House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was benefits.

Topics

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 7:12 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired. The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, April 29, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation is facing imminent closure due to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency's decision to not renew funding to the centre. This centre has been a catalyst for research and innovation in the fisheries and aquaculture sector for nearly 20 years and has been responsible for many of the successful innovations that have occurred in this industry over that time period.

The ACOA minister stated in the House of Commons that the centre was no longer necessary and that industry had outgrown it. However, in recent weeks there has been an outcry against ACOA's decision to not renew this funding. These voices come from industry groups throughout Atlantic Canada, including harvesters, processors and aquaculture interests, from the academic research community and Liberal, Conservative and NDP members of Parliament alike.

Of particular note is the fact that the four Atlantic premiers have endorsed the need for the continuation of the centre. How is it that the ACOA minister can say that CCFI is no longer necessary when organizations so largely and widely support this group?

The 20-year success of this centre speaks for itself. CCFI has emerged as a centre for excellence for fisheries and aquaculture research and development and has brought tremendous value to the industry and the academic community throughout the region.

In the last six years alone, CCFI has managed more than 280 projects throughout Atlantic Canada at a total value of approximately $30 million. During this time, CCFI has achieved a leverage rate of approximately 1:5. Therefore, for every $1 the centre commits to a project, it leverages approximately $5 from other sources. This is a tremendous return on investment.

It is also important to note that nearly 50% of the centre's current leverage support comes directly from industry, which is a testament to the relevance of the organization. These projects have resulted in significant economic benefit throughout the entire Atlantic region, from resource development initiatives to improvements in energy efficiency, to new safety technologies in the harvesting sector, as well as advancements in the aquaculture sector.

There is no doubt that without the funding and facilitative support of CCFI to jump-start these projects, much of this highly valued research would not be completed. Let there be no doubt that cessation of the centre's mandate will leave a major void in fisheries and aquaculture innovation throughout Atlantic Canada.

For the ACOA minister to suggest that this void can be filled through the Atlantic innovation fund is highly misleading. AIF funding may provide support to a few large scale fisheries and aquaculture research projects each year but many will only benefit a couple of companies.

It is important to stress here that industry largely does not have the time nor the resources to pursue these large scale, high risk commercialization projects. By comparison, CCFI will take $1 million a year to fund 50 to 60 to 70 projects, leveraging $5 million to $6 million and providing real benefits to the entire Atlantic region. This is the kind of support that industry requires in this current economic climate: industry-driven industrial research and development that solves existing industry problems and leads to new commercialization activities and opportunities.

I would ask the minister responsible for ACOA why research in the fishing and aquaculture industry, which is the economic backbone of much of Atlantic Canada, being cut by the government now when it is needed most?

7:15 p.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for giving me the opportunity to expand upon this debate of just two days ago.

As I have made clear, CCFI conducts no actual research whatsoever. It has acted exclusively as a coordinator and matchmaker between the fishing industry and the research community. That matchmaking role is no longer necessary.

The industry is a different place than it was 20 years ago. Over the past 20 years, the attitude of the fishing industry toward research and development has evolved and matured to the point where the industry and academia now routinely partner in research opportunities, including many projects directly supported by ACOA and other funding entities. In fact, since 2002, through its Atlantic innovation fund, ACOA has directly invested $60 million in fisheries research partnerships between industry and the academic community.

Even as recently as March 2 of this year, ACOA, DFO, the provincial government and Memorial University announced an $8.5 million cod farming demonstration project to advance cod aquaculture research in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is wrong to suggest a cessation of funding for the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation will impact the pace or quality of fisheries and aquaculture research in Atlantic Canada.

Research capacity in Atlantic Canada is not dependent on CCFI. The research capability of Memorial University and its Marine Institute and other academic institutions throughout Atlantic Canada will continue to be available to the fisheries sector.

Moreover, when ACOA provided its last contribution to CCFI in March 2008, it was on the understanding that CCFI would develop a sustainability plan that would no longer depend on ongoing support from ACOA.

The Marine Institute has acknowledged in writing its understanding of this fact and that a new go forward strategy was required for the centre. CCFI did not provide such a plan. Instead, it submitted a strategy that would require a minimum of $1 million per year from ACOA indefinitely.

It is fair to say that CCFI has done good work for the fishing industry. After 20 years of working with research institutions, the fishing industry understands its capabilities well and no longer needs a separate centre to match industry needs with research capabilities.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I believe a number of people would disagree with the hon. member on whether or not CCFI is necessary and required in these economic times, especially when a centre facilitates, coordinates and assists small scale projects, 60 to 70 projects, and can leverage $5 for every $1 of investment.

I want to read some letters from a couple of supporters. George Joyce, the executive director of the Association of Seafood Producers of Newfoundland and Labrador, said:

CCFI is a leader in the business of solving problems for us and creating opportunities for the fishery. Why cut the funding when the centre is adding value?

Derek Butler of the Association of Seafood Producers said:

It would represent a loss to industry if they were not there, and we want to add our voice to that of others who are in support of renewed funding for them.

I would like to add the voice of another but, unfortunately, I am out of time.

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, let me restate the facts. CCFI acted exclusively as a matchmaker organization between the fishing industry and the research community. It did no research on its own.

It is obvious, from the success of the fisheries sector in securing AIF support and other program funding, that the need to fund a separate entity such as CCFI to link the industry to research capabilities is no longer necessary.

I will recite some facts as well. On a VOCM call-in show in Newfoundland the question was asked: Should the federal government provide dollars to keep CCFI open? Out of 6,003 votes received, 34% said yes and 61% said no.

7:20 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part today in this adjournment debate on contaminated water in Shannon, as this issue interests me a great deal.

This is the third time I have spoken on this issue, because the responses this government has given through members from the Quebec City area—whether it is the minister responsible for the Quebec City area, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent or the member for Beauport—Limoilou—have been completely irresponsible. Since I have been asking questions here in this House, the government has been trying to mislead the people. The members say that the government is concerned about the health of the people in the Quebec City area, that it has corrected the problem, worked hard and put in place viable solutions and that the Mayor of Shannon is satisfied. They wonder why the Bloc is not.

It is extremely simplistic and insensitive to say that. We know what it means to have contaminated water in Shannon. We know that the incidence of cancer is much higher than in the general population. There are 12 cases of cancer for every 100 people, whereas you would expect to find only a single case in the general population. In addition, Dr. Juneau, the attending physician who monitored the population from 1960 to 1997, was alarmed at the number of cancer cases in some parts of Shannon, where wells were contaminated. Often, people in these areas developed one, two or three cancers.

This is an important evening, therefore. We have changed interlocutors to another member representing a South Shore riding. I would like to see him show a little sensitivity in this matter and to see him also reach out a helping hand to the Shannon citizens' coalition. Those people have not been met with. We are well aware that funding was given to reconnect the Shannon water system to a safe water supply. The former government had settled things so that the matter could not be reopened. But as it happened, no uncontaminated and accessible source could be found. The investigational work cost a great deal. So more demands were made to the government. Had it not been for the Radio-Canada program Enquête, this government would never have budged. The minister for the Quebec regions' answer was that the people had instituted a class action and this was before the courts. The local people are taking steps toward a class action, but it is not before the courts. That is just a phoney excuse for not moving on this.

What needs to be done is to say that people will be compensated and that, finally, the government's responsibility will be acknowledged. In actual fact, it was National Defence that contaminated the water sources in 1950 by releasing TCE into permeable soil. The water table problems are now affecting others. We know that the problem is spreading as far as Val-Bélair, where one microgram of TCE per litre has been found in the soil . Moreover, the mayor of Quebec City has approached National Defence and told it that this is not his city's problem, but a DND problem. People would like to see this government acknowledge its responsibility.

There is a petition circulating at the present time, and people will be surprised how many everywhere in Quebec are now aware of this problematical situation.

I would therefore like to see a helping hand reached out to the Shannon citizens' coalition, and I would like to see the government tell the coalition that it is going to acknowledge its responsibility. We are now able to make the connection between the development of cancers and TCE.

7:20 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we know that the member opposite is concerned about this issue, and so are we. This government is working effectively to protect the citizens of Shannon. The health and safety of the people of Shannon, Quebec and all of Canada are of the utmost importance to our government. As we have indicated on February 25 and March 4, 2009, we have been fully transparent and our government reacted quickly by announcing an investment of $13.3 million to help modernize the water supply system in Shannon. The Bloc Québécois member expressed satisfaction at the time with the amount granted by our government.

It is important to add that the mayor of Shannon publicly acknowledged our great work and our government's efforts. If the mayor is satisfied and the member is satisfied, why bring up again a matter that is currently before the courts?

I should point out that the people of Quebec are expecting their elected representatives to act. That is precisely what we are doing, and we will continue to do so. If I may, I might add that our government has striven steadfastly to defend the interests of the people of Shannon. We have put forward a viable solution. The people of Shannon are now reaping the benefits of our government's efforts and the attention the Conservatives pay to Quebec.

The Bloc Québécois has accused our government of not caring about the people, the human factor, in this matter. It should be ashamed to speak such nonsense, because our government said it was sensitive to and concerned about the situation affecting the citizens of Shannon. We appreciate their concerns.

Besides, the Bloc Québécois is only concerned about an hypothetical judicial settlement that has not completely gone through the court process. They should let the judges and lawyers do their jobs. Is it suggesting that we ignore the judiciary and what the courts say?

This matter is among our priorities, and our government is staying abreast of the development of the situation. The Bloc Québécois should show empathy and decency, and sincerely care about what the citizens of Shannon are going through, instead of trying to play petty politics with this whole issue. The courts are doing their job, and the Bloc Québécois should do the same.

7:25 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, I am getting the same answer I got two weeks ago about the issue of contaminated water in Shannon. I save my empathy for the people in Shannon who are living with cancer. I work with the Shannon citizens' coalition, and I know what people there are thinking. In Val-Bélair, when they found out there was one microgram of TCE per litre in their well, they made some noise and said they would rather have zero micrograms of TCE per litre.

We need to compensate the people and tell them that we bear some responsibility. I do not have time to go into detail, but I know this has been done in the United States. The merchant marine went beyond what this government is doing. It tried to do the research itself. It did not leave it up to people who had drunk contaminated water to find soldiers who had worked on the base—