serious development issue for the neighbourhoods that abut the port authority's property, yet this legislation probably weakens the ability of municipalities to affect the decisions of the port authorities.

The legislation does not ensure significant representation from municipal elected officials or appointees of municipalities on the boards of the port authorities, for one example. It also does not ensure that land use plans developed by port authorities are approved by municipalities. We know it is a very serious problem for municipalities that have particularly large ports. At the same time, all municipalities recognize the economic importance of the port authority and the port to their communities, but they do not have the ability to work and direct influence over the land use plans of ports.

Should that be fixed in the legislation?

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10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not understand why it takes 10 minutes to ask a question that should take 30 seconds.

As I stated, I was not present at the hearings, but I did pull out the witness list. If we look at the list, the cities of Burnaby, Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Port Alberni, Port Moodie, West Vancouver and Vancouver regional district, and I can keep going on, are all unanimously in favour of the legislation.

If there is a problem at the municipal level, I think the provincial and federal authorities can all come together. If we can use the example at present in Montreal, where all three levels of government are working in harmony and together, the legislation addresses some of those issues.

We should adopt the legislation and move forward so we can address the next challenges the economy faces, which is one of productivity.

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10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank my friend for his support of Bill C-23.

As a member of the transportation committee, I too had an opportunity to participate in the discussion and hear witnesses. Not one witness spoke against the legislation.

I come from the west coast. The Vancouver Fraser Port is very important to me. It is very important to the economy of British Columbia and to the economy of the country. Any delays at all in moving the legislation forward will hurt our economy.

Mr. Gordon Houston and Mr. Duncan Wilson, representatives from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, visited me yesterday.They expressed serious concern, and it was not about the legislation. Their concern was about the delays that were occurring in the House. There was consensus at committee that this was excellent legislation and that it was important for the productivity of our country, yet the NDP is delaying and obstructing it.

Does the member know why that is occurring and will these delay have an impact on the ability of the Montreal Port Authority to move ahead with improvements to its facility?

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I said it in my speech. Had we not had the election, this bill would have been passed and gone forward. The Conservatives have to stop blaming the opposition for not passing bills. This is a slam dunk. The government has the consent of our side of the House and with Conservative members, the bill can be passed rather quickly.

The government has to get on with its vision and move on to bigger and better things. The bill should have been adopted ages ago. The Conservatives should be tabling new bills addressing the challenges that we will be facing in 2008 and not 2004.

Let us get going and pass the bill.

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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence.

For the benefit of our listeners and my colleagues in this House, it is important to briefly go over the content of the bill. This bill has a very specific objective concerning Canada's port authorities.

I will use Quebec as an example. Not all the ports in Quebec that our citizens are familiar with will benefit from this legislation. Five ports have port authorities. Those port authorities are autonomous management companies. They are in Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Port Saguenay and Sept-Îles. They are responsible for the administration of the ports, as well as domestic and international trade, and they form what is known as the national port system.

This bill targets these ports that have port authorities, autonomous management companies. They have constantly changing needs. There is a reason I previously gave the example of the port of Vancouver. The Liberals created the Asia-Pacific corridor, and the Conservatives have put money into the Pacific gateway. But both the Conservatives and the Liberals forgot that Canada had other maritime gateways. The St. Lawrence-Great Lakes corridor is another extremely important gateway.

This bill enables port authorities to take advantage of infrastructure programs. We have to be careful, though, because the $33 billion in funding announced includes only one infrastructure program. I am not making that up. It is in the Conservative government's budget. It was in the economic statement last fall. Of the $33 billion, $1 billion is set aside for the Asia-Pacific corridor and the Pacific gateway, which means for the port of Vancouver and, I believe, Fraser port.

What this will mean for other ports once this bill is adopted is that they will have to apply for funding to other infrastructure programs, many of which are intended for cities.

This is important to us. I want to tell my Conservative and Liberal colleagues that the Bloc Québécois is the conscience of Quebeckers. That is why Quebeckers elected us: to point out the gaps in all the bills that apply to Quebec. We are happy to do this, and that is why we work collaboratively.

We will support this bill, but we have to be able to raise red flags. We are the only party that raises red flags for Quebeckers. Once again, the funding announced includes money only for the Pacific gateway. The Liberals created the gateway, and the Conservatives have continued funding it. We shall see what happens.

As I said earlier, this bill will enable port authorities to apply to various infrastructure programs, something they were prohibited from doing by the legislation that created them.

When the port authorities were created, just like when the airport authorities were created, they were supposed to pay for themselves. That is why users and shipowners pay fees to use port facilities. Airports have their airport improvement fees—the AIFs that people pay every time they buy a plane ticket. These authorities were supposed to pay for themselves.

In the marine transportation sector, economic development is tied to development. The industry is changing, and marine transportation is growing. Major new facilities will be needed in various ports for all kinds of reasons.

Earlier, someone talked about how the Montreal port needs $500 million. An application will probably be submitted for that money. The port of Montreal wants to be able to accommodate cruise ships. Montreal is one of our most beautiful cities, along with Quebec City and other cities. I mean those with ports, like Sept-Îles. The member for Manicouagan, who is doing such a good job of representing the region, knows that the city of Sept-Îles is a very beautiful city. We also have Port Saguenay, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières and Montreal. Among other things, Montreal would like to invest a lot of money in facilities to accommodate passengers there. That could mean an investment of about $500 million.

The Bloc Québécois would like to see that happen. However, we would not want Montreal to apply for funding from infrastructure programs and be competing with applications from the City of Montreal. We do not want what is happening in Toronto to happen in Montreal.

I am from Quebec, and I stand up for the interests of Quebeckers. With all due respect to the members from Ontario—I have no idea what they are doing about it—the City of Toronto and the Toronto Port Authority are at war. I do not want to see these conflicts get any worse and spread to the other ports I mentioned earlier—Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Sept-Îles and Saguenay. Port authorities can now apply for funding from infrastructure programs, and they do not necessarily have the same vision as the cities. It is important to emphasize that.

We have to tell the Conservative government that it must not give all of the money to the Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor. It will have to invest money. We know that is not in this year's budget, but we hope that the Conservative government will listen to us and that next year, there will be significant funding for development of the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor.

This bill will also allow the borrowing limit to be increased. The port authorities, the port of Vancouver among others, have maximized their borrowing capacity, likely as a result of their rapid growth, and would like to do business like any other private organization. That is more or less the case. They will be allowed to make borrowing rules and access the markets with their income. Their borrowing limit is being increased to allow them to further their own development.

The port of Montreal is not asking for this because it does not have any debt. That is why the Bloc Québécois has to be the conscience of Quebeckers. If the port of Montreal could apply to infrastructure programs, it would not borrow money and go into debt just because other ports, like the port of Vancouver, are in debt. There needs to be some logic in all this and every port should be allowed to develop within their own limits.

In addition to the increased borrowing limit and the ability to apply to different infrastructure programs, governance is being improved and the ports will be allowed in their letters patent to manage real property. This is something the port authorities asked for in order to have more latitude in managing the federal government's assets and to be able to purchase property and other facilities.

All this is because the ports are undergoing intensive development. They want to be able to make forecasts and acquire property before an expansion. They wanted to have the financial ability to plan and not have to wait until the last-minute. Sometimes while they are waiting to acquire the land around a port, the price goes up. If port authorities could plan their investments over ten or more years, they could immediately start acquiring land and rent it out in the meantime, for other purposes, until they can use it to achieve their development objectives.

We have to be careful. We cannot allow them to become speculators for the government. Once again, the Bloc Québécois will be the conscience of Quebeckers. We will make sure the bill is used appropriately by the port authorities. We are prepared to give them this chance to develop and plan their development. However, we do not want this to interfere with the major development the cities are planning in their own jurisdictions. That is where we draw the line because when we allow port authorities to apply to the same infrastructure programs as the cities, there is a problem.

No one can tell us otherwise. There is only one envelope for marine transportation and that is the billion dollars for the Asia-Pacific gateway announced by the federal government. No other monies have been set aside in the infrastructure program for the St. Lawrence—Great lakes corridor in particular, which is an underutilized corridor. Earlier I heard a Liberal member say that they had contributed to its development.

The St. Lawrence Seaway is underutilized. I will give you some statistics. The total amount of goods shipped on the St. Lawrence fell from 130 million tonnes in the early 1980s to 100 million and 105 million tonnes in recent years. Once again, even with a 5 million tonne increase in the past three years, we have nevertheless lost 25 million tonnes in marine shipping on the St. Lawrence since 1980.

However, over the past 30 years, shipping has increased 600% internationally. On the Mississippi system, which is the St. Lawrence's direct competitor, shipping has increased from 450 million to 700 million tonnes. There is not one Liberal who can boast about that in this House.

Since the early 1980s, the St. Lawrence has lost out with shipping falling from 130 million to 105 million tonnes, whereas on the Mississippi shipping has increased from 450 million to 700 million tonnes and international shipping has increased by 600%. Once again, the governments, both Liberal and Conservative, underestimated the capacity of the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor, which is the main access route to the central United States. Again, the governments overlooked Quebec and Ontario.

It must be said—we are very honest—when we defend Quebec and the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor, we are defending the Great Lakes and Ontario, whether the Liberal members like it or not. They have a majority in Ontario, and have seen marine transportation in the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor decline, but it did not seem to bother them, and it does not seem to bother them now.

Once again, the Bloc Québécois is alone in defending this very important St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor. Why? Because we have five very important ports in Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Port Saguenay et Sept-Îles. We want these ports to be able to develop without having to compete with municipalities. That is why we will call for an independent program.

Yes, this bill is important so that port authorities are able to increase their borrowing capacity, acquire land to plan their development over the next 10 years, and apply to infrastructure programs. But these ports in Quebec and in other regions, such as Ontario, should not have to compete with municipalities in the other infrastructure programs, because there was no money allocated for the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor, as there was for the Pacific gateway.

Once again, the Bloc Québécois is proud to be the conscience of Quebeckers. It is the only party in this House to do so.

World War I Veteran
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize an extraordinary woman. Her name is Gladys Powers and she is celebrating a birthday.

I know that a gentleman never discusses a lady's age, but in this case I know the House will agree that an exception should be made. On May 10, Gladys will turn 109 years old.

That is only part of the story. Gladys was a world traveller. Born in England, she lived in Turkey and Australia. Her life has straddled three different centuries. Today she calls Abbotsford, B.C. her home.

What really sets Gladys apart is that at the tender age of 15, she fibbed about her age and enlisted in the British Women's Auxiliary in World War I. Today, she is not only Canada's oldest war veteran, but also the world's last surviving female veteran of World War I.

What a remarkable life. I call on my colleagues to support me in wishing Gladys Powers a happy 109th birthday.

Cancer
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, April is the Canadian Cancer Society's Daffodil Month, in recognition of the millions of Canadians touched by cancer.

Unfortunately, most Canadians know, or will know, someone who has suffered from cancer in their lifetime.

According to statistics this year approximately 166,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer and about 74,000 will die from this terrible disease. The new numbers also suggest that one out of four Canadians will succumb to cancer. This is shocking.

It is important that we do not give up on the fight against this terrible affliction. We must take the opportunity to better understand this disease and to appeal to all governments and to all the people of Canada to step up and show their support. Together we can and will make cancer history.

Doctors Munger and Lamontagne
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to echo the Sherbrooke AQDR which, on April 4, thanked two doctors from the region for taking a stand on behalf of seniors who are not receiving the guaranteed income supplement.

Doctors Munger and Lamontagne put out an appeal to all citizens with an interest in social justice to spread the word about the guaranteed income supplement and offer to help a senior take the necessary steps to receive the money they are owed.

The two doctors said that this would be productive because there are approximately 1,500 people in the Eastern Townships who are eligible for the supplement yet do not receive it. Their pension income totals about $6,000 per year, but they are eligible for an additional amount that could be as high as $7,000 for a single person. They added, “If only this money could lead to better food and housing—”.

Along with my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois, I would like to congratulate Doctors Munger and Lamontagne for their initiative, and I hope that it will produce results.

Homelessness
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, this week the metro Vancouver 2008 homeless count was released. It is no surprise that the numbers are up yet again. The number of those living on the street was up 37% over 2005, and up 131% overall since 2002. It is likely even higher given the difficulty of actually taking the count.

Continued homelessness is just plain wrong. Homelessness in a wealthy country like ours with huge government surpluses is an outrage. The fact that this national crisis does not dominate our politics is the real scandal of the day.

Existing housing programs must be renewed for the long term. The Conservatives must immediately finance a multi-year national housing program with set targets that actually builds homes. Use the surplus. Cancel tax cuts for profitable corporations. Take action now.

Every Saturday groups of citizens in the Vancouver area stand on street corners in silent witness to the need for urgent action. Every Saturday more people join these stands. Citizens know what is needed. When will the government join them and build housing?

Community Boosters
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past week marked the passing of two tremendous citizens and community boosters in Lambton—Kent—Middlesex who lived their lives in service to others.

Murray Newkirk lived 95 years as a businessman and one of the driving forces behind Wallaceburg's Kiltie Band. He loved music and he used his voice as a member of the church choir where he also served on the board for numerous years. Murray is fondly remembered first and foremost as a gentleman.

Reverend Bob Whalls passed away suddenly at the all too young age of 52. Reverend Whalls pastored a United Church three point charge, and he was the longest current serving member of the Wallaceburg Ministerial Association and was the Padre of the Wallaceburg Legion. Uniquely, Reverend Whalls was also an active member of the Soul Patrol, a group of Christian motorcycle enthusiasts who collected can goods for local food banks and provided motorcycle rides to seniors.

I ask the House to please join me in honouring two very well-lived lives.

Afghanistan
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada needs a balanced three-prong approach in Afghanistan: security, development and democratic peace building.

Our troops have been doing brave and honourable work. It is now time that Canada's NATO allies shouldered their fair share of the mission's weight.

Canada has lost 82 of its bravest citizens and seen more than 300 wounded from this conflict. With the military price tag skyrocketing under the Conservative government, Canada must shift its focus.

NATO countries must deploy substantial numbers of troops to Kandahar to allow Canadian troops to focus their efforts on training the Afghan army and police authorities. In parallel, Canada must help facilitate a democratic peacebuilding and reconciliation process between warlords and different religious and ethnic factions, recognizing that there is no military based solution to the conflict. We must also shift our focus to reconstruction and development assistance.

Only with a balanced approach can we be successful in bringing peace to the Afghans.

Tibet
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, recently I met with members of the Tibetan community in Toronto to discuss the ongoing unrest in Tibet. It was an open exchange of views.

I was also encouraged to see Chinese Canadians demonstrating and calling for dialogue.

China needs to move forward. A golden opportunity has been presented to the Chinese through the hand of friendship and cooperation offered by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We encourage the Chinese to seize it.

Canada will continue to encourage China to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, to fully respect human rights, respect peaceful protest, show restraint in dealing with the situation in Tibet, and allow unrestricted access to the entire affected region.

An early peaceful and sustainable resolution is in the interest of all.

Venant Cauchy
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, Venant Cauchy, a great Quebecker, a man of the world, an internationally renowned philosopher and an apostle of Quebec sovereignty, died last week at the venerable age of 83.

For many years, we were privileged to be part of his entourage, and to benefit from his friendship, his teachings and his wisdom.

Even when he knew his days were numbered, he kept thinking of the country of which he had always dreamed. I would like to read the last thing he wrote in Laval on March 8: “We would like to extend a cordial invitation to you to be part of Quebec's society, which welcomes all communities that are open to our country. May you find it to be a society that lives and breathes freedom and education. Long live a free Quebec!”

Venant, my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I salute you one last time.

Vaisakhi
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Conservative government, I congratulate Sikhs in Canada and around the world on the celebration of Vaisakhi.

In 1699 Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji created Khalsa and gave Sikhs a name, Singh or Kaur, along with a visible identity and the five kakars that are globally recognized as religious symbols. Guru Ji also gave Sikhs a code of conduct and discipline based on equality, justice, peace, courage, hard work, honesty, community service and the universality of the brotherhood.

Creation of Khalsa meant obliteration of all creed or caste based disparities and discriminations and the courage to fight injustice and oppression. His teachings are for all humankind.

During the last century, the Canadian Sikh community has made a significant contribution to the social, cultural and economic prosperity to our great country.

I invite all to celebrate Vaisakhi on Parliament Hill. The very best wishes to all on celebration of Vaisakhi.

Rwandan Genocide
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Monday the House unanimously adopted a motion commemorating the Rwandan genocide on its 14th anniversary.

During a three month period beginning April 7, 1994, 800,000 Rwandans were killed in an organized genocidal campaign. Nobody can say that we did not know. We knew, but we did not act.

In designating April 7 as a Day of Reflection on the Prevention of Genocide, we will be able to learn about, reflect upon and act upon the unlearned lessons of the Rwandan genocide.

First, the genocide occurred not because of the machinery of death, but because of the state sanctioned incitement of genocide. Second, the genocide was made possible by the indifference and inaction of the international community. Third, the international community must act to prevent genocide to begin with, rather than intervene after the fact when it is too late. Fourth, there is the danger of genocide denial, which constitutes an assault on truth, memory and justice.

It is tragic that while we recall the catastrophic effects of the Rwandan genocide, we have yet to act in the genocide in Darfur.

If Rwanda taught us anything, it is that the time to act is now. Tomorrow will be too late.

Manitoba
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, another provincial budget was introduced earlier this week and once again Canadians are seeing good results from our government's fiscal policy.

When Manitoba finance minister Greg Selinger tabled his budget, he listed area after area where Manitobans are benefiting from a positive federal-provincial relationship and strong federal investments. He talked about how federal investments will help Manitobans save more money, improve health care, transition to new jobs, upgrade their skills, increase productivity, build new wastewater infrastructure, hire more police officers and create better public transit. Finally, because of our fiscal policy, Manitoba was able to produce yet another balanced budget. The list goes on and on.

The real question is why the federal NDP cannot see what Premier Doer is doing. Why did the members for Elmwood—Transcona, Winnipeg Centre and Winnipeg North not tell their leader that budget 2008 is good for Manitoba and good for Canada? Why did they let their party vote against it? Is their leader that out of touch, or is he just not listening?

Our Corridor
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to give my support to the Our Corridor campaign, launched to help rebuild Vancouver Island's rail service.

A growing list of citizens, community groups and local politicians are getting on board, hoping to raise $103.8 million for upgrades to ensure viability. It is abundantly clear that this rail service would facilitate many opportunities for our island communities and include both economic and environmental benefits.

Once the rail corridor is upgraded, our businesses will have a seamless competitive advantage for exporting and importing products that is fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. At the present time, it is taking the equivalent of 2,900 large trailer trucks off the roads per year. With the proposed upgrades, this number could rise to almost 18,000 trucks per year.

The proposal supports an integrated transportation system that connects buses to trains, park and ride facilities and the use of bicycle and walking paths along the corridor. All that is needed now is for the federal government to make it to the station and get on board to support our island rail service.

Darfur
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Sunday, April 13, we mark the Global Day for Darfur, a call to action originally conceived by a group of NGOs working on ending Darfur's horrors.

The number of dead from genocidal violence and now starvation, a genocide by attrition, may be approaching half a million. Victims of the conflict continue to be displaced at a rate of 30,000 per month. Two-thirds of Darfur's population of 6.5 million is in desperate need. This year's Global Day for Darfur focuses on the brutalized and starving children, often orphaned.

The Liberal opposition believes Darfur must become an international priority and the Harper government cannot continue sitting on the sidelines--

Darfur
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Darfur
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order. The hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes.

Sainte-Julie
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the residents of Sainte-Julie are happy people. I have often noted this, as my duties take me there regularly. But now we have the relative happiness index confirming that the people of Sainte-Julie are the happiest people in Quebec. This is wonderful.

Its citizens love living there, no doubt because it is children- and family-oriented. It is a wonderfully successful community.

Its new distinction, I am convinced, will have a ripple effect on the entire Lajemmerais RCM and surrounding area. And in fact, while launching Grand Airs, a summer festival that takes over his town, the mayor of Varennes said he hopes his citizens will one day be able to claim the title currently enjoyed by their neighbour.

When presenting the award to Sainte-Julie mayor Suzanne Roy, Pierre Côté said that all the top-ranking cities and towns, including Repentigny, are run by women. Coincidence or not, congratulations to those women of action and to everyone who spreads happiness throughout Quebec.

Darfur
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the eve of the Global Day for Darfur, we all need to be aware of the conflict raging in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The region is in the throes of a conflict pitting the Sudanese government against militia groups. But it is civilians whose basic rights have been violated who are suffering the most. Already, more than 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced, forced out of their homes with only the clothes on their backs.

Three and a half million Darfuris still depend on international aid to survive. The UN has described the situation in Darfur as the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world today”.

The attacks on Darfur must stop immediately so that aid missions can resume and the suffering can finally end.

Liberal Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, whether it is leading the new NATO consensus on Afghanistan, defending our Arctic sovereignty, not letting foreign big polluting countries jeopardize our made in Canada climate change plans, or protecting Canada's national interest in strategic industries, Canadians can count on the Conservative government to defend our national interests at home and abroad.

Contrast this demonstrated leadership from our Prime Minister and the Conservative Party with the lack of leadership Canadians are seeing from the Liberal Party and its so-called leader. The Liberals have no policy. Just the other day the Liberals' deputy leader was contradicting his boss on what should be the most important priorities for Canadians.

The Liberals have no vision for our country. They have made over 33 reckless spending promises, which would bring the country into over $62.5 billion in debt and deficit. On top of that, they have proposed GST increases that would raise the GST up to 12%.

While the Liberals have no policy, no vision and no leadership, Canadians are happy to see them supporting our policy, our vision, our leader and our party, the Conservative Party of Canada.

Multiculturalism
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, according to today's Ottawa Citizen, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism was quoted as saying the following at a party meeting some time ago, and I am quoting from what he is supposed to have said in this conversation, a quote that is directly attributed to him:

Now, this notion that there's somebody tied to the Heritage Front on the executive. How do we know that and how do we know that this isn't overheated Sikhs using the race card, which they so often do when their credentials are being questioned?

My question for the Secretary of State is this: did he in fact use these words in a conversation and does he feel that these comments are appropriate?

Multiculturalism
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question and the opportunity to respond. I did use those remarks in a particular context and I do not think they were appropriate. I expressed regret at the time. I do so again.

I think it is unfortunate that a particular media outlet and now the official opposition are resorting to using eight year old material from Canada's version of the National Enquirer, called Frank magazine, for question period material. I have never seen that happen in the past 10 years here.

However, I will say this. I have devoted much of my time in public life to promoting the active involvement of Canadians from diverse backgrounds in our political institutions. I am proud of my record in that respect.

Multiculturalism
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would just observe that members opposite have used at least 30 year old material against many of us on this side, so I think the minister can hardly complain.

I want to say to the Secretary of State that of course on this side we accept his apology, but I want to ask him if he can explain a pattern that we see, a pattern in which things are said behind closed doors that are very different from what is said in public, a pattern in which things caught on tape or caught on microphone unexpectedly are very different from the public statements that ministers say and do. How can he explain that pattern when it so clearly runs against the stated positions of his government?

Multiculturalism
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, in part by referring to our actions, and I would point out, for instance, that this comment relates to the 2000 election campaign, which I co-chaired. I am proud of the fact that the campaign had more visible minority candidates, more candidates of south Asian origin and indeed more Sikh candidates than did the Liberal Party.

Speaking about off the record remarks, here is one from 1992, when a Liberal organizer told the Toronto Star that while the Sikh community had “the ability to sway nominations in up to 14 Metro ridings, it could have only two candidates”. Perhaps the member could explain why the Liberal Party's actions do not comport with its members' words.

Multiculturalism
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I anticipated a heartfelt response from the minister and what we get is the same old, same old from the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism, in which he uses 16 year old comments to try to match what he himself said.

My question for the secretary of state is very simple. He said, “Now, this notion that there's somebody tied to the Heritage Front on the executive. How do we know that and how do we know that this isn't overheated Sikhs...?”

He spoke about overheated Sikhs and today he is still accusing us. Will—

Multiculturalism
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. member for Toronto Centre.

The hon. Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity).

Multiculturalism
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I have expressed my regret for those comments made eight years ago.

But forget about 17 years ago or 8 years ago. Four years ago, another secretary of state for multiculturalism said the following:

The Chinese community is very different from the Indo-Canadian community. The Chinese community are much more objective. No one can force them, or lure them, or cheat them into signing a membership form.

Who said that? The member for Richmond.

Canadian Heritage
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, which is currently studying Bill C-10, declared that the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages told him that she detested the bill in question. She detests it.

Can the minister tell us why she is forced to defend a bill that she detests? Is it simply because she is afraid of her boss?

Canadian Heritage
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I can understand exactly why the minister is frustrated. This is a bill that was initiated originally by a Liberal minister, Sheila Copps. The provisions were then reinstated by subsequent Liberal governments. When it came to a vote in this House, those members over there all supported it and now they say they are adamantly opposed.

It is the exact same pattern as their opposition this week in which they said they were adamantly opposed to our immigration reforms. They were so adamantly opposed to them that they voted for them on Thursday. Thanks very much. I can understand why the minister is frustrated, as Canadians are, by trying to figure out where the Liberal Party stands on any issue.

Canadian Heritage
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, what is clear now is that the minister has no say on the most important policies affecting Canadian artists and creators. She is there only to enforce the censorship agenda of the Prime Minister's Office.

If the minister hates the policy so much, why is she allowing herself to be used to implement right-wing ideologies? What is she afraid of?

Canadian Heritage
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, implementing the right-wing ideology of Sheila Copps and the Liberal Party, who came up with this idea? The reason she came up with this idea, she said, is that Canadians did not want their tax dollars funding pornography and undue violence. She is not the only person who held that view. The member for Markham—Unionville said just last month that he thought it was a very sensible proposal and that is why the Liberals supported it.

Why did the Liberals change their position one more time? Is there any issue on which they will stay in the same place for more than a few days at a time?

Securities industry
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Toronto the Minister of Finance was back on his kick to create a single securities regulator in Canada. That idea, as hon. members know, has been rejected by Quebec and all the other provinces, except Ontario, because it is a costly and inefficient idea that interferes in provincial jurisdictions.

Will the Minister of Finance stop shooting himself in the foot—and shooting us in the foot—by undermining the current system and will he drop his centralist, inefficient plan?

Securities industry
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, again, the Bloc Québécois is desperately trying to create issues where there are none. We are not in the process of invading any jurisdictions of any provinces, including Quebec.

What the Minister of Finance has proposed is to consider whether we should, with a narrow, clear and precise focus, look together at the issues that are of concern to those people. A consultation will indeed be held and we will see what happens from there.

Securities industry
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities knows full well that everyone in the National Assembly is against this plan, including the finance minister, Ms. Jérôme-Forget, who wrote to the Minister of Finance to denounce this plan.

Yesterday was another example of the need for Quebec to have its own regulator. The Autorité des marchés financiers has approved the merger of the Montreal exchange with the Toronto Stock Exchange, but it has imposed conditions and given itself veto rights. If ever there is a single securities regulator in Canada and the Autorité des marchés financiers disappears, the vetos will also disappear and that would allow the Toronto Stock Exchange to take over all the financial activities currently handled by the Montreal exchange.

This seems like very good additional proof—

Securities industry
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Securities industry
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has not proven anything. I repeat; this government respects provincial jurisdictions.

Again, when it comes to having a government that stands up to respect the provinces and provincial jurisdictions, people can count on us.

Securities industry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, we held a debate in this House. The Minister of Finance is stepping up efforts to create a Canada-wide securities commission, which would take away Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction over this matter, and would concentrate everything in Ontario. This approach is not unlike the minister's scheme to lure turnkey projects to his riding.

Could the minister explain why, when it comes to his riding, everything is so simple, but when it comes to respecting Quebec's jurisdictions, everything becomes complicated?

Securities industry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker, this government will respect provincial jurisdiction. That is where securities regulation is at this point, but we heard loud and clear at finance committee yesterday of the problems facing those who are involved in the asset backed commercial paper. We do not have a system that protects our investors all across the country.

That is why the finance minister is looking seriously at this, but provincial jurisdiction will be respected.

Securities industry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, banks fall under federal jurisdiction, but this falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec.

Does the minister's behaviour mean that he is trying to put his own political interests ahead of Quebec's, in order to get favours from his friends on Bay Street, in preparation for his future campaign for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party?

Securities industry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat that this finance minister is absolutely respecting provincial jurisdiction, including that of Quebec, most importantly, but we do need to remember that we need to protect investors across the country.

We heard from many investors, including those from Quebec, who raised concerns that exist in regard to our system right now. That is of primary importance to us: protecting Canadians.

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, despite campaigning to clean up politics, the Conservatives are developing a disturbing pattern of patronage, political favouritism and mistrust. The latest example is a $45 million program for an ability centre, where it appears that only one organization in the whole of Canada fits the finance minister's criteria. It just so happens to be in the minister's own riding, with staff and family members on the board.

Will the minister commit today to extend the deadline to ensure that all interested groups can apply for access to this funding for this program? Will he commit to that today?

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, the deadline has not even passed yet. In fact, the enabling accessibility fund, if she would like to know, will invest $45 million over three years to contribute to the cost of community based projects across Canada that help people with disabilities. All proposals will have to meet guidelines. The deadline is April 30, 2008.

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is very curious that only one group in the minister's riding seems to qualify. No wonder Canadians are losing trust in the government. Whether it is hiding immigration changes in the budget bill or film censorship, whether it is sneaking drug advertising into a consumer protection bill or insulting the Sikh community with callous remarks, the pattern is very clear.

The Conservatives promised to do politics differently but they have not, so why should Canadians trust the government when it is appointing partisan hacks and funnelling money to groups with insider connections in Conservative ridings? They have lost the trust of the Canadian people. How are they going to get it back?

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, on the accessibility fund, the deadline has not even passed. Applications have not even been filed yet. How she has decided who has already received the grant is entirely beyond me.

In terms of matters like Bill C-10, we are trying to work together with other parties in a minority Parliament. This is why we were pleased on Bill C-10 that the NDP supported the bill. In fact, the member for Winnipeg North said this in the House when she was speaking about the bill:

Today we are dealing with a bill that arises out of concerns from the Auditor General about the perpetuation of tax loopholes and tax havens.

That is why those members were supporting it. They thought it was a good thing.

Apparently they are like the Liberals and they too are changing their minds every day on where they stand on the issues.

Canada Border Services Agency
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, there is a disturbing pattern arising with regard to taser use. First we see the RCMP censoring taser usage reports. Now we learn that taped footage from the tragic incident at the Vancouver International Airport last fall was erased by border officials.

What is the government trying to hide about the misuse of tasers in this instance?

Canada Border Services Agency
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Safety has received assurances that investigators had access to and reviewed the full and complete video footage prior to it being erased.

We are, however, very concerned about this matter. The Minister of Public Safety has asked that the CBSA immediately review its procedures in these instances.

Canada Border Services Agency
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the government told us that three investigations were underway about the incident at the Vancouver airport. Obviously, any video recordings of the incident should be part of these investigations.

Do the investigators have a copy of the video in question? Are there multiple copies? Or did the government officials conveniently erase evidence that could be used in the investigation?

Canada Border Services Agency
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I would tell my hon. colleague again that the investigators had full and complete access to the original video footage prior to it being erased. The Minister of Public Safety has asked the CBSA to immediately review its procedure on the handling of such material.

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, tape recordings are a problem for the government, with the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism accusing the Sikh community of racism, on tape, with Senator Angus saying Conservatives are divided over Bill C-10 and censorship, on tape, and with the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader demeaning gay people, on tape. As for the Canada Border Services Agency destroying evidence of misused tasers, it was on tape until the agency got rid of it.

Is this the government strategy, deny members' own words and all that self-incrimination, destroy the evidence, and have an election before Canadians can find out the truth?

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member has every reason for wanting to delay an election as long as possible, and I can understand why that is his view, but there is absolutely no basis whatsoever to what the Liberals say.

However, there is a pattern emerging, a pattern of a Liberal Party that has no policies, takes no position on issues, does not even bother to vote in the House and raises imaginary scandals one after another. Why? Because the Liberals have no policy, no vision. They stand on nothing that is of importance to Canadians. All they do is go around looking for some kind of imaginary scandal they can kick up to get a news hit.

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious the government will not answer. The Conservatives deke and dodge and try to change the subject, but they are caught because they are their very own words, unmistakably, on tape.

The granddaddy of them all is the Prime Minister on tape, confirming financial considerations offered to Chuck Cadman. It is so damning because it corroborates the repeated, unwavering testimony of the Cadman family, including his widow who remains a Conservative candidate, and it is the Prime Minister live and in person.

Canadians have heard what Conservatives say behind closed doors. Why is there no accountability for it in public?

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, the accusations by the Liberals on this issue are entirely false. Do members know what else is on tape? Liberals supporting our budget is on tape. Liberals supporting our immigration reform is on tape. Liberals supporting our environment initiatives is on tape. Liberals supporting our tax cuts is on tape. I am sure CPAC can give it to them for a very good price.

I hope the Liberals will continue to support our government, on tape.

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The other thing that is on tape is all the yelling that is going on. I would ask people to stop that.

The hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, at yesterday's meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, General Hillier said that at the time of the first extension of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, the government knew that an additional 1,000 soldiers were needed to do the job.

How can the government justify the fact that it hid this information from the House when it was about to vote on extending the mission? Is that not an example of this government's lack of transparency?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, in fact, there are two priorities when the military embarks upon a mission: one is mission accomplishment; and one is safety of the troops. General Hillier, like all military leaders, took those two priorities into consideration.

We have been very consistent about our requests for more troops. Through the leadership of the Prime Minister and through the hard work of the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, we got that commitment in Bucharest recently. That will allow us to continue and, in fact, expand our operations in areas of governance and reconstruction.

Through the brilliant leadership of the Prime Minister and the brilliant military leadership of people like General Hillier, we will get the job done.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the general's comments prove that this government has lacked transparency since long before the Manley report was released.

Is this attempt to manipulate parliamentarians not reason enough to end this mission in February 2009?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, again, General Hillier, like any military commander, has two things in mind, mission accomplishment and safety of the troops.

The Minister of National Defence has worked together with the military leadership consistently. The Prime Minister has been well aware of all the factors that lead to the success of the mission, all the factors needed to better guarantee the success of the mission. That is why we went to Bucharest. That is why we had the Manley panel. That is why we got the extra troops. That is why we are getting the extra helicopters, the UAVs.

With the leadership of the Prime Minister on the political side and the leadership of General Hillier on the military side—

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Drummond.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, China has turned down a request by Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to visit Tibet. The Chinese authorities told her that such a visit was not possible at this time. Louise Arbour is due to step down from her position at the end of June, and China did not propose another date.

Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs approach China so that Ms. Arbour can visit Tibet before she leaves her position?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, Canada expects China, as a member of the Human Rights Council, to live to the highest standards of cooperation with the UN human rights system. We call upon China to receive the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the earliest possible data.

Canada also reiterates and supports the call for unrestricted access by generalists, diplomats and independent experts to Tibet and nearby regions affected by the recent violence.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, last December, the Bloc Québécois introduced a motion calling on the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to release Franco-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt. That motion was adopted unanimously. My colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher has asked the Prime Minister to join us in calling publicly for Ingrid Betancourt's release.

Will the Prime Minister comply with that request?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, this government's priority is human rights. As said by the Prime Minister, we are very much concerned about the hostage crisis in Colombia. We call upon the rebels to release the hostage as quickly as possible and also to accept the medical team that the French government was sending.

Child Care
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, last year the Conservative government made the biggest child care cut in Canadian history, slashing $1 billion in funding. Now Canadian families are suffering.

Yesterday a new report confirms that two years of Conservative government has resulted in 6,000 lost child care spaces. Young families have been left without spaces they can afford or quality care their kids need.

Will the minister restore these spaces and stop cutting from the most formative years in a child's life?

Child Care
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, that report was an indictment of the record of the previous Liberal government. It does not take into account that we have transferred $250 million, through the Canada transfer to the provinces, so they can create spaces for child care. This has allowed provinces to announce 45,000 child care spaces. This is more than Sheila Copps, the previous deputy leader of the Liberal government, had said. More than 45,000 spaces is what we—

Child Care
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Ajax—Pickering.

Child Care
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is the Conservative record. The provinces have had their funding cut. Municipalities have cut back their plans. Thousands of spaces have been lost. A national early childhood learning strategy has been replaced by a gimmick.

When there is no quality of care, when we have grossly underpaid professionals, when we have no spaces, we have no choice.

When will the government reverse these cuts and offer families a real choice for the spaces and quality of care they so desperately need?

Child Care
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, $5.6 billion annually goes into child care. We are giving choice for parents in child care, in fact, $1,200 to each and every child under the age of six. The leader of that party has said he will take it away.

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is new information out this morning that suggests the call for proposals under the enabling accessibility fund has been rigged by the Conservative government. The very complex nature of the application requirements and apparent advance notice to one particular applicant seems designed to favour people connected to the member for Whitby—Oshawa.

Could the minister explain to all disabled Canadians why the process is rigged to divert disability funding into the finance minister's riding?

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, an initial call for proposals has been under way since April 1. Those will close on April 30. All projects have to meet the same conditions and terms, and that is, the program including community support, feasibility and sustainability.

I advise that member do as we did: go out and ask her constituents to get the proposals in.

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister still has not explained why the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres is angry with his government for concocting “this entire program...as a means for pork-barrelling for the riding of Whitby”.

Will the minister admit that rigging the application in favour of an organization where his own wife and executive assistant are members of the board is just wrong? What does he have to say to all other disabled Canadians?

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, again, budget 2007 proposed the creation of the enabling accessibility fund to contribute to the capital costs of construction and renovation projects to improve the accessibility of people with disabilities. The initial call for proposals has been under way. No determination has been made on grants.

Drugs and Pharmaceuticals
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, the official opposition members seem to be incapable of asking substantive questions in the House. They focus on scandals that do not exist.

Meanwhile the NDP is trying to fill the vacuum. While at least the NDP members are using their time to ask questions of the health minister, they are still misrepresenting the facts when it comes the government's health initiatives.

Therefore, would the Parliamentary Secretary for Health please explain to the unofficial official opposition how our product safety legislation strengthens the prohibition of direct to consumer advertising?

Drugs and Pharmaceuticals
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Parliamentary Secretary for Health

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his great work on the health file.

The government opposes direct to consumer advertising and has not only done this in words, but we have taken action. We are fighting a court case to protect the prohibition on direct consumer advertising for pharmaceuticals. We are undergoing proposed legislation to enshrine this prohibition into the act itself and further reinforce it with tough targeted regulations, regulations that will employ full public consultations.

This is just another example of the NDP inventing controversy where there is none. The NDP—

Drugs and Pharmaceuticals
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas.

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages is reported to have said that she hates Bill C-10. I hope she has finally joined the club.

Others continue to call on the government to use this tax measure to censor film and video production. Just yesterday, Charles McVety, the lobbyist who claims to have influenced the Conservatives to put this controversial guideline into law, said “decency trumps freedom”.

Given the concerns raised by the arts community and producers, will the minister withdraw this amendment and develop guidelines that fully respect the freedom of expression and directly address the serious concerns about censorship?

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Kootenay—Columbia
B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is very important that we take a look at some facts. The facts are that many of the people who were witnesses yesterday were of the 33 organizations that, on March 19, 2001, received the following from the Liberal government.

In a request for their response, they were told by the Liberal government in 2001, “The existing public policy and acceptable share of revenues test, which is presently found in the draft regulations, will be incorporated in the act”. Those organizations wrote back in June saying, “We would agree with the technical amendments outlined in the 2001 discussion paper”. What is the issue?

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, today, outside CBC facilities, listeners will raise a ruckus for Radio 2 to express serious concerns about the cuts to classical music programming and the disbanding of the CBC Radio Orchestra.

CBC Radio-Canada is key to the development and promotion of classical music in Canada. The CBC Radio Orchestra, based in Vancouver, is an important national cultural institution, one of the few in the west.

Will the government adopt the unanimous heritage committee recommendations and provide increased stable, multi-year funding to CBC Radio-Canada?

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Kootenay—Columbia
B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the response is twofold.

First, that report is now being considered by the minister and she will respond in due course.

Second, with respect to the decisions of the CBC, as the member well knows, as he is a member of the committee, we have invited the executives of the CBC to come before the committee to explain to us their future plans with respect to the CBC.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, legal experts in Mexico point out, contrary to statements coming from the Mexican Embassy, that the Mexican government could legally send Brenda Martin home at any time, but will not do so unless Canada makes it a major political issue.

When will the Prime Minister show that he actually cares about the fate of Canadian citizens? Make the call, make this a major political issue in Mexico today so Brenda Martin can be free tomorrow.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, I do not know of a single consular case in recent memory which has received more attention from a government. This has been raised with the Mexican foreign minister on at least four separate occasions. It has been raised at the very highest levels.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had meetings with senior officials right across the board in Mexico on this matter. I did as well two weeks ago.

I am pleased to see, since my trip there, that the process seems to be moving quite quickly. We hope that it will have a resolution very soon and that Ms. Martin will come home to Canada as soon as possible.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, obviously that secretary of state thinks a cocktail party is at the highest level.

Brenda Martin's Conservative MP abandoned her and even said she deserved to be in prison. What is more, the secretary of state attended a cocktail party in Mexico instead of meeting with her.

Has a doctor visited Ms. Martin? Will the Prime Minister take steps today to bring Brenda Martin back to Canada tomorrow?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has already taken diplomatic steps with the Mexican authorities. The Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) has had some 20 meetings with Mexican government officials. It is true that she met with Canadians while she was in Mexico. Ministers often meet with Canadians when they are abroad.

We have raised this issue at the highest levels of the Mexican government. Currently, the process is in the hands of—and I hope that—

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Egmont.

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, in a speech given in Quebec City on October 2, 2007, the Minister of Natural Resources said:

I have no doubt that the [Wind Energy Institute of Canada] will play a key role nationwide in accelerating the development of wind energy in Canada through research, testing, innovation and collaboration.

How can this be when he just cut the funds for the institute?

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Saanich—Gulf Islands
B.C.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, we do not have to take any lessons from Liberals in our commitment for clean, renewable energy for this country. We have put $1.5 billion for wind energy, 4,000 megawatts of absolutely clean energy. We are announcing these projects in every single corner of this country.

We are very proud of our record. We are getting the job done. We are delivering. The Liberals should be ashamed of their record after 13 years of inaction.

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, the funding for the institute is cut. It is good to have that confirmed by the minister.

I have a supplementary for the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The minister of ACOA told me that the wind institute would be the first in line for the next round of centres of excellence projects. How will this happen when the funding is cut?

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Saanich—Gulf Islands
B.C.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, we are delivering action. We are delivering more energy from wind, from renewable energy, and the member should recognize that our government is taking action.

The Liberals allowed greenhouse gases to rise by 35% in their 13 years in office. Their record is abysmal and they should be ashamed of it. We are getting the job done. We are delivering results for Canadians in every single corner of this country.

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, francophone athletes and media representatives with the Canadian mission will be welcomed by bilingual volunteers during the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, by bilingual, the Canadian Olympic committees mean mastery of English and Mandarin. They have forgotten one of Canada's official languages, our language: French.

Is that yet more proof that nobody really cares about the Quebec nation or its language, and that French has no place in the Canadian Olympic delegation even though it is the official language of the Olympics? Will the government intervene to ensure that French is also required?

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, I can assure my Bloc colleague that our government is fully aware of the situation and that the 2010 Olympic Games will be completely bilingual. I understand his concerns, and I can assure him that we are aware of the concerns he has raised here in the House. The Olympic Games and all of the work the government is doing on this file will be bilingual in acknowledgement of this Canadian reality.

French language Television
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, Paris and its francophone partners continue to disagree about the role of the multilateral channel, TV5 Monde. Belgium, like Switzerland yesterday, has threatened to withdraw if France continues with its plan to integrate the francophone television network into the proposed France Monde holding company.

What arguments has the Canadian government expressed to France to ensure that TV5 remains a multilateral tool for the francophonie?

French language Television
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Kootenay—Columbia
B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the heritage minister has taken note of these issues and it is under consideration.

Franco-Ontarian Association
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Association canadienne-française de l'Ontario plays a key role in the development and enhancement of Franco-Ontarians throughout the province.

This year alone, funding has been reduced by almost 30%, resulting in the closing of one of its offices in my riding and possibly many other offices across the province.

Why has this Conservative government abandoned Franco-Ontarians?

Franco-Ontarian Association
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to note that a Liberal member has asked this question because it was the Liberal government that slashed funding for Ontario's francophones. That is very interesting. Could he perhaps tell our government why major cuts were made in funding for linguistic communities?

Seniors
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, a large portion of the population is aging and needs a greater level of care. We are hearing stories of the difficulties and abuse that seniors can sometimes experience with caregivers and even their own families. We know that the previous Liberal government did absolutely nothing to help vulnerable seniors experiencing the trauma of elder abuse.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development tell the House what this government is doing to help seniors who may be struggling with the issue of elder abuse?

Seniors
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that seniors built this country and play a vital role in its future. They have a strong voice at the cabinet table. That is why we created a Secretary of State for Seniors and a National Seniors Council.

In budget 2008 we committed $13 million to combat elder abuse. Seniors know we care, but more importantly, they know that the opposition did nothing for 13 years. We did more in 24 months for seniors than the Liberals did in 13 years.

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week Kamloops lost 200 jobs when the Weyerhaeuser sawmill closed. Last summer close to 200 jobs were lost when Pope & Talbot closed in Midway. Working families are suffering in the Kootenay Boundary and in Kamloops. Families in Kaslo are also hurting due to the Meadow Creek closure. They still do not know if they qualify for the $1 billion fund.

Can the minister tell the House if the workers from Kamloops, Midway and Kaslo qualify, yes or no? If so, when will he release the funding?

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Saanich—Gulf Islands
B.C.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, in fact, the $1 billion community development trust money for targeting hardships went out to the province to administer these programs. We are delivering for our forest communities. We understand this is a very difficult time for them. We understand it is a difficult time for the sector right across Canada. That is why we are putting these programs in place.

I should also mention the other $400 million that we have already delivered for the forest industry, looking at innovation and new product opportunities. We are working with organizations like the Forest Products Association of Canada.

We are getting the job done. These programs will be delivered to the province in cooperation with it. We are looking forward to those results.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, more and more people in the north are concerned that review boards meant to protect the environment are becoming make work projects for Conservatives.

The most recent example of this patronage was the eleventh hour appointment of the failed Conservative candidate from the last election to the chair of the most important of these environmental protection boards, replacing the longstanding nominated incumbent.

Why is the minister ignoring the spirit and intent of these boards, which is to bring an independent northern voice to environmental assessments, by deciding that the only important qualification for the position is one's history with the Conservative Party?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, all the appointments that we make throughout Canada come from a very talented pool of qualified individuals, and that is the same in this case. Our record on the north is without parallel. Not since the Diefenbaker years has a prime minister focused so much on our northern issues.

In that member's own territory we can look to the Yellowknifer that said that our budget was one of the most progressive for the north in many years. I find it hard to imagine why that member is not supportive of the initiatives we have taken in the north.

Cluster Bombs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada has historically been a leader in advancing peace around the world. This was clear on March 1, 1999, when the eyes of the world were on Canada as the Ottawa convention was reached banning the manufacture and use of landmines.

It is now time to make history again by banning cluster bombs. These are horrible weapons which do not differentiate between civilian and military targets. They injure and kill civilians long after they have been deployed.

When is the government going to show leadership by demanding a ban on the production and use of cluster bombs?

Cluster Bombs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the hon. member that this government takes the banning of cluster bombs very seriously. We have been working with Norway and our partners to ensure that we can come to a proper resolution. We will continue doing that. I can assure the hon. member that we will be working very hard on that file because we agree with him that the issue of cluster bombs needs to be addressed.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals talked about the Kelowna accord, but for 13 long years they did nothing for aboriginals except come up with a bogus $5 billion press release in the dying days of their government. This press release, best described as cheap electioneering, had no budget, no specifics, no plan, no nothing.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development tell us how Liberal cheap promises, with no delivery, simply do not advance anything first nations really care about?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, clearly, the Kelowna proposals were nothing more than a press release backed up by false Liberal promises. If the Liberals were serious about these efforts, we would have seen them enact something in their 13 years. Even today, the Montreal Gazette calls the Kelowna proposals exactly the wrong approach to solving problems on reserve.

Clearly, our government has a different approach. We are actually getting things done. That is why we have cut in half the number of communities with high risk drinking water systems. We have resolved a record number of specific claims. We have tabled legislation to reduce the backlog of specific claims and we have paid out $1.2 billion so far in compensation. We are getting the job done.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation to the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association, on the second round of legislative elections, held in Paris, France, from June 13 to 18, 2007.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

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

Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

Noon

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

In accordance with its order of reference of Tuesday, March 11, 2008, your committee has considered Bill S-215, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses and agreed on Thursday, April 10 to report it with amendment.

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in relation to gender analysis.

Gender analysis is critical if we as a country are to address the problems of poverty and social injustice.

Gender analysis that was introduced and recommended in 2004 according to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women states that we would like that to be legislated.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-535, An Act respecting the preservation of Canada’s water resources.

Mr. Speaker, I rise with great pride and pleasure to table this bill. The object of the bill is to prevent transfers of bulk water from one major drainage basin in Canada to another, thereby protecting the environment, which is damaged by such transfers, and thereby at the same time also preventing the transfer of freshwater outside of Canada.

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

Sudan Accountability Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-536, An Act to encourage accountability by Canada and the international community with respect to Sudan.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to introduce the Sudan accountability act, a bill that aims at enhancing the role of Canada and the international community in combating the genocide in Darfur.

In a week beginning with the commemoration of the Rwandan genocide, in which the world failed to act, it is only appropriate that in the same week legislation be introduced to combat the first genocide of the 21st century through targeted divestment and international initiatives.

We know that more than 400,000 have died in this genocide by attrition and at least 4 million are on a life support system. As the student posters at Darfur rallies ask, “If not us, who?” and “If not now, when?”

While this legislation alone will not end the genocide, it is a vital and necessary step to be taken and the time to act is now.

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

Afghanistan
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by many people in my city of Toronto, as well as by my constituents of Davenport, who are asking that the Government of Canada to remove Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan immediately.

Criminal Code
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the residents of Wild Rose, I have two petitions to present today.

The first petition comes from the great and beautiful city of Airdrie and surrounding area. The petitioners are calling upon the members of Parliament to enact stronger laws and harsher penalties for sexual assault offenders, suggesting: first, that offenders should receive a minimum of 10 years jail time, with no parole; second, that offenders must attend rehabilitation; and third, that the public be notified upon the release of a sexual offender.

Sponsorship Program
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition comes from two great communities, my home town of Sundre, Alberta, and the area close by of Caroline.

The petitioners request that Parliament continue to investigate the location and possible allocation of the $40 million of taxpayer money which mysteriously went missing and vanished under the Liberal Party of Canada during the sponsorship scandal.

Cluster Bombs
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions signed by hundreds of Canadians from all regions of our country.

The first petition calls upon the government to support a new law to eliminate the use of cluster bombs. Cluster bombs cause untold harm, mainly to civilians. Canada must work with the international community to prevent this suffering.

The petitioners strongly believe the Canadian government should show international leadership and support a law to end the use of cluster munitions.

This petition was circulated by an organization called Mines Action Canada. It plays a vital role in the battle to end the use of cluster bombs. It is a great organization. I am proud to support the petition and the work the organization does.

Greater Vancouver Gogos
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting the second petition on behalf of hundreds of people in New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody.

I am a proud founding member of the Greater Vancouver Gogos. “Gogo” means “grandmother” in the Zulu language. The Gogo network across Canada supports grandmothers in Africa who are raising their grandchildren who have been orphaned by HIV-AIDS.

The Gogos want to see Canada live up to its decade old pledges to increase aid from 0.7% of--

Greater Vancouver Gogos
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Presenting petitions.

Questions on the order paper. The hon. the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 207 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 207
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

With respect to the government’s sanctions against Burma: (a) what Canadian companies, individuals and public pension funds have direct investments in Burma and what is the total amount of the investment; (b) what Canadian companies, individuals and public pension funds have indirect investment through third-party companies in Burma and what is the total amount of the investment; (c) what Canadian companies, individuals and public pension funds were affected by the government’s sanctions against Burma; and (d) how much new Canadian investment does the government estimate was stopped by its sanctions against Burma?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence, be read the third time and passed.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

When we last considered Bill C-23, the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel had 10 minutes left for questions and comments.

The hon. member for York South—Weston.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is too bad there was a break between the presentation of my colleague's overview of the amendments to the Canada Marine Act and the proposals that were put forward in the Canada Transportation Act because his overview was excellent. It was a comprehensive analysis of the mechanisms to achieve the objectives of the Pacific and Atlantic gateways but he focused on the central gateway. I say that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence gateway is absolutely pivotal to achieving the objectives in a national transportation strategy that will allow for Canada to take its place within a competitive global economy.

The government passed a new national policy framework for strategic gateways and trade corridors. Does my Bloc colleague believe, according to his analysis, that this act would achieve the objectives in that national policy and, if the instruments are in the act and the policy, would make Canada and its marine capacity more competitive on a global basis?

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, you have understood—and my colleague has clearly understood—that without monetary support, this bill will enable port authorities to increase their debt carrying capacity. They will be able to borrow, but there is a limit. They were already limited by the current legislation, which is why they asked to increase their debt capacity. Going into debt is not always the answer, and that is why the port authorities asked to be able to take advantage of infrastructure programs.

What my colleague should know is that when the Liberals were in power, they established the Pacific gateway. The Conservatives have allocated an additional $1 billion specifically for the Pacific gateway. This means that there is currently no money allocated for the other gateways, including the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes corridor.

The most recent budget, which the Liberals supported implicitly, does not contain any money for this. We will have to wait for next year's budget to see whether there will be any new money for the ports along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes. If not, they will have to apply for funding from existing infrastructure programs, which are also available to cities. The ports will, therefore, be competing directly with the cities. This was not the idea. The idea is to develop these gateways.

The fact is that since 1980, marine traffic—at least, the number of tonnes shipped—has declined from 130 million tonnes to 105 million tonnes in the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes corridor. The seaway was built and the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes corridor was developed for faster access from Europe directly to the central United States, to serve a potential 90 million people.

The Liberal government, supported now by the Conservatives, did not invest in development. That is why goods traffic in the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes corridor has decreased since 1980, while traffic on the Mississippi has increased and international shipping has gone up by 600%. Once again, when it came to developing the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes corridor, both the Liberal and Conservative governments—pardon the expression—missed the boat.

We hope that the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes corridor will get some funding. If there is no additional funding, this bill will not promote economic development.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say Sat Sri Akal to all my Sikh friends as they celebrate Vaisakhi today. I wish them all the best.

I noticed my friend had some comments in relation to the initiatives of this government. He may have forgotten this, since it was in our first ever budget, but $2.1 billion was in that budget for the gateway and border fund to establish, in this particular case, initiatives in areas across this country, including the Quebec-Ontario continental corridor, which is very important to this country and includes the St. Lawrence.

As most members know, last year this government signed two MOUs, one with Quebec and one with the province of Ontario. We are all moving forward with great initiatives there and the member knows that.

The member also knows that this bill would accomplish great things for the people of Quebec, Ontario, Atlantic Canada, western Canada and British Columbia. Although the Bloc continues to talk about what it will do, the truth is, as we all know, it can never do anything. It is this Conservative government and members of the Conservative Party from Quebec who are doing the job and getting positive results for the people of Quebec.

I would like to know whether the member will be supporting the bill because, as he knows, we consulted with the St. Lawrence Economic Development Council, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Port of Montreal and with many other organizations and never received any negative comments on this particular bill. Will he be supporting it or not?

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to tell the parliamentary secretary that the Bloc Québécois is the only party responsible for defending the interests of Quebeckers. That is why, since 1993, we have held the majority of Quebec seats in this House and we continue to be the conscience of Quebeckers.

That is why, as members responsible for Quebec, we will support this bill. However, we would caution the Conservative Party and all Conservative members from Quebec. In the last budget, yet again, they supported the building Canada program, a $33 billion program. This includes $1 billion for the Pacific gateway, and nothing for the other gateways. So the parliamentary secretary can very well do what he wants and tell us that he is in talks with Quebec and with the various governments to develop a strategy. It is true, except that, if he does not add money dedicated to the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes corridor, this would mean that the ports of Montréal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Sept-Îles and Port Saguenay will have to apply to the other infrastructure programs, the other parts of the building Canada program, which are in direct competition with municipalities. That is the reality.

Once again, the Conservative Party favours Canada's west over the east. That is their reality, and that is why I am proud to be a member from Quebec, to rise in this House and to tell these Conservative members to stop thinking only of western Canada and to think about Quebec. This is what a real member from Quebec does.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the concerns raised by the member in the debate this afternoon.

The changes in the financial arrangements that are made in the legislation allow port authorities to borrow more money and allow them to compete with municipalities for infrastructure funding as opposed to receiving allocations from the federal government. Given the fact that they will now be able to borrow collectively billions of dollars, does the member believe that the Auditor General of Canada should have oversight? Should there be some accountability mechanism through the Auditor General for the port authorities as has been recommended by the NDP in the ongoing debate on this legislation?

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by telling my hon. colleague that I hope he paid attention to the presentation made by his party in committee. Some NDP amendments were out of order, including the amendment concerning the Auditor General. That has been one of the important debates in this House. The Conservative Party introduced this bill. It did so in a rather tightly-controlled way, so it would be impossible to integrate this measure, which could be positive. However, the proposed amendment still had to be deemed lawfully in order before the committee, but it was rejected by the committee's legal advisers.

As for the rest, my position with respect to the NDP is always a little ambivalent. Indeed, they were asking that all investment plans concerning ports be subject to municipal approval. That was their objective. That is what they wanted throughout the debate and the party still maintains its position concerning the municipalities. That is completely unacceptable. The municipalities fall under provincial jurisdiction. They do not fall under federal jurisdiction. To submit a federal authority to municipal management goes completely against the Constitution of Canada. It is their Constitution. We are bound by the Constitution and must live with it.

What the NDP proposed, in a number of measures aimed at making port authorities subject to municipalities, was completely unconstitutional. We must be careful. They are the ones who defend the Constitution of Canada. The NDP is probably the most centralist party, and when it goes against the Constitution, we are always a little surprised.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-23 this afternoon. It is a bill to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other acts in consequence.

The legislation before us will do a number of things, including modify a port authority's access to federal funding, add provisions regarding the power of a port authority to borrow money, provide additional regulatory powers to the governor in council, add provisions regarding port amalgamations, modify provisions regarding the appointment of directors of port authorities, and add a penalty scheme and streamline certain other enforcement provisions.

This legislation has appeared before this House in the past. It is similar to legislation introduced by the previous government. We debated it on a number of occasions here in the House. It comes out of widespread consultations about changes that were necessary to this kind of legislation. Unfortunately, we believe that it does not cover all of the areas that were noted in that broad consultation process that happened a number of years ago. There are still some flaws with this legislation.

That is why we will continue to do our job as opposition members to raise important questions that we think need to be answered. We raise issues to put on the record things that we think could have been included in this legislation or changes that should have been made to the legislation before it is passed by this House. We see that very much as our responsibility as members of Parliament in this corner of the House. With that being said, there are some concerns.

As the member of Parliament for Burnaby—Douglas, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is very important to my community. Although there is not a lot of port activity associated with Burnaby, the north shore of my riding does border on Burrard Inlet. There are a number of sections of port authority property along that coastline. Notably, Berry Point is one of the pieces of port authority property that has been considered for development in the past. That particular piece is very important to the people in North Burnaby, to the people who live in Burnaby Heights and on Capitol Hill, two neighbourhoods that adjoin Berry Point.

We have seen in the past when the port authority floated ideas about the port development of Berry Point that people in the neighbourhood mobilized because they were very concerned about how that development was going to proceed. At the time, that development was put off. People in North Burnaby are very concerned about the operation of the port authority.

There are also a number of petroleum loading facilities along the north shore of my riding and the south shore of Burrard Inlet in Burnaby related to the Chevron refinery and to the operation of the pipelines that deliver product from the oil fields in Alberta to the coast and to British Columbia. Those are also of concern to people.

The possibility of, for instance, an accident that would result in the discharge of petroleum products into Burrard Inlet is always of great concern in my area. We certainly saw the disastrous consequences of a pipeline accident where a contractor broke a major oil pipeline in Burnaby and caused hundreds of thousands of litres of crude oil product to go into Burrard Inlet. We are very well aware in Burnaby of the consequences, and the importance of having a port authority that is responsive to the kinds of activities, actions and uses of the port lands and of the operations of the port itself.

There is also Barnet Marine Park which is part of the shoreline of Burrard Inlet in my area which is also connected to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is a recent amalgamation. One of the things that is contemplated by this legislation is that port authorities can amalgamate. What we saw in the Vancouver area was the port of Vancouver that specifically deals with the port on Burrard Inlet amalgamating with the North Fraser port, the port that exists on the Fraser River, and the Delta port which is the port mainly used right now for export of coal. These three ports amalgamated recently into one port authority, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. There were some questions raised about that.

There are concerns from the smaller communities that were part of the smaller ports about how this new amalgamated port authority will carry out its responsibilities.We will remain interested in how this new arrangement shakes down and how it serves the communities and the people of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

This particular legislation has raised a number of concerns. The NDP spokesperson on transport issues, the member for Windsor West, was very active in committee in raising concerns that we have in this corner of the House. We know from the people whom we work with on this legislation that he took a very active role in trying to ensure that those issues were discussed at committee.

I do not believe, as has been suggested today certainly by the parliamentary secretary, that it is a delaying tactic, that it is the NDP trying to put off consideration of this legislation. This is important legislation and we recognize that. We also recognize that port authorities are very important to our communities and to our economy. Many people in my constituency work in the port authority. The city of Burnaby obtains property tax revenue from the port authority. All of these things are very important.

It is certainly not our intention to delay unnecessarily legislation that we know is very important. However, it is also our job to make sure that we raise the concerns that we have and ensure that they are fully debated in the House.

We have a number of concerns about this legislation, particularly in relation to port authorities. One of the concerns is around the boards of directors of port authorities. We are concerned that the number of directors of port authorities has been changed and that the boards are not particularly representative of the concerns of municipalities.

The number of municipal representatives, either elected municipal officials or appointees of municipal governments, are very limited by this legislation. We are very concerned about that. Ports have a very direct effect on the communities of which they are a part. The cities and citizens of those communities have a great interest in how the port is developed, and the kinds of uses that happen on port land. That certainly is a concern, as I have noted in my constituency where people want to make sure that our municipality, the city of Burnaby, has the ability to influence the decisions made by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

We are concerned that municipalities are not well represented on the boards according to the legislation. We think that port authorities would benefit from the experience of municipal governments, of municipal councillors and the people whom they might appoint to port authorities, because they have local experience. They have the kind of experience and knowledge of the local communities that will only facilitate the operation of the port, that will only facilitate relations with those communities and with the people who live near the port lands and the operations of that port. That is very important for the functioning of the ports.

It is not all about facilitating the expansion of ports or the development of the port. It is about ports being good neighbours and working in the context of the communities of which they are a part. We need to ensure that those communities have the ability to directly raise their concerns.

Related to that is our concern that when it comes to the development of plans for the use of the lands that are owned by port authorities, municipalities also need to have some direct input into that process. Port authorities have significant real estate holdings. They certainly do in the case of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. They can have a very direct effect on the development of communities by how they choose to use the lands that they have at their disposal.

Given the fact that the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority exists in very built up urban areas, it is very important that the port authority cooperate with municipalities in any development and land use planning. Right now there is no requirement that that happen. We heard earlier the Liberal member say that he was hopeful that kind of exchange would happen. Hopeful is great and I am hopeful too that that will happen, but I think it is incumbent on legislation to also point to the need to do that and to make certain requirements of port authorities to seek out that kind of exchange with municipalities.

Very difficult situations can arise. I mentioned earlier that when there were plans floated for the development of Berry Point in North Burnaby, there were very serious concerns from the people who live adjacent to Berry Point about how their lives would be directly affected by the uses the port authority was suggesting a number of years ago.

In east Vancouver, and I know the member for Vancouver East will likely speak to this issue, as she has in the past, we have seen that the development of a cement plant on port authority lands was extremely disconcerting to the people who lived in the neighbourhood adjoining that development site. There was a long and difficult discussion in the community of Vancouver around that particular decision by the port authority to suggest that it was an appropriate place for this kind of development.

We know there is a real concern in our communities about the land use development of port authorities, how they go about it and how it combines with the plans of municipalities around the appropriate growth and development of the cities they are responsible for. We need to make sure that this is part of any legislation governing the jurisdiction and the way that port authorities work for Canadians. That is a very important piece as well.

A number of times today I have raised a concern given the changes in this legislation to the financial arrangements available to port authorities. That includes extending the borrowing ability of port authorities and also the ability for port authorities to now compete directly for infrastructure funding, something they did not do in the past. They were funded with allocations from the federal government. This legislation now will allow them to compete directly with municipalities for federal government infrastructure program funding.

We want to ensure, given these new financial arrangements, that there is appropriate oversight and that ultimately there is accountability for this, since some of the direct responsibility for it is moved away from the government. In the past, the government had to approve borrowing arrangements and make direct allocations. There was in that system some kind of accountability on the part of the government.

We are now concerned that there may be gaps in accountability with regard to how the borrowing and financial arrangements of port authorities are carried out. That is why we have suggested that the port authorities should come under the jurisdiction of the Auditor General of Canada and that the Auditor General should be able to exercise her oversight and her ability to make suggestions about how those financial arrangements have worked out. This is something that we think is very significant in all of this.

We are also very concerned about the ability of port authorities to now compete directly with municipalities and communities for infrastructure funding. We know that infrastructure funding is incredibly limited. Despite what moneys have been put in by the government, the funding is still not nearly enough. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has made that very clear. The FCM has said that there is an infrastructure deficit of $123 billion in Canada. The money the Conservatives have directed towards infrastructure in no way comes close to meeting that need.

Now with this legislation we are increasing the demands on that infrastructure funding by opening those programs to port authorities. We know that port authorities have significant infrastructure needs, so we need to make sure that in the competition for this funding there is some fairness and that appropriate funding is available to ensure those needs are addressed, both the needs of the port authorities and the needs of the municipalities and communities that are facing very serious deficits when it comes to infrastructure.

That is absolutely true of our community of Burnaby. We need to make sure that the funding is available and accessible by municipalities and that there is no further restriction on the municipalities' ability to do that important work. We know that in so many of our communities the public physical infrastructure is collapsing and needs significant injections of support from the government.

This is one of those things that Canadians have always done collectively. As citizens, we believe it is appropriate to cooperate to make sure that those kinds of infrastructure arrangements are available and that kind of funding is available to make sure that our cities function appropriately in so many ways. We need to make sure that we have not added an extra demand on infrastructure funding without offsetting it by additional funding. That is also a serious concern with this legislation.

The whole question of security needs at our ports is one that we know has been controversial too. We know there is not a consistent plan across Canada for port security. In many of the measures that have been floated recently with respect to security and which are in the process of being put in place, the emphasis in some ways has been on the workers in those port facilities and how they might pose a security risk. The emphasis is being put on measures that individual workers need to meet to ensure they are appropriate for working at our ports.

However, there are many other concerns around port security, including such things as the surveillance of cargo that comes through a port. We know that only a small fraction of cargo that moves through our ports is actually screened for security purposes. This is another important concern that we have around the security of our ports system.

I have been very supportive of the workers, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and others, who are very concerned about the kinds of requirements that are being made of individual workers who have long histories of dedicated service in our ports. They have been raising concerns about what is now is being demanded of them around security issues in order for them to continue to hold their jobs at our ports. That concern continues.

There is also an issue around foreign investment in our ports and how that relates to security. That needs to be considered and it is not part of this legislation. We need to make sure that foreign investors are also screened around issues of security. We need to make sure that we have this important interest covered when it comes to the operation of our ports. We believe that is necessary when we are looking at the whole situation of ports in Canada.

At committee we raised a number of issues that we thought should be part of amendments to this legislation. I want to go through some of them just to be clear about where we are coming from on this important bill.

As I say, we know the importance of the appropriate operation of our ports. We know that they are important to the economy of Canada, to the future economy of Canada, and to the communities of which they are a part. We know how many workers are directly associated with the operations of our ports. All of that is extremely important, so we have to guarantee that these important institutions and these important industrial developments are doing the appropriate job for our country, our communities, our economy and Canadian workers.

We had some concerns that we put in the form of amendments. Sadly, none of them were successful at committee. That is of concern to us. We brought specific issues forward in the form of our amendments.

We are concerned about land use policies at the ports and said that they should be restricted so that all non-marine land use functions would have to be approved by the municipality. That seemed very reasonable. If it is a non-marine use of port property, we think the municipality has a particular interest in that kind of land use.

We said that we should restrict the functions of a port authority so that all non-marine functions would essentially be severed from the port authority's purview. So if there were a non-marine use, that would be directly under the purview of the municipality, not the port authority.

We said that all port authorities should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Auditor General for examination. I have already spoken to this point. It is one that we think is very important.

We said that a majority of the board of a port authority should be made up of municipal councillors or municipal appointees because those people have the experience necessary.

We said that the entire land use plan of a port authority should be approved by a municipality. We know this is very controversial, but we also know that it relates to the impact of ports on local communities.

We also said that a national security test should be established for foreign investment at a Canadian port and an annual security audit should be performed at all ports to ensure security needs are being met and are being done consistently at ports across Canada.

Those are some of the concerns that we in the NDP have raised with respect to this legislation. Again, we appreciate its importance. We look forward to continuing our participation in this important debate.

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Order, please. Earlier during routine proceedings, the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam presented a petition, but she had given me notice that she had two to present. I cut her off in an untimely way. I wonder if I could have consent from the House so that she could present her second petition.

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12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Foreign Aid
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the agreement of members to go back to this part of the proceedings.

I am presenting a petition from hundreds of citizens in Port Moody, Coquitlam and New Westminster. I am a proud founding member of the Greater Vancouver Gogos. “Gogo” means grandmother in Zulu. This organization wants to see Canada live up to its decades-old pledge to increase aid to 0.7% of GNI.

The petitioners say that Canada, shamefully, ranks fifteenth out of the 22 countries that have made this pledge. They note that 25 million to 30 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, yet only one in five has access to lifesaving anti-retroviral medication. It is appalling that 1,400 children die every day from AIDS. The petitioners call on the government to allow generic anti-retroviral drugs to be exported to Africa, and they ask the government to honour the pledges that Canada made at Gleneagles in 2005.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence, be read the third time and passed.

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12:40 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say that infrastructure is the responsibility of our provincial partners, but the federal government is allocating the most money in 60 years to help our partners and to help the deficit, which the member has brought up.

Indeed, we have developed really good policy, which the member knows--or at least the member who sits on the committee knows--in relation to consultations with the communities. Indeed, board members and council members have to act in the best interests of the city they represent, just like board members of the port have to act in the best interests of the port itself. There is a fiduciary obligation on them to do so.

However, I did notice that the member from the Bloc mentioned earlier that there was no money for the St. Lawrence and Quebec. That is just not true. The St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes even had $15 million allocated some time ago from the government in relation to security, as well as $350 million for climate change for the province of Quebec, $1 billion for security, and $2.1 billion for gateway and border crossings. All of these things are great initiatives by this country, which Quebec, the people of the St. Lawrence and the people of Montreal can take advantage of. All the ports in Quebec can do so.

In relation to the member's comments earlier, he said that the NDP was not trying to obstruct the legislation, so I would ask now for unanimous consent to pass Bill C-23 at all stages.

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12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

We know the Liberals are in favour of it. We know the Bloc is in favour of it. We know the Conservatives are in favour of it. Ten per cent of the House is objecting to it: the NDP.

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12:40 p.m.

An hon. member

We are here to do our job and debate it.

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Let me say that if the hon. member is not trying to delay the legislation, we know that 90% of the House is in favour of it, as is everyone we heard from, from all cities, all provinces, all municipalities and even the member's own city, the city of Burnaby, as well as the cities of Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Port Alberni and Port Moody. All of these cities have been consulted on this and we have not heard any negative effects of that consultation.

At this stage, if the NDP is not trying to delay it, I would ask for unanimous consent. We know that the other parties will agree, so will the NDP agree to pass Bill C-23 at all stages now?

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12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I must advise the hon. parliamentary secretary that even during his presentation I sensed that there was not unanimous consent, so we will focus on the question he asked and ask the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas to reply to the question. He might want to clarify whether in fact there is unanimous consent for the motion to be moved by the hon. parliamentary secretary.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think you have already ruled on whether you heard unanimous consent or not. I would certainly defer to your expertise. That is your job to make that determination, not mine, and you have already done that, so there is no need to go back to that.

I am interested in what the parliamentary secretary had to say. We are going to do our job in this corner of the House and we are going to raise our concerns. We are not going to be put off that track because we do believe that we have raised serious issues and I can continue to do that.

I thought two things were notable about the commentary from his recent intervention. He said that the government put more money into infrastructure than any government in 60 years. That may well be true, but the reality is that it is not nearly enough.

The FCM, as I have pointed out, has said that there is a $123 billion infrastructure deficit and that the Conservatives have not even approached the very basic need in that regard.

There is a huge problem there. We have seen that the Conservatives have chosen to gut the physical capacity of our government, so that we cannot possibly meet those kinds of needs.

The government has chosen to give big tax breaks to large profitable corporations, instead of seeing to the needs of Canadian communities and their infrastructure needs. I do not think this serves us particularly well. I do not think it is anything to be particularly proud of.

There might be some humility in the ability of not being able to meet the infrastructure needs of Canadians and now we are setting up another major demand on that infrastructure funding by allowing the ports to compete with municipalities for that funding. It does not bode well for the needs of our communities.

He also said that the government had taken great pains to ensure cooperation between port authorities and municipalities, and that the port authority and board members were going to be told that they should operate in the best interests of those municipalities.

The reality is that the people elected to act in the best interests of those municipalities are municipal councillors, the members of city council, the local mayors. It is those people who have a direct mandate from the people of their communities to represent those interests. We believe that they should be very directly involved in the governance of port authorities. Because of that electoral mandate that they have from the people of their communities, they should be involved in that process.

We believe it should not be up to the goodwill of those people who are appointed to the boards of port authorities, but that it should be directly related to the mandates given by people in local elections to municipal elected officials.

That is a very important point I think that needs to be made in all of this and it is a deficiency of the legislation that we are debating today.

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has taken, and rightly so, quite a bit of his time to talk about the intersecting set of interests between the port authority and the municipality in Toronto. For example, there is a huge difference of opinion about the island airport as a niche part of the infrastructure. There is a difference between the port authority's attitude toward that and that of the municipal council.

I think this House would agree that those kinds of issues have to result in some sort of a compromise, one that serves the needs of the city. One also must recognize that there is a national strategy with respect to air transportation and there are also strategies with respect to marine. We are talking about marine here.

My question is, would perhaps the approach taken for the airport's authority and how it is appointed be somewhat of a model that might be applicable here, where the municipal council has an opportunity to appoint and put forward appointees that may or may not be accepted by the authority?

They are nominees that are considered for their background of experience from municipal matters and so on. In some cases they may be past members of council and so on, but at least they have a perspective.

Would the member wish to comment with respect to that kind of an approach? Would it be possible, when the national policy framework for strategic gateways is debated, to propose an amendment through that window with respect to changing the appointments process for port authorities?

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the member raised the question of the Toronto Island Airport because that has been a significant irritant for the city of Toronto and the local port authority. It is a specific example of the kinds of issues that arise when port authorities have responsibility for non-marine uses, and airports are a non-marine use, as far as I could determine. There are sea planes, I suppose, but I do not think the Toronto Island Airport deals in sea planes either.

That is a very pertinent example of the kinds of problems that we see arise when port authorities do not have to divest themselves of non-marine uses of their lands or developments. That would be a very important example to resolve because we know that the city of Toronto has had a very different perspective than the port authority.

Also, city councillors in Toronto have had some very serious conflicts with the port authority when it comes to how port authority lands will be developed. I know city councillor Adam Vaughan in Toronto has pointed out on a number of occasions the kinds of run-ins he has had on what would seem to be very simple development issues that he has not been able to resolve in a friendly or cooperative way with the port authority. It sometimes has meant that he has ended up in court because of those kinds of measures.

Those are the kinds of things, when we are looking at legislation about port authorities, that we should be seeking to ensure are resolved. That kind of cooperation is part of the mandate in the legislation. Port authorities need to provide that kind of cooperation and their non-marine uses are governed by municipal authorities, the people who are elected by the residents of those communities.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if could inquire as to how much time is available for debate.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for York South—Weston has 20 minutes for debate and then 10 minutes for questions and comments, of which I hope there will be several.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. After I am finished speaking, you may change your mind.

I welcome the opportunity to talk about this particular piece of legislation, particularly with respect to the most recent commentaries made and concerns raised by the member from the Bloc and the member from the New Democratic Party. It behooves us just for a moment to reflect on what has actually happened with respect to marine issues and so on.

Recently, many members of the House were invited to the Corporation of Mid St. Lawrence Pilots where a tape was presented which outlined some of the very up-to-date and extremely important issues related to safety that the pilots associations are having to contend with. The whole issue with respect to security in today's modern milieu has been alluded to by other speakers.

The pilots also talked about the legislative approach that is now challenging us to match a global competitive economy with the infrastructure we have, both legislatively and with the ability to meet our safety responsibilities, and the whole issue with respect to environmental spillage and all those things.

The pilots were really at the forefront of preparing this tape just to remind us that this ancient marine activity, which is relatively modern in terms of Canada's geography, has to be updated commensurate with the kinds of issues that have evolved. So, we really are looking at legislation that is not that old.

As a matter of fact, the marine act of 1998 had up-to-date legislative tools within it that made it much more relevant. It also indicated that the Minister of Transport should come back with respect to a review process, and that is what we are all about here today.

We are looking at that process of review. We are trying to match the recommendations that came out of that process as a result of, as I said, a very comprehensive activity by the committee. I was not a member of that committee but I certainly have been following this issue. We are looking at the review and we are trying to determine whether that matches the challenges that have been outlined.

There seems to be a very broad consensus from coast to coast to coast that the amendments that have been brought forward in updating the marine act are in keeping with the concerns that have been raised to see our marine infrastructure as an extremely effective tool in meeting our globally competitive objectives.

The review also concentrated on two areas with respect to the recommendations. It talked about making the marine sector, in particular, the port authority, more financially flexible in order to make decisions quickly that are in the interest of the port authority in its setting. My colleague from Burnaby has indicated, and certainly questions have been raised, that perspective may have applicability in Burnaby but it has different applicability in Toronto.

I would like to make it very clear that with respect to the marine sector's economic flexibility there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to port authorities from coast to coast to coast.

The second recommendation alluded to the construction of a new and flexible federal funding approach for infrastructure. This is where some points of contention have come up.

The Bloc member indicated that he was not satisfied that allocations with respect to the central gateway, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence gateway, were quantitively enough to justify the seaway improvements that are necessary. He talked about the ability to change the seaway in terms of Montreal's capacity to accommodate cruise ships.

It has been a long time since cruise ships have been seen in Toronto but the pilots association has indicated that larger tankers, if not cruise ships, are precluded from utilizing the seaway. The capacity is much greater in terms of the size of those tankers and cargo ships than they were in the early nineties.

Huge investments are not only important from a Bloc perspective in Montreal but they have applicability throughout the seaway into the Great Lakes and cities that are interested in seeing the infrastructure improve.

The parliamentary secretary said that there was more money available, such as the $2.1 billion with respect to the Quebec-Ontario continental boundary, and that investments could come from that fund.

The purpose of this discussion is not to get into whether certain ports will benefit under the Marine Act. It is more about whether there is a national strategy that port authorities, regardless of where they are, can lock into, whether it is in Burnaby, in the most westerly part of our Pacific gateway, or in ports within the Atlantic gateway or Pacific gateway.

It is unfortunate that there has not been much discussion on the national strategy report, which is supposed to come after the bill has been approved. It seems that when we talk about municipalities and their relationship with port authorities, whether it is in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or wherever, it is inherent that the process be one of cooperation, of partnership and of being developed around principles. Without those principles we are really talking about an ad hoc gateway approach, an ad hoc strategy with respect to the central St. Lawrence-Great Lakes gateway, and that the parts do not integrate.

Having a national strategy means that we should be backfilling on planning principles, but someone, somewhere, with some jurisdiction needs to bring them forward. It would enable those who are responsible for implementing a national strategy based on those principles to say in Toronto, when it comes to marine improvements and infrastructure, that this is how the national strategy is being applied right across the country and that whatever program is funding that part of that strategy it will be made by the local port authorities and integrated into the national plan.

We do not have that process yet in place but the objectives of this act is for that to happen. We need to take it on a certain degree of faith that during that next part of the process that kind of thinking will prevail. Without it, we again will not have an integrated marine plan and we will not achieve the objectives of any of the gateway strategies, the Atlantic or Pacific gateways, or how it relates to the borders and the marine activity plays.

Those were the issues raised through questioning and the government and the minister should take note of that. We can be more assured that the amendments being put forward would facilitate the achievement of a globally competitive marine activity that would deal with the issues of concern to people, such as marine safety as it relates to spills and marine activity as it relates to terrorist activity, and those have not really been addressed in this discussion.

I want to make a comment from a Toronto perspective because I was involved when the local airports authority was established. If we do not have a total understanding and a corporate memory, we sometimes keep making the same mistakes. When the local airports authority was established in the greater Toronto area, it was always the intent that the island airport would be under the umbrella of the airport authority. I agree with the member when he says that we should not be mixing port activity with air activity. If the Toronto island airport had been subsumed under the umbrella of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, decisions would have been made as it relates to the economic activity that air travel, the niche value of the airport, and that would have been defended by the airports authority.

What is happening is that the airports issue has been politicized. Activity has been brought into it from the local community. It is literally a legislative free-for-all with the city taking one position, the airports authority not taking any position and it is a matter of airports. I stress that it was an airports authority in the early nineties that had been established. No one in Toronto can argue that there has not been a tremendous achievement through the airports authority with the improvements that have been made at Pearson and so on and so forth.

I do not mean to digress but since that issue has come up it is just a case example with respect to the ongoing national interest being bolstered and underpinned by an organization, be it local in nature, because most of the people who will be on the ports authority, whether it is in Toronto, Burnaby or Montreal, will be local people. They will be representatives with expertise and so on. However, there will always be that conflict if there is no national plan with principles that are outlined and with the role of the local planning and economic development regime at least intersecting that national plan. Without that plan, there will be no sense of accountability, either in principle or in the decisions, and the satisfaction and faith in the decisions that are brought forward.

I do not mean to mix my analogies but that is no way to build a railroad. One needs to have a sense of what the destination is, how the various lines of communications are channeled together to develop a consensus and then move ahead on the national plan.

This legislation, though, does take a step in that direction and, from my own personal perspective, it is very worthy of support. However, a lighter-handed approach at some subsequent point needs to be taken with respect to the appointment of members to the ports authorities.

In Toronto, there are a number of organizations, such as the Toronto Economic Development Corporation, which attempted to bring in representation from the ports authority and other organizations, the downtown business group. Representation is coming in from labour that feeds into the Economic Development Corporation's representations and deliberations.

That would be the approach that should be taken with respect to ports, particularly in urban areas. Where people have demonstrated some degree of municipal experience and commitment, who are of equal importance as those who have been involved in other aspects of economic activity, whether they come from the trades, business equally, both large and small, so too should there be a representation of people who have a sense of the planning dynamic, the needs of the local city and how those decisions of the ports authority factor in to achieving that.

Municipalities these days try to be as inclusive as they can and as transparent and public as they possibly can be. That is the whole nature of municipal government. It is very difficult when there are nationally established institutions that have grafted on to what should be a happy host but, because there is some basic lack of understanding, both in the qualifications and backgrounds of the people who are sitting on the boards of the ports authority in this case, do not even mention the legislative mandate that the ports authority has with respect to its national character. One can appreciate that one is sewing the seeds of conflict if there is not some legislation or at least some principles that are established with respect to the backgrounds of the people who sit on the boards of the ports authority.

I would highly recommend that two things happen. First, when we have the discussion on the national strategy, that these kinds of issues get a fulsome debate. The development of a national strategy requires that the principles, be they the planning or the objectives, be fully debated so that the port authorities, no matter where they are, are locking into those principles and building a national marine infrastructure that will serve our country in a globally competitive environment.

Second, where the issues related to cities are concerned, more consideration should be given to the representation on the port authorities to those who have municipal experience and have been involved in municipal planning exercises with respect to an official plan, a harbour plan or whatever it is. That then would facilitate the bumping and nudging of the national strategy into place right across the country.

The government would be well advised, during this next part of the process, to look at those kinds of issues. At the end of it, the objectives of this act will be more likely achieved. That is what both sides of the House are attempting to cause to happen. We not only want a strategic alignment of our corridors and an investment in them but in order to integrate them we need to set out the objectives of a national strategy so we can then see Canada with a new legacy of economic prosperity in a globally competitive world for decades to come.

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for York South—Weston for his support of the bill.

The bill is critical to getting the infrastructure built in Canada to ensure our long term prosperity. Unfortunately, the NDP members seem to be hellbent on opposing the bill. They are obstructing it. They are delaying it. It is going to negatively impact the economic prosperity across the country, especially in British Columbia.

As the House knows, I am from the west coast. I understand the needs of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which administers the largest port by a long mile in Canada. I had a chance to meet with representatives from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority yesterday. They advised me of a project that they intended to bring forward under our building Canada plan. This project is one where they are working together with the cruise lines that come into Vancouver bringing tourists.

As we know, when these large ships berth in Vancouver, they continue to run their engines to provide power for their ships and that creates more and more greenhouse gas emissions. That is exactly what our government is fighting against. We want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has recognized that and so have the cruise lines. They have come forward with an expensive project to install something called “shore power”, clean power that would be available to the cruise lines to use while they were berthed in Vancouver.

To do that, the port authority will need federal funding. Under section 25, at present there is no ability to receive federal government funding. Bill C-23 would make that possible and would allow organizations such as the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to access critical federal infrastructure money to build those kinds of facilities, which would reduce the impact on our environment.

Does the member believe that what are essentially commercial disputes between the Toronto Port Authority and the city of Toronto should stand in the way of implementing such critical legislation as is Bill C-23?

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me make it clear that I did not try to extrapolate from the Toronto issue any argument that the bill should not be supported. I used it to illustrate that, in the larger public interest, there were reasons why, both systemically and in developing principles, we should find some way to get around those kinds of issues that exist in Toronto.

The member has answered the question by providing the example with respect to using marine technology and our marine infrastructure for a green approach to this subset of the industry. It is a very good example.

We dwell on the issues related to oil spills and pollution with respect to the industry. We have also talked about the difficulty of containers with respect to the importation of possible terrorist activity. We have to be careful on that.

However, we have a tendency not to talk about the high value added approach that we can use through the industry. Those who have been on cruises have experienced this: ships sit there and the air pollution is unbelievable. Yes, this should be one of the principles of the national strategy. It should be to use the marine sector to get that high value added improvement through the use of new technologies and to use those as, pardon the expression, pilots that would place Canada's marine activity on a best practice basis internationally.

The member has raised a very good example of what the opportunities are in the sector. Yes, it is for those reasons we should move ahead. It is an example of where the port authority has seen a problem. It has responded to that problem and it needs now to enter into a partnership. The program funding at the national level will provide that opportunity.

I hope that answers the question. It gives a sense of moving in the right direction in this sector. We should be moving equally in that kind of a direction with respect to air quality through airlines. There is a huge concern, especially in the vicinity of large airports, with respect to that kind of pollution. It is all moving in the same direction for a legacy of a higher quality of life. The member has given a good example.

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the presentation by my colleague on Bill C-23. I also heard his comments and suggestions concerning the involvement of municipal representatives in the governance of port authorities. His own party will have a lot of work to do because his critic, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, had some far from friendly discussions with the councillor from the City of Toronto when he appeared before our committee. The situation within his own party will have to evolve.

I am concerned by what is happening in Toronto, namely the dispute between the city and the port authority. Without an envelope for the development of the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor like the one for the Asia-Pacific gateway, and if port authorities were ever allowed to apply for funding under infrastructure programs to which the cities have already applied, we can just imagine the dispute that would arise in Toronto, for example. I would not want such conflicts to erupt in other cities that have port authorities, either, such as Montreal, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Sept-Îles or Saguenay.

The only money available in the budget for the building Canada fund has been allocated to the Asia-Pacific gateway. There is no more money and we should not be imagining there will be more. I hope that my colleague will agree that we should establish a specific budget for the development of the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, just to correct the record, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence did not sit on the local council.

More germane to the question is the competition that may start to come about in cities accessing gateway funding. The member put forward a legitimate question. During the development of a national strategy, whether it is rail or road or marine, the Great Lakes gateway is all part of it. There cannot be one without the other.

Funding for the Pacific gateway should be equally available for improvements to the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes portion of the national marine infrastructure funding.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Vancouver East has the floor for 20 minutes of which 8 minutes are today.

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill C-23 on port lands and port authorities.

First, it is ironic that earlier today the parliamentary secretary accused the NDP of delaying the bill. In actual fact the questions from his members during questions and comments have delayed the bill, so I will not get my full 20 minutes today, which will delay it further. I certainly intend to take my full 20 minutes because I have a lot to say on this.

I represent Vancouver East. The whole of my northern boundary borders the port of Vancouver, from Cambie Street to Boundary Road. Over many decades, whether it is myself as the current member of Parliament or whether it was the former member of Parliament, Margaret Mitchell, we have dealt with many issues concerning the port of Vancouver.

I want to acknowledge that there is a national and economic significance in terms of trade and economic activity to the ports in Canada. The port of Vancouver is an incredibly important economic engine in Vancouver and in British Columbia and, indeed, in Canada. There is no question we need legislation that lays out the importance and the mandate of that function.

I have also learned, over 11 years of being a member of Parliament, that the interface between the port and what happens on port lands and the local community, because sometimes it is a residential neighbourhood, or a commercial neighbourhood and the municipality of which it is a part, is a very important question. It is some of those issues that I want to focus on today.

We were told earlier by the parliamentary secretary that we were delaying this bill. We think it is very important that we have adequate debate. We are not delaying the bill; we want to have adequate debate.

I point out that at committee the parliamentary secretary said everyone was in favour of the bill and the ports came out in favour. On January 29, only two port authorities came as witnesses, Vancouver and Montreal. On the second day of hearings, there was one city councillor, someone from the community airport impact review in Toronto and an individual. That was it. Then the bill went clause by clause. In fact, it went through with lightning speed.

Unfortunately, the NDP amendments at the committee were ruled out of order. Those amendments would have addressed some of our serious concerns about bill, concerns about the questions of accountability, jurisdiction and mandate as they relate to the local community.

As I mentioned earlier, Vancouver has had significant issues over the years relating to the port activity, the adjacent residential neighbourhoods and the city of Vancouver as a whole. One of the NDP amendments would have ensured that a majority of the board of the port authority would be made up of municipal councillors. As well, the land use plan that a port authority might develop would be approved by the municipality.

This has been a very key issue for many years, in that port authorities can approve developments and legally do not have to abide by municipal zoning. In some cases that has happened in a voluntary way. Vancouver has had a lot of interaction and cooperation between the port authority and the city of Vancouver in developing various plans over the years. However, there is nothing legally binding in the legislation to ensure that happens.

When problems arise, the port authority, as a legally standing body, has the ability to put through a development that may be detrimental to local residents, to the adjacent residential community and, indeed, to the city as a whole. That creates an enormous amount of conflict. That conflict does not need to happen if only we could structure the port authority in such a way that is in context and is reflective of the interests of the city as a whole.

Again, I want to emphasize that no one is questioning the important mandate ports have and the fact that they need to be given scope and authority to do their work.

However, as we see in the bill, we are now moving into a territory where, for example, a port authority could be making decisions about non-marine functions, activities on land that may have a negative impact. There will be no oversight for that from the local municipality.

Those of us who have been municipal councillors were very used to going to public hearings. We were very used to having zoning bylaws where there is a due process. None of that will apply here.

As we see, port authorities getting this vastly expanded mandate that will allow them to bring in land uses that are not necessarily primarily or strictly port related will cause all kinds of conflicts.

We have already seen that conflict in our community, whether it was with the Lafarge Concrete facility that had been an ongoing battle in east Vancouver for years or whether it was with other potential developments that the port wanted to approve. Residents had to organize and go up against the port authority and a board of directors that really had no accountability to people.

That is why it is so important that we have some municipal representation on those port authority boards. That is a very serious concern for us. I also have major issues around security with ports, and I will address that when I speak in the next round on the bill.

I do want to say that we believe the bill would have been far better off if it were sent across the country in terms of holding public hearings. I know there are many local resident groups and people who have been very interested in the issue of port development who would have wanted to comment on the bill.

Unfortunately, they never got the opportunity to do that, so here we are now at the eleventh hour of the bill at third reading and some of these very fundamental questions will remain unresolved and not dealt with.

I will continue to speak on that. I appreciate the fact that I will have further time when the bill comes up and I certainly intend to deal with the concerns that we have in the NDP.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When the House returns to the study of Bill C-23, there will be 13 minutes left for the hon. member for Vancouver East.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

moved that Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (punishment and hearing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I begin second reading debate on Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. The bill was written because of an incredibly brave and determined family, the Moffitt family, who are in Ottawa today. They suffered the loss of their son through a violent criminal act and were then thrust into a justice system that they learned was in desperate need of improvement.

Their experience, although unique in facts, is not a unique story. Many of us have constituents victimized by crime who, while they try to cope with that victimization, also try to make sense or get answers from a justice system that many times provides neither sense nor answers.

When I began assembling this bill, there were other measures that I thought of incorporating as well. These included deterrent measures by increasing the spectrum of mandatory prison sentences for a variety of firearms crimes as well as improving the effectiveness of high risk offender supervision orders under sections 810.(1) and 810.(2) of the Criminal Code.

I am very proud that our government moved decisively and introduced those measures as well as others which this Parliament recently passed in Bill C-2.

In Bill C-2 we enacted a series of reforms to make our justice system work better. I say to all members of this House that this approach is repeated in Bill C-393: specific targeted measures to make our justice system work better. I hope members will give it the same consideration and approval they did with Bill C-2.

Understanding individual circumstances and learning how the system and laws could be improved is a fundamental part of how democracy and Parliament works.

We can improve our justice system. Insight, wisdom and the courage to say that no one else need suffer as they have is sometimes the message we get from victims of crime.

Bill C-393 aims to improve how the criminal justice system works in three specific areas. Members will see the sensible and positive results. They are clear, specific and important.

In this place, members can set aside partisan differences and debate changes in law and policies that make improvements. This bill presents such an opportunity.

Brockville is in my rural riding of Leeds—Grenville. Just before Christmas 1998, residents of that city learned that Andy Moffitt, a 23-year-old engineering student at the University of Ottawa with a bright future before him, was stabbed to death while trying to break up a fight in an Ottawa restaurant.

Andy was from Brockville. Mother Paulette, father Rod and younger brother Michael lived in Brockville, while older brother Rod Jr., raised in Brockville, lived in Ottawa.

Andy was expected home for Christmas and when there was noise at the front door in the early morning of December 24, the family thought it was Andy. It was not. It was the police telling them that their son, their brother, had been murdered.

As the evidence would subsequently show, when the justice system managed to proceed with the case after the killer had been released on bail, only to be re-arrested for committing new crimes, Andy died trying to stop a violent attack on another person. He did not know his killer. He died trying to do the right thing. Andy was posthumously awarded the Governor General's Medal of Bravery for his action.

I have come to know his family since his death and I know where he got his courage and his sense of right and wrong. Through all the grief and anguish of the crime, the trial such as it was, the parole system such as it was, the Moffitt family have remained steadfast in their determination that the flaws in the justice system that their son's death exposed can and must be corrected.

The motivation for the Moffitts is to ensure that no one else goes through the nightmare that they had to endure. They are not motivated by revenge or harsh punishment.

The proposals they have inspired in Bill C-393 are designed to prevent further violent knife crimes, to reinforce the stated intent of the existing law, and to continue the ongoing progress Parliament has made in treating crime victims.

I reference the facts of the case because they are important. They demonstrate deficiencies in the current justice system and how they can be remedied.

Andy's killer was a drug dealer who was meeting with another criminal with whom he had a dispute. In contemplation of this, he purchased a knife and concealed it in case he felt the need to use it later. His act in doing this and then pulling it out later was clear, calculated and deliberate.

Bill C-393 does not create a new crime. It creates mandatory consequences for the crimes of deliberately and criminally carrying a concealed knife and for killing an unarmed person with that knife.

I mention this because I know some members opposite believe mandatory prison sentences are unwarranted because the crimes involved are spontaneous. While that may be true for some crimes, it is clearly not for these crimes which are calculated and capable of being deterred.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently upheld the constitutional validity of Parliament using mandatory minimum sentencing in defined circumstances. In that case, R. v Ferguson, the Supreme Court recognized that mandatory prison sentences are part of the overall sentencing functions which include both specific and general deterrence.

Criminologists and practitioners note that certainty of consequence is a greater deterrent than potential severity of consequence.

Penalties proposed in Bill C-393 replicate existing mandatory prison sentences and correspond directly to homicides committed with firearms.

As part of that deterrent intent, Bill C-393 also creates increased sentences for repeat criminal concealment offences and consecutive sentences where that crime is committed with other crimes.

The bill also modifies an existing authority of a sentencing court under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to require a delay in parole eligibility from one-third of the imposed sentence to one-half of that sentence.

This bill sends a message that there will be clear and certain negative consequences for persons criminally concealing and using knives. It is not a reaction to one incident.

Knife crimes have exploded in Canada and while we have responded appropriately to firearms crimes, it is time to do the same with knife crimes. From 1999 to 2006 the number of homicides committed with knives was greater than with firearms.

The 2006 crime statistics show that homicides committed by young people are at their highest rate since 1961 and that 44% of these are committed using knives compared to 17% using firearms.

It is important to understand that it is the criminal arming through concealment of the knife that must also be targeted.

Kingston, Ontario police chief Bill Closs is one voice of many who has warned us about this explosion of criminal knife carrying and the inevitable lethal consequences.

Statistics Canada indicates in 2005 only 31% of victims were attacked with guns, while 68% were attacked with knives or other sharp objects. In the same year, in 19 Ontario jurisdictions, only 25% of victims were attacked with guns while 75% were attacked with knives or other sharp objects.

No jurisdiction is immune in experiencing this epidemic of violent knife crime. Edmonton, for example, reported a 15% jump in violent knife crimes since last year.

It is time I return to the facts of Andy's case because they are also the foundation of Bill C-393's reforms.

Andy's killer was released on bail less than three months after his arrest. He was rearrested for breaching his bail and for committing new crimes. Following his rearrest, he was allowed to plead guilty to the reduced charge of manslaughter seven months later. At sentencing he was given pretrial custody credit for the time he had been detained initially and for the time he had been detained after breaching bail and committing new crimes. It gets worse. The killer was given extra credit for being on bail, bail which he breached.

Recognizing time spent in pretrial custody is longstanding and codified as part of a judge's sentencing discretion pursuant to section 719.(3) of the Criminal Code, but it is not obligatory. There is no required mathematical formula.

Section 515 of the Criminal Code also lawfully authorizes the denial of bail to people with criminal records or those who have breached their bail, or both.

Sentencing courts are not required to give repeat offenders, or people who breach their bail, credit for pretrial custody, but that is exactly the practice that has developed in Canada.

For Andy's killer, the time spent in custody as a result of being charged with a crime was just less than three months. He was given 30 months credit for his pretrial custody and restrictive bail conditions, even though he caused their occurrence. Reward for bad behaviour is unacceptable.

Is it any wonder that remand custody numbers are through the roof as the bad guys figure out that two or three for one as a reward for past crime is a good deal?

This is what lies behind the phenomenon that has become known as the revolving door justice system.

It undermines the integrity of the justice system and the confidence that Canadians have in it. Courts pronounce sentences but with pretrial custody credit the real sentence is a fraction of what has been pronounced.

Canadians deserve better than this. Bill C-393 is a step in that direction. Specifically, the bill would amend subsection 719(3) giving direction to sentencing courts, consistent with some court rulings that persons who are denied bail according to the existing law, due to their past criminal record or for breaching bail, are not entitled to discounts off their sentence.

Further, it stipulates that where credit is given it be given on a day for day basis, reflecting the reality that in our current system more than 95% of offenders do not serve more than two-thirds of their court imposed sentence, as was the case for Andy's killer.

If likelihood of early release is to be taken into account in calculating pretrial custody, then logically it should be applied in calculating the actual sentence. The net effect for those entitled to pretrial custody credit is a straight one day for one day calculation, which will go a long way to restoring public confidence.

Andy's killer was sentenced to what was supposedly an eight year to nine year sentence. After giving him the hyperinflated credit, the judge said: “I am going to require that you serve--giving credit for what I have indicated--five years in prison. So you will serve a further five years in a penitentiary for the manslaughter of Andrew Moffitt”.

However, sadly, that also was not true. Andy's killer was released three and a half years later when Canada's statutory release provisions kicked in. Fixing that problem is beyond the scope of Bill C-393.

Notwithstanding the judge's solemn pronouncement, Andy's killer was eligible for parole after about 18 months. The Moffitt family prepared agonizingly for these hearings to give a voice to their son and to express their personal safety concerns in light of the killer's criminal behaviour while supposedly under the previous supervision of bail, and because by terrible coincidence he was returning to his hometown of Brockville.

How could anyone expect that they would not attend and would not want to know the truth about the risk this killer posed? The family's dealings with the corrections system were defined by uncertainty. In the name of offender privacy, they were denied details about the killer's conduct while in custody, including whether he posed a risk to them.

Hearings were also adjourned at the last second, causing enormous emotional upset, and were without consequence to the killer in regard to being able to reschedule his request for early release. This is an unintentional and needlessly cruel consequence of our current parole system. It is these deficiencies that Bill C-393 will also address.

I want to pause here and note that the reason the Moffitt family could attend and participate in the parole hearings was thanks to the House recognizing and confirming enhanced victim rights over the past 10 years. This has been a significant accomplishment.

Having created those rights, we now need to make sure that the parole board has clear authority to treat unjustifiably cancelled hearings accordingly and to include consideration of legitimate victim interests in assessing what information is to be provided to them. This is the final part of Bill C-393. These are relatively small but important improvements to a part of the justice system.

In summary, Bill C-393 is a tightly focused bill that addresses three specific areas where our justice system needs to and can work better. Its sentencing provisions are not aimed at simply imposing harsh treatment on offenders. It is designed to prevent such crimes and to prevent the loss of life.

Its bail provisions are not meant to undermine the proper discretion of the judiciary but to reinforce the existing rule of law and not reward past criminal misconduct. Its corrections provisions are simply an expression that, having properly created a process of victim participation, we must ensure that it is properly informed, where the parole board has the power to prevent it being used to further traumatize victims.

I am asking for the support of members of the House so this bill and the improvements it will bring can go forward. While members opposite may turn this into a partisan issue, that type of debate does not belong here.

When Andy Moffitt stood up from his seat and took action to prevent an attack that night nine years ago, he did not do so thinking of his actions as heroic. He did so because something inside him said it was the right thing to do.

Today, in our unique responsibilities as the elected representatives of the people of Canada, we have the opportunity to stand and do the right thing, which is to support Bill C-393 for the people of Canada.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague for an excellent speech outlining some of the flaws we have experienced in our judicial system. I want to also say that since being elected to the House in 2006, I have had the opportunity to deal with the member for Leeds—Grenville firsthand and have experienced his passion for judicial reform and for the constituents of his riding.

I noticed, however, in investigating this private member's legislation, that it was first introduced in 2005, when unfortunately it saw very little if any real action from the government of the day. I was wondering if perhaps the member could tell us about and perhaps reflect today on some of the actions that have been taken by this government to help with judicial reform and how his private member's legislation may enhance this.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, those are kind words from my hon. colleague. The fact is that this bill was first introduced in the 38th Parliament. I reintroduced it in this Parliament. It has been working its way through the system.

However, in the time since our government took office we have been taking action in terms of judicial reform and getting tough on crime. We of course have tougher jail times for those who commit crimes with firearms. We have new bail provisions that require those accused of serious gun crimes to show why they should not be in jail while awaiting trial. As well, of course, we have better protection for our youth with the raising of the age of protection from 14 to 16. These are just a few of the important criminal justice reforms of this government.

I am proud to stand in this House with Bill C-393. I encourage all members to support it because it is something that is very much long overdue.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for giving us the opportunity to consider this important legislation. I appreciate the experience of the Moffitt family and how that has influenced the member's decision to bring this forward. I know that it is very significant in all of this.

I would like to ask him, though, if he has other examples of the situation he described, the situation that faced the Moffitt family, other examples that point to the need for this legislation. I think it is often problematic when we find one case. It sounds as if there are very serious problems with the situation the family faced after the death of their son Andy in terms of how the justice system functioned or, in this case, did not function. I wonder if he has other examples that also bring to bear the need for the kinds of changes he is suggesting.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague asks an excellent question. First, I want to say that one case is one too many, but the fact is that in Canada today we have far more knife killings than we do gun killings. It is important that we set the deterrent. As I said in my presentation, the certainty of consequences is far more important than the potential severity of consequences.

Every day when we look at the newspaper we see that there has been another knife killing. In today's Edmonton Sun there was another story. A person in Winnipeg has been robbed eight times in just one year, seven times with a knife and once with a gun. As for the prevalence of knife crimes in Canada, knives have become the weapon of choice. It is so easy for people to put that knife in their pocket without thinking of the potential consequences. That is what this bill attempts to address.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. friend, who has been speaking of this issue for a long time. My question goes to the definition of “knife”. In my own riding of Cambridge, a drug dealer was hacked to death with a machete and the person who did it got nine months of house arrest under the Liberal justice system.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, this does address knives, other sharp objects and other weapons that can be concealed and then used. It is not the concealing of the weapon that makes the crime. It is the use of the weapon that makes the crime.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I express my congratulations to the member opposite for introducing this bill.

Strangely, he has exhorted his colleagues in the House to be non-partisan in their approach and I distinctly heard two of his colleagues asking what I regard as very partisan loaded questions. I have to say that I am sorry I am quickly losing enthusiasm for the substance of the issue here as his colleagues continue to snipe and turn this into a partisan matter. The member laughs, but what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If the member is going to urge non-partisanship, I hope his colleagues will see it the same way, because this is a private member's bill and it is not going to go too far if the member is going to import partisanship.

I will not waste more time on this, but I will note that the bill is clearly not government policy. If it had been government policy, it could have been made a part of Bill C-2 or one of the other Criminal Code amendment bills that passed through the House earlier in this Parliament.

The bill, as the member has explained, purports to provide more focus in the code on the problem of the use of knives in crimes, but it also travels into the field of corrections and parole, beyond the knife issue. That is taking on a rather large piece of public policy. I know the member sees the need for it, but I am actually in the House here urging some caution as the member attempts to adapt public policy and law to respond to one particular set of circumstances, as sad as they were.

There is hardly a member of the House who has not had to respond to the impacts of a criminal act somewhere across the country and I do not for a moment diminish the kinds of difficulties that there are out there. However, in reality our country has always had crime, and I am probably not wrong in predicting that there will be always be crimes and people who are misguided and that there will be victims. I am not discounting those circumstances, but it is a reality that we have to live with every day in the House.

As for the bill itself, I want to spend a couple of minutes focusing on what the bill tries to do, because the question as to whether I will support it as a private member will hinge on that.

It seems to me that it is not terribly misguided to focus on concealed weapons, but in this particular case, the section we are dealing with is not just about knives. It is about any concealed weapon, any concealed prohibited device or prohibited ammunition. Therefore, let us be fair here in recognizing that the penalties the member urges in amending the code will apply not just to knives but also to prohibited ammunition or a prohibited device that on its own might not be as lethal as a knife could be.

The member has gone to the extent of imposing a regime involving a mandatory minimum sentence. In the first case, it would be a 90 day sentence. However, this is not the first time that members opposite have urged the House to impose mandatory minimum sentences. In fact, we have adopted a statute here in this Parliament that extends mandatory minimum sentencing for a number of firearm offences.

I would have thought that if the government and the Department of Justice felt further tweaking of the sentencing involving mandatory minimum sentences was needed, it would have included these types of provisions in the government bill, but it did not. I am not discounting the sincerity and enthusiasm of the member in proposing this, but I just want to reiterate that it could have been dealt with as a government bill. It was not. There must have been a good reason for that. I will just leave those reasons unanswered.

In providing for sentencing, this House and previous governments going back many years, way beyond 13, have attempted to construct Criminal Code and sentencing provisions which fit the times, in this case our times, the time of the millennium.

The last time the House did this was in about 1995. We thought we had it right. We thought the sentencing provisions suited the times. It was quite a massive revision. Placing these principles in the code was something that had not happened in Canada. These principles had been generated actually by the courts prior to that.

With respect to the principles of sentencing, the objectives include, and there are just six: the denunciation of unlawful conduct; deterrence; separating offenders from society; assisting and rehabilitating offenders; providing reparations for harm done to victims or the community; and promotion of a sense of responsibility in offenders and acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and the community. There was a special reference to the abuse of children under 18 years of age. There is a fundamental principle which is called proportionality. A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. That principle also is articulated in our Constitution.

There are other sentencing principles with respect to things which aggravate an offence. I will not go through the whole list. There are a half dozen of them. Most of them are self-evident, things that aggravate the offence. There are several other principles.

A sentence should be similar to sentences imposed on similar offenders for similar offences committed in similar circumstances. Where consecutive sentences are imposed, the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh. An offender should not be deprived of liberty when less restrictive sanctions may be appropriate in the circumstances. All available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders. There are other provisions.

The point in my reading these is that these are very reasonable, rational provisions and principles that are used every day in our courts by judges who do the sentencing.

One of the members opposite during his remarks referred to this as judicial reform. This is not judicial reform. The judiciary does a very good job by all standards of measurement, domestically or internationally. We are not reforming the judiciary. Anything we do in here could reform the Criminal Code, could reform the way we handle corrections and conditional release, but we are not handling the judicial part. We give under law to our judges the discretion to sentence using the Criminal Code framework and the principles that I have just read.

By most measurements, things are operating fairly well. In the case at hand to which the member responded, and I have to acknowledge and congratulate him for responding to a constituent or constituents in this case, it is just the one case. I know there are hundreds and hundreds of other cases across the country. Bills actually have come through this House which in common parlance have borne the name of a particular victim, without mentioning any. I am not too sure that it is the right way to construct our sentencing and conditional release.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Leeds—Grenville on having taken the initiative to introduce this bill. I am among those who, in all of the caucuses that I have been a part of since being elected, believe that we have to restore the true role of members of Parliament. I would like to see two hours a day allocated to private members' business. That would be a good way to air the demands of our constituents.

I really sympathize with the family our colleague talked about, the Moffitt family. He talked about what happened 10 years ago over Christmas. Unfortunately, we have to make the House aware of fundamental problems with the wording of the bill. I do not think that the Bloc Québécois will be able to support it in its current form.

First, when a bill is introduced, it has to relate to a shared point of view. Our motivation can certainly arise from an example that our fellow citizens have brought to our attention, but we cannot generalize based on one example. It seems to me that members of the Bloc Québécois have often pointed out to the government and all members of the House that adding minimum sentences to bills is not a good solution.

Section 90 of the Criminal Code sets out a maximum 10-year sentence for individuals who commit crimes involving concealed weapons, whether knives or guns. A maximum sentence has been established. Of course, the judge is free to consider the circumstances and the individual's record. In some cases, a minimum sentence might be enough, but in others, there has to be more than a minimum sentence.

We do not think it is a good idea to tie judges' hands. Here is an example from a study that Julian Roberts conducted in 1997 for the Department of Justice. Julian Roberts is a criminal lawyer with the University of Ottawa, but I believe he is now pursuing his career in Great Britain. Regardless, Julian Roberts appeared before the committee when we were studying Bill C-2. He pointed out that mandatory minimum sentences are not deterrents. Quite the contrary. Here is what he said to the parliamentary committee and what he wrote in 1997 when he was working for the Government of Canada's Department of Justice.

In this study done for Justice Canada, he found that, “mandatory prison sentences—which our colleague from Leeds—Grenville is proposing—had been introduced by many western countries.” He gave examples such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States. He continued by saying, “the studies that reviewed the impact of those laws showed variable results in terms of the prison population and no discernable effect on the crime rate.”

There is a reason for that. First, people do not read the Criminal Code before they commit a crime. Second, when there are mandatory minimum sentences, crown attorneys and defence attorneys start a whole round of negotiation. That negotiation often results in plea bargains in order to avoid mandatory minimum sentences.

The realities I am speaking of are well documented. It is not true that we are giving our constituents accurate information by leading them to believe that by applying a mandatory minimum sentence for an offence we will be living in safer communities.

We would prefer that the bill did not refer to mandatory minimum sentences, but rather establish a maximum sentence, as set out in the Criminal Code.

Subsection 90(1) of the Criminal Code stipulates that every person commits an offence who carries a weapon, a prohibited device or any prohibited ammunition concealed, unless the person is authorized under the Firearms Act to carry it concealed. That person could be found guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, if that person is criminally prosecuted, or found guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Provisions already exist in the Criminal Code and there is no reason to think that judges faced with the reality described by our colleague will not apply the Criminal Code. If the sentence provided or issued by a judge is not satisfactory, there is an appeal process. That is what the crown or defence attorneys must do.

Therefore, the Bloc Québécois does not support bills that set out mandatory minimum sentences for offences. I think that our NDP colleague's question deserves due consideration. He asked our colleague to provide other examples. Of course, we all know of incidents involving knives or guns. But there are provisions in the Criminal Code, and we should use them.

As an aside, rising in the House to condemn gun crimes, while allowing guns to circulate freely and criticizing the public gun registry, is very inconsistent. When law enforcement officials, peace agents or police officers have to intervene, it is useful for them to know whether there are firearms in the house in question. This government wants to dismantle the public gun registry and has indeed dismantled much of it. I think we should all view that as an inconsistency.

Having said that, we support two other aspects of our colleague's bill. The Bloc Québécois made proposals in June 2007 and I will come back to that if I have the time.

Since I only have two minutes left, I will continue by saying that in considering the issue of eligibility for parole, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the idea that we must consider the interests of victims and provide a forum for them. This principle must be weighed against many others, but we believe that it is worthwhile.

The Bloc Québécois is also in favour of the idea that, when a judge determines a sentence, the amount of time spent in custody will be taken into consideration. We are certainly in favour of that.

In fact last June the Bloc Québécois presented ten or so proposals to reform our justice system. We were concerned with, amongst others, section 719 of the Criminal Code, under which a judge, before sentencing, may subtract two days from the final sentence for each day in custody before the trial began.

We believe that in some cases this could lead to an abuse of the system. That could be difficult for our citizens to understand. I myself have had a bill written that would allow the proposals presented by the Bloc Québécois last June to be submitted to the House. I still have to decide if I will introduce this bill or not, but the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle.

And that is my input on the bill. I wish my colleague the best of luck, while warning him against his magical thinking on minimum mandatory sentences.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in the debate on Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (punishment and hearing), introduced by the member for Leeds—Grenville,

I want to begin by speaking about the example he gave as the prime motivation behind the changes he has introduced and the experience of the Moffitt family from his community. I appreciate the difficulty in which this kind of situation places a family.

Thirty years ago this fall, a close friend of mine died as a result of a knife attack. I think he was stabbed 39 times. No one was ever charged in that crime. I remember being at home watching the TV news and seeing the report. That is how I found out about his death.

Duncan Robinson was my friend. The relationship probably was not as close as a son or brother, but that affected me profoundly and still does to this day, when I remember what happened to him back in 1978. No one was ever charged in that crime so there has never been that kind of resolution to the situation. I have often thought about what happened.

I remember walking the streets of Toronto not long after that. There had been an artist rendering of a potential suspect. As I walked down the street a number of times, I thought I saw somebody who looked vaguely familiar to that drawing. I sometimes even followed someone for a few blocks to see if I could get another look at the person, never being able to make that kind of identification.

Therefore, I have never had the experience of having to sit through a trial for a loved one who was murdered. I do not know how my views of our justice system might have been changed on the way it worked or did not work.

I do know the murder of my friend Duncan was a major motivation in my political involvement. The situation that I saw surrounding his death led to so many questions about how we perceived the place of citizens, how we dealt with crime, how we reported crime in the media, how the police characterized their investigations and how the church dealt with my friend's death.

I had so many questions about how it had all happened. Because I identified so many serious problems as a result of that, I decided I could not remain silent any more and became very politically involved to try to address the social conditions I saw surrounding my friend's death.

As I say, had I the experience of seeing the matter go to trial, my interest in the justice system and the judicial process may have been different, but I chose to work on the social conditions surrounding my friend's death.

I appreciate that the Moffitt family has chosen to be politically involved and to raise the concerns and shortcomings they experienced, as outlined by the member Leeds—Grenville. I believe those are all serious questions that should be asked of legislators and of our judicial system.

However, I have some serious questions about the solutions the member has proposed in his bill. Not unlike my colleague who spoke previously, I have serious concerns about the use of mandatory minimum sentences. I also believe they have not been proven to be effective in reducing crime. I do not believe they make us safer, as citizens, from this kind of crime, from any kind of crime for that matter.

I believe in the experience of many jurisdictions in the United States for example. They are undoing that kind of legislation because it has been shown not to be effective in reducing crime. In fact, they may create other problems related to lengthy imprisonments of people, where there is not any hope for reintegration into the community successfully.

Therefore, I have serious questions about measures that would impose a mandatory minimum sentence. It is not something I easily would support and, in fact, I have not supported it in this chamber. I am also concerned about measures that would call into question conditional release. That is an important part of our judicial system, justice system and correction system.

Conditional release has served us well for the most part. That does not mean every conditional release has gone well, that there have not been problems with it. In any system we design there will be problems. There will be specific instances. That does not mean we do not take those problems seriously when they crop up, but I believe every system will have its shortcomings.

We are served well by conditional release. Release into the community, with specific conditions and supervision, is an important step in reintegrating an offender back into the community. Also, the way the community takes responsibility for the integration is also an important feature of our justice system.

Credit for pretrial custody is important. It is a major impetus to ensure timeliness in our justice system. To incarcerate people prior to a trial, prior to their conviction, should be taken very seriously. That needs to be recognized in our justice system. Again, the specific case raises some particular questions about that, questions that deserve an answer. However, generally the principle of credit for pretrial custody is very important.

I also believe judicial discretion is important in our system. This is one of the reasons why I have a difficulty with mandatory minimums. I agree there should be clear indications from Parliament, from legislators about what appropriate sentencing parameters would be for particular crimes. However, the people we ask to hear evidence, to make judgments on the situations of the people involved in crimes should have some discretion in how they mete out justice on our behalf. Judges do that responsibly. They take their role in that very seriously and they make very responsible decisions.

Again, that does not mean mistakes are not made. That does not mean there are exceptions to the rule where things have not worked out probably the way everyone involved would have liked them to have worked out. For the most part, this is exercised appropriately in our society and it should remain a feature of our justice system.

I want there to be a point in our justice system where there is the ability to exercise some humanity and to hear the particulars of the case and to respond to the specific situation in which those people are involved. We are well-served by judges who on our behalf exercise that humanity. I also have concerns about limiting judicial discretion.

There are a lot of reasons to be very concerned about knife crime in our society. We know that is a significant problem in so many places. I do not want for a second to dismiss the concern about knife crime and the tragedies and problems that causes in our communities. However, we need to seriously consider not just crime punishment measures, but also measures that seek to prevent crime in the first place, to prevent those situations from happening.

We have heard that youth crime is on the increase. We have to put some programs in place that specifically try to address this issue. I am not sure that increasing punishment for crime is going to effect that kind of change. We know increased punishments do not serve as a deterrent for crime, that it is a punishment measure and is something completely different from deterrence and from crime prevention. We need to put more effort into those areas.

I can commit on behalf of the NDP that our justice critic will carefully examine this legislation, that it is a measure we believe should be taken seriously. We may not always agree with the solution, but we believe this is an important issue about which Canadians are concerned. Clearly the member for Leeds—Grenville has put forward a very reasoned argument for this kind of legislation. We know the Moffitt family is very concerned to see this matter addressed.

For our part, we will ensure that we look carefully at the implications of the legislation. We will look carefully at the proposed solutions. We will look carefully to see that the solution proposed actually does the job that the bill hopes to do, which is to make us safer, to ensure that crime is appropriately addressed in our society, that punishment is appropriate and that our justice system works effectively to keep us all safe. We can safely make the pledge to ensure it takes place.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a distinct honour and privilege to speak today to Bill C-393, a bill introduced by the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville, my friend and colleague.

As the summary of the bill indicates, Bill C-393 proposes to increase the penalty for the commission of an offence with a concealed weapon to ensure that victims' interests are considered during the conditional release process and to ensure that the sentence imposed on a convicted offender is only reduced by the actual time spent in pretrial custody.

I propose to limit my speech today to the bill's proposals addressing the Criminal Code, penalties for section 90, carrying a concealed weapon, and section 236, manslaughter, as well as for credit for pre-sentence custody.

Bill C-393 proposes to amend the Criminal Code to provide new mandatory minimum sentences for imprisonment for certain weapon related offences.

Currently, section 90, which makes it an offence to carry a concealed weapon unless authorized under federal legislation, carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment for an indictable offence and a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment for a summary conviction offence.

Bill C-393 proposes to amend section 90 to provide a minimum penalty of 90 days imprisonment on a first offence of carrying a concealed weapon and one year imprisonment on a second or subsequent offence. For this offence it also proposes to reduce the maximum penalty from the current five years to five years less a day.

Bill C-393 also proposes to amend section 236 of the Criminal Code, which is the manslaughter provision. Currently, section 236 provides the maximum penalty of life imprisonment and, where a firearm is used, it also provides the minimum punishment of four years imprisonment.

Bill C-393 proposes that a minimum penalty of four years imprisonment also applies for manslaughter where the person uses, in the commission of an offence against an unarmed victim, a knife that the person concealed for the purpose of committing the offence. Upon conviction for this offence, it also proposes that the parole and eligibility period be set at one-half of the sentence instead of the standard one-third, or 10 years, whichever is less.

Not only does Bill C-393 propose to introduce mandatory minimum penalties for carrying a concealed weapon and for manslaughter where a knife is used, it seeks to make sentences for carrying a concealed weapon consecutive to sentences imposed in connection with the same event.

Consecutive sentences or sentences that are served one after another are normally imposed for multiple offences arising out of separate criminal transactions. However, when multiple offences arise out of the same event or a single transaction, generally the sentences are imposed to be served concurrently, meaning at the same time. This would not be the first time that an exemption to the single transaction rule would be introduced in the Criminal Code.

Currently, a sentence imposed for using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence, as well as certain criminal organization and terrorism offences, must be served consecutively to sentences imposed in connection with the same events.

Bill C-393 also proposes to make minimum penalties for carrying a concealed weapon consecutive to any punishment imposed for an underlying offence or to a sentence already being served.

When imposing mandatory consecutive sentences, judges must consider the sentencing principle set out in section 718 to 718.2 of the Criminal Code, in particular, the principles of proportionality which require that a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

The principle of totality provides, where consecutive sentences are imposed, that the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh. These principles would still apply to the new mandatory consecutive sentences proposed by Bill C-393 for section 90 offences.

Bill C-393 also proposes to limit the amount of credit that can be given to an accused for the time spent in custody prior to sentencing. We just heard an hon. colleague from the NDP talk about pre-sentence custody. He talked about it as an impetus for the justice system to move. However, what we currently see, which happens all too often and we need to work toward repairing, is a system where offenders are encouraged to spend time in pretrial custody so that they can shorten their sentence, a sentence that is being given as a measure of justice. That is unacceptable to Canadians.

Under the current legislative system, an accused not granted bail under section 515 of the Criminal Code is held in custody on remand awaiting trial and sentencing. Bail can be denied when it is necessary to ensure that the accused will not leave the court's jurisdiction, referred to as flight risk, for public safety reasons when the justice of the peace or judge presiding over the bail hearings finds that there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will commit further offences if released into the community, and when it is also necessary in order to maintain confidence in the administration of justice.

The Criminal Code does not presently prescribe a mathematical formula for taking into account time spent in custody awaiting trial. Subsection 719(3) of the Criminal Code simply states that a court may take time spent in pre-sentence custody into account in determining a fit sentence.

As a result, courts typically credit 2:1 in pre-sentencing custody because of the lack of programming or activities for inmates in remand, the fact that statutory provisions for parole and remission do not take into account time spent in custody before trial and because of overcrowding in correctional institutions.

Under a typical 2:1 credit regime where an offender serves nine months in pre-sentencing custody and is then sentenced to four years of imprisonment, courts will impose a sentence of two and a half years after crediting the offender with the time in pre-sentence custody. That is four years less eighteen months.

Courts have departed from the typical credit of 2:1 for pre-sentencing custody in certain circumstances. Courts have applied a ratio of less than 2:1 where the remand conditions are acceptable and programming is available to the accused.

Courts will also grant less than 2:1 credit where the offender is unlikely to obtain early parole because of his or her incarceration history, where the offender was remanded because of repeatedly breaching bail, or where the court is satisfied the offender deliberately chose to stay in remand in order to have a more lenient sentence.

On the other hand, there have been some isolated incidents where courts will credit more than the typical two days for each day in remand. That is right, more than two days. This is the case where the conditions of detention have been particularly egregious.

For instance, in 2003, courts were granting 3:1 credit to offenders who had been remanded at the pre-Confederation Toronto Don jail because it was operating above its maximum capacity, which resulted in double and even triple bunking of inmates. Some of them contracted tuberculosis as a result of the conditions.

Bill C-393 would limit the credit for time spent in custody for sentencing in all cases to a ratio of 1:1 and would disallow credit for individuals remanded because of their previous convictions, or as a result of a review or revocation of bail.

This is where justice re-enters the equation. This is where families are truly the victims. What concerns me is when we go through the process of the justice system, we lose track of who the victims really are. The victim is the victim of the crime. The victims are the family and friends of the victim of that crime. It seems too often in this society we start to believe that the victim is the perpetrator of the crime. When we award 3:1 credit for pretrial custody, the families, the victim, society in general look at it and ask where is the justice? When we look at mandatory minimum sentences and we say that there is no evidence that this is a deterrent, first, I disagree with that argument. There is empirical evidence that proves it is a deterrent. Second, I say to those individuals who make that argument, what about justice? What about what is right? What about what is fair? What about the victims, the real victims, the people who have to go on and live their lives knowing that the person who perpetrated a heinous crime was given a light sentence?

The person was given a light sentence, not because what the offender did was okay, not because society says it is okay, and in fact society says exactly the opposite. The person was given a light sentence because the justice system is operating with pretrial custody credits of 2:1 and 3:1 and because sentencing guidelines are not strict enough to ensure that justice is served and that the victims can leave the court and know that what happened to their loved one meant enough to society that there is going to be a real penalty when those crimes are committed.

I support this bill wholeheartedly.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

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.

It being 2:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)